Big 12: Texas Tech Red Raiders

In Friday's Twitter mailbag, we talk playoff chances, Heisman odds and the Big 12 title race.

Speaking of the Big 12 title race, we’ll be at all three Big 12 games this weekend.

I’m on my way to Manhattan, Kansas, for K-State’s clash with Texas. Brandon will be at West Virginia-Oklahoma State. And Max will be manning Texas Tech-TCU.

Even with only three games, it should be a compelling weekend in the league.

Now, on to the ‘bag:

Trotter: I'm starting to wonder if the Big 12 is going to cannibalize itself out of the playoff. In terms of depth, this is the best this league has been in awhile. But in turn, I'm not sure anyone is going to be able to get through it without two losses. In part because of schedule, TCU is probably the league's best chance. Even then the Horned Frogs would still have to go win in West Virginia next weekend. That won't be easy. Trotter: He probably already would be appearing on straw polls had TCU held on to beat Baylor. All the Big 12 Heisman love went to Bryce Petty after that game. Now, it's going to West Virginia wideout Kevin White. But if the Horned Frogs beat Tech on Saturday, West Virginia next weekend then K-State on Nov. 8, I think you'll see Boykin surge into the Heisman conversation. He has had an amazing season. Trotter: I rank it second, behind the SEC (really, behind the SEC West, because the SEC East stinks outside Georgia). I've caught flak from West Coasters for writing earlier in the week that the Big 12 was second. But other than Oregon, does anyone in the Pac-12 finish in the top four of the Big 12? Trotter: While it would take a minor miracle, Oklahoma is not completely eliminated from the playoff mix yet. If you went back in time with the playoff, there would be teams that would have been selected with two losses. But the Sooners would need an awful lot of help. And quite frankly, Oklahoma will have to play better than it has the last three weeks to run the table anyway. Trotter: This is an impossible question to answer, because it fluctuates based on how each team is doing. And the word "fanbase" could mean many different things. I will say the best game I've been to this year in terms of crowd was the K-State-Auburn game last month. The K-State crowd was awesome for that game, especially the student section. Trotter: FPI gives West Virginia about a 10-percent chance of winning the league. I'd actually peg it a little higher. If the Mountaineers can escape Stillwater this weekend, they have a favorable schedule the rest of the way, with both TCU and K-State having to travel to Morgantown. The Mountaineers would also have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Baylor. So no doubt, at the moment West Virginia has to be considered a contender. Trotter: I'm a huge Curry Sexton fan. Honestly, if he and I walked into a room together, you might have a hard time determining which of us was a college football player -- and that's no compliment to me. But Sexton is a ballplayer. He has incredible hands, deceiving speed and a knack for coming up with big plays in key moments. Sexton is also one of the sharpest guys I've interviewed in the Big 12. And he has filled a major need on the Wildcats as the primary wingman for Tyler Lockett. Sexton is having a tremendous season. Trotter: It's a troubling stat. Eventually it's going to cost the Mountaineers, if they don't clean it up offensively. It was stunning how it didn't doom them early in that game against Baylor. But West Virginia also needs to be more opportunistic on defense. Only Michigan has forced fewer turnovers than the Mountaineers, who have only four takeaways. Turnovers are a big part in determining the outcome of a game. It's hard to see West Virginia overcoming that trend the rest of the season. Trotter: Both have been second-team All-Big 12-caliber players. As I wrote earlier today, Washington is quietly having a terrific year, but Shock Linwood and Samaje Perine will be tough to topple for first-team all-conference honors. Robertson is having the best season on Tech's defense, but Tech's defense is arguably the worst in the league. Plus, linebacker is a loaded position this year. Still, both players have been bright spots in what has been a tough season so far for the Red Raiders. Trotter: The reason is the schedule is so brutal. K-State still has to go win at TCU, West Virginia and Baylor. As well as the Wildcats have played, the chances of them sweeping those three games aren't good. Then again, if the Wildcats did run the table, they would obviously be the Big 12's best - and only -- chance of putting a team in the playoff. Though the Auburn loss would be tricky -- what if the final playoff spot came down to K-State and Auburn? -- the Wildcats at 11-1, with four monster road wins, would be a formidable playoff contender.

Texas Tech at TCU primer

October, 24, 2014
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A week after knocking off a top-15 Oklahoma State team at home, TCU welcomes another dangerous foe to Fort Worth.

