Big 12: West Virginia Mountaineers

Big 12 morning links

September, 1, 2014
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We will be a little lighter than usual today because of the holiday. Everyone have a happy Labor Day.
  • A lot of great reads came out of Baylor's Sunday night christening of McLane Stadium. The Dallas Morning News' Kevin Sherrington wrote that the Bears left their inhibitions -- and their tarp -- on other side of I-35. Baylor fans marveled at the new stadium, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald's Regina Davis. And the paper's John Werner added that it's time for Baylor to believe again. Brandon was in Waco and and has more on the unveiling on the blog this morning. But from the view of my TV set, the stadium looked awesome. It should be a game-changer for the Bears, especially in recruiting. Who wouldn't want to play in that venue? Underscoring that theme, Robert Griffin III, took this spectacular selfie in front of the Baylor student section. A great night all around for Baylor.
  • Back to Saturday's games, Oklahoma State did not fear the spear, The Oklahoman's John Helsley wrote. And according to the paper's Berry Tramel, the Cowboys should be dejected about the night, and euphoric about the future. As I wrote last week, Oklahoma State's sustainability was going to be tested this season. And despite the loss, the Cowboys passed that test with flying colors against the top-ranked team in the country. Despite having to lean on several young players, the Pokes gave Florida State everything it wanted, and might have been a J.W. Walsh fumble away from flat pulling off the upset. Oklahoma State's 2014 outlook looks completely different now than I had it pegged in the preseason. This is a team to be reckoned with. And no matter the circumstance, a program to be reckoned with, too.
  • Speaking of giving an opponent everything it wanted, West Virginia took second-ranked Alabama to the wire in an inspired performance from Dana Holgorsen's bunch. The game showed how far the Mountaineers have come, wrote the Charleston Daily Mail's Chuck McGill. The biggest difference for West Virginia was the play of quarterback Clint Trickett, who was terrific against the Crimson Tide. With Rushel Shell also pounding out yards between the tackles and Kevin White hauling in passes downfield, this could be a dynamite offense. If the Mountaineers play the entire season the way they did Saturday, there is no doubt they will get back to bowl eligibility. The schedule might still be brutal. But do you think Oklahoma and Baylor and Kansas State are looking forward to their trips to Morgantown now?
  • We addressed the good. Now, to the ugly. The Des Moines Register's Randy Peterson believes Iowa State's 34-14 defeat to North Dakota State was the worst loss of the Paul Rhoads era. I can't disagree. After jumping on the Bison 14-0, the Cyclones simply were dominated the rest of the way. Most disheartening was how Iowa State was obliterated in the trenches. If an FCS team can do that to the Cyclones this weekend, what are Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State going to do? Adding injury to insult, Iowa State suffered injuries to a pair of its key players in center Tom Farniok and wideout Quenton Bundrage. Farniok might be back this weekend, but it doesn't look promising for Bundrage, who was Iowa State's leading receiver last season. This now has the look of a very rough year for the Cyclones, whose next four opponents went a combined 37-14 last season.
  • Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury was not happy with his team's performance over the weekend, either, as the Red Raiders narrowly escaped Central Arkansas 42-35. Kingsbury called the showing "embarrassing," according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Don Williams. The Red Raiders have high hopes for the season and for the future of the program, illustrated by the extension the school agreed to with Kingsbury the day before. But all hope is not lost. Plenty of teams have looked lackluster in their openers, then gone on to great seasons. But quarterback Davis Webb will have to be sharper, and the defense will have to be better for the Red Raiders to have the season they envision.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 1

August, 31, 2014
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Well, that was a pretty great day of football in the Big 12, all in all (sorry, Cyclones). We were on the lookout for guys who surprised in this first week of college football, and we had no trouble finding enough guys worthy of the coveted helmet sticker. Yes, Baylor still has to play, but here's who we're handing stickers out to for big games on Saturday:

ATH Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State: The best compliment you can offer Tyreek Hill might be that, without a doubt, Florida State wishes that guy was on their team. The heavily-hyped junior college transfer might've actually exceeded his electric expectations with 106 yards of offense on 14 touches and, including returns, 278 all-purpose yards in the 37-31 loss to Florida State. We tried to warn you all about him. Hill is going to be special and he's going to give Big 12 defenses fits.

QB Clint Trickett and WR Kevin White, West Virginia: What a gutsy performance from the Mountaineers and especially this duo during the 33-23 loss to Alabama. Trickett came out firing and finished with 365 passing yards and no turnovers. White might've been even better. He took it to the Alabama secondary with 143 yards on nine receptions, including a 19-yard score, and evoked a lot of talk about his NFL future. Trickett and White were put on a big stage and they stepped up.

WR John Harris, Texas: Welcome back to the big show. Harris, a senior who was seldom used last season, had an eye-opening, career-best performance as David Ash's go-to guys during a 38-7 win over North Texas. He hauled in seven receptions for 110 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown in which he trucked through a defender near the goal line. Harris caught five passes in all of 2013 but could be poised to do big things if he and Ash keep up this rapport.

QB Jake Waters, Kansas State: Waters kicked off his senior-year campaign with another typically steady showing, leading K-State on a 55-16 rout of SF Austin while putting up some nice numbers: 223 yards on 19-of-28 passing, two passing TDs, 55 rushing yards, two rushing TDs. He's becoming an excellent distributor. KSU's offense won't ask him to put up crazy Air Raid stats, but this was a nice performance.

RB Keith Ford, Oklahoma: Freshman Samaje Perine finished with more yards and Alex Ross chipped in two scores, but Ford did some really nice things with his touches. He finished with 116 total yards (65 receiving, 51 rushing) and punched in two first-quarter touchdown runs to get the Sooners rolling to a 48-16 win over Louisiana Tech. OU's inexperience stable of backs got the job done.

