2016-08-25 10:30

Second to last conference in my preview schedule is the

Big 12 Conference

The Conference really did act like they will lose in the mid terms or long terms future if they don't push against their fate NOW.

First they did lobby inside the NCAA to allow conference with less than 12 teams, which the Big12 is one right now, to field a conference championship game.


In 2014 was the Big12 left out of the playoffs for National Championship and many did call that missing conference championship game on the last regular season gameday the main reason.
All other power5 conference did have their finals and the winners got so much prestige out of those games against high ranked teams that the Big12 teams were not high enough in the final rankings to get a playoff spot.
In 2015 did Oklahoma get a playoff spot, so there is no evidence that the theory becomes true in most of the seasons, but the benefit of a championship game is obvious regarding prestige (ranked vs ranked) and regarding money (additional, probably national promoted game) so to have such a game makes sense.

The Big 12 was successful regarding their request and the NCAA did allow all conference regardless the size to field such a game.
The Big12 will likely field one in 2017.

Then, a few weeks later, did the Big12 agree internally to evaluate the addition of 2 or 4 teams to the conference (which would have solved the conference championship problem automatically) in future seasons.
They did start the investigation and rumors are that they might have a set of 2 to 4 teams willing to move ready before the start of this season.
The teams would then start playing inside the Big 12 likely in season 2018 or later.
I personally think they will miss that date, since evaluation of about 15 to almost 30 teams is not easy and normally a shortlist would have to be presented to the Big12 teams prior a final decision.
The season starts in early September, so not much time left.
Rumors are also that we will only see 2 more teams at first.
I'm not sure on that also, but it's plausible.

Adding 4 teams would likely cut the profits of the existing teams quite heavily.

The strange effect on the expansion will be, that likely those 2 teams will get the spots, which do agree to postpone full membership status regarding profits for the longest period.
No team available is really in the same league regarding facilities, market strength, teams strength and profits as the Big12 would like them to be.

So the final decision will be interesting.

For 2016 it's safe to say there will be only 10 teams, for 2017, it will be likely also be 10 teams and for 2018 ... who knows.

The 10 teams in 2016 are:

Baylor University Bears
Iowa State University Cyclones
University of Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas State University Wildcats
University of Oklahoma Sooners
Oklahoma State University Cowboys
University of Texas at Austin Longhorns
Texas Christian University (TCU) Horned Frogs
Texas Tech University Red Raiders
West Virginia University Mountaineers

Not many changes in the conference since last season.
Biggest change is the firing of Art Briles of Baylor, amidst the sexual assault situation which came to light in the offseason.
The team will be coached by an interims coach and Briles is very likely gone for good.

Iowa State is the only team with a regular coaching change.

So my way-too-early-TIP is:

Oklahoma Sooners
TCU Horned Frogs
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Kansas State Wildcats
Texas Longhorns
West Virginia Mountaineers
Baylor Bears
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Iowa State Cyclones
Kansas Jayhawks

Now let's get a bit into the details:

Kansas Jayhawks
This is not were the fun is.
Kansas is *peeeeeep* upped. Big time.
David Beaty is now in his 2nd season and last season his team won ZERO games.
They lost even to South Dakota State, a FCS team.
I think this team needs to improve fast, otherwise the eject button will be triggered faster.
Under regular circumstances I would say for a Big12 team is this season’s non-conference schedule a walk in the part.
A FCS team, then Ohio and then Memphis, with Memphis likely the toughest opponent, on the road.
But this is Kansas and that way we might see some losses here.
I hope they can beat that FCS team, I hope they can win against Ohio, I doubt they can win against Memphis.
Inside the conference it looks grim.
Only hope is that they can beat Iowa State at home and eventually score another upset at some point.
My take on this?
They will not win a game inside the conference, again.
I see them 10th, so last, inside the Big 12.

