- Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf has sparked the Cowboys offense. In Chelf’s last five starts, the Cowboys have averaged 47.8 points per game and have outscored opponents by 28.4 points per game.
- Chelf completed 9-of-13 passes thrown 15 yards or longer against Baylor. His nine completions and 278 yards on such passes were the most by a Big 12 player this season.
- Chelf has had an FBS-high 94.4 opponent-adjusted QBR since Nov. 1. During that time, Oklahoma State defeated three opponents ranked in the top 25 of the BCS standings and Chelf has been responsible for 15 touchdowns and 305.8 total yards per game.
- Oklahoma State has scored a touchdown on 92 percent of its red-zone drives in the last five games, third best in the FBS since the start of Week 9. From Weeks 1-8, the Cowboys scored a touchdown on 64.5 percent of their red-zone opportunities, 51st among FBS teams.
- Oklahoma State has nine interceptions on passes thrown 15 yards or longer, tied with Kansas State for most in the Big 12.
- On Saturday, Oklahoma State is looking to win its 51st game in five years.
- OSU can finish undefeated at home for just the 12th time in school history and improve to 18-1 in its last 19 games at Boone Pickens Stadium.
- OSU has scored 20 or more points in 50 straight games, a streak that started at the beginning of the 2010 season. It’s the longest active streak in the country.
- OSU has won or tied the turnover battle in 19 of its last 22 games and has forced at least one turnover in its last 19 contests.
- OSU’s undefeated November was its first since 1945 when the Cowboys went 9-0 and won the Sugar Bowl.
- OSU outscored opponents 181-70 in November, earning wins over three ranked teams in the process (Texas Tech, Texas, Baylor).
- Oklahoma has a Big 12-low 60 missed tackles this season, 11 fewer than any other Big 12 team.
- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is 7-1 in head-to-head meetings with Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy.
- OU is looking to score 40 points for three straight games for the first time this season. The Sooners averaging 31.7 points per game after averaging 38.2 points per game in 2012.
- OU’s defense has allowed 10 points and 33 rushing yards in its last two games combined (wins over Iowa State and Kansas State).
- OU is 4-0 when senior running back Brennan Clay rushes for 100 yards or more.
- With a win the Sooners would join Alabama, Oregon and Stanford as teams from BCS conferences with four straight seasons with at least 10 wins.
- OU is 11-3 in December under Stoops.
- The Sooners are 12-8 on the road against ranked opponents under Stoops.
- OU is 38-7-5 all-time against OSU in Stillwater.
- OU and OSU are the Big 12’s winningest teams in conference play since 2008. OU is 38-12 while OSU is 37-13.
- The Texas-Baylor series dates back to 1901 and Saturday’s meeting will be the 103rd battle between the two teams.
- Texas coach Mack Brown is 13-2 against Baylor.
- UT has allowed 3.4 yards per carry in its last eight games after allowing seven yards per carry to BYU and Ole Miss earlier this season.
- UT has 14 seasons of eight or more wins during 15 seasons under Brown. The Longhorns had six seasons of eight or more wins in the previous 15 years.
- UT has scored 30 or more points in seven of its last eight games.
- This year’s UT-BU matchup is the first time both teams are ranked since 1990.
- UT has held Baylor to 14 points or fewer in 9 of 15 meetings under Brown.
- Baylor has 26 touchdowns on drives that lasted 1 minute or less, six more than any other team. However, the Bears only have one such touchdown in their past two games.
- Even with its recent struggles, Baylor’s offense leads the nation in total offense (635.1 yards per game), scoring (55.4 points per game) and passing yards per completion (17.81).
- Baylor will wear Nike retro uniforms to honor the first team to play in Floyd Casey Stadium against Texas. It is the final game at Floyd Casey, where the Bears are 190-146-5 all-time.
- Baylor leads the FBS in plays (53) and touchdowns (28) of 30 yards or longer.
- BU running back Lache Seastrunk has made it at least 5 yards past the line of scrimmage before first contact on 36 percent of his rushes, the highest percentage among AQ running backs with at least 75 carries.
- Bryce Petty has 25 completions on passes thrown 25 yards or longer, five more than any other AQ quarterback. He also leads all AQ quarterbacks with 13 touchdowns on such passes.
- In conference play, Texas’ opponents have had a 35.9 Total QBR, tied for second best in the Big 12. In nonconference games, Texas’ opponents have had a 78.0 Total QBR, worst in the Big 12.
- BU is looking to close Floyd Casey with a 10th straight win at home, a school record.
- BU is 14-2 in November and December since 2011.
- The Bears are looking to win their third game in four seasons against UT for the first time since 1988-91.
- Baylor’s starting defense has allowed 26 touchdowns in 11 games.
- Baylor is fifth in the FBS and second in the Big 12 with 8.1 tackles for loss per game.
- BU has converted 79 of 165 third down conversion attempts (47.9 percent), ranking No. 16 nationally and No. 1 in the Big 12.
- Petty set a program record with 229 pass attempts without an interception until throwing one against TCU. Robert Griffin III was the previous record holder with 209.
- Petty needs one game of 200 passing yards or more to break Griffin’s single season record of 12 set in 2011.
