Big 12: Texas Longhorns

Big 12 viewer's guide: Week 9

October, 24, 2014
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In Week 9 of Big 12 action, Kansas State and TCU will attempt to keep their playoff hopes alive, while Texas and Texas Tech will try to take a step on the road toward bowl eligibility. West Virginia, meanwhile, will look to keep rolling at Oklahoma State, which hopes to bounce back after getting blown out last week.

Those, among others, will be the storylines to watch Saturday in the Big 12:

Texas at No. 11 Kansas State, noon ET (ESPN): If the numbers are any indication, Texas won’t get anything easy in this game. Kansas State has allowed only 19 plays of 20 yards or more, which is the fewest given up by any Big 12 defense. The Longhorns have been better offensively the last two weeks. Still, only Kansas and Iowa State have produced fewer 20-yard-plus plays in the Big 12 than the Longhorns. Running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown have also had problems breaking loose from the line of scrimmage. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Texas is averaging 1.4 yards after contact on designed runs, the worst average among Power 5 offenses. The Longhorns will have to be better on the ground to have a chance of pulling the upset in Manhattan, Kansas.

[+] EnlargeClint Trickett
AP Photo/Chris JacksonClint Trickett has thrown 15 touchdown passes and only five interceptions this season.
No. 22 West Virginia at Oklahoma State, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN): How much better has West Virginia QB Clint Trickett been this year? He has improved his Total QBR by 29 points from last season, the third-largest increase among Power 5 QBs, according to ESPN Stats & Information. One reason for the dramatic improvement has been the long ball. Trickett has already thrown eight touchdowns on passes of 20 yards or more, tied for third among Power 5 QBs. He had just one such touchdown pass all of last season. Kevin White, the nation’s leading receiver, has been on the other end of the majority of Trickett’s long throws. White tops the country with 16 receptions of 20 yards or more. Oklahoma State, meanwhile, has been even more reliant on throwing deep. Daxx Garman has 35 completions on passes thrown 15 yards or longer, tied for the most by a Power 5 QB. One thing is certain in this game: The ball will be flying downfield often.

Texas Tech at No. 10 TCU, 3:30 p.m. ET (FOX): Trickett isn’t the only Big 12 QB who has been a completely different player this year. Trevone Boykin’s Total QBR is up 28.7 points from last season, the fifth-largest increase in college football, per ESPN Stats & Information. Thanks in big part to Boykin’s turnaround, the Horned Frogs have featured one of the best big-play offenses in the country. TCU has 13 touchdown drives of three plays or fewer, tied for the most such drives in the country, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Boykin & Co. could add to that total this weekend. Texas Tech's defensive efficiency is the worst among Power 5 teams. Opponents have scored a touchdown on 36 percent of their drives against Tech, the worst percentage of any Power 5 defense. The Red Raiders will probably need their best defensive effort of the year to have any shot at toppling the surging Horned Frogs.

Big 12 players in Week 9 spotlight

October, 23, 2014
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Our weekly effort to predict which Big 12 players are primed for a breakout performance had a few good calls last week: Ben Heeney was a monster and Jake Waters led Kansas State to an upset of Oklahoma. But we can always do better, can't we? Here's a closer look at six players who have a chance to shine in Week 10.

TCU CB Kevin White: Next week, we get the long-awaited rematch of Kevin White vs. Kevin White. This week, the TCU one gets another chance to prove he's one of the league's best corners. He snagged an interceptions last week against Oklahoma State and will have to bring his best against a Texas Tech receiving corps that's probably underrated at this point.

Kansas State FB Glenn Gronkowski: Just when you forget about him, that's when he burns you. The youngest Gronk brother is averaging 31.8 yards per reception and is so deadly in the Wildcats' delayed pop passes. Texas will be on alert after Gronkowski's 67-yard touchdown last week, but he's still going to get chances if Texas' inexperienced safeties make mistakes.

[+] EnlargeJaxon Shipley
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesJaxon Shipley has a chance to break his touchdown drought this week.
Texas WR Jaxon Shipley: The secret is out on John Harris. Texas' senior go-to receiver is going to start drawing extra attention from opposing defenses. Shipley caught the huge 39-yarder against Iowa State last week to set up the win, but he's yet to catch a touchdown this season. He'll get a chance to snap that shutout this week.

West Virginia DE Shaquille Riddick: After putting up the most sacks by a WVU defender in three years, what does Riddick have to offer for a follow-up? He was terrific as a pass-rusher against Baylor, and now he gets to take on an Oklahoma State offensive line that's playing like one of the conference's worst.

Texas Tech QB Davis Webb: He doesn't have to outduel Trevone Boykin to pull off an upset against TCU. But Webb does have to avoid turnovers and he needs to capitalize every time the Red Raiders manage to cross midfield. It's probably going to take a lot of points to take down the top-10 ranked Frogs. Can Webb make this a back-and-forth, four-quarter fight?

Oklahoma State DT James Castleman: If you missed his interception against TCU last week, it was a beauty. Right place, right time, impossible catch. The Cowboys need a lot more of that luck this weekend. Castleman and this OSU defensive line need to get after Clint Trickett and throw off the pace and timing of West Virginia's dangerous offense.
With Halloween on the horizon it's been a scary early conference schedule for the Big 12's pair of preseason favorites.

Baylor and Oklahoma find themselves looking up at several teams in the conference standings as multiple squads have exceeded expectations. Several Big 12 coaches have done a terrific job this season, making the battle for Big 12 Coach of the Year honors one of the most interesting conversations of the midseason.

SportsNation

Who is the Big 12 Coach of the Year thus far?

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    28%
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    46%
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    2%
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    20%
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    4%

Discuss (Total votes: 7,261)

It's no surprise for Bill Snyder to elevate his Kansas State team to the top of the Big 12 standings in late October. The Wildcats are the only Big 12 team without a conference loss after KSU's road win over preseason favorite Oklahoma last Saturday. Snyder's team is well-coached yet extremely creative, a combination that has been making other coaching staffs pull out their hair for years.