Iowa State Cyclones
Paul Rhodes lost his job over a 3-9 season and was let go. 32-55 is his Cyclone record.
The school looked for a new coach and found it in Matt Campbell a quite young HC, from 2012 to 2015 HC of Toledo, where he had a record of 35–15 and won 2 division title in 2014 and 2015.
He is one of those "next hot coaches".
It's debatable whether Iowa State is the next step in a successful coaching career (of cause the money is much better here than at Toledo), for sure the development perspectives are slim.
The Cyclones are not on the winning side of Football inside the Big12 for years.
Last winning season?
2009 (under just fired Paul Rhodes) with 7-6, and a few 6-7 season in addition.
Last division title in 2004 (tied)
Last conference title?
1912! in the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association, later renamed as Big 8.
Bowl Record is 3-9.
That's what I mean with development perspectives.
To be successful with Iowa State you need to push the BIG teams away, like Oklahoma and Texas.
Not easy.
But on the other hand had Art Briles the same situation with Baylor and was successful, so Matt Campbell COULD win here.
His first season will be rough.
New team, tougher opponents and no sleep 'til December.
As non-conference teams they play a FCS team, Iowa as rival and San Jose State.
They can win all games except the Iowa game, which is on the road against a very strong Hawkeyes team.
The Spartans will also be hard and only the Big12 recruits can make the difference here.
I assume a rough season and don't see Iowa State as mid level team.
They might score some upsets over the season and might finish higher than anticipated, but overall they should lose more games than winning some.
Most crucial games are likely against Kansas State (home), Kansas (road) and Texas Tech (home).
Maybe also West Virginia which is the last game of their season.
I pick Iowa State as 9th team, since I still see Kansas far from being able to play a good Big 12 match, but that game between the Cyclones and the Jayhawks might decide the last place inside the conference.

Texas Tech Red Raiders
Last season did the Red Raiders win 7 games and lost 6, including a bowl game.
Not bad for a second tier team inside the Big 12.
For this season I'm not confident they will exceed that win amount.
In fact I think they will lose most games.
Kliff Kingsbury is in his 4th season with the team and even if the team did win some games, the team is not on the level as it was.
Tubervilles 3 season were slightly better, Mike Leachs Version was even better and he was the coach since 2000.
So the Red Raiders fans are used to a slightly better team.
Will this cost Kingsbury his job?
Not sure, but likely not.
They play a FCS team, Arizona State on the road and Louisiana Tech at home.
Believe it or not, but 3 wins are possible.
Arizona State will be beatable this season and the Bulldogs will be good and an offense firework is expected, but played at home this should be won.
More interesting will be the conference schedule.
I expect them to win against Iowa State and Kansas, but which team is also beatable?
Kansas State is on the road, Texas is at home, but will they bow down to the Red Raiders? Don't think so.
The best bet from my point of view is West Virginia, played at home and the Baylor game at season final.
Now I have to put my gut feeling into this.
I think West Virginia will be a player and they will likely finish higher than I expect them to finish (but I could not sort out which team would sink down on their place ...).
So I expect them to win this and at season final should Baylor either be down or up, since talent is there and the coach might have formed a team out of it.
I expect an up-level Baylor team, hence a TTU loss.
I have to pick Texas Tech as 8th team, but they might rise much higher.

Baylor Bears
As mentioned will Baylor play under interims conditions.
It's not clear what the effect of that change will be.
Likely will the team perform worse than under Art Briles watch, but you never know.
The interesting part here is, that Jim Grobe was not promoted to interim HC, he was hired to become the interims HC.
He was until 2013 the HC of Wake Forest, when he resigned after a sub bar season.
Since then he was no coach at all.
Baylor plays a FCS team, SMU and Rice, which should be OK to win all 3 games.
The most uncertainties do come with the conference games.
They start with Oklahoma State at home and will finish against West Virginia on the road.
There are some uncertainties inside the Big12, including Baylors strength, but also how Texas will play, how Kansas State will perform, and so on.
For most teams I have a good idea, but these "Joker" teams will shuffle the powers inside the conference dramatically.
I expect Baylor to play only for mid field this season, and expect them to lose against likely top teams as Oklahoma, TCU and Oklahoma State.
I expect them to win against the likely low level teams as Kansas and Iowa State, which leave more or less 4 game Baylor has to win if they want to finish right behind the top teams.
Those are Texas (road), Kansas State (home), West Virginia (road) and Texas Tech (neutral).
All of those teams DO have stable coaching environments, all of them are strong.
Baylor on the other hand can lean on the still stable coaching STAFF, but under shaky circumstances and a new interim HC.
I expect them to win 1 or 2 games here, but not more.
Baylor might surprise me, Jim Grobe might surprise me, but for now I have them finish with a max of 5 conference win, likely 7th in the league.

