Big 12: Texas Tech Red Raiders

Happy Thanksgiving

November, 27, 2014
Nov 27
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Happy Thanksgiving, Big 12 fans.

We'll have coverage of tonight's critical Big 12 bout between TCU and Texas. But until then, it will be a light day on the Big 12 blog. I plan on spending the afternoon fighting through a turkey coma.

Today is a day to be thankful -- especially for all the TCU and Baylor fans out there who have gotten to enjoy two fabulous seasons. We hope all of you have a great Thanksgiving with family and friends.
This season hasn't gone like Texas Tech would have hoped. The Red Raiders are 4-7 heading into their season finale with Baylor in Arlington, Texas on Saturday.

Yet one shining light for Kliff Kingsbury's program has been the play of running back DeAndre Washington, who eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier last weekend. Washington is the Big 12's second leading rusher with 1,038 rushing yards. He took some time this week to chat with ESPN.com about his offseason focus, individual success in 2014 and his post-football future.

[+] EnlargeDeAndre Washington
John Weast/Getty ImagesDeAndre Washington says he isn't concentrating on his own individual success, despite rushing for more than 1,000 yards already this season.
After last year, heading into the offseason what did you want to improve on?
DeAndre Washington: Basically, I just had a chip on my shoulder. I didn't like the way I played last year so I really tried to take it upon myself to make sure I had a better season.

What was it about last year that really stuck with you?
DW: Just all of the plays I left on the field, I left a lot of plays out there and that was it. I was being kind of hesitant coming off the ACL injury (Note: Washington tore his ACL in 2011). I just wanted to put that behind me heading into the offseason and get better from it.

Coming in this year and having success, how have you felt about what's going on for you individually?
DW: It felt good, I just wish we could win some more games, get some wins with it. My body feels good so it's been fun all year.

How has it been trying to manage having a lot of success individually when, as a team, you're struggling?
DW: You can't really think much about [individual success] especially when you're not getting wins. I don't really think too much about it, we need to get some Ws to go with this success.

What's the key for you guys?
DW: Execution. When we have the opportunity to put away games or extend games, we have to take advantage of those opportunities. At different points in the season we let those opportunities slip away.

What was your first childhood memory of playing football?
DW: Little league flag football game. I was playing defense and I remember getting a tipped ball interception and taking it 80 yards. The excitement, the thrill I got from it, just let me know that football was something I really wanted to do.

Do you remember when you realized football could actually take you somewhere?
DW: When I got my first scholarship (offer). That's when it got a little bit more serious, I could actually use this to go to school.

Before that were people saying you couldn't do it because of your size?
DW: Yeah. There's always been doubters but that's just what fuels the pit.

If you weren't playing football what would you being doing?
DW: That's a good question, I couldn't even tell you.

Well what would you say is your dream, post-football, job?
DW: Actually I'm looking into being a scout, like an NFL scout. That's something I've been interested in for a while now.

What intrigues you about that?
DW: Being able to travel to different cities, look at different talent and be around football personnel but not be too close because I'm not into coaching. I thought that would be something fun to do.

Up to this point what is your biggest football accomplishment?
DW: Without a doubt getting into the 1,000-yard club this weekend.

Was that a goal heading into the season?
DW: That was definitely something I wanted to accomplish and big ups [credit] to the offensive line. We got it done.

Who or what do you consider the greatest influence on the player you've become?
DW: Definitely my mom [Tiffany Jones]. All the sacrifices she made to get me where I am is the man reason why I do what I do today.

Big 12 Week 14 predictions

November, 26, 2014
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Why TCU will win: This is going to be a back-and-forth, physical fight in which Texas will throw everything it's got at TCU. All the pressure is on the Frogs -- not that they can't handle it. If Charlie Strong's D can slow down Trevone Boykin, it's anyone's ballgame. A difference that might matter: the kicking game. TCU's Jaden Oberkrom can be trusted with a game-winning kick. Can Texas' Nick Rose? TCU 20, Texas 17 Olson

Why Texas will keep it close: Defense. The Longhorns have the Big 12’s best unit, and their disruptive front will make life hard for Trevone Boykin. UT just won’t score enough points to cement its upset bid. TCU 28, Texas 27 — Chatmon

Other unanimous selections

Baylor over Texas Tech: The Bears won't aim for 82, but they know they need to score a bunch of points. In addition to having a brutal run defense, Texas Tech's secondary is also banged up this week. So, you know, moving the ball should not be terribly difficult for Bryce Petty and his many weapons. Tech can keep up early, but for how long? Baylor 52, Texas Tech 24 Olson

Kansas State over Kansas: The Wildcats have focused on resuscitating their running game, and their instate rival might provide the perfect tonic. The Jayhawks are still reeling from giving up an FBS record 427 rushing yards to Samaje Perine last week. K-State won't get that many on the ground. But the Wildcats will have a big day offensively to prime their trip to Waco in the season finale. Kansas State 38, Kansas 13 Trotter

