The Big 3
Only three Big 12 teams finished in the final AP poll last season: Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The trio of aforementioned teams combined for 32 victories last season, while the rest of the conference tallied a total of 38 wins. Heading into the 2014 campaign, the Cowboys suffered the most senior departures (28); TCU the fewest (16).
In The Eye Of The Beholder
Even before his team beat Alabama in last year’s Sugar Bowl, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops had insisted the Big 12 was better balanced – from top to bottom – than the SEC.
Not so as bowl records say different. Since the turn of the new century the Big 12 stands 56-54 SU and 46-64 ATS in postseason play, while the SEC counters at 74-48 SU and 67-55 ATS.
Many thought Stoops was perhaps referring to offensive output, where six Big 12 teams landed in the nation’s Top 20 in total offense in 2013, twice the amount of SEC squads. The tables reversed last season, however, when the SEC finished with four Top 20 ranked teams in overall offense as opposed to two for the Big 12.
On the flip side, it’s been no comparison defensively the past two seasons, either, with the SEC landing a total of ten schools in the Top 20 in scoring defense, as opposed to just one Big 12 entrant – Oklahoma last year.
Then And Now
The last time Mack Brown was not roaming the sidelines in Austin (1998), Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State ended the season with losing records, while seven of the 12 teams in the loop hit the alleys in postseason bowl games.
Texas concluded the season 9-3, routing Mississippi State 38-11 in the Cotton Bowl.
Note: Numbers following team name represent the amount of returning starters on offense and defense, along with the number of returning linemen, with an asterisk (*) designating a returning quarterback.
BAYLOR (Offense – *6/2 Defense – 4/1)
TEAM THEME: FEEDING FRENZY
Head coach Art Briles remembers his goal six years ago after arriving in Waco was to just get his team “up to the table” so they could eat with the big boys. Now after a season where they stole food off the other boys’ plates and took home a Big 12 championship (their first since 1980), Briles realizes that his Bears will be the ones with the targets on their backs. Despite some losses of very skilled players, Big 12 POY QB Bryce Petty returns for his senior season after shattering NCAA records in 2013, averaging 618.8 YPG and 52.4 PPG. His top target, Antwan Goodley ranked second in the conference in receiving yards en route to gaining first-team all Big-12 honors last year. And the topping on the cake: Baylor moves into a new state-of-the-art, $260-million stadium on the Brazos River this season.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Bears’ big-play defense led the FBS with 6.5 ‘three-and-outs’ per game last season.
IOWA STATE (Offense – *10/5 Defense – 5/2)
TEAM THEME: BACK WITH A VENGEANCE
On the heels of a dismal 3-win season, Paul Rhodes welcomes his entire starting offensive team back to Ames, including big-play WR Quenton Brundage, leading rusher Aaron Wimberly, and QB’s Sam Richardson and Grant Rohach, who split time under center and closed the season with 300+ yard performances in wins over Kansas and West Virginia. It all leads to an experienced squad with a combined 183 career starts. New OC Mark Mangino, former Kansas HC, was the first coach ever to be recognized as both the national Coach of the Year and the national Assistant Coach of the Year. Bigger and better things are in store for the Cyclones in 2014.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Paul Rhoads was born 10 minutes from Jack Trice Stadium and went to high school 20 minutes from ISU’s home field.
KANSAS (Offense – *8/3 Defense – 9/2)
TEAM THEME: BAD TUNA
Year III of the Charlie Weis Project began with an all-out spring battle for the QB spot with senior Jake Heaps (former starter at BYU) and UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard the likely finalists. Weis has only four wins under his sizable belt in the two years since he left his position as offensive coordinator at Florida, and contributions under Bill Belichick in New England (helping lead the Patriot offense in three Super Bowl victories in a four-year span) seem like a hundred years ago. Rest assured, with 17 returning starters, including 15 Juco’s from last year, Charlie will be out of excuses – and a job – if he doesn’t deliver this season.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Jayhawks are 2-40 SU in their last 42 conference games.
KANSAS STATE (Offense – *6/3 Defense – 5/2)
TEAM THEME: A FAMILY AFFAIR
Bill Snyder is a great football coach, posting 178 victories in his 22 seasons in Manhattan while earning National Coach of the Year honors five times. After losing the 2013 opener to North Dakota State, then beginning the Big 12 slate with three straight losses, KSU was 2-4 and going nowhere fast. Snyder made the necessary adjustments, and his kids got on a roll: six wins in the next seven games, culminating in a beatdown of Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. With QB-turned-WR Daniel Sam deciding to transfer, senior QB Jake Waters will lead the offense along with All-American receiver Tyler Lockett, who led the conference in all-purpose yardage in 2013. Yes, gramps couldn’t be any more content.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: KSU is 64-4 under Snyder at Bill Snyder Family Stadium versus non-conference opponents.
