No. 7 TCU at No. 20 West Virginia

Milan Puskar Stadium

Morgantown, West Virginia

Saturday, 2:30 p.m.


The two newest members of the Big 12 will square off in their biggest matchup since joining the conference in 2012. TCU has played itself into playoff contention despite losing to Baylor a couple of weeks ago. The Horned Frogs broke the conference record for points scored in a conference game, hanging 82 on Texas Tech last week. Junior quarterback Trevone Boykin tossed seven touchdown passes in that game and currently has a 7-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. West Virginia is also no stranger to the end zone. The Mountaineers have scored 36.9 points per game this season, and senior receiver Kevin White has played well enough the past few weeks to break into the Heisman conversation with 1,047 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. There’s no telling how high the score could go in this one.

No. 3 Auburn at No. 4 Ole Miss

Vaught-Hemingway Stadium

Oxford, Mississippi

Saturday, 7:00 p.m.


After Ole Miss’ loss to LSU last weekend, neither Auburn nor the Rebels come into this game undefeated, but the intrigue still remains. The winner of this game will remain in the conversation for a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff, but the loser will essentially be eliminated. The Tigers just survived another upset bid from South Carolina in their first game since losing to Mississippi State. Senior quarterback Nick Marshall has quietly put together a solid year with 1,103 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions in addition to seven rushing touchdowns. The Rebels, on the other hand, are looking to avoid going into a slump after a tough loss to LSU, in which the offense scored only seven points. Look for Ole Miss to rely on its defense, which leads the nation in points allowed, to keep them in this game. This should be another great SEC showdown, with a possible spot in the playoffs on the line.

No. 12 Arizona at No. 22 UCLA

Rose Bowl

Pasadena, California

Saturday, 9:30 p.m.


Because of the great play in the SEC and Big 12, the Pac-12 has largely flown under the radar this season. Arizona is the perfect example of this, as the Wildcats have put together a pretty strong season but have yet to really garner any national attention. The Wildcats’ lone blemish is a two-point loss to USC on Oct. 11. However, they also have a big win over then-No. 2 Oregon in Eugene. Redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon has been the focal point of the offense thus far, with 2,430 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and only four interceptions. On the flip side, UCLA has quietly fallen off since being ranked seventh in the preseason AP poll. The Bruins just survived an upset bid from Colorado in double overtime last week, and redshirt junior quarterback Brett Hundley has struggled recently. The Pac-12 South is still wide open, and this matchup could determine who plays Oregon in the conference title game.

Stanford at No. 5 Oregon

Autzen Stadium

Eugene, Oregon

Saturday, 6:30 p.m.


This is a matchup that has typically decided who represents the Pac-12 North in the conference title game, and, even with Stanford not being ranked, that will likely be the case again this season. Stanford has had a down year by its standards, having lost three games already this season — all of which came against ranked teams. Nonetheless, the Cardinal still sit in second place in the division — just one game behind Oregon. A big reason for some of their struggles has been the offense, which ranks 91st in the country at 25.8 points per game and has averaged only 11 points in their three losses. Oregon, on the other hand, continues to work towards a spot in the College Football Playoff despite having lost to Arizona. Junior quarterback Marcus Mariota looks like a Heisman front-runner with 2,238 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and only one interception. This game has historically produced exciting games, and this year’s edition will be no different.

TCU's Casey Pachall out of rehab, on road to redemption

DALLAS – This time last year, Casey Pachall was coming off a record-setting sophomore season in his first year as TCU’s starting quarterback and preparing for a promising junior year.

He and Trevone Boykin combined to complete all 17 of the Horned Frogs’ in a 56-0 blowout of Grambling State – an FBS record for most completions without an incompletion – while Gary Patterson became the program’s all-time winningest coach.

Pachall threw for more than 300 yards in each of the next two games and helped TCU improve to 4-0 in their first year as a member of the Big 12 following a 24-16 win over SMU.

The fall from grace was quick and unforgiving.

Pachall de-enrolled from the school and entered a rehab facility after being suspended by Patterson. Boykin, who had began working out with the team’s running backs the previous week, was back under center. The Horned Frogs fell to Iowa State, 37-24, in their Big 12 home opener the next weekend, ending their FBS-best 12-game winning streak.

“It was a hard decision,” Patterson said. “I knew it was going to affect our wins and losses. You had to take a guy we moved to running back and move him back to quarterback. But as far as what we’re doing for a young man’s life, I think it was an easy decision.”