DE Mike Tuaua, TCU: The Horned Frogs' defensive line fared just fine without Devonte Fields thanks to a breakout performance from Tuaua. The former juco transfer went wild on Samford with 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles during TCU's 48-14 win. A three-game starter last season, Tuaua almost matched his entire TFL output from last season in one night. He won't get to catch folks by surprise anymore, that's for sure.
Here's what we learned about the Big 12 in Week 1:

1. Oklahoma State and West Virginia showed the Big 12 can go toe-to-toe with anyone: The Mountaineers went 4-8 last season and were picked in the preseason to finish eighth in the Big 12. After graduating 28 seniors, the Cowboys had the fewest returning starters of any program from a Power 5 conference. And yet, Oklahoma State and West Virginia gave college football’s two highest-ranked teams all they wanted. Ultimately, the Cowboys committed too many turnovers to topple No. 1 Florida State, and West Virginia dropped too many passes to knock off No. 2 Alabama. But both Big 12 teams acquitted themselves well with valiant efforts against formidable competition to set up the rest of their seasons. The Cowboys and Mountaineers also sent a message at the outset of this playoff era that the Big 12 is a conference to be reckoned with.

Tyreek Hill, Jalen Ramsey
Tony Gutierrez/Associated PressTyreek Hill and Oklahoma State gave No. 1 Florida State all it could handle.
2. Tyreek Hill is the real deal: This summer, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy confessed that running back Tyreek Hill was the fastest football player he’d ever witnessed in person. Hill confirmed Gundy’s proclamation against Florida State, and showed he was faster than anyone playing for perhaps the fastest defense in college football. "We know he's fast," Gundy said. "Because those guys who were chasing him are fast." Hill produced 278 all-purpose yards and quickly drew the full attention of the Seminoles, both defensively and on special teams. Hill is going to be fun to watch over the next two seasons and will be a difficult matchup for Big 12 opponents.

3. Trevone Boykin is the man in Fort Worth: All preseason, TCU coach Gary Patterson refused to showed his cards at quarterback. He even reportedly had the Amon G. Carter Stadium public address announcer introduce both Boykin and Matt Joeckel as starting quarterbacks. But once the game began, there was no doubt left that Boykin is Patterson’s quarterback. After relieving Casey Pachall the last two seasons, Boykin came out sharp in his first opening-game start against Samford. He completed 29 of 41 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns before passing off to Joeckel for mop-up duty. The Horned Frogs, who limited Samford to 143 yards of offense, figure to be tough defensively again. But Boykin will be the key to them getting over the hump in the program’s third year in the Big 12.

4. Oklahoma remains stout at running back: Coming into the season, the Sooners had to replace starting running back Brennan Clay. They then lost blue-chip freshman Joe Mixon to a season-long suspension. But Oklahoma showed Saturday it is still loaded in the backfield. The three-headed monster of sophomore Alex Ross, sophomore Keith Ford and freshman Samaje Perine stole the show in the Sooners’ convincing 48-16 win over Louisiana Tech. The trio combined for 164 yards and five touchdowns while averaging almost five yards per carry. Ford also added 65 yards receiving. “They’re powerful, physical guys,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “But they have speed and can run, too.” Mixon had the talent to boost Oklahoma’s offense, and the Sooners will miss Clay’s reliability. But Oklahoma is going to be just fine at running back this season.

5. The Big 12 should avoid North Dakota State like the plague: If you can’t beat them, ban them. After falling behind 14-0, North Dakota State roared back to throttle Iowa State 34-14 in Ames. The Bison have now won three in a row against Big 12 teams, including last year’s victory over Kansas State. It’s apparent the back-to-back-to-back FCS national champs have reloaded again. And it would be wise for the Big 12 to avoid scheduling them ever again. As for the Cyclones, it was a disheartening start to the 2014 season. Iowa State lost center Tom Farniok and wideout Quenton Bundrage -- both critical cogs -- to first-half injuries. And from the second quarter on, the Cyclones got dominated in the trenches. It doesn’t get any easier for Iowa State, which had high hopes before the season of getting back to bowl. The Cyclones’ next four opponents went a combined 37-14 last season.

Big 12 viewer's guide: Week 1

August, 30, 2014
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In Week 1, Oklahoma State and West Virginia will try to pull off monumental upsets against the nation’s top two teams; Iowa State and Kansas State will look to avoid back-to-back disastrous openers; TCU and Texas Tech will also attempt to take care of business against the FCS; Texas will kick off the Charlie Strong era; Oklahoma will try to keep its Sugar Bowl level; and Baylor will introduce a new stadium.

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

Saturday

North Dakota State at Iowa State, 11 a.m. CT (FS1): The Cyclones will attempt to avoid opening with a loss to an FCS opponent for the second straight year. That won’t be easy. The Bison have captured three straight FCS national championships. This will also be the Iowa State debut of offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, who last week tabbed Sam B. Richardson to be the Cyclones’ starting quarterback.

West Virginia vs. No. 2 Alabama, 2:30 p.m. CT (ABC or ESPN2): The Mountaineers are the biggest underdog of any Power 5 conference team this weekend. The Crimson Tide lost their final two games of last season, but won back-to-back national championships before that. This, however, appears to be the deepest and most experienced team Dana Holgorsen has had at West Virginia since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12.

Samford at TCU, 6 p.m. CT (FSN regional): TCU coach Gary Patterson hasn’t indicated whether Trevone Boykin or Matt Joeckel will get the start at quarterback in the Horned Frogs’ new offense. Samford coach Pat Sullivan, who won the Heisman Trophy at Auburn in 1971 and coached at TCU form 1992-97, won’t be making the trip to Fort Worth with his team because of complications after offseason neck surgery.

[+] EnlargeJ.W. Walsh
AP Photo/Brody SchmidtJ.W. Walsh is back as the Oklahoma State starting quarterback, and he has a huge challenge waiting for him in the opener.
Central Arkansas at Texas Tech, 6 p.m. CT (FSN regional): This could be an interesting test for Tech’s defense, which will be relying on a host of junior-college transfers along the defensive line and a sophomore-and-under defensive backfield. The Bears return 10 starters from an offense that averaged more than 450 yards per game last year.

