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WATCHING FOOTBALL: Big 12 2020 Season Preview

In which "Hamilton" explains college football.

I’m going to say something controversial: Hamilton is very good. (Gasp!)

In my eyes, the pivotal moment in the hip-hop musical’s second act arrives when the title character, founding father Alexander Hamilton, decides to preemptively reveal his unwise affair to the public, in order to head off false accusations that he embezzled money.

This monumentally bad decision obliterates Hamilton’s career, destroys his marriage, contributes to his son’s death, and leads inexorably, finally, to his demise on the banks of the Hudson in a duel with a scoundrel.

(Trust me, this article is still about college football. Hang on a sec.)

At this decision point, Hamilton’s character muses about a moment of peace, of clarity amidst the storm of life. “In the eye of a hurricane, there is quiet.”

Before Hamilton’s fateful choice, aside from a few stumbles, he was living his dream, on top of the political world, helping to craft a country. Afterward, Icarus plummets to earth. Reality sets back in.

That’s college football right now. For months, swirling uncertainty about how the pandemic would impact Power-5 big-name college sports. We now have the answer, at least on the football front: a shortened season, mostly played in-conference, in as safe a manner as possible.

In the eye of a hurricane, there is quiet.

But then the winds change direction. No time to pick up the rubble, barely time to assess readiness before the storm’s upon you again.

We still have a season to play, and the Big 12, last conference to the schedule-restructuring table, needs to scramble. So much is uncertain. How much of the old conference schedule remains in effect? How will each team cope with abbreviated workouts?

And independent from pandemic-related questions, the Big 12 has been an unsettled mess for years – Oklahoma at the top, everyone else fighting for scraps, trying to out-offense each other. Heck, OU’s challenger last year in the championship game was the only team that fielded a top-flight defense, Baylor.

How will the conference stack up this year? Well, let me tell you how I think it’ll pan out. But first, if you want to stay up to date on college football news – kind of a necessity during these times – follow me on Twitter @WatchingFB. Now, let’s get to it.


WINNER: Oklahoma

Every year the Sooners play at a high level, finding and recycling talent, replacing Heisman winners with such ease it’s not even fair. Following Kyler Murray to the QB position this season is Spencer Rattler, reportedly a phenom. Despite much of the offense’s departure, I have no doubt OU will restock, and their already semi-acceptable D will have another year of experience. They’re the team to beat, and I doubt anyone will.

RUNNER-UP: Oklahoma State

Seemingly reloading for years, the Cowboys finally look ready to unleash with both barrels. Their dangerous offense, helmed by Spencer Sanders (yes, Bedlam will be a battle of the Spencers) and crewed by RB phenom Chuba Hubbard and WR savant Tylan Wallace, should give every other team fits. They have one pretty notable flaw, though: absolutely no defense. It’ll be their downfall at least once.

DARK HORSE: Iowa State

I struggled with whether to put Texas here, but I don’t fully buy Sam Ehlinger’s supposed greatness or Tom Herman’s supposed culture. No, the ‘Clones are a better bet to do something unexpected and special. Brock Purdy’s an excellent game manager, and he’ll once again have Tarique Milton and Charlie Kolar to target. If the conference schedule remains intact, that’s a concern: ISU gets Oklahoma at home, but TCU, Texas, and Oklahoma State are all road tilts.

DISAPPOINTMENT: Baylor

Almost anything would be disappointing after the astronomical heights the Bears reached last year. And don’t get me wrong, Dave Aranda is a spectacular head coaching hire. But he only has two returning defensive starters to work with, and Baylor’s lackluster offense likewise needs to replace lots of lost receiving talent. This will be a rebuilding year, but in 2021, watch out for Baylor.

LOSER: West Virginia

Yep, not Kansas. Les Miles has that program pointed in the right direction. Not so the Mountaineers. A solid defense only works when your offense isn’t a dysfunctional catastrophe, and I see no signs that won’t be the case again this year. And as with Iowa State, if the current schedule stays in place, that’s even worse. WVU has to play Texas, OSU, and Iowa State on the road.


Next week, we make it to the talk of the Power-5 right now, the PAC-12. See you then, follow me if you want, and as always, happy watching!

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