West Virginia could be the surprise of the conference. The Mountaineers entered the season with the Big 12's toughest schedule but that hasn't deterred Dana Holgorsen's squad. After a loss to OU in its first Big 12 game, WVU has won three straight games including its upset win over Baylor. Holgorsen has done an exceptional job getting quarterback Clint Trickett to excel in his offense while receiver Kevin White is playing like the Biletnikoff Award favorite. Holgorsen was our Big 12 Midseason Coach of the Year and prompting one of the best tweets of the week.

TCU could be an even bigger surprise than WVU, going toe-to-toe with OU and BU and more than holding its own against the preseason favorites. Gary Patterson's decision to change the Horned Frogs offense looks like the best offseason move by any coach as TCU's offense has carried its defense at times this season as opposed to a year ago when the offense's turnovers and miscues put Patterson's defense behind the eight ball time and time again.

Mike Gundy has done an admirable job with Oklahoma State, even though the Cowboys came back to earth after last weekend's 41-9 thrashing at the hands of the Horned Frogs. After losing a roster full of senior standouts from last year's squad, Gundy has his inexperienced team at 5-2 with one conference loss. The Cowboys have yet to play a game that didn't feature glimpses of their youth yet find themselves one game from bowl eligibility before Halloween. The Pokes, picked fifth in the Big 12 preseason poll, probably won't win the Big 12 but they've exceeded preseason projections thus far.

Snyder, Holgorsen, Patterson and Gundy have done admirable jobs but other coaches could stake their claim on Big 12 Coach of the Year honors as well. OU's Bob Stoops and BU's Art Briles have had their teams looking like College Football Playoff contenders at times this season while Texas' Charlie Strong has the Longhorns looking like their best is yet to come heading into the second half of the season and Paul Rhoads' Iowa State squad just keeps getting up no matter how many times it gets knocked to the canvas.

Who do you think has been the Big 12's Coach of the Year thus far? Vote and leave your comment below. Let the debate begin!

Big 12 Week 9 predictions

October, 23, 2014
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Why Kansas State will win: In case you haven't noticed, the Wildcats have been playing good football all season. It took three missed field goals and a pair of untimely turnovers for Auburn to escape Manhattan last month. Behind QB Tyrone Swoopes, the Longhorns have been getting better. And they should be able to hang tough, as they did against Baylor and Oklahoma. But they ultimately won't be able to run the ball well enough or contain dual-threat QB Jake Waters enough to also escape with a win. Kansas State 29, Texas 21 -- Jake Trotter

Why West Virginia will win: The Mountaineers are playing great, physical defense that complements the fireworks of QB Clint Trickett, receiver Kevin White and all of their skill-position talent. Oklahoma State will get its chances -- WVU has a minus-six turnover margin during its three-game win streak -- but its offensive line is in brutal shape and the Pokes showed no resilience in the second half last week at TCU. This just isn't a good time to play the Mountaineers. West Virginia 38, Oklahoma State 17 -- Max Olson

Why TCU will win: The Horned Frogs will simply overwhelm the Red Raiders with an active defense and relentless offense. Tech will have its share of big plays but TCU and quarterback Trevone Boykin should have plenty of big plays of their own against a Red Raiders defense that ranks No. 114 among FBS teams with 36.9 points per game allowed. TCU 49, Texas Tech 31 — Brandon Chatmon

Season records:
  • Trotter: 45-4
  • Chatmon: 43-6
  • Olson: 43-6

Big 12 morning links

October, 23, 2014
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In case you missed it, the Royals took Game 2.
  • Oklahoma State has sued Texas co-offensive coordinator Joe Wickline for breach of contract, alleging he misled his former employer about his new position at Texas, and the school is seeking more than $593,000 in damages. According to the suit filed in an Oklahoma district court on Oct. 17, Oklahoma State’s board of regents asserts that Wickline violated his contractual agreement to pay a buyout fee of $593,487 if he left OSU for an FBS offensive coordinator job that did not include play-calling duties. Wickline filed a countersuit this week and claims that he is indeed calling plays for Texas’ offense, according to an Austin American-Statesman report. This is a bizarre and unfortunate situation. Wickline was such a big part of the success Oklahoma State had in the Mike Gundy era. Now, the two sides are involved in litigation. Texas, by the way, travels to Stillwater on Nov. 15.
  • Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth and Texas running back Ricky Williams are just a few of the Big 12 names that were nominated for the College Football Hall of Fame. I don't know how anyone couldn't vote for those three, and anyone that leaves Snyder off his or her ballot should have it stripped away for life.
  • West Virginia's revamped 3-3-5 scheme is earning praise, writes Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. And deservedly so. The Mountaineers held Baylor’s offense, which was averaging 57.2 points and 623 total yards per game, to just 318 yards in West Virginia’s 41-27 upset victory. Much has rightfully been made of what TCU co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie have done at TCU. But West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson and assistant Tom Bradley have done a phenomenal job turning the Mountaineers into arguably the most improved defense in the Big 12. If West Virginia contends for the Big 12 title, it won't just be because of Clint Trickett and Kevin White. It will be because of that defensive unit, too.
  • Speaking of TCU, the Dallas Morning News' Ryan Gerbosi wonders whether TCU QB Trevone Boykin is a legitimate candidate for the Heisman Trophy. It's a little strange that Boykin hasn't generated more Heisman buzz so far. He's been the pivotal piece in TCU going from having the nation's 106th best offense last year to the seventh-best one this season. With West Virginia and Kansas State coming up back-to-back to start the month of November, Boykin might begin to appear on Heisman straw polls if he can lead the Horned Frogs to a sweep of those two games.
  • While TCU is flying high, Texas Tech is going the opposite way, writes Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Exactly one year ago, Tech was 7-0 and ranked No. 10 in the polls. That feels like a long time ago. The Red Raiders have exactly one Big 12 win since then -- over Kansas last weekend. It hasn't been a fluke, either. Of the 33 team categories tracked by Big 12 statisticians, Tech is last in the league in nine of them, according to Burch. That is a bad sign. Of course, the Red Raiders can always turn it around. Just look at what TCU has done.

