There is no denying the Big-12’s football reputation. Every year, the conference receives high praise from the preseason prognosticators. Often times, the respect isn’t earned or deserved. The Big-12 was considered by many to be the best conference in the country last year, but that was based on preseason hype, not on performance against quality non-conference opponents.
The conference got smacked around a bit during bowl season last year. They’ll be out to prove last season was the outlier, not the norm. In order to do so, they’re going to need impressive out-of-conference and bowl performances from teams such as Oklahoma, Baylor, and TCU. The rest of the league appears to be soft. Are the Big-12 top dogs ready to compete on a national level? Or was last season the a predictor of future outcome? We’ll discuss these questions and many more in this Big-12 Conference preview.
The Big-12 is generally a competitive league with only a couple of really bad teams and a few legitimate contenders. This year is no different. Heading into the season, there are probably 5-6 teams that believe they can win the league. But only 3 teams should feel quite so confident. Those teams are Oklahoma, Baylor, and TCU. Baylor and TCU were clearly the top teams in the conference last year, and likely will be again.
Despite these being the obvious favorites, each of these teams has some major concerns. Baylor, as always, will get some help from a cream puff non-conference schedule, facing 3 teams that would struggle to compete at the FCS level. But they’re going to need to be consistent in order to compete for a national title with an inexperienced quarterback. The good news for Baylor is they return 4 starters in the secondary. The bad news is they return 4 starters in the secondary. Baylor had one of the worst pass defenses in the nation last year. They better hope experience leads to a turn around.
TCU is another team that struggled against the pass last year, and only 1 starter in the secondary returns. However, like Baylor, TCU should score at will. The Horned Frogs have one of the most fearsome QB-WR duos in Trevone Boykin (QB) and Josh Doctson. They also have a big play making running back (Aaron Green). Oklahoma will need better quarterback play than they had with Trevor Knight last year, or they won’t contend. Junior Baker Mayfield should bump Knight to second-string. Oklahoma will hand the ball off to stud running back Samaje Perine. He surpassed 1,700 yards a season ago. Defensively, Oklahoma has depth, experience, and talent at linebacker, but they have question marks in the secondary and defensive line.
As much as we’d love to project a darkhorse for the Big-12, there really aren’t any. It’s hard to come up with a scenario in which any team but Oklahoma, Baylor, or TCU wins this league. Those 3 teams are head and shoulders above the rest. The remaining teams are either headed for a disastrous year or will likely finish right about where they’re expected to finish.
If you are a fan of the Kansas Jayhawks or Iowa State Cyclones and have hopes for a decent season, you can forget about it. These two teams are going to be absolute disasters. They have very little talent and mediocre coaching. These Big-12 bottom feeders combined to finish 5-19 last year and likely won’t do any better in 2015. Iowa State does have experience at quarterback (Sam Richardson) and a couple of talented receivers (Allen Lazard and Quenton Bundrage), but they don’t have much else in terms of Big-12 caliber talent.
Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads has proven to be in over his head at this level. Kansas brings in a new coach (David Beaty) and a heck of a lot of new starters. Beaty inherits just 6 returning starters, and will need to find someone to beat out ineffective quarterback Michael Cummings. The only winnable conference games for either team appears to be head-to-head.
The rest of the conference appears to be headed for so-so seasons. Oklahoma State, Kansas State, West Virginia, Texas, and Texas Tech should all contend for bowl appearances. But none of these teams are legitimate threats to dethrone the conference’s big boys. It will be an interesting season down in Austin. The honeymoon is over for Charlie Strong. Longhorns fans aren’t going to be very patient because that’s how rabid college football fans are. Texas doesn’t need to win the conference to keep the fans happy this year, but they better be headed in that direction by season’s end or Strong will start to feel the heat.
It’s not going to be an easy year for the Longhorns, however. They begin the season with Notre Dame, and also have to face California in the non-conference slate. Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes has shown potential, but if he can’t be more consistent, it’s going to be another mediocre year for the Longhorn offense. Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph could the conference’s wild card. He showed a lot of promise late in the season last year. If he continues to improve, Oklahoma State has a good shot at finishing in the top 3-4 of this league.
- Big-12 Champ: Baylor
- Big-12 Offensive POY: Samaje Perine, RB Oklahoma
- Big-12 Defensive POY: Shawn Oakman, DL Baylor
- CFB Playoff Teams: None