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1 Improvement Every Big 12 Team Must Make to Win Conference Title in 2014

Sebastian LenaAnalyst IFebruary 11, 2014

1 Improvement Every Big 12 Team Must Make to Win Conference Title in 2014

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    Can the Bears repeat as Big 12 champs?
    Can the Bears repeat as Big 12 champs?LM Otero/Associated Press

    As is the case during every college football offseason, this is the time to reload.

    In the Big 12, Baylor will be focusing in on what it can do to repeat as conference champion, while the other nine teams will try to figure out what is needed to successfully dethrone the Bears.

    For some teams, the change is as simple as replacing a starter or two on defense. For others, there’s the difficult task of finding an answer at quarterback. And for one team, a complete overhaul of the coaching staff is the only way to turn things around.

    All in all, all 10 teams in the conference have some work to do over the next couple of weeks.

    Join B/R as we take a closer look at the biggest improvement each Big 12 team will need to make in order to contend for the conference title.

Baylor

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    Can the Baylor D regain its swagger?
    Can the Baylor D regain its swagger?Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    2013 W-L Record: 11-2

    Area of Improvement: Defense

     

    The Skinny

    It’s no secret that the Bears knew how to light up the scoreboard. The team finished 2013 ranked No. 1 in scoring (52.4 PPG) and No. 1 in total offense (618.2 YPG). 

    However, it was Baylor’s defense that did it in.

    In both losses from last season, the team coughed up over 500 yards and 49 points or more to its opponents. That was put on display during the Bears’ humiliating loss to UCF, 52-42, in the Fiesta Bowl.

    With the team expected to lose seven starters on the unit, defense could become an even bigger problem in 2014.

    Linebacker Bryce Hager and defensive linemen Shawn Oakman and Jamal Parker will look to make up for those losses. Expect 2014 signee and 4-star athlete Davion Hall to help out as well.

    if Baylor can figure things out defensively, there’s no reason to believe that the team can’t repeat as Big 12 champions.

Iowa State

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    Can Rhoads (left) turn the defense around?
    Can Rhoads (left) turn the defense around?David Purdy/Getty Images

    2013 W-L Record: 3-9

    Area of Improvement: Run defense

     

    The Skinny

    Surprisingly, the Cyclones could be pretty solid on offense. The team returns 10 starters on that side of the ball and will bring in veteran coach Mark Mangino as offensive coordinator.

    Throw in the addition of 4-star wide receiver Allen Lazard in the 2014 class, and Iowa State could strike fear in some Big 12 defenses next season.

    Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the team’s defense. More specifically, it’s run defense.

    In 12 games, the Cyclones finished No. 114 against the run (224.0 YPG). The team conceded 33 touchdowns on a whopping 5.35 yards per rush.

    That includes allowing over 200 yards of rushing eight times last season.

    Losing leading tacklers Jeremiah George and Jacques Washington won’t make the recovery any easier. The two also finished first and third on the team in tackles for loss respectively.

    If Iowa State can somehow fix the gap, it could be a Big 12 dark horse.

Kansas

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    Weiss is just not the answer for Kansas.
    Weiss is just not the answer for Kansas.Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    2013 W-L Record: 3-9

    Area of Improvement: Coaching

     

    The Skinny

    Sure, the Jayhawks aren’t the easiest football program to turnaround. In fact, the team hasn’t had a winning season in five years, winning just 14 games in that span.

    Still, head coach Charlie Weiss just doesn’t seem like the man for the job.

    In two seasons, the 57-year-old is just 4-20. That includes just one Big 12 win. 

    And let’s not forget that other than his first two seasons at Notre Dame, Weiss wasn’t that impressive. The Irish were 16-21 over his final three years, including a 3-9 mark in 2007.

    If Kansas hopes to get back on the winning path, it might want to start by changing the man leading the charge.

    It might just be the team’s only hope for success.

Kansas State

5 of 11

    Could a position change be in store for Sams (right)?
    Could a position change be in store for Sams (right)?Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2013 W-L Record: 8-5

    Area of Improvement: Rushing attack

     

    The Skinny

    Life without John Hubert will be tough for the Wildcats.

    In 13 games, the Waco, Texas, native rushed for 1,048 yards and 10 touchdowns on 198 carries. He also caught 13 passes for 129 yards, finding the end zone once.

    After Hubert, Kansas State’s second and third leading rushers were quarterbacks. Daniel Sams rushed for 807 yards and 11 touchdowns while Jake Waters added 312 yards and six scores.

    Given his athleticism, a position change could be in store for Sams.

    “I haven’t discussed that with any of the coaches,” Sams said, via The Kansas City Star's Kellis Robinett. “But I will talk to coach Snyder about it. I just want him to know I want to be on the field. When that time comes we will see how it goes.”

    Another option could be speedy and explosive 2014 signee and 3-star running back Dalvin Warmack

    The Wildcats are just a few pieces away from contending. Adding a formidable rushing attack could be the thing to push the team over the top.

Oklahoma

6 of 11

    Stoops is close to making a big run next season.
    Stoops is close to making a big run next season.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2013 W-L Record: 11-2

    Area of Improvement: Secondary

     

    The Skinny

    Following a stunning Sugar Bowl upset of Alabama, the Sooners enter the 2014 season with tremendous expectations.

