The first ever college football playoff turned out to be a widely embraced success. Unfortunately, though, there was one conference that had a major gripe with the selection committee.
The Big 12 had two worthy contenders—TCU and Baylor—who each had a resume that warranted consideration for a playoff berth. However, both the Horned Frogs and the Bears were shut out of the four-team playoff and not able to compete for a national title.
The fact that the selection committee downgraded the Big 12 was not a surprise, since 2014 was a rather down season for the league. A 9-4 Kansas State squad was the only Big 12 team besides TCU and Baylor that finished ranked in the final AP Top 25.
Heading into the 2015 season, the conference as a whole will be looking to prove itself on the national scene with a big bounce back season. Luckily, the league is loaded with plenty of talent.
Here’s a look at every team’s most valuable player for the 2015 season.
Baylor Bears: DE Shawn Oakman
As always, Baylor’s offense will once again be loaded with explosive playmakers in 2015 such as RB Shock Linwood and receivers KD Cannon and Corey Coleman. However, the most eye-catching freakish physical specimen will be on the defensive side of the ball.
6’9’’, 280-pound DE Shawn Oakman doesn’t just pass the eyeball test; he aces it with a ripped physique that he loves to show off by hemming up his jersey as high it will possibly go.
Oakman knows how to put his big, muscle-bound frame to good use. He proved that in 2014, when he totaled 11 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss, eight quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles. It was a performance, which earned him a spot on the first-team All-Big 12 defense.
After bypassing the chance to potentially be a high first-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft, the star senior pass-rusher will now enter his final season as one of the most talked-about defenders in all of college football.
Iowa State Cyclones: S Kamari Cotton-Moya
Following a disastrous two-win season this past fall, there certainly isn’t much excitement surrounding the Iowa State football program right now.
Last year, inconsistent and underwhelming performances plagued the Cyclones at nearly every position. The most consistent and dependable player actually turned out to be freshman safety Kamari Cotton-Moya.
After being forced to take a redshirt in 2013 due to an Achilles injury, Cotton-Moya emerged as an impact player in his first year as a starter. He led the team with 77 total tackles, including 55 solo stops, and won the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year award.
The 6’1’’, 194-pound free safety will play a key role in helping Iowa State’s struggling defense—a unit which ranked last in the league in total defense last season—attempt to make an improvement in 2015.
Kansas Jayhawks: RB Corey Avery
Corey Avery was a coveted commodity back when he was a 3-star recruit at Dallas Carter High School. Prominent programs such as Baylor, LSU, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, TCU and West Virginia all showed interest and extended a scholarship to him.
Ultimately, though, Avery made the surprising decision to commit to a Kansas team that was coming off a three-win season in 2013.
Although the Jayhawks didn’t offer the type of prestige as some of the other schools that the Texas native had to choose from, they did offer him a chance to earn some major playing time early in his career.
Preseason injuries to fellow running backs Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox only enhanced the need for Avery to step up right away. Luckily, the freshman back proved to be ready for the challenge. He led the team in rushing, totaled 848 yards of offense and scored six touchdowns during his debut campaign.
The 5’10’’, 195-pound speedster showed he could carry the load during his first season. Now, Avery will be counted on to put the Jayhawks offense on his back in 2015.
Kansas State Wildcats: RB Charles Jones
Kansas State’s offense will have to replace its two most important players from this past season: QB Jake Waters and WR Tyler Lockett. Luckily, the Wildcats will have their leading rusher—Charles Jones—back to help cover up the losses of Lockett and Waters.
Jones went from not seeing any game action at all during his freshman season to garnering double-digit carries in eight of the team’s 13 games. The 5’10’’, 197-pound sophomore proved to be a magnet for the end zone, as he totaled 14 touchdowns.
Though the Wildcats will have a tough time replacing the production of Waters and Lockett, Jones should be able to step up and carry a heavier load in 2015.
Oklahoma Sooners: RB Samaje Perine
After losing their their three most productive running backs of 2013, the Sooners had a huge void to fill in the backfield this past season. Luckily, Samaje Perine, who arrived in Norman as a highly touted 4-star recruit from Pflugerville, Texas, turned out to be just the player Oklahoma needed to fill the hole.
Not only was Perine one of the sport’s top freshman running backs; he was one of the sport’s top overall players period.
