2015 Big 12 football preview

TCU dominated the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl in their New Year's Six bowl game against No. 9 Ole Miss after dropping from No. 3 to No. 6 in the CFP rankings following a 55-3 thumping of Iowa State to end the regular season. (Bleacher Report)

TCU dominated the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl in their New Year’s Six bowl game against No. 9 Ole Miss after dropping from No. 3 to No. 6 in the CFP rankings following a 55-3 thumping of Iowa State to end the regular season. (Bleacher Report)

What a great way for the Big 12 to start the College Football Playoff era, right?

The 2014 season was likely one Bob Bowlsby would soon like to forget.  Sure, the TCU-Baylor game was arguably the Game of Year – at least the regular season – however, that loss cost the Horned Frogs a trip into the playoff. A 14-point loss in West Virginia would cost the Bears theirs just a week later.

The funniest part – depending on how you might look at it – TCU was No. 3 in the CFP Top 25 entering their season finale against Iowa State which they won 55-3 at home. The next day, TCU had dropped.

Three spots.

I’m fairly young, but I can’t remember seeing a team who won by 52 drop in the rankings, especially three spots.  I doubt it will happen again.

Ever.

Throw in that Bob Stoops decided to send Oklahoma State to a bowl game and you’ve got a weird 2014 season.

But that’s why we love the mess that is college football.

Regardless, the conference has been under some heat because its two best teams were left out (No.’s 5 and 6 in the rankings). Many have presented it as the Big 12 being the only Power Five conference without a conference championship game.

Bowlsby, of course, is adamant that isn’t the case.

Welcome back the same 10 schools this season, no additions and not much changed.

Except no more co-champions.  I guess the slogan is true, now.

I will break down each team, in the order I predict the final conference standings will be come December with game-by-game picks.

1) No. 2 TCU – 2014: 12-1; 8-1 – Peach Bowl Champions
TCU brings back almost everybody including their biggest weapon, Trevone Boykin who is arguably the preseason Heisman favorite.  The Horned Frogs were one dreadful collapse from making the College Football Playoff.  With Baylor, Texas and West Virginia at home this year, there likely isn’t much that can stop the machine in Fort Worth.  However, either the Mountaineers or Baylor are capable of toppling TCU in Fort Worth and the Oklahoma schools have the best chance when TCU hits the road.  Possibly the scariest part of this team is the offense, which put up 82 points against Texas Tech last year.  If they blow out Minnesota on the road to start the season off, the rest of the conference could possibly be playing for second place.

  • at Minnesota – W
  • vs. Stephen F. Austin – W
  • vs. SMU – W
  • at Texas Tech – W
  • vs. Texas – W
  • at Kansas State – W
  • at Iowa State – W
  • vs. West Virginia – W
  • at Oklahoma State – W
  • vs. Kansas – W
  • at Oklahoma – W
  • vs. Baylor – W

2) Oklahoma State – 2014: 7-6; 4-5 – Cactus Bowl Champions
The Cowboys were young in 2014 and losing J.W. Walsh to injury Week 2 definitely didn’t help cases.  Now responsible for grooming two Big Ten QBs – Wes Lunt (Illinois) and Daxx Garman (Maryland) – it appears to be young Mason Rudolph’s turn to lead the Pokes.  The offensive line has had time to mold and should be much better than a year ago.  The biggest question could be at running back, with the dismissal of Tyreek Hill who recently pleaded guilty to a domestic abuse charge.  The Cowboys seem to be best in odd-numbered years (2011 – conference champions; 2013 – one play from conference champions).  In a weak conference, mark Nov. 7 on your calendar.  The game against TCU could be the second sell-out in Boone Pickens Stadium history and the Big 12 Championship Game by default.  However, expect the Cowboys to drop a game at either Texas or West Virginia and don’t be surprised if they drop one either at Iowa State or at home to Baylor or Oklahoma.

  • at Central Michigan – W
  • vs. Central Arkansas – W
  • vs. UTSA – W
  • at Texas – W
  • vs. Kansas State – W
  • at West Virginia – L
  • vs. Kansas – W
  • at Texas Tech – W
  • vs. TCU – L
  • at Iowa State – W
  • vs. Baylor – W
  • vs. Oklahoma – L

3) No. 4 Baylor – 2014: 11-2; 8-1 – Cotton Bowl
Ah, Baylor, seemingly the nation’s favorite Big 12 school.  Honestly, I was cheering for Texas Tech to pull off the upset last year in the BU-TT Bowl (which is a name I seriously think needs to catch on).  With Bryce Petty now playing for the New York Jets, I’m curious to see how the Baylor QB situation plays out.  Seth Russell gets the start on opening night, but that could change.  Shawn Oakman is supposed to be this enormous specimen, but a source who met Oakman at Big 12 Media Days said Oakman’s size is severely over-hyped.  Fittingly enough, so is Baylor.  I would not be surprised to see Baylor lose a game like Texas Tech this year.  Another possible L for the Bears is West Virginia.  The Big 12 is a weak conference and Baylor’s hype could become evidence of that.