Louisiana Tech at No. 4 Oklahoma, 6 p.m. CT (PPV): The Bulldogs will be bringing former Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz with them to Norman. Diaz’s track record against the Sooners wasn’t good. With Diaz manning the defense, Texas allowed 63 points to Oklahoma two years ago and 55 the year before that. Elsewhere, all eyes will be on Sooners quarterback Trevor Knight, who will be making just his sixth career start, most recently shredding Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Stephen F. Austin at No. 20 Kansas State, 6 p.m. CT: The Wildcats dropped last year’s season opener to FCS opponent North Dakota State. But Stephen F. Austin, which won only three games last year, is a far cry from North Dakota State. The Wildcats are also settled at quarterback this time around with Jake Waters, who struggled as the part-time quarterback in last year’s opener, but surged during the second half of the season.

North Texas at Texas, 7 p.m. CT (Longhorn Network): Charlie Strong will finally make his debut as coach of the Longhorns. This game will also mark the return of quarterback David Ash after he missed most of last year with a concussion, and then the spring with a fractured foot. North Texas is coming off a nine-win season but is 9-67 lifetime against Big 12 programs, including 0-9 against Texas.

Oklahoma State vs. No. 1 Florida State, 7 p.m. CT (ABC): No Power 5 conference team returns fewer starters than the Cowboys, who also graduated 28 players. The Seminoles, meanwhile, bring back the reigning Heisman winner in quarterback Jameis Winston. Oklahoma State will start out with J.W. Walsh at quarterback. Walsh led the Big 12 in QBR two years ago. But last year in Big 12 play, Oklahoma State averaged 6.2 yards per play with Clint Chelf at quarterback and only 4.8 with Walsh, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Sunday

SMU at No. 10 Baylor, 6:30 p.m. CT (FS1): The Bears will christen the $260 million McLane Stadium, as Baylor will go from having the worst stadium in the Big 12 to one of the best. The celebration in Waco could begin early, too. Last year, Baylor had an average halftime lead of three touchdowns and enters this game as almost five-touchdown favorites over the Mustangs.
In Friday's Twitter mailbag, we discuss under-the-radar players, storylines this weekend, Texas Tech's chances of starting 8-0 and the best city for food in the Big 12.

To the 'bag:


Trotter: I think people will know the name Tyreek Hill after this weekend. The Oklahoma State running back is going to have a big year. Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman doesn't seem to be talked about much nationally, but he could be a star. Some other names flying under the radar nationally: Texas Tech wide receivers Jakeem Grant and Reginald Davis, West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley, Iowa State running back Aaron Wimberly, TCU cornerback Kevin White, Baylor receiver Corey Coleman and Kansas State's entire roster.
Trotter: Who knows? But Kansas State is being way undervalued nationally, including by some of my colleagues at ESPN. This was a top 15-caliber team at the end of last year. The offensive and defensive lines are going to be very good again, Jake Waters has his footing at quarterback and Tyler Lockett, well, I'm out of superlatives for him. The Wildcats will have to beat Auburn in September to gain some respect. But they are more than capable of doing just that.
Trotter: Probably linebacker Eric Striker. He can already do one thing at an NFL level, and that's rush the passer.
Trotter: That would require them beating Oklahoma State, Kansas State and TCU all on the road. Even if you considered all three of those to be coin-flip games, that, mathematically, would still give Tech only a 12.5 percent chance of winning all three. Possible? Sure. But the odds are very much against it.
Trotter: Even if the Cowboys get blasted this weekend -- and I think they will -- they'll have five winnable games immediately afterward. If they won all five, including that pivotal Thursday night matchup with Texas Tech in Stillwater, I could see them popping up in the Top 25 in mid-October.
Trotter: I see what you did there. I have Oklahoma winning the Big 12. The Sooners get Baylor in Norman, where the Bears have never won, and where Bob Stoops is 87-5.
Trotter: Storylines I will be following: Can Oklahoma State and West Virginia hang tough in tough openers? How will David Ash look in his fourth start since 2012? How will Trevor Knight look coming off that Sugar Bowl performance? Who will get the majority of snaps at QB for TCU? Can Iowa State avoid disaster facing a tricky opponent? And, the return of Mark Mangino and debut of Baylor's new stadium.
Trotter: The odds are we'll see an undefeated Big 12 team over the next five years. Who knows, we could see it this year. Oklahoma will be favored in every game. And if Baylor can topple the Sooners in Norman, the rest of its schedule is fairly manageable.
Trotter: How many Big 12 titles has Texas Tech won? I think Tech is going to have a good and exciting team this year. But until the Red Raiders actually win a championship, I don't see how you can complain about them getting overlooked in the title conversation. Especially when the top five teams in the league last year beat Tech by an average margin of three touchdowns.
Trotter: Richardson is not going to share snaps. They want -- and need -- him to be the guy. It feels like the Cyclones are still trying to replace Seneca Wallace. They're going to give Richardson plenty of opportunities to show he's the long-term answer at quarterback.
Trotter: That's impossible for me to say. All of them are cool in their own way. There's no place in the Big 12 I don't look forward to going to. @mulloy_k: You are a 4-5* recruit, but your only criteria for choosing a school is based on the unlimited snack rule ... and what LOCAL fare would be available (for free) in that city. What Big 12 school do you choose? Appreciate your work! Trotter: Thanks, Kyle. I've been to every campus in the Big 12 multiple times, and I can vouch that in all 10 venues, there are great places to eat. But nowhere in the Big 12 has more great eating options than Austin. That's no slight on the other Big 12 locales. New York City is the only place I've been to that has better food than Austin.
He is one of 10 first-year coaches to make a BCS bowl appearance and the only West Virginia coach to win 10 games in his debut season.