West Virginia over Iowa State: The Mountaineers will get the losing taste out of their mouths because of their superior offensive firepower, no matter whether Clint Trickett or Skyler Howard is behind center. West Virginia 42, Iowa State 28 Chatmon

Season records:
  • Trotter: 61-7
  • Chatmon: 60-8
  • Olson: 58-10

Big 12 stat check: Week 14

November, 25, 2014
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A closer look at one statistic worth keeping an eye on for each Big 12 team entering Week 14:

Baylor: Baylor leads the FBS in points, yards and first downs per game, but the Bears’ remarkable ability to protect the football really stands out. BU ranks fifth among FBS teams and No. 1 in the Big 12 with a 6.0 turnover percentage. The top five teams in the FBS in that category-- BU, Rice, Oregon, Georgia and Northern Illinois -- have combined for 44 wins this season.

Iowa State: The Cyclones' defense will need to be much better on third down if ISU hopes to knock off West Virginia. ISU is allowing conversions on a Big 12-worst 47.1 percent of opponent’s third-down attempts. But last week’s 34-31 loss to Texas Tech proves some hope as ISU held the Red Raiders to 36.4 percent on third-down conversion attempts, which was a season low for Cyclones’ opponents.

Kansas: Big plays have been lacking for Kansas’ offense for much of the season. The Jayhawks have gained 10 or more yards on 16 percent of their plays this season, ranking last in the conference and No. 115 among FBS teams. New offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau has helped increase that number with some personnel changes, but KU will need several big plays if it hopes to upset Kansas State.

Kansas State: Is Jake Waters the Big 12’s top clutch signal-caller? The senior has a Big 12-best 79.8 raw QBR on third down. He completes 63.1 percent of his passes, averages 12.42 yards per completion and is sacked just 2.3 percent of the time on third down. Waters is a key reason the Wildcats’ offense is so efficient and productive.

Oklahoma: Baylor, TCU and Kansas State are well renowned for their offensive firepower. Yet Oklahoma sits atop the conference rankings in yards per play. The Sooners 6.72 yards per play has been built upon a running game that is averaging 265.4 yards per game and 6.3 yards per carry to lead the Big 12 in both categories.

Oklahoma State: The Cowboys averaged 1.87 points per possession in Mason Rudolph’s first start. With the true freshman at the helm, OSU’s offense was far more explosive in the 49-28 loss to Baylor than its previous four games. TCU (0.6), West Virginia (0.71), KSU (0.5) and Texas (0.58) each held the Cowboys below one point per possession in OSU's four losses before last weekend.

Texas: Opponents have converted just 5 of 30 third-down conversions against Texas’ defense in the Longhorns last two games. West Virginia (3 of 17) and Oklahoma State (2 of 13) struggled to continue drives. Winning the third down battle could be key if the Longhorns hope to slow Trevone Boykin and TCU on Thanksgiving night.

TCU: Gary Patterson’s team has outgained opponents by at least 330 yards on four different occasions this season, joining Alabama as the only FBS team to achieve this feat. The Horned Frogs outgained FCS opponent Samford (412), SMU (369), Oklahoma State (418) and Texas Tech (339) by that margin. It has been a part of a damatic change in TCU’s offensive fortunes under new offensive coordinator Doug Meacham.

Texas Tech: The inability to finish has handcuffed the Red Raiders this season. Tech has converted 58.8 percent of its goal-to-go attempts into touchdowns, the worst percentage in the Big 12 and tied for No. 115 among FBS teams. With Baylor on the horizon, Tech will need to capitalize on every single scoring opportunity it gets.

West Virginia: Dana Holgorsen’s team heads into its final game with six wins and bowl eligibility, a pretty remarkable feat for the Mountaineers considering their carelessness with the ball. WVU has a minus-15 turnover margin, worst in the Big 12 and tied for No. 120 among FBS teams. No FBS team at minus-15 or higher has more than three wins this season.

