Big 12 Football Season Preview

Tim StoeckleContributor IIIAugust 19, 2012

Big 12 Football Season Preview

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    Either Oklahoma or Texas had won the Big 12 title in each year from 2004-2010, but Oklahoma State took advantage of disappointing seasons from the Sooners and Longhorns and won their first ever Big 12 title in 2011.

    With Missouri and Texas A&M now in the SEC, the Big 12 welcomes new members West Virginia and TCU.  Both teams are legitimate threats in their first year in the conference.

    Oklahoma is once again the favorite, and Texas is expected to have a bounce-back year.  Overall, the field is wide open, and it should be another exciting year for the Big 12. 

Oklahoma Sooners 11-1 (8-1)

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    Big 12 Prediction: First

    National Rank: Fourth

    As always, expectations were high for the Sooners last year, but the team finished the regular season with a 9-3 record and earned an invitation to the Insight Bowl, where they blew out an overmatched Iowa team.

    Quarterback Landry Jones is back in Norman and could be a Heisman finalist if he cuts down on his interceptions.  Jones threw for 4,463 yards and 29 touchdowns last year, but he threw 15 interceptions, too.  

    The Sooners' running game returns a talented back in Dominique Whaley, who should see way more than the 113 carries he got last year.

    Oklahoma struggled on defense at times last year, which cost them close games against Baylor and Texas Tech.  

    This year, the Sooners return seven starters, including all four starters in the secondary.  

West Virginia Mountaineers 10-2 (7-2)

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    Big 12 Prediction: Second

    National Rank: 11th

    West Virginia enters the Big 12 and immediately becomes a contender for the conference title.

    The Mountaineers will fit right into their new conference, as they have an explosive offense that is filled with playmakers.

    Quarterback Geno Smith is a Heisman candidate who threw for 4,385 yards, 31 touchdowns and seven interceptions last year.  His top two targets return as well; Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin create one of the best receiver duos in the country.

    Defense is where the Mountaineers will struggle this year, as only six starters return from a defense that wasn't all that great last year.

    The defensive line is the biggest concern, and if you can't get pressure on the quarterbacks in the Big 12, it will be hard to win.

Texas Longhorns 9-3 (6-3)

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    Big 12 Prediction: Third

    National Rank: 17th

    Texas is a program desperately trying to return to its glory days after a few years of disappointing football.

    The Longhorns were 8-5 last year, but they should be able to get to at least nine wins in the regular season this year.  

    Offensively, Texas needs consistent quarterback play out of David Ash or Case McCoy, whoever Mack Brown decides to start.  Luckily, the offense has a dynamic playmaker at running back.  Sophomore Malcolm Brown should build on his 742 yards from his freshman year and could emerge as one of the best backs in the country.

    The Longhorns' defense is as strong as any in the country, with the dynamic defensive end duo of Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor.  

    The secondary for Texas is also strong with cornerback Quandre Diggs entering his sophomore year.

Kansas State Wildcats 9-3 (6-3)

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    Big 12 Prediction: Fourth

    National Rank: 20th

    Kansas State was one of the biggest surprises in the country last year as they finished 10-3 and earned a spot in the Cotton Bowl.

    Now that teams know what to expect, quarterback Collin Klein needs to improve on his passing accuracy in order for this team to repeat last season's success.

    Klein threw for 1,918 yards and 13 touchdowns, but his real skill is in his ability to run the football, totaling 1,141 yards on the ground and an astonishing 27 touchdowns.

    Klein has a solid group of receivers returning, but the Wildcats need to replace three starters on the offensive line.

    Defensively, Kansas State returns six starters, including defensive end Meshak Williams, who recorded seven sacks last year.  

    Also back is middle linebacker Arthur Brown, who is the team's leading returning tackler with 101.

Oklahoma State Cowboys 8-4 (5-4)

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    Big 12 Prediction: Fifth

    National Rank: 23rd

    The reigning conference champions lost quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon to the NFL, but this team is still talented enough to compete in the Big 12.

    True freshman Wes Lunt looks to be the starter at quarterback for the Cowboys, and he has some talented receivers to help him out.  

