The Saturday Edge participated in a 2012 Big 12 preview with the guys over at College Football Zealots. Below are some of my additional thoughts on the Big 12 race this year along with my predicted order of finish for each team.
When it comes to putting together the 2012 Big 12 preview, if there is anything we learned from last season, it’s that there is no such thing as a sure thing. OU was not only overwhelmingly picked to win the Big 12 last year, they were picked by many to make it to the BCS Title Game.
But all they ended up getting was a lousy t-shirt that said “we couldn’t even win our own state.” For this season alone, OU isn’t exactly being talked about as a huge national title contender this year, and they are only a lukewarm favorite to win the conference.
Although OU is the consensus pick by most of the publications to win the Big 12, we may have to put out an APB to find the teams who are the other contenders. If OU truly is the best team, I don’t see a whole lot of difference between numbers 2 through 6.
Even the same Kansas State team who has all of their major components back this year are ranked just #6 in the conference by Phil Steele despite the Wildcats being a runner-up in the Big 12 last year.
Even the teams who are predicted to finish in the bottom half of the Big 12 like Texas Tech #7 and Baylor #8 both defeated OU last year. This tells you how tight of a race it promises to be. It’s going to be very hard to sort out this confusion. Made even tougher by the new schools coming into the conference.
It really is a crap shoot in trying to predict how West Virginia and TCU will adjust to a much tougher conference than where they came from. Even though WV won the Big East last year, we have to remember it’s still just an 8 team conference with a serious lack of offensive firepower. Does anybody think that any team (except possibly KU) who came out of the Big 12 would have finished in the bottom half of the Big East last year? I say no way.
With TCU the thing I call the “Dominance Factor” comes into play. TCU played at least a half a dozen games a year in which they were able to absolutely dominate their non-BCS opponents. Most of which had losing records. But what happens when they go from having this “dominance factor” advantage to playing 9 games on their schedule against BCS teams that played in a bowl game last year?
Not only that, in their last 5 games of the season they have to play teams who had a combined win/loss record of 50-15 last year! With the exception of possibly OSU, I don’t see any of these teams regressing from last season. So I will be very interested to see how the Horned Frogs handle this major upgrade in competition. Your guess is as good as mine. But even though they have one of the very best coaches in the country, there isn’t a whole lot that even Gary Patterson can do about team depth. And this is my biggest concern with the Horned Frogs, especially defensive depth.
1.Oklahoma - I’ve got to go with OU because of their combined offensive and defensive strengths. They may not have the offense of WV or the defense of Texas, but they aren’t lacking in either. But it’s by the smallest of margins, especially if they incur any more key injuries on the offensive line. And if Landry Jones goes down, all bets are off. It’s anybody’s game. But even if LJ stays healthy, OU has a number of potential roadblocks. First off is Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Does anybody really think the Sooners win this game by 38 this year? Another roadblock is having to play in both of the conference newcomers backyards. There will be many unknowns to deal with in going to new stadiums. With Landry Jones dealing with a semi-reshuffled OL, new WR’s and handing off to a RB that is coming off a season ending injury, OU is far from a sure thing this year. Things will have to fall just right for them to win the outright Big 12 title.
2.Texas - Just by their defensive personnel alone you have to put Texas at least #2. It comes down to the simple fact that nobody comes even remotely close to recruiting in the Big 12 like Texas and OU. And it usually takes outside circumstances to keep either of these teams from winning the conference. In OSU’s case last year, they benefited from a series of key injuries to OU, and Texas going through a complete overhaul of their coaching staff, schemes and QB’s. This year Texas should have things a little bit better together on offense. But the fact still remains that they have two QB’s who had trouble reading defenses and completing passes over 5 yards. And in order to run the ball like they want to, to take the pressure off of the QB(s), the offensive line needs to improve. So far I’m not hearing that many positive things about the OL. My general feeling about this team is they are probably still a year away from winning the conference.
3.West Virginia - With many of the Big 12 defenses seeming to be in a rebuilding mode or just downright awful, I tend to gravitate towards the teams with the best offenses and experienced QB’s. West Virginia fits that bill. I think they are entering the Big 12 at a perfect time. They have the majority of their team back, they have an experienced QB, and they have one of the more favorable schedules in the conference. They also have a coaching staff who is familiar with the Big 12 (Holgerson coached at both OSU and Texas Tech). Of course this team’s main question mark is their defense. But aside from the top 2 teams, who doesn’t have major questions at defense? I think this team is well equipped for Big 12 play and they could simply outscore many of their opponents like Baylor had to do last year.
