Know Your Other Conferences: Big XII Edition
Over the course of the next few weeks, we’re going to get some previews on other conferences so I have something to cite in evaluating how wrong I was as the season goes along. First on the docket: the Big XII. Why start with the XII? A few reasons:
– I’m penalizing them for being the lone Power 5 conference for not having a playoff team last year.
– I plan on doing the rest of these division-by-division, and I don’t have the heart to start with the B1G West. That’d be EASILY top 5 in “ways to lose readership”. Since the XII lacks divisions, this should also should ostensibly make this the longest one.
– There’s so much shade within this conference (more on that later).
Let’s do it!
What Happened Last Year?
The Big XII, famously of 10 teams (although that number could be back at 12 by the end of this season) cost itself two potential playoff bids by its stupid “One True Champion” moniker last year. Baylor and TCU tied for the championship, and though Baylor won head-to-head 61-58 at home, the conference refused to name a champion. Oops.
10-8: Teams that won’t win it and thus I refuse to rank: Kansas, Iowa State, Texas Tech. I know two things about Kansas football: one, Charlie Weis is no longer there. Two, their starting quarterback tore his ACL in the Spring Game in a non-contact jersey. Kansas football, folks! Iowa State? Nothing, except the once-every-few-years random upset (hey, 2011 Oklahoma State!) Texas Tech? Kliff Kingsbury is an objectively attractive male.
7-4: Bowl teams, but not contenders:
7) Oklahoma State: He’s still a man, he’s older than 40, but Mike Gundy may be coaching for his job this year. If they were at home against Texas, I may have them higher. Hell, two of their conference road games are against doormats Texas Tech and Iowa State! But home games against Baylor, TCU, and Oklahoma? Ouch. Those would tough to win if T. Boone Pickens controlled gravitational pull in Stillwater.
6) Texas: I can’t shake that shellacking by Arkansas, man. Like, they got bludgeoned. 59 total yards? Visits to Notre Dame, TCU, and Baylor? Still no QB? Maybe a year or two away from being Texas again.
5) West Virginia: I was tempted to put them higher. They played respectably against teams I have some insight on last year (lost by 10 to Bama, 12 to Oklahoma, beat Baylor, and lost by 1 to TCU). Their 3-3-5 defense proved somewhat competent at stopping the league’s spread offenses last year. Holgo may be fighting for his job in his own right. I think I just talked myself into West BY GOD Virginia.
4) Kansas State: No real insight here, I just don’t bet against Zombie Bill Snyder. Do so at your own risk. Their regular season losses (and at-the-time rankings of said opponents) last year: #5 Auburn, #6 TCU, #5 Baylor. They return…well, not much, but at least their whole offensive line.
3-1: OOH LAWDY THE XII IS KINDA FUN
I like all of the teams ranked 4 through 7. Like, if everything bounces right for one of them, they could make things interesting. But they’re a gigantic step below the following:
3) TCU: Yeah, they’ll probably rank at least this high or higher in most national polls, but I have long stubbornly tried to not buy into post-bowl (a 42-3 shellacking of Ole Miss) hysteria, and am sticking to my guns (insert Texas guns joke here). They benefited from some close wins last year, namely by 4 against friggin’ Kansas. I’m calling slight letdown.
2) Oklahoma: One of those squads that exclusively over or underachieves, depending on where the expectations are. They finished 8-5 (5-4) last year, got SMOKED by Clemson in their bowl game…but return a good chunk of their D, brought in Air Raid OC Lincoln Riley from East Carolina, and shouldn’t play a ranked opponent until at least October 17 at Kansas State. If not then, then November 14 at….
1) Baylor: I think the Bears are a cut above. Seth Russell is the ‘system but legit Heisman contender’ new starter at QB, K.D. Cannon went over 1000 yards (18 per catch!) as a freshman, and Phil Steele ranks both lines #1 in the conference. That is a recipe for success. The only downside: they get ALL of their easy conference games out of the way in October and finish at Kansas State, Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State, at TCU, Texas. I think they’re up for it.
Top Five Games
Obviously, are going to be related to the picks above.
1) Baylor at TCU, Nov. 27: Fitting that two potential top 5 teams are going to get the national spotlight the day after Thanksgiving. Yes please.
2) TCU at Oklahoma, Nov. 21: More intriguing than #3 because if TCU wins, it sets up for the game above on a short week.
3) Oklahoma at Baylor, Nov. 14: See the pattern yet? The league is definitely trying to maintain its profile in November. Because that never fails.
4) Texas at TCU, Oct. 3: I mentioned shade above. This game is why. TCU scheduled homecoming against Texas! Fan-tastic.
5) Texas vs. Oklahoma, Oct. 10: If Mack Brown’s departure from Texas means no more ridiculous Oklahoma blowouts in the Red River Shootout (yeah we’re not taking your PC ‘Rivalry’ crap on this site. See also: World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party), then that’s kinda sad. Except competitive noon games in classic rivalries are something everybody should be happy to embrace.
Ten Players to Watch:
See, this is where it starts to get tiresome with the longer preview. Oh well, here goes.
– Trevone Boykin, TCU: If I’m wrong about their finish, perhaps a Heisman frontrunner.
– Samaje Perine and Eric Striker, Oklahoma: Perine broke poor Melvin Gordon’s single game rushing record like, two weeks after it was set. As a true freshman. I’m interested to see if he can remain productive in the Air Raid. Striker has a perfect name for a linebacker, first of all. 9 sacks and 5 quarterback hurries last year make him an intriguing NFL 3-4 linebacker prospect.
– Seth Russell, K.D. Cannon, Corey Coleman, Baylor: All of the passing stats. Over/under on 70+ yard touchdowns for these three is set, conservatively, at 12.5.
– Malik Jefferson and Tyrone Swoopes, Texas: Jefferson was the nation’s top defensive recruit, has been called unblockable, and should start either at weakside end or Will LB for the Horns from day 1. Swoopes has been an abject disappointment to Longhorns fans, and is probably the most subject-to-scrutiny player in the league.
– Skyler Howard, West Virginia: Only played in the last four games last year, but had a nice 8/0 TD/Int ratio, and…remember this: THIS IS THE OFFENSE THAT MADE GENO SMITH A VIABLE QB TO THE NFL (or the Jets).
– Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State: Big ole (6-5, 270) junior defensive end. 11 sacks last year. And, again, great name.
So, that’s what I’ve got for the XII. Feel free to suggest other things (from numbers, to absurdities, to whatever else) you want to see in future previews. I’m going to try to get through the B1G next before moving on to the Pac-12 (fun) and the ACC (localish).