Big 12 Football Picks: What Separates Each Team?
In less than a week, we’ll received the media’s preseason selections for the order of finish in the 2019 Big 12 football race. Crowd-sourced wisdom can by turn be startingly accurate or wildly off-base, but as always helps shrink the time waiting for actual on-field action.
Thus, here’s one man’s look at a possible finish, along with a factor or two that influenced each selection.
The Sooners have the clear conference lead in talent, confidence in recent performance and an almost ridiculous track record in attracting transfer quarterbacks. Incoming signalcaller Jalen Hurts probably won’t win the Heisman Trophy as predecessors Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray did, but he’ll still likely be a top tier runner and more than adequate passer that will lead OU to another league crown.
2. Iowa State
Is Matt Campbell the best coach in the Big 12? Add up everything, from changing a culture to teaching and developing players to bumping up recruiting, and the answer here is yes. The Cyclones can beat anyone in the league, and will do so to most of their foes to finish high in the conference standings.
The Horned Frogs have some QB questions, but the biggest item to note is that the team was decimated by injury a year ago. That crushed Gary Patterson’s signature defense, which has been one of the toughest nuts to crack in the league. Barring a repeat of the parade to the training room, TCU should return to its excellent defensive performances that keep it in just about every game. If it can at least find a settled offensive squad, it’s our upstart pick for a higher-than-expected league finish.
4. Oklahoma State
The Cowboys look to have the firepower to finish higher than fourth, but there’s still the matter of putting a number of disparate pieces together, ot to mention fielding a representative defense. Every year, OSU comes up with a very impressive win or two that makes you think they are capable of more, but then there will be a corresponding loss or performance that puts them back down a notch or two.
Admittedly, Longhorn fatigue factors into any assessment of UT’s hopes. And Texas should get full credit for last year’s Sugar Bowl win. But there are still some big holes to fill, and sometimes it seems like the Horns are more concerned with defending “We’re Back” or attacking “Horns Down” than with actually playing games. Getting caught up in the sideshow is almost always a losing proposition.
The Bears have been on a quiet improvement path under head coach Matt Rhule, and while they aren’t ready to challenge the top tier teams week in and out, they’ll probably pick off one of them on the way to another bowl trip this year. Will that be the final push for a new job for Rhule, who has flirted with other offers in his short tenure in Waco?
7. West Virginia
Even in trying to eliminate home team bias, it looks like West Virginia got the best of the four new coaches in the Big 12 in Neal Brown, even though the others have solid accomplishments of their own. That helps push the Mountaineers above the other three teams in that group in this selection, although there are more gaps to fill in the lineup than there are mountain valleys in the state.
8. Texas Tech
New head coach Matt Wells is trying to build a new team culture based on physicality in Lubbock, but like Neal Brown’s job at West Virginia, it’s going to take a while — probably multiple seasons. He does, however, have a prove quartback in Alan Bowman back — had he not gotten injured last year, the Red Raiders undoubtedly would have won more games.
9. Kansas State
Bill Snyder departure means change for the Wildcats, although new boss Chris Klieman won’t be making the changes that Brown or Wells is already involved in. The question here is talent — even with a stay the course philosophy and a healthy quarterback room, is there enough to the PowerCats to move up to a mid-tier or bowl finish? It’s not that K-State will be bad — it just looks the like schools above have a bit more to call upon.
Every situation is different, but didn’t Kansas go the “famous head coach hire from before” route with Charlie Weis a few seasons ago? One thing for sure, this is a proving ground for a head coach’s abilities outside recruiting. Miles was tabbed as a guy that could recruit, but not coach offense, at LSU, where the Tigers routinely fielded great athletic teams that struggled to move the ball and score. Can he succeed in the development route? Maybe so, but “development” and “first year” are terms that are mutually exclusive.
Oklahoma is the clear winner, but Iowa State is probably closer to the Sooners than it is to the three teams behind it in these picks.
ISU, OSU, TCU or Texas could finish anywhere from second through fifth, but there’s a big game between the top five picks and the second five.
Can the league get seven bowl teams? That might be tough, and will be dependent on how some of the second group does in their non-conference games. West Virginia is at a big disadvantage there, as t has a very difficult non-league slate.
Most confidence in the above selections: Oklahoma, Iowa State.
Least Confidence: TCU, Texas Tech