Breaking down the Big 12 football race

08/24/2014 8:34 AM

08/24/2014 8:43 AM

Kellis Robinett handicaps the 2014 season. In his predicted order of finish.

1. Oklahoma

2013: 11-2, 7-2 Big 12 (T2nd)

Overview: Few teams ended the 2013 season hotter than Oklahoma. After some early struggles, the Sooners finished by winning at Kansas State and Oklahoma State, then took down Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The emergence of Trevor Knight at quarterback keyed the turnaround, but their defense also came up big. They enter the upcoming season with a strong nucleus of returning players and momentum.

Key player: Moving Blake Bell to tight end will give Oklahoma another weapon on offense. The former Bishop Carroll product had success at quarterback, but he has just as much upside at his new position.

Come December: Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State all play in Norman this season. That friendly schedule could help Oklahoma contend for a national championship.

Date

Opponent

W/L

Aug. 30

Louisiana Tech

W

Sept. 6

at Tulsa

W

Sept. 13

Tennessee

W

Sept. 20

at West Virginia

W

Oct. 4

at TCU

W

Oct. 11

x-Texas

W

Oct. 18

Kansas St.

W

Nov. 1

at Iowa St.

W

Nov. 8

Baylor

W

Nov. 15

at Texas Tech

W

Nov. 22

Kansas

W

Dec. 6

Oklahoma St.

W

x-at Dallas

2. Baylor

2013: 11-2, 8-1 (1st)

Overview: Baylor is coming off its best season in school history. Behind one of the nation’s top offenses, the Bears won 11 games in the regular season and claimed the Big 12 championship. Quarterback Bryce Petty, and some explosive receivers, return. Once again, this should be a fun team to watch.

Key player: The Bears are at their best when they have top-flight receivers. Antwan Goodley, a senior, could be the next Baylor receiver to pile up stats.

Come December: If Baylor’s defense can pick up where it left off last season, and its running game take pressure off Petty, the Bears could contend for another Big 12 title.

Date

Opponent

W/L

Aug. 31

SMU

W

Sept. 6

Northwestern St.

W

Sept. 12

at Buffalo

W

Sept. 27

at Iowa St.

W

Oct. 4

at Texas

L

Oct. 11

TCU

W

Oct. 18

at West Virginia

W

Nov. 1

Kansas

W

Nov. 8

at Oklahoma

L

Nov. 22

Oklahoma St.

W

Nov. 29

vs. Texas Tech

W

Dec. 6

Kansas St.

W

3. Kansas State

2013: 8-5, 5-4 (5th)

Overview: The Wildcats are coming off their first bowl victory since 2002. They hope the momentum of that victory, as well as a strong finish to the 2013 season, will give them enough momentum to tackle a difficult 2014 season. Quarterback Jake Waters, receiver Tyler Lockett and defensive end Ryan Mueller give K-State as much star power as any team in the conference. Running back is the only major question mark.

Key player: Many are expecting Tyler Lockett to be the best receiver in the Big 12 this season. That means he will see extra coverage from defenses. Can he put up big numbers agains the extra attention?

Come December: K-State has the talent to win the Big 12, but its schedule leaves little room for error. The Wildcats must play at Baylor and Oklahoma, which both beat K-State in Manhattan last season. Early games against Iowa State and Auburn will also be challenging.

Date

Opponent

W/L

Aug. 30

Stephen F. Austin

W

Sept. 6

at Iowa St.

W

Sept. 18

Auburn

L

Sept. 27

UTEP

W

Oct. 4

Texas Tech

W

Oct. 18

at Oklahoma

L

Oct. 25

Texas

W

Nov. 1

Oklahoma St.

W

Nov. 8

at TCU

W

Nov. 20

at West Virginia

W

Nov. 29

Kansas

W

Dec. 6

at Baylor

L

T4. Oklahoma State

2013: 10-2, 7-2 (T2nd)

Overview: Oklahoma State was as good as any team in the Big 12 last season, but losses to Oklahoma and Missouri at the end of the year hurt that perception. The Cowboys lost 28 seniors, so Mike Gundy’s ability to sustain success will be tested, especially with games at Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma on the schedule. Not to mention a bout with Florida State to start the year.

