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2017 BIG XII PREVIEW AND PREDICTIONS

I think without a doubt, the Big XII from top to bottom is going to be the most competitive conference in college football in 2017. It would be easy to saw the conference is top heavy because Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. look to be outstanding this year leading one to assume those two are going to finish 1-2 in the conference and give us a chance at Bedlam! round 2 in Dallas at the conclusion of the regular season but consider:

TCU returns 17 starters from last season’s squad that went 6-7 but lose 4 close games meaning the Frogs could have been 10-3. From 2014-2015, TCU went 23-3 so this program isn’t far removed from being an ELITE top-10 program. Kenny Hill doesn’t get as much publicity as Baker Mayfield or Mason Rudolph, but Hill ran for 609yds & 10TD last season while throwing for over 3200 yards & completing 61% of his passes. If Hill becomes a bit more judicious with his throws & avoids turnovers, TCU is going to be hard to stop on offense. Note too that TCU returns their top-9 receivers, and I’d expect them to get A LOT better defensively given HC Gary Patterson’s reputation for fielding solid defenses.

Texas returns 17 starters from last season’s 5-7 squad that lost 5 close games meaning the Longhorns were fairly close to being a 10-2 squad in a best case scenario and that is with a true freshman QB playing for a lame duck head coach. QB Shane Buechele is the most talented QB in the conference in my opinion and threw for almost 3000 yards & 21TD last season while completing 60.4% of his passes. If he improves upon those numbers, Texas is going to be DIFFICULT to handle. RB Chris Warren is a beast & UT brings back their top- 3 receivers along with their entire O-Line. Defensively Texas struggled last season but they return 10 starters & have immense talent. Texas plays Oklahoma in Dallas and gets Oklahoma St. in Austin. They play at USC, but this team has the ability to get to 11-1!

Kansas St. returns 14 starters from a 9-4 team that lost 2 close games so you could argue they could have been 11-2 in a best case scenario. The only player of consequence lost was DE Jordan Willis. QB Jesse Ertz is a dual threat option that ran for over 1,000 yards last season & also passed for 1755. The senior should be a lot better this season as his receiving corps should be a lot better & his O-Line returns 4 starters. I think DE Reggie Walker can take over the void left by Jordan Willis and the defense will keep moving forward. Kansas St. also has a very favorable schedule as they get Oklahoma, TCU & Baylor at home. It is entirely possible for the Wildcats to be 10-0 when they travel to Stillwater to play Oklahoma St. on November 18th!

I think Baylor could be an under the radar team. The situation is difficult, but new HC Matt Rhule did a tremendous job at Temple especially on the defensive side of the ball and the Bears have quite a bit of talent coming back on defense that showed the ability to put pressure on opposing QBs. You can win a lot of turnover battles when this happens on defense & if you win the turnover battle then you put yourself in position to win a lot of football games. QB Zach Smith wasn’t terrible splitting time with Seth Russell last season & RB Terrance Williams has a lot of upside. Keep an eye on RB JaMycal Hasty as well. Williams & Hasty could make for a special 1-2 punch out of the backfield which would give Baylor a COMPLETELY NEW identity of running the ball and playing great defense which would be almost the opposite of what we saw in the Art Briles era of big time passing offense!

West Virginia on paper doesn’t appear to be as good as the top-6 teams, but the Mountaineers finished 10-3 last season and ranked 18th in the nation! They take on significant losses from a season ago so it’ll be interesting to see what WVU can accomplish this season. I’m a big believer in HC Dana Holgorsen so while it doesn’t seem like West Virginia will be in the running to win the Big XII title, they do add to the overall competitiveness of the league because they do have enough coaching moxie and talent to pull of upsets at home against teams like Oklahoma State & Texas.

Texas Tech, Iowa St. and Kansas won’t be factors but I think Matt Campbell and David Beatty are going solid jobs so far at Iowa St. & Kansas respectively. Will the Cyclones & Jayhawks win a lot of games? Probably not, but I also think those teams have some upside to be competitive and not just a 30pt win for whoever they are playing like they have been in recent times. In Lubbock, Kliff Kingsbury might be coaching for his job and the Red Raiders will score some points making the games at the very least exciting.

All in all, there doesn’t seem to be an off week in the Big XII which makes it one of the most exciting, and in my opinion, the most competitive conference in college football.






