Big 12 Preview - are Texas back?
“We’re ba-aack!” yelled Texas QB Sam Ehlinger after their 2019 Sugar Bowl win over Georgia. Last year didn’t quite realise that statement but the Longhorns are on the way. Oklahoma, however, are still the ones to knock off their perch. The Sooners have won the last five Big 12 titles. In addition to Texas, Oklahoma State and Iowa State will be the main contenders. All four are in the AP Preseason Top 25 rankings. It will be fun to watch.
Here’s my Big 12 season preview…
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Iowa State Cyclones
Texas Christian University Horned Frogs
Kansas State Wildcats
West Virginia Mountaineers
Texas Tech Red Raiders
How It Works
Pretty straightforward. The two teams with the highest conference winning percentage play in the Big 12 championship game.
As with Clemson in my ACC 2020 Season Preview, No.5 Oklahoma (12-2) are the team to beat. Lincoln Riley appears to be the quarterback whisperer of college football. In the last three years, he has coached consecutive number one overall picks Baker Mayfield, a transfer from Texas Tech, Kyler Murray, a transfer from Texas A&M and Jalen Hurts who transferred after the mergence of Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama.
This year, he has a player he recruited to work with. Spencer Rattler, a five-star recruit who has beaten Tanner Mordecai for the starting job. Rattler is an exciting talent, another QB1: Beyond The Lights star and his range of trickery is already evident on YouTube. He has Patrick Mahomes potential and is an overall contender for the Heisman Trophy this year.
There are big gaps to fill in Norman, Oklahoma, however. Hurts, CeeDee Lamb and Kenneth Murray have departed for the NFL but the offense looks promising. Keep an eye out for the magnificently named wide receiver Charleston Rambo.
Are No.14 Texas (8-5) back? The Longhorns have an illustrious history. I’d recommend anyone new to college football like me to watch the documentary A Football Life: The 2006 Rose Bowl, which gives a great insight into the passion of Texas and college football in general.
Texas showed flashes of potential last season – they only lost by a touchdown to national finalists LSU and Red River rivals Oklahoma last year and scoring over 40 points in five games. Disappointing losses against fellow contenders Iowa State and TCU put paid to their Big 12 title hopes. They’ll need to beat both this year to be in contention.
QB Sam Ehlinger returns for his senior season as a Heisman Trophy contender. The 6’3” 230 lb native Texan broke records set at the same high school attended by Super Bowl winners Drew Brees and Nick Foles, so he has some pedigree and is a legitimate dual threat quarterback. Safety Caden Sterns is the standout on a defense that must improve for the Longhorns to be in contention. Matthew McConaughey is probably college football’s biggest cheerleader, recently appointed as UT’s “Minister of Culture”.
An improving defense and triple threat offense mean No.15 Oklahoma State (8-5) have a real chance of upsetting their state rivals Oklahoma. The offense is loaded with talent, including second-year QB Spencer Sanders, WR Tylon Wallace and superstar Chuba Hubbard, who ran for over 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2019. If Hubbard stays healthy and Sanders can rein in some of his wayward moments (he had 11 interceptions last year). Oklahoma State could be a real threat.
No.24 Iowa State (7-6), long overshadowed by their historically more successful neighbours Iowa, the Cyclones’ average 2019 record masked potential for the year ahead. One-point losses to Iowa and Oklahoma, a two-point loss to an excellent Baylor team and frustrating defeat to Kansas State shows this team might be ready to have a breakout 2020. QB Brock Purdy will be closely watched by NFL scouts, having led the Big 12 in passing with over 4,000 yards last year and will be supported by RB Breece Hall who had an impressive freshman season. If DE JaQuan Bailey can remain injury free, he adds a distinct pass rushing threat with Zach Petersen on a good defense.
Having made it to the Big 12 title game last year, Baylor (11-3) are up against it in 2020. Matt Rhule, having coached the team from a one-win season to eleven in two years, has been seduced by the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. Star receiver Denzel Mims was drafted by the New York Jets and the best defense in the Big 12 last year only has two starters returning.
There are encouraging signs. Dave Aranda takes over from Rhule as Head Coach. Aranda is a defensive specialist, coming from Baton Rouge as the defensive co-ordinator of LSU. A COVID interrupted preseason has not made it an easy start for him! QB Charlie Brewer returns for his final year in Waco and his experience should help a Baylor team that will struggle to reach the heights of last season.
Kansas State (8-5) will hope QB Skylar Thompson can lead the Wildcats to build on last year’s promising season. A shock upset of Oklahoma, wins over Mississippi State, Iowa State and TCU gave Kansas State optimism for this year. The loss of five starters on offense means second-year coach Chris Klieman will have his work cut out.
One of the best nicknamed teams, the TCU Horned Frogs (5-7) have a lot to do. Three of the team’s defense and star receiver Jalen Reagor went to the NFL and while prized WR recruit Quentin Johnston will help lessen the void left by Reagor’s departure, they still look light in comparison to their immediate rivals.
The always entertaining Texas Tech (4-8) and Kansas Jayhawks (3-9) will be at the foot of the Big 12 this year, although Texas Tech QB Alan Bowman is one to watch in their famed Air Raid offense, which launched the career of Patrick Mahomes.
Oct 3rd – TCU at Texas – purely for me as I had tickets to this game before COVID took hold. I’ll be watching on TV and attempting to get to Austin next year.
Oct 10th – Texas vs Oklahoma – The Red River Rivalry and potential Big12 decider.
Oct 31st - Texas at Oklahoma State – the two biggest challengers to Oklahoma’s crown meet in Stillwater.
Nov 21st - Oklahoma State at Oklahoma – the gap has closed between these in-state rivals but home field should give the Sooners an advantage.
Oklahoma made it to the national final last year, before being rolled over 63-28 by the all-conquering LSU. It’s hard to look past them, but they have lost a significant amount of talent to the NFL and a lot will ride on the 19 year old shoulders of redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler. While Oklahoma State and Iowa State will impress next year, I’m going for an upset and the romantic in me takes Texas to take the Big 12 title east of the Red River. Hook ‘em!
Next up, the SEC who kick off next weekend…