Yet no game looms larger in Dana Holgorsen’s career than the Mountaineers’ battle against Alabama on Saturday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

With an upset victory, expectations would explode through the roof for West Virginia, similar to Oklahoma’s rise in national perception after the Sooners’ Allstate Sugar Bowl win over the Crimson Tide in January. Meanwhile, a lopsided loss could confirm doubts about the overall upside of the Mountaineers in 2014, just 60 minutes into a season that lasts more than three months.

Entering Holgorsen’s fourth season, the Mountaineers’ program is finally full of players he recruited and he’s starting to amass the overall depth he has strived for since they joined the Big 12 before the 2012 season. The Mountaineers were in the Big East in Holgorsen’s first season.

[+] EnlargeDana Holgorsen
AP Photo/Christopher JacksonDana Holgorsen believes his toughest job this weekend won't be coaching against Alabama -- it will be managing the success or disappointment his team will feel after the game.
“I think it’s night and day,” Holgorsen said of the difference in West Virginia's roster, compared to a year ago. “If you just look at the overall numbers, I think we’re better at every position.”

Holgorsen has had success in the Big 12 as an assistant at Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. Holgorsen has been a part of 47 victories during his 11 seasons as a coach in the Big 12, but only six of those victories have been earned as head coach at West Virginia in two seasons.

The time is now for Holgorsen’s influence to blossom into Big 12 success or wither into Big 12 oblivion.

Yet Holgorsen isn’t taking an approach that this season-opening game against Alabama is any different than the other 38 he's coached at West Virginia.

“We’re going to approach this game just like each and every game, study what they do offensively, defensively come up with a game plan to try to get our guys prepared for what they are going to face,” Holgorsen said. “Regardless of who the opponent is, that will be the approach.”

The Mountaineers are clear underdogs. Few observers outside of Morgantown, West Virginia, expect them to win.

“Our guys are going to be ready to play,” Holgorsen said. “Alabama guys are going to be ready to play. You can throw away favorites or underdogs, or any of that. It doesn’t affect us one way or another.”

This will be West Virginia's second meeting with an SEC team under Holgorsen. The Mountaineers rallied to within six points of LSU during the third quarter of their game in Morgantown in 2011. Les Miles’ squad pulled away in the final 15 minutes to leave town with a 47-21 victory. There’s not much to take from that experience -- few players on the roster played in that game.

Nonetheless, the consistent theme among the Mountaineers is simple: Saturday’s game is not about facing a big, bad national power in SEC country.

“Everyone is tuned in and aware of who we are playing,” cornerback Terrell Chestnut said. “At the end of the day it’s not about Alabama, it’s about West Virginia.”

Interestingly enough, Holgorsen believes his work could really begin on Sunday. The fourth-year coach believes — win or loss — his biggest task of the weekend will be managing postgame expectations or disappointment with 11 games remaining on the schedule.

“I believe my biggest coaching challenge will be Sunday, regardless of what happens on Saturday,” Holgorsen said. “Whether we’re successful or not. I think the bigger coaching challenge is going to be on Sunday – getting these guys to overcome what happened, whether it’s positive or negative.”

Big 12 players in Week 1 spotlight

August, 28, 2014
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Are you guys ready? We're less than 48 hours away from the first kickoff of the Big 12 season. (There are some good games tonight, too, if you can't wait that long.) Once we finally get rolling, the guys worth watching closely won't just be the All-Americans like Bryce Petty and Tyler Lockett. We know what they can do, and they'll probably be even better.

But this is our first real chance, after months of speculation and projection, to see how newcomers and players in new roles fare. Here are 11 players we'll be keeping an eye on Saturday and Sunday.

Matt Joeckel and Trevone Boykin
Getty ImagesGary Patterson won't reveal who his starting quarterback is -- Matt Joeckel or Trevone Boykin -- until the Horned Frogs take the field Saturday.
Matt Joeckel, QB, TCU: Will he be the starter? Did Trevone Boykin do enough to regain the job? Gary Patterson won't reveal a thing until his Horned Frog offense takes the field Saturday against Samford. The guy who sets foot on the field won't matter as much as which one thrives, because it seems likely both will get a fair shot. TCU just needs a capable distributor.

Devin Chafin, RB, and Johnny Jefferson, RB, Baylor: Both backs dealt with injuries in fall camp but should be good to go. And if you ask Baylor players, they'll tell you Chafin and Jefferson are about to be stars on the rise. This should be a true stable of backs led by Shock Linwood, but you're going to see Chafin and Jefferson a lot -- especially if Baylor's second team gets a lot of playing time in a blowout.

DeAndre Washington, RB, Texas Tech: We could still see Kenny Williams in short-yardage opportunities, but otherwise, Tech is ready to roll with the 5-foot-8, 201-pound junior leading its run game. Freshmen Justin Stockton and Demarcus Felton are intriguing, but Washington has a chance to establish himself as the feature back and a sneaky good one.

Deandre Burton, WR, Kansas State: The local kid from Manhattan was named a starter this week and is about to get his first meaningful action on offense. The redshirt sophomore has good size and will be one of a few wideouts getting reps with Lockett and Curry Sexton. The competition for his spot will be ongoing, so a big play or two against Stephen F. Austin could go a long way.

Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State: Cyclones fans can't wait to see what Lazard, listed as the backup to Quenton Bundrage at X receiver, can do in his first career day. After all the boasting Paul Rhoads did on signing day (and rightfully so), expectations are awfully high. Let's see Sam B. Richardson lob a few up to him and see if the 6-foot-5 stud can make a splash.

Tyreek Hill, WR/RB, Oklahoma State: What more can we say? We've hyped him up as much as anybody in the Big 12 this offseason. OSU will get the ball in his hands as much as possible. Florida State will do whatever it can to stop him. Can Hill be the game-changer the Pokes need to keep up with the defending champs?

Julian Wilson, CB, Oklahoma: Wilson's transition from nickel to cornerback, where he'll replace a big-time player in Aaron Colvin, has received good reviews. Louisiana Tech will no doubt test him and new starting safety Ahmad Thomas early on to see if they can handle the pressure.

