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The Big 12

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We are THIS CLOSE to the beginning of college football. Teams begin reporting in the next week and we are five weeks from the first college game of the season. I’m so excited. Who is ready to tailgate? Me. too.

Let’s take a look at the rest of the league and where they stack up

The Big 12

Let’s get this out of the way at the outset- this should come down to Baylor at TCU the Friday night of Thanksgiving weekend. Both teams come into the season ranked in the top 10 (top 8 or even higher depending on the magazine you read) and both have large, uncomfortable chips on their shoulders they’ve been carrying around for the last nine months after getting shutout of the playoff. That could be a helluva night of Big 12 football with a potential Big 12 Title and playoff berth on the line…

But it’s theoretical at this point. They both should get there and it could be for the Big 12 Title, but that’s 10-11 games away and literally anything could happen. Did anyone think TCU would be that good last year? No way. And this year, at least according to one magazine, Oklahoma State will be playing in the playoff. Yes. Oklahoma State. Maybe they will. Maybe they won’t. Let’s take a look at what’s what in the Big 12. Let’s go team by team, from top to bottom.

Baylor

The Bears lead the pack for three reasons: First, they are the reigning back-to-back Big 12 Champions and in my book, that means a lot. If someone wants the trophy, go knock the battery off their shoulder. Second, almost everyone on the offense is back. The entire o-line is back, including future NFLer and All-America Spencer Drango, the receivers are back as is All Big 12 running back Shock Linwood (1,252 yards, 16 tds). I say “almost everyone” because the quarterback is gone, but over the last several years Art Briles has proven that he can plug a new quarterback into his system and be successful. Bryce Petty is now in the NFL, but Seth Russell played more than enough last year for everyone in Waco to be comfortable that he will step and there will be little if any drop off. In fact, a lot of people think he could be better. The cast around him is experienced and talented, so he’ll have help. The last reason (THIRD), is the defense. Baylor returns two All Big 12 linemen in Shawn Oakman and Andrew Billings, who will both be in the NFL soon enough. Oakman is the first off the bus, for good reason. I mean look at him http://thesportsquotient.com/ncaa-fb/2015/1/2/the-incredibly-scary-and-hilarious-shawn-oakman-memes. Andrew Billings doesn’t have the Shock & Awe factor that Oakman does, but  he’s big, strong and physical inside. They must replace their linebackers, but their secondary is back intact. A new punter and a sophomore kicker need to improve, but the D and the O should carry the day until they get acclimated. This is a deep, talented team with a bit of an edge after losing out on a playoff berth and to a lesser extent having to split the Big 12 Title they rightfully won. One True Champion… Sure.

The Big 12 Champs (they are the legit Big 12 Champs)  are No.1 until someone knocks them off.

TCU

The Horned Frogs disagree with everything I just said about true champs and who is the top contender. A questionable play call/referee non-call at Baylor last year led to TCU’s only loss of the season, and this year that game is in Fort Worth. They know that. Leading the way is quarterback Trevone Boykin, who exploded on the scene last year with nearly 4,000 yards passing and 33 touchdown passes. It’s pretty amazing the transformation Boykin went through from 2013 to 2014, going from a wide out playing qb for a 4-8 team to the Heisman-contending star for a top 10 team. And now Boykin is likely the leading candidate for the Heisman going into 2015. He’s quick, accurate and athletic and he’s taken to the air raid offense like a fish to water. Like Baylor, they return their offensive line (four of the five) and their top three receivers, including Josh Doctson (2nd Team All Big 12, 1,018 yards receiving, 11 tds). They have a deep, talented backfield led by a pair of Nebraska transfers (Aaron Green, Shaun Nixon) and of course Boykin. On defense they aren’t as deep and experienced as Baylor, but head coach Gary Patterson is a defensive guru that has proven again and again that he reloads on defense as well Art Briles does on offense. The kickers are experienced and there is wicked deep speed and athleticism in the return game, so they should have a killer unit on special teams.

And that chip on their shoulder is just as big, heavy and irritating as it on Baylor’s. This conference could easily come down to Baylor at TCU the Friday of Thanksgiving, and that’s exactly what TCU wants to see happen. Obviously they are hiccups (like ou coming to TCU six days before the Baylor game), but if the top two handle their business, that should be a monster Thanksgiving weekend.

ou

So many mixed emotions. I want to be a team player, I do. I am all in for the Big 12. I root for the other teams against everyone outside the conference, and that includes the sooners. But here’s the thing: I hate them. HATE. THEM. I’ve never, ever talked about the oklahoma sooners, outside of the Texas game, in the 15+ years I’ve been writing about Texas football. I don’t capitalize their name or their mascot or ever talk about them. EVER. That’s how much I hate them. It’s every second of every day, not just in Dallas in mid-October. But we are stuck with each other and it works, like Tango & Cash. Maybe I should bury that hatred and move forward, explaining how I feel about their reinstated running back, their former Tech quarterback and new offensive coordinator. That would be the wise and rational thing to do.

If you know me at all, you know I’m neither wise nor rational, so that’s just not going to happen. So my preview of the oklahoma sooners is this: In 2008, a Japanese man noticed his food going missing, so he set up a webcam and found that a woman had been living in his closet for a year http://www.funfactz.com/weird-facts/japan-man-food-missing-3013.html#sthash.JtXZCCMK.dpuf.

