The Big 12’s ego got bruised a bit last season when it was left without a representative in the inaugural College Football Playoff. Still, the power conference owns some of the early contenders to win the national title, which includes perennial heavyweights like Baylor and Oklahoma. Read on for a brief overview of each Big 12 team, along with names to watch out for and projected 2015 records.
2015 Big 12 Season Preview
2014 Record: 12-1 (8-1)
Predicted Record: 11-2 (9-1)
[sc:NCAA240banner ]There’s a new quarterback in Waco, with Bryce Petty now in the arms of the NFL’s New York Jets. That being said, the fact that Art Briles is still at the helm for Baylor and an offensive line that returns all five starters last season, should make Baylor’s transition into a new quarterback smoother than what most people expect.
Fourth-year junior Seth Russell is the new quarterback and he’ll be surrounded by a solid supporting cast that features the likes of running back Shock Linwood and a pair of wideouts in Corey Coleman and KD Cannon. Baylor finished just seventh in the Big 12 last season in passing yards allowed but with four returning secondary starters, Briles is right to expect a better defense from the Bears this 2015.
TCU Horned Frogs
2014 Record: 12-1 (9-1)
Predicted Record: 10-3 (8-2)
The Horned Frogs have an axe to grind this 2015 after failing to get in the College Football Playoff last season. Leading the Toads’ attack this season is quarterback Trevone Boykins, who set numerous records at TCU in 2014, including most passing yards (3,091) and passing touchdowns (33) in a season.
Expected to be a top candidate to win the Heisman Trophy, Boykins should also get help from wide receiver Josh Doctson, another school-record setter. Then of course, there’s TCU’s scary defense that ranked eighth overall in scoring defense last season, allowing just 19 points per game.
2014 Record: 8-5 (5-4)
Predicted Record: 10-3 (6-3)
Don’t ask Bob Stoops if he had a good 2014 season. The Sooners, who many expected to make it to the inaugural College Football Playoff, had a frustrating 2014, which culminated in an embarrassing loss against Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl last December. Stoops, however, has never had consecutive single-digit win seasons in his 15 years at Oklahoma.
If that’s not enough to make Sooners fans all excited, then consider that the Sooners’ backfield is currently ranked as among the best in the conference with running backs Samaje Perine, Alex Ross, Keith Ford and Joe Mixon in tow. Add to that new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, whose track record suggest an improvement in the team’s passing game, regardless of who the Sooners’ starting quarterback will be.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
2014 Record: 9-4 (7-2)
Predicted Record: 8-5 (6-3)
The transfer of Daxx Garman to Maryland only means that the spotlight is now on sophomore quarterback Mason Rudolph this coming season. Last season, Rudolph was forced to shelve his red shirt and started three games, wherein he threw for 853 yards and six touchdowns. That includes his 299-yard, two-touchdown passing performance in the Cowboys’ win over Washington in the Cactus Bowl last January.
The Cowboys’ offense returns the team’s top five receivers last season, who all should make life easy for the fast-developing Rudolph. The offensive line, however, is a big question mark after allowing 40 sacks last season. On the flipside, linebacker Emmanuel Ogbah (11 sacks in 2014) and Jimmy Bean should be a terror for opposing offenses.
2014 Record: 6-7 (5-4)
Predicted Record: 7-6 (5-4)
This year, Charlie Strong is aiming to lead the Longhorns to a better record than the one they had last season, when they finished with a losing overall slate. For that to happen though, Strong must see improvement from quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, who threw 13 touchdowns passes and 11 picks in 2014.
Cutting down on his errors would make Swoopes a tremendous asset for the Longhorns’ offense that is also looking for increased production from running back Jonathan Gray. With Malcolm Brown gone, Gray should be ready to get a ton of carries this time around after rushing for 637 yards and seven rushing TDs last season.
Kansas State Wildcats
2014 Record: 9-4, (7-2)
Predicted Record: 8-5, (6-3)
It’s hard to say how Bill Snyder and his Wildcats’ 2015 season will unfurl. That’s largely because last year’s quarterback Jake Waters and top receiver Tyler Lockett are now gone. Those two players were, for all intents and purposes, responsible for the Wildcats finishing 17th in the nation in passing yards per game (287.4).
It’s a good thing for Kansas State that running back Charles Jones (540 rushing yards and 13 rushing TDs in 2014) is returning along with all five starting pieces in the offensive line. With a questionable passing game (K-State is yet to name a starter as of this writing), it’s not hard to imagine that the backfield will be the strength of the Wildcats’ offense.
West Virginia Mountaineers
2014 Record: 7-6, (5-4)
Predicted Record: 6-7, (4-5)
Losing Kevin White and Mario Alford was simply huge for the Mountaineers. It’s hard to find a reason to expect great things to come from the Mountaineers’ passing game with the team’s top two receivers last season gone. Here’s something that is harder to imagine: how new starting quarterback Skyler Howard will do his job well without enough talent in the team’s receiving corps.
With that said, look for the Mountaineers to turn to their backfield more often this time around. The Mountaineers rushed for 182.8 yards per game last season, good for fourth in the conference. The pair of Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood, who combined for over 1,500 yards on the ground and nine rushing scores in 2014, should experience significant upticks in their production if West Virginia opts to run the ball.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
2014 Record: 4-8, (2-7)
Predicted Record: 5-7, (3-6)
The QB battle over at Texas Tech’s camp is considered by some as the best in the conference. On one hand, the Raiders have Davis Webb, who led the team last season in passing yards (2,539) and passing touchdowns (24). On the other hand, they have Patrick Mahomes, who wasn’t too shabby either in 2014, averaging 439.7 total yards in last three games.
Regardless of who gets Kliff Kingsbury’s nod to start under center, that quarterback will have plenty of talent around him. There’s the underrated senior Jakeem Grant, who had 938 receiving yards and caught seven TDs last season. Over at the O-line, the Le’Raven Clark is back, looking to improve his NFL stock. The defense, however, has to improve on its miserable performance in 2014, when it allowed a whopping 41.3 points per game.
Iowa State Cyclones
2014 Record: 2-10, (0-9)
Predicted Record: 3-9 (0-9)
The Cyclones went winless in conference play in 2014 so it’s easy perfectly understandable that a bunch of people overlooked the otherwise solid play of quarterback Sam Richardson. Richardson silently compiled 3,090 total yards and 21 touchdowns last season and should be the same dangerous dual-threat quarterback this 2015.
Flanking Richardson is a deep and talented receiving corps that features a healthy Quenton Bundrage and a pair of towering wideouts in 6-6 D’Vario Montgomery and 6-5 Allen Lazard. A suspect defense, albeit one that lost just two starters, and an inexperienced backfield, however, are seen as big impediments for the Cyclones.
2014 Record: 3-9 (1-8)
Predicted Record: 2-11 (0-9)
Unfortunately for Kansas, we’re not talking about basketball. The Jayhawks have a lot of work to do if they are to look respectable at the very least this coming season. With only five starters coming back to play, new coach David Beaty first season at Lawrence is expected to be focused more on sharpening the newcomers like former JUCO All-American Ke’Aun Kinner and hoping that it’ll pay dividends in the coming seasons.
Baylor barely edges TCU for the Big 12 conference crown.
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