West Virginia Mountaineers
I have the feeling Dana Holgorsen is adjusting the team to the Big 12, slowly.
Now in his 5th season in the Big 12 and his 6th with the team, they might surprise many people this season.
I had just problems with the other teams sorting out the possible wins and losses.
Especially Texas is a mystery.
The Mountaineers non-conference schedule is not a bad one, playing Missouri, a FCS team and BYU.
Make a pick, it might be right.
I assume them to win the FCS game, but both Missouri and BYU can win even at home or neutral site.
If the team really breaks through this season, they should win here.
I have doubts regarding a sweep and see them losing against Mizzou.
Since I also don't see them winning against the TOP teams, let's focus on the mid-level teams.
Kansas State is played at home, right after the BYU game. I see Snyder bouncing back, so I picked that one as a loss.
Texas is a road game and this might cost them a win.
Baylor is played at home at season final, which was also a tough one. Believe it or not, but they might lose this and will still finish above Baylor at season end.
I expect Baylor to lose more games early in the season and to get together later.
Overall I did put West Virginia at 6th, with a big upside.

Texas Longhorns
This is the biggest joker inside the Big 12 this season.
Charlie Strong did get all the support he can get from the school, but I think the Longhorns community is getting nervous.
The team went from 6-7 in 2014 to 5-7 in 2015.
That's not the right direction for a TOP 5 NATIONAL team, regarding status, income, prestige and expectations.
Texas is not used to play for a bowl spot, they play for conference titles and national championships.
A 5-7 season is unacceptable, at least for the fans.
Last time a Longhorns team had a losing season beside that 6-7 in 2014, which went only to losing because of the bowl loss?
2010 under Mack Brown which did cost him almost his job (5-7) and before that 1997 under John Mackovic which did cost him his job with 4–7.
Charlie Strong did a good job at Louisville to build up a team, at the moment it doesn't look like he can do this in Texas.
I don't know.
The thing now is, that he either deliver or he might be gone latest end of the season.
Can he deliver?
Based on the players he should be able to do that, but it takes more than players to win games, it takes a team.
So far this looks not so good.
They play Notre Dame at season opener at home.
A GOOD Texas team could win this, should win this.
But a Strong lead one? Not sure. I'm leaning towards a loss.
Next UTEP, then Cal. Both can be won (they lost last season to Cal, at home).
I don't think the team will be read to really challenge Oklahoma, Oklahoma State (the first 2 conference games after Cal, road and neutral in Texas) and TCU (season final at home), even when they won last season against Oklahoma surprisingly.
That leave the games against Kansas State (on the road, I think they will lose this), Baylor (at home, could be a win), Texas Tech (on the road, likely a shootout, but a win is possible), West Virginia (at home, likely a win).
My confidence in Charlie Strong is good enough to pick the Longhorns 5th in the conference, but this team can go from 1st to last.
If they really finish 5th inside the conference we might see a coaching change.

Kansas State Wildcats
Last season was the worst Wildcats season since Bill Snyders came back for his 2. watch in 2009.
Now in his 8th season on that 2. stint and at age of 76, it's hard to imagine a second 6 win season in a row.
Main reasons for last season performance drop were injuries, a curse any team can get, hopefully not often.
The consequence out of this can be, that KSU will come back big.
With Baylor likely a bit struggling there is room for improvements inside the Big12 standing at the top.
Do I expect KSU to be part of that top level? No.
Do I expect them to play spoiler to some of the top teams? Yes.
But KSU has a quite brutal schedule, starting with Stanford at season opener.
The next 2 games are a bit better, Florida Atlantic and a FCS team, to close already the non-conference schedule.
They play West Virginia on the road as first conference game, which might be good or bad, depended on WV and KSUs development.
I expect a KSU win at the moment.
I also expect them to overcome Texas Tech at home next.
Sooners on the road? Nope, not a good thing this season.
Texas at home could become the most interesting game, 2 Jokers inside the conference facing off.
I have at the moment more confidence in Snyders rebound qualities than Strongs team building qualities in Texas, so I pick KSU here.
The grab for a TOP3 spot could be available in that game against Oklahoma State at home.
Last TOP game is TCU on the road beginning of December.
I pick this team at 4th, assuming a slower development in Texas, a Baylor drop off and losses against the TOP 3 teams.

