Big 12: West Virginia Mountaineers
Here are the storylines to watch in the Big 12 during Week 14:
West Virginia at Iowa State, noon ET (Fox Sports 1): Neither team brings much momentum into this game with the Cyclones on a four-game losing streak and the Mountaineers on a three-game slide. Those downward trends won't sit well with Dana Holgorsen or Paul Rhoads. ISU watched its first Big 12 win slip out of its hands against Texas Tech a week ago, so the Cyclones could be entering this game with more momentum than previous weeks. Intrigue will join WVU on the plane to Ames, Iowa, with Skyler Howard's performance against Kansas State putting a spotlight on the quarterback spot for Holgorsen’s squad. Even if starter Clint Trickett is healthy, Holgorsen might not hesitate to turn to Howard if Trickett struggles.
No. 7 Baylor versus Texas Tech in Arlington, Texas, 3:30 pm ET (ABC): The Bears can't seem to get the traction they need to rise in the College Football Playoff rankings. But BU needs to win, and win impressively, if it hopes to keep its name in the conversation for another week. The Bears have minimal room for error. Tech enters the game after its first win since mid-October against ISU a week ago. The Red Raiders would love to play spoiler for the Bears while creating a little momentum heading into the offseason if they're able to finish the regular season with a two-game win streak which includes a win over the nation's No. 7 team.
Kansas versus No. 12 Kansas State, 4 p.m. ET (Fox Sports 1): The final home game for all-purpose threat Tyler Lockett could inspire the senior to do something special at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The Wildcats have plenty to play for with a Big 12 title still within reach. Meanwhile, KU interim coach Clint Bowen could strengthen his résumé even further with a win over the in-state rival Wildcats. And the Jayhawks' sloppy showing at Oklahoma should give KU plenty of motivation to show they're better than they played against the Sooners a week ago.
We'll have coverage of tonight's critical Big 12 bout between TCU and Texas. But until then, it will be a light day on the Big 12 blog. I plan on spending the afternoon fighting through a turkey coma.
Today is a day to be thankful -- especially for all the TCU and Baylor fans out there who have gotten to enjoy two fabulous seasons. We hope all of you have a great Thanksgiving with family and friends.
Why TCU will win: This is going to be a back-and-forth, physical fight in which Texas will throw everything it's got at TCU. All the pressure is on the Frogs -- not that they can't handle it. If Charlie Strong's D can slow down Trevone Boykin, it's anyone's ballgame. A difference that might matter: the kicking game. TCU's Jaden Oberkrom can be trusted with a game-winning kick. Can Texas' Nick Rose? TCU 20, Texas 17 — Olson
Why Texas will keep it close: Defense. The Longhorns have the Big 12’s best unit, and their disruptive front will make life hard for Trevone Boykin. UT just won’t score enough points to cement its upset bid. TCU 28, Texas 27 — Chatmon
Other unanimous selections
Baylor over Texas Tech: The Bears won't aim for 82, but they know they need to score a bunch of points. In addition to having a brutal run defense, Texas Tech's secondary is also banged up this week. So, you know, moving the ball should not be terribly difficult for Bryce Petty and his many weapons. Tech can keep up early, but for how long? Baylor 52, Texas Tech 24 — Olson
Kansas State over Kansas: The Wildcats have focused on resuscitating their running game, and their instate rival might provide the perfect tonic. The Jayhawks are still reeling from giving up an FBS record 427 rushing yards to Samaje Perine last week. K-State won't get that many on the ground. But the Wildcats will have a big day offensively to prime their trip to Waco in the season finale. Kansas State 38, Kansas 13 — Trotter
West Virginia over Iowa State: The Mountaineers will get the losing taste out of their mouths because of their superior offensive firepower, no matter whether Clint Trickett or Skyler Howard is behind center. West Virginia 42, Iowa State 28 — Chatmon
- Trotter: 61-7
- Chatmon: 60-8
- Olson: 58-10
- It's looking more and more like the Big 12 could be on the outside looking in when the College Football Playoff committee releases the final rankings on Dec. 7, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. I had previously believed Baylor or TCU would be in if they won out and finished 11-1. Not anymore. There's a real chance that both teams finish 11-1 and neither makes the College Football Playoff based off the committee's current rankings. Ohio State is looming and Mississippi State remains in the top four. It looks like the Big 12 will definitely need help if it hopes to cement a spot in the top four.
