Note: In preparation for my upcoming season preview column and podcast, I researched and took notes on every power conference team in CFB. I’m sharing my notes here, for anyone who is interested. Please keep in mind that these are just notes. (I’ve tried to clean them up, but there are plenty of abbreviations and some of the grammar may be suspect.)
The Big 12 is, in my opinion, the third-best conference in CFB overall (behind the SEC and PAC-12). The question is, will they end up with a representative in the playoff? Oklahoma is the team everyone gets behind, but if they stumble, parity within the conference and a lack of quality out-of-conference wins could prevent a Big 12 team from making that final four.
Team: This should be interesting. Bryce Petty returns, they’ve got a stable of WRs and RBs, and they should put up a ton of points once again. Shock Linwood (RB) is maybe the coolest name in CFB. Furthermore, while everyone was marveling at their passing game, this team has recruited a ton of talent to the defense and O-line. It’s been a few years now and Baylor is not a fluke. Art Briles is an outstanding coach. They only face a couple challenges before the big Oklahoma match-up. I know OU is the trendy pick to win the Big 12, maybe even the national championship, but we shouldn’t forget about Baylor. They should be a top 10 team.
Schedule: Sets up nicely to gain momentum. Could possibly be 8-0 before they have to face Oklahoma and the tough part of their schedule.
Team: I’ve heard very little about Iowa State. They’re always good for an upset or two, but never manage to compete consistently against good teams.
Schedule: In trouble. Losable non-conference games against North Dakota State, Iowa, and Toledo. No easy wins in conference. Probably won’t be bowl-eligible.
Team: I’ve heard nothing and see no reason why this team should be any better than last year.
Schedule: SE Missouri State week 1. Then Duke and Central Michigan out of conference. Could be a 1 win year. Ceiling would be 5 wins and that’s if they play outstanding. Chazz Weiss need to update his LinkedIn.
Team: This is everyone’s sleeper team. They dominated Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings bowl. They start the season ranked #19. QB Jake Waters looked good toward the end of last year. He’s more of a traditional passer than they’ve had before and they want someone who can get the ball to Tyler Lockett. They usually have a solid rushing game and one of the Big 12’s best defenses. I like them but don’t love them. Predicting a 3rd-5th place finish.
Schedule: Tough third game vs. Auburn. Challenging schedule. From October on, no more gimmes.
Team: Phil Steele ranks them #1 for experience. Trevor Knight is on his way to becoming the next Tim Tebow. Blake Bell should be commended for switching to TE instead of complaining or transferring (I couldn’t begrudge him for transferring but I respect this maneuver – let’s be honest, he’s never playing QB in the NFL.) They have tons of talent, huge expectations and a schedule that lets them gently ease into conference play. I hate all the hype around this team, I think they’d be better off without it, but still I predict a big year for OU.
Schedule: Schedule sets up nicely for a 10 win season, possible playoff run.
Team: Phil Steele ranks them as last in all CFB in terms of experience. They’ve had a RB accused of armed robbery and a WR stabbed in the offseason. I’m a huge fan of Mike Gundy who always keeps them competitive. But with the inexperience they’re the toughest team to predict in this conference.
Schedule: Florida State first game. Then two easy games, followed by an average conference schedule. Bye week before OU. They should improve as season goes along. Might get blown out first week but schedule sets them up for a decent shot, possibly 8-9 win season if team gels.
Team: They have a couple of decent guys competing for the starting QB spot. This is a case where they’ll be better off picking a guy and committing to him, even if the guy they pick happens to be less talented. The worst thing they can do is try to rotate QBs, that will guarantee a mediocre season. A new offensive coordinator should ensure more production over last year. They also have one of the Big 12’s better defenses and the D really needs to step it up. TCU really disappointed last year but they have the guys to play tough against the Big 12’s top teams. A difficult schedule might prevent them from competing for the conference championship.
Schedule: Should be 3-0 and have some confidence back after last year, before facing a very difficult stretch.
Team: Charlie Strong is making a big impression. He’s disciplining players, he’s removing the logo from helmets, he’s even flat-out said they won’t compete for a championship this year. I liked Mack Brown but this is what Texas needed. The players’ egos had gotten out of control since the Vince Young era and someone needed to tell them they can’t win on talent alone. They’ve got the 4 and 5 star recruits but I think this will be a rebuilding year, the first step toward a promising future under Strong. They also need to find a better QB than David Ash, while he’s capable I think he’s been ruined by the culture the last couple of seasons. Clean house, start over, and they’ll be competitive in a couple of years. They’re where Florida State was when Jimbo took over. They could bounce back in a few years or fade into mediocrity for a long time. I predict the former.
Schedule: This could be a very rough year. BYU and UCLA non-conference in first three games, then Baylor and OU back-to-back. 3 probable losses and most likely more.
Team: Kingsbury should be able to work with his QB/receivers to create a more consistent and high-powered offense. Although they’re not quite ready to compete for the conference title, I see improvement out of this team. They cannot be considered an automatic win for anyone.
Schedule: First three games are winnable. Then comes a bunch of shootouts. Toughest part of schedule is the end, with Baylor and OU in November.
Team: Inconsistency and lack of D killed them in 2013. I don’t see the D improving drastically under Holgorsen. They’ll have to outscore teams and that is an issue in the Big 12. Is Holgorsen the coach of the future? This year could determine his fate. QB Clint Trickett, recently named starter, tweeted that “watching football with girls is worse than death. #TheseHoesAintLoyal”. Is he smart enough to run a high-powered offense when he’s not smart enough to know not to tweet that?
Schedule: Bama week 1. Then Towson. Then Maryland, who could surprise them. Conference schedule features many tough games with little rest time. They’ll struggle this year.
Final Big 12 thoughts:
OU and Baylor are a cut above the rest. Their week 8 match-up is the conference’s game of the year and might have national implications. I consider this a complete toss-up right now, but I think one of these two will represent the Big 12 in the playoff.
After those two, it’s a real logjam of quality teams. If Baylor and OU stumble at all, we could be in for a huge clusterfuck. Kansas State, OK State, Texas Tech, TCU, and Texas will challenge everyone they face. I expect this conference to bounce around the top 25 more than anyone else. Parity could actually hurt the conference in the long run as you’ll probably see each of the aforementioned teams rack up 3-5 losses throughout the season.
West Virginia and Baylor the teams to watch. WVU needs to rebound and establish that it belongs in this conference, while Baylor (unfairly) still needs to prove that it belongs in the upper crust of CFB.
The conference preseason team says it all. It’s made up mostly of OU, Baylor, and Kansas State players, with a few TCU guys on defense.
At gunpoint I’ll take Baylor at 11-1 to win the Big 12 and snatch up the last playoff spot. Oklahoma goes 10-2 including a tight loss at Baylor, and ends up in a formerly prestigious bowl, i.e. the Cotton, Fiesta, Chick-fil-A/Peach. I think the conference sends 7 teams to bowl games overall.