2013-08-23

FBS - Preview - Big 12

Now we get to the conference I can't get a hold on, this season.

Big 12 Conference

It's still joke, that the Big 12 has only 10 teams left (while the Big 10 did grow to 12 already).
Maybe they should switch their brand name ...
Just kidding. Of cause this will not happen.
The Big 12 ask the NCAA to grant them a championship games, even if they are 2 teams short the required 12 teams.
Well, the Big 12 did not get THAT wish granted, thanks NCAA.
At least at this point you had balls.

So obvious the Big 12 WILL look for additional teams, 2 at least, maybe even more.
I could now guess future targets, but it's not worth the effort.
Even people much deeper in the daily business at college football did not foresee some changes which happened in the last few seasons in all conferences.
It would make sense for the Big 12 to get teams from not already occupied states, so inviting teams out of Texas or Oklahoma wouldn't make sense.
But they did invite TCU so there is always an exception ....

Let's focus on the current line-up.

Teams added 2013:
NONE

Teams lost 2013:
NONE

So the number of teams for 2013 stays at 10 Teams.

So this season there are 10 Teams:
Baylor University Bears
Iowa State University Cyclones
University of Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas State University Wildcats
University of Oklahoma Sooners
Oklahoma State University Cowboys
University of Texas Longhorns
Texas Christian University (TCU) Horned Frogs
Texas Tech University Red Raiders
West Virginia University Mountaineers

Now let's get a bit into the details:

Baylor Bears
Art Briles, the headcoach of Baylor will probably get a statue on campus.
Now in his 6th season, he brought Baylor basically in the league of the big boys.
Baylor can now recruit those good talents out of Texas, which were in the past a lock for Oklahoma or Texas.
Baylor is recognised as a competitive team.
It's not like Briles did win the conference, no, he just got competitive and won a few more games than Baylor did in the past.
Most important, he does not lose automatically to Texas or Oklahoma anymore.
Well ... give credit also to that guy named Robert Giffin III.
He did basically put Baylor in the map, too.
But he is gone since last season and Baylor did suffer a bit, still went bowling (and won).
This season it should get a bit upwards.
How far? I don't know.

Non-Conference games are against: Wofford (FCS), Buffalo and Louisianaâ€"Monroe
If all goes right, this will be a 3 win start, but don't underestimate ULM.
They might give Baylor a fight they don't need at that point.

I expect them to get somewhere in the midfield, not sure if they can get higher than 4th.
Bad luck for them they got Kansas State on the road, and also TCU on the road.
The homes games look good, with West Virginia and Iowa State being probably the teams to beat for sure to climb high enough.

I don't see them drop deeper than 8th. But between 4th and 8th everything is possible.
Since this should be an up year, they will probably end up 4th in front of Kansas State.

Iowa State Cyclones
I don't like Iowa State, for no real reason. Maybe it's the stint of a losing team they seem to spread.
But that's not fair, since they are winning some games and even went bowling 3 out of 4 seasons (winning only one).
Paul Rhoads is in his 5th season as commander of that team and he did not do much.
Well, more than his predecessor, but not much more.
That makes it hard to predict their season, as every season.

Non-Conference games are against: Northern Iowa (FCS), Iowa and @Tulsa
That FCS game should be a walk in the park, the Battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy against rival Iowa will be probably a win (I’m leaning 60% for ISU), but that Tulsa game will be the toughest.
Away and against nice team ... Expect a 2-1 start here.

Assuming they will compete for a mid-field spot, they will have to win against some tough teams inside the conference.
On the road against Baylor does not help as also the road games against Kansas State and West Virginia.
The only winnable home game would be Kansas, so I doubt a nice record for that season.
They might steal a win against the Red Raiders, but I see them not climbing high.

Expect them to end up 7th or 8th in the conference on a down year.

Kansas Jayhawks
Ha, that's my favourite for the suckiest team of the whole Big 12.
I think Charlie Weis is not a good headcoach. He might be a good offense coordinator, but all his head coaching stints so far were rubbish.
Granted, he is only in his 2nd season with Kansas and there is plenty of room to get the team better, but I doubt he can do it.
Mark Mangino the pre-predecessor at Kansas was a good coach on the field (but he seemed to be an ass regarding his players ...) and was the only coach since the 60s to have a winning record with the Jayhawks.
Turner Gill did crash the team in only 2 seasons and Charlie Weis got a very nice contract to turn things around.
In his first season he got 1 win, losing as Big 12 team even against Rice and NIU.

Non-Conference games are against: South Dakota (FCS), @Rice and Louisiana Tech
I'm not very confident, that they will win more than the FCS game.
The Rice game will be a nice indication where the season will head.
I'm expecting no big change to last season, but they might get good enough to top Rice and LT.