The No. 10-ranked Horned Frogs look to improve 6-1 and boost their rising College Football Playoff hopes with a win over Texas Tech on Saturday afternoon. Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson break down the matchup.

How Texas Tech can earn the upset: Davis Webb needs to outplay Trevone Boykin, and the Red Raider defense needs to force some turnovers if Kliff Kingsbury’s squad hopes to knock off the nation’s 10th-ranked team. Webb has done a better job of taking care of the football in recent weeks (six touchdowns, two interceptions), but it will be critical for him and the Red Raiders to limit their mistakes while putting together some big plays of their own. -- Chatmon

How TCU can control the game: This might be a survive-and-advance kind of game for TCU. You know the Red Raiders are going to take lots of shots in the pass game. They want a shootout, and they really have nothing to lose. TCU's 42-9 rout of Oklahoma State was a perfect blueprint for controlling a game from start to finish, so we know the Frogs are more than capable of that. Another strong first-half start -- stops, takeaways, red-zone TDs -- would go a long way this week against this inconsistent TTU defense. -- Olson

Texas Tech’s X factor: Running back Justin Stockton has been a big play waiting to happen with five touchdowns in seven games thus far in his career. The true freshman has scored a touchdown in all three Red Raider wins this season and has the ability to make game-changing plays as the second running option in Tech’s attack. He’s averaging 9.6 yards per carry and could be just what the Red Raiders need to pull the upset. -- Chatmon

TCU's X factor: Its diversity of skill talent production. Nine different players recorded rushes or receptions of 10-plus yards against Oklahoma State last week, including Josh Doctson. Anybody else could do it this week. The Horned Frogs' ability to move the ball without relying heavily on any one player can be an asset at this phase of the season and in the playoff chase. -- Olson

What a win would mean for Texas Tech: A win would be huge for Kingsbury’s squad, which has suffered some ups-and-downs during his second season in charge. It would be an unexpected step towards a second straight bowl game and a sign the Red Raiders have shaken off their four-game losing streak with back-to-back wins heading into a showdown with Texas. -- Chatmon

What a win would mean for TCU: Another step toward proving the Horned Frogs are the team to beat in the conference. They had one heck of an October schedule and finishing that stretch with a 3-1 record would be an impressive feat that keeps them right in the middle of the Big 12 title hunt. TCU needs to maintain its momentum, too, because the next two games are a doozy: a trip to West Virginia and a home game against Kansas State. -- Olson
Texas Tech is known for throwing the ball.

But lately, the Red Raiders' most effective offensive weapon has been a running back.

Tech heads to No. 10 TCU this weekend hoping to turn its season around against the Big 12’s highest-ranked team. The Red Raiders (3-4, 1-3 Big 12) desperately need an upset victory to keep their bowl hopes alive.

The player that could give them a chance is emerging running back DeAndre Washington. The past two weeks, Washington has rushed for 296 yards. Perhaps even more impressive, Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury has given him 52 carries in those games. Washington ranks second in the Big 12 at 5.6 yards per carry, and third with an average of almost 89 yards a game. He is on track to become Tech's first 1,000-yard rusher since 1998, when Ricky Williams (the Red Raider, not the Longhorn) ran for 1,168 on his way to earning second-team All-America honors.

[+] EnlargeDeAndre Washington
John Weast/Getty ImagesDeAndre Washington ranks second in the Big 12 at 5.6 yards per carry.
"He’s done a good job the last couple of weeks," Kingsbury said. "He's been running it well and protecting (the ball). So we like to get him going."

Washington has endured plenty of obstacles to reach this point. After a promising true freshman season, he suffered a torn ACL the following year. When he came back, he was behind Kenny Williams on the depth chart. Though he had his good moments, Washington had a couple bad ones, too. Against TCU last season, he caught a swing pass and dashed 49 yards seemingly for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. But Washington celebrated prematurely. He dropped the ball at the half-yard line, resulting in an unsportsmanlike penalty that negated the touchdown (the Red Raiders scored two plays later; and they still won the game).

Washington learned his lesson. Practically the only Red Raider not to get bitten by the mistake bug this season, Washington has yet to fumble. He has proven to be durable. And he has given much-needed balance to the offense.

