Breaking down the Big 12 Conference

08/24/2013 1:54 PM

08/24/2013 1:54 PM

Kellis Robinett handicaps the 2013 season. In his predicted order of finish.

1. Oklahoma

2012: 10-3, 8-1 Big 12 (T1st)

Overview: Oklahoma is coming off a 10-win season in which it tied Kansas State for a Big 12 championship and played in the Cotton Bowl. So why is everyone in Soonerland so pessimistic about the future of the program? Sure, a 41-13 loss to Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl raised concerns, but the Sooners should be a better team in 2013. Blake Bell’s mobility will add new elements to the offense, and the defense can’t be any worse.

Key player: Bell. You already know him from Bishop Carroll High and the “Belldozer” package. This year, he will show off his full game. Bell, an athletic and strong-armed quarterback, has the talents needed to replace Landry Jones. If he plays up to his potential, Oklahoma’s offense could improve.

Come December: No one is better at winning Big 12 games than Bob Stoops. Expect Oklahoma to contend for another conference championship and a major bowl game. Trips to Notre Dame, Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State may keep it out of the national championship hunt, though.

Date Opponent W/L
Aug. 31 La.-Monroe W
Sept. 7 West Virginia W
Sept. 14 Tulsa W
Sept. 28 at Notre Dame L
Oct. 5 TCU W
Oct. 12 vs. Texas (Dallas) W
Oct. 19 at Kansas W
Oct. 26 Texas Tech W
Nov. 7 at Baylor W
Nov. 16 Iowa State W
Nov. 23 at Kansas State W
Dec. 7 at Oklahoma State L

2. Texas

2012: 9-4, 5-4 (T3rd)

Overview: The Longhorns return more starters than any other team in the Big 12 and are confident quarterback David Ash will be able to build off what he accomplished last season. That combination makes Texas a conference title contender for the first time since 2009.

Key player: Ash. There’s a reason the Longhorns have been in decline since Colt McCoy graduated. Their quarterback play has been terrible. Ash showed flashes of brilliance last year, though, by passing for 2,699 yards and 19 touchdowns. As he goes, Texas may go as well.

Come December: Is Texas back? We will have our answer by mid-September. That’s when Kansas State, which has beaten Texas five straight times, goes to Austin for the conference opener. If the Longhorns can win that game, they may have what it takes for a memorable season. If they can’t, another mediocre season may be in store.

Date Opponent W/L
Aug. 31 New Mexico State W
Sept. 7 at BYU W
Sept. 14 Mississippi W
Sept. 21 Kansas State W
Oct. 3 Iowa State W
Oct. 12 vs. Oklahoma (Dallas) L
Oct. 26 at TCU W
Nov. 2 Kansas W
Nov. 9 at West Virginia W
Nov. 16 Oklahoma State W
Nov. 28 Texas Tech W
Dec. 7 at Baylor L

T3. Oklahoma State

2012: 8-5, 5-4 (T3rd)

Overview: Oklahoma State is picked to win the Big 12 in the media’s preseason poll, but the Cowboys aren’t a lock. The Big 12 is deep, and Oklahoma State is trying to choose a quarterback and replace running back Joseph Randle. A friendly schedule has Oklahoma, Baylor, Kansas State and TCU in Stillwater.

Key player: Josh Stewart. The receiver caught 101 passes for 1,210 yards and seven touchdowns last season. The talented wideout will need to be a downfield threat with questions at quarterback and running back.

Come December: Oklahoma State will be good enough to beat any opponent, but inconsistencies will leave it vulnerable to a few upsets.

Date Opponent W/L
Aug. 31 vs. Mississippi State (Houston) W
Sept. 7 at Texas-San Antonio W
Sept. 14 Lamar W
Sept. 28 at West Virginia W
Oct. 5 Kansas State W
Oct. 19 TCU L
Oct. 26 at Iowa State W
Nov. 2 at Texas Tech L
Nov. 9 Kansas W
Nov. 16 at Texas L
Nov. 23 Baylor W
Dec. 7 Oklahoma W

T3. TCU

2012: 7-6, 4-5 (T5th)

Overview: Want to hear a crazy stat? No Big 12 team won its next game after facing TCU last year. That is a testament to the hard-nosed style the Horned Frogs brought to the conference in their first year as members. Another crazy stat: TCU lost all four of its conference home games. The return of quarterback Casey Pachall and a strong defense should help TCU protect its home field better.

