Big 12 Football Preview

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, August 30th, 2014

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By Bo Carter
Special Contributor
bcarter@footballfoundation.com

Projected Finish
1.      Oklahoma
2.      Baylor
3.      Oklahoma State
4.      Texas
5.      TCU
6.      Kansas State

7.      Texas Tech
8.      West Virginia
9.      Iowa State
10.    Kansas
In the 1920s and 1930s, Southwest Conference (R.I.P., 1914-96) coaches Ray Morrison at SMU, Dutch Meyer at TCU and Fred Thomsen at Arkansas introduced the Aerial Circus, which became the forerunner for the Run-N-Shoot offenses of the 1980s-today.
The three late coaches would be even more astounded by today’s pass-happy offenses, and the 2014 season looks as if it will be a happy repeat of recent tossing history in the Big 12 Conference.
Baylor, defending champion and winner of its first league football crown since the historic 1994 quint-SWC title with Rice, TCU, Texas, and Texas Tech (all with 4-3 records), should be riding high again with new McLane Stadium scheduled to be unveiled Sunday, Aug. 31, in a national telecast with SMU.
Instead, Oklahoma, ranked as high as third nationally in some of the dozens of preseason polls, has received the Big 12 pre-emptive favorite’s nod after capturing a Big 12-record eight championships from 2000-1012.
It is hard not to like the chances of coach Bob Stoops’ troops in Norman, but BU head coach Art Briles is laying back and letting the season chips fall where they may. Both teams face an uphill conference slate with some very tough opponents on the road in 2014 as well.
But getting back to the pass-delirious Big 12 offenses, last season’s aerial displays produced a composite 31,600-plus yards (calculates to just under 18 statute miles) and 218 total TD tosses in ’13 as fans were treated to multiple high-scoring contests.
In fact, eight Big 12 members averaged 25 points while Iowa State was just .2 below the 25-game norm one season ago.     Baylor led the way with a school-record 681 markers in 13 games for a 52.4 average and top spot nationally in that statistic for the first time in school annals.  Five schools from the loop were ranked among the Top 40 in scoring offense, and the average score of a Big 12 Conference contest in 2013 was 39-29 if that’s any indication of offenses dominating the defenses.
With the 2014 season rushing to a start in FBS (actually, FCS Abilene Christian of the Southland Conference travels to FBS Georgia State of the Sun Belt for a 7 p.m., CDT, ESPNU opener Tuesday, Aug. 26), there are many personnel questions to be answered, and preseason workouts may be offering some answers.
As the experts say about recruiting, lettermen lost/returning and the ever-present performances of special teams, the only way to evaluate each squad is when the opening whistles blow for the 12-game regular-season worksheets.
Though OU and BU are the prohibitive favorites, analysts are anxious to learn if coach Kilff Kingsbury’s second Texas Tech edition can draw on the momentum of a 37-23 surprise over then-No. 16 Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl, if new coach Charlie Strong’s new discipline can tame some of Texas’ ample talent pool, if Oklahoma State can produced another 10-win (10-3) campaign and No. 17 final Top 25 ranking, and if Kansas State’s annual miracle can continue under now-23-season head coach Bill Snyder, among other questions on the gridiron table.
Some not-so-surprising developments and others, which were projected after 2014 spring drills have been:

Oklahoma Sooners (7-2 / 11-2)
2013 final ranking – #6
Stoops’ Sooners have encountered the loss of RB Joe Mixon by suspension for 2014 and starting MLB Frank Shannon is under a possible suspension pending OU student affairs office investigations and action. The head coach does know that WR Sterling Shepard and a solid supporting cast on offense will add to OU potency while a replacement for four-year starting QB Landry Jones must be found.
The return of defensive coordinator Mike Stoops reaped immediate dividends for the defending BCS Allstate Sugar Bowl champs (over 2011 and ’12 national champ Alabama). OU was among the Top 25 in scoring defense and total defense under the younger brother of Bob Stoops and former head coach at Arizona from 2003-11.
Texas Tech (8-5, 4-5)
2013 final ranking – unranked
Gone is key backup QB Baker Mayfield (transferred to Oklahoma and is seeking immediate eligibility, but sterling Davis Webb of Prosper is back with 2,718 net passing yards, 20 TD passes and nine interceptions while sharing the controls with Mayfield.
A tough standout to replace is TE-SE Jace Amaro, who paced the team with 98 catches for 1,240 yards a year ago.
Kingsbury, a strong devotee of former coach Mike Leach (now at Washington State) has loaded up with a stable of inside and outside receivers, and the defense showed signs of improvement in such 2013 triumphs as 41-23 at SMU, 20-10 vs. TCU and 33-7 against Texas State.
With a good mix of both those sides, Tech may jump up quite a big from its 4-5 Big 12 finish for sixth place in Big 12 standings.

Baylor Bears (11-2 / 8-1)
2013 finl ranking – #13
While the Bears have become “Receiver U” under Briles with five draft selections in the last three NFL selection years, QB Bryce Petty (2013 Big 12 Player of the Year and Male Athlete of the Year, 250-of- 403 passing for 4,200 yards, 32 touchdowns, and just three interceptions) appears to be at his peak again after pacing
the Bears to their first Bowl Championship appearance vs.UCF in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and the final 11-2 overall mark.
Plus, BU has been ranked for the first time in the Associated Press preseason poll for just the fifth time in school history and owns its second-highest rating (behind seventh in the pre-1957 survey) in school annals. The Bears also achieved preseason AP rankings in 1951 (13th), 1953 (20th), and 1986 (12th).