- West Virginia's starting quarterback against Iowa State remains unknown, reports Bob Cohn of the Pittsburgh Tribune. Starter Clint Trickett didn't practice on Tuesday but is expected to return to practice on Wednesday after suffering a concussion against Kansas State last weekend. Skyler Howard impressed while replacing Trickett against the Wildcats but Holgorsen maintains Trickett will start if healthy. As good as Howard was against KSU, I agree with Holgorsen's commitment to Trickett. The senior is a big part of WVU's return to a bowl game this season and should be rewarded by remaining the starter (if healthy) despite his recent struggles (5 interceptions during WVU's three-game losing streak).
- It's been a tough season at Iowa State but Sam B. Richardson could set a school record for touchdown passes in a season in the Cyclones' final two games, writes Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register. The record is 20 and Todd Bandhauer, the current record holder, didn't even realize he still holds the record. It's shocking to think 20 touchdown passes is a season record for a Big 12 school considering 34 FBS quarterbacks passed for more than 20 touchdowns in 2013. Richardson has 16 through 10 games and would need to average more than two touchdown passes per game in ISU's final two contests to secure the record.
- Kansas coach Clint Bowen is making a point to educate his players about the Sunflower Showdown rivalry with Kansas State, reports Jeff Deters of the Topeka Capital-Journal. The Jayhawks interim coach has set aside some time this week to make sure his players understand why the rivalry matters in the state of Kansas. I don't know that it will help KU's motivation when they take on K-State, but it couldn't hurt.
- Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown was named a finalist for the Outland Trophy Award (nation's top interior lineman) on Tuesday. There's no doubt in my mind Brown should be the clear favorite for the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. He's been disruptive in the middle of Charlie Strong's defense and is one reason I wouldn't be surprised to see the Longhorns upset TCU. And in case you missed it on the Big 12 blog on Tuesday, Max Olson had a terrific read on why football is not Brown's No. 1 priority.
TCU remained at No. 5; Baylor stayed at No. 7.
As a result, nothing changed from last week's bowl picture.
Oklahoma State is the only Big 12 team that can still play its way to bowl eligibility. But the Cowboys will have to upset Oklahoma in Bedlam on Dec. 6 to get to six wins.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl: TCU
VIZIO Fiesta Bowl: Baylor
Valero Alamo Bowl: Kansas State
Russell Athletic Bowl: Oklahoma
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Texas
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: West Virginia
Cactus Bowl: None eligible
Baylor: Baylor leads the FBS in points, yards and first downs per game, but the Bears’ remarkable ability to protect the football really stands out. BU ranks fifth among FBS teams and No. 1 in the Big 12 with a 6.0 turnover percentage. The top five teams in the FBS in that category-- BU, Rice, Oregon, Georgia and Northern Illinois -- have combined for 44 wins this season.
Iowa State: The Cyclones' defense will need to be much better on third down if ISU hopes to knock off West Virginia. ISU is allowing conversions on a Big 12-worst 47.1 percent of opponent’s third-down attempts. But last week’s 34-31 loss to Texas Tech proves some hope as ISU held the Red Raiders to 36.4 percent on third-down conversion attempts, which was a season low for Cyclones’ opponents.
Kansas: Big plays have been lacking for Kansas’ offense for much of the season. The Jayhawks have gained 10 or more yards on 16 percent of their plays this season, ranking last in the conference and No. 115 among FBS teams. New offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau has helped increase that number with some personnel changes, but KU will need several big plays if it hopes to upset Kansas State.
Kansas State: Is Jake Waters the Big 12’s top clutch signal-caller? The senior has a Big 12-best 79.8 raw QBR on third down. He completes 63.1 percent of his passes, averages 12.42 yards per completion and is sacked just 2.3 percent of the time on third down. Waters is a key reason the Wildcats’ offense is so efficient and productive.
Oklahoma: Baylor, TCU and Kansas State are well renowned for their offensive firepower. Yet Oklahoma sits atop the conference rankings in yards per play. The Sooners 6.72 yards per play has been built upon a running game that is averaging 265.4 yards per game and 6.3 yards per carry to lead the Big 12 in both categories.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys averaged 1.87 points per possession in Mason Rudolph’s first start. With the true freshman at the helm, OSU’s offense was far more explosive in the 49-28 loss to Baylor than its previous four games. TCU (0.6), West Virginia (0.71), KSU (0.5) and Texas (0.58) each held the Cowboys below one point per possession in OSU's four losses before last weekend.
