With the Big 12 season kicking off in less than three weeks, it’s time to look at where each team stacks up entering the season. According to Bovada, Oklahoma is the odds on favorite to take the Big 12 title in 2016, followed by Oklahoma State and TCU tied for second. Baylor entered the off-season as one of the heavy favorites to win the conference but has since dropped. They had a rough off-season due to multiple allegations of sexual assault and losing head coach Art Briles. However, the Big 12 landscape does not look much different than the way it finished after the 2015 season.
Big 12 Power Rankings Entering 2016
Oklahoma: The Sooners are the overwhelming favorites to win the Big 12 this season after winning in 2015. They return 14 starters (seven on offense and seven on defense). The schedule starts off with two difficult games in the first three weeks. Houston welcomes the Sooners to town on the first week, then Ohio State comes to Norman on the third week. Expectations are high in Norman as the Sooners look to return to the College Football Playoff again in 2016. Quarterback Baker Mayfield and running back Samaje Perine have Heisman hype. Safety Steven Parker and cornerback Jordan Thomas will lead what should be another talented defense in 2016.
TCU: The Horned Frogs are coming off a high to finish the 2016 season. A 47-41 victory against Oregon in the Alamo Bowl and a 28-21 victory against Baylor should help the Frogs carry some momentum in 2016. They were also two points away from beating the Sooners and taking over top spot in the Big 12. Furthermore, the 2016 schedule stacks up a lot better than last season. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Kansas State all have to travel to Fort Worth in 2016. Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill is the likely starting quarterback and is looking for a fresh start. Wide receiver KaVontae Turpin and defensive end Josh Carraway will also be key to the Horned Frogs’ success in 2016.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are coming off a three game losing streak to finish last season. The schedule also sets up more difficult in 2016, as the Cowboys have to travel to Oklahoma, TCU, and Baylor. Quarterback Mason Rudolph should lead one of the most talented offenses in the country this season. There are a few more question marks on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive ends Jarrell Owens and Jordan Brailford will be important after the losses of Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean. Stanford transfer Barry Sanders Jr. will look to ignite a running game that has been on the decline since 2013. Chris Carson was the leading rusher in 2015 with only 517 yards.
Baylor: The Bears have experienced one of the most horrific off-seasons of any college football team in recent memory. Head coach Art Briles is gone leaving former Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe to fill the position. Furthermore, the Bears only return one starter on the offensive and defensive lines combined. All Big 12 center Kyle Fuller will have to be a leader on the offensive line to help what will be a very inexperienced group. A lot of the pressure is going to be put on running back Shock Linwood and quarterback Seth Russell to keep the offense going. The strength of the defense will be the secondary lead by safeties Chance Waz and Orion Stewart and cornerback Travon Blanchard. Getting Oklahoma State and TCU at home could also be a major key to the Bears competing in the conference.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders head into 2016 with one of the top offenses in the country. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is coming off a season where he threw for 4,653 yards and 36 touchdowns. The offensive line will have to mature quickly with only one returning starter. Expect a breakout season from running back Justin Stockton after the loss of DeAndre Washington. An offense that 579 yards per game will have to make up for a defense that gives up a lot of points. The defense gave up 547 yards and close to seven touchdowns per game last season. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury could be on the hot seat if the Red Raiders don’t improve in his fourth season.
Texas: The Longhorns are coming off their worst season in recent memory after posting a 5-7 record in 2015. There are high hopes in Austin for improvement in 2016. If things don’t get better, head coach Charlie Strong could be fired by season’s end. True freshman quarterback Shane Buechele will have the weight of the offense on his shoulders. The Horns also brought in former Tulsa Offensive Coordinator Sterlin Gilbert. This should mark the transition to the air raid style offense. However, the defense could be as strong as any in the Big 12. Sophomore linebacker Malik Jefferson leads a group that held both Oklahoma and Baylor to 17 points last season. The defensive line should also be a strength led by tackles Poona Ford and Paul Boyette.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers are coming off their best record in the Big 12 since they joined the conference in 2012. Head coach Dana Holgorsen is one of the many coaches in the conference that could be on the hot seat this season. If the Mountaineers don’t win at least eight games this season he could very likely be fired. The offense will be led by quarterback Skyler Howard, running back Rushel Shell, and wide receiver Shelton Gibson. The defense suffered a big loss with the injury to safety Dravon Askew-Henry. Defensive tackle Noble Nwachukwu is expected to lead a stout front seven. The Mountaineers do get Oklahoma, TCU, and Baylor at home this year which could lead to a few upsets.
Kansas State: The Wildcats are looking to improve on a 6-7 record from 2015. Quarterback Jesse Ertz will look to improve a passing game that averaged only 176 yards and one touchdown per game last season. Running back Charles Jones is back for his senior season after averaging an impressive 4.9 yards per carry in 2015. They have the potential to pull off a quick upset at Stanford to open the season. Home games against Texas, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State give the Wildcats a chance to jump ahead a few of the teams above them in these rankings. Linebackers Charmeachelle Moore and Elijah Lee will lead a defense that should improve after giving up more than 450 yards and only averaging 1.2 turnovers per game.
Iowa State: The Cyclones should have a renewed energy to their program heading into the 2016 season. Former Toledo head coach Matt Campbell takes over for Paul Rhoads. Consistency will be a big factor as well. The Cyclones were able to shutout Texas and almost pulled off an upset against Oklahoma State in 2015. However, losses to Texas Tech, Kansas State, and West Virginia by a combined 62 points will have to change if the Cyclones want to move up in the Big 12. There is hope on offense especially with sophomore running back Mike Warren. He led the team in rushing in 2015 with over 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns. Quarterback Joel Lanning and wide receiver Allen Lazard will also have to come up big for the Cyclones to be successful in 2016.
Kansas: The Jayhawks are looking to win their first game since the 2014 season. Head coach David Beaty has a great chance to get his first win in the Jayhawks’ first game against Rhode Island from the FCS. Quarterback Ryan Willis and running back Ke’uan Kinner will lead the offense. While safety Fish Smithson will have to come up big for the defense. A home game against Iowa State also gives them a chance to win their first conference game since 2014. For the Jayhawks, one win would be a successful season.