Big 12 stat check: Week 9

October, 22, 2014
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A closer look at one statistic worth keeping an eye on for each Big 12 team entering Week 9:

Baylor: The problem with penalties is no one-week fluke. Yes, Baylor's 215 penalty yards against West Virginia were the most by any FBS team in the past decade. But the reality is, since 2010, Baylor leads the nation in penalties (8.05 per game), penalty yards (74.6) and offensive penalties (4.12).

Iowa State: E.J. Bibbs is establishing himself as one of the nation's top tight ends this season. After catching two more touchdowns against Texas on Saturday, he now ranks first nationally in TDs (six) and second in receptions (32) among tight ends. He's not putting up Jace Amaro-level numbers, but this year there simply aren't many like Bibbs in the Big 12 or elsewhere.

Kansas: The Jayhawks are showing signs they're going to win a Big 12 game this year. One factor that's helping their cause: stingy goal-line defense. Opponents are scoring touchdowns on just 54.5 percent of their goal-to-go situations. That rate ranks second-best in the Big 12 behind TCU. Kansas has allowed six TDs, forced teams to settle for 12 field goals and recorded one takeaway. For comparison's sake, that's a dozen fewer TDs than Iowa State has given up in those situations.

Kansas State: This one paid off big last week and has continued during Bill Snyder's return to K-State: Since 2009, the Wildcats are No. 1 in the Big 12 at blocking field goals (seven) and extra points (eight). Travis Britz got No. 8 last week on the point-after attempt that would've tied the game against Oklahoma.

Oklahoma: Michael Hunnicutt had a rough day Saturday, but he's still one of the most consistent kickers in Big 12 history. Hunnicutt's 84.5 percent career success rate on field goals ranks No. 3 among kickers in the past decade with more than 70 attempts.

Oklahoma State: Against TCU, the Cowboys had undeniably one of their worst offensive performances of the Mike Gundy era. For only the third time in his tenure, OSU produced zero touchdowns in any phase of the game. The minus-33 scoring margin was OSU's worst since a 56-20 loss to Texas Tech in 2008 and fourth-worst in Gundy's 10 seasons, and the Pokes' 4.03 yards per play ranked fifth-worst.

TCU: The Horned Frogs are now 91-3 under Gary Patterson when they hold a team to 17 points or fewer. After last Saturday's 42-9 win over Oklahoma State, the Frogs have now won their last 10 games against Big 12 teams when achieving that 17-or-under feat defensively.

Texas: Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson's efforts to script the first 15 to 25 plays of a game are paying dividends for quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. He's completing 77 percent of his passes in the first quarter this season, connecting on 40 of 52 attempts for 426 yards and 10.6 yards per completion. That's certainly helping him get into an early rhythm.

Texas Tech: DeAndre Washington is quietly putting together one of the best seasons by a Tech running back in years. He's averaging 5.55 yards per carry (No. 2 in Big 12), 88.8 yards per game (No. 3) and is on pace to become Tech's first 1,000-yard rusher since 1998. Texas Tech is still passing on nearly 63 percent of its snaps, but Washington is making this run game go when he gets his touches.

West Virginia: There are a ton of numbers we can throw around for Kevin White, the nation's leading receiver, but here's an impressive one: If he surpasses 100 receiving yards against Oklahoma State, he'll become just the second FBS receiver in the last decade to start a season with eight straight 100-yard games. The other guy? Another Dana Holgorsen prodigy, Justin Blackmon. He put up 100-plus in every game of his 2010 season.

Texas at Kansas State primer

October, 22, 2014
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Both Texas and Kansas State are coming off dramatic wins that came down to the final possession. Will this game go down to the wire, too?

The Wildcats have won five out of the last six in the series. But Texas has begun to surge after a rocky start.

Max Olson and Jake Trotter break down this key Big 12 matchup between the Wildcats, who hope to keep their playoff dreams alive, and the Longhorns, who need a big win to improve their chances of becoming bowl eligible:

How Kansas State can control the game: The Bill Snyder formula to winning is pretty simple. Stop the run. Avoid mistakes. And wait for the opposition to shoot itself in the foot. That formula worked wonders in the win over Oklahoma, and it should work here, too. The Longhorns can play defense, but a shifty Jake Waters ought to be able to exploit them the way dual-threat Iowa State QB Sam B. Richardson did last week. Defensively, K-State should be able to control the Texas running attack, which will put pressure on QB Tyrone Swoopes to make plays. Swoopes was able to do that against the Cyclones. But doing the same in Manhattan against these Wildcats will be a far different task. -- Trotter

How Texas can pull off the upset: After confidence-boosting games against Oklahoma and Iowa State, Swoopes needs to bring his A-game on Saturday. Texas will need consistently good line play and play calling on offense. Based on how Texas showed up against UCLA, Baylor and OU, you'd think Charlie Strong and Vance Bedford will have a comprehensive plan for slowing down Waters, Tyler Lockett and the things they do well. But that won't matter if players don't execute. Like Jake said, KSU isn't going to make many mistakes. Texas had some bad ones against Iowa State -- a Swoopes red zone INT, a fumbled sweep returned for a TD -- and can't afford those flubs this week. -- Olson

Kansas State’s X factor: Defensive end Ryan Mueller has had a very quiet season so far with only 1.5 sacks. This could be the game the 2013 All-Big 12 performer could break out. The Texas offensive line has improved over the last month, but it’s hardly a formidable unit. And K-State’s run defense has been stout all year, meaning Texas will probably have to throw to move the chains. That could give Mueller plenty of opportunities to get to Swoopes while facing off against Texas’ susceptible tackles. -- Trotter

Texas’ X factor: Two guys up front: Steve Edmond and Cedric Reed. Edmond played some of the best football of his life against Baylor and OU, but did not start last week for reasons that are unclear. He did eventually enter the ISU game, and Texas is going to need the senior linebacker this week for his blitzing and play in the box as well as reliable run D. We haven't heard much from Reed so far (four TFLs, 1.5 sacks), but he can capitalize off the double-teams Malcom Brown draws. Now is as good a time as any for Reed's breakout. -- Olson

What a win would mean for Kansas State: The Wildcats are coming off an emotional win in Norman, so it will be interesting to see how they respond. They obviously have to keep winning to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot and to keep pace in the Big 12 title race. But with the toughest remaining schedule of the Big 12 contenders, K-State also needs to keep the momentum rolling. A convincing win over Texas would do just that. -- Trotter

What a win would mean for Texas: That would be the Longhorns' second-ever win in Manhattan. They haven't pulled this off since 2002. After coming so close against UCLA and Oklahoma, beating a top-15 K-State team would provide the first signature win of the Strong era and help propel this team onto the path to six wins and bowl eligibility. -- Olson
video
The updated ESPN 300 player rankings are now live, and one of the primary Big 12 targets is the newly crowned top-ranked running back.

