Who Wins The Big 12? Texas

As I do each year, I spend a decent amount of time crunching numbers like returning starters, returning yards and points, returning defensive plays made, schedule and trends, intangibles, and more. I then end up predicting every single Big 12 game in the upcoming season, and the last three seasons I correctly picked the Big 12 champion.

In 2010, I picked OU and the Sooners defeated Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship Game, although I must admit I had OU beating Missouri but the Huskers and Tigers were both 6-2 in the North Division. In 2011, I correctly picked Oklahoma State and last season, with more than a few people poking fun at me, I picked Kansas State.

This year for the first time I'm going to share my game-by-game summer prognostication with everybody rather than just one post on how the league will finish.

We are well on our way with Texas Tech (8-4/5-4) picked in a tie for fifth, and Kansas State (6-6/3-6) selected to finish seventh in our last two installments.

Earlier we had Kansas picked to finish last again at 2-10/0-9 and Iowa State is picked for ninth at 3-9/1-8. West Virginia has an unusual amount of turnover in coaching staff along with the player losses such as their best offensive linemen, Geno Smith at quarterback, and the dynamic receiving duo of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey adding up for me to 5-7/2-7.

Now, technically, we move into the upper half of the league and this first team is a surprise here for some. It will, no doubt, rain criticism down here but after three straight seasons of 5-7, 8-5, and 9-4 plus another big change including in coordinators and play caller on offense this should not be a total surprise.

Texas Longhorns
Could the Texas Longhorns win the Big 12 this season as projected in Phil Steele's College Football Magazine? Absolutely, they could. As always, the Longhorns possess a great deal of talent and one of the most personable and accomplished head coaches in all of the sport in Mack Brown.

I am a huge Mack Brown fan, realizing that Brown could just as easily have been the head of a Fortune 500 company. Some believe that is what he is, heading up the ultra-rich and facility bountiful Longhorns program.

However, Texas has fallen short in some critical areas since last playing for a BCS National Championship in 2009. They have made recruiting errors having followed recruiting rankings more than critical evaluation. They left talented quarterbacks our there for their rivals to sign and have fallen short in performance at that paramount position.

More than that, since Brown overhauled his coaching staff after the 5-7 season in 2010 the Longhorns have danced around and failed to maintain or switch to a consistent personality on offense and defense. Now with one-time offensive boy wonder Bryan Harsin at Arkansas State as head coach, former Texas quarterback Major Applewhite and sharp wide receivers coach Darrell Wyatt are co-coordinators with Applewhite making play calls.

I honestly like that switch, and the new desire on Brown's part to go up tempo and spread. The trouble is I don't like another change for hard luck quarterback David Ash, who badly needs some consistency and for offensive personnel including three bruising running backs in Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown, and Joe Bergeron that came to Texas expecting to be part of an Alabama/SEC-style power offense.

The other aspects at work here may be positive as the offensive line looks athletic enough to be up tempo and pass blocking proficient. That actually may have been a reason the power game did not work as well as hoped. With some stellar receivers like Mike Davis, Jaxon Shipley, Kendall Sanders (if he avoids trouble) and more they have the perimeter targets.

Defensively, Texas has been more consistent and with eight starters back (and defensive end Cedric Reed easily qualifying as a starter too) the Longhorns should be good on that side of the ball. This is the same Texas defense that allowed conference offenses to average 441 total yards and 33.9 points a game.

Conference heavyweights OU, OSU, Baylor, TCU and Kansas State last season combined for 211 points, an average of 42 points each. There is a lot of improvement needed there. Experience at defensive tackle and corner with the return of oft injured linebacker Jordan Hicks is a plus.

The schedule actually favors Texas in some ways with contender Oklahoma State coming to Austin. But that game in Dallas with Oklahoma and road trips to TCU and to Waco against Baylor to close down old Floyd Casey Stadium look like potential trouble.

Texas Schedule and Predictions
Aug 31, New Mexico State – Win – All systems go in the opener against the lowly New Mexico Aggies.
Sept. 7, @BYU – Win – This game will be a challenge as Cougars can play some defense but are still offensively challenged.
Sept. 14, Mississippi – Loss – Yes, it's at home but talent stocked Rebels remember the beating they took by the Grove last season and Horns could be overconfident as they get that way.
Sept. 21, Kansas State – Win – Bounce back is successful as K-State is not nearly as good as they were in beating Texas 42-24 last season.
Oct. 3, @Iowa State – Win – Beware of the Thursday road game and this one will be closer than the line makers say it will.
Oct. 12, Oklahoma @Dallas – Loss – Texas's nightmare and even though OU is more pedestrian Texas has an OU problem and I don't think it has gone away.
Oct. 26, @TCU – Loss – Horned Frogs have healthy Pachall and better defense than a year ago and get Texas at home adding up to another TCU win.
Nov. 2, Kansas – Win – Somebody gets to be the punching bag and the Jayhawks are in the right place.
Nov. 9, @West Virginia – Win – Horns get revenge on Holgorsen and Co. on the road in another high scoring shootout.
Nov. 16, Oklahoma State – Loss – Cowboys veterans aren't bothered by Austin, but are still ticked about the ending in Stillwater at the goal line and believe Texas fumbled.
Nov. 28, Texas Tech – Win – Longhorns under pressure aren't going to lose back-to-back years on Turkey Day.
Dec. 7, @Baylor – Loss – Remember Grant Teaff's goldfish, Miracle on the Brazos, the old gold helmets as all of the good memories come flooding back for Baylor in its final game in Floyd Casey as the old stadium goes out a winner.

Texas Longhorns Final Prediction: 7-4/5-4 Big 12 5th (tie)

Here are the other team previews:
Who Wins the Big 12: Texas Tech

Who Wins the Big 12: Kansas State

Who Wins the Big 12: West Virginia

Who Wins the Big 12: Iowa State

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