Justin Brown

CFT Predicts: the Big 12

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As the 2013 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we examine the Big 12. 

While we’re at it, be sure to check out our other conference predictions: SECBig TenPac-12

1. TCU (Last year: 7-6; lost to Michigan State in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl) 
What happened last season?
Thanks to injuries, dismissals and attrition of various varieties, the Horned Frogs tossed a lot of young players into their first Big 12 fire and still managed to win seven games. Included in the list of new faces was quarterback Trevone Boykin, who played out the final two months of the season while Casey Pachall dealt with substance abuse issues. Of all the success Gary Patterson‘s had in Fort Worth, 2012 may have been was his best coaching job, and a young defense buckled down in the final month of the season.

So why are they picked here?
Most of them youngins mentioned above are back. The offense should be fine no matter which quarterback, Pachall or Boykin, takes the field. And they’ll have options at their disposal too. Running back Waymon James averaged nearly 10 yards per carry in two games before going down with a season-ending knee injury. In that vein, TCU’s backfield had its fair share of injuries, but when healthy, it should flourish alongside a solid receiving unit.

And that defense? It should be the best in the conference with just about everybody coming back (minus linebacker and second-leading tackler Joel Hasley).

Anything else?
Some departures just before, and around the start of, preseason camp have put a dent in the offensive line and linebacker units. Defensive end Devonte Fields will miss some early-season action as well. But Patterson is well-respected around these parts and he’s shown as recently as a year ago that he can coach around injuries. Also, the Horned Frogs have some intriguing road games at Oklahoma (Oct. 5), Oklahoma State (Oct. 19) and Kansas State (Nov. 16) that should provide tough tests. Going to Lubbock in the early portion of the season (Sept. 12) and Ames in November (Nov. 9) aren’t always picnics, either.

2. Texas (last year: 9-4; beat Oregon State in Alamo Bowl)
What happened last season?
Texas experienced about as many ups and downs as a nine-win team could possibly go through in one season. The Longhorns got taken to the woodshed (again) by Oklahoma and still couldn’t find a way to beat Kansas State, but a come-from-behind win against Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl cleansed the football palate just enough to make the offseason bearable. The offense, led by quarterback David Ash, was inconsistent and the defense exhibited too many breakdowns in fundamentals and tackling. 

So why are they picked here?
That’s a handsome question considering there wasn’t a lot praise being doled out in the 2012 recap. But the simple answer is Texas brings back among the most experienced group of starters not just in the Big 12, but in the country. There’s no denying the skill position talent on offense, where receivers Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley should be complemented by the deepest backfield in the conference. If the defense can improve even a little — getting Jordan Hicks back should help — this team has the potential to be dangerous.

Anything else?
Yeah, about that Mack Brown. Two BCS championship appearances (and winning one) would normally eliminate Brown from being mentioned as a concern, but media members in Big 12 country didn’t seem to have a lot of confidence in him when they picked Texas to finish fourth in the conference this year. I’m a little more convinced Texas will ascend to the top, or near the top, of the Big 12, which should be wide open this year. But if Brown can’t make it happen this year, it’s hard to see him hanging around much longer.

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Penn State outlasts NCAA-imposed transfer period

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A year ago, Penn State president Rodney Erickson signed a consent decree from NCAA president Mark Emmert that imposed multiple severe sanctions on the program. Those punishments included a $60 million fine, scholarship losses, postseason bans, and a period of time which allowed players to leave the program for any Division 1 school without sitting out a year.

It’ll be a few more years before PSU football can get past all the sanctions — assuming they are not reversed at any point over that time period — but the Nittany Lions have been able to outlast one part. As of the beginning of fall camp on Aug. 5 (university officials said Aug. 1), any player who transfers from PSU to another FBS program will have to sit out a year, meaning the program has survived the so-called free agency period.

And, in hindsight, the number of players who took advantage of the get out of Dodge free card could have been a lot worse. Running back Silas Redd (to USC) and wide receiver Justin Brown (to Oklahoma) were among the biggest names to leave the program last year, but 2013, outside of quarterback Steven Bench‘s transfer, has been much quieter.

There will be more players who undoubtedly leave Penn State for one reason or another — that’s simple roster attrition — but the bonus of immediate eligibility will no longer be there.

Oklahoma’s OT win puts pressure on K-State to win season finale

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Had Kansas State not been clobbered by Baylor last weekend, the Big 12 title race would have been decided by now. But, thanks in part to the Bears, the Wildcats’ season-ending game against Texas will be for a BCS bowl bid.

Oklahoma put more pressure on K-State today when the No. 14 Sooners beat No. 22 Oklahoma State 51-48 in overtime. Landry Jones had another gigantic game with 500 yards passing on 71 attempts and a pair of wide receiver transfers — Jalen Saunders from Fresno State and Justin Brown from Penn State — combined to have over 300 of those yards from Jones.

In addition to knocking the Cowboys out of the Big 12 title race, Oklahoma can now win the league outright with a win over TCU next weekend and a Texas win over K-State. The Longhorns were mathematically eliminated from the conference title with a Thursday night loss to TCU. The Wildcats can only win a share of the Big 12 title at this point, but would be selected for the conference’s BCS bid with a win over the Longhorns.

Penn State WR no longer with the program

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Penn State’s top two running backs are currently “day-to-day.” The Nittany Lions’ fourth-leading receiver? He’s done at Penn State altogether.

The latest PSU departure is receiver Shawney Kersey, who according to Lions247.com and the Patriot-News, is no longer with the program. Kersey is still enrolled at Penn State and his return to the program is unknown, as is the reason for his departure. 

Regardless, it’s another blow to not just the PSU program, but an offense that has struggled mightily to score points in the first two games of the season. It’s also an offense that lacks playmakers. PSU’s top three receivers from 2011 — Derek Moye, Justin Brown and Devon Smith — have all left because of graduation, transfer and personal reasons, respectively (although Smith ended up transferring to Marshall).

That left Kersey, who reeled in just five receptions for 108 yards last season, as the team’s leading returning receiver. He already had six catches for 44 yards in the first two games of this year.