We all love best-case scenarios. What happens when EVERYTHING clicks and works perfectly? What happens when it all comes together the way that fanatics (what do you think “fan” is short for, slick?) can only dream about on message boards at 2am. They rarely happen to the highest of the degree, but every team has a best case. It is their ceiling, their maximum. Whenever there is a ceiling though, a floor must be present. Here is our stab at the best and worst case for each of the Big 12 teams.
Best Case – The Jayhawks take a few baby steps away from their abysmal play the last few years, and back into at least not being tragically awful. They win two Big 12 games, beating Iowa State and upsetting TCU to get to 4 wins on the year. The best news is, they stop getting destroyed by any good team they face, and even hang around for a while against Duke, Texas and Oklahoma State. While it might not feel like a great year at the end, substantial progress is seen on the field, resulting in Charlie Wies finally able to sell some results and progress in his rebuild of the Kansas program.
Worst Case – Can it get much worse? They have just 9 wins total in the last four years, with just 2 conference wins in those four years. They finally ended a 27 game conference losing streak against West Virginia last year, but another streak could easily start again. The Jayhawks fail to take even a slight step forward, again finish with just 2 wins with 0 coming in Big 12 play, and Charlie Weis is the second coach in a row to make the program worst from when he started after the firing of Mark Mangino.
Best Case – The upset win over Auburn announced to the nation that this was a Bill Snyder team to be reckoned with. The dominating win over Texas Tech showed that it was not just a one night run for the best show in Manhattan (Kansas). The huge upset win on the road against Oklahoma put the Wildcats right into the driver seat of the Big 12, and squarely into the playoff picture. No one could match the early season resume of two Top-10 wins. Quarterback Jake Waters showed to the world that he would be the second Wildcat quarterback to make a serious run at the Heisman.
All that stood in the way was the season finale against Baylor, a return trip to the place that ripped away their last Heisman hopeful; their last perfect team. However, their season ends the same way, though not in as quick and sudden as two years ago. With the Bears earlier loss to Oklahoma, there is a 3-way tie for the Big 12 championship.
Worst Case – With two easy wins over SFA and Iowa State, the Wildcats go into the Auburn game very hopeful, but leave it battered and bruised. They are dominated at the line of scrimmage and easily beaten by the Tigers. The losses would continue to pile up, with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State also besting the Wildcats. A late game blowout loss to the Bears seals a decent season, but one that began with much more promise, at 8-5 for the 2nd year in a row.
Best Case – The climb back up to being a solid football team starts this year. 6 wins, for the third time in four years, and their annual upset (this time against 10th ranked Baylor) brings the joy back to Ames. They find their quarterback for the next few years in Sam B. Richardson, who finally stays healthy and playing well all season. The defense is better and more sound than expected, and they win their bowl game for the first time since 2009.
Worst Case – At least they had Kansas below them the last few years. With the Jayhawks improving, the Cyclones continued fall lands them in the cellar of the Big 12. Falling from 6 wins, to 3 down to just 2, and with zero coming in Big 12 play, has the Cyclones at a new program low. Coach Paul Rhoads is let go after the year, and a search for the new savior in Ames begins anew.
Best Case – This can now fully be defined as a program that reloads, rather than just rebuilds. With almost a completely brand new cast of characters, Mike Gundy again builds a Big 12 championship caliber team. With just a loss to Baylor and Florida State on their resume, the Cowboys finish the year 10-2 and tied for a Big 12 championship. With their 2-losses, the Pokes miss the playoffs, but ruin Oklahoma’s chance at a perfect season and their own shot of championship run on a last second touchdown.
Worst Case – The losses from last year’s team are just too much to bear. While still a good football team, they are not at the level that most have come to expect the last few years out of Oklahoma State. A new QB, WR unit, most of the OL, DL, LB and even secondary, the Cowboys just have too many holes to fill in one offseason. Their younger players learn some tough lessons that OSU fans hope will lead to future excellence, but it is not meant to be this year. The Cowboys struggle to a 7-5 year and watch their rivals Oklahoma go on to another Big 12 Championship.
Best Case – Riding one of the best defenses in the nation, the offense improves to be a good unit behind starting quarterback Matt Joeckel. The Frogs start off 3-0 with dominating wins over Samford, Minnesota and SMU. Their next two games are brutal, with Oklahoma and Baylor up next, but they shock the nation and upset Oklahoma at home before falling late to the Bears in Waco. After those two games, the Frogs bounce back quickly with 5-straight wins until a late loss to Texas ruins their Big 12 champion aspirations. A win in the season finale against ISU get them to 10 wins, and gets the program back into the national spotlight.
Worst Case – With the new fast-pace spread offense faltering under Joeckel and then WR –turned-QB-turned-WR-turned QB Trevone Boykin, the Frogs offense takes a step back as the defense simply falls under the pressure once more. Big losses to Oklahoma and Baylor start the Big 12 season off on a terrible note and it just gets worse from there. They lose to Oklahoma State and then Texas Tech on a last second field goal to start 0-4 in Big 12 play. Wins against West Virginia, Kansas and Iowa State are all that keep the Frogs from not making a bowl game for the second year in a row.