Dravon Henry, FS, West Virginia: Mountaineer coaches have been excited about Henry all year long, and the true freshman seemingly had no trouble earning a starting job. He'll get lots of help from veteran safety Karl Joseph, but you just know Lane Kiffin will take some shots deep to see if the young dude has instincts. He would be wise to keep an eye on Amari Cooper, one of the nation's best wideouts.

Jason Hall, SS, and Dylan Haines, SS, Texas: Hall, a true freshman and former three-star recruit, was named the starter on Texas' depth chart released Thursday. But Haines, a walk-on, will play and so should Adrian Colbert. With safety Mykkele Thompson likely being used as Texas' top nickel, the Longhorns will have a lot of inexperience on the back end on passing downs. They need to play up to the considerable praise they received in camp.

Who are you excited to scout this weekend? Let us know any players we missed in the comments below.

Big 12 Week 1 predictions

August, 28, 2014
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Why Alabama will win: The Crimson Tide don't have a quarterback with a career start, but that seems to be the only question with this team. The losses to Auburn and Oklahoma are fresh on everyone's mind, but before those two games, Alabama had allowed an FBS-low 9.3 points per game last season. Coach Nick Saban's defense will be formidable again. Though the Mountaineers feature several intriguing skill players, it's unlikely they will be able to move the ball the way the Tigers and Sooners did. -- Jake Trotter

Why Florida State will win: Last week, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy called Florida State the best team he had ever faced as a player or a coach. The Seminoles are loaded, headlined by the return of Heisman winner Jameis Winston. The Cowboys, meanwhile, will be fielding almost a completely new squad after losing 28 seniors and returning the fewest starters among any program in a Power 5 conference. Those factors do not equal a recipe for an upset. -- Jake Trotter

More consensus picks: Iowa State over North Dakota State; TCU over Samford; Texas Tech over Central Arkansas; Oklahoma over Louisiana Tech; Kansas State over Stephen F. Austin; Texas over North Texas; Baylor over SMU.

Big 12 morning links

August, 28, 2014
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College football returns tonight:
  • Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy finally admitted on ESPN Radio that J.W. Walsh will be starting quarterback when the Cowboys take the field against Florida State. In other news, water is wet. Walsh being the starter was the worst-kept secret in Stillwater. What isn't known is how he'll play. To have any chance of beating the Seminoles, Oklahoma State will need Walsh to play the way he did two years ago in his first career start against Texas. The Cowboys lost that game, but Walsh was phenomenal, throwing for 301 yards and two touchdowns. Walsh was pretty phenomenal the entire 2012 season, and finished third nationally in QBR. But he took a step back last year, struggling with accuracy and decision-making before ceding the starting job back to Clint Chelf. Which Walsh will show up Saturday, and for that matter, the rest of the season? The answer to that will go a long way in determining what kind of the season the retooling Cowboys will have.
  • West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley will have a monumental test covering Alabama All-America wideout Amari Cooper, writes Dave Hickman of the Charleston Gazette. There might not be a better receiver in the country than Cooper, who is being projected to go in the top five of the first round of the NFL draft next spring. But Worley is one of the fastest-rising stars in the Big 12 and could be up to the challenge. He'll have to limit Cooper's big plays if West Virginia is to have any shot of hanging around in Atlanta. But at the least, the matchup will reveal how far along Worley has progressed in his second year and serve as a harbinger for how he'll fare against Antwan Goodley and Tyler Lockett during the conference season. Speaking of West Virginia-Alabama, the Crimson Tide won't have one of their starting linebackers this weekend.
  • TCU coach Gary Patterson was fuming in front of reporters Wednesday because of how poorly his defense looked in practice, according to Travis L. Brown of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "We better not play like that or we’ll give up 40," Patterson said. Look, TCU isn't giving up 40 to Samford. And while Patterson might be concerned, on the scale of 1-to-10, my worry factor with the TCU defense is a 0. As for the offense, well, that's a different story. We'll see. Also, Samford coach Pat Sullivan won't be making the trip to Fort Worth with his team due to complications from neck surgery. Sullivan was TCU's head coach from 1992-97.
  • The bronze statue of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III has arrived at McLane Stadium and is awaiting its Sunday unveiling. Between that, the stadium debut and the fact the Bears have another elite team, Sunday will be one of the great days in Baylor football history. Enjoy it, Bears fans.
  • In case you missed the previous post on this blog, Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford called out the Longhorn fans with 9,000 tickets remaining for the Charlie Strong debut against North Texas. "People out there: Get off your duff and go buy these tickets," Bedford said. "It should be standing room only. If not, don’t complain, don’t say anything." This isn't the first time Bedford has called out fans. Oklahoma State fans will remember well when he compared bandwagon fans to "roaches," as the Cowboys defensive coordinator in 2006. Bedford can call out fans all he wants -- as long as he doesn't lose to Oklahoma come Oct. 11.
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West Virginia's opener with Alabama this weekend took an interesting turn Tuesday when Mountaineers quarterback Clint Trickett was asked after practice about his relationship with Alabama coach Nick Saban.

Trickett's father, Rick, who is currently Florida State's offensive line coach, worked at LSU under Saban in 2000.

Trickett, however, apparently had a relationship with another Saban, as well.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Trickett, when prompted that he probably knows Saban well: "His daughter was my first kiss back in the day. So yeah... I don't know if I should have said that [laughs]. She's actually engaged now. Coach Nick is one of the greatest there is. My brother (Travis Trickett) worked for him. He was a GA for him when he first got to Alabama. And we've known him for years, family friends and just one of the best coaches out there."

Trickett cut off the next question to add one more tidbit: "For clarification, we were like six years old! Just so everyone knows that."

It's unclear at the moment whether this news will affect how many blitzes Saban dials up on Saturday.

