1.) Baylor Bears
Baylor is my clear favorite to win the Big 12. It doesn’t matter who is playing quarterback in Waco, as long as Art Briles is at the helm. Year in and year out you can expect an offense that will be atop the NCAA ranks in virtually every statistical category. Bryce Petty is looking to rebuild on the stellar season he had last year Posting over 4200 yards and 37 TD’s, while only throwing 3 interceptions. He might be the Heisman candidate that is flying under the radar. Baylor is also bringing back all 4 starting wide receivers from the previous year. While losing a 1200 yard rusher in Lache Seastrunk may have people questioning if this offense can be as effective as it was last year, don’t overlook that Baylor, under Briles, has produced a 1,000 yard rusher every year since 2010. This just goes to prove Briles has found a system that works and he has recruited the players that fit into it. While it may not seem possible, this offense might put up better numbers than what the nation saw last year.
The main question mark on this team is their defense. While they do return their stellar MLB in Bryce Hage, they lack any returning notable play makers. Normally, I would address this as a big concern but I really don’t see any team, maybe aside from Oklahoma, that can keep up with Baylor’s offense for all 4 quarters in the conference.
I can easily see Baylor running the table this year. They have an extremely weak out of conference schedule and a top 3 offense. The only roadblock I see for them is that they travel to Austin and Oklahoma. Bryce Petty will be taking a trip to New York for the Heisman and the Bears will be making a surprise appearance in the Inaugural College Football Playoff
Prediction: Overall (12-0) Conference (9-0)
2.) Oklahoma Sooners
Fresh off of a victory over national powerhouse Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, the hype for the upcoming football season in Norman can be recognized across the country. While I do believe Oklahoma has the talent to, not only win the big 12, but make some noise in the College Football Playoff, I do think they have several questions that need to be answered. The big question is Trevor Knight. Trevor Knight has the potential to be a Heisman finalist and he is going to get the chance to showcase it for the duration of the entire season. The dual threat Quarterback has the ability to change games, but his lackluster numbers throwing the ball will dictate how far he can carry the Sooners. Seeing that OU lost their 3 top producing running backs from last season, focus is sure to be keyed on Knight. Fans forget that this kid lost the starting job to Blake Bell 2 games into the season, and lets face it; Alabama didnt show up in the Sugar Bowl.
Although I do believe that Trevor Knight is going to be a huge part of Oklahoma’s Success this year, the true value of this team lies in how many starters they are returning on both sides of the ball. Oklahoma is bringing back 4 of 5 offensive lineman as well, and with a mobile quarterback, protection is key. They also return 8 out of 11 starters on defense. The talent is there for this club to be successful and it also helps knowing the Bob Stoops has never gone 2 years in a row without winning a Big 12 Title. Although I do not think they will win the conference this year, they will undoubtedly have a successful 2014 campaign.
Prediction: Overall Record: (11-1) Big 12 Record: (8-1).
3. Texas Longhorns
First off, I think that the dry spell of quality Texas Football that we are used to seeing is going to be coming to an end. Year number one of the Charlie Strong Regime is set to begin and he will take Texas back to where they expect to be. IT is just a question of how soon. Strong is notoriously known around the country for being a strong defensive mind and Texas has plenty of experience coming back in the form 6 out of 7 guys on the front 7. While it is a group that is considered to have “under perform” last year, any experience is good experience.
The main question mark for Texas, like it s every year, is David Ash. Ash has struggled with staying healthy every year he has been the starter in Austin. He missed virtually the entire 2013 season. Although he is not an elite quarterback he does have one of the best rushers in the Big 12, Malcolmb Brown, to open up the field for him. Ash will also have receivers Jaxon Shipley and Kendall Sanders returning in the lineup as well. If he can stay healthy for most games, it will greatly increase Texas’s chances of winning some key games.
With that being said, I believe the statement game for their season is going to come when UCLA visits Austin. This will set the tone for the season. If Texas can win this game or keep it close, and I think they will, the momentum will carry into the rest of the season. Although I am not sure where it is going to come, Texas has a lot of big games played in Austin and I do think they are capable of winning a couple.
Prediction Overall Record: (9-3) Big 12 Record ( 7-2)
4. Kansas State Wildcats
This is the main wild card team within the conference in my opinion. There are many reasons to be optimistic about Kansas State for the upcoming season. The first obvious reason, is Bill Snyder. Coach Snyder consistently lacks impressive recruiting classes but always seems to put a quality product out every season in the form of winning seasons every year. The second reason is quarterback Jake Waters. With another year under his belt in Snyder’s offense (an offense that did not score less than 21 points in any game last season) Waters should be able to have a great 2014 campaign with the talent that is coming back around him, especially receiver Tyler Lockett who is coming off a 1200 yard 11 TD season.
The success of K-State will come down to how they replace keystone performers from last season. They lost a 1,000 yard rusher in John Hubert and the competition still seems to be pretty wide open on who is going to get the majority of the snaps. Along with the uncertainty at running back, the loss of 2 key offensive lineman does not help their situation. Losing a game changer like Ty Montgomery on the defensive side of the ball will be a tough task to do as well.
I do believe K-State has the ability to rise up the rankings and surprise some fans out there, but their schedule is not easy. Not only do they have to travel to Baylor and Oklahoma, but they also play Auburn under the lights in Manhattan on Thursday. We will learn a lot about how good K-State is when it plays a SEC power, and I think that the way they play in that game will set the tone for the season.
