This is a huge season for the marquee teams of the Big 12. Texas and Oklahoma. Especially, for the Longhorns, and head coach Mack Brown. The Horns are always talented, and this season they’re probably the most experienced team in the Big 12. That gives them no excuses and no reason why they shouldn’t win the conference championship, and maybe more importantly to Texas fans……..beat Oklahoma. To say, the Sooners have owned the Horns lately would be an understatement. Three straight losses, the last two of which were blowouts (55-17 and 63-21 respectively). That’s got to change for Texas. Speaking of change, the conference as a whole will undergo a lot of roster changes, especially at QB. Only three teams (Texas, TCU and Oklahoma St.) return their primary QB from 2012. The Big 12 in 2013 should be very competitive, but there’s definite drop off between the top 4 and the rest of the league. Sports & Swag travels east from the Pac-12, to America’s Heartland to check things out.
Champion: Texas Longhorns
1. Texas Longhorns, as mentioned above, are the most experienced team in the Big 12, with 19 returning starters (10 offense, 9 defense). Jr. QB-David Ash returns after completing 67% of his passes in 2012. There is depth at running back with Jonathan Gray starting, and Malcolm Brown (Both rushed for 700+ yards) behind him. The defense is a major concern after giving up nearly 34 points/game in conference. The Horns should improve on that. How could they not? Schedule wise, Texas gets probable contender Okie St at home, but travel to TCU in addition to OU in Dallas. Look for Texas to drop one of those, even though some think they can run the table. Upset alerts? Ole Miss – 9/14 and at Baylor – 12/7…..
2. Oklahoma St. Cowboys, will probably split time at QB between Sr.- Clint Chelf and So.- JW Walsh, after Wes Lunt transferred. The Cowboys are always explosive in head coach, Mike Gundy’s fast paced, pass happy system. This season should be no different. There aren’t any Justin Blackmon caliber receivers on the team, but the receivers are very dangerous, nonetheless. Defensively, Okie St allowed 28 points per game. The most they’ve given up the last four years. Seven returning starters could help those numbers. The Cowboys season looks to come down to an 11/16 showdown at Texas. They get OU at home which is why I give them the slight edge over OU in standings. Upset alert? at Texas Tech – 11/2.
3. Oklahoma Sooners, come off a 10 win season, but also a terrible showing against Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl (41-13 loss). Since, losing to Florida in the 2008 BCS title game, the Sooners have won their last four bowl games. Only one of which, however, has been a BCS bowl (2010 Fiesta). Jr. QB-Blake Bell, better known as ‘ The Belldozer’ was looked upon by most to succeed Landry Jones at QB. However, head coach Bob Stoops had other ideas, and named RsFr. QB-Trevor Knight the starter. The Sooners, and obviously Stoops are very high on his athleticism and passing ability. As stated above, I have the Sooners here due to their road trip to Stillwater. Other than that game, OU’s entire season may come down to one 3 week stretch. A visit to Notre Dame – 9/28, TCU – 10/5, and Texas – 10/12. Upset alerts? at Baylor – 11/7 and at Kansas St. – 11/23…..
4. TCU Horned Frogs, return 16 starters (7 offense, 9 defense), including Sr. QB- Casey Paschall. So, they have a little experience to hang their hats on. The Frogs were not explosive offensively in 2012, and their defensive numbers were also down, giving up over 28 points/game. Head coach Gary Patterson is known for having TCU solid defensively. With 9 starters back, look for the Frogs to dominate on D, which makes them also a threat to win the Big 12. Schedule is not really on their side, though. Road games at both Oklahoma schools won’t be easy, but don’t be surprised if TCU gets one of those. If they do, TCU could be a sleeper in the Big 12. They get Texas at home, and also open the season at Cowboys stadium against LSU.
5. Baylor Bears, lose QB Nick Florence. He, of course replaced RG3, last season. No one could have ever predicted the Bears would score more points last season, than they scored with RG3 the previous season. So, in head coach Art Briles system, I think we can expect that Baylor won’t take a huge drop off offensively. Unfortunately, defense has been a different story. The offense repeatedly has to outscore opponents when the D gives up 37 point/game. The D returns 7 starters, but expecting much better numbers would probably be wrong. I don’t see Baylor winning the league, even with Heisman candidate, Jr. RB – Lache Seastrunk carrying the rock. They’ll be fun to watch, if you like that up and down basketball feel, in football games.
6. Kansas St. Wildcats, lack of experience is the only reason I have them down this far. The Wildcats return only 2 starters on defense (8 offense). That’s a problem. Not to mention they have to replace QB Colin Klein. Junior College transfer, Jake Waters should get the job. Head coach Bill Snyder always gets the most out of his teams. So, to think K-State can’t climb a couple of spots in the standings would be foolish, but to expect them to repeat as Big 12 champs would be equally unrealistic. Don’t be surprised if they catch one of the contenders napping, though. They get OU and TCU at home in November.
7. Texas Tech, has former QB, Kliff Kingsbury as head coach now, taking over for Tommy Tuberville. So, if anything, the Red Raiders will be even faster paced. They certainly won’t slow down. So. QB – Michael Brewer is the only experienced QB, but it’s not clear he’ll start. Under Tuberville, Tech didn’t have the all out, air raid offense they had under Mike Leach, but they were still pretty explosive scoring over 40 points in six games. However, they only return 5 starters on offense. It will be interesting to follow Kingsbury and the Red Raiders for his first couple of seasons as head coach. I think he has a chance to be a really good coach in Lubbock.
8. West Virginia Mountaineers, lost QB Geno Smith to the New York Jets, and Jr. QB- Clint Trickett looks to be the successor. The Mountaineers had a very remarkable 2012, and that’s not a good thing. WVU jumped out to a 5-0 start, while scoring 70 against Baylor, and 48 in a win at Texas. The start produced a #5 ranking and talk of a BCS title, going into their game at Texas Tech the following week. Tech blasted WVU 49-14. The Mountaineers were never the same, going 2-6 to finish the season. With only 3 starters returning on offense, it’s hard to see the Mountaineers having a great season. Head coach, Dana Holgorsen knows offense, so expect WVU to be exciting regardless.
9. Iowa St. Cyclones, seem to over-achieve every season since Paul Rhoads has been head coach. They also seem to win a game they’re not supposed every year. In 2010, it was at Texas. In 2011, the Cyclones beat ranked teams, Texas Tech, Oklahoma St., and Kansas St. Tech and K-State on the road. In 2012, TCU was the victim in Fort Worth. With only 9 returning starters (5 offense, 4 defense), it’s hard to predict them winning a game like that this season, but I wouldn’t bet against it. I don’t see them getting to a bowl this year, but you would be smart to bring your A game against the Cyclones.
10. Kansas Jayhawks, actually had a few close calls last season. KU lost by only a TD to BCS buster, Northern Illinois, Oklahoma St., and Texas Tech. They were also very competitive against Texas, losing 21-17. Head coach Charlie Weis, and the Jayhawks only return 9 starters (5 offense, 4 defense), so building on that good of 2012 won’t be very easy. I do think Kansas will win more than one game this season, however. Weis, has transfers that best fit what he wants to do offensively. Couple that with the Jayhawks having 5 home games in conference, and the Jayhawks could even climb out of last place.
Player of the year: Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
Game of the Year: Oklahoma St. at Texas 11/16
I hope you enjoyed reading my preview of the Big 12. Check back with Sports & Swag for more previews and content as we get ready for College Football next week.