Welcome back to this weekly column on the National Football League, a cocktail of light-hearted musings, analysis – and of course gambling.
To win the Big 12 you are going to have to win the state of Oklahoma.
While Baylor @ TCU maybe the marquee conference game of the year, TCU have to go to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, while Baylor host Oklahoma and travel to Stillwater the following week (and go to TCU the next week).
Who will win the Big 12?
TCU are the current favourites to win the conference after going 12-1 last season, being (unjustly) snubbed for the playoffs and embarrassing Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl.
They return 10 starters on offense, including one of the Heisman favourites in quarterback Trevone Boykin. However, they only return five on defence, and lose six of their top seven tacklers (458 tackles). They have zero starts returning in the LBs (95 starts lost).
The DL though returns eight, plus a DT that started eight at Nebraska in 2013.
The defence lost only one start to injury last season, which will be close to impossible to replicate. TCU were also +18 in TO margin, which would historically regress.
They also lose their 11 year DC. Boykin last season went from a guy doubtful of getting the starting job to a world beater. Surely he has to regress also. Even if he performs at the same level, the offense will carry TCU a long way, but I don’t think they will bail out defence enough
It’s safe to say it’s the system, not the players at Baylor. After RG3 made them relevant, Nick Florence and Bryce Petty came into the Art Briles system and put up big numbers.
It seems as though the NFL thinks it’s the system also, with Petty falling to the fourth round in the Draft. There is a lot to like about Baylor this season. They return nine starters on each side of the ball. They have probably the best RB’s corp and OL in the Big 12.
The only concern is quarterback, but he will have plenty of time to settle as they can sleepwalk to 5-0 before West Virginia come to town.
The only concern is the schedule. They should go 7-0 into their bye week. A tricky trip to Kansas State should make it 8-0, but they follow that with the three tough weeks of Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State and at TCU. Win these and they are in the playoffs, but there is one, maybe two, losses there.
Big Game Bob has gone full circle, but is he back? When Stoops began at Oklahoma in 1999 his OC was Mike Leach. Leach then went on to become HC at Texas Tech, and his quarterback in 2003 was Lincoln Riley, who now becomes Oklahoma OC.
The last few seasons the Sooners have performed against pre-season expectations, both good and bad. When relatively little was expected they end the season with a good Bowl win. That will lead to high the expectations for the next season, only to disappoint.
Baker Mayfield walked-on and started at Texas Tech, lost the starting job and has now transferred to OU. He should be comfortable in the Riley offense, but if he couldn’t keep the job attime trialwhy should he be an upgrade at OU?
If he isn’t the start then Trevor Knight will need to improve more then what Boykin did last season. They do, however, have one of the best running back in the country and probably the best wide receiver. But the OL is the issue, it losses 145 starts and three all Big 12. That is a massive hole to fill.
A similar OL situation occurred in the 2009 season, and Sam Bradford went from the Heisman winner to a beat up and battered quarterback.
With a trip to Tennessee in Week 2 we should know how good they are and whether Baylor and TCU have something to worry about later in the season. Beat Tennessee and they should be 9-0 when they go to Baylor.
I want to believe they can win the conference, but one question mark too many on offense. One thing to remember, in his 16 seasons at OU, Stoops is 90-8 at home
Oklahoma State ($9.00)
There’s one player I’m excited to see in the Big 12 this season, and that is Oklahoma State sophomore quarterback Mason Rudolph. In his three starts he engineered a fourth quarter comeback at Oklahoma and completed 18-27 in the Bowl win against Washington (whose defence had a first and second round Draft pick, three total All-Americans).
Even before he appeared in a game some had him a top 10 Draft pick. Around him seven of the top eight wide receivers, seven starting offensive linesmen return also. The running game isn’t great, but I think it will improve as the season goes on. On the other side of the ball they return five of their top eight linemen, six of seven linebackers, and five of six defensive backs.
Despite the potential of Rudolph, CFB is a running game, not a passing game like the NFL. I had them as a dark horse for the conference, but I’ve reined that in a bit. My optimism was heightened by the fact they get TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma all at home. I think they play a spoiler role and win at least one of these games
Charlie Strong is 43-23 as a head coach, but only 16-15 without Teddy Bridgewater. Even in those peak Louisville days one could argue that they still underperformed.
Safe to say I’m not a fan. I do, however, think he is the right man to turnaround Texas. A couple more years recruiting and discipline then bring a real coach in. Texas is still a mess.
Swoopes and Heard will probably share the quarterback role. Texas were great when they had Vince Young and Colt McCoy, but how have they not been able to find one decent quarterback since?
Since McCoy left they are 36-28. In the Young and McCoy years they were 79-12. They wanted to make RG3 a DB, passed on Jonny Manziel and upset Andrew Luck. The offense now is a total shambles. The run game should be the strength, but run plays are called at pretty much the FBS average.
Swoopes was put in passing situations when they should have run. He was 50per cent and 5 INT in third and 5+. The coaching staff is trying to fit the players to a system, rather than to the player’s strength.
Their defence remains very strong. Their best hope is just to give the opposition the ball and hope the defence scores. Texas could very well go to the Red River Showdown against Oklahoma 1-4. Cal and Okie State will score, and I doubt Texas have enough points in them to keep up. Either way, they will struggle to get to six wins
Kansas State ($13) and West Virginia ($19)
These two will play the role of spoiler. Crafty old Bill Snyder can pull a rabbit out of the hat. His best seasons since his return have all been with Senior quarterback’s, and he will likely have a Freshman this year. They get TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma at home, and one of them will get a real scare.
Dangerous Dana Holgorsen is a bit of a misunderstood coach. Many think he loves a big passing play, but he just loves a big play. I expect a few of them to come from the running game this season. While it looks like they may go winless in October they could go the rest of the season undefeated.
Texas Tech ($34)/Iowa Start ($51)/Kansas ($201)
The also-rans. The over season wins on Texas Tech (6 wins) and Iowa State (3 wins) maybe worth a further look
I was trying to find a reason to jump on Oklahoma or Okie State. The schedule favours them both, but each have one question mark too many. I think Baylor are the best team, but the schedule doesn’t favour them.
TCU were one of the best teams in the country last season, return most of their offense, but were blessed with injuries and turnovers last season. I think even if Baylor lose to TCU they will still win the conference. TCU to finish with at least two losses