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Everything posted by stormstopper

  1. The story of 2017 in the Big XII was supposed to be about Texas, then everybody else. And it was--but it almost wasn't. The Longhorns began the year #1 and ended it as the national champion, but once again West Virginia knocked them off of their perch in a 9-0 start that launched them as high as #2 in the country. There were quite a few other teams who tried to challenge the Longhorns' Big XII supremacy: TCU and its elite defense, an Oklahoma experiencing quarterback transition, and an overhauled Kansas. Those three teams combined for 6 points against Texas, even as they all put together seasons that were varying degrees of good to really good. Only when Texas defeated the seemingly kryptonite-laden Mountaineers in the Big XII Championship Game could they finally put their demons to rest and make a run at the ultimate glory... INTRODUCING Marcus Swartz, Ibrahim Smiley, Arturo Pacheco (at RB), Tom Oldham, Quinn Burr, Malcolm Davis, Ben Goode, Devon Drummond, Dylan Stewart, Graham Burnett, Tom Wyman, Brad Davis, Will Holly, Cameron Riley, Hudson Adam, acewulf PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS For the fifth straight year, Texas and Oklahoma were the only two Big XII teams ranked in the preseason poll. And for the second straight year, Texas began the year in the top spot. However, the Sooners came in at #20 after losing Norris Brooksheer and Tai Miller to early declaration. That was the lowest ranking in school history at the time. Even so, almost every school in the conference had some reason for optimism: Kansas (19), TCU (16), Texas Tech (9), West Virginia (8), Baylor (4), and Oklahoma State (3) all received votes. The Big XII Network's preseason projections were as follows: Big XII North Kansas (7-5, 5-2) Oklahoma (8-4, 5-2) West Virginia (7-5, 4-3) Iowa State (3-9, 1-6) Kansas State (3-9, 0-7) Big XII South Texas (11-1, 7-0) TCU (10-2, 5-2) Texas Tech (5-7, 4-3) Oklahoma State (7-5, 2-5) Baylor (5-7, 2-5) IS TEXAS BACK? To some degree, this was the only question that mattered in the Big XII. Texas was once again historically loaded, and they'd added their final piece of the puzzle in quarterback Brad Davis. The transfer from San Jacinto College of the Houston metro area was one of the most prized junior college recruits in the country in 2015, chose Texas over TCU, and redshirted in 2016 during the up-and-down senior year of Sam Light. Texas fans were ready for that change at quarterback, and their patience was rewarded. In his first five games, Davis threw for 1617 yards and 13 touchdowns against 2 interceptions, completing 71.3% of his passes in that span. With Davis paired with receivers like Harry Whiteside and tight end Will Holly, along with a dependable runningback in Troy Booker and an elite offensive line to tie it together, the offense seemed unstoppable. With two eventual top-six picks at cornerback in Ivory Hull and Troy Marshall, along with an elite defensive front led by Lance Nattiel and James Robertson, the defense was elite. The Longhorns dominated Arkansas and North Carolina, edged out #5 Florida, then made their presence known in conference play by obliterating Texas Tech and Baylor. But next up was the obstacle that tripped them last year: a date with West Virginia. And this West Virginia team was a lot better than last year's version... TAKE ME HOME, COUNTRY ROADS In fact, West Virginia was undefeated entering the Texas game, sporting a 5-0 record that easily marked their best start in school history. They were led by a largely unheralded cast: Richmond King, "Super" Mario Davis, and Todd Sykes on offense; Dick McCready, Jack Weisensee, and Rob Evans on defense. But this group wholly bought into the team-first mentality, and under the leadership of Coach ETMIV they rocketed out the gate. They knocked off 14th-ranked Pittsburgh on the road, backed it up with a win over 20th-ranked Virginia at home, and boatraced Colorado State 48-31 before their first major test against Oklahoma. The Sooners had already risen to #9 on the strength of their own 3-0 start, so it was an early chance for a third marquee win for West Virginia. The Mountaineers took full advantage. They went up 13-3 by halftime, never trailed or turned the ball over, and pulled away late for a 30-20 win that officially put the country on notice that the Mountaineers were here. With a 21-14 win over Kansas State, #9 West Virginia would set up an undefeated, top-ten matchup with #1 Texas in Austin. Once again, the Mountaineers gave Texas everything they could handle and then some. They led 14-3 late in the second quarter and 21-10 early in the third. But Texas rallied back, using Demetrius Patterson's interception to bridge a Troy Booker touchdown run and a Brad Davis touchdown pass to storm in front, 24-21. West Virginia had an answer, though, tying it up on a field goal in the last two minutes and sending it to overtime. In the first extra session, both teams traded short field goals. In the second overtime, the West Virginia defense was able to hold Texas to a field goal again. This time, West Virginia found paydirt. Richmond King's rollout pass to Andre Blade went for the game-winning touchdown, and West Virginia had stunned Texas for the second straight year. The Mountaineers vaulted up to #3 in the country as a result of that win, and immediately followed it up with a 34-14 rout of 17th-ranked Kansas (their fifth ranked win in seven games) to jump up to #2 behind Boston College. But after the Kansas win, there was trouble in paradise. They needed a touchdown in the last two minutes to escape Baylor 21-19, then needed a field goal in the last 30 seconds to get past Iowa State. They were 9-0, ranked #2 in the country, and had their first-ever Big XII North title securely in hand with a 6-0 conference start. They made their hay while the sun shined, but the rain did yet pour down over West Virginia. They trailed TCU 23-9 in the second half, rallied to tie it at 23 and send the game into overtime, but they only mustered a field goal in the extra frame and gave up a touchdown. Week 13 was indeed unlucky, and the undefeated dream was not to be. The next game was their worst offensive output of the season in a 21-10 loss to Kentucky. It wasn't even Alex Rodgers, Derrick Schwartz, or Teddy Walker who plagued the Mountaineers that game: it was runningback Bryan Browning, with 148 yards and 3 rushing touchdowns. West Virginia would end the regular season with a win over Marshall, though, and they would still have a chance at the Big XII title with the outright division win. UP AND DOWN IN SOONERLAND When Norris Brooksheer declared early for the 2017 NFL Draft, quarterback became an open battle between redshirt freshman Chester Brenner and true freshman Graham Burnett. It was reportedly not much of a battle, as Burnett seized the reins from day 1 of fall practice and won the job going away. But it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows in Norman. Burnett's debut against Alabama earned mixed reviews. On the plus side, they won on a neutral site against the #6 team in the country (and vaulted from #20 to #9 as a result). On the downside, Burnett threw 1 touchdown pass against 3 interceptions on 19-32 passing. Throughout the season, he sprinkled in gems of games like his performance against Colorado (20-26 for 311 yards, 2 TD) and Texas Tech (17-23 for 240 yards, 2 TD). But he also showed his age at times, going through a three-game stretch where he completed just 35-67 passes, averaged 140 yards per game, and threw 5 interceptions without a touchdown pass. Oklahoma's season went up and down with their young signal-caller. They started 3-0 before the aforementioned loss to West Virginia. They blew by Texas Tech before a surprising loss to 2-4 Auburn that knocked the Sooners out of the rankings for the first time ever. They pulled out a close one against Air Force before scoring 3 points in the Red River Shootout. They beat Kansas State before dropping to 6-4 with a loss to Kansas. That matched the Robert Price-era school record with their 4th loss of the season. But thanks to a renewed defensive effort and a late-season recovery of form by Burnett, the record would not be broken (yet). They closed the regular season with a 28-14 doubling-up of Iowa State and a 17-7 win over a reeling Oklahoma State to finish the regular season 8-4. Burnett finished the year with an impressive 65.3% completion percentage and compiled just a hair under 200 yards per game--but he also threw just 13 touchdown passes to 10 interceptions. He still had plenty of room to grow, and things would get worse before they got better...but that's another story. STATE FUNERALS The three western land-grant universities of the Big XII all struggled to sub-.500 seasons in 2017. They got there via different paths and left the season on different trajectories, but they're all named ___ State so they're getting grouped together anyway. Kansas State and Oklahoma State were both coming off of bowl seasons, and Iowa State was still in search of its first-ever bowl game. The signs of trouble emerged immediately for all three: the Cyclones lost their opener to Texas Tech, the Wildcats lost their opener to Houston, and the Cowboys dropped a stunner to a Lawrence Pritchett-led Tulane. Oklahoma State bounced back with consecutive wins over Akron and Northern Illinois, but an inconsistent offense, a leaky defense, and a lack of depth plunged them into a spiral despite the performances of Raheem Robinson and Louis Peterson. They found wins against Baylor (who went 0-7 in conference play) and Ball State--and that was it. They finished 4-8, closing the season with a 16-0 loss to Texas and a 17-7 loss to Oklahoma. Kansas State finished with an identical record: 4-8 (1-6) with a win over Baylor. They were led by Dylan Stewart, a fullback converted to runningback whose 119.6 rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns led the Big XII in 2017. In addition to the Baylor game, they picked off Oregon State, Illinois, and Cincinnati and stayed competitive with #11 West Virginia, #23 TCU, and #23 Kansas--they just couldn't seal the deal. For K-State, the hope would have to be that next year would be a return to the winning ways of 2016. Iowa State's season was particularly curious among the three western land-grant schools--in a good way. They started 1-4 with the offense mustering a paltry 10.2 points per game. But as the season progressed onward, the pieces began to mesh a little bit more. The core of the offense centered itself around sophomore quarterback Clifford Wilcox, freshman receiver Tom Oldham, and sophomore runningback Arturo Pacheco. The Cyclones pounded Marshall before upsetting Oklahoma State in Stillwater. But just as bowl-eligibility seemed plausible, they tripped up against Stanford. They gave up 161 yards and 3 scores to Frank Osborn while rushing for just 63 yards of their own and lost 21-17. They nearly made up for it against 2nd-ranked West Virginia, only for a late field goal to let the Mountaineers escape undefeated. A third straight loss (to Oklahoma) buried their bowl hopes, but they still closed out the season strong. They took care of Baylor at home, and followed it up with a memorable win over Kansas State in Manhattan--memorable because it was Pacheco's breakout game. He rushed for 231 yards and 4 touchdowns in the 28-14 win, and suddenly he became the hot pick for breakout star in 2018. More on that in the next installment. ROCK CHALK REVIVAL Sometimes, a negative and a negative make a positive. After Kansas graduated 14 senior starters from the 2016 squad that finished the year 2-10, they wasted no time rebounding. After taking over for DeAndre Jackson late in 2016, Eric Jennings retained the full-time starting quarterback job as a sophomore. Seniority was largely a non-factor, as 16 starting spots were occupied by freshmen and sophomores. That included true freshman wide receiver Malcolm Davis (who in his recruitment was thought to be a Nebraska lean before he committed to Kansas), true freshman left tackle Ben Goode, redshirt freshman runningback Jalen Clayton, and redshirt sophomore linebacker James Carson. The Jayhawks hit the ground running, upsetting #18 Wisconsin at home on a fourth-quarter Clayton touchdown run. They ran off a 3-0 start before losing at Arizona, then knocked off 17th-ranked TCU on a 177-yard day from Clayton. Then, Jennings started to get hot. He threw for 3 scores against Oklahoma State and 4 against UCLA, his passer rating climbing over 220 in both games to get Kansas bowl-eligible. But with a showdown against West Virginia with the Big XII North on the line, Kansas came out flat. They trailed 17-0 at the half and 31-7 after three quarters in the 34-14 loss. They followed it up with a 22-0 shutout loss to Texas. Still, they finished the Big XII slate off well. Against Oklahoma, the Jayhawks built up a 14-0 lead and never looked back in collecting their third win over the Sooners in four years, 24-13. Against Kansas State, they followed a similar script in a 24-14 win to break a two-game losing streak in the series. Alas, the season would not end on a happy note, for Missouri and Aaron Shea were in the way. Shea threw for four touchdowns in the third quarter alone (and five overall) to blow through the Jayhawk defense and pace the Tigers to their third unanswered win in the series. Kansas was back to a bowl game, but they would still have a ways to go before they were back to 2014 form. BU-TT-ING OUT Texas Tech and Baylor both went through all sorts of tumult in 2017. They enjoyed winning streaks, endured losing streaks, missed postseason play by different margins, and ultimately both underwent coaching changes. Texas Tech was the closer of the two to seeing the postseason, and their tragedy is that they would've made it easily if a few things had gone differently. After a win against Iowa State to open the season, longtime coach LamboThrone resigned to take the North Carolina job. After an expedited search process, Texas Tech hired acewulf away from Oregon State, and he was immediately thrown into the fire by Tech's non-conference schedule. They faced, in order: #7 LSU, an unranked Justin Hunter-led Mississippi State that would make the playoffs that year, #1 Texas, #15 Oklahoma, and defending Big Ten champion Iowa. They lost all five games. But under the rocky leadership of junior quarterback Christian Barkley, Texas Tech rallied in the second half of the season. They beat a similarly struggling USC by stuffing a two-point conversion attempt in the final two minutes. They took down Kansas State in Manhattan, then beat Baylor at home to pull up to 4-5. Bad Christian Barkley showed up again in a loss to defending national champion Notre Dame, only for Good Christian Barkley to take over in a win over Oklahoma State. A road date with TCU was all that stood between Texas Tech and bowl eligibility--and boy, did TCU stand in their way. Barkley threw a pick-six literally 20 seconds into the game. Pair that with interceptions in the third and fourth quarters, the fact that Texas Tech did not score, and it was the worst game of Barkley's career at the worst time. They finished 5-7 (4-3), a tough thing to do--and also an object lesson on the value of counting to 6 when designing a non-conference schedule. Baylor's non-conference schedule didn't feature the same glitches that Texas Tech's did. They had two tough opponents (Michigan State, Notre Dame), along with two MWC foes and Bowling Green. Their problem was that they just weren't very good, and they weren't very lucky either. In the first quarter of the opener against Michigan State, sophomore runningback Sean Bell scored his first career touchdown. Later in the first quarter, Bell got hurt and would miss the rest of the game. Jason Vick, the starting quarterback for the previous two years (supplanted now by Marcus Swartz), was now Bell's backup at runningback. He carried the ball 21 times, gained 54 yards, and lost a Big XII-record 3 fumbles. Michigan State rolled 34-17. Bell was out for three games, but the one bit of good fortune Baylor had was that those three games were their gimme games. They won narrowly over Wyoming, they blocked a field goal in overtime to beat Bowling Green, and they finally looked dominant in a 34-17 win over David Kaplan's San Jose State. Believe it or not, that 3-1 start was the best in school history at the time. But just as Bell came back, the schedule went from 0 to 100. For a team that didn't win a game for the rest of the season, they