The 6’0’’, 235-pound powerhouse routinely bulldozed his way over would-be-tacklers and asserted his dominance over defenses. He finished with a Big 12-leading 1,743 rushing yards—which ranked eighth in the country. His 21 rushing touchdowns also ranked eighth nationally.
After watching Perine become a record-shattering instant sensation as a freshman, Oklahoma fans have to be excited to see what the supremely talented rusher has in store for his encore performance in 2015.
Oklahoma State Cowboys: DE Emmanuel Ogbah
Back in 2012, Emmanuel Ogbah arrived on the Oklahoma State campus as an athletic, yet slender 6’4’’, 235-pound 3-star recruit out of Richmond, Texas. After spending three years bulking up and getting stronger, Ogbah is now an intimidating 270-pound pass-rushing monster.
The 2014 Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year used his impressive combination of size, speed and strength to obliterate opposing offensive linemen this past season. He tied for 12th in the nation with 11 sacks and tied for 18th in the country with 17 tackles for loss.
Ogbah has truly come into his own during his time in Stillwater. If his dominant 2014 campaign is any indication, it looks like the Cowboy edge-rusher could be ready to rise to an elite level this fall.
TCU Horned Frogs: QB Trevone Boykin
During the 2013 season, Trevone Boykin showed that he was the ultimate “team player” as he lined up anywhere the Horned Frogs needed him, whether it be quarterback, running back or receiver.
After a so-so performance behind center that year, Boykin fully dedicated himself to the quarterbacking craft in 2014, and the results were spectacular. The dynamic dual-threat playmaker emerged as one of the biggest breakout stars of the season. He threw for over 3,900 yards, ran for over 700 yards and accounted for 42 total touchdowns, as he led the team to a 12-1 record and the No. 3 overall ranking the final AP Top 25.
After his tremendous breakout performance in 2014, Boykin will will have the spotlight shining on him this offseason. He’ll enter his senior season as one of the top front-runners for the Heisman Trophy, and he’ll be the face of a TCU squad that will be on the short list of national title favorites.
Texas Longhorns: RB Johnathan Gray
Texas hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Jamaal Charles eclipsed the mark back in 2007. The Longhorns are hoping that former blue-chip recruit Johnathan Gray will be able to end that drought in 2015.
Gray arrived in Austin four years ago as the top-ranked running back prospect in the 2012 recruiting class. Unfortunately, the former Texas High School Gatorade Player of the Year has yet to live up the extremely high expectations that were placed on him coming out of high school.
Considering how bad the Texas offense was in 2014—ranking ninth in the Big 12 in both total offense and scoring offense—the Longhorns desperately need Gray to live up to the hype as a senior.
He’s certainly got the talent. Now, it’s up to him to make the most of it in his final season in Austin.
Texas Tech Red Raiders: OT Le’Raven Clark
Texas threw the ball 549 times in 2014, which the fourth most attempts in all of college football. Remarkably, however, the Red Raiders offensive line only allowed 13 total sacks in the entire season, which was tied for the 10th lowest total in the nation.
All five members of the offensive line contributed to the rock solid pass-protection, but it was clear that the real standout was left tackle Le’Raven Clark.
After earning Freshman All-American honors in 2012, and second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2013, Clark put together the most impressive campaign of his career in his third year as a starter in 2014. It was a standout performance that earned the nimble-footed 6’6’’, 313-pound tackle numerous accolades, including first-team All-Big 12 honors.
Clark will now enter his final season in Lubbock as the team’s veteran offensive line leader and linchpin, as well as one of the top-rated senior prospects in the 2016 NFL draft class.
West Virginia Mountaineers: S Karl Joseph
Karl Joseph has been the glue of West Virginia’s defense ever since his Freshman All-American campaign back in 2012. Luckily for the Mountaineers, Joseph opted to bypass the chance to declare for the 2015 NFL draft, and chose to return to Morgantown to finish out his stellar collegiate career.
The defensive captain is coming off the best performance of his career. This past season, Joseph totaled 90 tackles, including 60 total stops, and earned first-team All-Big 12 honors.
The 5’11”, 196-pound free safety is a fast, physical and instinctive ball-hawk who is just the type of player you want guarding the back end of a defense.
Joseph will enter the 2015 season as one of the top contenders for the title of college football’s top safety.