Prediction : Overall Record: (8-4) Big 12 Record: (6-3)
5. Oklahoma State Cowboys
I really don’t hate Oklahoma State as much as the conference ranking may portray it. I just think that they play an insanely tough schedule and they have a lot of aspects of their team that need to be proven. Exactly how good is J.W. Walsh?
That’s the question everyone around the country is asking, and he is going to have a chance to answer it this season. This is the fist year he will be taking all the snaps now that Clint Chelf is out of the picture. He does pose a problem with he ability to throw and run the ball, but he has not shown the ability to take over a game, or even win a starting job outright when he had the opportunity.
One upside that fans can get excited about this year is going to be OSU’s ability to run the ball. The Cowboys will not be hurting at running back this year when they return Desmond Roland, who had 13 TD’s in 13 games last year, along with the #1 JUCO transfer Tyreek Hill. This will take some of the pressure off of Walsh to where he might not feel like he has to control the game himself, and with Walsh’s running ability, it will keep the defense guessing every play.
On the defensive side of the ball there are a lot of holes. They lost a first round pick in Justin Gilbert, their 2 best linebackers in Shaun Lewis and Caleb Avey, as well as defensive tackle Calvin Barnett. With the schedule they have, losing this much talent from a year ago on the defensive side is, more than likely, going to be too tough of a task for them to handle. Starting off with the Seminoles will be a huge obstacle to overcome but the fact that 3 of their last 4 games are on the road in Manhattan, Baylor, and Oklahoma might be too much for the Cowboys to handle.
Prediction: Overall Record: (8-4) Big 12 Record: (5-4)
#6 West Virginia Mountaineers
This is the make or break year for Dana Holgorsen. The 2012 Orange Bowl Championship has all but left the memory of Mountaineer Nation. Posting 2 sub par seasons in 2012 and 2013 has Dana on the hot seat, and for good reason. I will try and write this part without being too much of a homer, because I bleed gold and blue. I am slightly more optimistic than most on the outlook for this season. By no means can I justify predicting a win at Alabama on Labor Day weekend or even wins over Baylor and Oklahoma, but I think people are overlooking the talent WVU has across the board.
The success of this team is on on Clint Trickett’s shoulders. Coming off of a season where he was the best option out of 3 sub-par ones, he has a lot to prove in his 2nd full yea in Dana’s offense. His decision making has to get better and his passes have to be more accurate. I believe he has the talent at the receiver position to put up solid numbers and keep WVU in some games where most analysts say they shouldn’t
The talent and depth this team has at running back in off the charts. Dreamius Smith, who played back up to Charles Sims last year, is coming off a solid outing in his first year transferring from Junior College. He average a stellar 4.8 YPC and 5 TD’s on a back up role. Along with Wendell Smallwood at 2nd string, Pitt transfer Rushel Shell is also waiting in the wings. Don’t forget he was a 5-start recruit coming out of college 3 years ago.
The defense showed signs of being one of the better ones in the big 12 last year, although the final rankings don’t show it. This is a group that has played together for 2 full seasons and has showed maturity and the ability to get better throughout those 2 years. They will be better than most people expect and teams are going to have to be a little more creative to score than they have been in the past couple of years
Prediction: Overall Record:(7-5) Big 12 Record: (5-4)
# 7 TCU Horned Frogs
Although I think Gary Patterson is one of the best coaches in the country, I am not high on TCU this season in the Big 12. They have too many question marks on the offensive side of the ball. Being this close to the start of the college football season, especially in a new offense, I don’t think it is good to still have a question on who your starting quarterback is going to be. They will get a clear answer who will be at quarterback after the Samford game, but going through off season workouts and practices without the offense getting into a rhythm with one solid starter rarely works. The lost almost half of their starting offense from the previous season. The defense will be the bread and butter of this team. They return 9 starters from the statistically best defense in the big 12 last year, Their defense will keep them in games, but their offense wont put up the points to win them
Prediction: Overall Record: (6-6) Big 12 Record: (4-5)
#8 Iowa State Cyclones
This is going to be a different looking Iowa State team than what most are used to seeing. The upside of Iowa State over the past half-decade has been their ability to keep their opponents from scoring points. They are putting out one of the youngest defenses in the country, even younger than the defense that got beat by Baylor 71-7 last year.
They did make a move on offense and brought in former Kansas head coach Mark Mangino. There is some talent on the offensive side of the ball that Mangino can work with and install his faced paced style. Don’t forget, this guy did bring Kansas into the national spotlight for a couple of years, no one else can really say that. He will aim to highlight the talent ISU has, but unfortunately, there is not much to go around in Ames.
Prediction: Overall Record (3-9) Big 12 Record : (1-8)
There really isn’t much guessing when it comes to who is going to be at the bottom of the conference year in and year out. This year is not going to be different than the past. WIth a brand new quarterback in Montell Cozart and a running back that really hasn’t been determined yet, Kansas in surely going to have trouble producing any type of offense in the coming year.
The defense has the potential to be a bright spot on this football team. They return a very talented linebacking core as well as a very talented secondary. The defensive line remains a question, and the ability to create an type of pass rush is going to be the difference between a team hanging up 30 and a team hanging up 60. So no, the defense won’t be good enough to keep them in games but, there’s always basketball season, right?
Prediction: Overall Record (1-11) Big 12 Record (0-9)