could have performed worse. The Texas game was a rout, but they lost by a margin of just 20-14 to defending champion Notre Dame. They lost by the same score to Oklahoma State. They had undefeated and 2nd-ranked West Virginia on the ropes until Richmond King's touchdown pass with two minutes to go. From there, though, it fell apart. They lost by more convincing margins to Texas Tech, Kansas State, Iowa State, and TCU to close their season at 3-9 with a winless record in conference play. After the season, coach Taborfan20 would resign. The Big XII South title in 2014 was a distant memory, and since then the Bears had gone 7-29. Baylor would hire Houston coach TuscanSota over the offseason. THE FIRST PEAK OF TCU Let's start with the fact that in the 2017 season, the Horned Frogs allowed 14.62 points per game over the course of the season. It's the seventh-lowest per-game average in Big XII history, within a few tenths of a point of 2015 Oklahoma State and seven-hundredths of a point better than 2015 national champion Oklahoma. Only two other teams in Big XII history have allowed so few points while scoring as many as 26.54 points per game like TCU scored: 2017 Texas and 2018 Texas. Wire-to-wire, the 2017 squad is arguably the best team that TCU's ever had. They were led offensively by steady senior tailback Bradley Cooley, an improved sophomore version of Nathan Burden, junior receiving dynamo Jamel Beckham, and an offensive line anchored by tackles August Gilliland and Mahamadou Dennis. On defense, they had sophomores Daquan Darcey and Matthew Davis along with junior Geno Bohannon to anchor their front seven. Then they had a secondary led by senior cornerback Curtis Howard, freshman Tom Wyman, and senior free safety Andrew Wright. The team was absolutely stacked with talent, and it all meshed together for the Frogs. They started the year on a strong note, blowing pre-Conroy Colorado State out of the water 42-10. Over their first four games, they outscored CSU, Georgia State, Central Michigan, and Rice by a 139-27 margin. In their first true test of the season at Kansas, though, they slipped. They limited Eric Jennings, but the Jayhawks limited Bradley Cooley and intercepted Nathan Burden in the 23-14 Kansas win. They flipped that score against Kansas State, then collected their third straight win over SMU 27-13 to clinch bowl-eligibility. They were nearly derailed against 3-4 Oklahoma State after falling behind 14-0 at the half. But despite completing just 11 of 23 passes for the game, Burden threw for a pair of scores down the stretch--including the game-winning 17-yard strike to Emanuelu Lesa with 1:14 to play. That set up their all-important week 12 matchup with Texas. A TCU win would put them in control of the Big XII South; a loss would clinch the division for Texas. It was no contest. Burden finished 8-20 for 84 yards with 3 picks, and Texas walked away with a 33-3 win. Unable to beat the #3 team on the road, TCU's next game was against #2 West Virginia. The Frogs took an early lead in Morgantown, going up 17-6 early in the second quarter and 23-9 late in the third. The Mountaineers rallied to tie it at 23 on a last-minute touchdown pass from Richmond King to Jack Phillips and force overtime. This time around, TCU close-game magic was stronger than Mountaineer close-game magic. West Virginia kicked a field goal in overtime, and TCU answered with a 6-yard walk-off touchdown pass from Burden to Lesa to end West Virginia's undefeated run. It was TCU's signature win for the season, and they used the momentum from it to close the season strong: they shut out Texas Tech 24-0 with a touchdown on offense, defense, and special teams, then they got their fourth straight win over Baylor to close the season by a 35-20 margin. They finished 10-2 (5-2), second in the Big XII South only to an historically good Texas team. THE HEART OF TEXAS Losing to West Virginia for the second straight year was a gut-punch to the Longhorns. Again, they were knocked off their perch at #1. Again, the doubts came raining down: "Is Texas pulling another Texas?" Those doubts were legitimate, built upon a foundation of three straight years of evidence. So when Texas was hit by that loss, they had a choice. They could internalize those doubts and use them as an excuse to let the season go south, or they could wear them as armor as they braved the meat of their schedule. They chose a third option: they erased every doubt in the book with one of the most impressive runs we will ever see to close the season. They went on the road to #14 Arizona State and obliterated them, 35-6. They went to Dallas for the Red River Shootout and smothered #25 Oklahoma, 13-3. They came home to play #23 Kansas and shut them out 22-0. They hosted #18 TCU and destroyed them, 33-3, clinching the Big XII South in the process. They finished their Big XII schedule with a 16-0 road shutout of Oklahoma State. In five games, with four coming against ranked teams, they outscored their foes 119-12 without allowing a single touchdown. That touchdown-free streak would strangely come to an end in the regular season finale at Utah State, which was entirely inconsequential because the Longhorns won that game 66-7. For the regular season, they outscored their opponents 387-119. So once again, Texas was able to rally from its West Virginia mishap and earn a trip to its second straight Big XII Championship Game. This time, the Horns had their #1 ranking back--and those very same West Virginia Mountaineers were there to meet them in the title game, ready to slap that #1 ranking out of their hands yet again. Texas got started on the right foot in this one, taking a 7-0 lead after the first quarter on a Brad Davis-Roy Davis touchdown connection. Then, West Virginia slowly and steadily started seizing control of the game. Richmond King found Todd Sykes for a score. Texas took the lead back with a field goal, but a late Mario Davis touchdown run gave the Mountaineers a 14-10 lead at the half. They opened it up to 21-10 on King's touchdown pass to Andre Blade--the tight end who caught the game-winner in Austin in week 8. West Virginia would not score again. Troy Booker made it a one-score game with 1:33 to play, and Texas's defense did the rest. On the second play of the fourth quarter, Troy Marshall picked off a pass intended for Jack Phillips and took it to the house untouched for the 24-21 lead. Jon Thomas's interception later in the fourth would seal it for Texas: they had slain their West Virginian white whale, become the first repeat Big XII champion ever, and locked up the #1 seed in the playoffs. POSTSEASON PLAY Top-seeded Texas began their playoff run as the Big XII's only playoff qualifier. They faced off against 8th-seeded Mississippi State, led by junior runningback Will Fuller and senior quarterback Justin Hunter--the latter of whom famously keyed a shocking road upset over #1 Florida State as a freshman in 2014. Fuller scored a pair of touchdowns in the first half, and the Bulldogs refused to let the Longhorns to take the lead. Mississippi State led 20-17 heading into the final few minutes of the game. Brad Davis then led a pair of scoring drives, capped off by a Xavier Jernigan field goal with 3:40 to tie it, and another Jernigan field goal with 58 seconds left to take the lead. Ivory Hull's interception at the Texas 36 with 7 seconds to play sealed Texas's berth in the semifinals. Good ol' hardnosed football won the day for Oklahoma in the Texas Bowl. Facing off against Georgia Tech, the Sooners dominated on the ground and dominated on defense to win their third straight and ninth overall game to close the year. Sean Egloff led all ballcarriers with 170 yards, 16 of which came on a touchdown run in the second quarter. Lee Davis's pick-six made it a 14-0 ballgame, and an Alejandro Aguirre field goal put them in cruise control at 17-0. Georgia Tech broke the shutout in the fourth quarter on Jamie Avery's pass to Nathan Fournier, but Oklahoma blocked the extra point for good measure. In the Bourbon Bowl, Kansas's return to postseason play was spoiled as Corey Mendoza outdueled Eric Jennings. The Jayhawks scored first, but Purdue answered by scoring 24 unanswered in the middle two quarters that essentially put the game out of reach. Mendoza started the flurry with a touchdown pass at the 11:33 mark of the second quarter, Dan Weaver followed it up with a pick-six two minutes later, Mark Kirschbaum's field goal made it 17-7 at the half, and William Carlson's third-quarter touchdown run closed it out. Kansas finished the season 1-4 away from home but 8-5 overall. Texas headed out west to the Rose Bowl for their semifinal game against 4th-seeded Boston College, the only other team to be ranked #1 in the country at any point in the season. The Alex Leshoure-led Eagles went back-and-forth, punch-for-punch with the Longhorns. Neither team ever led by more than a score. Leshoure struck first, then Davis answered with an 11-yard score to Spencer Saul and a 72-yarder to Harry Whiteside. Ben Curry's touchdown run tied it before the half, and Xavier Jernigan missed a field goal that would've broken a tie as time expired. In the second half, Brad Davis's pick-six gave Boston College the lead back, and his third touchdown pass of the day tied it right back up. The rest was just a battle of field goals. Jernigan hit from 28. Isaiah Anderson hit from 40. Jernigan hit from 33. But with 0:40 on the clock, Anderson missed a 43-yarder, and Texas hung on to win 27-24. Brad Davis finished with 411 yards, the second-highest total in his career at exactly the right time, and Texas was headed to its first-ever national championship game. Heading back east now, we fly over to the Big Apple where TCU and Air Force met for the Pinstripe Bowl. Air Force was running one of the most successful smashmouth attacks in the country behind Frederick Chacon and Alejandro Silva. Their ability to get yardage on the ground continued against TCU--the problem for the Falcons is that Bradley Cooley (26 for 180, 2 TD) outrushed both of them combined, and TCU's offense made big gain after big gain to blow through the Air Force defense. Cooley set the tone with a 38-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Nathan Burden finished 11-23 for the game, but he delivered a 70-yard strike to Jamel Beckham to give the Frogs the lead for good. And in the third quarter, Cooley's second score put TCU up 24-14 to give them some breathing room--Air Force wouldn't get closer than 7 after that, and a pair of Paul Peterson field goals would put that to bed. TCU won 30-17, their second straight bowl win and their school-record 11th win of the season. Finally, we remember the 2017 Alamo Bowl. For West Virginia and its 12 senior starters, it was one last chance to keep the Mountaineer magic alive. This time, they didn't need some crazy comeback or heart-stopping plays in the clutch: they just straight-up wrecked California. Richmond King found Todd Sykes, Andre Blade, and Todd Sykes again for three touchdown passes in the first 23 minutes to go up 21-0. Cal's Bobby Kolodziej would get the Golden Bears on the board before the half was up, but the second half brought on another onslaught. King hit Mario Davis for another touchdown pass, Terrence Martin picked off a pass, and Davis scored on the ground all in short order. After another Kolodziej touchdown pass, West Virginia completed their display of mastery with a 40-yard bomb from King to Sykes and a Rob Evans pick-six. King finished with a career-high 442 yards and 5 passing touchdowns. Sykes finished with 10 receptions for 205 yards and a career-high 3 touchdown catches. And the strangest (and most awesome) fact about this game is that every single player who made West Virginia's statsheet was a senior. What a way to go out on a high note. BOUGHS OF HOLLY For one night, the most important player in college football was a redshirt junior tight end from the Treasure Coast in Florida, a player who had been buried on the depth chart for three years prior and would only spend one year as a starter before leaving Austin for good. His name was Will Holly, and you'll be hearing his name a lot. Texas was officially one of the last two teams standing. But across the field from them was a surprise opponent. It wasn't Taylor Rodriguez and 2nd-seeded Arizona, who were punched out in the first round by Nebraska. It wasn't Aaron Shea's 6th-seeded Missouri, taken down by Tommy Jones's Michigan in the first round. And it wasn't even Michigan standing in the way, because Nebraska knocked them out 13-6 on the strength of a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. It was Nebraska, the 7th seed, who arrived to the national title game as Texas's ultimate challenger. Led by sophomores Sean Hamilton and Marcus Williams and starting 22 sophomores and juniors out of a possible 24 positions, Nebraska was even viewed as getting there a year early. When the game started and Nebraska's defense grasped Texas's offense like a vicegrip, that "got there early" talk got a lot quieter in a hurry. Nebraska got on the board first, senior kicker Rafael Davidson booting through a 49-yard field goal at the 9:30 mark of the first quarter. Texas had a chance to match it five minutes later, but a visibly nervous Xavier Jernigan couldn't connect from 44. That gave Nebraska a chance to extend their lead as they drove into the Texas red zone--only for Texas to hold them up at the 8-yard line and force them to kick another field goal. Texas didn't score until late in the second quarter, but when they scored they weren't playing for field goals. From the Nebraska 12, Brad Davis nearly bobbled a high snap, but he recovered it and dumped it off to Will Holly--who immediately showed his value as a red-zone target, turning upfield and diving into the endzone for a score and Texas's first lead. Then, the defense started forcing turnovers. A Demetrius Patterson interception set up a Xavier Jernigan field goal, and a Marcus Williams fumble erased any chance of Nebraska scoring again before the half. But that wouldn't stop Nebraska from scoring after the half. The Huskers picked up the pace to get downfield, scoring when Marcus Williams found a hole in the Texas blitz and bounced for a 20-yard score and a 13-10 lead. Texas needed a run to take control of the game--and with 2017 Texas, that can start from a big play from the offense or from the defense. This one started on offense. Davis found freshman Abdoul Causey for the go-ahead score, and the defense gave them the opportunity to extend the lead. Defensive end Thomas Mughelli got his hand on a Sean Hamilton pass, and safety Jon Thomas cleaned it up with an interception--that set up a Troy Booker touchdown run and a game-high 24-13 lead. Nebraska wouldn't go away quietly. Sean Hamilton threw his only touchdown pass of the day with just 22 seconds to play in the third quarter, a 14-yarder to tight end Darius Mitchell. They went for 2 to try and cut it to a 3-point game, but Marcus Williams was stuffed in the backfield. In the fourth quarter, Texas sealed it. They quickly scored on Jernigan's second field goal of the game (this one from 28 yards) to make it an 8-point game. But the backbreaker came with 8:50 to play. After a bomb from Davis to Harry Whiteside put the Longhorns in scoring range, Davis once again found the reliable Will Holly in the flat that the tight end took in for a 7-yard score and a 34-19 lead. Texas's defense went from stifling to lockdown, and that's where the final score would hold. Brad Davis finished with 359 yards and 3 touchdowns while the legendary Texas secondary held Sean Hamilton to 14-29 passing, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. But the star of the night for one night only was the Treasure Coast tight end, Will Holly. With two touchdown receptions and several other critical catches, he was named National Championship Game MVP as the Texas Longhorns captured their first title in school history. All those years of disappointment, self-inflicted or otherwise, culminated in this moment in Arlington. Texas was finally on top. EXEUNT Ibrahim Smiley, Darren Jones, Kavika Russell, Jerry Walker, Wayne Schmidt, Louis Peterson, Bradley Cooley, Harry Whiteside, Will Holly, Brandon Reamon, Ivory Hull, Richmond King, Todd Sykes, Rob Evans, Taborfan20, Nmize0, LamboThrone (GTHC)
  2. NO OFFENSE TEXANS BLANK BEARS IN SEASON OPENER, 14-0 Quincy Honeycutt tripped up in the backfield, one of the Bears' many offensive miscues on Sunday
  3. Don't let the fact that AJ Jefferson lost to Joel King distract you from the fact that AJ Jefferson lost to Joel King.