- BU receiver Antawn Goodley needs one more touchdown catch to move into sole possession of second place on the single season list. He’ll tie Kendall Wright’s 14 with two more touchdown catches.
- AP Top 25 teams are 0-5 at Floyd Casey Stadium during the past three seasons.
- Baylor has the longest home win streak in the conference, having won nine straight in Waco.
Oklahoma visits Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., to take on Oklahoma State on Saturday (Noon ET, ABC). Here are some storylines, interesting stats, players to watch and a prediction:
Can Trevor Knight match his performance at Kansas State? The Sooners redshirt freshman quarterback was outstanding against the Wildcats. He used his quickness and speed to create havoc as a runner while being accurate and decisive as a passer. If he plays that way against the Cowboys, he will create problems for their defense.
Will OSU continue to dominate at home? The Cowboys have outscored opponents by 28.4 points per game while going 5-0 at Boone Pickens Stadium. OSU is 18-1 at home in its past 19 games, so winning in Stillwater is harder than many people realize.
Who wins the turnover battle? Whoever wins the turnover battle probably will win the game, particularly if the chilly weather makes everything harder on the offenses. OSU has forced 22 turnovers during its seven-game win streak, while OU has forced 16 turnovers in its nine wins.
Key stats, courtesy ESPN Stats & Information
Clint Chelf's running: OSU quarterback Clint Chelf isn't known for his running ability, but the Cowboys have used his mobility to terrorize defenses. Chelf is averaging 5.4 rushing yards before contact and has gained 258 total rushing yards before contact, ranking second on the team. OSU will look to continue to pick and choose the times to unleash Chelf, while OU likely will have a plan to stop his running.
Players to watch
OSU linebacker Caleb Lavey: The senior is making a strong case for Big 12 defensive player of the year. He has done it all for the Pokes this season, from tackles to interceptions to tackles for loss. He has 82 tackles this season and can cap off his player-of-the-year campaign with a strong game against an OU rushing offense that is one of the conference's best.
OU linebacker Dominique Alexander: The true freshman has played remarkably well in his first season in crimson and cream. He has 25 tackles in OU's past three games and will need to play well if the Sooners hope to force the Cowboys to throw by taking their running game out of the equation.
OSU quarterback Chelf: He has played as well as any quarterback in the nation during the past four weeks, accounting for 15 touchdowns and 305.8 yards per game. If he continues to operate the Cowboys' attack that efficiently, it might not matter what OU does.
OU receiver Jalen Saunders: The Sooners are going to need Saunders and his running mates at the receiver spot to create opportunities to make big plays. OSU will come out to stop OU's running game, likely leaving one-on-one opportunities on the outside. If OU hopes to win, the Sooners' receivers must win the majority of those battles.
Prediction: OSU 34, OU 24. Both running games will have success, but the Cowboys' ability to keep OU's defense honest through the air without turning the ball over will be the difference.
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty is coming back for his senior season, ensuring the Bears can take another step and compete for a Big 12 title again in 2014.
During an interview in late October, Petty told me he’d never given much thought to entering the NFL draft early. He was just trying to enjoy his junior season, one in which he’d waited for after three years on the bench. If the Heisman Trophy was a possibility for him, that would have been great. But it wasn’t his goal.
The goal was Pasadena. He wanted to lead Baylor to the national championship game. Once the Bears were knocked out of the top 5 after a loss to Oklahoma State, Petty seemed a lock to return. Why turn down another chance to make a run at a Big 12 title?
With Petty set to stick around, the big unanswered question is Lache Seastrunk’s decision. If the Bears get both their All-Big 12 quarterback and running back to return for their senior seasons, they may be the league’s preseason favorite.
While it’s possible that as many as seven or eight NFL teams could draft a QB in the first round next April, Petty made a smart move here. Like Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, who also elected to return, he can raise his stock as a first-rounder with another big season in 2014.
At one point this season, before Baylor began its tough five-game regular-season finish against Oklahoma on Nov. 7, Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Petty as the No. 6 quarterback in the draft.
All that matters to Petty, though, is being the No. 1 team in the Big 12. A loss to Oklahoma State cost Baylor that spot. Even if it does sneak into the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl with a win this weekend against Texas, there remains unfinished business. Petty now has another year to get the job done.
Even with the lofty goals unmet, Johnny Football still gave the country plenty to talk about this season.
It began with Manziel under a microscope, dealing with a level of scrutiny that perhaps no college football player has ever experienced. Everyone seemed to have an opinion about Manziel, what he did on the field, off the field, whether he was good for the game or bad or what his future held. The questions and comments ranged from valid and insightful to bewildering and off-the-wall.
How long ago that seems now.
Despite the pressure of an NCAA investigation into allegations that he accepted money for autographs (the investigation found no evidence that Manziel accepted money, but he was suspended for a half for an "inadvertent" violation) and the constant spotlight that followed him around from coast to coast, whether it was a talk-show appearance or a fraternity party, Manziel began the season playing at a level even higher than that of his first season. All his passing numbers went up, his interception count -- at least initially -- was down and soon, all anyone was left to talk about was his play on the field.
Perhaps that was Manziel's most astonishing accomplishment this season. He didn't get swallowed by the tidal wave of sudden fame. He was able to cast it all aside, focus on football and raise his level of play.
