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It’s simply amazing what Gary Patterson has done with his TCU program. He turned them into a college football power behind one of the most dynamic offenses in the game. Heisman Trophy candidate Trevone Boykin is a college football star. Boykin was amazing last season, accounting for 4,600 plus yards on offense and 42 scores. The Horned Frogs have serious talent around him in running back Aaron Green and receivers Josh Doctson and Kolby Listenbee.
The defense lost a lot of production in Paul Dawson and Chris Hackett. But this unit should be better up front and they have good athletes with speed at linebacker. Remember, the Horned Frogs primarily play out of the 4-2-5 and need to replace some secondary players.
Key Games: @ Minnesota, Texas, West Virginia, @ Oklahoma State, @ Oklahoma, Baylor
Wow, TCU season will end with a bang. They play the Mountaineers the last weekend in October and then November gets interesting. It starts with a game in Stillwater. Then the Horned Frogs close with games at Oklahoma and Baylor at home in a span of six days.
Like Patterson above, it’s truly special what Art Briles has done with this program, which was a perennial loser in the Big 12. Baylor has been as consistently good as anyone over the past few years and this season should be no different, though they are breaking in Seth Russell at quarterback. He has some experience and snaps under him. Things look very promising with him at the controls of this prolific offense. KD Cannon and Corey Coleman are two outstanding wide receivers who just may be the top duo in college football. Running back Shock Linwood is coming off a 1,200 yards season.
Baylor is strong up front on defense, led by end Shawn Oakman. But the Bears certainly need improvement in the secondary against the pass.
Key Games: West Virginia, Oklahoma, @ Oklahoma State, @ TCU, Texas
The Bears did themselves no favors with a weak non-conference schedule of SMU, Lamar, and Rice. Baylor gets Texas Tech and West Virginia at home in October. There’s nothing interesting on this schedule until mid-November when they host the Sooners. Then it’s onto Oklahoma State and then a likely Big 12 deciding matchup at TCU before finishing at home with Texas.
The Sooners lost five games in 2014, including their final two against Oklahoma State and Clemson in their bowl game. Pretty shocking considering many thought this Sooner squad could compete for a playoff spot. Looking to this season, there are some burning questions. First and foremost, who will lead this offense? Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops will decide on his starting quarterback next week, as Trevor Knight, Baker Mayfield and Cody Thomas are all battling. Stoops also brought in a new offensive coordinator in Lincoln Riley. How will his transition to this offense impact the Sooners? Will it help or stymie the run game, specifically Samaje Perine? Perine had a sensational true freshman season one year ago, as he leads a deep unit. Finally, how will the offensive line evolve this fall? They will have four new starters here.
Defensively, the key will be up front and getting good play from new starters on the defensive line. Linebacker Eric Striker and cornerback Zack Sanchez are two of the conference’s better players at their respective positions. Though the Sooners have some nice pieces in the back seven this doesn’t look like a dominant Stoops defense.
Key Games: @ Tennessee, West Virginia, Texas, @ K-State, @ Baylor, TCU, @ Oklahoma State
It’s a challenging schedule for Stoops and the Sooners, especially considering they travel to Knoxville early to take on the Vols. Oklahoma finishes the season with games at Baylor, TCU at home and then the regular season finale against the Cowboys.
Last season was a rebuilding one for Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State, as they played some younger players like Mason Rudolph. Now this quarterback has emerged as one of the most promising talents in the Big 12. He gets to throw to a very deep of set of talented wide receivers. The offensive front has to stay healthy, as there is not much depth behind the starting five.
The defense has a chance to be one of the better ones in the conference, led by defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah. He was so good last season that Ogbah was the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. The opposite end, Jimmy Bean, is a very underrated player. Good athletes at linebacker and in the secondary allow coordinator Glenn Spencer to get aggressive. There is also outstanding depth at cornerback. This is an intriguing team to watch for this season.
Key Games: @ Texas, Kansas State, @ West Virginia, TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma
The bad news is that Oklahoma State closes the season with games against TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma. The good news is that all three of those November games are at home. A fast start could set up this program nicely.
It’s going to be another season of change in Austin. This version of the Longhorns are transitioning to a new scheme, going spread while trying to still be a physical team who runs the football. Tyrone Swoopes is still the quarterback who has adopted much better than challenger Jerrod Heard. The quarterback play will be key. The run game will feature Jonhathan Gray. He will need to have a big senior season for the Texas offense. While the Longhorns do have some experience up front they could very well start a true freshman at right tackle in Connor Williams. Another freshman, John Burt, could start at wide receiver while freshman tight end DeAndre McNeil will see a ton of action. Do you see the pattern here?