  4. Storm Stopper, Chicago Tribune. Outside of the specific circumstances that led to Dream's departure, do you expect any other philosophical differences to emerge in your return to the GM role? Will Dream maintain any kind of role in the organization or are all ties cut? And do you expect to hold the GM role long-term or will you look to hire one?
  5. Eric Jennings stays winning. Now he'll dutifully become the GOAT clipboard-holder for cousin Todd until his number's called.
  6. Eric Jennings won't let the New Orleans summer heat get to him. Still undefeated!
  7. Happy GTHC Day Part II!

  8. Richard Zimmerman hit 'em with that "You Miss Me?" game
  9. I would, but I'm saving it for when someone predicts the Chargers will get Ben Goode.
  10. There were a lot of things I said would happen this season. I made 20 bold predictions in the preseason (2 for each team), predicted the results of every game before the season, and predicted every game for almost every week throughout the season. This is a quick look at how often I'm right and how often my predictions go udders-up. Preseason Bold Predictions: Baylor Baylor wins the Big XII South for the first time since 2014 - correct The team's interception count takes a steep dropoff (from 17), as does Kyle Cunningham's (from 7) - half credit: team interceptions fell to 12 (29% dropoff), Cunningham's only fell to 6 Iowa State Arturo Pacheco wins the Doak Walker Award - not particularly close The Cyclones finish tied with or behind Oklahoma in the North standings - finished 3-4 to Oklahoma's 6-1 Kansas Eric Jennings ends the year as the Big XII career leader in passing yards - correct: 11709 yards Jennings throws 12+ interceptions for the second straight year - thankfully incorrect Kansas State Julius Minnow sets at least two Kansas State single-season passing records (completion percentage, passer rating, YPA, yards, or touchdowns) - zero records set Kansas State’s conference losing streak continues through the season - correct Oklahoma Graham Burnett leads the Big XII in passer rating for the 2019 season - correct: 167.68 Oklahoma gives up the highest yards allowed per carry average in the Big XII - they gave up the second-fewest, actually Oklahoma State Raheem Robinson passes Tai Miller to become the Big XII’s all-time leader in receiving yards, finishing over 4000 for his career - correct: 4517 Oklahoma State becomes the first Big XII team to reach 0-7 against a single opponent (Oklahoma) - incorrect: 35-17 TCU TCU’s defense allows fewer than 15 points per game - incorrect: 28.42 TCU’s offense scores fewer than 20 points per game - incorrect: 21.17 Texas Simeon Wells rushes for more than 1200 yards (or 100 yards per game) as a true freshman - correct: 1412 (108.6 per game) Texas misses a bowl game for the first time in school history - incorrect: won the Cactus Bowl Texas Tech Texas Tech enters the final three weeks of the season in contention for the South title - correct: loss to Baylor in week 14 eliminated Texas Tech For the 5th time in 7 years, Texas Tech finishes with 5 or 6 wins, no more and no less - incorrect: 7 wins West Virginia Mohammed Foster breaks off 3+ touchdown runs of 50 yards or more. Mohamed Mustafa finishes 10th or worse among Big XII runningbacks in yards per carry - incorrect: 6th Score: 8.5/20 (42.5%) Preseason game predictions: Baylor: 9/12 Iowa State: 6/12 Kansas: 7/12 Kansas State: 12/12 Oklahoma: 7/12 Oklahoma State: 8/12 TCU: 4/12 Texas: 10/12 Texas Tech: 6/12 West Virginia: 10/12 Score: 79/120 (65.8%) Weekly game predictions: Week 1: 6/8 Week 2: 5/6 Week 3: 3/7 Week 4: 6/7 Week 5: 4/5 Week 6: 4/6 Week 7: 4/5 Week 8: 5/6 Week 9: N/A Week 10: N/A Week 11: 2/4 Week 12: 5/5 Week 13: 2/3 Week 14: 5/5 Week 15: 6/6 Week 16: 3/4 CCG: 0/1 Bowls: 4/8 Score: 64/86 (74.4%)
  11. He might've been the second RB in a 2RB system. They're sorted by yards, not carries.
  12. Congratulations to Eric Jennings on his first of many wins!
  13. Raheem the Dream's senior season was a spectacular one, but Oklahoma State's 8-win season, Sugar Bowl appearance, and year-end ranking were all a team record. And most of the team will be back for 2020...and 2021. Prediction: 4-8 (1-6) Record: 8-5 (4-3) Results at Marshall (W 38-17) Mississippi State (L 14-28) Ball State (W 24-21) at Western Kentucky (W 41-7) at Texas Tech (W 21-12) Texas (L 14-20) Baylor (L 38-45) at TCU (W 27-23) Kansas State (W 35-17) at Kansas (L 28-34) Virginia Tech (W 27-24) at Oklahoma (W 35-17) Sugar Bowl vs. LSU (L 34-37) Offensive MVP: WR Raheem Robinson (obviously): 117 receptions for 1620 yards, 17 TD Defensive MVP: CB Noah Crawley: 7 INT, 3 TD, 32 tackles Top NFLHC Draftee: WR Raheem Robinson, #2 to the Jacksonville Jaguars Top Freshman Recruit: DT Amir Pryor 6-6 312 Fr Empire (Duncan OK) 1.5 of 5.0 [2-Gap] Top JuCo Recruit: ILB Zach Morrison 6-4 245 (Sr) Seminole State College (Seminole OK) 4.0 of 4.0 [mike] Recruiting Ranking: #4 overall (#1 Big XII) Bowl in Review Against one of the best secondaries in the country, on one of the biggest stages that exists, needing every ounce of effort just to keep his team in the game, Raheem Robinson turned in one of the greatest single-game performances in the history of college football to wrap up one of the greatest careers in the history of college football. With 13 receptions, 236 yards, and 4 receiving touchdowns, Robinson put the team on his back and almost singlehandedly carried Oklahoma State to a Sugar Bowl win. But LSU's offense was just a bit too much for the Cowboy defense. The Tigers got rolling from the outset. After Wyatt Abel knocked home a 32-yard field goal to cap off LSU's first drive, Elias Allen-Hollis found Adam Vann deep middle for a 16-yard score to make it 10-0 at the 8:12 mark of the first quarter. But the entire game turned about 45 seconds later. On 2nd and 1 from the 23, Oklahoma State decided to take a shot downfield. Robinson's route was simple: go. He got a step on his man, the safety didn't arrive in time, and Chester Brenner's pass was right on target. Nobody touched him en route to a 77-yard score. LSU scored again on their next drive--another 32-yard field goal--only for Oklahoma State to answer when Robinson spun out of a tackle to turn a 15-yard gain into a 28-yard touchdown and Oklahoma State's first lead of the game. Game on. In the second quarter, both teams would trade scores and missed opportunities. Wyatt Abel hooked a 44-yard field goal, which gave Oklahoma State a chance to extend the lead to 17-13 on a Ralph Hinson 35-yarder. But before the half, Jayden Huff would get in the endzone to take the lead back, and Oklahoma State would go scoreless as Hinson's 57-yard desperation field goal attempt fell well short. The Cowboys would make up for it after halftime. This time, Robinson took a quick bubble screen, got two blocks from Xavier Gant (a pancake at the line and a block downfield), and took it 18 yards for another score. But Allen-Hollis was playing as sharp as ever, and a string of 7 straight completions led to his second touchdown pass of the game and lead change #4 of the contest. Oklahoma State could only tie it up before the end of the third quarter as Hinson connected on a 40-yard field goal to knot it at 27. The same heroes shined once again in the fourth quarter. Allen-Hollis gave LSU its largest lead since the first quarter with his third touchdown pass of the day with 5:28 to play, leaving Oklahoma State in desperate need of a response. Once they marched down to the LSU 10 with just 90 seconds remaining on the clock and a touchdown being a necessity, everybody in the stadium knew the ball was going to Raheem Robinson at some point. But with a perfectly executed rub play, Robinson was still able to get open, and Brenner found him to tie the game up. If they could just hold on here, overtime was coming. But LSU had other plans. Jayden Huff broke off a big run on a draw play, LSU got as far as the Oklahoma State 30, and the Cowboys' attempt to ice the kicker failed. Wyatt Abel's 47-yard blast was a no-doubter, sailing straight through the uprights and winning the Sugar Bowl for the home-state Tigers. But even though LSU won the game, it will forever be a night to remember for Raheem Robinson's legendary performance. The Good In 2017 and 2018 combined, Oklahoma State won 7 games, 2 of which were conference games. In 2019 alone, the Cowboys won 8 games, went 4-3 in conference play to finish second in the Big XII South, went to the Sugar Bowl for the first time ever, and finished the season as a ranked team for the first time since 2016. A lot of that was due to the incredible play of Raheem Robinson. He had 117 receptions for 1620 yards and 17 touchdowns, all of which rank in the top 2 for a single season in Big XII history. As part of that effort, he became the Big XII's career leader in receptions (330), receiving yards (4517), and receiving touchdowns (42). He couldn't have done that without the play of Chester Brenner, who set Oklahoma State single-season records with 351 completions, 4132 yards, and 31 touchdowns. His 129.7 passer rating was the second-highest in school history after Wayne Schmidt in 2016 (133.3 on 176 fewer attempts). They finished the season 18th in the country in scoring offense at more than 28.9 points per game; they were 14th when adjusting for opponent. They also got a breakout performance from junior college transfer Noah Crawley, a cornerback who snatched 7 passes out of the air and took three of them back for scores. They started 4-1 by winning the games they were supposed to, most notably beating Texas Tech on the road. After a close loss to Texas and a shootout loss to Baylor, they took out TCU, Kansas State, and Virginia Tech. And, of course, they closed their regular season with a 35-17 road upset of 3rd-ranked and previously undefeated Oklahoma, their first win ever over the Sooners. The Bad Not really all that much to say here. The defense definitely could use some improvement, giving up 23.2 points per game this season to rank 64th in the country. They only gave up 30 points or more three times this season (Baylor, Kansas, LSU), but all three of those games were losses. Those numbers are backed up by their per-play stats: they finished last in the Big XII in completion percentage allowed (66.2%), passer rating allowed (150.4), pass yards allowed per attempt (8.8), and rush yards allowed per attempt (5.0 even). Crawley had 7 of the team's 11 interceptions, and Trevor Orlando and Kahoni Vaaelua were the only other players on that defense who made a significant impact. The defense cost them in some of their "stretch" games--that is, games like Baylor, Kansas, and LSU where they weren't favored but came reasonably close to pulling upsets. They gave up 45, 34, and 37 in those three games. Future Fears Next year begins the post-Raheem era. The offense is going to have to figure out who's going to be their playmaker among the receiving corps, and that probably has to be Xavier Gant for the time being. He was money as an X-factor, but he'll have to shoulder a lot more of the load if he earns the #1 spot next year. Oklahoma State will have to continue to rely heavily on the passing game, because starting runningback Afasa Neru graduates and there really aren't any better options on the roster--which says a lot when Neru finished 10th in the Big XII with just 743 rushing yards, rushed for 76 yards or fewer in every game, and had just 4.15 yards per carry for the season. They also lose their defensive MVP in Noah Crawley, who declared early for the draft after his stellar junior campaign. There's not an easy answer at cornerback for them, either: they have the depth not to suffer too badly, but that leaves them without a single elite secondary player. Reasons for Hope Outside of Robinson, Crawley, and Neru, Oklahoma State returns every single one of their starters. Of their returning starters, all but 4 will return in 2021 as well. This 2019 squad started 7 freshmen, 10 sophomores, 5 juniors (one who declared early), and 2 seniors. Continuity is always good. But not all of those players are going to be starting by 2021, because Oklahoma State just pulled in the #4 recruiting class in the country. The quintet of defensive tackle Amir Pryor, free safety Prince Pruitt, wide receivers Samuel Barfield and Jeremy Bridges, and tight end Mark Westbrook are the cream of the crop at their respective positions. They also landed quality guys at guard, linebacker, cornerback, and runningback in their freshman class, plus two junior college transfers (linebacker Zach Morrison and wide receiver Jay Dunn) who can provide an immediate impact. Factor in Morrison in particular along with plain old regular progression, and the defense should see significant improvement next year with the offense hopefully staying at a top-30 level. Count Oklahoma State among the teams that will be contending for a Big XII title next year. Presented by the Big XII Network