Texas: Opponents have converted just 5 of 30 third-down conversions against Texas’ defense in the Longhorns last two games. West Virginia (3 of 17) and Oklahoma State (2 of 13) struggled to continue drives. Winning the third down battle could be key if the Longhorns hope to slow Trevone Boykin and TCU on Thanksgiving night.
TCU: Gary Patterson’s team has outgained opponents by at least 330 yards on four different occasions this season, joining Alabama as the only FBS team to achieve this feat. The Horned Frogs outgained FCS opponent Samford (412), SMU (369), Oklahoma State (418) and Texas Tech (339) by that margin. It has been a part of a damatic change in TCU’s offensive fortunes under new offensive coordinator Doug Meacham.
Texas Tech: The inability to finish has handcuffed the Red Raiders this season. Tech has converted 58.8 percent of its goal-to-go attempts into touchdowns, the worst percentage in the Big 12 and tied for No. 115 among FBS teams. With Baylor on the horizon, Tech will need to capitalize on every single scoring opportunity it gets.
West Virginia: Dana Holgorsen’s team heads into its final game with six wins and bowl eligibility, a pretty remarkable feat for the Mountaineers considering their carelessness with the ball. WVU has a minus-15 turnover margin, worst in the Big 12 and tied for No. 120 among FBS teams. No FBS team at minus-15 or higher has more than three wins this season.
Which was more impressive, Samaje Perine's 427 rushing yards or Baylor's 21-point comeback vs. TCU?
Max Olson: I have to agree with Brandon on this one. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the chances of Baylor pulling off its 24-point rally were only 2 percent. That game should have been over. It took a perfect sequence of events for the game to fall apart for TCU. The odds of Perine breaking Melvin Gordon's FBS single-game rushing record one week later are probably near-impossible, sure, but this was the No. 94 total defense in FBS and 300 of his rushing yards came on eight plays. Baylor needed 41 plays to pull off the comeback.
Jake Trotter: The Baylor comeback was stunning. But I have to go with Perine's record-breaking day. That was a record that had stood for 15 years until Gordon topped it the week before. Think about all the great running backs that have come through college football who haven't come close to sniffing 400 yards. Think about all the great Oklahoma running backs over the years who had never even touched 300 yards. Gordon's record may have lasted just a week. But if history before that is any indication, Perine's 427-yard day will be remembered for a very long time.
Who has the tougher road to 11-1, Baylor or TCU?
Chatmon: TCU’s trip to Texas won’t be easy. Baylor’s home finale against Kansas State is even tougher. Bill Snyder’s program has more to play for than the Longhorns, with a Big 12 title likely to remain within reach in their first trip to McLane Stadium. The Wildcats were the first team to make Baylor’s offense look somewhat human in 2013 and will bring the same sound defense to Waco on Dec. 6.
Olson: As weird as this sounds, I actually think Texas has a slightly better chance of beating TCU than K-State does of pulling the upset in Waco. The Horns have momentum, a bye week of extra prep, play great defense and are playing at home. So for that reason, I'd say the Horned Frogs have a little tougher path.
Trotter: Winning on the road is always tougher than winning at home. And even though K-State is better than Texas and could give Baylor a fight in Waco, I think TCU has the tougher road. Texas has quietly been playing good football the last month to get bowl eligible. The offensive line has come together, while the defensive line has emerged as the best in the league. The Longhorns will be a difficult out for TCU on their home field on Thanksgiving night.
Do you still consider this season to be a successful one for West Virginia, in light of the three-game losing streak?
Chatmon: Since competing for a championship should always be the goal, successful is not the word I would use. But the Mountaineers, without a doubt, have taken several steps towards becoming a force in the Big 12. The defense is much improved, and the overall depth on the roster is light years ahead of where it was when WVU entered the Big 12 in 2012. Dana Holgorsen shouldn’t be satisfied with the Mountaineers return to a bowl game, but he should be pleased with the direction his program is heading.
Olson: It's an important question. Let's be honest, though. There are a bunch of people (and I might've been one of them) who wondered if a step in the wrong direction this season would've spelled the end of Holgorsen's stint in Morgantown. I think he has proven himself to some extent in 2014. He's building something good, and this season still feels like a positive step.