Big 12 morning links

November, 25, 2014
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My three fantasy teams all made the playoffs. Tell me all about yours in the comments section.
  • Baylor is heading back to AT&T Stadium for the fifth time in six years this weekend. They've got some pretty good digs in Waco now, but the Bears still appreciate playing on that big stage. Art Briles knows Texas Tech will give his team their best shot, just like everyone else has. I like this Briles-ism: "If you don't take care of this week, next week's not going to exist." Plus, it can't hurt to get a little extra experience playing at the site of this year's College Football Playoff title game, right?
  • Cool to hear Andy Dalton chime in on how much he's enjoyed watching TCU make a run at the College Football Playoff. The Cincinnati Bengals quarterback told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram this season feels a lot like the ones from the Frogs' three-year run that ended with a 2011 Rose Bowl victory. Gary Patterson said the same thing. He believes this team is playing and winning as a group like those teams that combined to go 26-3.
  • Dana Holgorsen is wisely treading lightly when it comes to his quarterback situation this week in preparation for Iowa State. He says he's going to judge the "body of work" of both Clint Trickett and Skyler Howard as he decides who starts for West Virginia this week. That probably bodes well for Trickett, who struggled against Kansas State but has still thrown nearly 400 more passes than Howard this season. If WVU take control against the Cyclones early, perhaps we end up seeing both QBs this weekend.
  • Now is not a good week for Texas Tech to have question marks in its secondary. Per Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalance-Journal, five DBs have gone down in the past two weeks and there's uncertainty about which ones will return in time to face Baylor. At least cornerbacks Tevin Madison and Nigel Bethel II (both true freshmen) are good to go against the nation's No. 4 passing offense. It's too bad linebacker Mike Mitchell isn't available to help this defense, because the Ohio State transfer has been wowing in practice.
  • There seems to be lots of love and respect between rival coaches Bill Snyder and Clint Bowen this week. In fact, Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World reports Snyder talked to Bowen about an opening at Kansas State when he returned to coaching in 2009. Snyder had nothing but praise for the interim coach going into his final audition for the head coaching gig. He's seeing more motivation and enthusiasm out of KU since Bowen took charge. If Bowen does keep the job, it's clear they won't exactly be hated rivals.

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

November, 24, 2014
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Here’s what's been cooking on the recruiting trail in the last week around the Big 12:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Baylor had a big weekend, hosting a pair of its 2016 commits in four-star running back Kameron Martin and four-star receiver Tren'Davian Dickson. 2015 ESPN 300 wideout Devontre Stricklin was in McLane Stadium for the Oklahoma State game as well. The Bears also bolstered their trenches for 2015 by snagging a commitment from 6-foot-7, 300-pound City College of San Francisco offensive tackle Dominic Desouza, who had offers from Big 12 foes Oklahoma State, TCU and Kansas.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Community College defensive tackle Demond Tucker visited Iowa State over the weekend. Tucker holds offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Arizona State and Big 12 rival Kansas State. He would be a huge pickup for the Cyclones, who badly need to fortify their defensive line.

KANSAS
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Jayhawks are in a battle with Minnesota for three-star Kansas City, Kansas, inside linebacker Colton Beebe. Two weekends ago, Beebe visited Minnesota, and though he’s visited Kansas unofficially several times, Beebe has indicated he will set an official visit with the Jayhawks after they name a head coach.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats have a big visit coming up this weekend in junior-college wideout DeDe Westbrook, who was at Oklahoma this past weekend and Oklahoma State the weekend before that. With Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton both set to graduate, Westbrook would fill a big firepower void at receiver for K-State.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 15
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners got some much needed junior college cornerback help with William Johnson of Rochester (N.Y.) Monroe Community College committing after visiting Norman over the weekend. Oklahoma, however, missed out on one of its top targets, as 4-star defensive end Keisean Lucier-South stayed in state and committed to UCLA on Sunday.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Oklahoma State had a tough week on the trail, as the Cowboys parted ways from ESPN 300 cornerback Jaylon Lane after he was arrested. Earlier in the week, three-star safety Kenneth McGruder decommitted from the Pokes and reopened his recruitment. Oklahoma State turned McGruder’s spot into a commitment from Kilgore Junior College safety Jordan Burton, who had previously been committed to Memphis.

TCU
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: TCU remains in the mix for the top wide receiver in Texas in Cedar Hill’s DaMarkus Lodge. The former Texas A&M commit is also looking at Baylor, Ole Miss, LSU and USC and might not pick a school until signing day. The way the Horned Frogs have been throwing the ball around this season hasn’t hurt their chances with Lodge.

TEXAS
Total commits: 19
ESPN 300 commits: 9
The latest: Cistercian (Irving, Texas) quarterback Matthew Merrick committed to Texas, but will grayshirt and delay his enrollment by a year. Merrick had offers from Colorado State and Nevada. Merrick would give the Longhorns a fourth quarterback for 2016, along with starter Tyrone Swoopes, redshirting freshman Jerrod Heard and incoming freshman Zach Gentry.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: After missing the last month with a broken hand, Texas Tech QB commitment Jarrett Stidham returned with a vengeance Saturday, throwing for 318 yards, rushing for 193 and accounting for nine touchdowns in leading Stephenville to a 69-60 win over Estacado in a playoff game.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 22
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Former Iowa State defensive end commit Larry Jefferson could be on the cusp of pledging with the Mountaineers. His Itawamba (Miss.) Community College defensive end teammate Xavier Pegues has already made that switch, and the two have indicated they want to continue playing together.

Big 12 FPI rankings: Week 13

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
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ESPN's Football Power Index is a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of performance going forward for the rest of the season. Every week, ESPN will be updating its FPI to compile a ranking based on 10,000 simulations of the rest of the season using results to date and the remaining schedule.

This past weekend brought little change to the Big 12 FPI data.