  14. "Take Me Home Country Roads" didn't really seem to apply this year, as West Virginia did all its best work away from the friendly confines of Morgantown. Despite their defense, the Mountaineers rode one of the best offenses in the country to a bowl win--and most of that offense comes back in 2020. Prediction: 4-8 (2-5) Record: 7-6 (4-3) Results Kansas (L 24-31) Arkansas (W 35-17) vs. Missouri (L 21-31) Washington State (L 28-36) Oklahoma (L 9-23) at Kansas State (W 41-17) TCU (L 34-42) at Baylor (W 48-35) at Texas (W 27-22) at Iowa State (W 29-27) vs. Maryland (W 42-38) at Pittsburgh (L 9-28) Orlando Bowl vs. Virginia (W 33-21) Offensive MVP: QB Mohammed Foster: 290-469 for 3604 yards, 26 TD, 7 INT; 58 carries for 417 yards, 3 rush TD Defensive MVP: DT Hudson Adam: 12.0 sacks, 45 tackles Top NFLHC Draftee: OLB Ahmed London, #77 to the Houston Texans Top Freshman Recruit: DT Riley Reardon 6-0 315 Fr Nicholas County (Summersville WV) 3.0 of 4.0 [1-Gap] Top JuCo Recruit: ILB Nathan Wilks 6-1 231 So Community College of Allegheny County (Pittsburgh PA) 3.0 of 4.0 [Mike] Recruiting Ranking: #97 overall (#10 Big XII) Bowl in Review West Virginia turned in a dominant offensive performance against Other Virginia, and a pair of touchdowns each from Mohammed and Mohamed carried the Mountaineers to their second bowl win in three years. They trailed only once, and for only 6:10 of game action. Reginald Saunders put the opening points on the board for the Cavaliers with 5:31 to go in the first quarter, and West Virginia took over from there. Mohammed Foster found J.C. Weldon early in the second quarter and Elias Langston later on in the frame to give the Mountaineers the lead for good. Mahamadou Moore then intercepted Matteo Rook with 2:27 left before halftime and set up West Virginia in great field position to extend the lead further. This time, Mohamed Mustafa did the honors with a 4-yard touchdown run with 26 seconds to play. That was too much time to leave on the clock for the Virginia offense, though, and Rook's 38-yard Hail Mary to the endzone was caught by Cameron Beatty to make it competitive again at the half. For 31 seconds of the second half, Virginia was within arm's reach. That came to an abrupt end when Messiah Bernard chased down and sacked Matteo Rook in the endzone for a safety, then Mohamed Mustafa scored his second touchdown of the game on the ensuing West Virginia possession. Rook's second touchdown pass would cut the lead back to 9 points, but the Cavaliers didn't get any closer. Felipe Munoz tacked on a field goal, Mekhi Cringle's interception would snuff out Virginia's most promising remaining drive, and West Virginia's defense would get the job done in the 33-21 win. The Mountaineers closed their season with five wins in six games, and they finish with a winning record in an odd-numbered year once again. The Good West Virginia's offense was a well-oiled machine, racking up 29.2 points per game despite facing a tougher-than-average slate of defenses--good for the 7th-best opponent-adjusted scoring offense in the country. Mohammed Foster in particular was much improved over last year, dramatically improving his completion percentage (from 55.8% to 61.8%), his yardage total (from 239.0 per game to 277.2 per game), his touchdown total (from 11 to 26) and his interception total (from 12 to 7). He went from promising but inconsistent as a freshman to dependable as a sophomore--and he still has room to grow. He quickly learned how to gel with J.C. Weldon, with whom he connected 89 times for 1293 yards and 11 scores. On defense, Hudson Adam shined, taking home Big XII Defensive Player of the Year honors by recording as many sacks in a season as any Big XII player not named Jeremy Miller. It took some time for the team as a whole to find its rhythm, but it became a wrecking ball when it did. They started 1-4 with 4 games at home. The remainder of their season gave them just one home game--certainly not an enviable position to be in. But those road trips caused the Mountaineers to bond together, and they won on the road. They crushed Kansas State in Manhattan, came home for a loss to TCU, then went back out on the road to upset #7 Baylor in Waco. They flew back to Texas to knock off the Longhorns, flew to Ames to knock off the Cyclones, and won a wild one in a neutral(ish)-site game in Baltimore over Maryland to clinch bowl-eligibility. They didn't win the Backyard Brawl on the road, but they'd finish their world tour with a win in the Orlando Bowl over Virginia. They went 1-4 at home but made up for it by going 6-2 away from home. That's the kind of stuff that brings a young team together. The Bad Defense in general was a struggle for the Mountaineers, and it cost them. West Virginia games had the highest over/under of any team in the country bar none: they balanced their 29.2 points scored by allowing 28.3 per game on the other end. Six different teams scored 30 points or more against them; the Mountaineers were 2-4 in those games. That included losses to Kansas, Missouri, and a Washington State team that wound up being a lot better than expected. It also included a 42-34 home loss to 0-6 TCU. In their other two losses (a 23-9 loss to Oklahoma and a 28-9 loss to Pittsburgh), their offense had a rare off game and the defense couldn't do much to keep it competitive. A lot of that was pure talent, which is simultaneously a hard issue to fix midseason but a relatively easy one in the long run. Other than that, it's hard to pick much at West Virginia's season. Outside of the TCU game, they lost to teams that were better than them. They made the most of what they had, beat expectations, and finished with a winning record. Future Fears West Virginia pulled in the 97th-ranked recruiting class this season. That's alarming on its own. What's even more alarming is the combination of the five recruiting classes that will see the field for West Virginia this season. They pulled in the #28 class in 2015, followed by #57, #83, #112, and #97 in 2019. Half of the meat of that 2015 class (Owen Stover, Ahmed London, Jack Weisensee) is gone, and there are only a few dynamos scattered about the other four classes. The caveat here is that guys like J.C. Weldon, who transferred in after his freshman year, are not included in these rankings but will make a huge impact on the team. But even with that taken into account, West Virginia's power is going to be concentrated in a few positions as a direct result of their prior recruiting record. That was a problem this year, and there will be some positions where it worsens next year. Losing Owen Stover is a serious blow to the offensive line, leaving Prince Calloway as far and away the best offensive lineman returning for them. Losing Jack Weisensee is survivable if redshirting freshman Lamont Carson can fill his shoes. Losing do-it-all outside linebacker Ahmed London is probably the biggest blow to the defense. He was the best player on that defense not named Hudson Adam, there isn't a ready-made replacement for him, and West Virginia was already seriously thin at outside linebacker. Recruiting for depth has become a necessity in Morgantown, but it's also meant that guys who wouldn't start elsewhere are getting major snaps. Reasons for Hope On the other hand, that exact issue presented itself this year, and the Mountaineers finished with a winning record. They were able to rely on their strengths and mask their weaknesses. Mohamed Mustafa still isn't an every-down runningback, but they figured out how to get him the ball in goal-line situations and he came through with 17 rushing touchdowns. The offensive line doesn't have to be great when Mohammed Foster's so good at throwing on the run and he has the trio of J.C. Weldon, Elias Langston, and Jason Dupree to make plays downfield. Keep in mind that Foster, Mustafa, Weldon, and Langston were all true sophomores this season. They all have room to grow. That offense next year is going to be scary. On defense, they keep three of their four starting defensive linemen--most importantly, Hudson Adam stays. At linebacker, they upgrade from walk-on Zahir Carter to junior college transfer Nathan Wilks. At safety, they retain all-Big XII strong safety Julian Reid as well as rapidly improving free safety Mekhi Cringle. They should be able to keep the worst of their opponents' passing attacks at bay. It's hard to tell whether their defense is going to take a marginal step forward or a marginal step backward. But they return 10 starters from one of the best offenses in the country, and a lot of those starters are going to make a leap heading into their respective junior years. West Virginia ought to contend for the Big XII title next year as long as the defense can hold its own. Presented by the Big XII Network
  15. Kansas had a record-setting offense and a record-deflating defense, and that balanced out to a 9-4 season with a roster that carried so much promise. Life after Eric Jennings begins now. Prediction: 11-1 (6-1) Record: 9-4 (4-3) Results Washington (W 40-10) at West Virginia (W 31-24) at Iowa State (L 24-29) vs. East Carolina (L 35-38) Kansas State (W 37-7) at TCU (W 20-10) Oklahoma (L 30-33 OT) Baylor (L 27-37) at Notre Dame (W 50-28) Oklahoma State (W 34-28) at Rice (W 30-10) Missouri (W 35-24) Alamo Bowl vs. Oregon (W 37-31) Offensive MVP: QB Eric Jennings: 315-470 for 4132 yards, 35 TD, 7 INT Defensive MVP: CB Bradley Spurlock: 6 INT, 3 TD, 15 tackles Top NFLHC Draftee: QB Eric Jennings, #84 to the Denver Broncos Top Freshman Recruit: DE Jamari Callahan 6-0 250 Fr Basehor-Linwood (Basehor KS) 2.5 of 5.0 [Contain] Top JuCo Recruit: RB Rod Fulton 5-11 180 (Jr) Hutchinson CC (Hutchinson KS) 3.0 of 4.5 [Speed] Recruiting Ranking: #52 overall (#7 Big XII) Bowl in Review It wasn't always pretty, and it wasn't always clean. But in Eric Jennings's final game in a Kansas uniform, the Jayhawks upset #17 Oregon to nab the senior quarterback's first career bowl win. Kansas's offense started the game in practically the worst way possible: Jennings threw his 7th interception of the season, an underthrown ball that Donte Terry picked off. Kansas escaped any punishment when Thomas McMahan's 50-yard field goal attempt landed short, but his second attempt from the same distance six minutes later would put the Ducks up 3-0. For a while after that, it would be all Kansas. Joel Hawley tied it up with a 29-yard field goal of his own late in the first quarter, and Jennings found fellow fifth-year senior Bradley Cantu for the go-ahead touchdown pass with 8:22 to play in the second. Jalen Clayton punched in a 2-yard score to make it 17-3 with just over two minutes before the half, only for Jason Baum to answer on a 44-yard nuclear strike to Mike Jones to cut the lead in half before the half. After that defensive lapse to close the second quarter, Kansas came out with guns blazing in the third. Another Hawley field goal made it a two-possession game, and a second Jennings touchdown pass (this one to Malcolm Davis) gave them their largest lead yet at 27-10. They didn't quite put Oregon away, though, and another Baum touchdown pass cut it back to 10. Cue another Kansas run in the fourth quarter. A Joel Hawley field goal made it 30-17. An Oregon kick return put them in great field position--which was promptly erased when Thierno Hayes batted a pass at the line and came down with it himself for his first career interception. When Jalen Clayton crossed the goal line for the second time, Kansas had its new largest lead of the game at 37-17. And yet, that still wasn't enough to put it away. Jason Baum's touchdown run with 3:50 to play gave them some hope, and Kristian Hope's 59-yard punt return touchdown with 2:05 on the clock was a cherry bomb that cut the lead down to 37-31. Oregon kicked it onside, but could not recover the ball and did not have any timeouts. Jennings took a couple extra steps back on each kneel to burn out the clock, and that was that. Kansas gets its first bowl win since the 2015 Alamo Bowl (also an upset of Oregon), and Eric Jennings gets to go out a winner. The Good First of all, they beat Missouri by a margin of 35-24. But more on that later. Kansas had arguably the best offense in the country this season other than Syracuse's. They averaged a school-record 33.1 points per game, trailing only the Orange's 34.5. They were 2nd in opponent-adjusted scoring. They exceeded the national average of 22.7 points per game in 12 out of 13 games this season (and won the only game where they didn't). They were led by a seemingly regenerated Eric Jennings, who bounced back from a topsy-turvy junior year to set records as a senior. He won the Johnny Unitas and Kellen Moore awards, finished with 4132 yards passing and 35 touchdowns through the air (both are Jayhawk records), and completed 67.0% of his passes. He also became the leading passer in Big XII history, finishing his career with 909 completions, 11709 yards, and 91 touchdowns--all Big XII records. The team finished with 9 wins for the second straight year and the third time overall. They won their third straight over Kansas State, scored a team-record 50 points in a win over Notre Dame, and turned back a Missouri rally to win their second straight Border War. They closed the year on a 5-game winning streak, tied for their second-longest ever. Without any context, that's a pretty darn successful season. The Bad With context, though, the Jayhawks once again left something on the table. They lost to Iowa State in week 4 to put themselves on the wrong foot. After a bye week, they dropped a stinker in a 38-35 loss to East Carolina. In two games, they went from #5 in the country to unranked and wouldn't get above #24 the rest of the year. After they'd picked themselves up with wins over Kansas State and TCU, they came up on their two most important games of the season: home dates with Oklahoma and Baylor that would determine if they still had a chance to repeat as conference champions. They squandered an early 14-0 lead against Oklahoma and lost in overtime, then fell in a shootout to Baylor that dropped them to 4-4 and out of the division picture entirely. They'd finish tied for second, two games behind Oklahoma; 2016 is the only other year in which Kansas hasn't finished within a game of the division title. They racked up 4 losses despite the nation's second-best offense because the defense was Swiss cheese. They gave up 23.8 points per game, which ranks 71st in the country and 7th in the Big XII. In their four losses, they gave up an average of 34.25 points per game. They held just 