Only 22 scant sleeps to go until college football’s back! And on this auspicious day, when all sorts of exciting goings-on are happening in CFB Media Land, we take a look at the most consistently exciting conference in the sport: the Big 12. Home to (mostly) zoomy offenses and (mostly) nonexistent defenses, this conference always produces gloriously fun games with ridiculous boatracey scores.
Yes, I’m a little biased. I went to Baylor.
That also means I have some . . . rooting interest at stake here. But we’re nothing if not serious and thorough analysts here. So for this whole preview, I’m going to remove my emotions from the equation and view this dispassionately, objectively.
Or at least I’ll try.
Here’s my predictions for the Big 12’s champs, the contenders, and the disasters this season. And if you’d like more college football content like this, gimme a follow at @WatchingCFB. I’d appreciate it!
Am I going to make the umpteenth hackneyed “Texas is ACTUALLY back” joke? Nah. I have more self-respect than that. #HornsDown may be a movement, but I expect the Longhorns will overcome a few supposedly unsportsmanlike hand gestures to take the conference by storm.
Texas will have to replace a good number of players from last year’s team. But they have a deep, young group stepping into starting shoes this year, and they’re predicted to field the best overall defense in the conference. If Sam Ehlinger betters last year’s stats, expect great things for Texas, especially because the Big 12 title picture is wide open this season.
RUNNER UP: Oklahoma
Look, yes, the Sooners are still loaded for bear and talented beyond belief. But the absence of superstar Kyler Murray will be palpable. Jalen Hurts is not on Murray’s level and has a tendency to hurry throws under pressure – which could be a problem this year. The offensive line lost four out of five starters.
And a lot hinges on that OL. If it functions, Hurts will probably be able to consistently deliver to OU’s brilliant receivers, and their dangerous running game will roam free. So they’ll score. Their defense has a new coordinator, and isn’t predicted to be stellar.
Thus we have one too many question marks to predict a Sooner championship repeat. If they win the Red River Rivalry (or whatever it’s called now) against Texas though, look out. With the right combo of luck and talent, like Ohio State in the Big Ten, they could end up with their mitts on the title.
DARK HORSE: Baylor
I promise I’m still being an objective observer when I say this: Baylor may be the single most underrated team in college football.
The Big 12 race is (as mentioned previously) gapingly wide open. Charlie Brewer is disgustingly good at throwing the football. And the defensive front is expected to take a major step forward, though the coverage unit is shaky.
Everyone else seems to be giving Iowa State the shine. But I’m not convinced. Their two biggest offensive producers at RB and WR are gone. Brock Purdy’s still young.
Then there’s this: In his first two regular seasons at Baylor, Matt Rhule went 1-11 and then 6-6. At Temple, Rhule posted startlingly similar records of 2-10, then 6-6.
In his third year at Temple, Matt Rhule led the Owls to a 10-2 record and a conference championship game. He has the tools to do the same thing this year, if he gets a break or two. Let’s see if history repeats itself.
DISAPPOINTMENT: Oklahoma State
Outside of an immensely favorable schedule (TCU, Baylor, and rival OU all visit raucous T. Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater), nothing stands out about the Cowboys. Expect Gundy’s vaunted spread offense to take a step back at the hands of young redshirt freshman QB Spencer Sanders. Sure, they have Chuba Hubbard at RB, who’s nothing if not a problem causer. But I expect Big 12 teams to pack the box against OSU.
The big hole on defense lies in their lackluster front four, an essential part of their unorthodox 4-2-5 strategy. I expect OU, UT and Iowa State will gash the Cowboys on the ground.
NOT A CHANCE: Texas Tech
Kliff Kingsbury fled town for USC (at first), so former Utah State helmer Matt Wells comes to town, hoping to change the usual speed-based offense-first mentality Kliff installed. It’ll give him a year or two to get this experiment off the ground, even with capable Alan Bowman delivering the ball. The defense has a new coordinator too, which might help things, though it may (again) take more than one season for any beneficial changes to set in.
What I’m saying is that the Red Raiders probably won’t make a bowl this year. And that’s fine.
So that’s the Big 12! You can follow me at @WatchingCFB on Twitter for more piping hot college football takes and updates. See you next week, where it’s PAC-12 preview time.