Key player: Jhajuan Seales impressed as a freshman. Can the receiver improve this season and step into a more prominent role?

Come December: The Cowboys will reach another bowl game, but the schedule is too difficult to expect anything more than that.

Date

Opponent

W/L

Aug. 30

x-Florida St,

L

Sept. 6

Missouri St.

W

Sept. 13

Texas-San Antonio

W

Sept. 25

Texas Tech

W

Oct. 4

Iowa St.

W

Oct. 11

at Kansas

W

Oct. 18

at TCU

L

Oct. 25

West Virginia

W

Nov. 1

at Kansas St.

L

Nov. 15

Texas

W

Nov. 22

at Baylor

L

Dec. 6

at Oklahoma

L

x-at Arlington, Texas

T4. Texas

2013: 8-5, 7-2 (T2nd)

Overview: The Charlie Strong era begins at Texas with mixed expectations. Strong has said the Longhorns aren’t ready to compete for a national championship. Some view his comments as refreshing honesty. Others want more from the Longhorns in his first year. Texas returns enough talent from a team that won eight games a year ago to make a run at double-digit victories. Can Strong’s new, tough approach help it reach its potential?

Key player: David Ash. Texas needs strong quarterback play to compete in the Big 12. Ash, who missed much of last season with concussion issues, will need to be good for Texas to take a step forward.

Come December: Texas has a wide-open future. It has the potential to reach a quality bowl game. It also has enough question marks to miss the postseason entirely.

Date

Opponent

W/L

Aug. 30

North Texas

W

Sept. 6

BYU

W

Sept. 13

x-UCLA

L

Sept. 27

at Kansas

W

Oct. 4

Baylor

W

Oct. 11

vs. Oklahoma

L

Oct. 18

Iowa St.

W

Oct. 25

at Kansas St.

L

Nov. 1

at Texas Tech

L

Nov. 8

West Virginia

W

Nov. 15

at Oklahoma St.

L

Nov. 27

TCU

W

x-at Arlington, Texas

T6. TCU

2013: 4-8, 2-7 (T7th)

Overview: Gary Patterson is coming off his worst season in Fort Worth, winning four games just three years after winning the Rose Bowl. New offensive coaches Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie could help overhaul an unproductive offense, but quarterback is a question.

Key player: Texas A&M transfer QB Matt Joeckel didn’t do much with the Aggies. Can he exceed expectations with the Frogs?

Come December: The loss of Devonte Fields hurts, but if TCU can develop some offensive playmakers, seven or eight victories are within reach.

Date

Opponent

W/L

Aug. 30

Samford

W

Sept. 13

Minnesota

W

Sept. 27

at SMU

W

Oct. 4

Oklahoma

L

Oct. 11

at Baylor

L

Oct. 18

Oklahoma St.

L

Oct. 25

Texas Tech

W

Nov. 1

at West Virginia

L

Nov. 8

Kansas St.

L

Nov. 15

at Kansas

W

Nov. 27

at Texas

L

Dec. 6

Iowa St.

W

T6. Iowa State

2013: 3-9, 2-7 (T 7th Big 12)

Overview: It is easy to write off Iowa State’s 2013 season as a failure at 3-9, but don’t forget about how the Cyclones ended the year. They trounced Kansas and West Virginia to head into the season with momentum. With 15 starters returning, and the addition of Mark Mangino as offensive coordinator, the Cyclones could find themselves in another bowl game this year.

Key player: Aaron Wimberly looked good at times rushing for 567 yards last season. If he can avoid injuries and add consistency, he could be in for a nice year.

Come December: Nonconference games against North Dakota State and Iowa leave little margin for error, but Iowa State has the talent to contend for the postseason.