Boykin, a redshirt freshman in 2012, improved as the season progressed, but TCU finished 7-6, its worst season in eight years. Patterson has yet to name a starting quarterback for this year, but Pachall is widely expected to beat out Boykin for the job. His teammates spoke to the changes they’ve seen in Pachall since his return.

“I lived with him,” senior running back Waymon James said. “When he was down with rehab, he was miserable. He couldn’t stand it. He was miserable every day. The only people he talked to was his mom, family and his girlfriend. He couldn’t take it anymore. You could tell on his face. He was excited to get back out there. He’s growing up. He’s maturing. He’s ready to take us to a championship.”

Pachall, who was picked by the media as the preseason All-Big 12 quarterback, was not among the four players representing TCU at Big 12 Media Days on Monday. This was at his request, according to his head coach.

“A lot of people asked me why I didn’t bring him to media days,” Patterson said. “Number one, we don’t know who our starting quarterback is. Two, it doesn’t have anything to do with what my intentions were… I’m letting him do his thing, keeping the pressure off him.”

Patterson could have easily dismissed Pachall, a repeat offender, from his team. But he gave him time away from the squad, left the door open for him to return, and welcomed him back with open arms. Time will tell if the move will pay off.

“He’s not just about winning. He’s about changing lives,” safety Sam Carter said. “He understands football is temporary. He understands we’re young. We’re 19 to 23 and we’re going to make mistakes. He was young before. Sometimes people need a second and third chance. We all make mistakes. Football is important but it’s about helping him become a better person.”

The press speak to West Virginia University quarterback Geno Smith.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

I’ll admit it — I was one of the seven people who picked West Virginia to win the Big 12 this year.

Thirty-two of the 41 people who submitted ballots for this year’s preseason Big 12 poll predicted that Oklahoma would win the conference, with fifth-place TCU and sixth-place Kansas State each receiving one first-place vote. The other seven went to West Virginia, which, like TCU, is entering its first year in the Big 12. Texas is expected to finish third in the conference this upcoming season.

“It seems like everyone in the room thinks we’re pretty good,” Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen said at Big 12 Media Days this week. “Our team is used to winning, and that exists at the other nine universities in the Big 12 as well. So the best way I can describe it to the people of West Virginia and the best way I can describe it to the Big 12, everybody else, is what exists in the Big 12 exists in Morgantown, W. Va., as well.”

Led by quarterback Geno Smith, now a senior, West Virginia won 10 games last year, the last of which was the most memorable. The Mountaineers dropped 70 points in an Orange Bowl win over Clemson. Smith, who was chosen by the media as the Big 12 preseason Offensive Player of the Year, threw for 407 yards and six touchdowns while running for a seventh.

“It was the perfect game,” Smith said. “The only negative is that people are going to expect us to score 70 points every game. I don’t know if we made it look easy or not but that’s extremely hard.”

Most people believe West Virginia won’t capture the conference crown in their first year as a member of the Big 12, a league much tougher than the Big East that the Mountaineers have won each of the past two years. Besides their recent success over the past decade, West Virginia’s last triumph should provide them plenty of momentum heading into this season.

“If you actually go back and watch the game, you’ll see that I made a lot of bad throws,” Smith recalled. “Four touchdowns were tipped passes. The team did a great job but, Geno Smith as a quarterback, I’d probably grade myself as a little bit above average.”

One need only look at Texas’ recent history to realize how important bowl victories can be for a team. A 52-34 win over Arizona State in the 2007 Holiday Bowl sparked Texas to a 2008 season that ended in a dramatic 24-21 Fiesta Bowl triumph over Ohio State. Before the Longhorns captured a national championship (their thrilling 41-38 win over USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl), they took down Michigan in Pasadena the previous year.

“If you go back to 2004, we were second in rushing ... going into the Michigan game and were able to win the Rose Bowl,” Texas head coach Mack Brown said. “The next year is when we were really balanced, and that’s when Vince stepped up and we were throwing the ball much better.”

Unlike Oklahoma, West Virginia brings back Smith’s top two weapons from a year ago in wide receivers Tavon Austin, who joined Smith on the preseason All-Big 12 squad, and Stedman Bailey. Austin and Bailey combined for 2,465 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns in 2011.