Big 12 mailbag

August, 26, 2014
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Thanks for submitting questions for this week's mailbag. In today's mailbag we talk about Kansas State's running back situation, the big games of the week -- Oklahoma State-Florida State and Alabama-West Virginia -- as well as a potential new look for Texas. By the way, you can submit questions for next week's mailbag here.

On to the 'bag:

Doug T. from Philly writes: Am I the only one who think the perfect storm for an upset may be brewing in Atlanta this Saturday?

Chatmon: I would be surprised, not shocked, if the Mountaineers find a way against the Crimson Tide. I have reservations about WVU’s ability to win in the trenches and I need to see Clint Trickett take his game to another level and play consistently for Dana Holgorsen’s offense. But I like what WVU has at the skill positions and don't see any scenario where Holgorsen's crew will back down against the Crimson Tide.




Brenna from Stillwater writes: Maybe I'm just looking at it from a true "black and white" perspective, but isn't Baylor returning nine starters, as is Oklahoma State? According to Phil Steele, that's the case. Does Bryce Petty's return compensate for Baylor's loss on defense? Does the quality of Baylor's limited returning starters truly peg them as the team (alongside Oklahoma) to beat in the Big 12 and to make a legitimate run at the four team playoff?

Chatmon: Petty goes a long way in changing the expectations for the Bears. He’s a Heisman Trophy candidate and returning Big 12 offensive player of the year. Oklahoma State’s issue is youthful players all over its defense and uncertainty at quarterback and offensive line. Baylor’s question marks aren’t as widespread as the Cowboys. To cap it all off, the Bears young players will get a chance to ease into the season while OSU faces the defending national champion. That’s what separates the two teams before Week 1 in my eyes.




Sean from Stillwater writes: Give us [OSU] hope for an upset this weekend.

Chatmon: There are plenty of reasons for hope. OSU’s receivers and defensive line should be among the Big 12’s best and Tyreek Hill looks like a playmaker. And, talent-wise, the Cowboys have upgraded from a year ago, but hearing Mike Gundy say his team could play 20 newcomers against FSU is a scary thought.




Theylo from Snyderville writes: Who is going to be the K-State running back?

Chatmon: It looks like Charles Jones has won the job as he sits atop the Kansas State depth chart heading into the season opener. But this will be decided between the lines on several Saturdays this fall. Jones may get the initial nod but if DeMarcus Robinson outperforms him on game day then he could end up being the guy. I think we may not know who John Hubert’s replacement is today, despite the Wildcats’ releasing their depth chart, but we will know by the time October rolls around.




Jon in Tulsa writes: If OSU beats FSU, OSU doesn't become favorite for national championship, then why does OU become contender just because last year's team beat Bama? How do you know that UCF wasn't better than Bama and that mostly returning Baylor shouldn't be favorite in Big 12?

Chatmon: Why are you assuming OSU does not become a national championship favorite if they beat Florida State? I find that odd because the Cowboys will be in the College Football Playoff if they go undefeated. Regardless, Oklahoma is a national title contender because they have a good young defense that carried them to 11 wins a year ago. And the Sooners are the Big 12 favorite, for me at least, because they host Baylor in Norman. It’s not all about the Sooners' Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Alabama.




Jacob Jones from Lubbock writes: Iowa State and Texas Tech will both do better then what experts picked. Watch out for Texas Tech going 9-3 and Iowa State 6-6. West Virginia could be a sleeper as well. I still think Oklahoma holds off the competition and reclaims the Big 12 championship. Bold prediction: Texas Tech upsets OU in Lubbock.

Chatmon: I could see it happen with Tech, but I’m worried about ISU’s defensive line. I need to see them first before I can get on that train. I agree with West Virginia as well but where are those wins coming from? TCU, OSU? I think the Big 12 has a chance to be as competitive as ever this fall, particularly after OU and Baylor at the top. Also, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Sooners fall at Tech; Lubbock has been unkind to the Sooners in the past.




Shaun Rucker from Shawnee, Kansas writes: Why does the media insist on bringing up the fact that the Big 12 doesn't have a championship game every chance they get? Our teams have only ever been hurt by the title game, with the exception of Nebraska not playing in it and getting a title shot in 2001. What's your take?

Brandon Chatmon: I don’t think the Big 12 needs a championship game. I don’t see a scenario where a Big 12 team goes undefeated and finds itself on the outside looking in at the College Football Playoff bracket. Thus, the destiny of every Big 12 team is within its control. That’s good enough for me.




Andy from Austin writes: This past mailbag someone asked, "Why doesn't Texas have alternate unis?'' I love that Texas usually just has subtle tweaks instead of major overhauls. But how awesome would it be to have a solid burnt orange uni for home, like the road ones, but reversed, including the helmets? Any chance of getting that look planted in the minds of those who could make it happen?

Chatmon: I love the idea, Andy. But I don’t see it happening anytime soon. Texas has a good look, and the Longhorns have tried to meet recruits/players halfway with their practice uniforms. I wish I was wrong though.

Roundtable: Week 1 storylines

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
1:00
PM ET
Game week has finally arrived. We break down some of the storylines in Week 1 in our weekly Big 12 roundtable:

Who between West Virginia and Oklahoma State has the better chance to pull off the upset this weekend?

Olson: West Virginia, simply because I think Florida State has a little more talent than Alabama. Last year, Virginia Tech gave up two punt return TDs and a pick-six in the first half of their opener vs. Alabama. The Hokies shot themselves in the foot from the start. West Virginia has absolutely no margin of error for that. What the Mountaineers do have is a potentially explosive offense and a full game film of OU thrashing the Tide to use as the blueprint. They must strike early and often and give Bama’s new starting QB hell.

Chatmon: The Mountaineers are hoping a year in the offense will pay off for quarterback Clint Trickett and the rest of the unit. At this time a year ago, none of WVU’s playmakers on offense had much experience. Twelve months later, it should be a different offense. Oklahoma State is talented but it is largely untested, and its defense could be a deer in headlights early against the Seminoles, which would be too much to overcome. Thus, WVU gets the nod, but I wouldn’t bet on either squad to triumph.

