Big 12 Championship: Oklahoma over Oklahoma State
1. Oklahoma Sooners
Projected Record: 13-0
Wins: Tulane, Western Carolina, Nebraska, West Virginia, Kansas State, Texas, TCU, Kansas, Texas Tech, Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Iowa State (Big 12 Championship)
The offense is going to be one of the top offenses in the nation as it checks nearly all the boxes: countless playmaker receivers (Marvin Mims, Theo Wease, Jaden Haselwood, Mike Woods), great 1-2 punch at running back (Kennedy Brooks and Eric Gray), do-it-all FB/TE (Jeremiah Hall), big body TE (Austin Stogner), and a gunslinging QB (Spencer Rattler). The only real question is the offensive line has to replace two starters.
Every year the biggest question is Oklahoma’s defense… this year the defense should be solid. Edge rusher Nik Bonitto is one of the best players in the nation. Combine that with experience at defensive line and linebacker and they look set to run through the Big 12. A main question worth monitoring are the cornerbacks with two new starters. Overall, Big 12 championship should be the minimum expectation. Playing in the national championship should be the goal.
2. Iowa State Cyclones
Projected Record: 10-2
Wins: Northern Iowa, Iowa, UNLV, Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech, TCU
Losses: West Virginia, Oklahoma
19 RETURNING STARTERS!!! Iowa State made the Big 12 championship game and returns all of their major pieces. But what is their ceiling? Brock Purdy will need to take another step if they want to knock of Oklahoma as Big 12 champions. Regardless, the offense will continue to rely on 1500 yard rusher Breece Hall.
Defensively, expect the Cyclones to be solid again. The defense will be led by LB Mike Rose and there aren’t really any glaring holes. Expect a very good Cyclones team to be at the top of the Big 12 along with Oklahoma, but a playoff spot doesn’t seem realistic.
3. Texas Longhorns
Projected Record: 9-3
Wins: Arkansas, Rice, Texas Tech, TCU, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Kansas, West Virginia, Kansas State
Losses: Louisiana, Oklahoma, Iowa State
Steve Sarkisian takes over a pretty talented Texas team. Honestly, although Sam Ehlinger was a solid college quarterback, Casey Thompson or Hudson Card may give this team more upside. Combine that with a solid offensive line, one of the best running backs in the nation (Bijan Robinson), and a deep wide receiving group… this offense has potential.
Defensively, Texas is led by DT Alfred Collins and LB DeMarvion Overshown. There is a hole at linebacker next to Overshown and there isn’t a clear viable option. The secondary will also need an improvement after finishing 108th in passing defense. Overall, the Longhorns have the talent for Coach Sarkisian to compete for a Big 12 championship spot right away.
4. TCU Horned Frogs
Projected Record: 8-4
Wins: Duquense, Cal, SMU, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas
Losses: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Iowa State
The main question for this offense is whether QB Max Duggan can take the next step. The offense finished in the middle of the conference last year, but the talent across the board is intriguing. WR Quentin Johnson is ready for a breakout year and there are plenty of complementary pieces including Taye Barber, Derius Davis, JD Spielman, and Shadrach Banks (Texas A&M transfer). Also, look for former five star recruit RB Zach Evans to have a majority of the carries and be an instrumental part of the offense. The offensive line is also solid including OT Obinna Eze (Memphis transfer).
The defense finished top 30 last year and will be one of the best in the Big 12 this year. Sure they lose some key pieces including LB Garret Wallow and safeties Trevon Moehrig and Ar’Darius Washington, but this defense still has solid pieces. At cornerback, Noah Daniels and Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson are both studs. The defensive line is also experienced and led by DE Ochaun Mathis (9 sacks in 2020).
Overall, this team is intriguing and a trip to the Big 12 championship game isn’t out of the question. How Max Duggan develops will have a major impact on the team’s success.
5. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Projected Record: 7-5
Wins: Houston, SFA, FIU, West Virginia, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State
Losses: Texas, TCU, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Baylor
The Red Raiders will have the offense… defense might continue to be an issue. The offensive line is extremely experienced and they have one of the best receivers in the Big 12 with Erik Ezukanma. In the backfield Oregon QB Tyler Shough was a great pickup and will most likely lead the offense along with RB SaRodorick Thompson.
Defense continues to be the issue as Coach Matt Wells has patched this unit together with a ton of transfers. The defense has eight returning starters so expect some improvement from last year’s defense. Overall, this team will be a tough out in the Big 12 and should finish somewhere in the middle.
6. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Projected Record: 7-5
Wins: Missouri State, Tulsa, Boise State, Kansas State, Baylor, Kansas, West Virginia
Losses: Texas, Iowa State, TCU, Texas Tech, Oklahoma
Can Spencer Sanders actually evolve into a solid, reliable Big 12 QB? The Pokes will go as far as he takes them. Oklahoma State is tasked with replacing wide receiver Tylan Wallace and RB Chuba Hubbard. WR Tay Martin and RBs Dezmon Jackson/LD Brown should be solid, but currently a true difference maker doesn’t jump off the page. Also, the offensive line remains a question mark even though it is a veteran unit.
The defense brings back a ton of experience with eight returning starters including edge rusher Trace Ford. Overall, this looks like another solid Oklahoma State team… but nothing special.
7. Kansas State Wildcats
Projected Record: 6-6
Wins: Southern Illinois, Nevada, TCU, Kansas, West Virginia, Baylor
Losses: Stanford, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Texas
The Wildcats weren’t bad until they lost Skylar Thompson for the year. They went on to lose their last five games. The offense returns basically everyone including sensational running back Deuce Vaughn.
Defensively, there are some issues. The defense finished 97th and returns only five starters. Safety Jahron McPherson will lead the defense, but it’s tough to see where the massive improvement is going to come from. Overall, expect another competitive Wildcats team who will finish near the middle of the Big 12.
8. West Virginia Mountaineers
Projected Record: 6-6
Wins: Maryland, LIU, Virginia Tech, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas
Losses: Oklahoma, Texas Tech, TCU, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas
Coach Neal Brown has this team moving in the right direction after a 6-4 season. Offensively, they have a good QB with Jarret Doege and a 1,000 yard rusher in Leddie Brown. The offense also returns their top five receivers from last year and a strong offensive line. The Mountaineers will have a decent offense, but I can’t see them making the leap to one of the conference’s elites.
The Mountaineers had the top defense in the Big 12 last year, but are faced with replacing a a ton of talent due to transfers and players going on to the next level. DT Dante Stills is a really great player who will keep this defense from going too far downhill. Overall, I see this team as an average Big 12 team with a decent offense and regressing defense.
9. Baylor Bears
Projected Record: 5-7
Wins: Texas State, Texas Southern, Kansas, BYU, Texas Tech
Losses: Iowa State, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Texas, TCU, Oklahoma, Kansas State
The defense will be one of the top defenses in the Big 12. On the other hand, the offense is a major projection. The biggest question for Baylor is who wins the QB competition between Gerry Bohanon and Jacob Zeno. They’ll have plenty of experience at receiver after returning everyone including R.J. Sneed.
Defensively, the biggest addition is 350 pound NT Siaki Ika (transfer from LSU). Other than Ika, the defense returns almost everyone. One of the areas they need to improve is their pass rush. Overall, expect an improvement and an average Big 12 team.
10. Kansas Jayhawks
Projected Record: 0-9
Wins: South Dakota
Losses: Coastal Carolina, Baylor, Duke, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas TCU, West Virginia
It is year one in the rebuild for Lance Leipold, one of the most underrated coaches in college football. Leipold is basically combining this Kansas roster with key transfers from Buffalo, including 6 players who would have been in Buffalo’s two deep depth chart.
The offense is going to be a major project. I’ll say one good thing about Kansas… they have some talent in the secondary. Still, this roster is a few years out from being even competitive in the Big 12. Don’t expect much in the first year.