4 opponents under the national scoring average--the fact that none of those four broke through the 10-point barrier illustrates the unfulfilled potential the defense had. Future Fears Let's begin with the fact that the longtime bedrock of the Jayhawk offense is now gone. The Kansas offense had been re-designed to suit Jennings's style, and the senior's graduation means Kansas will go back to the drawing board. Compounding matters, his most likely replacement is redshirt freshman Christian Graham. Jennings had some experience in mop-up duty before taking the reins as a freshman; Graham won't have even that benefit. The defense also loses three of its most talented players: James Carson leaves a hole at linebacker, Chad Bullock leaves a fillable vacuum at the #2 corner spot, and Harold Lange leaves a gap at strong safety that'll also be filled by a redshirt freshman. The defense was already saint-like; how much more holey can it get? Two other things worth keeping an eye on: Kansas has turned in back-to-back mediocre recruiting classes, and a lot of its major contributors from the 11th-ranked 2015 class are heading out the door after 2020. The Jayhawks need to step up their game on the recruiting trail, or Kansas's winning ways will be in serious jeopardy long-term. Reasons for Hope There's a few big ifs that could turn Kansas's 2020 season into one last hurrah. If Christian Graham can seize the reins effectively, the offense can still be a force. They return 8 starters from the offense alone. That includes runningback Jalen Clayton, star wideout Malcolm Davis, and potential 2021 top pick Ben Goode at left tackle. Graham will have all the help he could want as a freshman. If Clayton can't handle the runningback duties, junior college transfer Rod Fulton is available as an option as well. And on defense, Kansas will see the Boys from Basehor on the field together for the first time. Noel Barfield (2018's #1 strong safety) will almost certainly start next year, and Jamari Callahan (2019's #2 defensive end) is pushing hard for playing time. JuCo transfer Caleb Whitmore will be a one-year upgrade at outside linebacker. Albert Duke will likely be the starter at defensive tackle, and he showed positive flashes in limited duty as a freshman. Richard Clemons will push Isaiah Heard for playing time at free safety, and Bradley Spurlock returns for his junior year after two seasons as a force at cornerback. If the outstanding veterans continue their outstanding performances, the sophomores make the leap, and the incoming freshman make the impact they're expected to, Kansas can contend for the Big XII in 2020. But those are all some big ifs. Presented by the Big XII Network
  16. Texas beat expectations, but they beat as few opponents as any other Texas team in school history. There's a lot of upside next year, so as long as they don't meet the same pitfalls that tripped them up in 2019. Prediction: 4-8 (1-6) Record: 7-6 (3-4) Results at Texas A&M (L 21-32) Oregon (L 20-40) TCU (W 31-27) at Boise State (W 19-10) Texas Tech (W 20-14) at Oklahoma State (W 20-14) vs. Oklahoma (L 16-19) UAB (W 27-6) at Iowa State (L 9-20) West Virginia (L 22-27) vs. UTEP (W 59-21) at Baylor (L 16-40) Cactus Bowl vs. Utah (W 24-6) Offensive MVP: RB Simeon Wells: 307 carries for 1412 yards, 17 TD Defensive MVP: CB Damani Jeffries: 6 INT, 3 TD, 15 tackles Top NFLHC Draftee: WR Roy Davis, #158 to the Philadelphia Eagles Top Freshman Recruit: DT Zion Gaines 6-1 297 Fr Sinton (Sinton TX) 2.0 of 5.0 [2-Gap] Top JuCo Recruit: QB Kyler Tackett 6-2 221 (So) Collin College (Collin County TX) 3.0 of 4.5 [Hybrid] Recruiting Ranking: #63 overall (#9 Big XII) Bowl in Review Texas scored more points on defense than Utah scored on offense, which pretty much summarizes how this game went. It took a mere 91 seconds for Texas to score for the first time. When they did, they had the lead for good--not to mention that they'd already scored more points than Utah would all day. After a big kick return to start the game, Simeon Wells came up with one of his highlight plays for the entire season. He took a pitch to the right, ran into traffic, broke a tackle, reversed field, and got some help with a punishing block from quarterback Dante Fraley to spring free down the left sideline for a 28-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead. The scoreboard operator would get a bit of a rest for a while, but Texas would light it up again late in the half. This time Fraley found tight end Steven Maloney in space, and the 6-5 junior did the rest in taking it 20 yards to the house for a 14-0 lead. Utah didn't get on the board until the very end of the half on a 31-yard field goal, but they'd have a chance to cut further into the lead after driving deep into Texas territory. Donald Culver was on his 30th pass of the day, and while he wasn't particularly accurate for the day he also hadn't made a lot of big mistakes. He made one here. He misread the coverage, threw the ball directly at Damani Jeffries, and never had a chance to catch up with the speedy cornerback as he took it all the way back to the house for a 21-3 lead with 11:44 to go. That took the last spark of life out of Utah's offense, as it managed just one more field goal for the rest of the game. Texas erased that with a field goal of their own, and that was it for the scoring. Texas comes away with its largest bowl win in school history, 24-6, and finishes the season with a winning record. The Good Texas didn't win as many games as they're used to winning, but they won the games they needed to win. After starting 0-2, they rallied to win four straight non-guarantee games to essentially assure themselves of a bowl game. Their offense came alive in a 31-27 win over TCU, needing a rally from an early 14-0 deficit to take the win in Austin. Their defense was allowing 33 points per game after that matchup; in their next five games, they averaged just 12.6 points allowed per game. They held Boise State to 10, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State to 14 each, Oklahoma to 19, and UAB to 6. Even though the offense took a dip in that span, they beat everybody on that list except for the Sooners. And even though they lost to Oklahoma, they were tied against a much better team with less than two minutes to go before Louis Dwyer's go-ahead field goal. The UAB win got them to 5-3, and a blowout win over UTEP got them to bowl-eligibility. Simeon Wells had a fantastic freshman season, rushing for 1412 yards (the best non-Sterling Brown total in Texas history) and 17 touchdowns on 4.6 yards per carry with 9 games of 100+ rushing yards as a true freshman. His 108.6 yards per game ranked 4th in the Big XII behind Maurice White, Arturo Pacheco, and Sean Bell--no slouches themselves. They had one of the most successfully aggressive pass defenses in the conference, leading the Big XII with 17 interceptions--6 of which came from redshirt freshman Damani Jeffries. They also allowed just 4.33 yards per carry, the #3 mark in the conference. Despite an extraordinary amount of youth in the secondary, the defense wound up being a top-50 unit for the season. And despite the very real threat of missing a bowl game for the first time in school history, Texas was able to claw its way to win 6--and then win #7 in the bowl game. The Bad Texas isn't a program that typically dabbles in 7-6 seasons, though. This is their second one ever, and their first 6-6 regular season. The offense consistently struggled, with Dante Fraley never truly becoming a weapon in the offense. He ranked 10th in the Big XII in completion percentage (56.6%), 10th in yards per attempt (6.42), and by the end of the season slipped below Chase Shapiro to finish 10th in passer rating (112.55). The offense pretty much fell onto Simeon Wells's shoulders, and there was only so much a true freshman could do. The national per-game scoring average was 22.7 points this season; Texas beat that mark just 4 times in 13 games (TCU, UAB, UTEP, Utah). The Longhorns suffered two of their four worst margins of defeat in school history in a 40-20 loss to Oregon in week 2 and a 40-16 loss to Baylor in week 15--the second and third times the venerable program had allowed 40 points in a game. They lost rivalry games to Texas A&M and Oklahoma, lost to Iowa State for the first time, and lost once again to West Virginia (who seems to be their kryptonite by now). They beat expectations, but expectations were lower than Texas fans are accustomed to in the first place. Future Fears Strangely, after this season, there's not that much to write here. Their biggest concerns in the short run are losing Roy Davis and four starting offensive linemen. They'll take a somewhat significant step back on the interior line, but big Bobby Drake is a future stud at tackle. Abdoul Causey should be able to move up to the #1 target next year, though it's unclear who'll fill in the vacuum at #2. On defense, they lose William Long at defensive tackle and both starting interior linebackers, but they have more than enough pieces to replace them. The only other real area of concern is at quarterback. Dante Fraley is almost certainly not going to start next year; the battle is between redshirting freshman Lucas Beckwith and incoming sophomore junior college transfer Kyler Tackett. But neither of them is a known quantity, and there's always the risk that they'll struggle to adapt to the offense with Simeon Wells. Reasons for Hope But those concerns are more speculative than anything else. The lack of receiver help is concerning and the offensive line deterioration is worrying in the short-term, but all of that may be outweighed by the upgrades in the backfield. Both quarterbacks competing for the starting job at Texas are promising, and the Longhorns are set at the position for four years unless Beckwith transfers out. Simeon Wells will have a year of experience under his belt, and being thrown into the fire early on should make him a much more formidable back for the next three years. The all-freshman secondary performed rather well once all the defensive backs got their feet under them, and they'll all return next year--and the year after that, and possibly the year after that as well. Jabari Fletcher and Axel Lozano will make for a great outside linebacker tandem, and both are adaptable to both the 4-3 and the 3-4 depending on what Texas runs next year. Texas is extremely difficult to project next year, mostly due to the quarterback change. But I'm personally high on them for 2020, and I think the right decision at quarterback in the right scheme could propel Texas into the top tier of the Big XII next year. Presented by the Big XII Network
  17. "No offense allowed" was Texas Tech's unofficial motto this year. They didn't score a ton in 2019, but their 2015-lite defense allowed them to claw back from a 1-4 start to earn bowl-eligibility. Prediction: 6-6 (3-4) Record: 7-6 (3-4) Results California (L 10-14) at Arizona (W 13-10) vs. Auburn (L 3-35) Oklahoma State (L 12-21) at Texas (L 14-20) at Boise State (W 25-6) Washington (W 23-10) at Iowa State (W 16-13) Oklahoma (L 7-49) at Kansas State (W 19-3) Baylor (L 23-24) at TCU (W 35-23) Armed Forces Bowl vs. Navy (W 25-24) Offensive MVP: OT Walter Murphy Defensive MVP: DT Adam Shafer: 47 tackles, 7.0 sacks, 1 FF, 2 safeties Top NFLHC Draftee: DT Adam Shafer, #127 to the Cincinnati Bengals Top Freshman Recruit: RB Solomon McLaughlin 5-10 235 Fr Carroll (Southlake TX) 2.5 of 5.0 [Power] Top JuCo Recruit: DT Paul Hillson 6-2 286 Sr South Plains College (Lubbock TX) 4.0 of 4.0 [1-gap] Recruiting Ranking: #48 overall (#6 Big XII) Bowl in Review After being in control for much of the game, a bad fourth quarter nearly doomed Texas Tech in the Armed Forces Bowl. But down to their final chances to win the game, they ran through the Navy blockade and celebrated their second win in Fort Worth in as many games--and their second straight bowl win. It was one of their better offensive games of the season, for the most part. They scored first and scored early on Reginald Mallory's 4-yard scamper up the middle at the 9:55 mark of the first quarter, and from there they began to pour it on with field goal after field goal. Eddie Heredia hit from 28 later in the first quarter, and Cameron Riley's interception would set up a 38-yarder from Heredia early in the second for a 13-0 lead. But some big plays got Navy right back into the game before the half. The Red Raiders didn't account for Ahmed Miles when he dropped back to pass, and they weren't prepared when the fleet Midshipman quarterback instead went with a draw play up the middle. With an edge blitz and good blocking ahead, they had no chance to stop him on the 44-yard touchdown run. And when Texas Tech went three-and-out, Navy was able to tack on a field goal as the half expired to cut the lead to 13-10. In the second half, Navy blew an early opportunity to tie the game up when Cooper Morrell shanked a 43-yard field goal attempt. Texas Tech had their own chances to pull away, but they were met with merely mild success. They drove down to the Navy 11 before settling for a field goal to make it 16-10. Wilbur Ellis picked off Ahmed Miles to get the ball back, but Texas Tech was held to a fourth field goal instead. On the bright side, that made it a two-possession game. On the other hand, Navy had a lot more than two possessions left. They staged a fourth-quarter rally, cannons blazing and chewing threw the Red Raider defense. Omar Hendrickson wriggled through the pile for a 2-yard score, Navy forced a three-and-out, and Ahmed Miles found Joshua Willis wide-open for the go-ahead 15-yard score with just 2:06 to play. With Texas Tech's offense sputtering for most of the year and needing a touchdown