After beating Oklahoma State 49-28, Baylor remained at No. 4. The Bears now have a 70.6 percent chance to win out, and a 72.7 chance to be the Big 12's representative champion. FPI also gives Baylor a 94 percent chance to beat Texas Tech in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday.

TCU's chance of winning out, meanwhile, stands at 64.2 percent, but FPI gives Texas a 33 percent chance of upsetting the Horned Frogs on Thanksgiving night. The Horned Frogs stayed at No. 11 in FPI rankings after having the weekend off.

Despite beating West Virginia on the road last week, Kansas State remained 18th in FPI. The Wildcats' chances of knocking off Baylor in the season finale, however, bumped up slightly to 25 percent.

Oklahoma State was better offensively at Baylor with freshman QB Mason Rudolph than it had been the previous month, making the Cowboys the Big 12's biggest riser in this week's FPI. Still, the metric only gives the Cowboys an 8.3 percent chance of upsetting Oklahoma on Dec. 6.

Iowa State tied Kansas for the Big 12's biggest FPI drop of the week. The Cyclones fell three spots after losing at home to Texas Tech. FPI only gives Iowa State an 18.7 percent chance to get off its Big 12 winless schneid this Saturday at home against West Virginia.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 13

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
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Taking stock of Week 13 in the Big 12:

Team of the week: K-State kept its Big 12 title hopes alive by winning at West Virginia on Thursday, 26-20. The Wildcats hardly played a perfect game. They frustrated Bill Snyder by committing a season-high 102 penalty yards. They also rushed for just a single yard on 29 carries offensively. But the defense harassed the Mountaineers into four turnovers, while K-State quarterback Jake Waters was on point with a career-high 400 yards passing. As a result, the Wildcats left Morgantown two wins away from earning at least a share of the Big 12 title and playing itself into a New Year's Six bowl.

Disappointment of the week: Not since Gene Chizik's final season in Ames in 2008 has Iowa State gone winless in Big 12 play. But after falling 34-31 at home to Texas Tech, Iowa State is on the cusp of finishing without a victory in the conference for the first time in the Paul Rhoads era. The Cyclones had the lead in the fourth quarter, and a chance to at least send the game to overtime late. But when the game was on the line, Iowa State couldn't come up with the critical play. The Cyclones will have two more chances to avoid the ignominy of going winless. But after losing to Kansas and Texas Tech the last two weeks, it's difficult to envision that happening.

Big (offensive) man on campus: Samaje Perine made this the easiest decision of the year. The Oklahoma true freshman running back ran for an FBS record 427 rushing yards and five touchdowns in the Sooners' 44-7 win over Kansas. Just a week ago, Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon broke the FBS single-game mark held previously since 1999 by TCU's LaDainian Tomlinson. But Gordon's record lasted a mere seven days. Perine took his first carry 49 yards for a touchdown, and finished with 222 yards in the first half to draw within striking distance of the record. Then, Perine's opening touch of the third quarter went 66 yards for another score. He went on to break the record early in the fourth quarter. “He was sensational," Bob Stoops said. Sensational, indeed.

Big (defensive) man on campus: Linebacker Pete Robertson led the Texas Tech defensive effort at Ames with nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a quarterback hurry. Robertson delivered a couple of key tackles in the fourth quarter, which forced the Cyclones into a 42-yard field goal attempt they would miss. That allowed Tech to retake the lead on the ensuing drive with a game-winning touchdown.With 10 sacks on the season, Robertson has been one of the bright spots for the Tech defense.

Special-teams player of the week: Tyler Lockett, who else? Sure, his 43-yard punt return touchdown came via a West Virginia coverage bust that left a hole the size of the Monongahela River. But Lockett, who leads the country in punt returns, added 10 receptions and 196 yards receiving. K-State's all-time leading receiver is also having an All-American-caliber season as a specialist.

Play of the week: Perine made history early in the fourth quarter, when he barreled through a trio of Kansas defenders, then raced 42 yards to give him an FBS record 427 rushing yards in the game. After the play, Perine was subbed out to the rain-soaked Owen Field crowd chanting his name.

Stat of the week: According to ESPN Stats & Information, Perine had eight rushes of 20 yards or more against the Jayhawks, the most in a game by any player the last 10 seasons, and more than 19 FBS teams had entering the weekend.

Quote of the week: "It hurts, man. But records are meant to be broken. Congratulations to that guy." – Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, on Perine breaking his single-game FBS rushing record after just seven days. LaDainian Tomlinson's rushing record, meanwhile, lasted for 5,466 days, before Gordon broke it last week.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 13

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
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It was a good weekend to be a running back, and a trio of signal-callers staked their claim for the future. Here are the Big 12's top performers for Week 13:

Oklahoma RB Samaje Perine: The numbers say plenty: 34 carries, 427 yards, five touchdowns, 12.6 yards per carry. But it was a record-setting day for the true freshman, who broke Melvin Gordon’s week-long record for single-game rushing yardage in the FBS in OU's 44-7 win over Kansas. Perine also became the first player in FBS history to rush for at least 200 yards in both halves of a single game, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Vision, physicality, durability, speed ... Perine has it all.