"The scrutiny he was under in the offseason was probably unlike anybody else in the country, or ever has been in college football," Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said last month. "But he's back to just playing football and doing what he likes to do."
And football was the reason people began talking about him in the first place. His captivating 2012, in which he became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, was the reason everyone was so enthralled with him in the first place.
He also became virtually absent from social media. After his infamous "why I can't wait to leave college station" tweet in mid-June (which has since been deleted), Manziel stopped posting on his Twitter page until SEC media days in July. He picked it back up for a couple weeks, but once preseason training camp began, Manziel stopped posting, period. He hasn't tweeted from his account since Aug. 1. He has posted photos to his Instagram account, but it's been sporadic throughout the season.
Back at SEC media days, when asked about his initial month-long absence, he said "No more talking off the field. All the talking's done on the field," and that he'd have a better game plan for his social media participation. He's lived up to both promises.
Which again, brings the conversation back to his play. The adversity he faced this season was mostly of the on-the-field type and in the second half of the season, it became about his health. After a terrific start, Manziel suffered a right shoulder injury against Auburn, a throwing hand injury against Mississippi State, and he seemingly hurt his ankle against Missouri (or perhaps aggravated an earlier injury to it). By season's end, the nation's most electrifying player began to look human.
Still, the numbers are staggering. He ranks in the top 10 in passing yards per game (311), passing touchdowns (33), completion percentage (69.1), yards per pass attempt (9.55), passer rating (170.4), total offensive yards per game (368.2), yards per play and points responsible for per game (3.41). He's the only quarterback in the FBS to rank in the top 10 of all eight of those categories. He also reduced the number of times he ran the football, in order to show that he could be a pocket passer and perhaps minimize the number of hits he took.
He has raised his passing yard total (3,732), and his completion percentage and passing touchdown total are all up. His play gave the Aggies a chance to win virtually every game except the LSU contest, a 34-10 defeat that is A&M's only double-digit setback in the Sumlin era. Even in losses to Alabama and Auburn, Manziel put up eye-popping numbers and made highlight-worthy plays, but as coaches often say, this is a team sport and one man can't do it all.
As the injuries piled up toward the end of the season, the effect it had on his play became evident. Sumlin and Texas A&M don't often go into details about injuries so it's difficult to know how badly he was beat up at season's end. But there's no questioning his toughness; he played whenever he was physically able or found a way to get on the field.
And for all the scrutiny he took this offseason, Manziel's heartfelt side was revealed in a few under-the-radar instances, whether it was spending time on the sideline with 6-year-old cancer survivor Charlie Dina, a Houstonian who suffers from rare form of cancer known as Neuroblastoma and who has formed a bond with Manziel, or making the day of Joel Fitch, the uncle of Manziel's friend Nate Fitch (known as "Uncle Nate"). According to TexAgs.com, Joel is 43 and has cerebral palsy but was able to share a few moments with the quarterback the day the Aggies lost to Auburn.
With the regular season over, questions about his future abound. Manziel hasn't publicly indicated on whether he's going to declare for early entry into the 2014 NFL draft, though many seem to think he will. If this was his last season in Aggieland, it was quite the ride. He helped Texas A&M make some history and a true splash upon its entry into the SEC.
There might never be another player like him in the sport again.
- Here's an excellent story from Jenni Carlson about where Oklahoma State WR Tracy Moore finds his inspiration. Efficiency ratings suggest Oklahoma State's offense is better than its defense. DT Calvin Barnett is looking forward to a trench battle.
- Oklahoma will be prepped for cold weather on Saturday. A win over OSU would help ease Charles Tapper's pain of losing his dreadlocks.
- Baylor has dedicated its full attention to Texas, not its bowl future. Can the Bears survive the first-half suspension of "nice guy" Ahmad Dixon?
- The Washington Post profiles Art Briles' career.
- Mack Brown says his coaching future should be "unimportant" to his players entering the finale. New AD Steve Patterson says he's "working on" resuming the Texas A&M rivalry.
- Iowa State needs to find a "quarterback whisperer" in its next OC, writes Bobby La Gessa of the Ames Tribune. ISU landed another junior college safety, Qujuan Floyd.
- Kansas State is in for a big-time matchup against a Pac-12 power in the Holiday Bowl. K-State makes some schedule changes for 2014.
- Texas Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield had the most memorable debut of this Big 12 season. Could the Red Raiders face Minnesota in a bowl again?
- Reviewing West Virginia's troubles on the road two years into joining the Big 12. A WVU cornerback was charged with DUI.
- What's in store for Charlie Weis' coaching staff during Kansas' offseason?
- A closer look at new TCU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham's resume.
Charles Thompson remains relieved he wasn’t the Sooners quarterback who let the streak end.
And virtually everyone who saw Oklahoma survive Oklahoma State 31-28 in 1988 still marvels at Barry Sanders' Heisman-clinching performance 25 years later.
While overwhelmingly lopsided in favor of the Sooners, the Bedlam Rivalry, which will stage meeting No. 108 Saturday in Stillwater, has never been short on drama.