Trotter: Provided the Mountaineers win at Iowa State, yes. The season might feel disappointing to West Virginia fans at the moment. But remember, this was a team nobody gave much of a chance of getting to a bowl game before the season. The Mountaineers not only achieved that, they were ranked for a good chunk of the year, hosted College GameDay and came within a hair of sweeping Baylor and TCU to become a serious factor in the Big 12 title race. After slugging it out against such a brutal slate, West Virginia has run out of steam this last month. But if the Mountaineers rally to beat Iowa State and win a bowl game, they will finish 8-5, with momentum going into 2015. In August, every rational West Virginia fan would have taken that.
- Baylor is heading back to AT&T Stadium for the fifth time in six years this weekend. They've got some pretty good digs in Waco now, but the Bears still appreciate playing on that big stage. Art Briles knows Texas Tech will give his team their best shot, just like everyone else has. I like this Briles-ism: "If you don't take care of this week, next week's not going to exist." Plus, it can't hurt to get a little extra experience playing at the site of this year's College Football Playoff title game, right?
- Cool to hear Andy Dalton chime in on how much he's enjoyed watching TCU make a run at the College Football Playoff. The Cincinnati Bengals quarterback told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram this season feels a lot like the ones from the Frogs' three-year run that ended with a 2011 Rose Bowl victory. Gary Patterson said the same thing. He believes this team is playing and winning as a group like those teams that combined to go 26-3.
- Dana Holgorsen is wisely treading lightly when it comes to his quarterback situation this week in preparation for Iowa State. He says he's going to judge the "body of work" of both Clint Trickett and Skyler Howard as he decides who starts for West Virginia this week. That probably bodes well for Trickett, who struggled against Kansas State but has still thrown nearly 400 more passes than Howard this season. If WVU take control against the Cyclones early, perhaps we end up seeing both QBs this weekend.
- Now is not a good week for Texas Tech to have question marks in its secondary. Per Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalance-Journal, five DBs have gone down in the past two weeks and there's uncertainty about which ones will return in time to face Baylor. At least cornerbacks Tevin Madison and Nigel Bethel II (both true freshmen) are good to go against the nation's No. 4 passing offense. It's too bad linebacker Mike Mitchell isn't available to help this defense, because the Ohio State transfer has been wowing in practice.
- There seems to be lots of love and respect between rival coaches Bill Snyder and Clint Bowen this week. In fact, Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World reports Snyder talked to Bowen about an opening at Kansas State when he returned to coaching in 2009. Snyder had nothing but praise for the interim coach going into his final audition for the head coaching gig. He's seeing more motivation and enthusiasm out of KU since Bowen took charge. If Bowen does keep the job, it's clear they won't exactly be hated rivals.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Baylor had a big weekend, hosting a pair of its 2016 commits in four-star running back Kameron Martin and four-star receiver Tren'Davian Dickson. 2015 ESPN 300 wideout Devontre Stricklin was in McLane Stadium for the Oklahoma State game as well. The Bears also bolstered their trenches for 2015 by snagging a commitment from 6-foot-7, 300-pound City College of San Francisco offensive tackle Dominic Desouza, who had offers from Big 12 foes Oklahoma State, TCU and Kansas.
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Community College defensive tackle Demond Tucker visited Iowa State over the weekend. Tucker holds offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Arizona State and Big 12 rival Kansas State. He would be a huge pickup for the Cyclones, who badly need to fortify their defensive line.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Jayhawks are in a battle with Minnesota for three-star Kansas City, Kansas, inside linebacker Colton Beebe. Two weekends ago, Beebe visited Minnesota, and though he’s visited Kansas unofficially several times, Beebe has indicated he will set an official visit with the Jayhawks after they name a head coach.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats have a big visit coming up this weekend in junior-college wideout DeDe Westbrook, who was at Oklahoma this past weekend and Oklahoma State the weekend before that. With Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton both set to graduate, Westbrook would fill a big firepower void at receiver for K-State.
Total commits: 15
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners got some much needed junior college cornerback help with William Johnson of Rochester (N.Y.) Monroe Community College committing after visiting Norman over the weekend. Oklahoma, however, missed out on one of its top targets, as 4-star defensive end Keisean Lucier-South stayed in state and committed to UCLA on Sunday.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Oklahoma State had a tough week on the trail, as the Cowboys parted ways from ESPN 300 cornerback Jaylon Lane after he was arrested. Earlier in the week, three-star safety Kenneth McGruder decommitted from the Pokes and reopened his recruitment. Oklahoma State turned McGruder’s spot into a commitment from Kilgore Junior College safety Jordan Burton, who had previously been committed to Memphis.
