CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2017: Big 12 Preview
The 2017 CFN Big 12 Preview with the top players, teams that will surprise and disappoint, and shoes to fill.
2017 Big 12 Preview
There’s still no expansion, it’s still a ten-team league that calls itself the Big 12, and while there’s a conference championship coming this year, it’s simply one extra game to make a stronger case to get into the College Football Playoff.
There’s still room to grow. The league needs to expand its national and TV reach – why it hasn’t set a footprint in Florida with UCF and South Florida to go along with Memphis and/or Houston and/or Cincinnati is mind-boggling – but when it comes to the coaching, it’s blazing a new trail.
Want to be cool? What to become more attractive? Then get younger, and that’s exactly what the Big 12 is doing with its coaches.
With the Bob Stoops baton handing to Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma, and the addition of Tom Herman at Texas – by the way, when those two meet in the Red River Shootout, their combined age will be younger than Kansas State’s Bill Snyder – now the Big 12 has four coaches under 40.
Mike Gundy will turn 50 in August. After that, other than Snyder and TCU’s Gary Patterson, the other seven conference coaches will be 47 or younger this football season.
It’s the next-step-up moment for Matt Rhule at Baylor, as he tries to put together the pieces of a shattered program. And it’s certainly time to take the training wheels off for Herman and Riley in a league’s that’s going to be full of new ideas, more energy, and plenty of high-expectations to keep all the offensive fireworks and fun going.
The 2017 brand of Big 12 football will still be fantastic. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will be killers with legitimate College Football Playoff aspirations, the fireworks will still come from Texas Tech and West Virginia, and the league’s anchor – Texas – should be far better, which will automatically make the Big 12 stronger on a national scale.
But the problem continues to be the dead weight. It’s easy to have a few struggling teams in a 14-team conference, but when Kansas continues to be awful and Iowa State keeps trying to find its way, that hacks off 1/5th of the conference. If others aren’t rocking and rolling, then there’s no depth, less conference respect, and more of a fight to get the love from the CFP rankings.
But, as always, if a Big 12 champ goes unbeaten, it’ll be in. If it goes 12-1 now with a championship game win to build on, it’ll almost certainly be in. And now it’s up to the young guys to take what’s already in place and raise it up. The coaches have to work to make the Big 12 as strong as the other Power Five conferences, and they have to be the ones who make the conference a bigger player.
It’s a new era for the Big 12. The pressure is on.
Big 12 Team That Will Surprise
Can Texas really count as a team that might surprise? Tom Herman is inheriting a loaded team full of experience with a terrific offensive line and good options at several key spots. But can the defense start to tackle better?
If the Longhorns can just hold serve at home, they could and should be no worse than 6-2 – losing at USC and to Oklahoma – before going to TCU. November – at TCU, Kansas, at West Virginia and Texas Tech – is winnable. 10-2 gets Texas to the Big 12 title game.
Big 12 Team That Will Disappoint
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Kliff Kingsbury will keep pushing that boulder up the mountain, and it’ll keep rolling back down. The defense might finally start to tackle a bit, but can the offense keep it all rolling with Patrick Mahomes now a Kansas City Chief? Probably not. At best, the Red Raiders will have to fight through the last few games to get bowl eligible.
Game Of The Year
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, Nov. 4
Is this the first of two battles between the two? The Bedlam series that’s usually reserved for the end of the season is being played in early November in case these are the two best teams in the Big 12 and they have to play a rematch in the conference championship. At the very least, the loser will be in trouble to get to the 13th game, and the winner will have the inside track to get into the title game.
5 Big-Time Players Who Deserve A Bigger Spotlight
Five players who have been a bit under the radar on a national level, but should rise up and be among the season’s best players.
1. LB Travin Howard, Sr. TCU
2. WR Allen Lazard, Sr. Iowa State
3. LB Al-Rasheed Benton, Sr. West Virginia
4. DT Will Geary, Sr. Kansas State
5. WR Jonathan Giles, Jr. Texas Tech
5 Big 12 Coaches On The Hot Seat
Five Big 12 coaches who’d better win this season. Being on a hot seat doesn’t necessarily mean a coach is about to fired – especially for the new guys – but the pressure is on to produce up to expectations and beyond.
1. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma
2. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
3. David Beaty, Kansas
4. Tom Herman, Texas
5. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
5 Non-Conference Games That Big 12 Opponents Had Better Take Very, Very Seriously
Be careful, Big 12. These are the showdowns against the Group of Five teams that could sour the season.
1. Texas Tech at Houston, Sept. 23
2. Oklahoma State at South Alabama, Sept. 9
3. UTSA at Baylor, Sept. 9
4. Iowa State at Akron, Sept. 23
5. SMU at TCU, Sept. 16
5 Best Big 12 Pro Prospects
1. QB Mason Rudolph, Sr. Oklahoma State
2. OT Connor Williams, Jr. Texas
3. WR James Washington, Sr. Oklahoma State
4. OT Orlando Brown, Jr. Oklahoma
5. DE Dorance Armstrong, Jr. Kansas
5 Biggest Big 12 Shoes To Fill
1. Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley for Bob Stoops
2. Oklahoma RB Abdul Adams and/or Rodney Anderson for Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon
3. Texas RB Chris Warren for D’Onta Foreman
4. Texas Tech QB Nic Shimonek for Patrick Mahomes
5. Oklahoma WR Jeffery Mead for Dede Westbrook