Big 12 Championship: Oklahoma over Oklahoma State
1. Oklahoma Sooners
Projected Record: 12-1 (8-1 Big 12)
Blue chip QB Spencer Rattler steps into the starting role along with highly rated WRs Theo Wease, Jadon Haselwood, Charleston Rambo, and 1,000 yard UCLA grad transfer Theo Howard. The established offensive line willl again lead the way for back-to-back 1,000 yard rusher Kennedy Brooks. It’s Lincoln Riley… this offense will be explosive.
The question for the last few years and continues to be the defense. Key DE Ronnie Perkins is suspended for the first five games and all three nose guards Oklahoma used last year have moved on. That puts the pressure on top JUCO DT Perrion Winfrey to step in and boost the defensive line. The linebackers are experienced with DaShaun White, Nik Bonitto and Caleb Kelly. The secondary led by safety Delarrin Turner-Yell must improve. The Sooners have most of their returning corners back including Tre Brown, Jaden Davis, and Tre Norwood, but the unit must improve if the Sooners want to land back in the playoffs.
Final Outlook: The Sooners have a pattern. Lose one easy game, win the Big 12, and get their face kicked into the Playoffs. This is looking like one of those years with questions remaining on the defense and how quick new QB Spencer Rattler will be ready to roll. Oklahoma is the most talented team in the Big 12, but without an improvement to their defense I can’t see them as a National Title Contender. The Sooners better be ready to roll when Tennessee comes into town Week 2.
2. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Projected Record: 10-2 (7-2 Big 12)
Oklahoma State is poised to be the breakout team in the Big 12 with an offense that is as explosive as any in the conference (including Oklahoma). The Cowboys return Biletnikoff finalist Tylan Wallace and Heisman-hopeful running back Chuba Hubbard. The key is QB Spencer Sanders being more consistent after a decent freshman campaign.
The defense returns just about everyone. The ultimate question is will their average defense become a good defense? Oklahoma State’s defense is led by their linebackers Amen Obongeminga and Malcolm Rodriguez. While Obongemeniga led the team with 5 sacks last year, they need to find someone else who can create pressure. The secondary needs a major improvement after finishing 102nd in the Nation last year in Pass defense. The Cowboys get a boost with talented safety Calvin Bundage returning after missing last year with an injury and also safety Kolby Harvel-Peel returning after his five interception season.
Final Outlook: Oklahoma State could be your surprise Big 12 champions if Spencer Sanders takes a step forward and the defense improves. If not… they will probably be a 8-4 team again. This is one of Mike Gundy’s most talented teams ever and the matchup against Oklahoma October 24th will have Big 12 championship game implications.
3. Texas Longhorns
Projected Record: 9-3 (7-2 Big 12)
The offense may have lost wide receivers Devin Duvernay and Collin Johnson, but Michigan grad transfer Tarik Black should provide a nice replacement along with Brennan Eagles. At running back Keontay Ingram and top recruit true freshman RB Bijan Robinson will lead the group. The offensive line should be solid returning three starters and one of the nations best in OT Samuel Cosmi.
New Defensive Coordinator Chris Ash enters Austin in an attempt to turn the defense around. The biggest issue last year was injuries in the secondary. While safety Caden Sterns is the star, cornerbacks Jalen Green and D’Shawn Jamison must play better in 2020. The best player up front is Joseph Ossai who returns after he had 13.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks last season. With nine returning starters, expect a much better unit.
Final Outlook: Last year I told everyone to pump the breaks with Texas being a National Title contender as they had to replace a lot of starters. This year’s Texas team will be better and challenge for a spot in the Big 12 Championship. With a lot of talent returning on defense and Sam Ehlinger leading the offense, Texas should have a solid season and LSU better be ready in Death Valley in Week 2.
4. Iowa State Cyclones
Projected Record: 8-4 (6-3 Big 12)
The Cyclones may have finished 7-6, but their five Big 12 losses were by just an average of a little over 4 points per game. Returning is one of the conference’s best quarterbacks in Brock Purdy and almost a 1,000 yard rusher in Breece Hall. Even with one of the top quarterbacks in the nation this offense will face its share of challenges. Particularly on the offensive line after losing four starters and at the skill position where options are limited.
On defense, Iowa State returns the bulk of their starters from last year that finished as one of the best in the Big 12 (not saying much). The unit is led by DE JaQuon Bailey, LB Mike Rose, and safety Greg Eisworth will be the best in 2020.
Final Outlook: Matt Campbell transforming Iowa State into a consistent 7 or 8 win team is impressive. The Cyclones have the opportunity to win more, but replacing almost their entire offensive line will be tough.
5. TCU Horned Frogs
Projected Record: 7-5 (4-5 Big 12)
QB Max Duggan is back after an up-and-down freshman year. He won’t have much help returning after losing four starting offensive linemen, first round pick WR Jalen Reagor, and their top two running backs. TCU did receive some great summer news that five-star RB Zachary Evans would be joining the team. While he does have some issues off the field, Evans has the talent to start right away for the Horned Frogs.
TCU will have to be led by their defense which was ranked the best in the Big 12. TCU has one of the most talented safety tandems in the nation with Ar’Darius Washington and Trevone Moehrig. Leading tackler LB Garrett Wallow (125 tackles) is also back to lead the defense. In order to increase their sack total from just 22 last year, TCU landed Oklahoma grad transfer DE Mark Jackson. TCU has enough returning talent to make up for the players lost to the NFL including DT Ross Blacklock, CB Jeff Gladney, and safety Vernon Scott.
