The 2018 Big 12 Preview with the Game of the Year, Players of the Year, top pro prospects, big-time players who deserve a bigger spotlight, and more.
Preview 2018: Big 12 Preview
It’s this simple for the Big 12. It has to win its big non-conference games, and it needs a few power teams to step up and challenge the current king.
Oklahoma was lit up by Ohio State in 2016, and after losing to Houston to start the season, that was it for the College Football Playoff dream. The Sooners took down the Buckeyes last year, and that was the difference in record, prestige, and in any sort of a CFP tie-breaker, with the eventual Big 12 champ having planted its flag on the eventual Big Ten champion’s soil.
And the Big 12 had its team in the College Football Playoff.
No, the league didn’t need a championship game for a contrived rematch of an earlier battle, but in terms of optics and numbers, it certainly helps. Go 12-1, win the conference title, and that team will be all but assured of a trip to the CFP.
That includes winning that tough non-conference game long the way, too.
Texas has to go to Maryland and faces USC. TCU has to host Ohio State, West Virginia goes to NC State and plays Tennessee, Oklahoma plays UCLA, and Kansas State has to deal with Mississippi State.
Even if some of those games are better in brand name than in actual talent, at least those are dates with Power Five programs. The league isn’t ducking and hiding behind cupcake non-conference slates like many did for so long – like Baylor at times when it was on its tear. The big Big 12 teams aren’t going completely soft.
The other part of this is an overall improvement in the conference, needing to find at least two other true contenders to Oklahoma’s crown.
The eyes of the Big 12 are upon you, Texas.
The conference needs one of its power programs to be back at the level it’s supposed to be. If Texas can’t do the job, then West Virginia needs to be a perennial player in the conference chase. Or TCU has to be close-to-CFP good again. Or Oklahoma State, or Kansas State, or any of the Big 12 teams – or all of them – have to boost up the league’s profile.
Texas is becoming the new Tennessee – the program that has no excuse to not be amazing, but just isn’t. It needs to bounce back now under Tom Herman.
TCU has been close at times under Gary Patterson, and Oklahoma State has been on the verge of being something special, but it would be a good thing for the league if one of those two came up with a whale of a year.
Or, it might be West Virginia who could do that – it has everything going its way, and it needs to take advantage of the moment.
Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU are all replacing their starting quarterbacks and have a little work to do. Kansas State is good, but it doesn’t have the high-level firepower, and Texas has the defense, but is a mystery on the offensive side.
The Mountaineers have QB Will Grier and one of the nation’s best receiving corps. This is the time Dana Holgorsen needs to get his team to the Big 12 Championship, at least.
Iowa State is going to be pesky again, even if it’s not as good as last season, Texas Tech has the strongest defense yet under Kliff Kingsbury, Baylor should be far better, and Kansas has the experience to jump up and surprise a bit. The midsection to lower level of the league appears to be better, even if the top guys are a bit worse.
Win those big non-conference games, hope for a team to finish the season with no more than one loss, add two programs – UCF and USF would buy into the Florida market – and the conference could be roaring this season.
Big 12 Team That Will Surprise
Oklahoma State Cowboys
It’s going to be easy for many to dismiss the Cowboys because 2017 was supposed to be the big season and it didn’t happen – and now QB Mason Rudolph and WR James Washington are off being Pittsburgh Steelers.
The quarterback situation has to figure itself out, but Justice Hill is a special running back, the defensive back seven is as good as any in the Big 12, and the offensive talent is still there to explode.
Big 12 Team That Will Disappoint
Being disappointing is all relative. This should still be the best team in the conference, and there should be another trip to the Big 12 Championship game, and there might be another title to throw onto the pile. However, after coming so achingly close to playing for the national championship last season, not getting back to the College Football Playoff will be a major downer.
With a slightly lesser team, and with road games at Iowa State, TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia, all it will take is two losses to end the CFP dreams.