Since the NCAA adopted the new college football playoff (CFP) in 2014, only one BIG 12 team has been involved in the four team playoff. This year, as many as three teams have a distinct chance to crack the top four. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas should finish with double-digit wins, forcing a big debate for the committee. This will be the first season that the BIG 12 will actually play a conference championship game. I have seven teams getting bowl eligible.
OKLAHOMA STATE The Cowboys are my pick to win the Conference title. Head coach Mike Gundy has all the stars aligned for a magical season in Stillwater. Standout quarterback Mason Rudolph and receiver James Washington both turned down the NFL to come back for their senior seasons. Tailback Justice Hill rushed for over 1,000 yards, giving the Pokes a balanced offense. Gundy went out and brought in five impact transfers who will make immediate contributions. The defensive line should be one of the best in the country. The schedule sets up well for a championship run, with Oklahoma, TCU and Kansas State all at home. A road game at Texas could be the only blemish. I look for the Cowboys to be playing in the final four.
IMPACT NEWCOMER……….WR Tyron Johnson, Transfer from LSU.
FUN FACT……….The Cowboys have won 21 straight home openers.
OKLAHOMA On June 7th Lincoln Riley was announced head coach at Oklahoma. Riley the former offensive coordinator took over for the iconic Bob Stoops who announced his retirement. Riley becomes the youngest head coach in the FBS, at just 33. He inherits a squad that is primed to make a deep run to the CFP. Quarterback Baker Mayfield should be playing in the NFL next season. Replacing both DeDe Westbrook and Joe Mixon, will be a major emphasis on the offensive side of the ball. The Sooners welcome back all five starters upfront, with (97) career starts! The defense should be much improved, and the special teams unit, should be one of the best in the country. Road games at Ohio State and Oklahoma State, could be the only land mines on the schedule.
IMPACT NEWCOMER……….RB Rodney Anderson, Big, Fast, Strong.
FUN FACT……….The visitor in the Oklahoma/Ohio State series is a perfect 3-0.
TEXAS Many of the football publications are calling for Texas to make a bowl game for the first time since 2014. I’m here to tell you, that the Longhorns are in line for a double-digit win season! Tom Herman has taken over for the departed Charlie Strong. Herman immediately made changes that will result in a new dynamic culture in Austin. Strong was a great recruiter and Herman will immediately benefit from that. Quarterback Shane Buechele will benefit the most from the change at the top. I look for the sophomore to have a breakout season. I also expect Chris Warren to fill in nicely for the departed D’Onta Freeman, who left early for the NFL. The biggest improvement on this club, will come on the defensive side. Ten starters return, and I expect a big improvement over the 31 points per game allowed last season. The schedule is favorable, with six true home games. A week three road trip at USC, will be a real barometer of things to come.
IMPACT NEWCOMER……….LB Gary Johnson, Top rated JC transfer
FUN FACT……….Longhorns are 18-1 in the game immediately following the Red River Rivalry. Look out Oklahoma State.
KANSAS STATE Bill Snyder enters his 26th year as the head coach of the Wildcats. Snyder has one of his most experienced team in years, with 14 returning starters. Quarterback Jesse Ertz is the best of the bunch. The dual threat signal caller, led the team with 1,184 yards rushing. His improved passing and the development of receivers Dominique Heath and Byron Pringle, will keep opposing teams from overloading the box. The Defense concerns me, with the loss of all three starting linebackers. The schedule sets up well. Seven home games and a soft non-conference have me calling for a solid campaign.
IMPACT NEWCOMER……….WR Carlos Strickland, Cal transfer who will give the Wildcats their best receiving core in years.
FUN FACT……….Wildcats have won nine straight versus Iowa State.
TCU The Horned Frogs might well have an offense that could challenge the likes of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Kyle Hicks (1,086) yards rushing, will run behind an offensive line that returns four starters. The top nine receivers also return, giving quarterback Kenny Hill a bevy of talent around him. Hill has been wildly inconsistent throughout his career. He was one of the hottest recruited quarterbacks in his recruiting class, but it’s yet to translate to the field. The defensive line has me concerned, as they must replace three starters. The frogs have four tough road games at Arkansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. This is the toughest team for me to handicap in the BIG 12. They could win anywhere from 7 to 10 games.
IMPACT NEWCOMER……….T Lucas Niang, behemoth 6-6 325 should fill the only vacancy on offensive line.
FUN FACT……….TCU and Arkansas will meet for the 70th time in week two.
