Big 12 Football: 5 Big Storylines to Look Forward to in 2012
With some teams leaving and others coming in, the Big 12 Conference looks to be one of the most interesting coming in to the 2012 season.
How will West Virginia and Texas Christian shake up the standings? Can Baylor sustain the momentum they gained in 2011 even without Robert Griffin III? Will Bill Snyder be up to his old tricks again in Manhattan? What coaches are on the biggest hot seat?
And all of that is just a small look at all the questions facing the Big 12 this season.
Here are the biggest story lines heading into the 2012 season in the Big 12.
The Newbies Impact: West Virginia and Texas Christian
The first one's obvious. How will new members West Virginia and Texas Christian fit into the Big 12?
West Virginia's offense will look to be one of the best in the country in 2012. Not only will Dana Holgorsen's offense likely flourish with Geno Smith at quarterback, but the Mountaineers have the receivers to move the ball, too. Get used to seeing wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey put up big numbers this season.
Texas Christian's offense will be looking decent too. While the Horned Frogs lose five starters, including three on the offensive line, they will still have they play makers to put up points.
Quarterback Casey Pachall will look to improve on his 2,921 yards passing and 25 touchdowns in 2012 especially with the help of wide receiver Josh Boyce. Running back Ed Wesley look to build on his 726 yards rushing in 2012 also.
Both West Virginia and Texas Christian have some question marks on defense however. The Mountaineers have big holes to fill on defense with loss of Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller at defensive line and Najee Goode and Casey Vance at linebacker. The Horned Frogs will take a hit with the loss of linebacker Tank Carder but will still look to defensive lineman Stansly Maponga and linebacker Kenny Cain.
Regardless of the holes on defense for both teams, the Mountaineers and the Horned Frogs look to be contenders for the Big 12 Championship in their inaugural season in the conference.
Will Kansas Improve Under Charlie Weis?
Coming into the 2012 season, Charlie Weis' hire at Kansas is a questionable one in my opinion.
There are reasons to be optimistic though. With Dayne Crist at quarterback and former BYU quarterback Jake Heaps in the backfield in 2013, Weis will have the talent at quarterback to get the offense going with the Jayhawks.
Weis won't have much to work with outside of the quarterback position, as the depth at the offensive line and running back positions are mediocre.
However, Weis had a hard time getting Florida's offense going in 2011, and the talent at Kansas is quite the step down from any SEC school.
Additionally, Weis needs to get the defense going in Lawrence. While the Big 12 is not known for its outstanding defenses, the Jayhawks were dead last in the FBS (120th) in points against per game (43.8). The defense returns seven starters, but none are expected to make outstanding contributions.
Given Tuner Gill was axed after only two disastrous, I assume Weis is working with a similar, tight time frame. Given the tough hand dealt, Weis will need to execute nearly perfectly to turn the Jayhawks around.
Who knows? Maybe Charlie Weis will be the right guy after he recruits his own players. Only time will tell.
Collin Klein and Company at Kansas State
On paper, the Wildcats may be just as good as the 10-3 Cotton Bowl team of 2011 thanks to the offense.
In fact, the Wildcat offense may be even better in 2012.
The entire offensive backfield returns, and it all starts with Collin Klein. Klein may not put up the video game numbers as many high-profile Heisman candidates, but he is still a severe dual-threat quarterback who may emerge as a dark-horse contender for the Heisman.
Klein also has a great supporting cast among the eight starters returning for the Wildcats. Tyler Lockett, only a sophomore, is a Big 12 All-Conference returner for the Kansas State. Running back John Hubert will look to improve on his 970 yards additionally this upcoming season.
The only big concern on offense for the Wildcats is the offensive line as they look to replace three starters.
Look for senior cornerback Nigel Malone and senior linebacker Arthur Brown to be big contributors on defense.
It will be exciting to see what Bill Snyder delivers in Manhattan in 2012.
Is Mack Brown's Seat Getting a Little Warm?
Is Mack Brown on the hot seat? Probably not. Remember though, this is Texas, not North Texas.
After the 2010 BCS National Championship appearance by the Longhorns, Texas is only 13-12 in the past two seasons including a dismal 5-7 finish in 2010 including a sixth place finish in the Big 12 South.
An approximate .500 record in a combined two seasons is not acceptable at Texas.
Brown's contract extension will keep him in Austin though the 2020 season, but he needs to get the Longhorns to step it up to keep the Texas faithful happy.
The Longhorns return nine starters on offense, but still have the same questions at quarterback concerning David Ash and Case McCoy. Sophomore running back Malcolm Brown will look to contribute more from the backfield in 2012.
Cornerback Carrington Byndom and defensive end Alex Okafor look to be the biggest contributors on defense.
The Longhorns have an easy non-conference slate which should help, with games against Wyoming, New Mexico and at Ole Miss.
Texas has the talent to make noise and return to a BCS bowl as soon as 2012, but big improvements, especially in the offensive backfield need to be made for that to happen.
Can the Sooners Live Up to Expectations?
It seems like every year Oklahoma is one of the favorites to win the Big 12 and one of the favorites to win the BCS National Championship. 2012 is no different.
One of the biggest questions is identical to their biggest downfall in 2012: injuries.
Quarterback Landry Jones is back and is already Oklahoma's all-time career leading passer in school history. However, can Jones stay healthy and consistent throughout the entire season?
The Sooners have the offensive line of a championship team, with four starters returning led by All-American center Gabe Ikard.
Oklahoma won't be anything special on defense, but should be good enough. The Sooners have seven starters returning, most notably cornerback Demontre Hurst.
Bob Stoops will lead another Sooner team the talent and championship potential. The question is if the Sooners can live up to the expectations in 2012.