We continue with our series of weekly Conference Conversations with the first of six Q & A sessions discussing Big 12 football.
We have once again scoured the Internet to bring you some of the best information and opinions about Big 12 football. Joining us this week will be Jay Beck of the Big 12 football blog Turfburner. Amanda Staver of RideSchooner, Ride, and the Senior Editor for the Oklahoma Sooners. Allen Kenney of Blatant Homerism, one of the coolest named college football blogs ever. As if that wasn’t enough, we also have Flint Harris of Holy Turf and the guys from the West Virginia blog, EER Insider. It’s time to talk Big 12 football.
Jay Beck – Turfburner.com: Honestly, the Big 12 race is wide open. While I agree with the Oklahoma pick as the favorite, there are at least three others outside Texas that will challenge the Sooners.
West Virginia - as good as the offenses are in the Big 12, none may be better than West Virginia’s this season. Quarterback Geno Smith and wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey are as good as any trio in the league right now.
Kansas State finished 7-2 and in second place in the Big 12 last season. They also return 16 starters from last year so it stands to reason they’ll be right in the thick of the race again this season. Of course, there are reasons for concern with Kansas State, as well (as you’ll see in the answer to number three).
Oklahoma State - let’s throw the Cowboys in there simply because they are the defending Big 12 champs. Yes, they lost Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon and have selected a true freshman as their starting quarterback (Wes Lunt) but the Cowboys didn’t win 41 games over the last four seasons by accident. Something is working right in Stillwater.
Amanda Staver – Ride Schooner, Ride: Oklahoma SHOULD win the Big XII, but I think West Virginia has a legitimate shot at surprising the odd makers in Vegas. I would almost give them better odds than Texas. The Mountaineers have a typical Big XII style QB with Geno Smith coming in, throwing 4000+ yards last season. He also comes into the Big XII as one of the more experienced QB’s in the conference with 26 starts. The Mountaineers also have 2 players showing up on Phil Steele’s All-Big XII offensive first team; both of which are major targets for Smith: Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. West Virginia’s main issue will be playing against a tougher defense than they are used to seeing in the Big East. The Big XII defenses’ weren’t as impressive as past seasons in 2011, but still a major upgrade from let’s say… USF.
Another team you can never count out is a Bill Snyder coached Kansas State. They have Colin Klein returning at QB, who accounted for 70% of the Wildcats offense last season. Bill Snyder has to be one of the best player developers in the game. He gives 2 and 3 star recruits the skills to hang with 4 and 5. The guy is a wizard.
Allen Kenney – Blatant Homerism: Realistically, I don’t see a lot of teams winning this league besides those two. They just have such a talent edge on the rest of the conference.
If there’s one team that could unseat those two, I’d have to go with West Virginia. If you want to win in the Big 12, you have to be able to score. The Mountaineers have an explosive offense, led by arguably the conference’s best quarterback in Geno Smith. Head coach Dana Holgorsen is one of the best offensive minds in the game and is familiar with the Big 12′s style of play.
I think WVU may struggle to adjust a bit to the week-to-week upgrade in competition, but the ‘Eers do have a chance to make some noise in their first year in the league.
Flint Harris – Holy Turf: Keep an eye on West Virginia. They obviously benefited greatly from the extra practices before blowing Clemson out in the Orange Bowl, and they did not lose a lot from the 2011 team.
EER Insider: It’s hard to argue with the favorites chosen by the odds-makers. If I were to debate one, though, it would be Texas. The Longhorns not only have several question marks leading into the 2012 season, but they come at critical positions. The quarterback battle needs to be officially determined. In addition, they’ll be replying on youth in many spots.
The other two teams I could see potentially sneaking in would be West Virginia and Kansas St. While I’m personally not sold on the Wildcats, they do return a handful of starters on both sides of the ball. I have questions about their offense, but the potential is there.
The Mountaineers have several things working in their favor. They possess an offense that almost guarantees them to be in every game, a favorable schedule which includes Oklahoma, Kansas St and TCU at home, and the desire to prove their worth to the their new conference mates.
The Saturday Edge: Mainly because of a favorable schedule, I will say that West Virginia has the best chance of challenging Oklahoma and Texas for the Big 12 conference title. However, I believe the entire Big 12 race is wide open this season. No team, not even Oklahoma and Texas are without question marks.
This question really got me to thinking about the Big 12 race for this upcoming season, so I decided to delve a little deeper into some of the conference contenders and I expand upon my answer to this current question here.
Please let me know who you think can challenge OU and Texas this year for the Big 12 by leaving a comment. Thanks – GoSooners.