Soso Jamabo said in September that he was gunning for the No. 1 spot at running back, and after several huge games, Jamabo has earned that spot, bypassing Kentucky running back Damien Harris. The hunter, however, is now the hunted, as Jamabo looks to maintain that spot. He'll have to fight off Harris, Oklahoma State commit Ronald Jones II, fast-rising Chris Warren III -- who jumped from 183 to 102 in the new rankings -- and several others.

Here are five things to know involving Big 12 recruiting:

In today's mailbag we discuss Baylor's future, the College Football Playoff and Charlie Strong for coach of the year? As always, thanks for your questions. To submit questions for next Tuesday's mailbag, click here.

Mike Singletary in Austin, Texas: Brandon, is it time to engage a therapist to help me realize my Baylor Bears just aren't as good as I thought or hoped going into the season? Any chance they right the ship and win out? And lastly, could they secure a playoff spot in that scenario?

Brandon Chatmon: A good therapist can’t hurt but I wouldn’t be ready to throw in all your cards quite yet. The Bears aren’t playing at a national championship level right now but they still have some very good pieces led by Bryce Petty. BU just needs to find a rhythm and get some confidence back. I definitely think they can win out and if things fall right, they could find themselves in the College Football playoff conversation, especially if they win out impressively.

Zach in Morgantown, West Virginia: The West Virginia defense looked really good against Baylor last Saturday despite both Daryl Worley and Terrell Chestnut going out in the first half. How does this squad compare to the rest of the Big 12 defenses?

Chatmon: I think they are right with the rest of the Big 12. There is no defense that is going to dominate this conference and shut people down, thus the Mountaineers are right alongside the rest of the pack defensively. It’s been a big step forward compared to last season, particularly the fact WVU now has the depth to lose two quality cornerbacks against Baylor and still win.

Brian Weidermab in Manhattan: Baylor has the most in the FBS when it comes to penalty yards per game, Kansas State has the third fewest ... assuming that trend continues should Kansas State even be worried to play Baylor? Should Baylor be worried about this?

Chatmon: Not really. Penalties don’t rate high on my list of ways to consistently lose games. In fact, of the 10 teams that join Baylor in the bottom 10 among FBS teams in penalty yardage, seven have winning records. Penalties make things more difficult, but they rarely decide games. And if you plan on making a living by winning games based on penalties, well, that sounds like a hard life to live. So, yes, K-State should be worried about Baylor.

Doug T. in Philly: Playoff scenario: TCU and Baylor both win out. I suspect TCU would be ranked higher. Does the committee pick TCU, even though they lost head-to-head with Baylor?

Chatmon: I’d think so but we don’t know what the committee will do, this is a new era. I’d hope it will all come down to who is playing best at the time because we all know Baylor and TCU will be different teams in December than they are now. Not to mention we’ve already seen enough surprises to make unbeaten runs from both teams seem unlikely. One thing I know for certain: Both teams lost the right to complain as soon as they lost a game. An undefeated Baylor or TCU is in there, no questions asked.

Matt in Hutchinson, Kansas,: I believe that Clint Bowen should be named the official head coach at Kansas. You tell me who believes in KU football more than Bowen? I know they haven't won under him yet, but the passion and enthusiasm he has brought to the program is awesome. If KU is going to make strides in its program then I feel Bowen is the man to do it. Thoughts?

Chatmon: I’d agree, Matt. Who has it better than him? Nobody! … If Jim Harbaugh has real interest that would be about the only way I’d change my mind. I think Clint should get a chance and he knows the program so well, I think he is a great fit and, most importantly, he has a strong passion for the program.

GD Will in Texas writes: I wish winning the conference meant more than grappling for subjective ratings. What if the playoffs consisted of the winners of the Power 5 conferences, plus a "wildcard" - could be a Notre Dame, or winner of Mountain Conference, or even the runner-up of a power 5 (second SEC team)? Then seed those six teams based on rankings and give the top 2 seeds a bye for the first round.

Chatmon: I’m right there with you. I’m all for champions being decided between the white lines. Let the players decide it. If you can’t get out of your conference as the conference champion, well, that sounds like a you problem to me.

Hugh in Moss Landing, California writes: I think a "Strong" case can be made for Charlie as Coach of the Year. When success at all costs represents our highest value, it diminishes the worth of other values. I have admired how willing Charlie Strong has been to ensure that the young men he coaches uphold a set of values, no player's value entitles him to dishonor those values. Even if it costs the coach games. In the lifelong scheme of things, he is building character, not trophies. Who do you see at this point of the season on their way to this award?

Chatmon: Dana Holgorsen gets the nod for me, but I love what Charlie Strong has done. You only get one chance to lay the foundation, and I like that Charlie is doing it his way, regardless of what others think. Ultimately, we’ll see if it pays off but if he goes down, he goes down his way, which is the way to go. I cannot, however, support any campaign to hand him Coach of the Year honors, four losses is still four losses, there's no asterisk in the standings explaining the rebuilding process.
It's amazing how things can change in a matter of 18 days. Earlier this month we took a look at the Big 12's most efficient offenses based on the points per possession of the top five teams in the conference.

Almost three weeks later, the list has transformed, much like the Big 12 standings. Here's a look at the overall efficiency of all 10 Big 12 offenses, with the help of ESPN Stats & Information, including each team's points per drive during the past three weeks.

T-1. Kansas State -- 3.11 points per possession overall

Key stat: The Wildcats' success on third down has been a key to their efficiency. They convert 50 percent of their third-down conversion attempts.

Last three games: KSU has been even better in recent weeks, averaging 3.53 points per possession in games against UTEP, Texas Tech and Oklahoma as Jake Waters has gotten comfortable in his dual-threat role.