Oklahoma blockers: Sure, the Sooners' offensive line deserves the bulk of the credit as Perine repeatedly cruised untouched into the Jayhawks' secondary. But the Sooners' fullbacks, tight ends and receivers deserve their share of the accolades as well because Perine doesn’t have eight carries of 20 yards or more without downfield blocking by OU’s skill players. OU’s starting line of Daryl Williams, Ty Darlington, Adam Shead, Nila Kasitati, Tyrus Thompson built the foundation and fullbacks Aaron Ripkowski and Dimitri Flowers built upon that foundation.

Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes: The Red Raiders might have something in the true freshman quarterback who spurned professional baseball to play in Lubbock. Making his third collegiate start, Mahomes was 23-of-35 for 325 yards and four touchdowns with one interception in Tech’s 34-31 win over Iowa State. He was clutch in the fourth quarter, leading the Red Raiders on a touchdown drive to take the lead then converting a key third down with a 9-yard run to seal the win on the next drive.

Iowa State RB Aaron Wimberly: The Cyclones running back averaged 5.4 yards per carry in the loss. He had 19 carries for 102 yards and two touchdowns. He also added three receptions for 22 yards. Wimberly was a consistent threat for ISU’s offense, helping the Cyclones finish with 569 total yards.

Texas Tech RB DeAndre Washington: A dynamic running threat for Tech all season long, Washington had 20 carries for 186 yards (9.3 yards per carry) and one touchdown. He added two receptions for 51 yards and another score. He becomes the first Red Raider to rush for 1,000 yards since 1998 (Ricky Williams) and the seventh in school history.

Baylor RBs Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin: The Bears' pair of running backs combined for 219 rushing yards in Baylor's 49-28 win over Oklahoma State. Linwood had 21 carries for 113 yards and one touchdown. Chafin had 21 carries for 106 yards and three touchdowns. On a rainy night at McLane Stadium, Art Briles' squad turned to the running game and the Bears' running back duo didn’t disappoint.

Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph: The Cowboys may have found themselves an answer at quarterback for the final game against Oklahoma and beyond. The true freshman finished 13-of-25 for 281 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in his first collegiate game. OSU’s 28 points was its most since a 37-20 win over Iowa State on Oct. 4.

Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett: The Wildcats' dynamic playmaker had 321 all-purpose yards in K-State's 26-20 win over West Virginia on Thursday night. Lockett had 10 receptions for 196 yards and added a 43-yard punt return for a touchdown. Week in and week out, Lockett makes a strong case to be known as the Big 12's toughest player to stop.

West Virginia QB Skyler Howard: The junior college transfer came off the bench to pass for 198 yards and two touchdowns. He completed 15 of 23 passes to spark a late rally by the Mountaineers and could get the opportunity to see more time behind center in WVU's final regular-season game against Iowa State next Saturday.

What we learned in the Big 12: Week 13

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
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Here’s what we learned Saturday in Week 13 of the Big 12:

[+] EnlargeSamaje Perine
Brett Deering/Getty ImagesOklahoma running back Samaje Perine proved too physical for Kansas' defense on Saturday.
1. Perine is a star already: Melvin Gordon’s FBS single-game rushing record lasted all of seven days. One week after the Wisconsin Heisman hopeful rushed for 408 yards, Oklahoma's Samaje Perine eclipsed that mark with 427 yards on 34 carries in a 44-7 win over Kansas. Perine didn’t even start the game, and he only got one carry (he took it 49 yards for a touchdown) through Oklahoma’s first three possessions. But he took over the game after that and ran for five touchdowns before capping his amazing afternoon with a 43-yard dash that broke Gordon’s record early in the fourth quarter. The scariest part? Perine is a true freshman. Although Gordon will likely be taking his talents to the NFL after this season, Perine will be terrorizing Big 12 defenses for years to come as one of the fastest rising stars in college football.

2. The Cowboys appear to have their QB of the future: Oklahoma State pulled the redshirt off true freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph with only two games left, after Daxx Garman was ruled out with a concussion. In his much anticipated collegiate debut, “The Reindeer” electrified a previously dormant Cowboys offense, and Oklahoma State hung tough with the seventh-ranked Bears before they pulled away 49-28. Rudolph wasn’t perfect; he did throw a couple freshman interceptions. But he gave the Cowboys the jolt they’ve desperately been craving, offensively, since J.W. Walsh was injured in Week 2. Displaying veteran poise and an accurate arm, Rudolph threw for 281 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Dating back to halftime Oct. 11 against Kansas, Oklahoma State had scored just three offensive touchdowns coming into the weekend. On Saturday, with Rudolph at quarterback, the Cowboys scored four TDs on the road against the Big 12’s best statistical defense. Overall, this has been a disappointing season for the Cowboys. But with Rudolph behind center, they have plenty to be excited about for the future.