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: TCU remains in the mix for the top wide receiver in Texas in Cedar Hill’s DaMarkus Lodge. The former Texas A&M commit is also looking at Baylor, Ole Miss, LSU and USC and might not pick a school until signing day. The way the Horned Frogs have been throwing the ball around this season hasn’t hurt their chances with Lodge.
Total commits: 19
ESPN 300 commits: 9
The latest: Cistercian (Irving, Texas) quarterback Matthew Merrick committed to Texas, but will grayshirt and delay his enrollment by a year. Merrick had offers from Colorado State and Nevada. Merrick would give the Longhorns a fourth quarterback for 2016, along with starter Tyrone Swoopes, redshirting freshman Jerrod Heard and incoming freshman Zach Gentry.
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: After missing the last month with a broken hand, Texas Tech QB commitment Jarrett Stidham returned with a vengeance Saturday, throwing for 318 yards, rushing for 193 and accounting for nine touchdowns in leading Stephenville to a 69-60 win over Estacado in a playoff game.
Total commits: 22
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Former Iowa State defensive end commit Larry Jefferson could be on the cusp of pledging with the Mountaineers. His Itawamba (Miss.) Community College defensive end teammate Xavier Pegues has already made that switch, and the two have indicated they want to continue playing together.
This past weekend brought little change to the Big 12 FPI data.
After beating Oklahoma State 49-28, Baylor remained at No. 4. The Bears now have a 70.6 percent chance to win out, and a 72.7 chance to be the Big 12's representative champion. FPI also gives Baylor a 94 percent chance to beat Texas Tech in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday.
TCU's chance of winning out, meanwhile, stands at 64.2 percent, but FPI gives Texas a 33 percent chance of upsetting the Horned Frogs on Thanksgiving night. The Horned Frogs stayed at No. 11 in FPI rankings after having the weekend off.
Despite beating West Virginia on the road last week, Kansas State remained 18th in FPI. The Wildcats' chances of knocking off Baylor in the season finale, however, bumped up slightly to 25 percent.
Oklahoma State was better offensively at Baylor with freshman QB Mason Rudolph than it had been the previous month, making the Cowboys the Big 12's biggest riser in this week's FPI. Still, the metric only gives the Cowboys an 8.3 percent chance of upsetting Oklahoma on Dec. 6.
Iowa State tied Kansas for the Big 12's biggest FPI drop of the week. The Cyclones fell three spots after losing at home to Texas Tech. FPI only gives Iowa State an 18.7 percent chance to get off its Big 12 winless schneid this Saturday at home against West Virginia.
Team of the week: K-State kept its Big 12 title hopes alive by winning at West Virginia on Thursday, 26-20. The Wildcats hardly played a perfect game. They frustrated Bill Snyder by committing a season-high 102 penalty yards. They also rushed for just a single yard on 29 carries offensively. But the defense harassed the Mountaineers into four turnovers, while K-State quarterback Jake Waters was on point with a career-high 400 yards passing. As a result, the Wildcats left Morgantown two wins away from earning at least a share of the Big 12 title and playing itself into a New Year's Six bowl.
Disappointment of the week: Not since Gene Chizik's final season in Ames in 2008 has Iowa State gone winless in Big 12 play. But after falling 34-31 at home to Texas Tech, Iowa State is on the cusp of finishing without a victory in the conference for the first time in the Paul Rhoads era. The Cyclones had the lead in the fourth quarter, and a chance to at least send the game to overtime late. But when the game was on the line, Iowa State couldn't come up with the critical play. The Cyclones will have two more chances to avoid the ignominy of going winless. But after losing to Kansas and Texas Tech the last two weeks, it's difficult to envision that happening.
Big (offensive) man on campus: Samaje Perine made this the easiest decision of the year. The Oklahoma true freshman running back ran for an FBS record 427 rushing yards and five touchdowns in the Sooners' 44-7 win over Kansas. Just a week ago, Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon broke the FBS single-game mark held previously since 1999 by TCU's LaDainian Tomlinson. But Gordon's record lasted a mere seven days. Perine took his first carry 49 yards for a touchdown, and finished with 222 yards in the first half to draw within striking distance of the record. Then, Perine's opening touch of the third quarter went 66 yards for another score. He went on to break the record early in the fourth quarter. “He was sensational," Bob Stoops said. Sensational, indeed.
