Wednesday, August 29, 2012

2012 - A Big 12 Preview

This is a conference that is getting a second chance.  There were a couple of times the past two or three years when it looked like the Big 12 would be ripped apart.  But the two major anchors of the conference, Texas and Oklahoma could not find deals with the SEC or PAC-12 that were suitable for them.  So the conference exchanged Missouri and Texas A&M for West Virginia and TCU.  That trade is a plus for the conference, but the power in the conference is still decided in the Red River Shootout.

1.  Oklahoma.  The Sooners are some people's choice to be in the National Championship game.  There is merit to that choice.  Having Landry Jones come back and ignore the lure of being a first-round draft pick will cause the offense to not miss a beat.  The Offensive line is a veteran one, the skill positions are loaded and the coaching is still top flight.  I expect an average of over 40 points from this team.  Mike Stoops is back as Defensive Coordinator and should bring about a revival of the Oklahoma defense.  The only part of the defense that is suspect is the secondary.  I see the Sooners beating the hated Longhorns and winning the Big 12 yet again.  Overall 11-1, Big 12 8-1.

2.  West Virginia.  The Mountaineers are debuting in the Big 12 this year and look like they will be fighting for the title.  The fans in Morgantown are excited to see their record setting offense slash through the Big 12 defenses which haven't been world class over the recent future.  The offensive line is a small question mark and RB Dustin Garrison tore his ACL last December, so the RB picture might be one that has a committee.  On defense, they might look like a Big 12 defense.  There are questions along the D-Line and at the linebacker position as they transition from a 3-3-5 base to a 4-3 base defense.  The secondary should be able to slow down the pass happy teams from Oklahoma and Texas.  I see road trips being the downfall for the Mountaineers while upsetting Oklahoma at Home.  Overall 10-2, Big 12 7-2.

3.  Texas.  This is a leap of faith in Mack Brown.  Normally if I am looking at a team like Texas and they have a dual headed quarterback solution, I don't think that they will do that well, but Coach Brown should get the most out of both QB's.  The rest of the offense is loaded and ready to bring back Texas to national prominence.  On the defensive side of the ball, the Longhorns should be the best defense in the Big 12.  They were ranked #11 last year and should be even better this year.  The pressure is on David Ash to lead that offense, and he might at the end of the year, but will not have total command at the beginning stages.  Overall 10-2, Big 12 7-2.

4.  Oklahoma State.  There should be a natural falling off with Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon leaving Stillwater for the NFL.  However, the Cowboys will reload with Freshman Wes Lunt.  He will have some growing pains.  The running game is stout and the line should be good to great.  The defense was ranked #107 in total defense last year, but that is misleading.  I would take that as well as their #1 ranking in turnover margin, a plus-21.  Each and every turnover that the Cowboys received last year is just like a three and out for the defense.  And the defense should be even better this year.  There isn't a weak position here.  A fast start will bring a belief that the Cowboys can win the Big-12, but there just isn't enough on the offensive side of the ball to pull out the conference title.  Overall 9-3, Big 12 6-3.

5.  TCU.  If this was last year's team, TCU would be in the Top 3 of the league.  But this year, the offensive line is in a state of flux and upgrading the league that they are in will cause more problems than the Horned Frogs are used to.  The rest of the offense is stout.  The defense should struggle this year.  TCU has experience coming into the starting lineup, but again the step up in class of opponent will cause problems that hey didn't experience in the Mountain West.  TCU is also dealing with the aftermath of a February drug scandal that had 4 players kicked off the team.  The future is bright in Fort worth and the Horned Frogs don't feel like they are being ignored by Big Brother anymore, but in this transition year, they are pretenders for the crown.  Overall 8-4, Big 12 5-4.

6.  Kansas State.  I love the way Collin Klein plays QB.  He is the heart and soul of the Wildcats.  He should be able to improve his passing during the offseason and will have the Wildcats in each and every game they play.  However, it might be the rebuilding of the offensive line that causes the Wildcats to fall short of another 10 win season.  There is a strong possibility that 2 freshmen see significant time along that line.  On defense, there is serious concern that the secondary will not improve and will continue to be a sieve for opposing teams.  The line and backers should be steady if not spectacular.  Bill Snyder will get the most out of his troops though.  Overall 7-5, Big 12 4-5.

7.  Texas Tech.  Tommy Tuberville is starting to feel the heat on his seat after missing a bowl game last year.  However, like usual in Lubbock, the offense of the Red Raiders isn't the problem.  Seth dodge threw for over 4,000 yards last year and Texas Tech running backs ran for over 1,500 years.  The O-Line is steady and the receivers can catch the ball.  The defense on the other hand allowed an average of over 250 years rushing per game.  They allowed almost 40 points per game.  A new scheme and coordinator is in place, but I don't see the athletes that will turn this around.  Overall 6-6, Big 12 4-5.

8.  Iowa State.  Paul Rhoads has an underdog mentality.  every year, the Cyclones are picked to be one of the dregs of the league and every year, they rise up and bite an overconfident favorite.  Last year, they kept OK State from playing in the National Title game.  This year will be much the same.  The Cyclones will have a good running game, an offensive line that is steady, but not outstanding, a receiving corps that will surprise people if the QB can get them the ball.  The linebacking corps will have to carry the defense.  Lots of experience graduated from the Defensive Line and the Secondary.  Hopes that the Cyclones would rise up after beating Iowa and OK State last year will be dashed.  Overall 5-7, Big 12 3-6.

9.  Baylor.  I am not sold at all on the Bears.  RG III is gone.  Kendall Wright and Terrance Ganaway are gone.  That is your record setting QB, WR, and RB all leaving and yet, people are expecting the Bears to be in the middle of the pack.  I don't see it.  I worry about the offensive line that doesn't look like it will hold up on the outside.  And that will cause the skill positions to underachieve.  The secondary will be a strength for this team.  And all the hype that is coming out of Waco about how the defense will be better than last year has me worried about what will actually happen.  Overall 4-8, Big 12 1-8.

10.  Kansas.  Welcome Charlie Weis.  After a failed attempt to turn around Notre Dame and a year in Florida, he takes over for Kendall Gill who couldn't get the Jayhawks to a bowl game.  Weis recriuted Dayne Crist to come join him in Lawrence for a year.  Nothing against Crist, but it's going to be a long year for him.  Elite talent isn't there, but there is some.  The O-Line should be adequate and the skill positions should be able to get Weis's offense off the ground.  The defense has nowhere to go but up.  An influx of telent will make sure that the team isn't dead last in defense this year.  But there isn't enough talent yet to play with the big boys of the big 12.  Overall 3-9, Big 12 0-9.

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