Final Outlook: TCU missed out on a bowl last year and has its challenges replacing the talent they lost to the NFL. However, head coach Gary Patterson will have this defense ready. While I don’t think TCU is a serious contender to compete for the Big 12 championship game, TCU shouldn’t miss a bowl this year.
6. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Projected Record: 7-5 (4-5 Big 12)
The first season didn’t go quite as planned for Matt Wells. However, the 2020 Red Raiders are poised for a breakout. Alan Bowman is a talented passer who has unfortunately had his first two seasons cut short. RB SaRodorick Thompson is a workhorse and he will have help in the backfield with Alabama graduate transfer Chadarius Townsend. The Red Raider wide receivers is a deep unit with T.J Vasher along with Erik Ezukanama, Dalton Rigdon, McClane Mannix, and Seth Collins. The offensive line is solid on the interior, but Tech will have to replace both tackles. Expect this offense to be among the Big 12’s best.
As always with Tech, defense will be the issue. The Red Raiders are replacing first round pick Jordyn Brooks and NFL draft pick DT Broderick Washington. There are still some solid players left including DE Eli Howard back as the primary pass rusher and two solid linebackers with Riko Jeffers and JUCO transfer Krishon Merriweather. Defensive backs are a huge issue after finishing 128th last season. They return starters to the secondary, but will have to make an improvement if they want to contend in the Big 12.
Final Outlook: Expect a bounce back year for Texas Tech after a tough 4-8 season with many close loses. The offense will be great and the defense will be not as terrible as last year.
7. Baylor Bears
Projected Record: 6-6 (4-5 Big 12)
Former Coach Matt Rhule did a fantastic job bringing Baylor back to double digit wins for the first time since 2015. New coach Dave Aranda takes over now with major work to do after losing major talent off last year’s squad. QB Charlie Brewer is back as one of the best in the Big 12. However, the offensive line must improve and they need a replacement for dynamic WR Denzel Mims.
The defense is an even bigger issue as they return just two starters with LB Terrel Bernard and CB Raleigh Texada. The defense was absolutely gutted by graduates and early departures to the NFL. Arkansas State grad transfer DE William Bradley-King will make an immediate needed impact.
Final Outlook: This Baylor team is nothing like last year’s 11-3 team. While Charlie Brewer is a fine quarterback, the defensive exodus is too big to overlook. Baylor will compete in the middle of the Big 12 and will have a challenge right away with Ole Miss in Week 1.
8. West Virginia Mountaineers
Projected Record: 5-7 (3-6 Big 12)
Last year was an expected down year for West Virginia, but they were still competitive down the stretch. Austin Kendall and Jarret Doege will be the QB battle to watch going into the Fall. Kendall started most of the games last year, but the Mountaineers had more success in the three games Doege started. The Mountaineers additionally lost most of its offensive line. The receivers are actually pretty solid with Sophomore Sam James coming off a 69 catch season and established former Alabama receiver T.J. Simmons.
Defensively, the Mountaineers should make an improvement to an average defense last year getting most of their starters back. Another Alabama transfer Vandarius Cowan will look to impact the defense along with DL Darius Stills and safety Tykee Smith. The corner position is young and questionable after losing both starters from last year.
Final Outlook: I think Jarret Doege holds onto the starting quarterback role and the Mountaineers continue to be competitive in head coach Neal Brown’s second season. A bowl game should be looked at as a succesfull progression for this program.
9. Kansas State Wildcats
Projected Record: 5-7 (2-7 Big 12)
Head Coach Chris Kleiman overachieved in his first season with the Wildcats finishing 8-5 and even upsetting Oklahoma. 2020 will be tougher. The offensive line is the issue as they replace everyone. Yes, the Wildcats have to replace the center, the two guards, and the two tackles. This is a team that relies on the offensive line. QB Skylar Thompson is a capable, but Kansas State only has one other returning starter. This offense may have a rough year.
On defense, Kansas State has DE Wyatt Hubert Jr. leading the unit following his 7-sack season. LB Justin Hughes also returns after missing the year due to a torn ACL. The secondary was solid finishing 33rd in the nation in pass defense and returns most of their starters. Overall the defense will lead this 2020 team.
Final Outlook: Chris Kleiman is a fantastic coach. But with how many starters the Wildcats lost on offense… 2020 might be a challenge to just make a bowl game.
10. Kansas Jayhawks
Projected Record: 2-10 (0-9 Big 12)
Les Miles needed all the magic to be 3-9 in 2019. The problem in 2020 is they don’t have a clear-cut starting QB. That is kind of important. What they do have is one of the best players in the Big 12 with RB Pooka Williams. The issue remains Pooka will be stuck behind a bad offensive line that also lost three starters.
The defense was terrible last year and after losing a ton of starters, they will most likely be terrible again. Young sophomore LB Gavin Potter is one of the few bright spots if you want to be impressed with something. But that is about all you can be impressed with… this defensive unit will finish close to last in the Big 12.
Final Outlook: Kansas is picking up their recruiting efforts, but it will take another year before they escape being the doormat of the Big 12. Bad offense… Bad Defense… The Mad Hatter has his work cut out for him.