Big (defensive) man on campus: Linebacker Pete Robertson led the Texas Tech defensive effort at Ames with nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a quarterback hurry. Robertson delivered a couple of key tackles in the fourth quarter, which forced the Cyclones into a 42-yard field goal attempt they would miss. That allowed Tech to retake the lead on the ensuing drive with a game-winning touchdown.With 10 sacks on the season, Robertson has been one of the bright spots for the Tech defense.
Special-teams player of the week: Tyler Lockett, who else? Sure, his 43-yard punt return touchdown came via a West Virginia coverage bust that left a hole the size of the Monongahela River. But Lockett, who leads the country in punt returns, added 10 receptions and 196 yards receiving. K-State's all-time leading receiver is also having an All-American-caliber season as a specialist.
Play of the week: Perine made history early in the fourth quarter, when he barreled through a trio of Kansas defenders, then raced 42 yards to give him an FBS record 427 rushing yards in the game. After the play, Perine was subbed out to the rain-soaked Owen Field crowd chanting his name.
Stat of the week: According to ESPN Stats & Information, Perine had eight rushes of 20 yards or more against the Jayhawks, the most in a game by any player the last 10 seasons, and more than 19 FBS teams had entering the weekend.
Quote of the week: "It hurts, man. But records are meant to be broken. Congratulations to that guy." – Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, on Perine breaking his single-game FBS rushing record after just seven days. LaDainian Tomlinson's rushing record, meanwhile, lasted for 5,466 days, before Gordon broke it last week.
Oklahoma RB Samaje Perine: The numbers say plenty: 34 carries, 427 yards, five touchdowns, 12.6 yards per carry. But it was a record-setting day for the true freshman, who broke Melvin Gordon’s week-long record for single-game rushing yardage in the FBS in OU's 44-7 win over Kansas. Perine also became the first player in FBS history to rush for at least 200 yards in both halves of a single game, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Vision, physicality, durability, speed ... Perine has it all.
Oklahoma blockers: Sure, the Sooners' offensive line deserves the bulk of the credit as Perine repeatedly cruised untouched into the Jayhawks' secondary. But the Sooners' fullbacks, tight ends and receivers deserve their share of the accolades as well because Perine doesn’t have eight carries of 20 yards or more without downfield blocking by OU’s skill players. OU’s starting line of Daryl Williams, Ty Darlington, Adam Shead, Nila Kasitati, Tyrus Thompson built the foundation and fullbacks Aaron Ripkowski and Dimitri Flowers built upon that foundation.
Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes: The Red Raiders might have something in the true freshman quarterback who spurned professional baseball to play in Lubbock. Making his third collegiate start, Mahomes was 23-of-35 for 325 yards and four touchdowns with one interception in Tech’s 34-31 win over Iowa State. He was clutch in the fourth quarter, leading the Red Raiders on a touchdown drive to take the lead then converting a key third down with a 9-yard run to seal the win on the next drive.
Iowa State RB Aaron Wimberly: The Cyclones running back averaged 5.4 yards per carry in the loss. He had 19 carries for 102 yards and two touchdowns. He also added three receptions for 22 yards. Wimberly was a consistent threat for ISU’s offense, helping the Cyclones finish with 569 total yards.
Texas Tech RB DeAndre Washington: A dynamic running threat for Tech all season long, Washington had 20 carries for 186 yards (9.3 yards per carry) and one touchdown. He added two receptions for 51 yards and another score. He becomes the first Red Raider to rush for 1,000 yards since 1998 (Ricky Williams) and the seventh in school history.
Baylor RBs Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin: The Bears' pair of running backs combined for 219 rushing yards in Baylor's 49-28 win over Oklahoma State. Linwood had 21 carries for 113 yards and one touchdown. Chafin had 21 carries for 106 yards and three touchdowns. On a rainy night at McLane Stadium, Art Briles' squad turned to the running game and the Bears' running back duo didn’t disappoint.
Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph: The Cowboys may have found themselves an answer at quarterback for the final game against Oklahoma and beyond. The true freshman finished 13-of-25 for 281 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in his first collegiate game. OSU’s 28 points was its most since a 37-20 win over Iowa State on Oct. 4.
Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett: The Wildcats' dynamic playmaker had 321 all-purpose yards in K-State's 26-20 win over West Virginia on Thursday night. Lockett had 10 receptions for 196 yards and added a 43-yard punt return for a touchdown. Week in and week out, Lockett makes a strong case to be known as the Big 12's toughest player to stop.