Future outlook: The Wildcats' running game has been solid but not spectacular, but KSU’s efficient offensive numbers should continue with Waters' ability to provide a run-pass threat and Curry Sexton's emergence alongside Tyler Lockett.

T-1. Baylor -- 3.11

Key stat: Baylor has gained 58 percent of the possible yards on its drives this season, best in the Big 12. The conference average is 46.7 percent.

Last three games: As the competition has stepped up, Baylor’s offense has slowed down. The Bears averaged 2.22 points per drive in games against Texas, TCU and West Virginia.

Future outlook: In recent weeks, the Bears and Bryce Petty haven’t displayed the consistency that made them the conference’s most explosive offense. All the ingredients still remain for Baylor’s elite production to return in the second half of the season.

3. TCU -- 2.79

Key stat: The Horned Frogs are averaging 83.2 plays per game, ranking behind only Baylor and West Virginia in the Big 12. It’s a clear sign TCU has made a smooth transition into its new up-tempo attack.

Last three games: The Horned Frogs' offense has continued to be productive against Oklahoma, Baylor and Oklahoma State, averaging 2.54 points per drive in its last three games. Trevone Boykin has been at his best against increased competition.

Future outlook: There’s no reason to think TCU’s offense will slow down any time soon with Boykin and a roster full of big-play running backs and receivers.

4. Oklahoma -- 2.51

Key stat: The Sooners score touchdowns 73.3 percent of the time in the red zone, second in the Big 12.

Last three games: OU averaged 1.95 points per drive against TCU, Texas and Kansas State as a lack of big plays has resulted in Sooners stumbles.

Future outlook: More playmakers must emerge to join Sterling Shepard or the Sooners could tumble down this list.

5. West Virginia -- 2.43

Key stat: Only 22 percent of WVU’s drives have ended without a first down or touchdown. Only Baylor has a better percentage (21.3), and the conference average is 29.3.

Last three games: The Mountaineers averaged 2.26 points per possession in games against Kansas, Texas Tech and Baylor.

Future outlook: As long as Clint Trickett and Kevin White continue playing like the Big 12’s best quarterback-receiver duo, the sky is the limit for WVU’s offense.

6. Texas Tech -- 2.3

Key stat: The Red Raiders have committed a turnover on 17 percent of their drives, worst in the Big 12.

Last three games: Tech averaged 1.98 points per drive in games against Kansas, Kansas State and West Virginia.

Future outlook: Kliff Kingsbury’s offense would be just fine if it could cut down the turnovers and limit the penalties. Quarterback Davis Webb and a reborn running game make this offense one to keep an eye on.

7. Oklahoma State -- 2.12

Key stat: The Cowboys have settled for field goals on 17 percent of their drives, worst in the Big 12.

Last three games: OSU averaged 1.4 points per drive in games against Kansas, Iowa State and TCU.

Future outlook: As the Cowboys look toward the second half of their season, the offensive line needs to steadily improve if the Pokes hope to rise up this list.

8. Iowa State -- 2.07

Key stat: The Cyclones are averaging 4.96 yards per play, with only Kansas (4.6) averaging less yards per play.

Last three games: ISU is getting better as the season progresses, averaging 2.5 points per drive in its last three games against Texas, Toledo and Oklahoma State.

Future outlook: The Cyclones are starting to find a rhythm under new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino and could rise up this list in the second half of the season.

9. Texas -- 1.58

Key stat: The Longhorns' average drive distance is 25.8 yards per drive, ranking ninth in the Big 12. The Big 12 average is 32.6, with West Virginia leading the conference at 39.5.

Last three games: UT averaged 1.72 points per drive in games against Baylor, Oklahoma and Iowa State.

Future outlook: Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes is coming along behind center after a poor start. If he continues to play like he did against Iowa State last Saturday, UT’s offense could make some noise in the second half of the season.

10. Kansas -- 1.08

Key stat: The Jayhawks have managed a touchdown on just 12.9 percent of their drives, worst in the Big 12. The conference average is 28.7 percent.

Last three games: KU has averaged 1.09 points per drive in games against West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.

Future outlook: The offense is on a upswing with Michael Cummings at quarterback under Clint Bowen. After struggles in Bowen’s first game at WVU, KU averaged 1.33 points per drive against OSU and 1.5 points per drive against Tech in the past two weeks.
In our weekly Big 12 roundtable, we examine what the strongest position has been in the league so far, who has a better chance of going bowling between Texas and Texas Tech, and whether Oklahoma State should consider pulling the redshirt off quarterback Mason Rudolph:

What has been the strongest position in the league so far?

[+] EnlargeKevin White
AP Photo/Chris JacksonThrough seven games this season, Mountaineers senior receiver Kevin White has 69 receptions for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns.
Brandon Chatmon: As we saw last week with our midseason All-Big 12 team, it's got to be the linebacker spot. The Big 12 is overflowing with all-conference worthy linebackers. Oklahoma's Eric Striker, Kansas' Ben Heeney, Baylor's Bryce Hager and Kansas State's Jonathan Truman entered the season among the Big 12's best at the position and haven't disappointed while other linebackers such as West Virginia's Nick Kwiatkoski, Texas' Jordan Hicks, Texas Tech's Pete Robertson, TCU's Paul Dawson and Iowa State's Jevohn Miller have emerged to join the fray. There are more teams with an all-conference worthy linebacker than without one.

Max Olson: I agree it's linebacker right now, but I think we'll be talking about this group of wide receivers as being special by the end of the season. West Virginia's Kevin White is playing at Biletnikoff Award level. Sterling Shepard is a potential All-American. You can make a case that KD Cannon, Tyler Lockett, Josh Doctson, Antwan Goodley, Jakeem Grant and John Harris are playing at an all-conference level or should be soon. Throw in underrated guys such as Mario Alford, Curry Sexton, Kolby Listenbee and Bradley Marquez and this position group looks deep and impressive in 2014.

Jake Trotter: Linebacker is a deep position in the Big 12. But I'm going with wide receiver. White has begun to generate Heisman buzz. Shepard has had an All-American season. And Lockett and Goodley are All-American-caliber players. It doesn't stop there. Doctson had 225 yards receiving over the weekend. Grant could break 100 receptions. Harris could pass 1,000 yards. And true freshmen Allen Lazard (Iowa State) and Cannon are budding stars. There's no better league for the position in the country.