BAYLOR Matt Rhule is the new sheriff in Waco. Rhule was hired away from Temple to help restore what had been a very successful program from 2013-15. The turmoil in Waco has been well chronicled. The Bears basically lost two-thirds of their recruiting class last season. Rhule’s first order of business was to re-establish recruiting ties within the state of Texas. Zach Smith should win the starting quarterback job. He started four games last season, but will be pushed by Arizona transfer Anu Solomon. Terence Williams rushed for 1,053 yards and he will compete for All-Conference honors. Phil Snow followed Rhule from Temple, and he will serve as the defensive coordinator. I expect Snow, to have the Bears playing an attacking, run stuffing defense, much like Temple. A soft non-conference slate should lead to a 3-0 start. If things come together quickly, the Bears will once again be bowl eligible in Rhule’s first season.
IMPACT NEWCOMER……….WR Blake Lynch, 6-3 big bodied receiver.
FUN FACT……….For the first time in five years, the Bears offense fell below 40 points per game (34.6).
WEST VIRGINIA This will be a year of transition for Mountaineer fans. Head coach Dana Holgorsen will need to virtually rebuild his entire defense, which was the best since 2010. The entire Defensive line and secondary must be replaced. The offense is in a little better shape, with the return of Justin Crawford who rushed for 1,203 yards. Florida transfer Will Grier, will take over at quarterback. Grier is a dual-threat athlete who should be an improvement over the departed Skyler Howard. The Mounties have a tough season opener against Virginia Tech, but could start 4-0. I expect the Mounties to once again reach the magical six wins and go bowling.
IMPACT NEWCOMER……….DB Corey Winfield, Transfer from Syracuse. Will look to anchor a revamped secondary.
FUN FACT……….West Virginia is just 1-8 versus Top 10 teams under Holgorsen.
KANSAS In David Beaty’s first year the Jayhawks went (0-12). Last year they improved to (2-10). This year, I’m calling for the Hawks to double that win total to four. For the first time in Lawrence, Beaty will have a quarterback who is actually familiar with running his “Air Raid” attack. Peyton Bender transferred in from Washington State. Bender will have a swift group of receivers to get the ball too. The offensive line should be solid with four returning starters, and highly touted JC transfer Octavious Mathews should provide a solid ground game. Work still needs to be done on a defense that gave up 37 points per game last year. Don’t be surprised to see the Jayhawks start 3-0. Remember they beat Texas last season and had both TCU and Iowa State on the ropes.
IMPACT NEWCOMER……….WR Daylon Charlot, Very highly touted Alabama transfer.
FUN FACT……….Jayhawks are just 1-17 versus Texas Tech in the past 18 games. That streak ends this year.
IOWA STATE Matt Campbell enters his second season as head coach of the Cyclones. I don’t see a lot of improvement over last seasons 3-9 mark, with so many questions looming. Quarterback Jacob Park is a very nice piece to build an offense around. The Georgia transfer put up good numbers last year and should continue to improve. Allen Lazard could play in the NFL next season. He is a 6-5 beast, who caught 69 balls last season, good for 1,018 yards and seven scores. The offensive line is in shambles . Only center Julian Good-Jones returns. The defense has holes in each unit. Several junior college players were recruited to help fill the needs. I’m calling for another 3-9 campaign this season.
IMPACT NEWCOMER……….NG Ray Lima, could be the best of the JC players now on campus.
FUN FACT……….Cyclones haven’t been to a bowl game since 2012 Liberty Bowl.
TEXAS TECH We all know The Red Raiders can score with anyone in the country. The problem always has, and will continue to be can they stop anyone? The answer is still NO. The Raiders gave up 43 points per game last season. Many prognosticators believe they will be much stronger this season. I’m not drinking that Kool-Aid. The defensive line is a mess, and looked the part in the spring game. When you don’t have a pass rush in the BIG 12, it’s a recipe for disaster. The offense must replace Patrick Mahomes and his 5,000 yards passing! Tall task, no matter how good Nic Shimonek is. I firmly believe Kliff Kingsbury can coach, but I think the natives are becoming restless in Lubbock. The Raiders will win a game they shouldn’t, but they will lose many they should win.
IMPACT NEWCOMER……….G Jack Anderson, top recruit from 2017 class. Should start as a freshman.
FUN FACT……….Red Raiders are 30-1 since 2003, hosting non-conference opponents.
HOW WILL THEY FINISH
OKLAHOMA STATE 11-1
KANSAS STATE 9-3
WEST VIRGINIA 6-6
IOWA STATE 3-9
TEXAS TECH 2-10