The Sooners will have a formidable one-two punch at wideout in Kenny Stills, the other preseason All-Big 12 receiver, and Jaz Reynolds but will be without their leading pass catcher from last season, Ryan Broyles. After Broyles tore his ACL against Texas A&M, OU quarterback Landry Jones struggled, throwing just one touchdown pass and six interceptions in the last four games of the year.

“I think Landry Jones is also very deserving of that [preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year] honor as I am,” Smith said. “I appreciate the guys selecting me. It doesn’t please me in any type of way. I’m going to be the same guy I’ve always been. I’ve been receiving a lot of awards my whole life. It doesn’t really faze me that much.”

Another thing the Mountaineers have going for them is the fact that they host Oklahoma in their first meeting with the Sooners as members of the Big 12. OU will travel to Morgantown to face West Virginia Nov. 17. The Sooners beat Florida State and Kansas State on the road last season but struggled in losses to Baylor in Waco and to Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Their road trip to West Virginia will be their toughest next year.

Where most think the Sooners’ advantage over the Mountaineers is their defense, last year’s numbers show that West Virginia’s might have been better than most believe. The Mountaineers are known for their offense but they allowed 203.5 passing yards per game last year, the second fewest in the Big East and less than any team in the Big 12, six fewer yards per game than Texas allowed in 2011. The 348.2 total yards per game West Virginia surrendered was good for third in the Big East and would have been the second best mark in the Big 12, behind only Texas (306.1).

West Virginia understands winning the Big 12 is a much more difficult task than capturing the Big East title. But their expectations are high, and for good reason.

“As long as we win games, people will understand we belong,” Smith said. “I expect to win every game. I expect to complete every pass. I expect to make perfect reads. Is that going to happen? No. I figured if you hold yourself to that standard, you know what they say, if you shoot for the moon, you’ll land amongst the stars.”

When it comes to stars in the Big 12, Smith could prove to be the brightest. Don’t be surprised if he leads the Mountaineers to their third straight conference title.

UT issues statement regarding Texas A&M rumors

The University of Texas sent out the following release in response to reports that Texas A&M is headed to the Southeastern Conference:

"At this point we do not know if Texas A&M is leaving the Big 12. All we know is what we read and hear in the media. We are actively looking at every possible option we have and have been talking to other Big 12 schools. We are strong supporters and members of the Big 12. We'd be disappointed if Texas A&M leaves but, if they do, we wish them well."

The Big East sued TCU for failing to pay the conference $5 million after the school reneged on an agreement to become a member and chose to join the Big 12 instead.

The Big East filed the lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Washington.

TCU agreed in November 2010 to join the Big East, beginning this July. The Big East contends TCU agreed to pay the league $5 million if it did not follow through on that agreement.

In October 2011, TCU accepted an invite to the Big 12.

In the lawsuit, the Big East says it has “made demand for the payment owed under the Agreement, but TCU has refused to make that payment or acknowledge its obligation to do so.”

“TCU administrators were surprised by this lawsuit and believe it is premature. The University is hopeful for an amicable resolution of this matter,” the school said in a statement. “Because of the pending litigation, TCU will have no further comment.”

TCU is leaving the Mountain West and will become a member of the Big 12 in July.

Big East spokesman John Paquette said in an email to the AP the league had no further immediate comment.

The Big East settled in February dueling lawsuits with West Virginia, which is also joining the Big 12 in July. The Big East received $20 million and West Virginia was allowed to leave the conference before the end of the 27-month notification period required by the league’s bylaws.

Pittsburgh, which has accepted an invite, along with Syracuse, to join the Atlantic Coast Conference, sued the Big East last month. The university also wants to be allowed to leave the Big East early, after the 2012-13 school year. Pitt cited TCU’s and West Virginia’s departures as grounds for its claim.

The Big East has said it is open to negotiating an early exit for Pitt and Syracuse.

The Big East is entering a lame duck season with Pittsburgh and Syracuse. Temple is re-joining the conference to replace West Virginia this year and five more schools are set to join — including Boise State and San Diego State in football only — in 2013.

This past week, West Virginia University was officially accepted into the Big 12 Conference. The Mountaineers were voted in unanimously during a teleconference call involving the Big 12’s Board of Directors on Friday morning and are expected to leave the Big East Conference and become a full member in Big 12 athletics starting July 1, 2012. The move to add West Virginia resulted from the anticipated departure of the University of Missouri from the Big 12. The admission process for West Virginia was first put on hold because of a late push by the University of Louisville and Senator Mitch McConnell, who desired acceptance into the Big 12. Texas A&M will be starting play in the Southeastern Conference next summer as well.