3. Baylor misses a prime chance for style points: Earlier in the day, No. 6 Ohio State struggled at home against Indiana, which opened the door for Baylor to jump the Buckeyes in the playoff rankings with an impressive performance. The Bears appeared to be on their way to doing just that, after they bounded to a 14-0 lead over the Cowboys in the game’s first three minutes. But the rest of the way, Baylor sputtered offensively and had problems stopping Rudolph. This might come off like nitpicking. After all, Baylor did win the game by three touchdowns. But with “game control” being utilized by the playoff committee as a subjective component, Baylor missed out on an opportunity to deliver a statement on the same weekend Ohio State struggled and TCU was off.

4. Mahomes is making a move on the Tech QB job: Coming into the season, the Red Raiders had high hopes for sophomore quarterback Davis Webb. But Webb’s struggles with turnovers, followed by an ankle injury, have given true freshman Pat Mahomes the opportunity to show what he can do with the job. After he threw four touchdowns last week against Oklahoma, Mahomes was terrific again in a 34-31 win at Iowa State. He threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns and led the Red Raiders on a 75-yard, game-winning drive, which he capped with a 44-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Williams late in the fourth quarter. Perhaps most impressively, Mahomes has thrown only one interception the past two weeks. Tech coach Kilff Kingsbury said earlier in the week that the quarterback that doesn’t turn the ball over would have the best chance to be the program's long-term starter. Right now, that appears to be Mahomes.

5. Iowa State is now on the cusp of a winless Big 12 season: Texas Tech was Iowa State’s best chance to get a Big 12 win to give the program at least a dash of momentum going into 2015. The Cyclones needed one last stop and then one last scoring drive. Instead, they failed to get either, and Tech rallied to take the lead, then held Iowa State on a final fourth-down attempt. The Cyclones entered this season hoping to regain bowl eligibility after going 3-9 last year. But if they don’t knock off West Virginia at home next weekend or somehow pull the upset of the year Dec. 6 at No. 5 TCU, they will finish winless in the conference for the first time since Paul Rhoads took over as coach in 2009.

Big 12 viewer's guide: Week 13

November, 21, 2014
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Lesson learned.

Last weekend appeared like it would have minimal impact on the race for a College Football Playoff berth, with TCU visiting Kansas and Baylor sitting at home during a bye week. Instead, KU gave TCU everything it could handle and the Horned Frogs ended up dropping out of the CFP rankings top four despite a win.

This weekend, Baylor faces a similar scenario as the clear favorite over Oklahoma State, which is in the midst of a four-game losing streak.

Here are the storylines to watch in the Big 12 during Week 13:

[+] EnlargeCody Thomas
AP Photo/Alonzo AdamsCody Thomas will get his second start at QB this weekend for Oklahoma.
Kansas at No. 21 Oklahoma, noon ET (Fox Sports 1): The Sooners returned to the Top 25 after a 42-30 road win over Texas Tech last Saturday, but it has been a while since Bob Stoops' squad looked like one of the nation’s elite. Redshirt freshman quarterback Cody Thomas will get his second start and a second opportunity to show he should be in OU’s future plans. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks are coming off a strong performance, albeit a loss, against TCU. KU’s offense is more explosive with Eric Kiesau handling the play-calling duties and could make enough plays to put another ranked team on upset alert.

Texas Tech at Iowa State, 3:30 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Networks): Both teams badly need a win with one conference victory combined between the Red Raiders and Cyclones. Texas Tech showed plenty of fight in the loss to OU and has the better offense of the two with either Patrick Mahomes or Davis Webb at quarterback. But the Red Raiders also have an ugly trend of shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers and penalties. The Cyclones are coming off a bye week with a renewed focus on righting the ship after a blowout loss to KU in their last game. In a lot of ways, the 2015 season starts now for the Red Raiders and Cyclones with players on both teams looking to solidify themselves as key playmakers of the future.

Oklahoma State at No. 7 Baylor, 7:30 p.m. ET, (Fox): There is no shortage of reasons for Baylor to want to win -- and win impressively. Not only did Oklahoma State hammer Baylor 49-17 in 2013, but the Pokes have been the biggest thorn in the Bears' side in the entire conference in recent years, having won four of the past five meetings. Combine Baylor’s pursuit of a College Football Playoff berth and desire to impress the committee with Oklahoma State’s recent struggles and it could be an explosive night at McLane Stadium.

