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BIG XII Football Preview by Michael Leese

Big Questions

  •   Will the Jayhawks win a game?
  •    Is Baylor playoff ready?
  •    Does TCU take a leap back?
  •    Have the Longhorns rounded the corner?
  •    Who will be the surprise team this year?

Big Games

  • 9/5      Texas at Notre Dame
  • 9/5      South Dakota State at Kansas   (could be only win)
  • 9/19    Oklahoma at Tennessee
  • 9/26    Oklahoma State at Texas
  • 10/3    Texas at TCU
  • 11/14  Oklahoma at Baylor
  • 11/21  Baylor at Oklahoma State
  • 11/26  Texas Tech at Texas
  • 11/27  Baylor at TCU

Big-Impact Newcomers

  • Baylor                           Seth Russell – QB, Andrew Billings – DL
  • Iowa State                   Demond Tucker – NG
  • Kansas                         D.J. Williams – DT
  • Kansas State               Alex Delton, QB
  • Oklahoma                     Austin Seibert – K, D.J. Ward – DE
  • Oklahoma State          Chris Carson – RB
  • Texas                             Malik Jefferson – LB
  • TCU                               Aaron Curry – DL
  • Texas Tech                    Breiden Fahoko – DT
  • West Virginia             Shelton Gibson – WR

Big Coaching Hires

  • Kansas – David Beaty, head coach
  • Oklahoma – Lincoln Riley, offensive coordinator
  • Baylor –   Kendel Briles, offensive coordinator
  • Texas Tech – David Gibbs, defensive coordinator

Team-by-Team

BAYLOR    The Bears have been 22-4 the last two seasons, going 11-2 both years and the good news is that 18 starters are back, this team is loaded on both sides of the ball.    New QB Seth Russell can play and will operate behind an offensive line that returns intact and he’ll have a bevy of weapons at his side.   The defensive line could be one of the best in the country.   The BIG 12 is the most improved conference in the land, and it would be quite an accomplishment to go undefeated.  If anyone can, it’s this band of Bears!

 

 

IOWA STATE   Sam Richardson is the most underrated quarterback in the BIG 12!  He is a dual-threat talent that could start on many other teams in the league.    The problem for the Cyclones is they just don’t have much talent to surround him and he simply can’t do it all.   He will get his top two targets from last year back, but they will need to find a running game.  The strength of the defense will be a veteran secondary.  Last year saw them a dismal 0-9 in the BIG 12 and this year, the Cyclones play a tough schedule with five road games in league play.   I think they improve on that mark.

KANSAS    New head coach David Beaty has his hands full, inheriting a total of seven returning starters.   The Jayhawks had only 64 scholarship players during the summer months, meaning Beaty could have the hardest rebuild project in college football on his hands.  It’s a youthful roster that is left searching for playmakers.  This will be a very long season in Lawrence, but they could jump out with a win in an opening week contest with South Dakota State. 

KANSAS STATE   With only 12 starters returning this season, and a new quarterback, you would expect the team to have a major decline.  But each time I think the Wildcats will fall flat on their face they don’t — Bill Snyder just continues to win, no matter the obstacles.   This year, the saving grace for the Wildcats this season could well be the schedule.   A soft non-conference slate will surely give the team a chance to gel before league play, and the Wildcats get the toughest games at home as TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma, and West Virginia all will try to take Manhattan.   Somehow, someway Snyder will have the Wildcats bowling once again.

OKLAHOMA    This is a tough call for me.    The Sooners are loaded with talent, yet have some major question marks.  Look at the offensive and defensive lines and you’re looking at major overhauls.  Many games are simply won in the trenches, and I’m not sure you can count on these units at this time.  Baker Mayfield will start at quarterback, but I would not be surprised if we see Trevor Knight get some snaps.      There is hope, as the Sooners are loaded at both running back and receiver positions and Samaje Perine and Sterling Shepard could be All-Americans.   I think that we will see an inconsistency this year.

OKLAHOMA STATE   Mike Gundy is often overlooked in the coaching ranks.   He simply gets things done year-in and year-out.     This is a young team that should cause all sorts of problems for opponents this year.  Last season, Oklahoma State was 5-1 before dropping five games in a row.   Quarterback Mason Rudolph took off his redshirt with three games remaining, and directed the Cowboys to a win over Oklahoma to get to bowl eligibility and a bowl game win over Washington.   He will be primed and ready to go from the opening kickoff this year, and gives the Cowboys high hopes for the future.  The month of November will decide just how good this team is, as they’ll host Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma.

TCU   I don’t think Gary Patterson gets enough credit for the outstanding  job he has done, putting this program on the national map.   TCU enters with this season with a No. 2 national ranking in most polls, after last season ended with a blowout 42-3 Peach Bowl win over Mississippi.   The defense does lose some quality talent.   The entire linebacking corps has departed, leaving a gaping hole.   Patterson’s main objective is to find capable replacements.   On offense, Trevone Boykin made the transition from receiver to quarterback flawlessly, and was better than anticipated.  He is one of the top signal callers in the country, and is now a pre-season Heisman Trophy favorite.  He has all his weapons returning from last season, also.   This year the Horned Frogs will have a bull’s-eye on their backs, and the schedule is tough with road games at Texas Tech, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.   Another solid season is in the making.

TEXAS   This is the second season in Austin for Head Coach Charlie Strong.    Last year, Strong cleaned house and  installed his schemes.   This year the Longhorns should be better prepared and ready for what may come their way.    Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes will operate behind a veteran offensive line, and Johnathan Gray is back to tote the rock.   The offense should be much better than last years anemic 21 points per game.    On defense, six of the top seven tacklers departed, leaving many holes to be filled, but several big-time recruits are ready to step in.    The question is, how long will it take this team to gel — I would not want to play the Longhorns late in the season.   I think they struggle early, but finish with a flurry!

TEXAS TECH      If you’re looking for a surprise contender in the conference, the Red Raiders are ready to have a breakout season.   Seventeen starters return, giving Kliff Kingsbury a veteran team.   The offense is loaded and should fire on all cylinders with the return of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who started the final four games and was outstanding.   DeAndre Washington rushed for 1,136 and caught 30 balls out of the backfield and is a premier weapon.  The thing that has me really excited, is the potential of the defense.    Granted, the Raiders gave up a whooping 41 points per game, but new defensive coordinator David Gibbs should make a huge difference.    Ultimately the Raiders will be better on both sides of the ball, and they will shock one of the big boys in conference play!

WEST VIRGINIA      It’s not often that you think of at Dana Holgersen team as having to rely on their defense, but that may be the case this season.  Nine starters return on that side of the ball and that will be the strength of this team.   Holgersen will tinker with his offense trying to get the best results.   Quarterback Skyler Howard will be the opening day signal caller, after getting some significant play late last season.    The dynamic combo of Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood will provide a solid ground game.    The Mountaineers are known for the top-notch wide receivers the school has produced over the years, but this is an area of concern.   No matter what, a trip to Morgantown is always tough and the Mountaineers will surprise a team or two.

PREDICTED STANDINGS

  • BAYLOR                 8-1   11-1
  • TCU                           5-3   8-4
  • TEXAS TECH         6-3   8-4
  • TEXAS                       6-3   8-4
  • OKLAHOMA          6-3   8-4
  • OKLAHOMA ST     5-4   8-4
  • WEST VIRGINIA   4-5   7-5
  • KANSAS ST            3-6   6-6
  • IOWA ST                 1-8   4-8
  • KANSAS                 0-9   1-11

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