Date

Opponent

W/L

Aug. 30

North Dakota St.

W

Sept. 6

Kansas St.

L

Sept. 13

at Iowa

W

Sept. 27

Baylor

L

Oct. 4

at Oklahoma St.

L

Oct. 11

Toledo

W

Oct. 18

at Texas

L

Nov. 1

Oklahoma

L

Nov. 8

at Kansas

W

Nov. 22

Texas Tech

W

Nov. 29

West Virginia

W

Dec. 6

at TCU

L

T6. Texas Tech

2013: 8-5, 4-5 (6th)

Overview: No team had a more baffling 2013 season. The Red Raiders won their first seven games and then lost their final five. A victory over Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl boosts hope heading into Kliff Kingsbury’s second season, in which finding consistency will be key.

Key player: Davis Webb. There is no quarterback controversy in Lubbock, because all of them transferred except Webb. Texas Tech needs its starter to play well.

Come December: Back-to-back games in November will decide Texas Tech’s season. Texas and Oklahoma visit Lubbock in consecutive games. Win one, or both, and it could be a special year. Lose both and it’s more of the same.

Date

Opponent

W/L

Aug. 30

Central Arkansas

W

Sept. 6

at UTEP

W

Sept. 13

Arkansas

W

Sept. 25

at Oklahoma St.

L

Oct. 4

at Kansas St.

L

Oct. 11

West Virginia

W

Oct. 18

Kansas

W

Oct. 25

at TCU

L

Nov. 1

Texas

W

Nov. 15

Oklahoma

L

Nov. 22

at Iowa St.

L

Nov. 29

x-Baylor

L

x-at Arlington, Texas

9. West Virginia

2013: 4-8, 2-7 (T 7th Big 12)

Overview: It wasn’t long ago that West Virginia was dominating the Big East and beating Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. But things have changed significantly for the Mountaineers since joining the Big 12. They fell on hard times last season and coach Dana Holgorsen is now on a bit of a hot seat. He needs a good season to help his approval rating.

Key player: Nick Kwiatkoski led West Virginia with 86 tackles a year ago, and he will need to do so again for the Mountaineers’ defense to stop most Big 12 powers.

Come December: West Virginia could make a run at a bowl if not for nonconference games against Alabama and Maryland. The schedule is too difficult to expect more than five victories.

Date

Opponent

W/L

Aug. 30

x-Alabama

L

Sept. 6

Towson

W

Sept. 13

at Maryland

W

Sept. 20

Oklahoma

L

Oct. 4

Kansas

W

Oct. 11

at Texas Tech

L

Oct. 18

Baylor

L

Oct. 25

at Oklahoma St.

L

Nov. 1

TCU

W

Nov. 8

at Texas

L

Nov. 20

Kansas St.

L

Nov. 29

at Iowa St.

L

x-at Atlanta

10. Kansas

2013: 3-9, 1-8 (10th)

Overview: Kansas is coming off another disappointing season, but three victories were actually an improvement for Charlie Weis, who won one game in his debut season. The Jayhawks are hoping an above-average defense, led by linebacker Ben Heeney, can keep them in games and that their offense can surprise enough people to win some of them.

Key player: Weis hand-picked Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps to play quarterback, but both players disappointed. Montell Cozart will need to do more for Kansas to win more than three games. Perhaps his mobility will help the offense.

Come December: Until Kansas proves it can score, it’s hard to expect significant progress. Another last-place finish seems likely.

Date

Opponent

W/L

Sept. 6

Southeast Missouri St.

W

Sept. 13

at Duke

L

Sept. 20

Central Michigan

W

Sept. 27

Texas

L

Oct. 4

at West Virginia

L

Oct. 11

Oklahoma St.

L

Oct. 18

at Texas Tech

L

Nov. 1

at Baylor

L

Nov. 8

Iowa St.

L

Nov. 15

TCU

L

Nov. 22

at Oklahoma

L

Nov. 29

at Kansas St.

L

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