5. Iowa State Cyclones
Be Excited About … Brock Purdy and a passing game that’s going to be really, really good. Iowa State has always been plucky under Matt Campbell, but this version has a real shot at doing something great. It’s solid across the board.
Be Concerned About … the running game that needs more than 133 yards per game. Iowa State rushing stats are a bit misleading. The O actually ran for more yards than it did in 2018, but it didn’t have David Montgomery to handle the workload – the ground game was more consistent two years ago.
The Season Will Be Successful If … there aren’t so many close losses. The Cyclones were dunked on by Notre Dame in the Camping World Bowl, and they lost by ten to Kansas State, but they other four losses were by seven points or fewer. Win the close ones, and the team is in the hunt for a spot in the championship.
4. TCU Horned Frogs
Be Excited About … a defense that should be the best in the Big 12 again. The group that finished No. 1 in the Big 12 in total D returns a fantastic secondary and the linebackers to be every bit as good.
Be Concerned About … the passing game that was never quite right. It wasn’t awful, and the parts are there to be okay if the running game isn’t fantastic, but it was dead last in the Big 12 in efficiency.
The Season Will Be Successful If … the plane pulls out of the nosedive. The Horned Frogs played in the Big 12 Championship and won the Alamo Bowl in 2017, and have gone 12-13 since then. Gary Patterson is usually faster at fixing the glitches. A third straight clunker will be a problem.
3. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Be Excited About … a phenomenal group of skill parts as good as any in America. Okay, so maybe Spencer Sanders isn’t a special quarterback, but RB Chuba Hubbard and the tremendous receiving corps will be enough to give Oklahoma a run for its money in the battle to be the Big 12’s best offense.
Be Concerned About … you mean besides Mike Gundy and the off-the-field issues this offseason? The defensive front is a bit lacking and the offensive line has to be a bit tighter after giving up too many plays behind the line.
The Season Will Be Successful If … the Cowboys play for the Big 12 Championship. It’s been forgotten that Gundy put together three straight ten-win seasons before being just okay over the last two years. This year’s version is good enough to win big things.
2. Texas Longhorns
Be Excited About … the offensive backfield. Enough is enough – Texas has way too many good players to not be phenomenal. Start with Sam Ehlinger at quarterback and keep going with a big-time group of running backs, helped by getting superstar recruit Bijan Robinson in the latest class.
Be Concerned About … a defense that all of a sudden can’t tackle. This was supposedly fixed early on in the Tom Herman era, but the secondary allowed way too many big plays – giving up almost 300 yards per game – for a defense that finished 97th in the nation overall.
The Season Will Be Successful If … Texas wins the Big 12 Championship. When was the last time Texas won the Big 12 title? Try 2009 with a team that went on to lose the national title to Alabama. Since the epic Vince Young 2005 national championship season, Oklahoma has won ten conference championships to just that one by the Longhorns.
1. Oklahoma Sooners
Be Excited About … the receiving corps and offensive line are among the best in college football. The defense should still be good enough to win with, and good luck betting against the offensive backfield not being anything but terrific. The O line will give everyone time to work.
Be Concerned About … Spencer Rattler. He’s supposed to be the next big thing, and Lincoln Riley has been pretty good so far at this whole quarterback coaching thing, but it’s asking the world of anyone – and this includes Tanner Mordecai, who’s still in the quarterback mix – to follow the production of Baker, Kyler and Jalen.
The Season Will Be Successful If … Oklahoma makes it to another College Football Playoff. Don’t just assume a sixth straight Big 12 Championship – it’s too easy to take these accomplishments for granted – but it’s CFP or bust at this point for the program. 0-4 so far in the playoff, all OU can do is keep knocking on that door.