Key player: Devonte Fields. One of the Big 12’s best defenders, he had 10 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss last year. He will be double-teamed all year.

Come December: Many view TCU as a darkhorse contender for a Big 12 championship. If Pachall plays up to his potential, the Horned Frogs will be in the mix.

Date Opponent W/L
Aug. 31 vs. LSU (Arlington, Texas) L
Sept. 7 Southeastern Louisiana W
Sept. 12 at Texas Tech W
Sept. 28 SMU W
Oct. 5 at Oklahoma L
Oct. 12 Kansas W
Oct. 19 at Oklahoma State W
Oct. 26 Texas L
Nov. 2 West Virginia W
Nov. 9 at Iowa State W
Nov. 16 at Kansas State W
Nov. 30 Baylor L

T5. Kansas State

2012: 11-2, 8-1 (T1st)

Overview: Collin Klein is gone, but Jake Waters and Daniel Sams are talented replacements. K-State’s offense, behind a veteran offensive line and running back John Hubert, should excel again. But the Wildcats will miss linebacker Arthur Brown and eight other starters from last year’s defense. How quickly they come up to speed on defense could mean the difference between qualifying for a bowl and contending for another conference title.

Key player: Senior safety Ty Zimmerman has shined behind Brown and a talented defensive line the past two years. He will need to do even more with a young defense.

Come December: A favorable schedule (only three games outside the Sunflower State) will help K-State stay near the top of the conference standings, but it lost too much defensive talent to expect another championship season.

Date Opponent W/L
Aug. 30 North Dakota State W
Sept. 7 La.-Lafayette W
Sept. 14 Massachusetts W
Sept. 21 at Texas L
Oct. 5 at Oklahoma State L
Oct. 12 Baylor W
Oct. 26 West Virginia W
Nov. 2 Iowa State W
Nov. 9 at Texas Tech W
Nov. 16 TCU L
Nov. 23 Oklahoma L
Nov. 30 Kansas W

T5. Baylor

2012: 8-5, 4-5 (T5th)

Overview: Baylor ended last season on an incredible four-game winning streak, which featured blowout victories over K-State and UCLA. With Lache Seastrunk returning at running back, the Bears once again appear capable of beating anyone. But a new quarterback and a questionable defense might hold them back.

Key player: Seastrunkwants to win the Heisman Trophy. He can certainly talk the talk. Now it’s time to walk the walk.

Come December: There’s a reason Baylor received a first-place vote in the preseason Big 12 media poll. It is loaded with offensive talent. But until the defense catches up, it will hover in the middle of the Big 12 standings.

Date Opponent W/L
Aug. 31 Wofford W
Sept. 7 Buffalo W
Sept. 21 La.-Monroe W
Oct. 5 West Virginia W
Oct. 12 at Kansas State L
Oct. 19 Iowa State L
Oct. 26 at Kansas W
Nov. 7 Oklahoma L
Nov. 16 vs. Texas Tech (Arlington, Texas) W
Nov. 23 at Oklahoma State L
Nov. 30 at TCU W
Dec. 7 Texas W

7. Texas Tech

2012: 8-5, 4-5 (T5th)

Overview: Texas Tech fans were elated when Kliff Kingsbury replaced Tommy Tuberville as coach in the offseason. The youngest coach in the Big 12, who graduated from Texas Tech in 2001, is expected to bring new energy to Lubbock after serving as Texas A&M offensive coordinator last season. But it’s not all good news. Tech must replace quarterback Seth Doege and leading tackler Cody Davis.

