By KEVIN LONNQUIST
Big 12 Insider
Every week, the Big 12 coaches hold a conference call with the media. Rattle and Hum Sports points out some of the issues that made the most news. All rankings are BCS. Please note that this is the final edition of the coaches corner for the 2012 season.
Notable: The Big 12 is the only league in which 90 percent of its membership has gained bowl eligibility and one of just two conferences with nine bowl-eligible teams. The only team that will not be going to a bowl is Kansas.
Part of the reason Texas coach Mack Brown announced Case McCoy will start at quarterback Saturday at Kansas State is because starter David Ash (ribs) took a pounding on Thanksgiving night against TCU. “He took three hits and didn’t tell us,’’ Brown said, “and that’s what led to his struggles.’’… Ash is questionable as is defensive end Alex Okafor (ankle). Plus two other players are out for the finale and the bowl game, including running back Jeremy Hills (lower leg) and linebacker Demarco Cobbs (knee)… Brown and No. 18 Texas (8-3, 5-3) are 2-6 against Kansas State and has lost his last four meetings with the Wildcats.
Kansas coach Charlie Weis used two days last week to start preparing to for the season finale against West Virginia. And he knows he’s had to rely on his running game to lead the way. Running back James Sims leads the Jayhawks (1-10, 0-8) in rushing with 956 yards. “The running backs and offensive line have given us a chance to hang in some games,’’ Weis said. “It’s where we start every Monday morning and the gameplan falls off of that.’’… as for his former employer Notre Dame reaching No. 1 and playing for the national championship, Weis acknowledged there are a lot of kids he and his staff recruited. But he said, “I’m trying to take a low profile. It’s their team not my team. I have to worry about Kansas. But there’s a lot of guys I’m happy for.’’
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones became the Big 12’s all-time passing leader with 16,124 yards and total offense at 15,576. He also set school records for completions (46) and attempts (71) in the 51-48 overtime Bedlam Rivalry victory over Oklahoma State. But in his time, he’s made his share of plays to draw the ire of the Sooner fan base. But Bob Stoops defends that. “I think it’s overplayed,’’ Stoops said. “There’s about 5-10 percent that are never happy and 90 percent who are. The media gets something started. I’m not being critical, but the guy has won a Big 12 championship and won a BCS game (2011 Fiesta Bowl). What else does he have to do?’’ If No. 11 Oklahoma (9-2, 7-1) ties Kansas State for the Big 12 championship, the Sooners would earn a split of the conference title, even though they lost the head-to-head meeting with the Wildcats.
Since a 44-34 loss at Baylor in 2005, No. 23 Oklahoma State (7-4, 5-3) has owned the Bears by winning the last six meetings by at least 27 points. So even in Robert Griffin III’s two years, Oklahoma State won those games by 27 and 35 points. “We’ve had good game plans and had good weeks,’’ coach Mike Gundy said. “It’s hard to explain why it’s been that way against Baylor. Against (RG3), we at least did a good job of keeping him in check.’’…while it’s an emotional hangover from playing Oklahoma in the Bedlam Rivalry game, the Cowboys still have to play a game. That’s a concern because of the team’s emotional state, especially since OSU lost. “If there’s any hangover from the prior game and we don’t practice well on Tuesday, the chance of winning on Saturday are not good,’’ Gundy said.
No. 6 Kansas State (10-1, 7-1) still has a chance to finish on the right note with a win against Texas Saturday in Manhattan. This may also be a chance for quarterback Collin Klein to revive his Heisman Trophy hopes. Klein was the apparent leader but threw three interceptions in a 52-24 loss at Baylor. That seemed to all but end his hopes, but that’s not coach Bill Snyder’s concern. “Collin has played really well,’’ Snyder said. “But anybody’s performance level is reliant upon other people.’’… even with the off week, Snyder said he doesn’t have to over stress the importance of winning this game. “They weren’t born yesterday,’’ Snyder said. “I’ve shared that with them. But I’m not going to beat the drum. They realize what’s at stake.’’
West Virginia (6-5, 3-5) became bowl eligible with a hard fought 31-24 victory at Iowa State last week. That snapped a five-game losing streak. “The seniors didn’t want to go out like that,’’ coach Dana Holgorsen said. “They didn’t want to be the team that couldn’t handle the new conference.’’ Actually, Holgorsen said he’s liked his team’s resolve in the last four games against Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU. Holgorsen said he thinks the season’s adversity will make Geno Smith a better quarterback. “It’s a tough league,’’ Holgorsen said. “Every week is going to be a battle. Once Geno gets to the NFL, that’s the thing he’s going to have to go through.’’
Texas Tech (7-5, 4-5) finished its regular season with a 52-45 overtime loss to Baylor. The Red Raiders were 2-1 in those games this year, but coach Tommy Tuberville doesn’t have a problem with the current system where teams start at the opponent’s 25-yard line. “This is the best way,’’ Tuberville said. The team will not start preparing for its bowl until Dec. 7… Tuberville was complimentary of Baylor’s defense, which caused four Red Raider turnovers including three interceptions of quarterback Seth Doege. “There were two things,’’ Tuberville said. “There was better zone coverage on their pass defense, but their pressure game got a lot better. (Baylor defensive coordinator) Phil Bennett did a nice job mixing things up.’’…,as for losing tight end Jace Amaro (ribs) and fullback Omar Ontiveros (ACL right knee), Tuberville said that changed the look of the offense. “We lost about 25-30 percent of our offense from the tight end and our short yardage back.’’
Baylor (6-5, 3-5) now has a chance at clinching a winning season if it can beat Oklahoma State Saturday at Floyd Casey Stadium. But the Bears had to win two of their last three just to become eligible. They took care of that in the first two, wins over Kansas State and Texas Tech. “They did a good job of rising up,’’ coach Art Briles said. “There’s 52 cards in a deck, and we held about two of them. The kids did a great job of fighting and believing and saving the season. I’m extremely proud of their season and production.’’…Baylor’s defense has been playing much better lately forcing nine turnovers in the last two games.
With Iowa State (6-6, 3-6) finishing its regular season last week, coach Paul Rhoads said his team will go through some light work during the week but will not do any running or lifting. “Once we find out who we’re playing,’’ Rhoads said. “We’ll get back after it.’’…With Sam B. Richardson continuing to hold the reins of the offense, he will be the quarterback for the bowl game. “He’s had a taste of victory and defeat,’’ Rhoads said. “And the second stinks. But he’s going to get through a lot of things physically. It’s an exciting time for our football program.’’
Now at 7-4, TCU (4-4 in the Big 12) has a chance to do what would have been hard to fathom: Beat Texas and Oklahoma in its first season in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs are halfway there following their 20-13 win at Texas and play host to the Sooners Saturday in Fort Worth. “We’re trying to get to eight wins,’’ coach Gary Patterson said. Patterson said he also knows that some of his alums called the win over Texas one of the biggest in school history but he reminded them of the Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin. Still, the program has always had its share of doubters. “People said they win games, but they play anybody because they’re in a weak conference,’’ he said. “But we’ve won our share of games. Now they’re [in the Big 12] and proven we can play in front of huge crowds, and we’ve raised our level of athletic ability.’’