At first glance at the 2014 Big 12 picture you can easily see there are two clear contenders with a jumble wad of teams that could finish anywhere from third to eighth place. Like the BCS the time of the Big 12 has faded. Memories of national title contenders, Heisman winners and multiple high-profile contests are over.
This year, however the conference is deep and should produce its’ fair share of excitement and of course points! Let’s be honest before we start talking about any of these teams. On any given Saturday none of them have the ability to stop a Colorado Buffaloes offense on a snowy November afternoon in Boulder.
Now for the rankings:
As a Texas fan it kills me to put the Crimson and Cream at the top of this list but you have to give credit where credit is due. The Sooners return 14 starters from last years Sugar Bowl squad that dismantled what appeared to be a disinterested Alabama team. Which Trevor Knight will show up this season is the biggest question facing the OU faithful. The one who appeared in seven of the teams’ first 12 games, only completing 3-of-7 passes for 28 yards in the Bedlam game before Blake Bell had to come in and save OU’s season or the freshman phenom who capitulated himself into the 2014 Heisman race with a 32-of-44 348 yard and four touchdown performance against the defending national champions? The team returns 14 starters, but QB 1 is the most important position on the field. If Knight lives up to the hype then the Gaylord-Memorial grounds crew is going to have to do a lot of resodding of the endzones because that covered wagon is going to make a lot of runs.
The returning conference champs return nine starters for their 2014 campaign. Head coach Art Briles decided not to bolt for Austin to take over UT and star quarterback Bryce Petty is making NFL GMs wait another year before being able to have his talents, both of which should make for another exciting year in Waco. If anyone glanced at a Baylor score it was easy to fall in love with their high flying offense, but it was their under the radar defense that made the 2013 Baylor team the best in recent memory. However, the Bears who run a 4-2-5 scheme on defense lost both of their starting linebackers and defensive ends from last year’s squad. It is a known fact that Briles and Petty are going to put up at least 35 points per contest, but will the defense regress to their days of giving up an equal amount of points? If not than the Baylor Bears will be a force to be reckoned with once again in the Big 12 and a trip to Norman on Nov. 8 will have major implications on who will be crowned conference champion.
Game I cant wait to see: The Nov. 8 showdown with the Sooners.
The most favorable thing going for the Cowboys heading into the 2014 season? The schedule. After opening up with defending national champions Florida State in the Jerry Dome OSU plays Missouri State UT-San Antonio, Texas Tech, Iowa State, Kansas, TCU and West Virginia. If they aren’t at least 7-1 heading into Manhattan on November first then this team has a lot more problems than I do after placing them third on this list. However, we will find out a lot about the Cowboys the final four games of the season as they finish at Kansas State, in Stillwater against the Longhorns, at Baylor and at Oklahoma. The good news is with the easy schedule the Cowboys should be rested and clicking on all cylinders before they get to the tough part of their schedule.
Game I cant wait to see: The opener in Arlington against Florida State
Was their a bigger surprise start in 2013 than Kliff Kingsbury’s Texas Tech Red Raiders? The team started 7-0 (granted their biggest win was at home vs TCU), but they leapt onto the scene and were ranked No. 10 in the nation before falling 38-30 in Norman. After that Tech suffered five straight losses including an embarrassing 41-16 thumping by the Longhorns in Austin in the regular season finale. Another year of experience and on the recruiting trail for Kingsburry, along with 12 returning starters who probably would not want to lose five straight games again makes me think there is something brewing out in west Texas. With Kingsbury’s great looks, cool demeanor and smile should get the fans in Lubbock to lock him in for at least nine wins in 2014.
Game I cant wait to see: September 13 when the Arkansas Razorbacks invade Lubbock for a SEC-Big 12 showdown.
The Wildcats five losses from last season were by an average of 7.4 points. They never lost by more than 10 points! Grandpa Snyder knows how to keep his guys in games and in position to win every week. Winners of six of their last seven games the Wildcats return 10 starters from a year ago, including Preseason All-Big 12 selection and Outland Trophy Watch List member, B.J. Finney. Finney, a returning three-time All-Big 12 selection on the offensive line was able to answer a few questions about the Wildcat program and about his journey from a small central Kansas high school to the big stage of the Big 12.
How do you feel about being selected on the preseason all conference team?
“It is a huge honor and blessing. I am humbled that the coaches picked me in preseason, but again it is preseason. The ones that truly matter are postseason. We just have to keep improving. We cannot focus on that kind of stuff because you can get caught off on it and then your productivity, your performance tends to slack off a little bit. That is something that I do not want to do. I do not pay attention to awards and stuff like that. I just keep playing football, and if they give me an award then I am humbled and blessed. I just play.”
How will it motivate you for your final collegiate season?
“We are out here to be the best in the conference and hopefully the nation. That is what every athlete that plays college football wants. They want to hold a national championship at the end of the year and say that we are the best. Personally I want to be at my best because if I am at my best then I am helping my team. That is just something that I strive for. Like I said, I do not really pay attention to the accolades because if I do then I am not helping the team.”
What was it like transitioning from a small town like Andale to a national stage?
“I really was not that hard. I just stayed focus on my school and football. Coach (Snyder) made that easy. I have had coaches like Coach Snyder, from Pee Wee football through high school and obviously now. So the transition of a student athlete, you focus on school and football, and you do not have a whole lot of time focusing on anything else. When you are purely invested into your academic work and athletic work, you tend to not even think about that stuff. It does not even fall under your radar. It is just one of those things that you do.”
Thoughts on coach Snyder being able to find talent anywhere and recognize potential better than any other coach in the nation.
“I do not know how he does it. He gives guys shots that other programs do not. Programs that they do not want, what the need or that will not fit into their program, coach gives them a shot. He brings them here and lets them know that he truly cares about them on and off the field. He wants us to graduate with a degree. He truly cares because what other coach says get into the class room and make sure that you get your degree. Coach calls players that left without a degree to try to persuade them to come back and get a degree. He truly cares and that makes it great to play for him. Guys like me that did not really get a shot anywhere else, to have the opportunity to do whatever it takes to be part of the machine, and make sure this program is successful.”
Mack is out and Charlie is in. There has never been a more obvious need for a regime change in the history of college sports in my opinion. How could the complete meltdown of a once proud institution that won a national title in 2005 and played for another in 2009 happen so quickly? One may never know. Onto the 2014 Charlie Stronghorns. UT returns 13 starters including six of the front seven on a defense that also boasts potential All-American Quandre Diggs. On offense oft-injured QB David Ash has been cleared, a stable of running backs including Malcom Brown and Johnathan Gray will line up behind him with veteran wide receiver Jaxon Shipley heading up a talented group of receivers. The talent is there, but it has been there the last few years with only average results. Strong and the horns could take a step forward in 2014, but well have to wait and see.
Game I cant wait to see: Brett Hundley and the UCLA Bruins will face the Horns in Arlington in UT’s third game of the season on September 13. One of the best offense vs. defense games early in the season.
8. Iowa State – The 3-9 record had to motivate the 16 returning starters this offseason for their 2014 campaign. O and by the way, 10 of those starters are on offense and former KU head coach Mark Mangino is now calling the offense in Ames. Think what you will of Mangino, but the he made Kansas relevant…at football. No, I’m serious, look it up, he did.
10. Kansas – Finally won a conference game last year snapping their 27-game Big 12 losing streak. How excited were they? Head Coach Charlie Weis got a Gatorade bath. That pretty much sums them up.