|Coach Bill Snyder has led Kansas State into the nation's top 5 at the midpoint of the season. (US Presswire)|
At the midway point of the season, only one Big 12 team remains without a loss. That parity is the result of the talent that exists at seemingly every school in the conference.
Indeed, nine of the 10 teams in the conference have multiple representatives on our midseason all-Big 12 team. It's a tough list to crack, and even a bona fide star like Kansas State's Collin Klein couldn't make the cut because of the success of West Virginia QB Geno Smith.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Wildcats and Mountaineers are among the leaders in most of the major award categories -- and they get the chance to help settle which team is the Big 12's best when they meet in Morgantown on Saturday night.
Here is CBSSports.com's RapidReports Big 12 midseason awards list:
Offensive Player of the Year: Geno Smith, West Virginia. Even in what was easily his worst outing of the season, Smith still put in a performance that would be the envy of most mere mortals. He threw for almost 300 yards in Saturday's loss at Texas Tech and added a touchdown pass. Smith simply doesn't make mistakes -- he has thrown 25 touchdowns and no interceptions this year and is completing more than 75 percent of his passes. Like Baylor's Robert Griffin III last year, he might win the Heisman Trophy even with a loss or two.
Defensive Player of the Year: Arthur Brown, Kansas State. Although QB Collin Klein rightly receives much of the attention when it comes to the Wildcats, Brown, a linebacker, may be every bit as valuable. If Klein is the heart and soul of K-State's offense, Brown clearly serves as the same on defense. He has a team-best 47 tackles -- four for a loss -- and a sack. But beyond the numbers, his presence is evident every time he steps on the field. Brown always seems to find a way to be around the ball when it matters most.
Coach of the Year: Bill Snyder, Kansas State. Eventually, folks will learn not to underestimate the wily Snyder and his band of Wildcats. K-State was picked to finish sixth in the 10-team Big 12 in the league's preseason media poll -- even after a successful 2011. At the midpoint of the season, Kansas State stands as the only unbeaten team in the Big 12. Snyder's teams win in a style as old-school as the coach himself -- running effectively and stopping the run. It sticks out in a conference full of wide-open spread offenses, but it's clear Snyder's style works just as well as any other.
Most surprising player: Damien Williams, Oklahoma. Williams, a transfer from Arizona Western, was not expected to be Oklahoma's go-to running back this season and he wasn't even a player the Sooners had coveted in recruting. Williams' 95-yard touchdown run Saturday against Texas showed how valuable his big-play ability has been to the Sooners. Williams has six touchdowns and averages 101.6 yards per game, ranking second in the Big 12.
Most disappointing player: Dayne Crist, Kansas. The reunion of former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis and his former Irish QB Crist at Kansas was supposed to invigorate the Jayhawks' offense. Instead, it was Michael Cummings running the offense as KU nearly upset Oklahoma State on Saturday. Crist has completed only 49.4 percent of his passes. He has only three touchdowns passes and seven interceptions, and he may be watching from the sideline the rest of the way.
Most surprising team: Kansas State. The media picked the Wildcats to finish sixth in the Big 12 in the league's preseason poll. Now, K-State is No. 3 in the nation and is one of few remaining roadblocks to another year of SEC dominance in the national title picture. The aforementioned Klein would be the clear leader for Big 12 offensive player of the year if not for WVU's Smith. It may not always be pretty, but the Wildcats have found ways to win close games.
Most disappointing team: Kansas. It's tough to call just about any Big 12 team a true disappointment, as most have played as well or better than expected. But although Weis inherited a mess in Lawrence, he has shown precious few signs of turning the program around any time soon. Losses to Rice and Northern Illinois didn't exactly inspire confidence among the KU faithful, and a dust-up with a student newspaper reporter was an embarrassment. But even Kansas showed it can compete, nearly knocking off Oklahoma State on Saturday.
Best game so far: West Virginia-Baylor. It's been almost a month since these teams faced off in WVU's inaugural Big 12 game, and those who watched might still be catching their breath. Video games don't even produce box scores like this one. Baylor had 700 yards of offense, 63 points, a 300-yard receiver and a 500-yard passer … and still lost. WVU QB Smith teamed with WRs Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey to produce 70 points and justify Smith's status as Heisman Trophy frontrunner in a game that exemplified the wide-open style that has become the Big 12's trademark.
Most overrated team: Texas. It was easy to jump on board the Longhorns' bandwagon early -- a strong performance in nonconference play, including a blowout win at Ole Miss --when many openly wondering if Texas was "back" after consecutive losing seasons in the Big 12. But the Texas defense has been miserable, and the Longhorns are a bad call (RB Joe Bergeron's fumble at the goal line in the final moments at Oklahoma State) from being 0-3 in Big 12 play. A home loss to West Virginia and a humbling blowout defeat in the Red River Rivalry have knocked UT out of the top 25 and back under .500 in the Big 12.
Most underrated team: Texas Tech. There are simply no easy games in the Big 12. The Mountaineers learned that the hard way Saturday, when they traveled into Lubbock sporting a top-5 ranking and left on the wrong end of a 49-14 demolition at the hands of Texas Tech. Red Raiders coach Tommy Tuberville was seen by many as one of the coaches "on the hot seat" when the season began, but a 5-1 start and a spot in the national rankings should end that talk immediately. Texas Tech's defense is stingy, and with QB Seth Doege at the controls, its offense can compete with any in the Big 12.
Midseason All-Conference team:
QB: Geno Smith, West Virginia
RB: John Hubert, Kansas State
RB: Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State
WR: Terrance Williams, Baylor
WR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia
WR: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
TE: Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
OT: Cyril Richardson, Baylor
OT: Trey Hopkins, Texas
OG: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State
OG: Jeff Braun, West Virginia
C: Joe Madsen, West Virginia
DE: Devonte Fields, TCU
DE: Alex Okafor, Texas
DT: Javonta Boyd, Kansas State
DT: Kerry Hyder, Texas Tech
LB: Arthur Brown, Kansas State
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State
CB: Quandre Diggs, Texas
CB: Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma
S: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from Big 12 bloggers C.J. Moore and Patrick Southern, follow @CBSSportsBig12 on Twitter. You can also follow C.J. (@cjmoore4) and Patrick (@patricksouthern).