"I’m feeling pretty good," Washington said. "In the offseason, I tried to take care of my body and get myself mentally prepared, physically prepared for the season. ... That's been the main reason why I've been able to go into games and sustain ... handling a lot of the load with the carries I've had."

To help Washington and add more leadership to the offense, Kingsbury has moved Kenny Williams back to running back after a short-lived experiment at outside linebacker. Together with freshman Justin Stockton, the Red Raiders will feature three capable backs during the second half of the season.

"I'm happy to have him back," Washington said of Williams. “Kenny, he's our war hawk. He'll do a lot of short-yardage. We'll use him in the pass game as well."

This time, though, Williams will be flanking Washington. Although Williams will take away carries, Washington has established himself as the Red Raiders’ primary back. That should give him the shot to become the first 1,000-yard rusher in Tech’s "Air Raid" era.

Still, that is not what Washington has on his mind going into this weekend. Instead, it's on getting a victory to keep bowl hopes alive.

"My freshman year when I came in, we didn't make a bowl game, and that was probably the longest offseason that I’ve ever been a part of in all my years of football," Washington said. "So I definitely don't want to have to endure that feeling again. We're trying to do everything we can to make sure that doesn't happen again. We kind of put ourselves in a hole early on in the season. But that's definitely what we want."

Big 12 viewer's guide: Week 9

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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 a 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 of 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

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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.

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

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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.
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:

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.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
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video
While West Virginia landed a commit at a much-needed position, Oklahoma hosted one of the nation's top-ranked players -- hoping to lure him away from his SEC commitment. Those were the highlights of the weekend in the Big 12, but here's a recap of the recruiting weekend, one that could lead to some much bigger results as October progresses.


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Big 12 recruiting scorecard

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
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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
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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.

Big 12 morning links

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
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Things got a little crazy in Morgantown, and I don't mean on the football field...
  • Texas Tech receiver Jakeem Grant was part of a scary situation early Sunday morning. According to Nicholas Talbot and Sarah Rafique of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Grant was injured during an off-campus altercation in which more than 20 rounds were fired from multiple weapons. Grant suffered a laceration and was taken to the hospital, treated and released. It's unclear if Grant will be able to play against TCU this weekend. But the important part is that he's all right. And fortunately, no one else was seriously injured, either.
  • The Sooners are a two-loss team for many reasons. Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman detailed one of those problems common in both losses, and that was Oklahoma's poor time management. Against K-State, the Sooners squandered their last timeout with 9:45 left to play, which ultimately allowed the Wildcats to drain four minutes off the clock late to clinch the 31-30 victory. The Sooners also blew their timeouts in the loss at TCU. They took the field with a chance for a game-winning drive with 51 seconds remaining. But without any timeouts, the clock ran out on them. That comes down to communication and coaching, not only on game day, but in the week leading up. And it has cost the Sooners dearly.
  • The Waco Tribune-Herald's Brice Cherry thinks that Baylor should shed the self-given "America's Top Offense" label for now after struggling in a 41-27 loss at West Virginia. I don't know if that's completely fair. The Bears, no doubt, had an off game in Morgantown. But they still lead the country in scoring. And just a week ago, they put up 61 on a TCU defense many have pegged as one of the best in the league. Baylor's offense is still one to be feared. And it's the biggest reason why I'm nowhere near ready to write off the Bears in the Big 12 title chase.
  • The Oklahoman's Josh Helsley suggested that while Oklahoma State is a win away from becoming bowl eligible, the Cowboys might not actually get there. I can't disagree. Oklahoma State looked awful in a 42-9 loss at TCU, and frankly, the Cowboys didn't look impressive beating up on the bottom of the Big 12 to the start the conference season. Now comes the difficult part, as Oklahoma State's final five games are: No. 22 West Virginia, at No. 11 Kansas State, Texas, at No. 12 Baylor and at No. 17 Oklahoma. If the Cowboys don't play a lot better than they did in Fort Worth, they could finish out on a six-game losing streak.
  • After beating Iowa State 48-45, the Longhorns were back to talking about winning the Big 12. That's no typo. “When you have two losses in the Big 12, you’re never out of the race,” receiver John Harris told the Austin American-Statesman's Brian Davis. “I think we’re in a great position to win out.” Hey, I'm all for optimism. Speaking of which, I think I'm in great position to win the Pulitzer Prize. Anything is possible, right?

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