Just last season, Oklahoma mounted a thrilling fourth-quarter comeback before prevailing over the Pokes in overtime, 51-48. In the last 12 years, the series has been decided on the final possession five times.
“A heck of a ballgame,” said then Oklahoma State coach Pat Jones.
Going into the early-November showdown, Barry Switzer’s Sooners were ranked in the top 10 again.
But the No. 12-ranked Cowboys had their best offense in school history, led by All-American wideout Hart Lee Dykes, a quarterback named Mike Gundy who would become Oklahoma State’s head coach and a 5-foot-8 tailback who had begun to generate Heisman buzz.
Oklahoma State hadn’t defeated the Sooners in 11 years. But the Cowboys had never had a player like Sanders, either.
His first two seasons, Sanders backed up another future Pro Football Hall of Fame running back, Thurman Thomas. Switzer, however, was always more concerned about Sanders.
In 1986, Switzer and defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs were scouting the Cowboys on film. When Sanders subbed in for Thomas, each time the freshman carried the ball, Switzer asked Gibbs to run the play back.
“That guy is something special,” Switzer declared.
“We better hope Thurman doesn’t get hurt,” Gibbs replied.
Two years later, Sanders was still a relative unknown. But soon, the rest of the country would see what Switzer saw.
That edition of Bedlam was Oklahoma State’s first national telecast, with ESPN’s Lee Corso providing the color commentary.
Sanders entered the game with 1,141 rushing yards over his previous five games -- an NCAA record. Early on, though, it was another running back who stole the show.
On the first play from scrimmage, Oklahoma freshman Mike Gaddis reeled off a 50-yard run to set up the Sooners’ first score. Then, after the Cowboys were stuffed on fourth-and-short, Gaddis exploded up the middle untouched on the next play for a high-stepping, 44-yard touchdown. Less than five minutes into the game, the Sooners led 14-0. And Gaddis had 110 yards rushing.
“He was obviously a good player,” Jones said of Gaddis. “But the other guy, best to ever play the game.”
In the second quarter, that other guy delivered his Heisman moment to put the Cowboys back in the game.
On an option pitch from Gundy, Sanders finally found a seam. After juking Oklahoma safety Kevin Thompson, who crashed right past him, Sanders dashed 67 yards to set up a touchdown just before the half. Suddenly, the Sooners were in a dogfight.
In the fourth quarter, the Cowboys trailed just 24-21 on third-and-goal. Gundy pitched again to Sanders again, who slid his way in for another touchdown.
“We were a little bit in awe of him,” Charles Thompson said.
But while the Cowboys had Sanders, Oklahoma had Sooner Magic.
After driving inside the Oklahoma State 35-yard line, Thompson pitched to halfback Anthony Stafford, who wasn’t looking. The ball bounced off Stafford’s chest but then right back into his hands.
The next play, Thompson floated a swing pass to Gaddis, who while charging upfield had the ball popped out. But with seven Cowboys surrounding the fumble, Oklahoma lineman Mark Van Keirsbilck slid through all of them to recover it, giving the Sooners a fourth-and-1.
“Looked like we were playing basketball,” Switzer said.
The next play, Thompson stepped back to hand off to Gaddis. Instead, he crashed into Stafford, yet somehow fell forward to just barely get the first down. Three plays later, Thompson swerved around the edge 18 yards on an option keeper for Oklahoma’s go-ahead touchdown with just 2:33 to go.
And the Sooner Magic wasn’t done.
With Gundy, Sanders and Dykes clicking away, Oklahoma State drove right back down the field. Switzer became so stressed he lit up a cigarette.
But at the Oklahoma 19, Cowboys fullback Garrett Limbrick was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after getting tangled up with Sooners linebacker Richard Dillon. Instead of fourth-and-1, the Cowboys faced fourth-and-16.
“A Barry Switzer call,” Dykes said.
Corso questioned the penalty, too.
“The official that made the call was a very good official,” Jones said. “But I thought you might not make that call.”
Jones could have sent Cary Blanchard out for a 51-yard field goal try. But the Cowboys needed the win to stay in the Big Eight title race.
On a rollout, Dykes was double covered. So Gundy heaved the ball downfield to Parker, who had snuck past the Oklahoma secondary into the end zone.
“I wouldn’t have thrown it if I didn’t think he could catch it,” Gundy said.
But as the ball sailed over Kevin Thompson’s hands, it bounced off Parker’s left bicep and to the turf.
“Mike made a great throw,” Parker said. “The safety from OU (Thompson) says he tipped it. I don’t know if he did. But nine times out of 10, I would have caught that ball.”
Instead, Oklahoma prevailed, extending its Bedlam winning streak to 12.
But Oklahoma State didn’t come away empty-handed, as Sanders’ 215 rushing yards captivated the nation.
“The game was still a giant step for us,” Jones said. “When you win the Heisman, that’s something that never goes away.”
Memories of Bedlam at its best don’t either.
1. Crowning a champion: The Big 12 didn’t need a big prime-time showdown at AT&T Stadium to end up with a marquee final weekend of conference play. The league’s schedule makers should get holiday bonuses for their work this year, pitting the Big 12’s four best teams against each other on championship weekend with a conference title on the line. Odds are Oklahoma State wraps it all up with a victory over Oklahoma, but if the Sooners pull the upset all eyes will be on Texas-Baylor to decide who gets the trophy.
