NCAA Football Preview – Big 12 Conference
With NCAA football season right around the corner, its important that we get a handle on who the major players are in the major conferences. Earlier this week I previewed the Big East Conference. Today we go a little bit further south and west to look at a conference with some of the sport’s traditional powers; the Red River Rivals, Texas and Oklahoma. What can you expect from the Big 12? Glad you asked.
With the changing landscape of college football (conference re-alignment, a new playoff structure, and other changes to the way Bowls are handled), there may be some drastic changes to the conference over the next several years. For now though let’s put all the politics aside and enjoy the Big 12 as it sits today.
Team Added: TCU (from Mountain West), West Virginia (from Big East)
Teams Lost: Texas A&M, Missouri (to SEC)
2011-12 Record: 10-3, (6-3 Big 12)
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 8 on defense
Key Losses: QB Robert Griffin III, WR Kendall Wright, RB Terrance Ganaway
Key Addition: RB Lache Seastrunk, a transfer from Oregon who sat out the 2011-12 season
Of Note: The Bears have a rugged schedule that includes 8 2011 bowl teams, as well as Sam Houston State. The Bearkats (yes, that is how it’s spelled) played in the FCS Championship game last season.
Can’t-Miss Game: October 13 vs. TCU. Last year’s game was a barnburner won by Baylor, 50-48.
IOWA STATE CYCLONES
2011-12 Record: 6-7 (3-6 Big 12)
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 5 on defense
Key Addition: It’s not often that a true freshman kicker is a key addition, but Cole Netten is taking over the position on a team that was 12 of 20 on field goals last season.
Player(s) To Watch: QBs Steel Jantz and Jared Barnett. Who gets the nod, and since both are capable, how long will his leash be if he struggles?
Of Note: The Cyclones have four tough road games on the schedule at Iowa, TCU, Oklahoma State, and Texas
Can’t-Miss Game: October 8 at Iowa. Intra-state rivalries can produce good games even with average teams.
2011-12 Record: 2-10 (0-9 Big 12)
Returning Starters: 4 on offense, 6 on defense
Key Addition: QB Dayne Crist, a fifth-year transfer from Notre Dame (where he was recruited and coached by new Kansas head coach Charlie Weis)
Player(s) To Watch: After finishing last in FBS last season, the entire defense. Can Weis- not a noted defensive coach- and new coordinator Dave Campo make the unit respectable?
Of Note: Weis also landed BYU QB transfer Jake Heaps, who will be eligible to play in the 2013-14 season
Can’t-Miss Game: Gotta pick the intra-state matchup October 6 at Kansas State .
Kansas should win more than two games this year, but they’re still going to lose to the better Big 12 teams.
KANSAS STATE WILDCATS
2011-12 Record: 10-3 (7-3 Big 12)
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 6 on defense
Key Loss: Surprisingly, no huge losses on either side of the ball.
Player To Watch: Collin Klein is a talented dual-threat QB, but has he improved his passing in the off-season?
Of Note: Special teams should be solid, with both the kicker and punter, as well as two return specialists, back in Manhattan.
2011-12 Record: 10-3 (6-3 Big 12)
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 7 on defense
Key Loss: All-Big 12 DE Frank Alexander, WR Ryan Broyles (NFL); DT Stacy McGee (suspended indefinitely in August)
Key Addition: Stud RB Dominique Whaley returns after breaking his ankle last season
Of Note: Mike Stoops, brother of head coach Bob, returns as defense coordinator. He was head coach at Arizona from 2004 through last season.
Can’t-Miss Game: For something a little different, Oklahoma-Notre Dame on October 27
OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS
2011-12 Record: 12-1 (8-1 Big 12)
Returning Starters: 4 on offense, 8 on defense
Key Losses: QB Brandon Weeden, WR Justin Blackmon (NFL)
Player To Watch: True freshman Wes Lunt, who won a three-way QB battle to be named the starter
Of Note: The Cowboys face three of their toughest conference opponents- West Virginia, TCU, and Texas- at home
Can’t-Miss Game: November 24 at Oklahoma
2011-12 Record: 8-5 (4-5 Big 12)
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 6 on defense
Key Losses: LBs Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson
Key Addition: Heralded true freshman RB Johnathan Gray, who set a high school record for career rushing TDs with 205
Of Note: The coaches have not named a starting QB yet; the job will go to either sophomore David Ash or junior Case McCoy (younger brother of former Longhorns QB Colt).
Can’t-Miss Game: Grab yourself something deep-fried and be sure to catch the Red River Rivalry with Oklahoma on October 13
TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS
2011-12 Record: 5-7 (2-7 Big 12)
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 6 on defense
Key Loss: None.
Key Additions: Two RBs returning from 2011 knee injuries, senior Eric Stephens and sophomore DeAndre Washington.
Of Note: TT is switching from an unusual 4-2-5 defense to a more traditional 4-3
Can’t-Miss Game: October 20 @ conference newcomer TCU
TCU HORNED FROGS
2011-12 Record: 11-2 (7-2 Mountain West)
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 5 on defense
Key Loss: LB Tanner Brock was expected to return from injury, but he was among the players implicated in the campus drug scandal over the winter and was subsequently removed from the team
Player(s) To Watch: New kicker Jaden Oberkrom and punter Ethan Perry are both true freshmen
Of Note: QB Casey Pachall threw for 2,921 yards and 25 TDs in his first year as the starter. He returns, as do most of his targets.
Can’t-Miss Game: The November 3 matchup of conference additions TCU and West Virginia
WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS
2011-12 Record: 10-3 (5-2 Big East)
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 6 on defense
Key Loss: DE Bruce Irvin (NFL)
Key Addition: None, most of the offense and the defensive secondary are returning
Of Note: This is West Virginia’s first season in the Big 12. How will they match up?
Can’t-Miss Game: September 29 against Baylor will be WVU’s welcome to the Big 12
BIG 12 OVERVIEW
Conference Champ: Oklahoma
Possible Dark Horse: West Virginia
OGeffensive POTY: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Defensive POTY: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
Coach On The Hot Seat: If Texas Tech misses a bowl game for a second consecutive year, Tommy Tuberville could be gone
Feel free to leave your comments below and follow me on Twitter @LastWordLindsay