  • at SMU – W
  • vs. Lamar – W
  • vs. Rice – W
  • vs. Texas Tech (in Arlington, Texas) – L
  • at Kansas – W
  • vs. West Virginia – W
  • vs. Iowa State – W
  • at Kansas State – W
  • vs. Oklahoma – W
  • at Oklahoma State – L
  • at TCU – L
  • vs. Texas – W

4) No. 19 Oklahoma – 2014: 8-5; 5-4 – Russell Athletic Bowl
The Sooners were a let-down last year.  There’s no other way to say it.  Trevor Knight showed potential.  After the season, the Sooners hired former Texas Tech QB and East Carolina offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, to take over for Josh Heupel.  Riley’s play-calling suits the way Trevor Knight played in high school, which is why the Sooners went after Knight in the first place.  Now, instead, they’re going with Baker Mayfield.  I firmly expect Knight to take over as starter before the midpoint of the season.  I wouldn’t be surprised if OU were to lose Bedlam for consecutive years for the first time since 2001 and 2002.  The Red River Rivalry may even fall in the Longhorns’ favor, depending upon Mayfield/Knight and the Sooner running backs.  One thing I said that received mixed reactions in Stillwater, “I think Stoops may be reaching the end of his stay in Norman.”

  • vs. Akron – W
  • at Tennessee – L
  • vs. Tulsa – W
  • vs. West Virginia – L
  • vs. Texas (in Dallas, Texas) – W
  • at Kansas State – L
  • vs. Texas Tech – W
  • at Kansas – W
  • vs. Iowa State – W
  • at Baylor – L
  • vs. TCU – L
  • at Oklahoma State – W

5) West Virginia – 2014: 7-6; 5-4 – Liberty Bowl
West Virginia is, arguably, the most underrated team in the Big 12 entering the 2015 season.  The Mountaineers’ air-raid attack has improved each year under coach Dana Holgersen.  Last year, the Mountaineers made it back to a bowl game and lost a game which was…interesting, to say the least.  In 2014, West Virginia was great in late-game scenarios against both Baylor and Texas Tech, keeping the Bears at bay in Morgantown and making a come back to beat Tech in Lubbock.  Now, Skyler Howard has the full-time starting position after Clint Trickett’s retirement/graduation.  Howard’s performance in the Liberty Bowl, without much time for preparation, let alone first-team reps, was pretty impressive.  Any time the Mountaineers lose a big-time wide receiver another seems to pop out of the ground, which could help WVU be better than most expect in 2015.

  • vs. Georgia Southern – W
  • vs. Liberty – W
  • vs. Maryland – W
  • at Oklahoma – W
  • vs. Oklahoma State – W
  • at Baylor – L
  • at TCU – L
  • vs. Texas Tech – L
  • vs. Texas – W
  • at Kansas – W
  • vs. Iowa State – W
  • at Kansas State – W

6) Kansas State – 2014: 9-4; 7-2 – Alamo Bowl
The Wildcats will be bowl eligible.  That’s just the Bill Snyder way.  They lost everybody except little Gronk.  According to the Wichita Eagle, though, the Wildcats have yet to announce a starting quarterback for Saturday’s opener against South Dakota.  It seems like, every year, it doesn’t matter what anyone says about K-State, they’re fine.  They’ll play everyone tough and even “shock” a few teams.  But, is it really a shock?  Bill Snyder is without a doubt one of the greatest college football coaches of all time.  Although, it does appear to be a rebuilding year in Manhattan.