trailing 24-19, it would take a Herculean effort to run the two-minute drill and come up with the needed score. And in the most encouraging sign of things to come, Chase Shapiro provided that effort. In just 90 seconds, he had the offense knocking on the door of the promised land. With a bullet of a pass to tight end Ahmed Miles in the endzone, he put his team over the top. They failed the two-point conversion to hold the score at 25-24, but the defense held on for all of the remaining 29 seconds on the clock to secure the victory for Texas Tech. They started the season 1-4. They finished it by winning 6 of their final 8 to clinch a winning record. The Good Texas Tech's defense was one of the best units in the Big XII, allowing just 19.4 points per game (3rd in the conference) and finishing 28th nationally in adjusted scoring defense (2nd in the conference). They racked up 12 interceptions, 19 sacks, and scored 27 points from the defense alone. Their opponents converted just 28.8% of their third down attempts against them and often struggled to move the ball through the air in particular. They scored defensively in five different games, winning four of them. After starting 1-4 with only a win over Arizona, they turned things around after their week 7 bye. Their defense led the way in a 25-6 win over Boise State and a 23-10 win over Washington, but the game-changer was a 16-13 win at then-#18 Iowa State to get revenge for 2018's matchup in Lubbock. With that win in pocket, all they would need to do was take care of business against sub-.500 Kansas State and TCU--and they did exactly that. After getting boatraced by Oklahoma, they closed out the regular season by setting a new season-high for offense-only points three games in a row: they beat Kansas State 19-3, lost a 24-23 heartbreaker to Baylor, and secured bowl-eligibility with a 35-23 win over TCU. The offense finally showed signs of life for the Red Raiders by the end of the year, and that's going to be absolutely critical heading into a turbulent 2020 season. The Bad And that's critical because the offense was, in no uncertain terms, horrendous in 2019. The list of Big XII quarterbacks who have completed a season with a passer rating under 115 and a TD/INT ratio of 0.5 or worse through 100 attempts or more is five-deep: Butch Allen in 2013, Jeremy Hubbard in 2015, Clifford Wilcox in 2016, Lukas Burke in 2018, and Chase Shapiro in 2019. Wilcox was the only one of that group who wound up becoming an effective starter down the road. Shapiro finished the season with a line of 187-318 (58.8%) for 2170 yards, 5 TD, and 11 INT for a passer rating of 114.4. Combine that with the fact that Reginald Mallory just barely cracked 4.1 yards per carry and was still second in the Big XII in carries per game, and you get an offense that struggled mightily in every facet. They averaged 17.3 points per game, which ranks in the bottom 25 in the country. Adjusting for competition takes them down to 98th place. In a conference where offense was king, Texas Tech often didn't have the firepower to keep up. That cost them dearly in three division games. They held Oklahoma State to 21 but only mustered 12 points. They held Texas to 20 but only conjured up 14 points. They ran out to a 17-0 lead against Baylor, but they couldn't score enough to get Baylor out of arm's reach. Ultimately, the Bears erased the entire deficit and broke Texas Tech's hearts with a last-second field goal to win 24-23. And when the defense got torched, the game would get out of hand early--see Auburn's 35-3 win in Honolulu in week 4 or Oklahoma's 49-7 win in Lubbock in week 11. Future Fears There's no guarantee that Texas Tech's offense takes a step forward next year. They were already thin at wide receiver, and they lose their top target in Eugene Sanders. They lose both starting offensive tackles. Chase Shapiro is expected to retain the starting job in Lubbock heading into 2020, but he's going to have to show significant improvement year-over-year with even less help than he already had. For a preview of how that's tended to work, look at Nathan Burden and the TCU offense after the graduation of Jamel Beckham and the next four wide receivers on the depth chart. Their run game's going to be a question mark as well. Reginald Mallory won't likely be the starter next year: he's fallen behind freshmen Hayden Dyer and Solomon McLaughlin on the depth chart. Both have a higher ceiling than Mallory, but both are also wild cards at this point. On defense, they lose a pair of front-seven game-changers: defensive tackle Adam Shafer is gone, as is outside linebacker Jerry Thornton--the only Big XII player to recover 4 fumbles or more in a career. Their defensive production should be replaceable, but there are always growing pains with this kind of thing. Reasons for Hope Two words: Solomon McLaughlin. Texas Tech went toe-to-toe with TCU for one of the most coveted recruits in the state of Texas, and they landed his commitment. He's considered the favorite over Dyer to land the starting job, and he'll immediately slot in as the most dynamic offensive threat on the Texas Tech roster. The Red Raiders really haven't had a dynamic force at runningback since Shaun Evans graduated five years ago, and that's what McLaughlin projects to be this year. Even if he comes in and has a Simeon Wells-like 4.5 or 4.6 yards per carry, it'll still be a massive improvement to Texas Tech's offense from where they were this year. On defense, Texas Tech should still be deep and strong. They have four reliable guys on their defensive line, and that's not even counting versatile redshirt freshman Curtis Jones who may get reps at literally any spot in the front seven this year. Their linebacker unit is probably the weakest unit of the defense, but they return most of a strong secondary from last year. Wilbur Ellis graduated, but Jeffrey Colbert should be able to slide into his role while Kameron Dozier or redshirt freshman Chad Solomon fill in the #2 and #3 spots. Meanwhile, Jamir Pendleton returns at free safety and--of course--Cameron Riley comes back as one of the best strong safeties in the country. If the offense can hold up its end of the bargain, this team will be a contender in the Big XII in 2020. Presented by the Big XII Network
  18. Iowa State came back down to earth in 2019, but they still finished with a winning record and their first-ever bowl win in the final season for three Iowa State offensive legends. Where do they go from here? Prediction: 9-3 (5-2) Record: 7-6 (3-4) Results at Louisiana Tech (W 55-14) at UTEP (W 45-7) at Oregon (L 17-24) Kansas (W 29-24) Oregon State (W 44-14) Minnesota (L 17-18) Texas Tech (L 13-16) Texas (W 20-9) at Oklahoma (L 20-23 OT) at TCU (L 17-20) West Virginia (L 27-29) at Kansas State (W 24-10) Liberty Bowl vs. Georgia State (W 38-28) Offensive MVP: RB Arturo Pacheco: 315 carries for 1541 yards, 20 TD, 2 FUM Defensive MVP: CB David Tolliver: 5 INT, 1 TD, 29 tackles Top NFLHC Draftee: RB Arturo Pacheco, #22 to the Houston Texans Top Freshman Recruit: RB Kofi McCullough 5-9 177 Fr Lincoln (Sioux Falls SD) 1.0 of 5.0 [Speed] Top JuCo Recruit: FB Trevion Volken 5-9 251 Jr Southeast Community College (Lincoln NE) 3.0 of 4.0 [Pass Blocking] Recruiting Ranking: #39 overall (#4 Big XII) Bowl in Review Arturo Pacheco's final game as a Cyclone was an F5, as Iowa State built up a massive lead that held up against a futile Georgia State rally to clinch their first bowl win in school history. Pacheco was dazzling early on in his duel against Evan Grant. The senior out of North Dakota scored the first two touchdowns of the ballgame, a 4-yard plunge into the line in the 1st quarter and a 6-yard toss sweep in the 2nd. Iowa State extended the lead to 21-0 before halftime: Donald Richardson intercepted James Jordan at the goal line, and the Cyclones would take it the length of the field before the half. Tom Oldham's 22-yard haul from Clifford Wilcox--the last touchdown in both of their college careers--would close the drive. Iowa State began the second half by pouring it on even more. Georgia State got the ball to start the frame, but it took just 30 seconds for Iowa State to turn the drive right on its head. James Jordan's pass was behind Arthur Good, and safety Isaac William took full advantage. He snagged the pass out of the air and took it 35 yards back to the house for a 28-0 lead. To their credit, the Panthers showed some fight. Five minutes into the third quarter, Evan Grant got Georgia State on the board with an 11-yard touchdown run. Pacheco answered with his third touchdown run of the day to push the lead back to 35-7. A couple of defensive breakdowns led to two James Jordan passing touchdowns, and Georgia State made it as close as 35-21 with 11:22 to play. But an Eric Graves field goal made it a three-possession game once again, and Evan Grant's second touchdown run with 3:21 to play would be too little too late. Iowa State would hold on to win, 38-28. They second the legendary trio of Pacheco, Wilcox, and Oldham out in style. They brought the program its first winning season, its second winning season, a Sugar Bowl appearance, offensive prowess, national rankings--and finally, they brought the program a bowl win to close things out. The Good For the second year ever, Iowa State had a winning record. And for the second straight year, Iowa State had a winning record. Even if this year was a step back, that cannot be overlooked. They built upon their 2018 success and have probably cemented that into a program that's capable of winning long-term. They've fought the big boys in their division and won--they beat Oklahoma for the first time ever last year and beat Kansas for the first time ever this year. They matched last year's best 1-loss start in school history at 4-1. When their backs were to the wall and they needed a win at season's end to preserve bowl-eligibility, they strangled Kansas State and left no doubt in their win. Arturo Pacheco ended his college career as the second-leading rusher in Big XII history with 4740 yards and 56 touchdowns. Clifford Wilcox finished 5th on the Big XII passing yardage list with 9245 and 9th on the touchdowns list with 46. Tom Oldham finished 7th on the Big XII receiving yardage list with 2889 yards and 8th on the touchdowns list with 21. And again, Iowa State got to close out their season with a bowl win, and that's going to be a big boost in the marketing department and on the recruiting trail going forward. The Bad Iowa State had sky-high expectations coming into this season after returning the core of a team that made a stunning playoff run in 2018. They sprinted out to a 4-1 start with a win over then-#5 Kansas and an excusable loss to a red-hot Oregon. And then, after climbing as high as 13th in the country, they sputtered out. They lost at home to 7th-ranked Minnesota and followed it up with an offensive no-show against Texas Tech. They took one step forward by beating Texas, then three steps backward with an overtime loss to Oklahoma (where they 14-0 heading into the fourth quarter), an absolute dud against 1-8 TCU, and a 29-27 loss to surging West Virginia. Arturo Pacheco saw his yards per carry average drop from 6.1 in 2018 to 4.9 in 2019. Clifford Wilcox threw 10 interceptions. The vaunted offense ended up ranking 39th in the country when adjusted for opposition; their defense actually outranked it at #31. I'll stress that this season should still be taken positively in context, but this was not what Cyclones fans were hoping for. Future Fears What will Iowa State do without Clifford Wilcox, Arturo Pacheco, and early declaree Tom Oldham? They lose their three biggest offensive stars, plus receivers Dennis Reyna and Jerry Pena, plus three starting linemen (including studs like tackle Harry Mock and center Aden Hastings)--and that's just on offense. It's going to be a bear to replace all of that production at once, and neither position in the backfield has a clear starter at this point in time. Kofi McCullough has all-world potential at runningback and the program hopes he'll be ready as soon as possible, but he may not be ready to start as a true freshman. Quarterback likely comes down to Peter Edge or August Blank, both of whom have carried a low profile for their first three years on campus. The offense won't have a lot of playmakers next year, and a lot of the future playmakers on the defense are young. It's a running theme by now in the Big XII (and will continue to be one), but Iowa State has a lot of question marks heading into 2020. Reasons for Hope However, the defense is trending in the right direction talent-wise, and they've always been a strong unit under Coach Minnowsotan even with less talent. The defensive line will be strong, the secondary ought to be improved, and the defense could easily have 10 of their starters next year return for 2021--continuity is always valuable. On offense, the Iowa State line is going to be a force to be reckoned with over the next two years. D'Neal Norris was a coveted recruit and will likely be asked to make an impact as a redshirt freshman. Max Gavin and Ajani Nance will make for a great guard tandem, and Russell Daigle is the next Cyclone center to watch out for. It's unclear if all of those four will start in 2020, but none will be seniors. Whether McCullough is ready to take the reins in 2020 or 2021, he's going to have an army out front of him bulldozing a path. Combine that with his top-end speed and precocious vision, and Iowa State's going to be in good hands by the time 2021 rolls around. Presented by the Big XII Network
  19. Splendid performance from Todd Jennings, and I can only think the spectacular clipboard-holding from Eric was a major contributing factor to his performance.
