Is it all up to TCU and Baylor in 2015? Is this a make-or-break year for Bob Stoops? What is considered progress for Texas in 2015? Is Oklahoma State really the surprise pick in the Big 12? What about West Virginia?
So, in the words of Augie Garrido, you better bolt your ass down before you plunge in.
Here we go:
#1 … TCU (11-1, 8-1 Big 12)
Losses: at Oklahoma Nov. 21
What I like: QB Trevone Boykin (33 TD passes, 10 INTs, 4.7 ypc, 8 rushing TDs in 2014) among 10 starters back on offense, including 1,000-yard WR Josh Doctson (65 rec, 1,018 yds, 11 TDs) and electric RB Aaron Green (7.1 ypc, 9 rushing TDs); a salty defensive line.
He’s not a household name … yet: If TCU is going to have a big season, the Horned Frogs need junior LB Sammy Douglas to be a star this season.
Bottom line: TCU has to play five true conference road games this season but gets Texas and Baylor in Fort Worth.
The October 3 game against Texas will be interesting. By then, both teams should be answering some of their question marks.
But right now, the only loss I see on TCU’s schedule is a road trip to Oklahoma Nov. 21, right before facing Baylor on Nov. 27.
#2 Baylor (11-1, 8-1)
Losses: at TCU Nov. 27
What I like: Seth Russell led the Big 12 in pass efficiency in 2014 in relief duty for Bryce Petty. ... 1,000-yard rusher Shock Linwood leads a talented RB group. … WRs Corey Coleman and K.D. Cannon both went for 1,000 yards in 2014. … BU may have the best DT tandem in the B12 in Andrew Billings and Beau Blackshear and also returns DE Shawn Oakman (11 sacks in 2014).
What I don’t: Having to replace LBs Bryce Hager and Collin Brence and a potential QB controversy between Russell and freshman 5-star Jarrett Stidham.
He’s not a household name … yet: Junior college transfer LB Grant Campbell replaces All-Big 12 LB Bryce Hager. If the BU defense is to improve from last year, Campbell has to be a force.
Bottom line: Art Briles says he wants his team to be “dominant” in 2015. If the QB situation settles itself quickly, and BU has suitable replacements at LB, the Bears could be the Big 12 champs for a third-straight year.
#3 Oklahoma (9-3, 7-2)
Losses: at Tennessee Sept. 12; Texas Oct. 10; at Baylor Nov. 14
What I don’t: Four new starters on the offensive line; Sooners lack depth at WR; questions at DT and in the secondary; replacing both K and P.
He’s not a household name … yet: WR Dede Westbrook, who caught 76 passes for 1,487 yards and 13 TDs last season at Blinn CC.
Bottom line: If Oklahoma struggles to replace four starters on the offensive line, this season could turn south before the Texas game.
While I think OU loses at Tennessee and to Texas, I do think OU gives TCU it’s only loss. It’s a big year for Stoops after firing the QB of his national championship team – Josh Heupel – and Jay Norvell as co-OCs.
#4 Texas (8-4, 6-3)
What I like: Finally, competition at QB between Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard as well as on the OL. The offense has changed to suit mobile QBs with a deep group of RBs. Defensive line appears loaded.
What I don’t: How long will it take for QB and O-line to settle in? … LB position is starting over. … No proven playmakers in the secondary.
He’s not a household name … yet: I expect CB Holton Hill to be a breakout star among a talented class of freshmen.
Bottom line: Jerrod Heard needs to emerge as the QB in 2015, because he’s a more elusive runner and embraces the big stage better than Swoopes.
Charlie Strong landed a Top 10 recruiting class in 2015, and many of those freshmen will be counted on – which is good and bad.
New faces on defense will need a little time to adjust, which could cost Texas the ND game. But UT should get better and better as the year goes on and could make the Baylor game interesting on Dec. 5.
#5 West Virginia (7-5, 5-4)
Losses: Georgia Southern Sept. 5; at OU Oct. 3; at Baylor Oct. 17; at TCU Oct. 29; Texas Nov. 14
What I like: WVU has a much improved defense that includes my favorite defensive player in the Big 12 - safety Karl Joseph.
Bottom line: Holgorsen has probably broken too many headsets to be a head coach. But I’d still love to party with the guy.
#6 Oklahoma State (7-5, 4-5)
Losses: at Texas Sept. 26; at WVU Oct. 10; TCU Nov. 7; Baylor Nov. 21; OU Nov. 28
What I don’t: Not totally sold on QB Mason Rudolph (6 TDs, 4 INTs in 2014) or the Cowboys’ O-line (which gave up Big 12-worst 40 sacks in 2014).
He’s not a household name … yet: Junior college transfer RB Chris Carson could be the Big 12 newcomer of the year.
Bottom line: Ok State beat OU in Norman last year with a lot of help from Tyreek Hill, who is no longer on the team, and an idiotic decision by Bob Stoops to punt to Hill a second time (instead of declining a penalty).
Then, the Cowboys became 2015 preseason darlings because they beat Washington, 30-22, in the Cactus Bowl. Forgive me if I recall the five-game losing streak before those two wins (OSU lost to TCU, WVU, K-State, Texas and Baylor by a combined average of 40.2 points to 13.6 points).
#7 Kansas State (6-6, 3-6)
Losses: at Oklahoma St. Oct. 3; TCU Oct. 10; OU Oct. 17; at Texas Oct. 24; Baylor Nov. 5; WVU Dec. 5
What I don’t: QB favorite Joe Hubener, a former walk-on, has never started a game at any level at QB. … Gone are 1,000-yard receivers Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton. … Just a lack of proven skill talent.
He’s not a household name … yet: RB Dalvin Warmack (5-9, 183) is a redshirt freshman whose speed and shiftiness could lead to a breakout season.
Bottom line: K-State has to avoid what would be the out-of-conference upset of the year at UTSA on Sept. 12. I see the Wildcats going 0-for-October (at Ok State, TCU, OU and at Texas).
#8 Iowa State (5-7, 2-7)
What I don’t: Only four starters return to a defense that gave up 38.8 ppg in 2014.
He’s not a household name … yet: There are high hopes for redshirt freshman RB Mike Warren.
Bottom line: Richardson needs to have a huge year to help carry this team.
#9 Texas Tech (4-8, 2-7)
What I don’t: A defense that gave up 41.3 ppg last season.
He’s not a household name … yet: Tech is expecting freshman DT Breiden Fehoko to make an impact.
Bottom line: Defense, defense, defense. If Tech can play some, the Red Raiders have a chance to go back to a bowl game in 2015.
#10 Kansas (1-11, 0-9)
Wins: S. Dakota State
What I don’t: Only 6 returning starters on the entire team.
He’s not a household name … yet: RB De’Andre Mann takes over for dismissed RB Corey Avery.
Bottom line: First-year coach David Beaty inherits a failed attempt by Charlie Weis to rebuild with JUCO players – thus only 6 starters back.