  • vs. South Dakota – W
  • at UTSA – W
  • vs. Louisiana Tech – W
  • at Oklahoma State – L
  • vs. TCU – L
  • vs. Oklahoma – W
  • at Texas – W
  • vs. Baylor – L
  • at Texas Tech – W
  • vs. Iowa State – W
  • at Kansas – W
  • vs. West Virginia – L

7) Texas Tech – 2014: 4-8; 2-7
After my initial tweet a while back, I had to move the Raiders.  As much as I don’t want to say it, this is coach Kliff Kingsbury’s last shot at a good year or he will likely lose his job.  Kingsbury’s offenses are exhilarating, incredible and awesome to watch.  However, his defenses typically just flat suck.  Granted, they’ve gone through an average of one defensive coordinator per year for the last six years and just hired No. 7 in January.  Although, David Gibbs served as Houston’s interim head coach last year, which (hopefully) should help.  I’m hoping the defensive line improved dramatically, but a source tells me it’s still bad.  Actually, they said it looks like a 4A high school defensive line in Texas.  A trip to Fayetteville during Week 3 (on ESPN2, mind you) could lead us to say, “Hey, Tech ain’t too terrible,” or it could just be brutal (much like last year’s Arkansas game).  Six or seven wins isn’t an unreasonable expectation for the Red Raiders.  Eight?  No, especially because they play a team Week 1 with more wins in the last four years than any other Division 1 program in Texas.  Although, it’s an FCS game, it’s not a sure-fire win.  Sorry, Tech fans.

  • vs. Sam Houston State – W
  • vs. UTEP – W
  • at Arkansas – L
  • vs. TCU – L
  • vs. Baylor (in Arlington, Texas) – W
  • vs. Iowa State – W
  • at Kansas – W
  • at Oklahoma – L
  • vs. Oklahoma State – L
  • at West Virginia – W
  • vs. Kansas State – L
  • at Texas – L

8) Texas – 2014: 6-7; 5-4 – Texas Bowl
This will likely be one of if not the worst Texas team in a very long time.  The Longhorns will be lucky to win six games.  I firmly expect them to go, at best, 5-7.  But, they’ll give Oklahoma a run for its money.  The Longhorns area a very unstable team and I don’t see that changing in 2015.  However, it isn’t fair to knock this against Charlie Strong.  This year should count only for him.  If Strong can get this team to be bowl eligible, then Texas will be a force to be reckoned with starting in 2016.

  • at Notre Dame – L
  • vs. Rice – W
  • vs. Cal – W
  • vs. Oklahoma State – L
  • at TCU – L
  • vs. Oklahoma (in Dallas, Texas) – L
  • vs. Kansas State – L
  • at Iowa State – W
  • vs. Kansas – W
  • at West Virginia – L
  • vs. Texas Tech – W
  • at Baylor – L

9) Iowa State – 2014: 2-10; 0-9
Iowa State will not finish last in the Big 12.  Write it down, circle it, put a star by it, it will not happen.  Granted, it’s only (to me) because of the changing of the guard in Lawrence.  I don’t see the Cyclones being any better than last year.  I also don’t see them being any worse.  Paul Rhodes is still a good coach but it’s ridiculously hard to get recruits to go to Ames, Iowa.  I actually feel bad for him, because if he were at a program that could draw recruits, he’d have the record of a winning coach.  I’m curious about Iowa State’s quarterback situation, with Sam Richardson having 19 games as a starter.  If Richardson improved, the Cyclones are going to scare some people.

  • vs. Northern Iowa – L
  • vs. Iowa – W
  • at Toledo – W
  • vs. Kansas – W
  • at Texas Tech – L
  • vs. TCU – L
  • at Baylor – L
  • vs. Texas – L
  • at Oklahoma – L
  • vs. Oklahoma State – L
  • at Kansas State – L
  • at West Virginia – L

10) Kansas – 2014: 3-9; 1-8
I know they have a new coach, but Kansas will likely look bad this year.  If anyone knows how I can make the money that Charlie Weis is rumored to be making from Kansas, let me know, because I’d love to pay off my loans.  Clint Bowen stays on the staff as the defensive coordinator, after almost beating Oklahoma State as the interim head coach in 2014.  David Beaty is the new man in charge, but don’t look for changes yet.  Although, he’s made a splash in recruiting already, those benefits won’t be seen until at least 2016.  It’s going to be rough for anyone sporting the Jayhawk on their apparel.  On a side note, whose idea was it to schedule Oklahoma for the homecoming game?  Not a good one, there.

  • vs. South Dakota State – L
  • vs. Memphis – W
  • at Rutgers – L
  • at Iowa State – L
  • vs. Baylor – L
  • vs. Texas Tech – L
  • at Oklahoma State – L
  • vs. Oklahoma – L
  • at Texas – L
  • at TCU – L
  • vs. West Virginia – L
  • vs. Kansas State – L

College football is a beautiful creature.  And it’s finally back.

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