  20. With the caveat that we were playing starters against Charger backups and it's preseason...yeah, there are very few ways that could've gone better.
  21. Baylor followed up their record-setting season with another record-setting season, winning their second Big XII South title and 11 games overall. Losing Sean Bell will be a transition, but the Bears are in great shape to keep on winning. Prediction: 10-2 (6-1) Record: 11-3 (6-1) Results at Florida (W 24-6) at Auburn (W 24-14) Arkansas (W 41-21) Central Michigan (W 14-9) at UCLA (W 31-7) at Oklahoma State (W 45-38) Kansas State (W 28-7) at Kansas (W 37-27) West Virginia (L 35-48) TCU (W 59-21) at Texas Tech (W 24-23) Texas (W 40-16) Big XII Championship Game vs. Oklahoma (L 21-35) CFP Quarterfinal vs. Tennessee (L 14-34) Offensive MVP: RB Sean Bell: 315 carries for 1694 yards, 26 TD, 1 FUM; 2 receptions for 11 yards, 1 TD Defensive MVP: CB Kyle Cunningham: 6 INT, 1 TD, 17 tackles Top NFLHC Draftee: RB Sean Bell, #36 to the Cleveland Browns Top Freshman Recruit: OLB Zachary McHale 6-4 244 Fr Apple Springs (Apple Springs TX) 1.5 of 5.0 [Blitz] Top JuCo Recruit: OT Brian Chavez 6-1 299 Jr Lamar State College (Port Arthur TX) 4.0 of 5.0 [Pass Blocking] Recruiting Ranking: #23 overall (#3 Big XII) Bowl in Review The Bears kept it close for most of the first half, but ultimately the Volunteer army was too much to overcome. Between 3 interceptions from Marcus Swartz and just 89 yards from Doak Walker winner Sean Bell, there just wasn't enough in the tank to keep up with Tennessee's offense. Baylor did score first, though. On their very first drive of the game, Marcus Swartz found Lamont Wilder on a quick out and the freshman tagged the inside of the pylon with the ball for the 8-yard touchdown. But that wound up being the high point of the Baylor day. Volunteer quarterback Julius Thomas answered with a touchdown of his own, a 4-yard quick strike to Eli Austin to tie it up. After Baylor punted, Tennessee came right back with another scoring drive, closing this one on a touchdown run from Nikita Crowe. But the real trouble came less than a minute later. Marcus Swartz had been playing with fire early on, and he finally got burned when Nathaniel Jeffries read his eyes and jumped a route for an interception. Tennessee turned that into a field goal, but Baylor answered with a Sean Bell touchdown run to cut it back to 17-14. That would end up being all for Baylor's offense, though. Julius Thomas's second touchdown pass ran the lead back up to 10 points before the half, and the second half was all Tennessee. Another field goal and another Nikita Crowe touchdown extended the lead to 34-14 late in the third quarter. It could have been worse, too: Swartz threw an interception that led to a missed Tennessee field goal attempt, and he threw another interception with 3:36 to play that didn't lead to any points. Ultimately, Baylor just ran out of gas against too good of a team to run out of gas against. The Good For the second straight year, Baylor broke its school single-season wins record. They won 11 games this year, and their 20-7 record over their last two seasons puts the previous five years' 14-36 record firmly in the rear-view mirror. Prior to 2019, Baylor had never started 2-0 in a season. This year, they started 8-0. Their only regular-season blemish was a home shootout loss to West Virginia, and in all fairness that series has been dominated entirely by the road team. They finished 11-1, beating Auburn, Oklahoma State, Kansas, and Texas Tech all on the road. That Texas Tech win will go down forever in Baylor lore: they had to rally from 17-0 down, led for 0:00 of game time, and won on a field goal as time expired to clinch the Big XII South for the second time ever and first time in five years. They handed Texas its second-largest conference defeat in school history, 40-16. They finally got their first win over TCU, and they unleashed six years of frustration in the 59-21 win--the largest in Baylor history. They had the #7 scoring offense in the country all things considered, averaging 31.2 points per game. Sean Bell, for his part, had a historic season. He set a school record with 26 rushing touchdowns (T-5th in conference history), and he finished his career in 3rd place on the Big XII rushing yardage (4489) and rushing touchdowns (51) lists. He was named an All-American, took home the Doak Walker Award, and finished 5th in the Heisman balloting for his efforts. Meanwhile, Marcus Swartz threw for a career-high 3078 yards and 21 touchdowns, Lamont Wilder emerged as dangerous young receiving threat, and Kyle Cunningham continued to be deadly from the cornerback spot. The Bad Just like with Oklahoma, anything in this section is going to be a little bit nitpicky. Most notable among those nitpicks, though: Baylor's defense had its lapses during the season. They gave up 38 to Oklahoma State, 48 to West Virginia, 35 to Oklahoma, 34 to Tennessee, and ranked 49th nationally with 21.9 points allowed per game. But at times, the offense was putting the defense in awkward positions to defend--most notably because Marcus Swartz has suddenly started to throw interceptions. West Virginia was his first career multi-interception game, Oklahoma picked him off once, and Tennessee got to him 3 times. All told, he had 6 interceptions in 3 losses against 2 interceptions in 11 wins. Future Fears After the struggles that marked his freshman and sophomore campaigns, Sean Bell became a game-changing runningback as an upperclassman. Now, Baylor will have to adjust to Life After Bell, and that could be a difficult transition. In the meantime, Marcus Swartz is going to be asked to carry more of the workload. Early returns for that concept weren't great--though we'll talk about that more in the next section. Baylor doesn't lose a lot this offseason, and they have the depth to replace most of the players they lose. Bell isn't one of those players, though, and neither are two of the three offensive linemen they lose. Lamar State standout Brian Chavez will fill in one of the two tackle spots, but the left tackle on the spring depth chart is true freshman Joshua Hyde. Losing center David Lemons to early declaration was an unexpected blow for Baylor, and the Bears will likely start a true freshman there as well. The Baylor offensive line quickly goes from one of the Big XII's three best units to one of its thinnest. Reasons for Hope Even if Marcus Swartz struggled toward the end of the year, he has two good things going for him. First of all, he improved significantly from his sophomore to his junior year. He topped 60% passing for the first time, leaping all the way to 64.3% while setting career highs pretty much across the board. And second, he returns all of his top targets--and they should be even better next year. Lamont Wilder had a phenomenal year, catching 66 passes for 1082 yards and 13 touchdowns. Jayden Tinsley was a solid #2 option anywhere but the red zone (612 yards, 0 TD), and Hastin Rider and Maxwell Cummins made for good auxiliary targets. Expect all of them to take a step forward in 2020, especially as Tinsley moves into the slot where he's likely a better fit for the offense. Baylor's defense may wind up being its better unit next year, though, as it's studded with talent. Alex Whitney and Julian Neville will lead a strong pass rush, and true freshman Zachary McHale out of Apple Springs is set to be the X-factor in that front seven. Omar Bush and Joshua Rucker make for a good safety tandem, but their job will be made easier by the fact that Kyle Cunningham is awesome--and he'll only be a junior next year. And with Caleb Olmsted and Miles Street waiting in the wings, the Baylor backfield is still going to be set long-term. Baylor will continue to have the depth that's made it durable this year, and they'll be in position to contend in the Big XII for years to come. Presented by the Big XII Network
  22. The Sooners followed up a disappointing 2018 with a resoundingly successful 2019 campaign behind a brilliant season from Graham Burnett. With a Big XII title, a Coach of the Year, and multiple national awards from Graham Burnett, the Sooners should take time to enjoy their success while they can. Prediction: 8-4 (5-2) Record: 12-2 (6-1) Results at Pittsburgh (W 27-17) at Buffalo (W 45-14) Iowa (W 20-10) Michigan State (W 16-10) at West Virginia (W 23-9) vs. Texas (W 19-16) at Kansas (W 33-30 OT) at Texas Tech (W 49-7) Iowa State (W 23-20 OT) Kansas State (W 51-7) at Colorado (W 33-24) Oklahoma State (L 17-35) Big XII Championship Game vs. Baylor (W 35-21) College Football Playoff Quarterfinal vs. Alabama (L 30-33) Offensive MVP: QB Graham Burnett: 273-401 for 3712 yards, 32 TD, 9 INT Defensive MVP: DT David Jackson: 47 tackles, 7.0 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR Top NFLHC Draftee: QB Graham Burnett, #7 to the Dallas Cowboys Top Freshman Recruit: WR Lucas Dykes 6-1 226 Fr Keota (Keota OK) 2.5 of 5.0 [Target] Top JuCo Recruit: WR Ty Royal 6-3 156 Jr Northeastern Oklahoma A&M (Miami OK) 4.0 of 4.5 [Target] Recruiting Ranking: #17 overall (#2 Big XII) Bowl in Review Oklahoma fought Alabama close for three quarters, staged a rally when the game had all but slipped away, but ultimately could not complete the comeback to advance to the semifinals. Alabama's defense came ready to stop Graham Burnett early, but Oklahoma's defense was able to limit the damage through the first quarter. The Tide washed ashore but could not quite reach the sandcastle, limited to three field goals from 40, 52, and 20 yards--and the 20-yarder came after Alan Tuitamalofo's interception of Graham Burnett set Alabama up in good field position. In the second quarter, Oklahoma was able to close the 9-0 gap. Maurice White put the Sooners on the board, and Oklahoma took advantage of a missed Eric Holder field goal to take a 10-9 lead with 2:40 to play on Louis Dwyer's 45-yard boot. Holder would make up for his miss with a 50-yarder as the half expired to put Alabama back up 12-10. The third quarter was back-and-forth. Dwyer added a second field goal to give Oklahoma the lead again, but Alabama answered by finally finding paydirt on Rory Weston's toss to Omar Pruitt in the corner of the endzone. Oklahoma answered with another field goal to cut it to 19-16 heading into the final frame. Unfortunately for the Sooners, that's when the levees broke and the Tide rushed through. Chase Dillard concluded a 10-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to give Alabama their largest lead of the game, and a promising Oklahoma drive was cancelled out in the worst way with a pick-six from Michael Hernandez that almost entirely put the game away at 33-16. But if there was anybody on that field who didn't think the game was over, it was the boys from Oklahoma. Graham Burnett kept slinging it, and he threw his first touchdown pass of the game to Maurice White with 3:50 to play. After an onside kick failed but the defense forced a three-and-out, Burnett lifted a 22-yard fourth-down touchdown pass to Ahe Salanoa to cut the lead back down to 33-30 with 1:08 to play. But once again, the onside kick failed--and this time, Oklahoma didn't have any timeouts remaining. The rally of rallies fell tantalizingly short, and Oklahoma's season came to an end. But a 12-2 season that only came to an end in the last minute of a playoff game at the hands of a defending national champion? Well, there are worse ways to go out, that's for sure. The Good From early on, Oklahoma left no doubt about it: this was not going to be anything like the 2018 campaign. But this season surpassed even the wildest of Sooner fans' expectations, which is reason #1 that ChicagoTed1 was named Big XII Coach of the Year. The Sooners finished the year with 12 wins, tied for the second-most in school history. They won their second conference championship and earned their second playoff bid, both the first since the 2015 title run. Their 12 wins didn't come easy, either. They had to beat 6 ranked opponents, with two coming on the road and one at a neutral site. They won the Big XII North by rallying from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit against Kansas in Lawrence, then rallying from a 14-0 fourth-quarter deficit against Iowa State in Norman, beating both contenders in thrilling overtime games. They were killer on both sides of the ball: they scored 49 points on Texas Tech's defense and held West Virginia's offense to 9 points. They set a school record by winning their first 11 games of the season--which also ties the Oklahoma record for longest winning streak overall. On an individual level, Graham Burnett stood out in particular. He finished a very close second in the Heisman voting, won the Maxwell and Davey O'Brien Awards, and finished in the top three in single-season Sooner history in passing yards, passng touchdowns, yards per attempt, and passer rating. And let's not forget about Maurice White (whose 5.12 yards per carry ranked second among Big XII runningbacks), or David Jackson (whose 7.0 sacks tied for third among Big XII DTs). Overall, it was a season to remember in Soonerland. The Bad Not much to report here. The Alabama loss is a stinger, but not devastating in the grand scheme of things. The only game where things truly went wrong for Oklahoma was the regular season finale against Oklahoma State. They had the chance to be