3. Day of the underdog: Texas fans will be unabashedly rooting for Oklahoma on Saturday. Yep, seriously. They have to. Even Case McCoy admitted he’s pulling for a Sooners victory, even if it makes him “sick to my stomach.” The Sooners have a chance to play spoiler and knock OSU from atop the Big 12 standings. If they pull that off, can Texas notch an even more surprising victory in Waco? The Longhorns have embraced the underdog role ever since starting 1-2.
4. Finishing Baylor’s dream season: The loss to OSU knocked Baylor out of the national title hunt, damaged its hopes of playing in a BCS bowl and might’ve killed Bryce Petty’s chances of winning the Heisman. Yet the Bears still have a ton to play for this weekend. This can still go down as the best season in school history, especially if Baylor wins a share of the Big 12 title.
5. Who’s the DPOY? Good luck finding a consensus about who should win the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Year honor this season, and this weekend might not change that much. Still, several candidates have a chance to make a strong final impression, including Oklahoma State linebacker Caleb Lavey and cornerback Justin Gilbert as well as Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat.
6. Oklahoma’s next BMOC: Trevor Knight is another guy who could definitely use a strong finale to help his reputation not only for 2013 but, more importantly, for the offseason and beyond. Knight is coming off nice performances against Iowa State and Kansas State. An upset win over OSU could do wonders for proving he is Oklahoma’s quarterback of the future.
7. Mack Brown: What’s on the line? Who knows what this Baylor game means for Brown’s future at Texas, other than this: If Texas wins, good luck firing a coach who brings a Big 12 trophy home after leading his team from 1-2 to 9-3. And if the Bears win a blowout, well, buckle up for another rumor-filled week in Austin.
8. December weather: Introducing the X factor in both of this weekend’s Big 12 games: Winter Storm Cleon. The high and low for Stillwater on Saturday are 28 and 17. Waco is expecting freezing rain and temperatures in the high 20s. We could be in for some very messy, conservative football.
9. Closing out The Case: It’s a historic weekend for Baylor, which plays its final home game at 63-year-old Floyd Casey Stadium on Saturday. The last time a current Big 12 school opened a brand-new stadium was 1980, when West Virginia built Milan Puskar Stadium. The Bears are breaking out retro uniforms and expect the largest crowd ever in stadium history.
10. The Sunday bowl shakeout: The bowl projections for the Big 12’s six bowl-eligible teams are somewhat obvious at this point but could be in for a big shakeup depending on how these final two games play out. You know the committees of the AT&T Cotton, Valero Alamo and Buffalo Wild Wings Bowls will be watching closely and could face difficult decisions if we see some upsets.
With 10 minutes to go in Morgantown, W.Va., I was sitting pretty for an undefeated week. Then Grant Rohach turned into Dan Marino, and the Cyclones rallied from 17 points down before eventually beating the Mountaineers in a third overtime.
Like Oliver Luck with Dana Holgorsen, ESPN management had to issue a vote-of-confidence statement on my behalf. But I’m feeling the heat. And time is running out.
This week’s guest picker is Jason Hanzel, a student at Oklahoma State. I actually selected Jason a couple of weeks ago. But when he didn’t respond immediately, I went with another picker. Turned out, Jason was in class all day. Because I respect education, I gave him another chance.
To the Week 15 picks:
Trotter last week: 2-1 (.667)
Guest picker (Red Raider Shelley) last week: 2-1 (.667)
Trotter overall: 54-19 (.740)
Guest picker overall: 42-14 (.750)
Baylor 35, Texas 31: The overwhelming consensus seems to be that Texas has no shot in this game. I disagree. If the Longhorns can do anything, it’s rush the passer, and since losing left tackle Spencer Drango, the Bears have not protected quarterback Bryce Petty all that well. Without Drango and speedy wideout Tevin Reese, "America's Top Offense" hasn't quite been the same. And if Texas can have success controlling the clock with Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron between the tackles, as I expect it will, the Longhorns are capable of making this a fourth-quarter game. That said, Baylor has Lache Seastrunk and its fourth-quarter closer, Glasco Martin, back at running back. As a result, the Bears are able to grind out enough first downs late to hold off Texas and send Floyd Casey Stadium out in style.
Jason’s pick: Baylor these past two weeks has not been the same Baylor, but I do believe this team is completely different at home. Jackson Jeffcoat will get to Petty, but Case McCoy will be in the Case, meaning I've got to go with the Bears in Waco. Baylor, 38-28
Oklahoma State 40, Oklahoma 23: The Sooners are coming off their most impressive conference performance of the season in a win over Kansas State, and the best game of freshman QB Trevor Knight's young career. But on Saturday they face the top defense in the Big 12, a defense that clobbered Texas and Baylor in dominating back-to-back performances. Even though OU has won nine of the past 10 in the series, the Sooners have usually had to win shootouts against the Cowboys, as Oklahoma State has put up at least 40 points in four of the last five Bedlam meetings. This run-oriented OU offense is hardly equipped to score in the 40s, especially in the cold, on the road, against a veteran OSU defense that has proven to be one of the toughest in the country.