4.Oklahoma State - I’m having trouble buying that the Pokes are going to fall THAT much. They have a very underrated coaching staff and system in place that promotes continued success with this program. I just don’t see the Pokes regressing that much. Aside from a game versus Texas, OSU doesn’t have a difficult first half schedule, so freshman QB Lunt should have ample time to get up to Big 12 speed. With the exception of their game at OU, they get all of their tough games at home. Stillwater in recent years has not been an easy place to play. They should also have a ton of confidence after their Big 12 title breakthrough last year. RB Joseph Randal could be the best and most versatile RB in the Big 12. He should help ease some of the pressure placed on the rookie QB.
5.Kansas State - If KSU had a little easier schedule I might rank them one or two places higher. With their ball possession style, mistake free, penalty free, turnover free football. they’ll continue to play close games. But I think with those tough road games, they won’t come out on top as many times as they did last year. The fact still remains that they were just ranked 110th in total offense last season, and won six games by a TD or less. Another problem I see is a DL that appears like it won’t be able to get enough pressure on the QB. They had real problems with this last year when they went up against talented QB’s like Landry Jones, RGIII and Brandon Weedon, who combined to score 145 points on them. It makes those trips to Norman, Morgantown and Fort Worth precarious at best.
6.TCU - If it wasn’t for Gary Patterson, I probably wouldn’t even put TCU this high because of all of the offseason troubles they’ve had that has cut into their overall depth. TCU starts off with a favorable enough schedule to where I think they can rack up a decent conference record before they get into their bottom loaded schedule where things could fall apart in a hurry. QB Pachall is a clutch QB and a game changer. So TCU will have a punchers chance in every game they play. But depth is going to be a real issue with this team. TCU simply isn’t used to playing this many good BCS teams in a row without a break. TCU also lost their kicker and punter, and their offensive line also must be retooled. This is a lot to overcome when entering into the BCS ranks for the first time. So unlike WV, this isn’t the best time for TCU to be entering the league.
7.Baylor - Baylor lost the best QB in college football last year, but they still have plenty of talent coming back. They just won’t have a game breaker like a Robert Griffin who gave them another huge dimension on offense. But they will still have a deep backfield, plenty of talent at WR and QB Florence saw his share of starts back in 2009. Defense is still a HUGE concern with this team. They MUST improve off of their 116th national ranking last season. The Bears had just 19 sacks last year. So unless they can improve their pass rush, they will have the same problems as KSU. This team will also have a ton of confidence coming into this season. They could very well finish higher than 7th if their defense can improve.
8.Texas Tech - With the amount of starters they have coming back, plus an experienced senior QB I very much want to rank this team higher. But TT is one of those teams I’m going to have to see before I make a proper evaluation on them. The reason for doubt lies at the top with Tommy Tubberville. I’m still not sure if he is the right man for the job. One thing that hasn’t changed that much is the strength of the Red Raiders will be offense. Besides QB Doege, they’ll have a talented group of WR’s and a couple of good RB’s. Their problem is a defense that will be on their fourth DC in four years, and yet another new scheme (4-3). They’ll also have 5 new JUCO’s that will try to make an immediate impact, which is always a gamble. But I don’t see a quick fix with this unit since they gave up nearly 500 yards per game last year (114th nationally). They’ll also have a lack of depth in the secondary, which is never good in the pass happy Big 12. After the OU game last year, they suffered a ton of injuries. We’re not talking about the minor type either. Most of the injuries were season ending injuries that required surgery. So Tech could be a little underestimated if people go strictly by what they did in the last 5 games of last season.
9.Iowa State - The Clones never fail to throw in a surprise win or two every year. And beating the conference winner last year was their biggest. I can see just about the same type of team we saw last year. Maybe a little better if they can find a QB. I do expect ISU to be a little more potent on offense. They also have a couple of the best LB’s in the conference on defense, but like a lot of teams in the conference, they are lacking playmakers in the secondary. The biggest thing is the QB issue with this team. HC Paul Rhoads has done a good job of recruiting backs and receivers. And we’ll see their talents this year if they can just find a QB that can deliver them the ball. This will probably be another 6-6 or 5-7 team. But Rhoads is building the Clones one piece at a time.
10.Kansas - The Jayhawks should be better on offense this year. They’ll be bringing Notre Dame QB transfer Dayne Crist. Kansas will also have an experienced offensive line and a couple of good, experienced running backs. But this is still a team who has won only three Big 12 games in the last 3 years. So it’s going to take some time to rebuild this team. Kansas was dead last in defense in college football last year (516 ypg). So it will take a monumental task to rebuild this unit.
Please leave me your thoughts and questions on the 2012 Big 12 preview below. Thanks.