West Virginia was a founding member of the Big East during its inception in 1991. Its football program has the most FBS victories without ever having won a national championship and has made it to two BCS bowl games. Its other various athletics, such as the men’s and women’s basketball teams, have also had success over the last few years.

“The addition of West Virginia, while expanding the reach of the Big 12, brings an impressive institution with esteemed academics and a proud athletic tradition into the conference,” said Burns Hargis, the chairman of the Big 12 Board of Directors. “This is another step in building a strong foundation for the future of the Big 12.“

Though both the Big 12 and West Virginia have agreed to July 1 as the day that West Virginia officially joins the conference, the Big East has bylaws requiring a 27-month waiting period before the teams can leave the conference. The departures of Syracuse and Pittsburgh from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference have been delayed by these laws.

However, James Clements, President for West Virginia University, does not seem too concerned about the laws.
“Our intent is clearly July 1 we’ll be a member of the Big 12,” Clements said on Friday. “We’re in discussions with the Big East regarding how we make that happen.”

Though this movement may have caused a bit of drama over the last week between the conferences, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin may have summed up the feelings of the West Virginia University community best when he told the Associated Press, “It’s a great day to be a Mountaineer.”

Ask any coach in the Big 12 about the challenges of playing on the road, and they will say without hesitation that it’s the toughest thing to do in college basketball today.

Ask them about the importance of protecting home court, and they will say it’s the No. 1 priority.

Doc Sadler’s Nebraska team is the perfect example.

The Cornhuskers are 15-1 at home but winless on the road. While the Husker’s record at the Bob Devaney Sports Center is the sign of a good team, the coach knows his squad will have to conquer their road demons if they want to take the next step.

“For us to be a team that people want to talk about, you have to be able to go on the road and win,” Sadler said.

But while Sadler can’t quite put his finger on why the Cornhuskers have played so well in Lincoln, he does have a few ideas.

“Our guys just feel more comfortable, I guess,” Sadler said. “But I couldn’t be any happier than with what the people are doing here, coming out and helping us, being that extra person.”

But Texas head coach Rick Barnes said the main ingredient to Nebraska’s home-court advantage is Sadler.

“There is no coach in the country that does a better job than Doc,” Barnes said. “It’s a tough, tough place to play.”

It’s true the players are playing better across the board at home, and the crowds at the Nebraska games this season have been raucous. Sadler knows how to prepare his players, but the biggest reason for their success has been their stifling defense.

“Nebraska is one of the better defensive teams in the country,” said Oklahoma head coach Jeff Capel. “They are just really, really hard to score against.”

The Cornhuskers allow 58.9 points per game on average, the best mark in the Big 12. Nebraska is also second in the conference in field-goal percentage defense behind Texas.

But even his team’s stellar defense in 2011 can’t stop Sadler from worrying about playing Texas at home Saturday.

“Not that I’m looking forward to it, but after our game Wednesday [against Oklahoma] we’ll try to do the best we can to get ready for them,” Sadler said.

Sadler knows the challenge that awaits his team and swears that the No. 2 Longhorns are “playing as well as anyone in the country.”

It will be the Cornhuskers’ last chance to beat the Longhorns as a member of the Big 12 — Nebraska will play in the Big Ten next season. The game will also be the final homecoming for Texas senior forward Matt Hill, a Lincoln native.

Hill was the Gatorade Nebraska Player of the Year his senior season at Lincoln Southeast High School and was selected to captain the Super-State team before leaving the state and heading south to Austin.

The redshirt senior arrived on campus in 2006, the same year Sadler took the job at Nebraska. Although Sadler didn’t get the opportunity to recruit Hill to the hometown school, the coach knows he missed the boat on a homegrown talent. Sadler said he did get a chance to see Hill play in Lincoln during the summers and came away with a lasting impression of the big man.

“The thing I remember most about Matt Hill was his athleticism and his hair,” Sadler said. “But I thought he was a very
good player.”

And just as Hill’s afro came and went, so too will the Cornhuskers’ final crack at the Longhorns in the Big 12.

Lucky for Nebraska, they won’t have to face Texas on the road.