    The Cowboys' running game is their biggest strong point on offense, as running back Joseph Randle is back.  Randle rushed for 1,216 yards last year and 24 touchdowns.  Randle could end up being a Heisman finalist this season.

    Oklahoma State struggled on defense last year, but they return eight starters and could end up with a very strong unit.

    All three linebackers return to Stillwater as well as both cornerbacks and free safety Daytawion Lowe.

TCU Horned Frogs 8-4 (5-4)

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    Big 12 Prediction: Sixth

    National Rank: 26th

    TCU will finally be playing with the big boys week in and week out.

    The Horned Frogs can be competitive in their first year as members of the Big 12, especially with the talent that they have on offense.

    Casey Pachall is one of the best quarterbacks in the conference.  His top target returns: wide receiver Josh Boyce, who had 998 receiving yards and nine touchdowns last year.

    Also returning are running backs Ed Wesley and Waymon James, who help create a very balanced offense.

    TCU has a young defense, but they do have some experience.  

    Three starters return on the defensive line, but cornerback Jason Verrett is the only secondary starter returning.  

Baylor Bears 7-5 (4-5)

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    Big 12 Prediction: Seventh

    National Rank: 43rd

    After having one of the best years in program history and losing the best quarterback in program history, it will be interesting to see where the Baylor Bears go from here.

    The offense will be led by new quarterback Nick Florence, who finally gets a chance to start in his senior season.

    He will be aided by a strong receiver unit, led by Terrance Williams, who had 957 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns a year ago.

    Baylor's defense was horrendous last season, ranking 116th in the country in total yards.  

    This year, eight starters return, including the entire secondary.  

    In that secondary is safety Sam Hall, who is the team's leading returning tackler.  Also back is cornerback KJ Morton, who picked off four balls last year. 

Iowa State Cyclones 4-8 (2-7)

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    Big 12 Prediction: Eighth

    National Rank: 69th

    The highlight of Iowa State's season a year ago was their November 18th win over then-undefeated Oklahoma State.  Unfortunately for the Cyclones, they didn't win a game after that.  

    Quarterbacks Jared Barnett and Steele Jantz are fighting for the starting job, but whoever wins the job will have a tough time with an inexperienced offensive line and a receiver unit that returns only one starter.

    The lone bright spot for the Cyclones' offense is running back James White, who ran for 743 yards and eight touchdowns last year.

    Surprisingly, Iowa State has one of the best linebacker units in the Big 12, led by seniors AJ Klein and Jake Knott.  Unfortunately, the line is a big question mark and may struggle to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Texas Tech Red Raiders 5-7 (2-7)

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    Big 12 Prediction: Ninth

    National Rank: 56th

    Once again, Texas Tech will have no problem putting up points.  

    The Red Raiders always have a dynamic passing game, and this year will be no different, as quarterback Seth Doege is back for his senior year.  

    Last season, Doege threw for 4,004 yards and 28 touchdowns against 10 interceptions.

    Doege has a talented group of receivers returning, including junior Eric Ward, who had 84 catches for 800 yards and 11 touchdowns last year.

    Defensively, Texas Tech struggled big time last year, ranking 117th in the country in scoring defense.

    The defensive line was a big problem for the Red Raiders last year, and only two starters return this year, so it could once again cost Tech some ballgames.

Kansas Jayhawks 4-8 (1-8)

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    Big 12 Prediction: 10th

    National Rank: 70th

    Kansas brought in Charlie Weis to be the new head coach, and he brought with him quarterback Dayne Crist, who transferred from Notre Dame.

    At Notre Dame in 2010, Crist threw for 2,033 yards and 15 touchdowns and could see better numbers in his first year in Lawrence.

    Crist has the talent, but does he have the supporting cast?

    The receiver unit is full of seniors, as Kale Pick, Daymond Patterson and DJ Beshears are all back.  The Jayhawks also have talented running backs in Tony Pierson and James Sims.

    The Kansas offense has a lot of potential, but their defense will prevent them from winning many games.

    The Jayhawks ranked dead last in the nation in scoring defense and total defense last year. 

    They return six starters, including defensive end Toben Opurum and safety Bradley McDougald, but the Jayhawks will once again struggle to stop anybody from scoring.

     

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