Jason’s pick: This game has the feel of 2011. If I was a betting man, I'd be taking my scholarship money to Vegas. Pokes in a rout! OSU, 42-20
Nick (Texas) I still don't fully understand Mack Brown's decision to burn Tyrone Swoopes redshirt. Do you know why he made that move halfway through the season then barely used him? If not do you have a guess at why?
Brandon Chatmon I'm right there with you Nick, I don't get it either. It doesn't make much sense but if I had to guess it had everything to do with being prepared in case something bad happened to Case McCoy.
Jerry (Ames, Iowa) Hey Brandon, do you think Iowa State has potential with Grant Rohach next year?
Brandon Chatmon I do Jerry, I like what Rohach brought to the table at the end of the year. He just seemed to play with more confidence as his playing time increased and he finished the season extremely well. I think the Cyclones could return to a bowl in 2014.
Bob Stoops (Norman) Which top recruits do you think I have a chance at actually getting a commitment? Adoree' Jackson? Joe Mixon?
Brandon Chatmon I hate to break it to you Bob but I think the events of the past few days have made your efforts in Cali that much harder. (Meaning Sark to USC is a problem.)
Jake (Dallas) How do you think Baylor will do come next season. Will they stay productive offensively and be decent defensively? Or will they go down in production?
Brandon Chatmon I don't anticipate a big drop in production at Baylor. Why would they take a step backward? But keep in mind I'm talking in comparison to what they've done in recent years, not the crazy numbers they put up early. If you expect that, prepare yourself for disappointment.
Rob (Baltimore) Early prediction on West Virginia's record next season. Give it to me straight, what are we looking at?
Brandon Chatmon Who is the quarterback? That changes everything. WVU has some talented athletes. They find a consistent playmaking QB, everything changes.
Trevor Knight (Norman) Me, or Chelf? And why?
Brandon Chatmon Clint Chelf. Because he's playing as good as any quarterback in the nation in the past month. I love Knight's long-term upside though.
Grant Teaff (Waco, Tx) Let’s get your score prediction for both OU/OSU and BU/UT?
Brandon Chatmon OSU 31, OU 21 Baylor 34, Texas 27
Jake (Dallas) What are your thoughts on the whole ordeal with [Ahmad] Dixon? We all know the hit was targeting even I will admit that. Since it is a new rule everyone in CFB knows the rule but the details are still fresh. Should the coaches have escorted him to the locker room, or the officials since they were the ones who called the penalty.
Brandon Chatmon My biggest issue was his actions when leaving the field. But, I also always try to keep in mind these are college kids. I know we treat them like adults but they are still young adults who make mistakes, make poor choices. I think coaches should escort them, not officials.
Going into the final weekend, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas all remain alive for a Big 12 championship and the conference’s automatic BCS bowl berth. Oklahoma, however, was knocked out of the picture, with the Bears and Longhorns both winning last week.
Here’s a final look at the Big 12 race heading into the final weekend:
Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1 Big 12): For the Cowboys, it’s pretty simple. Beat Oklahoma, and the Fiesta Bowl is theirs. Lose Bedlam, and the outright Big 12 title goes to the winner of Baylor-Texas.
Baylor (10-1, 7-1): The Bears could capture their first outright conference title since 1980 with a win over Texas and an Oklahoma State loss to Oklahoma. If the Cowboys win Bedlam, Baylor could still share the title with Oklahoma State. But with the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Cowboys would go to the Fiesta Bowl.
Texas (8-3, 7-1): The Longhorns are in the same situation as Baylor. They need Oklahoma State to lose to have a chance at the outright title and Fiesta Bowl. Like Baylor, Texas could still share the title with the Cowboys by winning this weekend, though like with Baylor, Oklahoma State would hold the tiebreaker for the automatic BCS bowl bid over the Longhorns.
Oklahoma State, on the field, is one of the hottest teams in the country. From a recruiting standpoint, the Cowboys also have been making waves and this week managed to crack the top 25 of the RecruitingNation class rankings. Oklahoma State, with some assistance from the release of the ESPN Junior College 50, moved up to No. 24.
Aside from Oklahoma State, there wasn’t much movement from Big 12 schools. Texas held on to the No. 8 spot, and Baylor remained at No. 16. Oklahoma slipped a spot, from No. 22 to No. 23, and Texas Tech stayed at No. 36. Here's a look at the conference's rankings .
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That is the past.
The present is a little different.
Nobody has had a closer view of the rise of the Cowboys than OU.
Earlier this week, Sooners head coach Bob Stoops was asked if he could appreciate what OSU has accomplished in recent years.
“No, I don’t appreciate it, I wish they hadn’t,” Bob Stoops said with a laugh.
His brother, Mike Stoops, has had a unique perspective as OSU has risen to the top of the Big 12. He was on the Sooners staff in the early 2000s then spent 2004 through 2011 at Arizona, watching the Cowboys rise from Pac-12 territory before returning to OU before the 2012 season.
He sees a clear difference at OSU. And it’s not just the change in uniforms.
“They are obviously more skilled across the board at every position,” Mike Stoops said. “Not just the skill players but the big athletes, the offense and defensive lines. They are very skilled at every position so they have changed a great deal.”