At 3-4, both Texas Tech and Texas are holding out hope of qualifying for a bowl game. Of the two, who has the better shot?

Chatmon: Texas Fight! Or least that's what Charlie Strong's team looks like it will do for the remainder of the 2014 season. The Longhorns' defense is superb and Tyrone Swoopes is looking better and better with each game, surpassing my expectations for the sophomore quarterback. Even with three of its final five games away from Austin, I think Texas will find a way to go bowling in Strong's debut season.

Olson: That Texas Tech schedule just scares me too much. The Red Raiders go to TCU, host Texas, then a bye, home against Oklahoma, on the road at Iowa State and a meeting Baylor at AT&T Stadium to finish that run off. Are there two obvious wins on that slate? That's just a brutal ask. Texas doesn't have it much easier -- they'll probably have to beat Tech, West Virginia and Oklahoma State to win six -- but already having OU and Baylor out of the way at least gives them the upper hand here.

Trotter: Given their remaining schedules, it's possible -- if not probable -- that neither qualifies for a bowl. But even though the Longhorns have to go to Lubbock, I give them the better chance. Texas has been playing better than Tech as of late. The Longhorns have the decidedly superior defense. And Swoopes seems to be gaining confidence with every start. The Red Raiders will have to beat either No. 10 TCU, No. 17 Oklahoma or No. 12 Baylor, just to have a chance at a bowl. And they'll be heavy underdogs in all three.

[+] EnlargeDaxx Garman
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiDaxx Garman has led OSU's offense since starter J.W. Walsh went out in Week 2 with an injury.
In light of the recent struggles offensively, should Oklahoma State give redshirting freshman Mason Rudolph a crack at QB?

Chatmon: No. That just changes who will spend the game running for their life. Some Cowboys fans might point the finger at Daxx Garman, but the Cowboys' struggles are rooted in the problems up front with a inexperienced offensive line. OSU is averaging 3.69 yards per carry (96th among FBS teams) and has a 7.5 sack percentage (99th among FBS teams). It doesn't matter who is playing quarterback.

Olson: I'm with Brandon on this. No point in crossing that bridge unless Rudolph begins to consistently and seriously outplay Garman in practice. Mike Gundy says he's getting maximum reps during the week. That's a good start. But you can't throw the rookie in there, behind that offensive line, out of sheer curiosity of whether he's a little better than Garman. I get the whole build-for-the-future viewpoint, but isn't J.W. Walsh still the imminent future? The potential downsides still seem like they outweigh the marginal benefits, at least for now.

Trotter: Rudolph intrigues me. The ESPN recruiting scouts loved his skill set Insider, and he was a winner in high school. But with only five games remaining, I don't see the point in pulling his redshirt. This Oklahoma State team is not contending for a Big 12 championship, regardless, due to other issues, namely along the offensive line. The staff clearly feels he's not ready, or else they would have given him a shot early in the season after Walsh's injury in Week 2. Rudolph might very well be the Cowboys' QB of the future. But it's way too late to squander his redshirt for the last five games of a rebuilding season.
AUSTIN, Texas -- The doubts about Tyrone Swoopes ever since his high school days at tiny Whitewright (Texas) High School weren’t unreasonable.

[+] EnlargeSwoopes
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesAfter his most recent performances, expectations are on the rise for Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes.
Swoopes was raw. Special tools. High ceiling. Reaching it would require extensive work and time.

What a difference six starts can make. The Texas quarterback’s personal ascent in the past two months has occurred at a pace nobody could’ve predicted. In the process, the Longhorns discovered a quarterback who has defied all expectations.

“It's just so fun to watch the development of Tyrone and how he's getting better and better week by week,” coach Charlie Strong said. “Our offense is going to go as our quarterback goes.”

One year ago this week, Swoopes made his post-midnight debut in the final minutes of a blowout at TCU. That impromptu appearance serves as a reminder now that, once David Ash went down, Swoopes was never going to be afforded the luxury of time or patience. And the initial results warranted concern.

Last fall, Swoopes was barely trusted to pass the ball in his mop-up minutes. This year, after an erratic spring game performance, Strong wondered like everyone else whether Swoopes’ future was at quarterback. On Aug. 30, the head coach wasn’t sure his young quarterback would’ve been prepared to replace Ash against North Texas in the opener.

“You look at it, and good thing that [Ash] was able to complete that game,” Strong said, “because if we had thrown Tyrone in there in like the third or fourth quarter, would he be playing with the confidence he's playing with right now? And, actually, would he have been ready to go play and go into the game?”

All of those steps in this process raised valid questions. They also created myths: Swoopes has a big arm but no confidence, can’t read defenses, is only comfortable running, is too quiet and not leader-like and is generally years away from being a quality Big 12 starting quarterback.

He’s dispelled most of those notions in the past few weeks while exceeding even the most reasonable expectations. In this process of accelerated in-season development, he’s proven things not only to his doubters, but also to himself.

“Sometimes when you hear those kinds of things, you kind of second-guess yourself,” Swoopes said last week. “I’ve gone out there and showed myself that I really can do what the coaches think I can do and believe I can do.”

The turning point, his peers say, came against Oklahoma on Oct. 11 and the two touchdowns drives he led from down 31-13. His fourth-quarter heroics against Iowa State – a 39-yard bomb to Jaxon Shipley followed by a 29-yard dime to John Harris, all in the final 30 seconds, to set up the winning field goal -- showed off how far he’d come: The big arm, the newfound precision, the confidence to take deep shots with time ticking, the never-in-doubt mentality.

“In my eyes,” Harris said, “there’s no turning back for him.”

As Swoopes continues to figure out how good he can be, coaches are unpacking new wrinkles for Texas’ offense. Co-offensive coordinator Joe Wickline installed read-option principles from his Oklahoma State playbook, which Swoopes used to rush for 100 yards (excluding sacks) against ISU.

And yet, it’s his passing proficiency that’s more startling. He averaged 183.5 passing yards in his first four starts. Now he’s put up back-to-back 300-yard performances.