Big 12 Week 13 predictions

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
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Why Kansas State will win: West Virginia will bounce back and give K-State a heck of a fight in Morgantown. The Wildcats haven't gone on the road much this season (three times, in fact), but they'll be locked in and angry. KSU's defense gets after Clint Trickett just as Texas did. Kansas State 38, West Virginia 34 -- Max Olson

Why West Virginia will win: After battling four top 10 teams, the Mountaineers finally looked like a tired bunch in Austin. The week off should have done wonders for them physically and psychologically. I expect West Virginia to come out fired up for this game, knowing a win over the Wildcats would ensure this season will be deemed a success. West Virginia 34, Kansas State 31 -- Jake Trotter



Why Iowa State will win: Trotter has a two-game lead in our picks contest. I have to catch up. Fortune favors the bold. The Cyclones are fresh off a bye and will be able to move the ball on Tech. This is their best (only?) chance to avoid a winless conference season. If Davis Webb is back and dealing, I might be dead wrong. Iowa State 27, Texas Tech 24 -- Olson

Why Texas Tech will win: The Red Raiders simply have more firepower. Neither defense is great, so the team with the bigger arsenal should triumph, and that team is Tech. Texas Tech 38, Iowa State 24 -- Chatmon

Unanimous selections:

Baylor over Oklahoma State: Have you been watching the Oklahoma State offense? The Cowboys lead the Big 12 in three-and-outs, and since the Bears are gunning for style points, this could get ugly fast in Waco. The only variable to this game will be whether Oklahoma State is forced to pull the redshirt off freshman Mason Rudolph if a banged up Daxx Garman can't go. Yet even though Rudolph is an intriguing quarterback prospect, he won't have enough help around him and up front for it to make much of a difference against the speedy Bears. Baylor 66, Oklahoma State 13 – Trotter

Oklahoma over Kansas: If the Sooners lean on their running game, KU could struggle to find answers. Even though Clint Bowen’s Jayhawks are much improved, a road win at OU still seems out of reach. Oklahoma 31, Kansas 17 – Chatmon

But...

Why Kansas will keep it close: The Jayhawks will find a way to force OU to pass the ball. KU plays great pass defense. Without Trevor Knight, Oklahoma isn't playing great pass offense. Oklahoma 31, Kansas 21 -- Olson

Season records:
  • Trotter: 58-6
  • Chatmon: 56-8
  • Olson: 55-9

Big 12 stat check: Week 13

November, 19, 2014
Nov 19
4:00
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A closer look at one statistic worth keeping an eye on for each Big 12 team entering Week 12:


Baylor: The Bears' defense was supposed to take a step backward after losing several starters from its 2013 unit. Instead BU ranks among the conference leaders in several categories and leads the Big 12 by forcing a punt on 50.8 percent of opponents possessions and could see that number increase this weekend with a hapless Oklahoma State offense visiting McLane Stadium on Saturday.


Iowa State: The Cyclones will need to improve their sack percentage if they hope to slow down Texas Tech’s passing attack. ISU’s 3.5 sack percentage ranks last in the Big 12 as the Cyclones have struggled to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks outside of defensive end Cory Morrissey’s five sacks.


Kansas: Beware of the Jayhawks coming out of the halftime locker room. KU has a plus-8 turnover margin in the third quarter, which leads the Big 12. Clint Bowen’s squad could need some turnovers to upset Oklahoma in Norman, so an opportunistic defense could be the Jayhawks' key against OU.


Kansas State: The Wildcats are tough to stop once they get rolling. K-State scores on 66.2 percent of its drives that begin with an initial first down. In other words, a three-and-out is the best bet to slow the Wildcats’ offense, so West Virginia should take heed.


Oklahoma: The Sooners' running game has been impressive but their ball protection has been even more impressive. OU is averaging 240.9 rushing yards per game yet has lost a fumble once in 408 rushes. That’s a 0.7 fumble percentage, best in the Big 12.


Oklahoma State: The Cowboys' offense is trending downward and the offensive line is a big reason why. Negative plays have become the norm for Mike Gundy’s team with 36.2 percent of their plays resulting in negative yardage. Only Iowa State (37.9) has a worse percentage in the Big 12.


Texas: With a date with TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin on the horizon, the Longhorns might be the best equipped to handle the conference’s top dual-threat signal-caller. UT’s 9.3 sack percentage is the best in the Big 12 with Baylor (8.4) as the only other Big 12 team with a sack percentage higher than 8 percent.


TCU: The Horned Frogs do a good job of adjusting their approach at halftime. Their average of 8.39 yards per play in the third quarter is first in the Big 12 and nearly two yards better than second-ranked K-State (6.68 ypp).


Texas Tech: Even with Tech’s uncertainty at the quarterback position, the Red Raiders' defense is at the heart of the struggles for Kliff Kingsbury’s team. Tech is allowing 3.04 points per drive, last in the Big 12 and No. 123 among FBS teams. The Red Raiders' offense hasn’t helped the cause with 22 turnovers but the defense has been unable to overcome those mistakes.


WVU: The Mountaineers' defense has played a huge role in the improvement of Dana Holgorsen’s team. WVU’s pass defense has been much improved with the Mountaineers allowing 6.06 yards per pass attempt, ranking second in the Big 12. Last season, WVU ranked last in the conference at 7.88 yards allowed per pass attempt.