OSU has always had talent. Antonio Smith, Kevin Williams and Charlie Johnson are just a few of the former Cowboys currently in the NFL who donned an OSU uniform before the program had cemented itself among the Big 12’s best.
It’s the overall depth within the program, from top to bottom, that has continued to improve, particularly in the past few seasons.
“Growing up in Tulsa, I always watched Oklahoma State,” said cornerback Aaron Colvin, who signed with the Sooners out of Owasso (Okla.) High School, roughly 15 miles north of Tulsa, Okla.
“They always had talent. Now, they’re getting those type of guys everywhere, at every position. They’re definitely on the rise, starting to win a lot of games.”
That depth has been one reason the Cowboys were able to overcome a very limited contribution from two of its most explosive players, receiver Josh Stewart and cornerback Justin Gilbert, in their 48-17 win over Baylor to grab control of the conference. Several Big 12 squads have decimated by injuries this season and the Cowboys are one of them, including having to replace arguably their best offensive lineman, left tackle Devin Davis, before the season even began.
It’s one reason the Cowboys control their own destiny in the Big 12 title race on Saturday, a position every team in the Big 12 envies.
“You can win some games with 10 to 12 good players,” Mike Stoops said. “But now, when you have 22 or 24 of them lining up everywhere, you have a chance to win every time you step on the field. That’s really been the case with them over the last several years. I had a chance to play them a few times three and four years ago when I was at Arizona, you could see those guys evolving in their skill.”
That skill has combined with consistent production to place OSU among the conference's elite, alongside the Sooners.
“I think just the consistency [with which] they play," Mike Stoops said. "I think it’s really a difference. At Oklahoma we were always there, but now Oklahoma State is always showing up too, so they’ve become very significant in this conference. Their players play very consistently every time they step on the field, so what you get is a more consistent opponent and a better opponent.”
- When he was at Florida, Urban Meyer touted the SEC's strength of schedule as a reason for his Gators to jump over a Big Ten school to play in the national championship. Can the case he made be used against his Buckeyes this season?
- Former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville says he has Ohio State ranked No. 2 ... for now. After attending the Iron Bowl last week, he'll be watching Saturday's championship games intently.
- Missouri coach Gary Pinkel isn't lobbying for his Tigers' chances to reach the BCS national championship game if they win on Saturday. He's focused on Auburn.
- Two years ago there was some discord over the Alabama-LSU rematch for the national title. Would an Auburn-Alabama rematch draw even more ire this season?
- Florida's search for a new offensive coordinator will continue through bowl season.
- After South Carolina beat Clemson last Saturday, Steve Spurrier declared Connor Shaw the Gamecocks' best QB ever. Now others are agreeing.
- LSU is familiar with the scenario of losing its starting QB just before its bowl game. The same situation occurred in 2005 and 2008.
- Some scouts say Johnny Manziel will be a top-12 NFL draft pick.
- Mississippi State senior safety Nickoe Whitley will miss the Bulldogs' bowl game after surgery on Monday to repair a torn ACL.
- And finally, Georgia WR Chris Conley is a Star Wars nerd. Awesome.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Where it all started: The Cowboys opened the season as the Big 12 favorite and as the conference’s top-ranked team at No. 13 in the AP Top 25 and No. 14 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. OSU was expected to have one of the best teams in the nation, though it began the season behind two current unbeaten teams, Ohio State and Florida State.
Where it went wrong: Everything went wrong in the Cowboys' 30-21 loss to West Virginia on Sept. 28. OSU’s blocking was horrible, its running game was worse and its kicking game was so bad words cannot describe it. And, worst of all, senior quarterback Clint Chelf watched it all from the sidelines. It was a devastating loss that removed the Pokes’ right to complain about their BCS destiny from that point forward.
Where it got back on track: Things got moving in the right direction when Chelf replaced J.W. Walsh as the starter against Iowa State on Oct. 26. Since that point, OSU has averaged 47.8 points per game, winning by an average of 28.4 points. If the Cowboys had turned to Chelf against WVU, they could have entered this weekend undefeated and with a case to be in the BCS title game. A win over Oklahoma would give the Cowboys four wins over Top 25 teams since October.
Where it all started: The Bears began the season unranked but with murmurs that they could be the surprise team of the Big 12 Conference. They promptly reeled off nine straight wins behind one of the nation’s most explosive offenses to rise to No. 4 in the BCS standings, including a 41-12 win over Oklahoma on Nov. 7 that legitimized the team in many peoples' eyes. In doing so, Baylor sent a clear message to the nation that the program is going to make noise in the Big 12 in 2013 and beyond.
Where it went wrong: Baylor simply did not have any answers on a chilly night in Stillwater, Okla., two weeks ago. The Cowboys overwhelmed a Bears squad handcuffed by injuries to some of its top players. It was a game that showed as far as the program has come, there’s still a ways to go and valuable experience to gain that could be used to get over that hump in the future.