West Virginia QB Skyler Howard: The junior college transfer came off the bench to pass for 198 yards and two touchdowns. He completed 15 of 23 passes to spark a late rally by the Mountaineers and could get the opportunity to see more time behind center in WVU's final regular-season game against Iowa State next Saturday.
Max will be in Waco this weekend covering Oklahoma State-Baylor. I will be in Norman to see if Kansas can give another ranked team a scare.
Now, on to the 'bag:
Trotter: I don't think so. Nobody in the top eight plays a noteworthy opponent.
@Jake_Trotter if the top 8 win on Saturday, is there any movement in the standings?— Mike G (@mikefrogit) November 21, 2014
Trotter: The one thing to keep in mind is the playoff committee has said that it's viewing teams individually and not through the prism of what conference they play in. In other words, the committee is examining Ohio State when it does these rankings. Not the Big Ten. So in the eyes of the committee this is about TCU and Baylor vs. Ohio State. Not the Big 12 vs. the Big Ten. What can TCU and Baylor do? Annihilate their upcoming opponents and hope for the best.
@Jake_Trotter the Big10 got beat up in non-con play this year, but still in a better position to make the playoff. What can the Big12 do?— Nathan Quinn (@NateQuinn11) November 21, 2014
@Jake_Trotter Bowl projection and possible opponent for OU?— Casey (@CaptainRiceCake) November 21, 2014
Trotter: Russell Athletic Bowl against Notre Dame?
@Jake_Trotter what are the chances Stoops moves on after this season. Florida? Michigan? NFL? Rumors have been around awhile now.— Nick Heimann (@nick_heimann) November 21, 2014
Trotter: I put it at less than 10 percent. But the only place Stoops would ever leave for would be Florida. And if he was ever going to do it, it would be now. He loves the weather there, he always talks fondly of his time as a defensive coordinator at Florida and he has a great relationship with Florida AD Jeremy Foley. That said, my money is on him staying at Oklahoma. He has the full support of the president and athletic director. He has 100 percent job security. He has his brother Mike coaching with him. He just built a multimillion dollar home. His kids are coming up on high school age. And I'm not sure he wants to coach all that much longer. Going to Florida would prolong that. I'm not sure that's something he wants at this point.
Trotter: Without a doubt. Texas has played excellent football the last three weeks. The defense has been dominant. The offensive line continues to get better. This will be a very tough test for TCU, whether the playoff selection committee realizes it or not.
@Jake_Trotter what year will Texas be the big 12 favorite in the preseason?— Bears and Brews (@BaylorObserver) November 21, 2014
Trotter: This is an interesting thought. It won't be next year. TCU, with QB Trevone Boykin back, will probably be next year's preseason favorite. But by 2016? Yeah, Texas would have a chance to be the preseason favorite, if it continues on the current trajectory we've seen from Charlie Strong's bunch this season.
@Jake_Trotter will the conference look at adding more teams? Will the big 12 still be a conference 5 years from now?— Chris Cruz (@realchriscruz17) November 21, 2014
Trotter: I've been told that the only way the league would look at expansion is if it got left out of the playoff year after year. That could happen this year. If it happened a couple more times, the league would be forced to rethink its current format.
@Jake_Trotter say Gundy does leave, can't you see some Bad-A like Derek Dooley coming in and taking OSU to the top?— Travis Guidry (@TGuidry25) November 21, 2014
Trotter: I sense you're being sarcastic. But if Mike Gundy did bolt after this season, Oklahoma State would be in a position to court several viable candidates. Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris would make a bunch of sense. Memphis coach Justin Fuente is an up-and-comer with ties to the state. Gundy's coaching tree includes Southern Miss head coach Todd Monken (who is very popular in Stillwater), North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora and TCU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham. The Cowboys would also have an in-house candidate in Glenn Spencer, who has flourished as Oklahoma State's defensive coordinator. The Cowboys would have intriguing options.
1. K-State is really tough: Coming off the deflating loss at TCU, this trip to Morgantown could have been tricky for the Wildcats. Instead, Grind State went to work on the Mountaineers with a methodical performance in all three phases. It was far from a flawless performance, prompting Bill Snyder to say afterward it “was as undisciplined as I can ever remember.” The Wildcats missed two field goals, couldn’t run the ball a lick and committed an atypical plethora of penalties. But as one Big 12 alum texted me during the second half, K-State has a bunch of players “you can tell just want it.” The Wildcats can still win at least a share of the Big 12 title. Doubt them at your own peril.