The defense lost a lot of production and experience in defensive lineman Malcom Brown, linebacker Jordan Hicks, defensive back Quandre Diggs, and a few others. Three true freshmen could start defensively in linebackers Malik Jefferson and Edwin Freeman and cornerback Kris Boyd. Yea, there is a youth movement in Austin.
Key Games: @ Notre Dame, Cal, Oklahoma State, @ TCU, Oklahoma, K-State, West Virginia, @ Baylor
Strong’s schedule is front loaded, which could spell doom for a team that’s going to play a ton of young players and true freshman. The first half of the season has Texas in South Bend, home games against an offensive Cal and rival Oklahoma State and then travelling to TCU before their annual game against the Sooners. That gets them to mid-October. Not sure if anyone else in the country has a tougher first half schedule.
Offensively, Dana Holgersen’s squad lost a ton of production, most notably wide receivers Kevin White and Mario Alford. They will also settle in on a new quarterback. That’s likely Skyler Howard. This team could rely more on the run game in 2015 with Rushel Shell and others.
Key Games: @ Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, @ Baylor, @ TCU, Texas, @ Kansas State
The month of October is a brutal stretch for the Mountaineers with road games against the Sooners, Bears and Horned Frogs and a home game against Oklahoma State.
7) Texas Tech
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes played well last season as a true freshman and he possesses a bright future in Lubbock under coach Kliff Kingsbury. Will he beat out David Webb for the starting job? It’s a good wide receiver corps led by Jakeem Grant. Texas Tech will have a solid run game to balance their passing attack with senior running back Deandre Washington. It’s a good starting unit on the offensive front led by All-American Le’Raven Clark. The defense has to get better, especially against the run. Last season they couldn’t stop anyone on the ground. Texas Tech has a new defensive coordinator in David Gibbs. They are counting on Gibbs and players like nose guard Rika Levi to help turn around this defense in 2015.
Key Games: @ Arkansas, TCU, Baylor, @ Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, @ West Virginia, @ Texas
The Red Raiders have two tough pairs of three game stretches where they play Arkansas, TCU and Baylor and Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia.
8) Kansas State
The big key offensively will be the play of brand new starting quarterback Joe Hubener. He’s a former walk-on. Tyler Lockett was a huge loss for this team, as this wide receiver in now in the NFL. He was one of the top playmakers in the Big 12. The run game needs to kick start this offense in 2015, as this unit will look to Charles Jones and others. While there is some experience in the secondary, the defense as a whole as some question marks. D-tackle Travis Britz is good up front but the Wildcats needs to find more production.
Key Games: @ Oklahoma State, TCU, Oklahoma, @ Texas, Baylor, West Virginia
K-State has a middle stretch that features games in Stillwater and Austin while hosting TCU, Oklahoma and Baylor.
9) Iowa State
Paul Rhoades will look for some big improvement this season in 2015. Quarterback Sam Richardson is a year older in Mark Mangino’s offense. Wide receiver Quenton Brundrage is back after missing 2014., joining two tall talents on the perimeter in Allen Lazard and D’Vario Montgomery. The Cyclones are young at running back and the offensive line must play better this fall. The defense has really no place to go but up. Junior college transfer defensive tackle Demond Tucker should have a big impact on this unit.
Key Games: Iowa, @ Texas Tech, TCU, @ Baylor, Texas, @ Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, @ West Virginia
This team gets a five game stretch of TCU, Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
David Beaty is the new coach for the Jayhawks. He immediately has quarterback concerns, as starter Michael Cummings went down with a knee injury in the spring and likely won’t be ready for the start of the season. Two freshmen will battle for the job. There’s also Montell Cozart. Kansas will need a strong run game and have two seniors in De’Andre Mann and Taylor Cox. This team will have to go young at wide receiver and lacks experience overall on the offensive front. It’s a rebuild for Beaty with this unit. The defensive line should be pretty good and the strength of this team. The linebackers and secondary lack experience overall.
Key Games: @ Rutgers, Baylor, @ Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, @ Texas, @ TCU, West Virginia
The Jayhawks have road games at Rutgers, Oklahoma State, Texas and TCU and get Baylor, Oklahoma and West Virginia at home.