But then does the conference games start and the might have started fun will stop.
They start with Texas Tech and @TCU, which might give them a nice uphill start (but I expect them to lose both).
Then they host Oklahoma to get spanked heavily.
Then Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma State. If there is still some fighting spirit in them now, they might even win on the rest of the schedule.

For me, this will be the bottom team, until they prove me wrong.
Might happen fast, since Charlie got desperate and invited lots of Junior College players, but I expect that experiment to fail.

Kansas State Wildcats
Colin Klein is gone (with not being drafted and not getting a contract after visiting the Texans Rookie camp) so Bill Snyder in his 22th season has to find a new starting QB.
This will take some wins of the board during the season, for sure.
They are some kind of dark horse, since nobody expected the rise of power under Colin Kleins watch and now every journalist and fan wonders if Snyder can duplicate such "wonder".
I expect them to drop a bit, not without some cat fight.

Non-Conference games are against: North Dakota State (FCS), Louisianaâ€"Lafayette and UMass
Well, at least this will give them a 3-0 start, which might be enough to give the next QB the security and confidence for the next steps.

With Texas (on the road), Oklahoma State (on the road) and Baylor (at home) as first 3 teams out of the conference the level of playing will be found very fast.
If they win at least one of those, expect them not to drop too deep.
If they lose all of them, which I expect, they have to win all games, until Oklahoma comes to town in late November.
Otherwise they will drop even further.

I sort them in as mid field team.

Oklahoma Sooners
I'm expecting much out of Norman this season.
They just HAVE to get back at top at some point, don't they?
Yes, Bob Stoops (15th season) and the Sooners won the conference again last season, with a tie again.
Last time they won it fair and square as single team? 2007.
And they lost the bowl last season.
On paper Bob Stoops looks like a genius, but he was hired to get national championships, not tied conference championships.
I wonder when the people at Norman will get greedy and fire their very successful coach?
I wouldn't do that, but you never know. It's all about expectations.

This season, despite some issues, the Sooners should be one of the contending teams.

Non-Conference games are against: Louisianaâ€"Monroe, Tulsa and @Notre Dame
Well, that's anything than a cupcake start for a season.
ULM will be good, but I expect them not to reproduce the upset mode they had last season (when they won against Arkansas).
This is a totally different situation and the Sooners will win for sure.
Tulsa should increase the needed effort to win about some levels but should also fall and then comes the big test.
I don't know, maybe it's just me, but if I read such a matchup like Oklahoma @ Notre Dame, I always think, 'uh, Notre Dame will lose'.
The reason for that is, Notre Dame was so long no match for such big programs as the Sooners are that I don't put them in their league.
I always think of them like they are some kind of old school once being famous sport star, not realising the world did change around them and there are new and bigger players around them.
To make it short, I expect this game to be close and I think the Sooners can win this.

To be honest, not many teams should be a match for them this season.
I think Oklahoma State (on the road and the toughest one) will challenge them, Texas (Red River Rivalry, neutral site) and Baylor (on the road, but the weakest of the mentioned ones).
The rest should be wins no matter who comes or where they have to play.

So, if they top the Cowboys, they will win the conference as single team, I'm sure.
Contending team for the conference title.

Oklahoma State Cowboys
Mike Gundy is in his 9th season and last season was the first time he had some kind of setback.
2011 did the Cowboys win the Conference and in 2012 they were only 3rd and not ranked since 2009.
This season is supposed to be a step back into the winning area and competing for the conference title.
That might happen, if the defense gets better.
They took too many points by the other strong programs last season.
Most hurting loss must have been the OT-loss against Oklahoma 48-51.
If that defense comes up improved to last season, they will compete with the top 4 teams for the title.
Some do see them even as favourite.
I give them not that edge, but it's close.

Non-Conference games are against: Mississippi State, @UTSA and Lamar (FCS)
What a strange setup.
Staring with a SEC team into the season is risky and they will even against Mississippi State need a focus start.
The margin for errors is slim. I expect them to win, but it won't be fun.
The next 2 games are basically games to play just to get them done.
If the Cowboys would lose one of those, they should can the season.

Here is the reason for the favourite part at some previews: They have only one strong away game.
They play Texas on the road, Oklahoma at home and also Baylor at home.
Then Kansas State and also TCU at home.
Who they play on the road?
Texas Tech (with a new coach), West Virginia (still adjusting for the Big 12) and Iowa State (still being Iowa State).
This looks like a perfect season for a dominating conference win.
For me, the key game is against Oklahoma on the last game day.
Eventually the conference is already decided at that point, but I doubt it.
There should be at least the tie for the conference lead at the line and probably a BCS Bowl participation.
Maybe even a national championship game consideration.

Contenders for the Conference title.

