Big 12 Midseason Awards

With the season halfway over, it's time to take a look at the best and the worst from around the league.

Best team: Oklahoma

The Sooners boast the conference's best non-conference win, a thrashing of ACC foe Florida State. They also have the best league win of the Big 12's three undefeated teams by virtue of their 28-20 victory over Texas at the Cotton Bowl. The Sooners have been a bit up-and-down, but they're undefeated, the top team in the BCS and appear to be picking up steam.

Worst team: Kansas

The anti-Oklahoma, not only do the Jayhawks have the league's worst record, they have the worst non-conference loss (to North Dakota State) and likely the two worst league losses in back-to-back blowouts by Baylor and Kansas State. When you lose to a pair of middle-of-the-road conference teams by 100 combined points, it's a problem.

Best coaching job: Oklahoma State

The Cowboys were picked by many as the South's fifth best team after losing a number of key starters including players like quarterback Zac Robinson and first-round draft pick Russell Okung. But quarterback Brandon Weeden stepped in more than capably, and the Cowboys have yet to lose a game. The second half of the year brings games against Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska, so it won't be easy to maintain, but with victories over fellow South teams Texas A&M and Texas Tech already in the bag, it's safe to guess that the Cowboys will finish better than fifth.

Worst coaching job: Texas A&M

Do me a favor: look up and down the Aggies' roster. Now look at Texas A&M's record. Something just doesn't look right, does it? Texas A&M's backfield of Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray is the envy of many a school, while the receiving corps that starts with Jeff Fuller isn't much worse. Don't forget that the Aggies had the preseason offensive and defensive players of the year in quarterback Jerrod Johnson and rush linebacker Von Miller. But neither has performed up to expectations. Johnson has been inconsistent and a turnover machine at times. Miller has just two sacks in six games. The Aggies lost close games to Oklahoma State and Arkansas, then were blown out by Missouri. And there isn't really anything to suggest that they'll get back on track.

Biggest upset win: Kansas over Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech entered the contest ranked in both polls, while Kansas was fresh off a loss to North Dakota State. In a total anomaly, the Jayhawks were fired up and came ready to play. The result was a 28-25 victory that represented a complete 180 from the previous week. But the Jayhawks failed to build any momentum, losing at Southern Miss the next week and going 1-3 since the win.

Biggest upset loss: UCLA over Texas

This one has looked even bigger since. Nothing went right for the Longhorns as they turned the ball over repeatedly and failed to stop the run in the second half of a 34-12 blowout in Austin. The Bruins have had a poor year this year, and while Texas lost a close game with Oklahoma the following week, the Longhorns beat Nebraska in Lincoln afterward.

Best game: Oklahoma State over Texas A&M

Few games this year have seen momentum switch so many times. Texas A&M jumped out to a two touchdown lead at 14-0 and later at 21-7 heading into halftime. But Oklahoma State came roaring back, scoring the next 28 points to take a 35-21 fourth-quarter advantage. The Aggies then mounted a comeback of their own to tie the game at 35-all with 3:02 left and actually had a chance to drive down the field for the win. Instead, quarterback Jerrod Johnson threw a game-changing interception that was returned into Aggie territory. That was the difference, as Cowboy kicker Dan Bailey booted a 41 yarder with two seconds left for a 38-35 Oklahoma State victory. The Cowboys have remained undefeated since, while the Aggies lost their next two ballgames, falling to Arkansas and Missouri.

Best surprise: Missouri's defense

Great offense, poor defense. That's been the knock on Missouri, which has had a Texas Tech-like offense/defense ratio over the past few years. And they lost arguably their best playmaker in linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who was a first-round NFL Draft pick. So it certainly came as a surprise that the Tiger defense would rank among the Big 12's best this season. Missouri is currently first in the league in scoring defense. allowing only 10.8 points per game. That's almost 15 points per game better than last year, when the Tigers ranked eighth in Big 12 scoring D, allowing 25.4 points per game. The 2010 Tigers are first with 20 sacks and are in the Big 12's top three in interceptions, pass efficiency defense, rushing defense and total defense.

Worst surprise: Texas Tech's defense

Speaking of the Red Raiders, many people thought that Tech would slide offensively without Dread Pirate Leach in charge, but that the Red Raiders would make improvement on defense. Instead, it's been business as usual for Tech, which ranks second in the league in scoring at 37 points per game. Defensively, the Red Raiders are actually significantly worse than they were a year ago. Last year, Tech was a middle-of-the road defense, allowing 22.5 points per game, good for sixth in the league. This year, they're almost 10 points worse, allowing 32 points per game, tied for second-worst in the Big 12. Tech has a mediocre run defense, but is the conference's worst D against the pass, allowing 292.3 yards and 7.5 yards per attempt.

Offensive MVP: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

Consider the following numbers for a wide receiver: 57 catches for 955 yards and 12 touchdowns. Sounds like a great season, right? Now consider that those are Blackmon's numbers through six games, or half a season. If Blackmon keeps up his pace, and the Cowboys play in a bowl game, his 13-game numbers project out to 124 catches for 2,069 yards and 26 touchdowns. The impressive thing is that he's having that year in a season where Ryan Broyles might be the country's second-best receiver. Broyles is on pace, should the Sooners play in the Big 12 title game and a bowl game, to grab more than 140 passes, though Broyles' 14-game pace would be significantly behind in yards (1,633) and touchdowns (12). And Blackmon is more than just a volume receiver. He averages almost 17 yards per catch and is tied for the league lead in scoring. He's second in all-purpose yardage despite the fact that he only has seven return yards.

Defensive MVP: Aaron Williams, Texas

This was the toughest choice on the list because no player has jumped way ahead of the pack. It came down to a battle between Oklahoma defensive end Jeremy Beal and Williams. Beal has had the best season of any front-seven player. He leads the conference in sacks with 6.5, and is tied for the lead in tackles for loss with nine. But consider the all-round skill set displayed by Williams. Not only is he among the Big 12's top cover corners — he helped to limit Ryan Broyles to five catches for 36 yards — he's a factor all over the field in every situation. His 28 tackles are one more than Beal has, and he actually leads the Big 12 with three forced fumbles. His five tackles for loss are tied for 12th in the league, and he also has a sack to his credit. So Williams is a silky cover corner who also forces fumbles and makes tackles in the backfield. Sounds POY worthy to me.

Top Offensive Newcomer: Taylor Martinez, Nebraska

Other than a hiccup at Texas, Martinez has totally renovated a poor Nebraska offense with many of the same players who struggled the year before. Martinez is averaging 9.4 yards per carry and is rushing for 126.3 yards per game with 12 touchdowns. He's third in rushing yards per game and fourth in the league in scoring (third among field players). He also ranks in the top half of the Big 12 in passing efficiency. WIth Martinez, Nebraska's scoring offense went from 25.1 points per game a year ago (eighth in the league) to 36.8 this year (second).

Top Defensive Newcomer: Tevin Elliot, Baylor

This one was a tough choice between Elliot and Nebraska's Lovonte David. I chose Elliot, a pass-rushing freshman defensive end who ranks fourth in the league in tackles for loss with eight and third in the league with sacks with five. Elliot's presence has significantly stepped up Baylor's pass rush from a year ago. The Bears have 14 sacks through seven games, and they only put up 18 sacks all of last year. If they keep up their pace, the Bears will finish the regular season with a respectable 24 sacks. David filled in the lone hole in the Nebraska defense and currently leads the league in tackles per game with 11.7.

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