“When people see us play, they want instant success,” Swoopes said. “I knew that wasn’t going to happen, that wasn’t going to be the case. I knew it was going to take a little bit for us to get going as a unit. I feel like these last couple games, we’ve gotten a lot better. We’re going to a good place.”

The simplification process is over, and Texas has an offense unlike any it foresaw in preseason. The pass game now sets up the run. With a patchwork offensive line and inconsistent run game, Texas had no choice but to highlight its first-time starter. Everything now runs through Swoopes.

Shawn Watson has said he sees his pupil more as a freshman than a true sophomore, at least in this teaching process. But after weeks of molding and teaching and baby steps, he asked Swoopes to take the big step against Oklahoma.

“I said, ‘Dude, here's the deal: I see it in practice,’” Watson said last week. “‘Every day, I see it in practice. I see you doing this. Now stop thinking in a game -- play, react, see and react, see and react. Trust yourself.’”

He’s earned the Longhorns’ trust, too. Teammates aren’t ready to call Swoopes fast or a dual-theat yet -- “I’m going to say 1 threat,” Malcolm Brown joked Monday -- but they can see how fast Swoopes has grown up.

“Every week that he plays better, our expectations get higher,” Harris said. “He can be that guy here. I don't understand why people doubt him.”

That could be the most improbable development of Swoopes’ rise, and the greatest compliment he can be paid: After four seasons of instability, Texas might’ve finally found its QB to build around for the next few years.

“There's never been any doubt in our minds,” Watson said. “There's been nothing but conviction that he's our guy. That's our starting quarterback. He's the guy [who] we need to develop.”
AUSTIN, Texas -- Charlie Strong went back to his coaching playbook after Texas’ 48-45 win over Iowa State and dug up a familiar tactic. He wanted to make sure his defenders hadn’t deceived him.

When his defense met Sunday, they went to the tape. Strong pulled up five plays that bothered him. He’d caught a few players letting up, not running to the ball, jogging. So he brought back the lowlight reel.

“I said, ‘This is not us, but I want you to see these five plays,’” Strong said Monday. “‘If this is us, I need to know that. If it’s an imposter wearing your jersey, I need to know that. I want you guys to watch this tape.’”

[+] EnlargeSam Richardson
AP Photo/Michael ThomasSam Richardson and Iowa State humbled Texas' defense this past Saturday.
Strong used the same tactic this offseason, meeting individually with each Longhorn and showing them their worst plays of 2013. It’s a measure meant to hammer home how good those players can be with better effort.

He brought it back this week because, seven games into this season, Strong has seen how good this Texas defense can be. He’s OK with winning by three points. He’s OK with a last-second victory, Texas’ first win in a close game all season.

He’s not OK with Iowa State putting 45 points on the scoreboard, 38 of them permitted by his defense.

“Our defense did not play to the standard we’re used to seeing them at,” Strong said.

Iowa State gained 10-plus yards on 22 different plays, the second most a Strong defense has allowed in his five years as a head coach. ISU quarterback Sam B. Richardson, responsible for 18 of those big gains, threw for 345 yards and three scores against the nation’s No. 3-ranked pass defense.

Stats aside, Iowa State came into Texas’ house, kept scoring in crunch time -- a TD with five seconds left in the first half, another with 28 seconds left in the ballgame -- and had a lot of right answers offensively.

“He was mad,” Diggs said of Strong. “We’re all mad. We know we didn’t play well.”

Credit masterful play calling from offensive coordinator Mark Mangino and consistently stout play from Iowa State’s offensive line. With the exception of his two interceptions, Richardson played keep-away from Texas. He found holes in Texas’ zone coverage with quick intermediate passes that beget good tempo.

Safety Dylan Haines picked off Richardson for a 74-yard touchdown, but conceded this unit backed off a little too much after Texas’ offense provided a fast 14-0 start.

“We started missing keys, missing our drops in our zone coverages,” Haines said. “I think when they started to make those throws, they were able to get momentum and move with tempo. I don’t think we were ever able to slow them down after that.”

Just two of Richardson’s 55 attempts went longer than 20 yards. He got into a rhythm with tight end E.J. Bibbs, and missed tackles created opportunities for running back Aaron Wimberly. ISU’s 38 points were all hard-earned.

“Those guys attacked all their keys and did everything they were supposed to do,” cornerback Quandre Diggs said. “They didn’t make many mistakes. They were throwing the ball quick, getting it out in a hurry. Those guys played a good game. We still won.”

The good news, Strong says, is the particular mistakes and missteps Texas defenders made this past Saturday are teachable and correctable.

“It’s all about fundamentals, technique, alignment, gap integrity, them making throws that never should’ve been made,” Strong said.

He’ll praise the growth of quarterback Tyrone Swoopes and Texas’ offense and acceptable play on the special-teams front this week, no doubt. A four-loss team takes its wins by any means necessary.

But with a trip to No. 11 Kansas State up next, Strong will not take it easy on his defense this week. The shaming phase is probably complete. A little humbling never hurts. The next step? Address the formula the Cyclones offered and find a better way to stop it.

“If that formula’s there,” Strong said, “it’s there every week in this conference.”

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
2:30
PM ET
Here’s the latest around the Big 12 on the recruiting trail after another big weekend of official and unofficial visits:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: There aren't many spots left in Baylor's class, but one of them is presumably being saved for Waco Midway four-star safety Kahlil Haughton. He took an official visit to Arkansas last weekend and could take his official trip to a Baylor game on Nov. 1. Haughton has already taken officials to Oklahoma and Nebraska, and his final two trips are expected to go to BU and Texas Tech.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones' latest pledge came from Itawamba (Mississippi) C.C. -- defensive lineman Xavier Pegues. He committed one day after juco teammate Larry Jefferson picked ISU. Both big men attended Iowa State's win over Toledo this month. Pegues, a 6-foot-3, 270-pound lineman, will likely play defensive tackle next year.