Texas Longhorns
The Longhorns did win the last national championship in 2005.
They competed in 2009 but lost the BCS championship game.
Since then did Mack Brown (in his 16th season now) win 22-16 games.
That's not enough in Longhorns nation.
Every sign is pointing for a better season that last season (which was 9-5 with a Bowl win) and having them compete for the conference.
For one of the 3 biggest programs in the US that is the least.
There are voices in Texas demanding the head of Mack Brown already.
If they suck again this season without a conference title and especially losing against Oklahoma, the fans will go nuts.
I think that's too much, but expectations are very high.
Bad luck if you (as Mack Brown did) did even raise those expectations during your era.

Non-Conference games are against: New Mexico State, @BYU and Ole Miss
Well, that's a nice ramp up.
New Mexico State will be down before the 1 quarter is over, BYU will be a bit of a bigger challenge, Texas has to bring their A game to dominate here.
And Ole Miss will probably be the toughest team to top.
That SEC team is on the rise and will not go down easily.
Here is a loss possible, even at home.
If Texas is really a contender, they have to win this.

Biggest games will be the Red River Rivalry against Oklahoma on neutral site (still in Texas) and the home game against Oklahoma State.
Biggest speed bump could be the road game against Baylor.
If Baylor is at that point still healthy, they might end Texas dream of dominance there.

I doubt a top 2 ranking in the conference, but it would be stupid to dismiss Texas as not able to content.
They are contenders with a slightly lesser chance for the big one.

TCU Horned Frogs
Gary Patterson is a good coach. He is now in his 13th season with TCU and he guided them from the WAC, the CUSA, through the MWC to the Big 12 and STILL have them competing.
Their debut in the Big 12 last season was 7-6 and for sure they will get better.
It's hard to tell, how well, but I doubt a losing season.
Their best weapon will be the defense, which might be the best the Big 12 has.
The offense is a bit of a concern, but Patterson can adjust, I'm sure.

Non-Conference games are against: LSU, SE Louisiana (FCS) and SMU
Strange setup and if everything goes the way the gods of American Football have destined the teams, they should end up 2-1 here.
LSU will be too much and the rest should be wins, even if SMU will be a bit of work.
Let's hope the June Jones offense will give the Gary Patterson Defense some work.
I still doubt a SMU win.

They have to play Oklahoma and Oklahoma State on the road in October.
That should mark the season. If they win one of those, they are better than expected.
Baylor on their last game at home will probably be the decider for a good or better season in the Big 12.

I think they will play for a mid-field position with a bowl participation.

Texas Tech Red Raiders
New coach here after Tommy Tuberville did bolt for the Cincinnati downgrade.
Kliff Kingsbury is a Kevin Sumlin (HC of Texas A&M) assistant and this is his first headcoaching job.
Not bad, since this is the Big 12.
Texas Tech is not a bad team, but far from being a regular threat against Texas and Oklahoma.
Still, it is possible to get them on competing level.
But I doubt them to be ready this season. Or the next one.
Too many coaching chances in too less seasons (3rd coach in 5 seasons).
Some teams do adjust to such changes, but I bet the Red Raiders will not match their last season record (8-5).

Non-Conference games are against: @SMU, Stephen F. Austin (FCS) and Texas State
SMU will be tough. On the road as first game? I mark this as a loss.
The rest will probably be wins.

4 away games and one on neutral site inside the conference sound OK, but I can't find really nice setups.
But I don't see much bad setups also, so chances are, they will win a few and lose a few.
I'm not sure if they will manage a positive season record, but probably they even will manage that.

Mid field team with tendencies for the lower part of the conference.

West Virginia Mountaineers
Dana Holgorsen is in his 3rd season as West Virginia head coach and he sure will adjust the team for the Big 12, in which they came last season, and did got a 7-6 record.
They looked like a nightmare team to play until mid-season (started 5-0), then did the team collapse (lost 5 in a row) and finished 5th in the conference.
Now Geno Smith is a NY Jet and the Mountaineers do need a new QB.
It looks like a rough season for the team and they might end up with a losing record.

Non-Conference games are against: William & Mary (FCS), Georgia State and Maryland
This is a soft start. All games should be wins, the Maryland game might be a challenge, but I'm not expecting much of the Terrapins.
3-0 start is a must.

Now starts the fun.
Between the non-conference games, they have to play Oklahoma on the road, and then they have to play Oklahoma State and Baylor.
This will probably a 0-3 start inside the conference.
From here it gets a bit better but not much.
In total 5 road games and this includes Kansas and TCU, two teams they might have a chance to top.

At the end I would not be surprised to see them with 3 conference wins and a total of 6 wins.
That will bring them a bowl invitation but it's far from the expected results.

Mid field team with tendencies for the bottom.

So my TIP is:
Oklahoma Sooners
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Texas Longhorns
Baylor Bears
Kansas State Wildcats
TCU Horned Frogs
Texas Tech Red Raiders
West Virginia Mountaineers
Iowa State Cyclones
Kansas Jayhawks

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