Oklahoma State  (10-3 / 7-2)
2013 final ranking#17
Confident head coach Mike Gundy has guided the Cowboys to a school-most eight consecutive bowl appearances and 10 wins in three of the last four seasons, so there is no doubt that O-State has retooled for 2014. Denton, Texas, QB and son of ultra-successful Denton Guyer HS head coach John Walsh – J.W. Walsh – returns with both speed afoot and a solid arm and is getting plenty of push from backups Daxx Garman and Mason Rudolph (not related to the famed pro golfer with the same name) after a couple of team scrimmages. The Cowboys may be nine-deep and ultra-talented at wideout.

Texas Longhorns (8-5 / 7-2)
2013 final ranking – unranked
Strong has lived up to the pre-2014 team slogan “Texas Strong” with a series of “my way or the highway” decisions and a new sense of dedication among the current crop. He has been around national championship contenders for years as head coach at Louisville and defensive coordinator at Florida and has a top-flite QB in David Ash with 4,538 passing yards, 30 aerial TDs and 18 interceptions in a total of just over two seasons.
RBs Jonathan Gray and Malcolm Brown combined for 1,554 yards and 13 touchdowns for last year’s 8-5 outfit, but the defense may need overhauling in several areas – especially DE where standout Jackson Jeffcoat finished his eligibility.
TCU Horn Frogs (4-8 / 2-7)
2013 final ranking – unranked
Head coach Gary Patterson is not very unaccustomed to 4-8 seasons after taking 11 of his first 12 Horned Frog squads to bowl games. While retooling a usually-taut TCU defense in 2014, he also has a tough choice to make between QB Trevone Boykin (slimmed down 15 pounds from 220 to 205) and Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel. Not one to rotate signal callers, the veteran Frogs’ mentor hopes to have one of those established by Game Three of ’14 and has an interesting opening-game assignment: 1992-97 TCU head coach Pat Sullivan is bringing his Samford Bulldogs to town on Aug. 30 while helping the 1994 Frogs’ crew celebrate the 20th anniversary of TCU’s final SWC quint-title. Should be a win-win for Horned Frogs players and alumni alike.

Kansas State Wildcats (8-5 / 5-4)
2013 final ranking – unranked
The venerable Snyder has been his pleasant, low-key self and did not push the panic button last year when KSU dropped its season opener 24-21 to aforementioned power N.D. State. Twelve games later, the Wildcats smothered Big Ten Conference power Michigan 31-14 in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., and left no doubt that K-State (8-5 in ’13) will be another force to be reckoned with in Snyder’s second reign (originally 1989-2005, 2009-present) in the coaching saddle.
QB Collin Klein, who paced the Wildcats to a BCS berth as a senior in 2012, has returned as a quality control assistant on a staff with the most coaches from their alma mater (seven) in the FBS ranks. Klein will be a solid mentor for the Wildcats’ promising starting QB Jake Waters.
West Virginia Mountaineers (4-8 / 2-7)
2013 final ranking
The schedule makers did not do WVU a favor with three-time BCS champion Alabama, 2013 NCAA FCS runnerup Towson, new Big Ten Conference member Maryland, and No. 4 nationally and Big 12 favorite Oklahoma. Coach Dana Holgorsen has a playbook about six inches thick and has pulled out all the stops over his first three seasons with the Mountaineers.
QB Clint Trickett (2,552 yards passing,14 TDs, 11 interceptions) had major shoes to fill in replacing All-Big East QB Pat White and helping the Mountaineers trudge through their second season in the rugged Big 12. With no nearby natural conference rivals, WVU recruits the states of Texas and Pennsylvania very hard, and those newcomers have to grow up quickly.

Iowa State Cyclones (2-7 / 3-9)
2013 final ranking – unranked
The Cyclones of coach Paul Rhoads also hope to seize late-season momentum from a 34-0 win over Kansas and season-closing 52-44 triumph at West Virginia in overtime. The 3-9 overall squad was not that far from bowl eligibility in 2013 after close-call defeats to Texas 31-30, UNI 28-20, Texas Tech 42-35, and TCU 21-17.
The possible difference-maker for the upcoming crew could be the play of junior QB Sam Richardson, who had eight solid games last season before nagging ankle injuries took their toll. He passed for 1,938 yards and 19 touchdowns in an incomplete campaign and must rise to the occasion against opening opponent North Dakota State – three-time defending NCAA FCS national winner.
Kansas Jayhawks (1-8 / 3-9)
2013 final ranking – unranked
The Jayhawks have nowhere to go but up after producing a Big 12-fewest 184 points in 12 contests. Coach Charlie Weis is seeking some of that intangibility that helped his cause when he was head coach at Notre Dame and offensive coordinator at Florida to carry the rebuilding Hawks. Senior running backs Brandon Bourbon (torn ACL) and Taylor Cox (torn Achilles tendon) have been pronounced out for the season with their injuries, and newcomers must fill these major holes immediately.

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