OKLAHOMA (Offense – *7/4 Defense – 9/4)
TEAM THEME: BOMBS AWAY
Outside of the Sooners’ 13-0 national championship season in 2000, none could match the sheer excitement of last year’s sky-high finish. After capturing the Big 12 championship over in-state rival Oklahoma State, the Sooners went to the Sugar Bowl as heavy underdogs to Alabama and smashed the Crimson Tide in a 45-31 rout. Since the conclusion of WWII, no school has a better winning percentage (.764) than Oklahoma, but Bob Stoops has improved on that number since taking over before the 1999 season, going 160-39 (.804). The emergence of QB Trevor Knight, with last year’s early starting QB Blake Bell making the switch to TE, has the folks in Norman eagerly anticipating a big year. The defense will need to comply.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Sooners are 22-0 SU in games off a regular season loss since 2003.
OKLAHOMA STATE (Offense – 4/2 Defense – 4/2)
TEAM THEME: LEAN GREEN MACHINE
This will be a very inexperienced team for Mike Gundy: only four starters return on each side of the ball in 2014, while a mere six players on the team have 10 or more career starts. One is QB J.W. Walsh, who was the starter early last year before losing the job to Clint Chelf, who has graduated. The defense has been absolutely decimated by graduation, as departed seniors accounted for 78% of the team’s tackles in 2013. The season begins with the Cowboys Classic in Arlington versus the defending national champs, and closes with Bedlam in Norman against the Sooners. But how many wins the Cowboys can string together in between is the real question.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Cowboys won the stats in all three of their losses last season.
TCU (Offense – 8/3 Defense – 8/3)
TEAM THEME: MISSION FROGS
Now that the Casey Pachall days are finally over (re: drug/alcohol suspensions and injuries), Gary Patterson’s Frogs can get back to business. Patterson brought in new co-coordinators during the off-season, Doug Meacham from Houston and Sonny Cumbie from Texas Tech, whose schools were both offensive powerhouses. They’ll have a very deep group of tailbacks to work with, including leading rusher B.J. Catalon. Versatile Trevone Boykin, who stepped in often for Pachall at QB, will look to ignite the offense while the stop-unit lost just three players from a group that led the Big 12 in total defense. With two-time all-conference DB Sam Carter, this is a mission team that should not be overlooked.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Boykin was the only player in the country to have a 100-yard rushing, 100-yard receiving and 200-yard passing game last season.
TEXAS (Offense – *7/2 Defense – 8/2)
TEAM THEME: PICKING UP THE ASHES There’s a new sheriff in town and his name is Charlie Strong (the only coaching change in the Big 12). Strong has laid down the law in replacing Mack Brown, insisting his Horns will be tougher and more disciplined. With eight starters back on defense, it should be noted his Louisville squad led the nation in team sacks per game (3.31) last season. He has big shoes to fill, however. Brown was 158-48 at Texas, including 98-33 in Big 12 games. His teams went bowling every year except 2010 and were 10-5 in those bowl games. He also led the Longhorns to the 2005 national championship. Meanwhile, QB David Ash returns after missing 10 games last year (concussion). He’s joined by RBs Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and Jonathon Gray, giving the Horns an explosive trio of ball carriers.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: No Texas Longhorns were selected in the 2014 NFL Draft for the first time since 1937.
TEXAS TECH (Offense – *8/4 Defense – 4/1)
TEAM THEME: ORGANICALLY GROWN BUZZ Who knew cool involved this much work? 34-year old head coach Kliff Kingsbury gets to Tech’s football office each day at 4:30 a.m. While admitting to a mild case of OCD, Kingsbury insists all details must be right, and he’s getting a lot right, creating a strong buzz on campus. After playing musical chairs at the quarterback position last year, Davis Webb emerges as the starter in 2014 as both backups have transferred out. Four starters on the OL return, bringing stability to an aerial attack that averaged 393 YPG (2nd in the nation) last season. Kingsbury’s long-term goals are mostly singular: Win a Big 12 title. “I don’t plan on leaving until that gets done,” he insists.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Red Raiders finished No. 121 in turnover margin (-1.1 per game) last season.
WEST VIRGINIA (Offense – *6/2 Defense – 7/1)
TEAM THEME: LOOKING FOR THE RESET BUTTON Three I’s best describe the Mountaineers’ disappointing 4-8 effort last year: Inexperience, Injuries and Inconsistency. The inexperience reverses in 2014 with 20 lettermen back on offense, including 14 players with starts last year. The attack starts with QB Clint Trickett, who missed spring camp after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery. Injuries wrecked the defense in 2013 but 13 players with starting experience are back on that side of the ball. A 6-14 mark in his last 20 games, along with a tough schedule in the early going (seven of first eight opponents went bowling last year) could leave Dana Holgorsen with a warm and fuzzy fanny.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: WVU is 19-5 ATS as a conference dog, including 9-0 ATS from Game Ten out.
College Football / College Basketball Handicapper. 2011 won 74%, 2012 won 72% 2015 SPECIAL. CALL, 877.WIN.ATS9 EMAIL,V@VincentRizzoSports.com