Oklahoma State Cowboys
I expected the Cowboys to get more or less 7 wins last season and they cruised through their schedule unbeaten until the last two games came and they lost to Baylor and even more crucial against rival Oklahoma, at home.
Later they lost also in the Bowl and finished 10-3.
Still better than I had them in my preview.
This season I expect them to be on top of their game.
Mike Gundys is now their coach for 12th seasons and he will aim for a conference championship.
Biggest rival will be Oklahoma.
But that game will be played at the end of the season on the road, and maybe the conference will be on the line for both teams, or not.
The playoffs record will be decided in addition by the non-conference games and there they have a quite easy schedule, until Pittsburgh is coming to town.
Before that they play a FCS team and Central Michigan.
That Pitt game will be interesting, since hard nose football will meet high octane offense.
I pick the Cowboys to win this.
I don't think OSU will have easy games in the Big 12 except Kansas and Iowa State, but they should be able to win against the usual mid-level teams and should also be able to win against this seasons version of the Baylor Bears.
The hard work will be in the last 2 games, playing TCU and Oklahoma, both on the road back-to-back.
This could come down to a rehearsal of last season’s performance, winning all 10 games prior TCU and then losing the last 2 to miss the conference championship and of cause the playoffs.
I pick them 3rd this season.

TCU Horned Frogs
Oh man, Gary Patterson is in his 16th season now and he has an impressive record so far.
In each conference the team was during his reign so far he won at least 1 championship.
The WAC, the CUSA, the MWC and the Big 12.
He has the ability to adjust and to exceed expectations.
So betting against the TCU this season is tough, since they had a very good season last year and will field another good team this season.
Of the 3 non-conference (FCS-team, SMU and Arkansas) only the Arkansas game will be really interesting.
It's a home game, which will give them a small bonus.
Arkansas had some problems last season, but honestly, I'm not sure what to do with them this season.
In doubt I usually pick the home team, so TCU might get another win here.
The Frogs play Oklahoma at home quite early and that will be very likely a good measurement for the season.
Loss? Win? Margin?
I think the juggernaut out of Norman will be too much for TCU this season, so I pick a loss here.
Next interesting game will be Oklahoma State, also at home, which I expect to become a shootout, with a possible win by the Frogs.
Funny that the next crucial game could be the road game against Texas.
At that point we will have a better view on Texas, so they might or might not have become a contender by then.
Since I don't see them as contender, this game might only become interesting as it is right after the OSU game, as classic trap game.
Regardless, TCU has all the tools to win the conference if both of the Oklahoma teams will struggle.
I pick them finishing 2nd in the Big 12.

Oklahoma Sooners
The Sooners had a good season last year, playing in the college football playoffs, where they lost to Clemson, and winning the Big12 earlier.
That did not look as good during the season, after they lost to a mid-level Texas team.
As if that game was some kind of wakeup call did Oklahoma switch to 100% and did beat every opponent coming next until they met Clemson.
They did not only win, most of the time they did WIN. BIG.
Bob Stoops is in his 18th (!) season with the Sooners and this season everyone is expecting a really big one.
The Sooners won the National Championship the last time in 2000 (under Stoobs) and the minimum goal for this season is the Big12 Championship and a playoff spot.
For some even more.
The reason is the hottest QB in Oklahoma since Sam Bradford in Baker Mayfield, a Junior. He is in the hunt for a Heisman and will probably guide the team from victory to victory.
At least that's the plan.
The Sooners will start the season with a nice clash, facing supposed-to-be-tough Houston, then Louisiana-Monroe and Ohio State at home.
BOOM. (with a vacation-game in between).
This season can start with a real big bang, if they win all those games.
On the other hand will a loss or even two block the hope for a playoff spot quite heavily.
My pick here is, Houston will fall, Ohio State ... I don't know (as said in the Big10 preview). This is really a big game, can't wait to see they facing off.
The next big issue will then be the start of the conference games.
They face right after the Ohio State game TCU on the road, but with a bye week between.
If this would have been 1 week after Ohio State, I would say they will lose it, but under the real conditions ... they might win this.
TCU is good and will compete, I just think OU has that extra inch needed for a championship.
Next will come the revenge game against Texas, then hopefully for all Sooners fans, more or less clear wins against all other Big 12 foes until they meet in state rival Oklahoma State at home.
If they survive this season until Texas, I think they can sweep the Big12.
I know that the reality does normally look different to the preview sheets, but I can't help it than setting Oklahoma at 1st inside the Big12 at the moment.

Overall I think will the Big 12 be very interesting this season with so many uncertainties.
Don't miss the big games and we might know at season end, how the Big 12 itself will adjust to the new college football reality.
Whether 2 more teams, 4 more teams or no extra teams will likely be decided until season final.

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