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Big 12 capsules

  • Published Monday, August 20, 2012, at 12 a.m.

Kellis Robinett looks at the conference, in predicted order of finish

1. West Virginia

Projected record: 11-1

2011: 10-3

Overview: West Virginia has the talent and offensive firepower to win the Big 12 in its debut season. Geno Smith should be a Heisman contender at quarterback, and coach Dana Holgorson knows the Big 12 well after working in the league for many seasons as a coordinator.

Key player: Dustin Garrison. You can’t throw the ball on every down, no matter how good your quarterback is. West Virginia will need Garrison to deliver at running back and maybe even produce a 1,000-yard season.

Come December: The Big 12 championship might come down to Oklahoma and West Virginia. The Mountaineers get the Sooners at home, so that could give them an advantage. But West Virginia is known to lose a few games it shouldn’t. Last year it lost to Syracuse and Louisville. It can’t give away games like that in the Big 12.

ScheduleW/L

Marshall W

vs. James Madison W

Maryland W

Baylor W

at Texas W

at Texas Tech W

Kansas State W

TCU W

at Oklahoma State L

Oklahoma W

at Iowa State W

Kansas W

2. Oklahoma

Projected record: 10-2

2011: 10-3

Overview: Landry Jones returns and so does a strong defense, but will that be enough for Oklahoma to reclaim its spot on top of the Big 12 standings? The Sooners fell apart in a home loss to Texas Tech last year, and stumbled to two more losses before landing in the Insight Bowl. They will need help from their running game if they want to avoid a similar collapse against a back-loaded schedule in 2012.

Key player: Dominique Whaley. The running back became a playmaker in Oklahoma’s offense before suffering a season-ending injury against Kansas State. If he can build on that now that he is healthy, Oklahoma’s offense will be much more versatile.

Come December: Late games against West Virginia, Oklahoma State and TCU will decide Oklahoma’s fate. The Mountaineers and Horned Frogs will be tough on the road, and Oklahoma State clobbered the Sooners last year. Those three games could put Oklahoma anywhere from a mid-level bowl to the BCS championship game.

ScheduleW/L

at UTEP W

Florida A&M W

Kansas State W

at Texas Tech W

vs. Texas W

Kansas W

Notre Dame W

at Iowa State W

Baylor W

at West Virginia L

Oklahoma State W

at TCU L

T3. Kansas State

Projected record: 9-3

2011: 10-3

Overview: Collin Klein returns to lead the offense and Arthur Brown is back to command the defense. Along with 15 other returning starters, K-State is in position to build on what it accomplished last season. The additions of West Virginia and TCU make the schedule harder, though. The Wildcats could be a better team this season and win fewer games.

Key player: Klein. There is no better leader in the Big 12, but there are several better passers. In order for Klein to stay healthy and for K-State’s offense to move more efficiently this season, he will need to throw the ball much more efficiently.

Come December: K-State will land in an upper-tier bowl game, it’s simply a question of which one. If Klein develops as a passer and the Wildcats’ secondary improves, K-State will challenge for a Big 12 title. If not, it will have to settle for eight or nine victories.

ScheduleW/L

Missouri State W

Miami (Fla.) W

North Texas W

at Oklahoma L

Kansas W

at Iowa State W

at West Virginia L

Texas Tech W

Oklahoma State W

at TCU L

at Baylor W

Texas W

T3. Texas

Projected record: 9-3

2011: 8-5

Overview: Texas is closer to returning to the upper tier of college football than it has been the past few years, but it will need major improvements from David Ash or Case McCoy if the Longhorns hope to challenge for a BCS bowl game. Their defense could be the Big 12’s best, and their running game is improving. But without a passing game, that won’t be enough.

Key player: Ash or McCoy. The last time Texas was considered an elite team, it had an elite quarterback in Colt McCoy. The Longhorns need another high-level passer to get them back to the top. Whoever wins the starting job will need to play exceptionally well for the Horns to have a Big 12 shot.

Come December: Oklahoma and West Virginia have too much offense for the Longhorns, and Kansas State has had their number lately. Unless Texas pulls a few upsets, it is looking at another single-digit win season.

ScheduleW/L

Wyoming W

New Mexico W

at Mississippi W

at Oklahoma State W

West Virginia L

vs. Oklahoma L

Baylor W

at Kansas W

at Texas Tech W

Iowa State W

TCU W

at Kansas State L

T3. TCU

Projected record: 9-3

2011: 11-2

Overview: Finally, we get to see what the Horned Frogs can do in a major conference. After years of wondering how TCU measured up to the rest of the nation when it was winning the Mountain West, it is back with its regional rivals in the Big 12. With Casey Pachall returning at quarterback and a stout defense coming back, TCU could fare well in its new league.

Key player: Kenny Cain. He led TCU in tackles a year ago, but the linebacker will be tested in the Big 12. Unlike past seasons, when high-powered offense were rarely on the schedule, he will need to play well every week.

Come December: Expect TCU to be in the mix for a conference championship until it hits the roads for games against Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Texas.