Trotter: West Virginia. Florida State returns several key parts off a team that steamrolled most everyone on the way to a national championship. Oklahoma State has the fewest returning starters among any Power 5 conference team. That’s not a recipe for an upset. Alabama is a powerhouse, too, but at least West Virginia will be taking a veteran team to Atlanta. If the Mountaineers can pull off some big plays early -- and they have the players to pull off big plays -- then they can hang around into the second half.

Which Big 12 team should be on upset alert in Week 1?

Olson: No need to overthink this one. It’s Iowa State, because they play North Dakota State. And I don’t say that out of disrespect for the Cyclones, who could be better in a lot of ways in 2014. Just have to respect how NDSU screwed up another Big 12 team’s opener a year ago. Even with coach Craig Bohl gone to Wyoming, NDSU might still be the best team in FCS.

Chatmon: I don’t expect any Big 12 team to be upset this weekend, but TCU is the team that immediately comes to mind. The Horned Frogs won’t lose to Samford -- their defense is too good for that upset to happen -- but they could run into some ups and downs as they try to get their offense humming in the first game with new coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham at the helm. Another team that will have to be on its toes is Baylor, as the Bears try to ignore the distraction of opening McLane Stadium against SMU and focus on the actual game at hand.

Trotter: This one is obvious. Iowa State lost last year’s opener to FCS opponent Northern Iowa. Iowa State’s Week 1 opponent this season, North Dakota State, beat Kansas State on the road in Week 1 last year. If the Cyclones play their game, they’ll be fine. But if they don’t, the three-time defending FCS national champs are more than capable of delivering the upset.

Who is the one player to watch this weekend?

Olson: Oklahoma RB Keith Ford. There were times last season, even when the freshman was getting limited reps, that I sensed Ford might be OU’s most talented running back. He didn’t get talked up too much this offseason, but I think Ford could run wild on Louisiana Tech and alleviate some concerns about an OU run game that lost its top three backs this offseason.

Chatmon: I’m looking forward to seeing what Tyreek Hill can do against the athletes on Florida State’s defense. If Hill is going to live up to the hype as Big 12 preseason newcomer of the year, he will have an immediate impact against the Seminoles and the Cowboys are sure to make getting him the ball a priority. I’m also looking forward to hopefully getting a look at Baylor receiver KD Cannon and Texas Tech quarterback Pat Mahomes in action during week 1.

Trotter: Remember David Ash? It’s difficult to remember, considering he has played in only a couple of games since 2012. Ash will be back behind center for the Longhorns this weekend and is the single biggest key to Texas’ 2014 outlook. If Ash stays healthy and plays well consistently, the Longhorns have the pieces elsewhere to make a run at the Big 12 title. If Ash struggles or gets injured again, the Longhorns will be cooked. The North Texas game will give us a glimpse of which player Texas will be getting.

Big 12 teleconference rewind

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
3:45
PM ET
Monday morning, the Big 12 held its first weekly coaches teleconference of the season.

Here is what was said, and my thoughts:

Jake Trotter: The Longhorns won't need Jaxon Shipley this week. But they will need him the following weekend against BYU. With quarterback David Ash working his way back into form, he will need Texas' most experienced and accomplished wideout on the field.

Trotter: The injuries to Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox hurt Kansas' depth. But De'Andre Mann and Corey Avery were pushing for the top spots on the depth chart before the injuries. The depth took a hit. But the Jayhawks should be fine at running back, provided they suffer no more injuries.

Trotter: The BCS was kind to the Sooners over the years, notably in 2003 and 2008. It remains to be seen whether the playoff committee will look favorably on Oklahoma as well.

Trotter: That is high praise. As a player and coach, Mike Gundy played against some formidable opponents, including some powerhouse Oklahoma and Nebraska teams as a player, then a pair of national championship teams at Oklahoma and Texas as a coach. The combination of Florida State's prominence and Oklahoma State's inexperience is hardly an ideal combination for an opener.

Trotter: Bill Snyder traditionally has preferred to utilize one primary running back, and Charles Jones evidently will get the first shot to replace John Hubert. Whoever emerges from the competition will have the opportunity to shine playing alongside quarterback Jake Waters, receiver Tyler Lockett and behind an offensive line with a pair of all-conference performers.

Trotter: The loss off Icky Banks, a starter last season, in the non-conference hurts, but at least they get him back for the conference portion of the season. The Mountaineers have senior Travis Bell and Terrell Chestnut to at least bridge the gap. The good news is West Virginia has a reliable cover man at the other cornerback in Daryl Worley.

Trotter: Whether Texas Tech makes a big jump defensively will hinge heavily on how big an impact the junior-college defensive linemen make. The Red Raiders were gashed against the run last season. They need some of these big men up front, notably, 340-pound nose guard Rika Levi, to help shore that up.

Trotter: This is interesting. The Baylor Bears were formidable last season defensively, headlined by All-American safety Ahmad Dixon and All-Big 12 linebacker Eddie Lackey. But there is no doubt the defensive line is going to be better this season. If the secondary comes around the way coach Art Briles think it will, Baylor might not suffer the downturn defensively many are predicting.

Trotter: It was an uncharacteristically poor season for the Iowa State defense, which ranked last in the league in rushing defense, and seventh in pass defense. Improving those numbers won't come easy, but the Cyclones have some experienced pieces in the front seven to work with in tackle Brandon Jensen, ends Cory Morrissey and Mitchell Meyers, and linebackers Jared Brackens, Alton Meeks, Jevohn Miller and Luke Knott.

Trotter: No surprise here. My money is on Trevone Boykin getting the first snap. But as coach Gary Patterson has hinted, this competition could linger into September.