the first Big XII team to go 12-0 since Texas Tech, but the Cowboy offense led by Raheem Robinson and turncoat Chester Brenner dropped 35 points and ran them straight out of town. It's the first time that Oklahoma has ever lost a Bedlam game, and you just know that the Cowboys are going to use that game and the resulting Sugar Bowl appearance in every recruiting pitch for the next year. Future Fears When Chester Brenner transferred last offseason, it was because he would have had to sit his whole career behind Graham Burnett. Then, Burnett declared early for the draft to be selected 7th by the Cowboys, and the Sooners are now left with a crisis situation at quarterback. With only three quarterbacks on the roster at all as of the spring depth chart, the job is likely to go to the sole scholarship player at that position: true freshman Eric Pope. The offense is projected to start 6 freshmen and sophomores, and the defense is projected to start 7. Speaking of sevens, the Oklahoma defensive front will see most of its personnel graduate, including all but one rostered defensive lineman. They will be starting true freshman at both defensive end positions and at outside linebacker; they will be starting a redshirt freshman at middle linebacker and a true sophomore at the other outside linebacker spot. They're thin enough at cornerback that true freshmen walk-ons will be handling the nickelback and dimeback roles. None of this bodes well for the 2020 squad, and it's not at all hard to see a regression back to 2018 form. Reasons for Hope If Oklahoma does see a downturn in 2020, they'll bounce right back in 2021. All the freshmen and sophomores who will be starting are in those roles partially out of necessity and partially because they're too good to keep off the field. Eric Pope looks like a Clifford Wilcox-type quarterback who can make plays with his arm and his feet. Maurice White had a stellar season and will likely be asked to carry much of the offense next year just as Sean Egloff did for a while behind Graham Burnett. They're upgrading massively at wide receiver with Ahe Salanoa being joined by cousin Rangi Salanoa in addition to junior college standout Ty Royal. Their offensive line should improve next year as Jason Dotson and Rory McKay get another year of experience under their belts. Defensive end is still very much a long-term question mark, but there's a lot of defensive tackle talent coming up the pipeline. At outside linebacker, Jeremy Green's coming off a fantastic true freshman campaign and should be very capable at the position as a do-everything guy in his sophomore year. Cornerback Elijah Williams was slated to start this year regardless, but he's bringing back reminders of Jacoby Seaverns. And there's a lot of talent redshirting this season--most notably defensive tackle David Kaiser and wide receiver Lucas Dykes (who may just be the next Tai Miller). If Eric Pope can be the guy going forward--or if Oklahoma can upgrade at quarterback--then this team is going to be very, very good in 2021 and beyond. Just not 2020. Presented by the Big XII Network
  23. Looks like David *puts on glasses* Gaines a trait.
  24. Prediction: 3-9 (0-7) Record: 3-9 (0-7) Results Utah State (W 20-10) at Duke (L 10-20) California (L 21-33) at Florida Atlantic (W 33-21) at Kansas (L 7-37) West Virginia (L 17-41) at Baylor (L 7-28) Wyoming (W 38-31) at Oklahoma State (L 17-35) Texas Tech (L 3-19) at Oklahoma (L 7-51) Iowa State (L 10-24) Offensive MVP: TE Damani Askew: 43 receptions for 547 yards, 6 TD Defensive MVP: ILB Julien Daly: 67 tackles, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 TD Top NFLHC Draftee: ILB Julien Daly, #171 to Tampa Bay Top Freshman Recruit: ATH Brendan Scherer 6-3 262 Fr Royal Valley (Hoyt KS) 1.0 of 5.0 [Mike] Top JuCo Recruit: QB Rahim Murrell 6-2 220 (Jr) Moberly Area Community College (Moberly MO) 3.5 of 4.5 [Pocket] Recruiting Ranking: #53 overall (#8 Big XII) The Good The two takeaways from this season are progress and continuity. In 2018, the Wildcats went 1-11, lost to Louisiana Tech, got outscored 12.75 to 30.5 on a per-game basis--the fifth-worst single-season scoring margin in Big XII history. This time, they tripled their win total with a 3-9 record, won all three games that they should have won, and improved to 15.8 points scored and 29.2 points allowed per game. They set a team record for sacks with 13, including a school record-tying 8.0 sacks from sophomore Matthew Mayfield. And this same group that made progress will mostly continue to have the opportunity to make progress in 2020. Of the Wildcats' starters, they lose only linebacker Julien Daly, safeties Christopher Figueroa and David Frazier, and kicker Nick Spicer this offseason. They return every offensive starter and 8 defensive starters. They most importantly return coach HAFFnHAFF, who is 6 games away from the longest tenure in K-State history. Merely having stability is going to go a long way in Kansas State's progress going forward. The Bad Another season, another winless conference record. They've posted a second straight 0-7 season in Big XII play and have lost 16 straight conference games. For the second straight year, they scored the fewest points and gave up the most points of any Big XII team--and they finished 100th in the country on both counts. After a strong freshman campaign in limited time, Julius Minnow took a step back his sophomore year. He threw for 8 touchdowns against 12 interceptions, got benched for two games, and all of a sudden his future at Kansas State is in doubt. They didn't do many of the little things well either, finishing last in offensive line rating, offensive third down conversion percentage, and defensive third down conversion percentage. Their wide receivers, easily the best unit of the offense, combined for just three touchdown receptions all year; tight end Damani Askew, to his credit, cleaned up with 6 more. Progress was made, but there's still a long way to go. Even Kansas State's three wins were all by 12 points or fewer, whereas they lost 8 of their 9 games by 12 points or more. This is one of the toughest jobs in the country for a reason, and it'll continue to be a tough job for a while longer. Future Fears It's hard to see the program backsliding into the abyss that was 2018, but it's tough to tell when their next bowl game is going to come. 2020 presents a new set of challenges with a 9-game conference schedule and a non-conference schedule that could present two trap games. They lose very few players, but the ones they lose include their two starting safeties and starting linebacker Julien Daly (who happened to be the best player on the team last year). They can replace the safeties, but there's no way to replace Daly. As much as the offense should be able to take a step forward next year (more on that next), their defense is poised to take a step back. As important as this incoming recruiting class is (again, more on that next), most of the players in the class won't be able to contribute until at least 2021. Reasons for Hope But on the other hand, the offense is set to take a step forward, and this year's recruiting class was extremely important. It was ranked 53rd in the country--which is a massive improvement over last year's 106th. They won some high-profile, drawn-out battles on the trail, most notably beating Kansas for athlete Brendan Scherer (who will slot in as a linebacker). Athlete Maxim Kelly (most likely an offensive lineman or tight end prospect) and defensive tackle Jonah Caruso join Scherer as long-term foundational prospects for the program. Free safety Ahmad Winston ought to be an instant-impact player who can start immediately for the Wildcats. And perhaps the most important recruit is a junior college transfer named Rahim Murrell. Unsatisfied with their options at quarterback, Kansas State brought in Murrell to provide a jolt at the position, and he's the best natural talent they've ever had at the position. In a year that projects as a possible down year for the Big XII, Murrell can be the Wildcat wild card that can snatch them a few games and possibly lead them to bowl-eligibility as all goes right. Presented by the Big XII Network
  25. Everything that could go wrong for TCU went wrong--and then some. A three-year streak of 10 wins or more was snapped in decisive fashion as the Horned Frogs started 0-6 and finished 3-9 to tie their second-worst record in school history. How did things go so wrong in Fort Worth, and when will the Frogs recover? Prediction: 10-2 (6-1) Record: 3-9 (2-5) Results at San Diego State (L 10-16) at Texas (L 27-31) Clemson (L 21-42) SMU (L 10-14) Pittsburgh (L 16-19) Kansas (L 10-20) at West Virginia (W 42-34) Oklahoma State (L 23-27) at Baylor (L 21-59) Iowa State (W 20-17) Rice (W 31-27) Texas Tech (L 23-35) Offensive MVP: FB Fredrick Marshall: 12 games started, All-American Defensive MVP: OLB Daquan Darcey: 56 tackles, 3.0 sacks Top NFLHC Draftee: OLB Daquan Darcey, #31 to the New York Jets Top Freshman Recruit: TE Miguel Aguilera 6-1 192 Fr Mesquite (Mesquite TX) 1.5 of 5.0 [Receiving] Top JuCo Recruit: CB Roman Blackmon 6-1 181 (So) McHenry County College (Crystal Lake IL) 3.5 of 5.0 [Man Coverage] Recruiting Ranking: #44 overall (#5 Big XII) The Good There really isn't much to say here. TCU's season started off on the wrong foot and never really got off of it. But let's save that for a bit later and focus on their three wins. Their offense had struggled at times through the year, but four Nathan Burden touchdown passes paced the Horned Frogs to a 42-34 win at West Virginia to break an 0-6 start (and a 9-game losing streak dating back to last season) and keep their bowl hopes alive for another week. Even though that didn't last, they were able to put together a couple more strong efforts back-to-back to give the fans at home something to cheer about. They limited Iowa State to 17 points to maintain their perfect record against the Cyclones, then followed that up with a tough win over Rice. And on a more long-arc kind of note, Nathan Burden finished his college career with the second-most passing yards (10,473) and passing touchdowns (80) in conference history. The Bad TCU came into the season with high expectations. They were #14 in the country in the preseason poll, projected to win 10 games, and the floor was supposed to be 7-5. Needless to say, the bottom fell out. The offense never found a rhythm, with Nathan Burden unable to overcome the loss of Jamel Beckham, Dan Rice, and TCU's three next-best receivers as well. Shamar Burroughs never became a particularly strong rushing threat. The offensive line took a step back. The vaunted defense took a serious and unexpectedly large step back, finishing 76th in the country in opponent-adjusted points allowed. Perhaps the team's biggest problem, though, was its inconsistency. When their offense came to play, the defense didn't. When the defense came to play, the offense didn't. And their rivals took advantage. SMU got their first win over TCU, and Baylor served the Frogs a merciless 59-21 beatdown in Waco for their own first win in the series. Future Fears There are two basic worries going forward. The first is that most of TCU's issues from this season don't really look like they're going to be resolved by 2020. They're still going to be incredibly young, with freshman and sophomores projected to earn up to 13 starting positions. They still don't have a go-to wide receiver unless Griffin McHanna can step into that role, they still don't have consistency at runningback unless Shamar Burroughs improves (or unless Griffin McHanna is slotted there and performs well), their defensive ends are a question mark, and they lose starting quarterback Nathan Burden. There is no team in the Big XII--or maybe even the country--that has a larger distance between the current and the ideal than TCU. On a longer scale, their recruiting class gives reason to worry. It's still in the top half of the conference, but it's a far cry from the previous loaded classes the Frogs have been bringing in. Most notably, it did not include Solomon McLaughlin, who was as high-profile of a recruiting miss as it gets. One year does not a trend make, but this is something worth keeping an eye on. Reasons for Hope Despite all of that, TCU is still ridiculously talented. They're loaded with former 4- and 5-star recruits at virtually every position, and seven of the thirteen projected freshman or sophomore starters are guys who will be first-time starters in 2020. Yes, that could be a weakness. But sometimes in college football, you have to do a little bit of bloodletting and replace the players who weren't cutting it with a group of guys who are young, scrappy, and hungry. These guys will get experience early on, and even if the team struggles in 2020 (as young teams with young quarterbacks and no proven playmakers are wont to do), they're still going to form the backbone of a strong program for years to come. They added an elite junior college corenrback, a top-flight tight end, and yet another highly rated outside linebacker in the most recent class to go with all the highly touted players they already have on the roster. As long as they can get their rate of attrition back under control, TCU's going to be dangerous in 2021 and beyond. Presented by the Big XII Network

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