With media days kicking in, what are the five biggest questions in the Big 12 this season?
2016 Big 12 Football Biggest Questions
With Big 12 football media days kicking in, what are the league’s five biggest questions going into the season?
Is the Big 12 any good?
It’s okay, but not great – at least compared to the rest of the Power 5 conferences.
The Pac-12 doesn’t have the star power, but it’s loaded with interesting teams and stories.
The SEC is the SEC, the Big Ten has Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State, and the ACC has Clemson and Florida State. The Big 12 is fine – Oklahoma is going to be good – but what else is there?
With Baylor diminished, can Oklahoma State step up? Will TCU be the 2014 version? Can Texas Tech, Kansas State and West Virginia be stronger?
It all comes down to Week 1 with Kansas State at Stanford, Notre Dame at Texas, Oklahoma at Houston, and Missouri at West Virginia. The Big 12 needs to be 3-1 out of that group to generate any real national buzz, and then OU has to take care of Ohio State a few weeks later.
Where’s the bar really set at Texas?
The Big 12 needs Texas to be great again, and it has to happen in a hurry.
Think of it this way – how has the Pac-12 been with a mediocre USC? How much of a hit has the Big Ten taken with Michigan being so average? How much less has the SEC East been with a weakened Tennessee, and how much better will the ACC be if Miami is great?
Those leagues are just fine without one of their power programs being among the elite, but they’d be a whole lot better if they were phenomenal. It’s a stretch to say that Texas is the Big 12, but it’s the conference’s key program that has to be outstanding again. It’s getting closer.
The defense is going to be fast, athletic, and extremely well coached. The running game is going to be dominant at times, and the quarterback situation will eventually sort itself out and be fine. But the wins have to come this year, or else …
Is this the last go-round at Big 12 Media Days for a slew of coaches?
It’s not crazy to think that half of the Big 12 teams could be introducing different coaches next year at this time.
It’ll be a total shocker if Bob Stoops isn’t the Oklahoma head coach next year, and it’ll be a stunner if Gary Patterson isn’t at TCU, but could Mike Gundy be a hot head coach for a different gig if he has a big year at Oklahoma State? He probably won’t be gone, but every year there’s always some interesting coaching change that comes from out of the blue.
It’ll also be a shock if Kansas doesn’t give David Beaty one more year no matter what, and Matt Campbell isn’t going to be kicked out of Iowa State unless there’s a scandal, but it’s hot seat time for five of the Big 12 head coaches.
Baylor’s Jim Grobe has been a stopgap from the start, and anything less than nine wins will likely mean a change.
No one’s pushing out Bill Snyder from Kansas State, but he’s turning 77 this season. Charlies Strong won’t be back at Texas with anything fewer than eight wins – and he might need nine or more – and Dana Holgorsen is going into his sixth season at West Virginia with five losses or more in each of his last four seasons.
Is Kliff Kingsbury in any trouble at Texas Tech? Everyone loves him, but he’s 19-19 in his first three seasons. Is he still going to look as pretty if the Red Raiders go 5-7?
How much will the Baylor scandal matter on the field?
Off the field, the Baylor fiasco has been a disaster in terms of PR, especially considering this was one of the Big 12’s power programs. It’s only a ten-team league with Iowa State and Kansas not exactly setting the world on fire. Forgetting the real-world nightmare and ramifications for a moment, football-wise, Baylor being mediocre is a huge hit for the conference.
Art Briles not being the Baylor head coach any more is an issue – for all his faults, he was a whale of a coach – but the on-field issues probably won’t kick in until next season and beyond. Baylor’s big problem football-wise is recruiting, with most of the big gets not wanting to join the fun now and looking elsewhere.
For this season, Baylor starts out with Northwestern State, SMU, at Rice, Oklahoma State, at Iowa State, Kansas. At worst, the Bears are 5-1, and they’re most likely 6-0 before the road games start to kick in going to Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and West Virginia over the second half.
Jim Grobe can coach, but will all the changes and all the controversy be enough to make Baylor an also-ran again? This was probably a 10-2/9-3 team with Briles, and it’ll probably be just that without him.
Is a conference championship really necessary?
One of the biggest questions going into this season actually applies to next year – what will the Big 12 divisions be when the conference has a title game again in the 2017 season? Commissioner Bob Bowlsby addressed this during his statement during Big 12 Media Days that he wants to have all the logistics figured out by the end of this season.
The best early guess – all speculation – when it comes to the two divisions is that one will be made up of Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, and the other will be Baylor, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech and West Virginia.
But even though the conference will generate more revenue, and there’s some thought that a title game increases the chances of getting a team into the CFP, there’s no real need for it.
If a Big 12 champion goes 12-0, it’s going to be in the playoff unless all four other Power 5 conference champs go 13-0 – that’s not going to happen. 11-1 all but assures the One True Champion of getting in – it’ll be a stunner if the other four big leagues all have unbeaten champs or with one loss.
You’ll get your championship, Big 12 fans. You’ll have to just wait one more season.