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Big 12 recruiting scorecard

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
12:15
PM ET
Here's the latest around the Big 12 on the recruiting trail:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Bears commitment Chad President appears ready to start his season for Temple (Texas) High School, throwing for four touchdowns in a scrimmage on Friday. President is an ESPN 300 receiver whom the Bears will give a shot to play quarterback when he arrives on campus in January after enrolling early.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Lawton (Oklahoma) athlete Darreyl Patterson will make his official visit to Iowa State this weekend. The three-star prospect has offers from ISU, Kansas State, Washington State and others.

KANSAS
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Junior college players represent the bulk of KU’s class with eight of its 13 current commitments from the juco level. The Jayhawks continue to do a terrific job in North Texas, with four of their five high school commitments from the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats added arguably their top commitment of the class with a verbal from Tucker (Georgia) cornerback Duke Shelley last week. The three-star prospect turned down Clemson, Tennessee, Wisconsin and others to commit to Bill Snyder’s program.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: The Sooners added more bulk to their recruiting class with a pledge from three-star guard Dru Samia of Danville, California/San Ramon. Samia, who turned down offers from Texas Tech, UCLA, Oregon State, Cal and Washington State, is the fourth offensive lineman on OU’s commit list.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 8
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Cowboys will get the chance to impress receiver offer Ryan Newsome of Aledo, Texas, who plans to attend OSU’s season-opening tilt with Florida State on Saturday. Newsome tweeted his plans to join Cowboys commit Ronald Jones at the game. Newsome also has plans to officially visit OU and Texas, with Oregon, Tennessee and UCLA rounding out his official visit list.

TCU
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: One name to keep an eye on for the Horned Frogs could be Euless (Texas) Trinity defensive end Tipa Galeai. He doesn’t have an offer but visited the school last week and could be a long-term, developmental prospect to keep an eye on at 6-foot-6, 206 pounds. The three-star prospect boasts offers from Utah, Utah State and Washington State.

TEXAS
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 7
The latest: Long Beach (California) Poly cornerback Iman Marshall, the No. 8 player in the ESPN300, started a buzz on Twitter last week by asking fans of OU and UT to help him decide where to go for his fifth official visit. He already plans to visit Florida State, LSU, Notre Dame and Michigan with his other officials.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Red Raiders reportedly offered Class of 2016 prospect Keith Corbin last week. The Beaumont (Texas) West Brook receiver also has an offer from Ole Miss. A big, athletic target at 6-2, 175 pounds, Corbin could see his offer list reach double digits.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: WVU quarterback commitment David Sills had a terrific weekend, accounting for seven touchdowns in his team’s 58-56 overtime win over Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Big 12 morning links

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
8:00
AM ET
It's game week...
  • David Ash is focused on quieting critics who thought he should quit. According to Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas' QB has used Eric Liddell, whose story is depicted in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire, as inspiration. It's a good thing for the Longhorns that Ash never quit, despite suffering from concussion issues that sidelined him for most of the 2013 season. Texas has no real other options at the moment at quarterback, with Tyrone Swoopes too raw and Jerrod Heard too young. The Longhorns are in good shape at most other positions. But whether Ash can stay healthy and play consistent will go a long way in determining whether Texas will contend for the Big 12 title in Charlie Strong's first season.
  • Both Texas Tech and TCU released their Week 1 depth charts over the weekend. The Horned Frogs' two-deep brought no clarity to the quarterback position, as Trevone Boykin and Matt Joeckel are listed as co-starters. Running backs B.J. Catalon, Kyle Hicks, Aaron Green and Trevorris Johnson are actually listed as co-starters as well. It will be interesting to see whether new coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie actually utilize four running backs in their system. The biggest surprise in TCU's depth chart , however, came at defensive end, where Mike Tuaua and Josh Carraway were listed as starters ahead of Terrell Lathan and James McFarland. Lathan was actually listed ahead of Devonte Fields in the spring. McFarland played in every game last season, while Carraway redshirted. With Fields gone, defensive end is probably the biggest question mark on the defense. But the Horned Frogs seem to have four players they think they can rely on.
  • The most intriguing storyline with Tech's depth chart was at cornerback, where true freshman Tevin Madison won a starting job opposite sophomore Justis Nelson. Madison beat out fellow freshman Jah'Shawn Johnson. With three starting sophomores and Madison, the Red Raiders are going to be extremely young in the secondary this season. But there's talent there -- and more on the way once true freshman Nigel Bethel II serves out his three-game suspension.
  • The Charleston Daily Mail's Mike Casazza wonders whether West Virginia can mimic the Oklahoma team that beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The Mountaineers are the biggest underdog among Power Five conference teams this weekend. Alabama is almost a four-touchdown favorite. One point Casazza makes is that West Virginia is similar in scheme to the Sooners offensively, which in theory could place the same pressure on the Alabama defense. It wasn't scheme, however, that placed pressure on the Crimson Tide. It was QB Trevor Knight, who had a career night with 348 yards and four touchdowns. For West Virginia to hang with Alabama, QB Clint Trickett is going to have to deliver a career night himself. Sure, the Mountaineers will also have to force the Crimson Tide into mistakes with pressure. And West Virginia's experienced linebacking crew is going to have to hold up against Alabama's physical rushing attack. But the Mountaineers only stand a chance if Trickett takes care of the ball while producing explosive plays, just the way Knight did.
  • Speaking of Oklahoma, the big news over the weekend was the NCAA shooting down the Sooners' request for a waiver that would have made wideout Dorial Green-Beckham eligible to play immediately. Oklahoma was considered to be the Big 12 favorite long before Green-Beckham transferred in from Missouri over the summer. And the primary reasons that made the Sooners a playoff contender previously are still in place. But DGB would have solidified the one question mark on this team: experienced playmaking at the wide receiver position. The Sooners still have three-year starter Sterling Shepard. But he is a slot receiver who operates underneath the coverage. DGB would have complemented Shepard perfectly and given Knight a lethal weapon downfield and in the red zone. Instead, Oklahoma will have to settle for relying on several unproven players at the skill positions.

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