3. K-State’s running game has vanished: Snyder offenses in recent years have been forged on efficient ground games. But K-State’s rushing offense has completely disappeared the last two games. After gaining just 34 yards at TCU, the Wildcats rushed for one yard on 29 carries in Morgantown. That’s an average of 0.03 yards per carry. Despite winning the game, Snyder was annoyed afterward, sarcastically noting that he’d “like to run the ball and get a yard or two. That would work for us.” To have any hope of toppling Baylor in two weeks, the Wildcats will have to run the ball much better. Shawn Oakman & Co. are too adept at getting to the passer for K-State to resort into a one-dimensional offense again. No doubt fixing the running game will be the focus in practice for the Wildcats leading up to their trip to Waco.
4. Waters continues to shine: With the running game stagnating again, K-State had to rely on Jake Waters for offense. And again, Waters delivered, completing 22 of 34 passes for a career-high 400 yards and a touchdown. Waters has been the model of consistency this year, throwing for at least 200 yards in every game with only five interceptions. After Snyder, Waters is as big a reason as any for why the Wildcats remain alive in the Big 12 title race. With Trevone Boykin and Bryce Petty also in the league, Waters probably won’t earn All-Big 12 honors. But he’s performed at an All-Big 12 level all year, including Thursday night.
5. West Virginia has run out of steam: If you told most any Mountaineers fan before the season that West Virginia would finish 7-5 this year, he or she would probably take it. Still, with three straight losses, this season has a bittersweet tinge. West Virginia produced a memorable October with wins at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State and a 14-point victory over seventh-ranked Baylor. But since falling 31-30 to No. 5 TCU, the Mountaineers have looked out of gas. That said, Dana Holgorsen has saved his job and has plenty to build on for 2015. The Mountaineers can also still rebound to finish strong with a win at Iowa State and then a victory in a bowl game (likely the AutoZone Liberty Bowl against an SEC foe). This West Virginia season hasn’t been everything it could have been. But considering the preseason expectations and the brutal schedule, it’s still been pretty good.
6. Skyler Howard auditions well: With Clint Trickett graduating, the Mountaineers will be left with another QB battle in 2015. Talented true freshman William Crest opened the season as Trickett’s primary backup before suffering a shoulder injury. But while Crest remains the likely heir apparent, Howard could have a say in that. After Trickett left for the locker room with a concussion Thursday, Howard sparked the offense with his arm and his wheels. He completed 15 of 23 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a key 16-yard run on a third down that led to a touchdown. The Mountaineers could have a fun QB competition to follow in the spring.
7. West Virginia punt return a disaster, again: Despite cycling through several returners, West Virginia’s ineptitude fielding punts this year has been staggering. The Mountaineers lead the country with five punt return fumbles. It’s been so bad, @fauxholgorsen published a satirical memorandum on “how to be a punt returner” earlier this year. Another punt return blunder cost West Virginia again Thursday at the end of the third quarter as Vernon Davis inexplicably allowed the punt to bounce off his foot when he could have easily moved out of the way. The turnover sapped West Virginia’s budding momentum and allowed K-State to kick a field goal to extend its lead to 23-10. At the top of the real Holgorsen’s offseason to-do list should be unearthing a reliable punt returner.
Kansas State's 26-20 win at West Virginia provided a boost that the Big 12 really needed. About 48 hours earlier, the league saw one of its playoff hopefuls, TCU, fall a spot to No. 5 in the College Football Playoff Rankings despite a win last week. Its other contender, Baylor, remained stuck at No. 7, now languishing behind Ohio State instead of Arizona State.
As ESPN.com colleague Jake Trotter wrote Wednesday: "Instead of either/or for the Big 12, it could be neither/nor."
Kansas State likely is out of the playoff chase with two losses, but the 12th-ranked Wildcats are alive in the Big 12 race. More important, they're a résumé-enhancer for TCU (which beat K-State on Nov. 8) and possibly Baylor (which hosts K-State on Dec. 6). The Big 12 can lay claim to three elite teams, more than the Big Ten, its primary playoff competitor.
Some might have seen Thursday night's game as a Catch-22 for Baylor, which lost convincingly at West Virginia on Oct. 18. But the selection committee has made it clear that impressive wins count more than unimpressive losses (West Virginia, a much improved team, is far from a bad loss in my view). Baylor needed another opportunity to impress the committee, especially on a day when the other Power 5 conferences are holding championship games.