KANSAS
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Despite the coaching change, Kansas' recruiting class has stayed intact to this point. The Jayhawks aren't making many new offers under interim coach Clint Bowen, and its committed prospects seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach on how this season and subsequent coaching search play out.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: One recruit expected to be in Manhattan on Saturday for the Wildcats' game against Texas is Kylan Johnson. The three-star safety from Dallas Skyline is planning to take an official visit and is reportedly also considering Texas Tech and Arkansas.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners had a surprising star on campus for an official visit this weekend: Texas A&M commit Kyler Murray, the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the nation. The five-star from Allen, Texas, also attended OU's Red River Showdown win last week before taking in A&M's loss to Ole Miss.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 4
The latest: Playing at TCU gave OSU coaches a chance to check in on their DFW-area commitments on Friday night. The Pokes staff got a chance to watch their coveted ESPN 300 running back pledge, Ronald Jones II, rush for 130 yards and two scores (including a 73-yard TD) to help McKinney North beat rival McKinney.

TCU
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Horned Frogs had a nice collection of 2016 recruits in the house Saturday for their beatdown of OSU, including No. 1 overall recruit Greg Little and ESPN Junior 300 defensive backs Jared Mayden and Jaylon Jones. Three more important visitors: 2015 three-star corner DeShawn Raymond, LSU commit Hanner Shipley and 2017 athlete Anthony Hines III, who holds more than 50 offers.

TEXAS
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 8
The latest: The Longhorns got a critical opportunity on Saturday to convince receiver John Burt to stick with his commitment. The ESPN 300 receiver from Florida is contemplating flipping his commitment to Auburn after taking an official visit there this season. He returned to Austin this weekend for an unofficial visit to watch Texas' 48-45 win over Iowa State. Burt has been committed to UT since July.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Red Raiders landed a commitment last Sunday from three-star defensive tackle Courtney Wallace of Monroe (Louisiana) Neville. He turned down a dozen offers to become the fourth defender in Tech's class. This Sunday, TTU extended an offer to ESPN Junior 300 linebacker Dontavious Jackson, the Houston Elsik standout who now holds six offers.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 21
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The latest member of the Mountaineers' class is Longwood, Florida, defensive end Adam Shuler. He committed on Saturday after taking an official visit to WVU earlier this month for the Kansas game. The 6-foot-5 end turned down offers from Cincinnati, Purdue and Indiana.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 8

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
11:00
AM ET
Taking stock of Week 8 in the Big 12:

Team of the week: West Virginia and Kansas State split the honor this week after toppling Big 12 preseason co-favorites Baylor and Oklahoma. The Mountaineers dominated the fourth quarter on their way to a 41-27 victory over the Bears. Quarterback Clint Trickett, whose father was hospitalized over the weekend, led West Virginia with 322 passing yards and three touchdowns, while the Mountaineer defense put the clamps on Baylor’s high-powered attack. Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters was just as impressive, totaling three touchdowns in the Wildcats’ 31-30 victory over the Sooners. With their big wins, West Virginia and K-State emphatically inserted themselves into the Big 12 title race.

Disappointment of the week: With a surging QB, a veteran offensive line and nine returning defensive starters, the Sooners went into the season with expectations of qualifying for the inaugural playoff. Those dreams have been all but dashed after Oklahoma’s second loss in the last three weeks. The Sooners outgained K-State. But they couldn’t overcome numerous miscues, which included Trevor Knight’s pick-six pass, Durron Neal’s interception toss off a reverse and Michael Hunnicutt’s two missed field goals and blocked extra point. Oklahoma is now tied with Texas for sixth in the Big 12 standings.

Big (offensive) man on campus: There were several spectacular offensive performances this weekend, notably by TCU receiver Josh Doctson, Waters, West Virginia receiver Kevin White, Oklahoma receiver Sterling Shepard and Texas Tech running back DeAndre Washington. But the honor here goes to quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, who led the Longhorns on consecutive scoring drives late in the fourth quarter to lift Texas to a dramatic 48-45 win over Iowa State. The first drive, he rushed for 28 yards, then hit Jaxon Shipley on a 22-yard screen to convert a third-and-long, which led to Malcolm Brown’s touchdown plunge on the next play. Swoopes, however, wasn’t done. After Iowa State tied the game with 28 seconds to play, Swoopes came right back with back-to-back bombs to Shipley and Josh Harris to set up Nick Rose’s 21-yard game-winning field goal. All told, Swoopes threw for 322 yards and ran for another 95.

Big (defensive) man on campus: Sunflower State linebackers Ben Heeney and Jonathan Truman were phenomenal this weekend, combining for 38 tackles. Truman was instrumental in K-State’s late goal-line stand in Norman. Heeney added a 37-yard interception return in the Jayhawks’ 34-21 loss at Texas Tech. But the edge here goes to West Virginia defensive end Shaquille Riddick, who sacked Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty three times in a swarming breakout performance. Riddick, who transferred in from FCS school Gardner-Webb in the offseason, added another tackle for loss, as the Mountaineers held Baylor 26 points below its season average.

Special-teams player of the week: The Sooners fell a single point short against the Wildcats, and K-State defensive tackle Travis Britz was the reason why. He busted through the line of scrimmage, and got a hand up to bat away Michael Hunnicutt’s extra-point attempt with 10 minutes to go in the game. Who knows how much the block affected the psyche of Hunnicutt, who later also missed a potential game-winning field goal from 19 yards out. Either way, it was a monumental play by Britz, who led the country in special teams blocks last season.

Play of the week: Even in defeat, Baylor had the hit of the day in college football, as Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman decleated West Virginia cornerback Terrell Chestnut to clear a path for teammate Antwan Goodleys 63-yard touchdown. Officials initially ejected Coleman for targeting, but reversed the call after viewing replay. Chestnut did not return to the game after taking this violent, but clean hit.

video Stat of the week: Baylor broke a Big 12 record with 215 penalty yards at West Virginia, also shattering the previous Baylor record of 157 yards set in 1976. The Bears were flagged 18 times in Morgantown, including seven times for pass interference. As a result, Baylor has overtaken Texas Tech for the national lead in both penalties and penalty yardage.

Quote of the week: "You better get some help." -- West Virginia WR Kevin White, who told Baylor CB Xavien Howard that after burning him for a touchdown in the first quarter. White finished with eight catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Bears.

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