Oklahoma State

There is a very good chance the following statement could completely blow up in my face: I don’t think Oklahoma State is as good as advertised. I am not all saying that are not going to be good and/or not going to be in all their games, but I don’t see them cracking the top three/four of the Big 12. I know they had an amazing run to end the season… well, going 2-1 to end the season isn’t really an “amazing run” but it was impressive: they almost didn’t lose to Baylor, they stunned ou in overtime and beat Washington in the Cactus Bowl.  They found a quarterback in true freshman Mason Rudolph, who was on his way to redshirting before the staff ripped it off in game 11, throwing for 853 yards, six touchdowns and four picks. I still can’t believe they wasted an entire season of their future qb’s career for three games. They have some talent outside at wide out, but after a domestic violence arrest the dynamic Tyreek Hill was kicked out of school and he was far and away their best playmaker. Look for tight end Jeremy Seaton to be the go-to guy, but there is no experience at running back with graduation of Desmond Roland the kicked-to-the-curb-ness of Hill. Still, Rudolph has a lot of weapons to choose from when throwing the ball. On the defensive side they were bad last year: 94th nationally in scoring defense. I see some solid guys and at least one next-level type in defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah (11 sacks last year) and I think they will be better, but will they be better enough to control the likes of TCU, Baylor, Tech and the new air raid tempo at ou? I don’t think so, and as well as Rudolph played the last few games, the lack of a solid running game and the offense could be one-dimensional very quickly. That sounds like the recipe for mediocre. And that’s where they end up, but it’s still bowling and trending up.

West Virginia

See Oklahoma State. This is just about the same thing: a new quarterback (Skyler Howard had 829 yards, 8 tds, 0 picks in relief of Clint Trickett) lost their best playmaker (no off-the-field issues, but the super Kevin White is gone to the NFL after being a top 10 pick) and have a middle-of-the-road defense that struggled at times. They have a better run game than Oklahoma State, but roadies to Baylor, TCU and ou are going to be brutal. I think they can get to seven wins, but the swing game is Texas. After coming to Austin two years ago and winning a shootout against the Longhorns, Texas has won the last two, including the biggest win of the Charlie Strong era last fall. I see the Neers and the Cowboys are nearly equal, but I’m giving the nod to the Gundys to finish a little better, but it could go either way. I think they go bowling for sure and probably burn couches in the process.

Kansas State

Everything about this team tells me they are going to be underwhelming. They lost their best offensive player since Darren Sproles in wide out/kick returner Tyler Lockett and his counterpart on the other side, Curry Sexton. They lost quarterback Jake Waters and tight end Zach Trujillo and their two best defenders in Jonathan Truman and Ryan Mueller. They have a quarterback that has never started at quarterback. I don’t mean in college, I mean ever. Joe Huebner is a former walk-on that has played all over the field, including quarterback, but never started. The good news is four starters return up front, but they lost superstar center BJ Finney to the NFL. Defensively they are solid, but the loss of Mueller and Truman will definitely affect their No.2-in the-Big-12 rush defense from last year. On paper, they look super “meh.” Bill Snyder’s offense is notoriously difficult for young quarterbacks to learn, and while Huebner isn’t exactly a young player, he’s inexperienced which is nearly the same thing.

But I’ve thought this before, and that’s when K-State rises up and wins the Big 12. Bill Snyder is a fantastic coach and he’s proven time and again that his methods work and work well. I don’t expect K-State to be the meteor in the Big 12 this year, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been wrong

Texas Tech

It looks like a lot of fun to play for Kliff Kingsbury. His kids love him, he seems to love them and he’s just cool… However, I think KK’s time in Tortilla Flats is coming to an end pretty soon. He’s got some talent with quarterbacks Davis Webb and Patrick Mahomes as well as DeAndre Washington at tailback and a new DC to try and fix that horrid defense, but I just don’t think this is working that well. Maybe I’m wrong and this is the year Tech turns the corner, but history and trends tell me that just isn’t the case. They are going to need to win some road games to go bowling this year, and they surely could if they can get hot offensively. But is a 6- or 7-win team the goal? I doubt it. I know they love Kingsbury out there, but last year they gave up 82 points in a football game to someone in conference play. Most coaches don’t survive that, and as much as they like him eventually that affinity for the former-player-turned-coach will wear off if things don’t turn around. I don’t see them turning around enough. But again, what do I know?

Iowa State

I really like Paul Rhoads, too. There was a rumor that he was on the short list of coaches being considered for the Texas job a while back and I would have been fine with that. I like his fire, his personality and his intensity. The problem is he’s fighting in a Big 12 shootout with a spork from a fast food restaurant. He just doesn’t have the resources or the cache at Iowa State to compete with the money, facilities and sheer size of the fanbases he must play. He’s not going to offer any excuses for that, however. They expect to compete in every game they play. They aren’t correct, but that’s the plan.

I was really surprised last year was not the final round for Rhoads at Iowa State as the Cyclones went winless in the Big 12 and lost 10 overall. I think it could be a little better this year, and you can believe after the last two games with Texas they kids up there will make that Halloween home game the biggest of the year. Whatever happens there, I expect things end for Rhoads this fall and, just maybe, the Mark Mangino era will begin.

Kansas

David Beaty is the new coach at Kansas, leaving Texas A&M as the Aggies’ ace recruiter, recruiting coordinator and wide outs coach. He’s got deep ties to Texas and was instrumental in getting most of the talent at Aggieland to campus, and now he’s selling Jayhawk football to Texas high school kids. He’s got his work cut out for him, but there is some history with an Orange Bowl win and several players in the NFL. KU has always pulled players from Texas and that’s only going to increase with Beaty. It won’t matter this year because, you know, they stink. They will get better and pretty soon, but it won’t be this year. Or will it? No, I’m kidding. It won’t.

So…

It’s a two-horse race at the start, at least on paper. But the sooners with their new oc/reinstated players and that homeless woman living in the closet eating that guy’s food, the hotshot qb at OSU and Bill Snyder in the sunken stadium with his namesake could make a lot of noise this fall. And what about Texas? Well, we will start breaking them down next week.

See at the new site next week!!!

 

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