The first College Gameday is now 27 days away, and fans couldn’t be more excited. I am going to do a preview for all of the Power 5 conferences and a detailed schedule breakdown for each of the preseason top 25 teams before the season starts. This season promises to bring many twists and turns, and I am here to predict all of them,
Today, I am bringing you my prediction on what the Big 12 will look like at the end of the season. I chose this conference first because the Big 12 is one of the more unpredictable conferences out there. Whether it is their top two nationally acclaimed programs going through coaching changes, or starting QB’s transferring schools, the Big 12 truly has it all.
Barring any collapse under new Head Coach Lincoln Riley, OU will be at the top of the food chain in the Big 12 once again. They have a very interesting matchup during week two when they travel to Columbus to play Ohio State. That game is one of the main reasons I have them atop of the standings here. Win or lose, that game is where the Riley-led Sooners will find their identity, which will benefit them mightily in conference play. Baker Mayfield, playing behind the offensive line that they have in Norman, is dangerous, even with the numerous skill-positioned players leaving for the league. So here’s a shocker, Oklahoma wins the Big 12 yet again.
2. Oklahoma State–
This spot was the hardest for me to pick. By no means is OSU the most talented team left on this list or even the team with the highest ceiling, but they have the most proven returning players in the conference with Mason Rudolph and James Washington. Those two players are the sole reason OSU is at two on this list, and not three or four. If their defense can force turnovers like they have in the past (25 forced TO’s last year, T-1st in the B12), then there is no reason why the Pokes can’t challenge for the title. But returning a measly 5 defensive starters leaves me with little faith that they can repeat that production. The offense is simply too explosive to put them any lower.
3. Kansas State–
Bill Snyder. As long as he coaches Kansas State, they will have at least eight wins every season. It’s been one of the few constants in college football, or in life, for that matter. Jesse Ertz needs to make strides as a passer, but last year, he was good enough to win the Wildcats 9 games. The magic of this team lies in turnovers, though. They turned the ball over a total of 12 times last year, tied for the 5th least in the nation. Their discipline and consistency will lead them to a 3rd place finish in the big 12, and another solid bowl game under one of the greatest head coaches in the game.
Texas is easily the hardest team to predict in the Big 12. They are the most talented team in the conference, but that argument could’ve been made in any of their three previous seven-loss seasons. New coach Tom Herman looks like he has things going in the right direction in Austin, but then again, you have to remember he hasn’t coached a single game there yet. Todd Orlando was a brilliant hire for the Texas defense, and with the talent and speed they possess, it is hard to see them not being a top team in the conference. Herman will put the Horns back on the national stage, just give him a year or two.
Kenny Hill was maddening a lot of the time last year, and so were the TCU receiving corps. Whether it was dumb interceptions, dropped passes, or even getting gashed by the rush, TCU constantly found ways to shoot themselves in the foot last year. But with the amount of returning players they have this year (27), it is hard to not see improvement in the Horned Frogs. The top of the B12 seems a bit overcrowded this year, however, leading to a 5th place finish for the Horned Frogs.
6. West Virginia–
West Virginia is getting a lot of hype this year. With transfer QB Will Grier at the helm this season, expectations are running high. However, those fans need to realize the amount of production WVU lost over the summer. There are only eight returning starters, while also bringing in a QB that has to learn a new system and most likely having to rely on JUCO transfers to carry the load at WR. That, combined with an inexperienced secondary, in a pass heavy conference leads to a 6th place finish.
Baylor’s program over the last couple of years has been a dumpster fire, to say the least. This year they will really feel the effects of the Jarrett Stidham transfer, as they will either rely on the young arm of Zach Smith, or the Arizona transfer Anu Solomon, neither of which compare to the arm talent of Stidham. With an average running back returning, and the shock from the offense making the switch from the classic Baylor tempo to a Matt Rhule offense will inevitably take some time. There is quite a few upperclassman returning, but the best players from a below average defense last year are mostly gone. Seventh is generous in my mind.
8. Iowa State–
Another difficult team to predict is the Iowa State Cyclones. Their offense looks good with Jacob Park at the helm and Mike Warren healthy once again. But the defense, with some key pieces returning, was awful last year and didn’t show many signs of improvement from week one to week 12. This team could wake up on defense and surprise a few people this year, but my gut tells me the defense needs some time.
Yep. There are 10 teams in the Big 12, and I have Kansas at 9th. You read that right. There are eight offensive starters returning, and a lot of production that has shown promise, especially at skill positions. The defensive line turned into the strength of this team last year and actually looked very good at times. Although the secondary is still going to be very bad at times, they should have enough for them to get an upset or two.
10. Texas Tech–
Yikes. Below Kansas, that’s rough. Texas Tech had the worst defenses in the conference by FAR, and have shown absolutely no signs of getting any better on that side of the ball. Their one redeeming quality last year, Patrick Mahomes, left for the NFL. That’s a recipe for a horrible team. To be fair, I’m sure they will put up points, but with the loss of Mahomes, there is just no way they can keep up in shootouts like they have in the past.
There you have it. That’s EXACTLY how the Big 12 will end up this year. I think. I hope. Probably not. But that’s the beauty of football.