ScheduleW/L

Grambling State W

at Kansas W

Virginia W

at SMU W

Iowa State W

at Baylor W

Texas Tech W

at Oklahoma State L

at West Virginia L

Kansas State W

at Texas L

Oklahoma W

6. Oklahoma State

Projected record: 8-4

2011: 12-1

Overview: Replacing Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon won’t be easy. Last year, they were the nation’s top quarterback/receiver duo and took Oklahoma State to within a win of the BCS championship game. Ultimately, the Cowboys rebounded from a late loss at Iowa State to win the Fiesta Bowl. A repeat performance might be too much to ask. Oklahoma State has a below-average defense, and teams will be able to focus on Wichita running back Joseph Randle without a world-class passing game surrounding him.

Key player: Randle. If Oklahoma State hopes to contend for a Big 12 championship, it will need a huge season from its running back. Randle scored 26 touchdowns last season. He will need to do the same, this time as the focal point of the offense.

Come December: Oklahoma State’s offense will give it a chance in every game, but its defense isn’t strong enough to expect more than a mid-level bowl game.

ScheduleW/L

Savannah State W

at Arizona W

La.-Lafayette W

Texas L

at Kansas W

Iowa State W

TCU W

at Kansas State L

West Virginia L

Texas Tech W

at Oklahoma L

at Baylor W

7. Baylor

Projected record: 6-6

2011: 10-3

Overview: How do you replace a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback? There are powerhouse programs across the country that know exactly how to answer that question, and have the recruiting power to replace any player. But at Baylor, that is not the case. The Bears will be a different team without Robert Griffin III. No question about that. Duplicating last season’s success seems like a long shot. But Art Briles brings back enough talent to get the Bears to another bowl game.

Key player: Nick Florence. Meet the man who will follow Griffin III at quarterback. The most extensive playing time he saw last season came against Texas Tech, when he torched the Red Raiders while Griffin III recovered from an injury. He’s a different type of player, but he has a strong arm.

Come December: The Bears will be a middle-of-the-pack team. Beating Oklahoma and Texas again seems unlikely. But Baylor will have a shot in most of its games. Expect a low-level bowl game.

ScheduleW/L

SMU W

Sam Houston State W

at La.-Monroe W

at West Virginia L

TCU L

at Texas L

at Iowa State W

Kansas W

at Oklahoma L

Kansas State L

Texas Tech W

Oklahoma State L

T8. Iowa State

Projected record: 3-9

2011: 6-7

Overview: Iowa State has overachieved in its first three seasons under Paul Rhoads, but this might be the year the Cyclones fail to challenge for a bowl game. A difficult schedule leaves little room for error, and big-name opponents such as Iowa, Texas and Oklahoma State will be ready for them after losses in past seasons.

Key player: A.J. Klein. He gives Iowa State one of the top linebacker duos in the conference along with Jake Knott. But he will need to have his best season. The Cyclones’ offense isn’t strong enough to win shootouts in the Big 12.

Come December: Rhoads is such a good coach that Iowa State will be in the majority of games. Whether it can pull out toss-up games against Baylor, Kansas and Texas Tech will determine their postseason chances. Win all three, and another bowl trip is possible. Lose all three and Iowa State is looking at a three-win season.

ScheduleW/L

Tulsa W

at Iowa L

Western Illinois W

Texas Tech W

at TCU L

Kansas State L

at Oklahoma State L

Baylor L

Oklahoma L

at Texas L

at Kansas L

West Virginia L

T8. Kansas

Projected record: 4-8

2011: 2-10

Overview: Everything is new at Kansas this season. Charlie Weis is the new coach. Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist is the new quarterback. Competitive games are the new expectation. It will take more than that to get the Jayhawks into bowl contention against a difficult schedule, but it should be enough to put an end to the blowout losses of last season.

Key player: Crist. The senior transfer came to Kansas to play just one season. He will need to perform exceptionally well to impress NFL scouts and lead the Jayhawks to victories. He knows Weis’ offense well. His leadership skills could be the difference in a few games.

Come December: Kansas doesn’t have any legitimate bowl hopes, but if it can beat Iowa State or Texas Tech in November the Jayhawks will have something to build on heading into 2013.

ScheduleW/L

South Dakota State W

Rice W

TCU L

at Northern Illinois W

at Kansas State L

Oklahoma State L

at Oklahoma L

Texas L

at Baylor L

at Texas Tech L

Iowa State W

at West Virginia L

T8. Texas Tech

Projected record: 4-8

2011: 5-7

Overview: Texas Tech has taken a step back in each of Tommy Tuberville’s first two seasons. That trend could easily continue in year No. 3. Though Tuberville has good incoming talent, the Red Raiders aren’t ready to return to their high-flying days under Mike Leach. Texas Tech lost its last five games a year ago after upsetting Oklahoma on the road. The conference schedule only gets tougher this time around.

Key player: At Big 12 media days in Dallas, Tuberville described the Big 12 as “a points league.” But Texas Tech will need an improved defense to win this season. That starts with Cody Davis, who was the team’s leading tackler a year ago.

Come December: With an easy nonconference slate and a home game against Kansas, Texas Tech will only need to squeeze out two more wins to become bowl eligible. But it will take a few upsets to avoid another losing season.

ScheduleW/L

Northwestern State W

at Texas State W

New Mexico W

at Iowa State L

Oklahoma L

West Virginia L

at TCU L

at Kansas State L

Texas L

Kansas W

at Oklahoma State L

Baylor L

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