Key player: Eric Ward. The Red Raiders might be breaking in a new quarterback, but whoever wins the starting job will have a quality receiving target. Ward caught 82 passes for 1,053 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.

Come December: Expect Texas Tech to start hot and reach bowl eligibility by October. But a back-loaded schedule will make it hard for the Red Raiders to reach eight wins.

Date Opponent W/L
Aug. 30 at SMU W
Sept. 7 Stephen F. Austin W
Sept. 12 TCU L
Sept. 21 Texas State W
Oct. 5 at Kansas W
Oct. 12 Iowa State W
Oct. 19 at West Virginia W
Oct. 26 at Oklahoma L
Nov. 2 Oklahoma State W
Nov. 9 Kansas State L
Nov. 16 vs. Baylor (Arlington, Texas) L
Nov. 28 at Texas L

8. Iowa State

2012: 6-7, 3-6 (9th)

Overview: Paul Rhoads is known as one of the biggest overachievers in the Big 12, but he will really need to coach up the Cyclones to reach a bowl game this year. The Cyclones lose A.J. Klein and Jake Knott from last year’s defense, and the best returning player is punter Kirby Van Der Kamp.

Key player: Jacques Washington. The defensive back had 90 tackles last season, and is Iowa State’s top returning defender.

Come December: This might finally be the year Iowa State isn’t fighting for a bowl late in the season. The Cyclones will play six road games.

Date Opponent W/L
Aug. 31 Northern Illinois W
Sept. 14 Iowa W
Sept. 26 at Tulsa L
Oct. 3 Texas L
Oct. 12 at Texas Tech L
Oct. 19 at Baylor W
Oct. 26 Oklahoma State L
Nov. 2 at Kansas State L
Nov. 9 TCU L
Nov. 16 at Oklahoma L
Nov. 23 Kansas W
Nov. 30 at West Virginia L

T9. West Virginia

2012: 7-6, 4-5 (T5th)

Overview: No team fell harder than West Virginia last season. The Mountaineers were popular following a 5-0 start that included wins over Baylor and Texas. Then they lost six straight and barely reached a bowl. With Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin all gone from a loaded offense, West Virginia may struggle.

Key player: Andrew Buie. He led West Virginia with 851 rushing yards last year in a pass-heavy offense. The Mountaineers will lean on him this season.

Come December: Games against Kansas, Iowa State, Texas Tech and Maryland will determine West Virginia’s bowl fate. The Mountaineers have the talent to win all four.

Date Opponent W/L
Aug. 31 William & Mary W
Sept. 7 at Oklahoma L
Sept. 14 Georgia State W
Sept. 21 vs. Maryland (Baltimore) W
Sept. 28 Oklahoma State L
Oct. 5 at Baylor L
Oct. 19 Texas Tech L
Oct. 26 at Kansas State L
Nov. 2 at TCU L
Nov. 9 Texas L
Nov. 16 at Kansas L
Nov. 30 Iowa State W

T9. Kansas

2012: 1-11, 0-9 (10th)

Overview: The first year of the Charlie Weis era wasn’t any better than the final year of the Turner Gill era. It was actually worse. But there is reason for optimism — the Jayhawks lost five games by a touchdown or less. They were competitive at times and will improve — just not enough to move Kansas out of the Big 12 cellar.

Key player: Jake Heaps. At one time, he was a highly touted high school quarterback. If he can regain his form after transferring from BYU, the Jayhawks will be a much better team. If not, the offense will continue to struggle.

Come December: A bowl game seems out of reach, considering the Big 12’s depth. But Kansas could end up with five wins if everything breaks right.

Date Opponent W/L
Sept. 7 South Dakota W
Sept. 14 at Rice L
Sept. 21 Louisiana Tech W
Oct. 5 Texas Tech L
Oct. 12 at TCU L
Oct. 19 Oklahoma L
Oct. 26 Baylor L
Nov. 2 at Texas L
Nov. 9 at Oklahoma State L
Nov. 16 West Virginia W
Nov. 23 at Iowa State L
Nov. 30 Kansas State L

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