Big 12 releases 2015 schedule

November, 19, 2014
Nov 19
3:30
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The Big 12 released its conference schedule Wednesday for the 2015 season. Here's the schedule, along with a few of my thoughts below:

Sept. 26
Oklahoma State at Texas
TCU at Texas Tech
Oct. 3
Texas Tech vs. Baylor (Arlington)
Kansas at Iowa State
Kansas State at Oklahoma State
West Virginia at Oklahoma
Texas at TCU
Oct. 10
Baylor at Kansas
Iowa State at Texas Tech
Oklahoma vs. Texas (Dallas)
Oklahoma State at West Virginia
TCU at Kansas State
Oct. 17
West Virginia at Baylor
Oklahoma at Kansas State
Texas Tech at Kansas
TCU at Iowa State
Oct. 24
Iowa State at Baylor
Kansas at Oklahoma State
Kansas State at Texas
Texas Tech at Oklahoma
Oct. 29 (Thursday)
West Virginia at TCU
Oct. 31
Oklahoma at Kansas
Oklahoma State at Texas Tech
Texas at Iowa State
Nov. 5 (Thursday)
Baylor at Kansas State
Nov. 7
Iowa State at Oklahoma
Kansas at Texas
Texas Tech at West Virginia
TCU at Oklahoma State
Nov. 14
Kansas at TCU
Kansas State at Texas Tech
Oklahoma at Baylor
Oklahoma State at Iowa State
Texas at West Virginia
Nov. 21
Baylor at Oklahoma State
Iowa State at Kansas State
West Virginia at Kansas
TCU at Oklahoma
Nov. 26 (Thursday)
Texas Tech at Texas
Nov. 27 (Friday)
Baylor at TCU
Nov. 28
Iowa State at West Virginia
Kansas State at Kansas
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
Dec. 5
West Virginia at Kansas State
Texas at Baylor

Thoughts:
  • The biggest thing that jumps out is the Baylor-TCU game on Black Friday. I saw some dissension about this on Twitter, but I actually kind of like it. The Big 12 needs rivalries after the Red River Showdown and Bedlam, and TCU-Baylor seems to be the league's best chance at developing a third major rivalry. Putting the game on a special day like Black Friday places an added emphasis on the game. Especially if it again holds Big 12 title and playoff implications.
  • Baylor has a killer November slate, with road trips to K-State, Oklahoma State and TCU, and a home bout with Oklahoma. The Bears will also play their first two conference games away from home. I doubt Art Briles will be fired up about this schedule.
  • TCU has a brutal stretch late in November, playing Oklahoma and Baylor in a six-day span. That two-game swing could define the Horned Frogs' season.
  • Dec. 5 potentially could be a big weekend for the league. West Virginia, K-State, Texas and Baylor could all be in the Big 12 title mix. The league should have a national presence while other conferences are playing their championship games.
  • The Big 12 has three Thursday night conference games, and all three have a chance to be good ones.

Big 12 morning links

November, 19, 2014
Nov 19
8:00
AM ET
Fear the Beard. A new "This is SportsCenter" ad has arrived.
  • Iowa State is hoping to use the final stretch of the season as a springboard for next year, writes Bobby LaGesse of the Ames Tribune. The Cyclones used their bye week to change their outlook heading into games with West Virginia, Texas Tech and TCU. It's been a rough year for the Cyclones but going winless in Big 12 play could be a disaster for Paul Rhoads' team.
  • Kansas' improved performances on the weekend have begun during the week, writes Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World. The intensity of practices have increased and players are starting to understand they have to pay the price, says interim coach Clint Bowen. It's interesting that the intensity and fun have picked up at Bowen's practices. It speaks to the relationships that Bowen has created with his players. If they didn't have a strong relationship, it's unlikely KU's players would respond to Bowen like they have.
  • Kansas State coach Bill Snyder would have liked to see one of the Wildcats' running backs seize the primary ball carrier spot and become the "man" in the backfield, writes Ken Corbitt of the Topeka Capital-Journal. The Wildcats' inability to replace John Hubert has seemed like a handicap to the K-State offense for the bulk of the year. Quite frankly, it shows how well KSU has played as a team for the Wildcats to be 7-2 through nine games without a running back with more than 500 rushing yards.
  • Becoming a Mountaineer was a dream come true for Clint Trickett and now the West Virginia quarterback can make it a perfect home finale with an upset win over Kansas State. Trickett has had a terrific season but has fallen off in recent weeks with more interceptions (3) than touchdowns (2). Make no mistake, he has been a key to WVU's improved record this season and he will be the key on Thursday night.
  • Lastly, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said the Red Raiders changed defensive signals "as soon as they found out" their signals may have been compromised after former defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt left the program, reports Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Earlier this week questions arose about the possibility of Tech's defensive signals "being passed around" during the past two to three weeks. It's such an odd situation but it seems odd the Red Raiders didn't immediately change signals upon Wallerstedt's departure but I can also see how, particularly in the midst of a tough season, it wouldn't even cross their mind that those signals could be compromised.

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