    However, the secondary could be the Achilles’ heel for the team.

    Although Oklahoma returns nine starters back on defense—including its entire front seven—the loss of defensive back Aaron Colvin and safety Gabe Lynn leaves the team vulnerable in the back. It doesn’t help that that was an area of concern late in the season.

    The Sooners were burned deep several times near the end of the year. That includes coughing up 348 yards and three touchdowns to Kansas State while allowing the Crimson Tide to rack up 387 yards and two scores.

    Fortunately, the team has brought in some reinforcements in its 2014 recruiting class. Look for 4-star safety Steven Parker to step in and make an immediate impact.

    If Oklahoma can get this area under control, this is a team that not only will contend for a Big 12 title, but also for a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Oklahoma State

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    Roland (center) must emerge as a star in 2014.
    Roland (center) must emerge as a star in 2014.Richard Rowe-USA TODAY Sports

    2013 W-L Record: 10-3

    Area of Improvement: Inexperience

     

    The Skinny

    The Cowboys will return just nine starters out of 22 next season after losing 28 seniors to graduation. Among those departing are quarterback Clint Chelf and vaunted cornerback Justin Gilbert.

    Needless to say, Oklahoma State will have some major holes to fill on both sides of the ball.

    Although sophomore quarterback J.W. Walsh has some playing experience, he has proven to be inconsistent under center. More than likely, 2014 signee and 4-star quarterback Mason Rudolph could get some snaps early on.

    If the Cowboys can get consistent play from the quarterback position, and running back Desmond Roland can continue to stay hot, the offense may be able to make up for what should be a struggle on defense early on.

    But if the team can maneuver the early bumps unscathed, Oklahoma State could be a team to watch out for in the Big 12 race.

TCU

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    The Horn Frogs need someone other than Boykin to step up at QB.
    The Horn Frogs need someone other than Boykin to step up at QB.Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    2013 W-L Record: 4-8

    Area of Improvement: Quarterback not named Trevone Boykin

     

    The Skinny

    The Horned Frogs should be very stout on defense next season.

    If only the offense could follow suit.

    That starts at quarterback, where TCU will need to find somebody—other than Boykin—that can perform under center. The choice will be down to Tyler Matthews, Zach Allen, Grayson Muehlstein and Foster Sawyer.

    Boykin started the majority of 2013 at quarterback and performed poorly. He should stick to wide receiver where his athleticism and speed can be put to good use.

    If one of the four previously mentioned players can step up for the Horned Frogs, look for the team to make a surprising run at the Big 12 crown.

Texas

9 of 11

    2013 W-L Record: 8-5

    Area of Improvement: Quarterback

     

    The Skinny

    Don’t be fooled by Case McCoy’s stellar performance during the Longhorns upset of Oklahoma, 36-20, last year. Other than that game, the senior never topped a passer rating of 150.0 in a start last season.

    Unfortunately—if you will—McCoy will be graduating.

    Soon-to-be senior David Ash could be an option, but he hasn’t proven to be a capable starter over his career. Instead, look for soon-to-be sophomore Tyrone Swoopes and 2014 signee and 4-star quarterback Jerrod Heard to compete for the job.

    Texas should have a very solid defense with seven starters remaining, and running backs Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray should carry the rushing attack.

    The only thing holding the Longhorns back for a Big 12 charge is quarterback.

    Can they figure it out?

Texas Tech

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    Kingsbury will have his work cut out for him in 2014.
    Kingsbury will have his work cut out for him in 2014.Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Spo

    2013 W-L Record: 8-5

    Area of Improvement: The turnover battle 

    The Skinny

    The Red Raiders got off to one heck of a start in 2013, racing out to a 7-0 mark. However, the team wound up dropping five of its final six.

    Losing the turnover battle was a large part of that.

    Texas Tech finished last season ranked No. 123 with a negative-14 turnover margin. Furthermore, the team ranked No. 81 in turnovers gained (19) and No. 121 in turnovers lost (33).

    During the Red Raiders first seven games, its turnover margin was negative-4. In comparison, during the team’s final six games, that number dropped to negative-10.

    With only four starters returning on defense, Texas Tech’s biggest question mark will be how its defense will respond.

    It could also be the key to whether the team can contend for a conference title or not. 

West Virginia

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    Can Trickett (right) prove to be a consistent option at QB?
    Can Trickett (right) prove to be a consistent option at QB?Chris Jackson/Associated Press

    2013 W-L Record: 4-8

    Area of Improvement: Quarterback

     

    The Skinny

    This could be head coach Dana Holgorsen’s last chance to redeem himself with the Mountaineers. 

    If he winds up axed, he has inconsistent quarterback play to blame.

    Last season, Holgorsen experimented with juniors Clint Trickett and Paul Millard under center. Instead, both used the opportunity to play themselves out of the job.

    In fact, the duo combined to throw for 2,724 yards, 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions on 53.5 percent passing.

    West Virginia needs one of the two quarterbacks to step up to give its offense some kick. The unit returns seven starters back and will add in Pittsburgh-transfer Rushel Shell at running back.

    With consistent quarterback play, the Mountaineers could prove to be the surprise of the Big 12 next season.

     

    Unless otherwise noted, all stats, rankings and recruiting information courtesy of CFBstats and 247Sports.

    For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on FacebookTwitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.

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