University of Oklahoma
It’s nearly a foregone conclusion that OU is going to win its fourth straight Big 12 title. Yes, you read that right. FOURTH STRAIGHT. Although they lost most efficient quarterback to ever play the game, Kyler Murray is going to make Lincoln Riley’s offense even more explosive with his running abilities. One question still remains: Can the Sooners play defense? The side of the ball that cost them a shot at a National Championship in the Rose Bowl will be younger this year. However, look for Riley and Defensive Coordinator Mike Stoops to turn freshman and sophomores into grizzled ball hawking veterans by the end of the season.
Key Players to Watch: RB Rodney Anderson, QB Kyler Murray, linebacker Kenneth Murray, Defensive Secondary
Dana Holgorsen’s Mountaineers are led by senior quarterback Will Grier. The 23-year-old transfer from the University of Florida has the media buzzing about West Virginia. Grier is an early season favorite to be in New York at the end of the season for the Heisman ceremony. West Virginia plays an unconventional 3-3-5 defense which matches well against the air raid offenses of the Big XII, but that multidimensional offenses and bruising running backs at OU, OSU and Iowa State, West Virginia will need to rely on the leadership and poise of Grier and the rest of the offense to win ball games.
Key Players to Watch: QB Will Grier, wide receiver David Sills V, WR Marcus Simms, Defensive Line
Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs are returning one of its five starting offensive linemen from last year. The offense will be lead by true sophomore Shawn Robinson. Robinson, the second ranked dual-threat quarterback is the highest rated QB to sign with the Horned Frogs. Robinson beat out true freshman Justin Rogers for the job. TCU has by far the best defense in the Big XII and they will rely on it once again to keep them in the conference hunt late in the season.
Key Players to Watch: Offensive Line, wide receiver KaVontae Turpin, QB Shawn Robinson, linebacker Montrel Wilson
With all the buzz around Head Coach Mike Gundy and Athletic Director Mike Holder surrounding the Cowboys this offseason, the narrative is finally coming to OSU’s biggest problem heading into the season: Finding a quarterback. Fifth year senior Taylor Cornelius was announced the starter for the Cowboys week one matchup against Missouri State. Hawaii transfer Dru Brown, and true freshman Spencer Sanders are all fighting for the backup role and potential starting job if Cornelius under performs. No matter who is under center, they will have one of the best running backs in the nation to hand the ball off to in Justice Hill. Hill is anticipated to be the cornerstone of the offense with the departure of QB Mason Rudolph and wide receiver James Washington via the NFL Draft. The Cowboys need to improve in the trenches on both sides of the ball if they want to have a chance at a New Year's Six bowl. The defense doesn’t need to be great or even good for them to win games. OSU simply needs to take care of their home turf and improve on their 3-3 home record.
Key Players to Watch: running back Justice Hill, QB battle, linebacker Calvin Bundage
The Cyclones shocked the world last season when they went into Norman and beat the Oklahoma Sooners 38-31 and finished with an 8-5 record. Head Coach Matt Campbell enters his third year with big expectations. Iowa State wants to show the college football world that last season was not a fluke. Senior quarterback Kyle Kempt and former Lawton running back, junior Mike Montgomery lead the veteran offense. With 10 starters returning on offense and six returning starters on defense, the Cyclones are hungry to improve on their 5-4 conference record. Although they could easily be toward the bottom of the conference, ISU’s high side is being ranked in the top 25 to finish the year.
Key Players to Watch: running back David Montgomery, QB Kyle Kempt, linebacker Marcel Spears Jr.
Bill Snyder is back for his 26th season as the Wildcats head coach. Kansas State averaged 5.1 penalties per game last year, which was 35th best throughout FBS schools. The Wildcats were just four touchdowns away from being 12-1 instead of 8-5. K-State is a team that can fall forward or backward record-wise. The Wildcats will have two quarterbacks this season in junior Alex Delton and sophomore Skylar Thompson. The two will split time and maybe even starts. With no star talent, look for Kansas State to finish near the middle of the pack in conference.
Key Players to Watch: offensive lineman Dalton Risner, QB Alex Delton, running back Alex Barnes, QB Skylar Thompson
TEXAS IS BACK! ... Well, sort of … not really. Head Coach Tom Herman is in his second season and trying to rebuild the Longhorn legacy. Herman named Ehlinger his starting quarterback just this week. Ehlinger may be on a short leash as former starter Shane Buchelle lurks in the wings. Texas signed three quarterbacks from the 2018 class, including former Newcastle star Casey Thompson who should have a crack at the starting job next season. The Longhorns lost left tackle Connor Williams to the NFL Draft as well as linebacker Malik Jefferson and safety DeShon Elliott. Texas needs to win and win soon, to keep not only their brand alive, but the Big 12 as a whole. If the Longhorns are good, the Big 12 is more respected.
Key Players to Watch: cornerback Kris Boyd, QB Sam Ehlinger, wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey
Kliff Kingsbury's Red Raiders are underwhelming. With a weak defense in the Big 12, Tech did show improvement on the defensive side of the ball in 2017. Linebacker Dakota Allen will be the leader of an improving but still bad defense. Replacing QB - Nic Shimonek will be the biggest test for the offense. Coach Kingsbury named junior McLane Carter as his No. 1 quarterback on Tech’s depth chart. Carter is built like every other Texas Tech quarterback: tall, solid and has a rocket for an arm. No matter how potent the Red Raiders are on offense, their defense will keep them out of most games. Key Players to Watch: linebacker Dakota Allen, running back Tre King, wide receiver De’Quan Bowman
Ever since the sexual assault scandal in 2016, the program has fallen back to the bottom of the Big 12. Matt Rhule is in his second year, and trying to not only make Baylor competitive again, but to change the culture of the football program. With a back-loaded schedule, the Bears could be out to an above average start and fizzle out to finish the season. A young team, the Bears are looking toward building for the future. The offensive line has 11 underclassmen ready to take the reins over the next three seasons. Defensively, the Bears look more like cubs. This program is simply treading water until the NCAA comes down hard with sanctions stemming from the 2016 scandal that continues to get worse and worse.
Key Players to Watch: running back Dru Dixon, tight end Christoph Henle, wide receiver Denzel Mims, LB Jordan Williams
To sum up the Jayhawks season in five words: Is it basketball season yet? The Jayhawks have little to look forward to despite having a $300 million donation to the football program this past offseason. David Beaty is his fourth year of being tasked with making Kansas a non-laughing stock throughout college football. The Jayhawks have not had a winning season since 2008 nor have they won a road conference game during the same time period. With the highlight of the past 10 years being a home win against Texas two years ago, Kansas fans are already looking to fill Phog Allen Fieldhouse come October.
Key Players to Watch: cornerback Deante Ford, defensive end Vaughn Taylor Jr.