Where it got back on track: Has it? The Bears rebounded after the loss to OSU with a 41-38 win over TCU last Saturday but their offense has taken a clear step backward in recent weeks. Over past two games, the Bears are averaging 29 points per game and 4.73 yards per play. During their nine-game win streak to start the season, they averaged 61.2 points per game and 8.52 yards per play. Baylor can prove those performances were just a small blip on the radar with an impressive win over Texas on Saturday, which would secure a share of the Big 12 title or even an outright championship with an OSU loss.
Where it all started: Texas coach Mack Brown sincerely believed his team had a chance to win every game it played this season. The Longhorns were No. 15 in both preseason polls, and all the ingredients were there on paper: A nation-leading 19 returning starters, a fairly favorable schedule and a wide-open Big 12. If junior quarterback David Ash enjoyed the breakout season he anticipated, the Longhorns believed a conference title and a BCS bowl trip were well within reach.
Where it went wrong: A rough night in Provo, Utah. After storms delayed kickoff nearly two hours, Texas took the field against BYU on Sept. 7 and got absolutely whooped, 40-21. The Longhorns defense gave up a school-record 550 rushing yards, 259 coming from QB Taysom Hill, and completely collapsed. Ash suffered a concussion that eventually ended his season after just 2.5 games. Brown fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz that Sunday and replaced him with Greg Robinson. Texas then lost at home the following week to Ole Miss to drop to 1-2.
Where it got back on track: The first step was a 31-21 win over defending Big 12 champ Kansas State, ending a five-game losing streak to the Wildcats. But the big break was Texas finally beating Oklahoma for the first time in four years. The Longhorns stunned then-No. 12 OU 36-20 on Oct. 12 and went on to start 6-0 in the Big 12 before losing to Oklahoma State. The key to that run? Solid play from Case McCoy, a new run-heavy, physical identity on offense and steady improvement defensively since Robinson took over. Now the Longhorns can earn at least a share of the conference title they coveted, and maybe the whole thing, with a win over No. 9 Baylor.
The celebration of Baylor’s 45-38 upset of No. 5 Oklahoma was only just beginning when it dawned on Baylor’s associate vice president for facilities and operations that the catalyst had finally been found. So he fired off a message to his boss, Baylor senior vice president and CFO Reagan Ramsower.
“That pass just cost us $250 million.”
Griffin’s grand night, his Heisman Trophy and the Bears’ breakout 10-win season set in motion a plan that had been talked about for years: Bringing a new stadium to Baylor’s campus, and finally leaving the antiquated Floyd Casey Stadium behind.
“We’re competing with the best in the country right now,” athletic director Ian McCaw said. “So why not go ahead and play in the best college football facility in America?”
This was a need, not a want. From day one of Art Briles’ tenure, he identified and lobbied for a new stadium as a necessity.
Baylor officials held their first meeting to discuss the project in July 2011. Back then, they believe Briles and the Bears were starting to get some momentum. Nobody could’ve anticipated just how drastically the 2011 season would alter the trajectory of this program.
“We’d raised literally zero at the time of the Alamo Bowl and Robert having won the Heisman,” McCaw said. “But that provided the catalytic movement to get this project going.”
In March 2012, former Houston Astros owner and alum Drayton McLane got the ball rolling with the largest financial donation in Baylor history. Less than 10 months after Griffin stunned the Sooners, fundraising was complete and Baylor broke ground on its new digs.
“Sure enough, you take that moment and everything just started rolling,” Nicholson said. “Since then, it’s been unbelievable.”
Ever since the first stadium meeting in the summer of 2011, the Bears have gone 28-9. They play for a share of the Big 12 title this weekend, and possibly a trip to a BCS bowl. Griffin’s big year was historic, but this is the dream season.
And every day Baylor players and coaches step onto the practice field, they can see the future off in the distance. The structure, the construction cranes, the progress.
“I think it is kind of a symbolic change of the old Baylor to the new Baylor,” McCaw said. “Baylor Stadium captures the new Baylor, the energy and excitement and state-of-the-art vision of our current program.”
These days, state-of-the-art looks more like an unfinished bowl made of concrete and steel. A crew of up to 500 people working six days a week has kept construction of Baylor Stadium on schedule for the Aug. 31, 2014 opener against SMU.
“It’s been the convergence of just so many great things around Baylor football,” McCaw said.
Yet there is still something bittersweet about Saturday. Floyd Casey Stadium opened in 1950. It’s seen rough years and tough times and a tarp, but also some special seasons and memories. While Baylor officials have no imminent plans for The Case, a history is being left behind.
"I think it means a lot. Floyd Casey has a lot of tradition,” quarterback Bryce Petty said. “It's our job to make sure that we end it out right. End that tradition on a good note and start a new tradition with the new stadium with a good note. For all the guys that have played there before, it's our job to salute to them."
On Saturday night, the Bears will leave their longtime field and never return. A new era begins next fall in a new palace, rewarding a program and a fanbase hungry to compete with the nation’s best.
Briles, by the way, has yet to visit his future home. He did meet with stadium architects once but made no requests, other this this: “Just blow it out of the park.”
It’s not as if he’s superstitious about visiting or disinterested in the bright, shiny future ahead. He’s just been too busy leading this program’s rise.
“I haven’t even thought about it,” Briles said. “[He will] Hopefully sometime next summer or spring. The Case is still alive and well. We’ve still got some more unfinished business there."
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