Top Ten Big 12 Questions

Top Ten Big 12 Questions: Is Baylor the Big 12 bear? Pre-preseason questions for every team.

Pre-Preseason Rankings: Big 12 Top 5 | Big 12: No. 6-10

Really, did the playoff show that the Big 12 is the No. 5 league in the pecking order?
Nope. It showed that Baylor didn’t play anyone of note in non-conference action. It was sort of a tough break problem for the Big 12 in a someone-had-to-be-left-out way. Remember, if Florida State had lost to Georgia Tech in the ACC championship, and if Ohio State, Alabama and/or Oregon blown their chances in their respective conference title games, the Big 12 might have had two teams in the playoff. You couldn’t leave out Alabama, Oregon or Florida State, and Ohio State obviously showed it belonged, but consider it a mortal lock this time around that a one-loss Big 12 champion will get in. An undefeated Big 12 champion will absolutely be in.

Can the TCU offense be even better?
How can it be any better than 533 yards and 46.5 points per game? It’s probably not going to rock quite as well – these things never tend to work out like you’d think they should – but QB Trevone Boykin knows what he’s doing now and he gets his top three receivers back. Five seniors will start up front, and Aaron Green is a good back to work around. Remember, last year was a bit of a feeling out season for offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie – at the very least, the TCU O should be every bit as deadly.

Can Baylor get a wee bit better and get into the playoff?
This might finally be the year Baylor actually has the team to get over the hump. Lost in all the controversy was that, yes, Baylor actually was the one true Big 12 champion – at least in terms of the tie-breaker – but the non-conference schedule turned out to be too much to overcome. It’s not any better this year, playing SMU, Lamar and Rice, meaning there might not be any margin for error in Big 12 play. Fortunately, for the Bears, if they can find a quarterback to replace Bryce Petty – Seth Russell or Chris Johnson will be on high-alert – they should be loaded. The receiving corps? Loaded. The 1-2 rushing punch of Shock Linwood and Johnny Jefferson? Loaded. The O line? All five starters are back – loaded. The defense should be the best yet under Art Briles, and it might not be close. If you disagree, DE Shawn Oakman will find you destroy you.

What’s up with Oklahoma? Can it be OKLAHOMA again?
Ehhhhh, are the Sooners going to hitch their Boomer Schooner to Trevor Knight again, or is it Baker Mayfield’s time to show what he can do? Samaje Perine should be among the nation’s top running backs, and the receiving corps should be okay even without Sterling Shepard, but the O line needs some work and the defense has to be far, far better. The problem is that we know what Oklahoma is at this point – very, very good, but with a clunker at some point that’s going to ruin all of the fun. The players appear to be motivated, and getting Eric Striker and Charles Tapper back on defense instead of losing them early to the NFL is nice, but with TCU and Baylor looking nasty again, OU might be the third-best team in the league to start the season.

Just how far away is Texas from being great again?
It’s probably further away than Longhorn fans might like to admit. There are good prospects, and there’s upside, but the defense has to hope that the very good young talent can turn into very great productive talent to make up for what might be another rocky year from the offense. Is Tyrone Swoopes the quarterback, or will the open competition bring a more explosive option? Can the O line be far, far better? Where are the devastating playmakers? There’s no more honeymoon period for Charlie Strong – fair or not – but it’s going to take at least another year to get the pieces back in place.

Is Oklahoma State really a dangerous sleeper for the title chase?
It should be, but it needs to settle the quarterback situation and it has to find key skill playmakers to replace running backs Desmond Roland and Rennie Childs. The Cowboys were more than fine in the bowl win without Tyreek Hill, but he’ll still be missed. Even so, considering that last season was supposed to be when OSU rebuilt, it should be far more dangerous and should be more competitive in the Big 12 title hunt.

What’s missing from Kansas State?
The passing game. Kansas State isn’t supposed to be a high-octane passing team, but it turned out to be one last year as Jake Waters turned into an efficient and effective bomber and Tyler Lockett led a great receiving corps. Now it might be back to life on the ground behind a great offensive line. The defense should reload in a hurry, but the O might not have the firepower to keep up in an improved Big 12.

Was West Virginia’s bad second half the real West Virginia?
Considering how good the Mountaineers were over the first half of the season, and with the way they handled Baylor, the last month was a big, dull dud. The defense should be okay, and it’s West Virginia, so the offense should be terrific at times, but it might be more about the running game this season. It’s not the program’s M.O. under Dana Holgorsen, but it might be more grindy and hard-nosed than usual.

Can Texas Tech play any defense?
It should say something when the 31 point per game average would’ve been enough to come up with just two wins – the D allowed 31 points or more in every game but the wins over UTEP and Kansas. The O should be more explosive, and it’ll need to be with the defense not ready to remind anyone of the Seattle Seahawks. The D should be better with decent linebackers Mitch Awe and Pete Robertson back, and there’s promise in the secondary, but expect plenty of shootouts and lots of patience with Kliff Kingsbury bringing in a terrific recruiting class.

Do Kansas and Iowa State have any hope of making a dent?
Iowa State returns a ton of experience, especially on defense, and there are a few decent veterans on offense, but it’s once again going to have to be a try-hard team that catches teams napping. Finding some pop and explosion is a must to keep up the pace in the Big 12, and the same goes for Kansas. New head coach David Beaty will try to bring a decided schematic advantage to the Jayhawks, but he needs weapons. The running backs should be the stars, but it’s going to take a ton of work and some time. If either team finishes outside of the league’s bottom two, consider it a success.

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