# TEAM BIG XII
1 Computer Hope He doesn’t get as much media attention as some other guys but Cowboys QB Mason Rudolph is a legitimate Heisman and All-American candidate. He passed for 4091yds last year with a 28:4 TD to INT ratio! OK State brings back 4 starters on the O-Line along with RB Justice Hill, All-American WR James Washington & WR Jalen McCleskey. Oklahoma St. is going to score A TON of points! Defensively, OSU lost quite a bit & bring back just 5 starters but I think edge rushers Cole Walterscheid & Jarrell Owens can get after it. LB Cody Whitener is an All-Conference talent & the safeties are nice. Getting OU in Stillwater is HUGE!
2 Computer Hope If Bob Stoops hadn’t abruptly retired, I think I go with the Sooners to win the Big XII, but there will have to be some transition and given that Bedlam is in Stillwater this season, I think it tips the scales just enough in Oklahoma St.’s favor. That being said, this is an INCREDIBLE Oklahoma squad headlined by QB Baker Mayfield & TE Mark Andrews. The O-Line returns all 5 starters including all world LT Orlando Brown. However, OU loses Joe Mixon, DeDe Westbrook & Samaje Perine. That’s a lot to lose! OU does return 7 starters on defense & that unit should be much improved over last year’s unit. OU returns 6 of their back-7 on D.
3 Computer Hope TCU had a down year last year going 6-7 after going 23-3 from in 2014 & 2015. It certainly was a transition year for Gary Patterson & his staff, but the Frogs should be back to winning this season. Offensively TCU brings back QB Kenny Hill & RB Kyle Hicks along with their top-9 receivers! The O-Line returns 4 giving TCU 10 starters returning from an offense that scored 31PPG! Defensively TCU brings back 7 starters including 5 of their top-6 tacklers. TCU’s defense in the Big XII hasn’t been as good statistically as it was in the MW, but they’ll have big improvement this year. The schedule is a BEAST with their road slate.
4 Computer Hope If HC Tom Herman is as good as everyone thinks he is and he can keep improving over what he did at Houston, then this year has a feel like you had better beat Texas now because you aren’t beating them later. The Longhorns offense should be exceptional especially if QB Shane Buechele improves. He’s my favorite QB in college football & was outstanding as a true freshman. I think RB Chris Warren could be outstanding & the O-line returns 4 starters. Defensively Texas returns 10 starters including LB Malik Jefferson & NT Poona Ford. The unit did allow 31.5PPG last season, but the talent is fantastic and I’d expect big improvement.
5 Computer Hope Kansas St. is coming off a 9-4 years & they are a dangerous team in the Big XII. Bill Snyder always gets the most out of his teams & this team could be special especially given that the Wildcats play only Texas & Oklahoma St. on the road. It’s certainly possibly for KSU to finish 10-2 this year. Offensively it starts with do everything QB Jesse Ertz, but he’s got some help. I think RB Alex Barnes has big upside & Ertz also gets his top-2 receivers back along with 4 starters on the O-Line. KSU returns 6 starters on D & will have to replace Jordan Willis, but Reggie Walker looks salty and both CBs return along with both DTs. This is a good team.
6 Computer Hope I’m excited to see what HC Matt Rhule can do in Waco. Rhule first season at Temple saw the Owls go 2-10 and by years 3 & 4, Rhule had Temple with back-to-back 10 win seasons! Rhule’s a defense first guy & Temple was marked by their extremely stingy defense once Rhule had his systems in place. That’s a sea change from the Art Briles Baylor era where the Bears were incredible offensively & just decent on the defensive side. Rhule steps into a tough situation but recruited well & probably has more talent to work with than he’s ever had. Keep an eye on Baylor edge rushers. They could make or break the season & they’re pretty good.
7 Computer Hope From the outside you definitely can see how this might be a transition year for West Virginia. Offensively the Mountaineers return just 5 starters & lose their QB Skyler Howard along with their top-2 receivers & 3 starters on the O-Line. On the other hand, RB Justin Crawford is a special player & WVU has Florida transfer QB Will Grier coming in. HC Dana Holgorsen can coach up an offense so Grier’s play will be important. Defensively WVU returns just 3 starters, but they returned only 3 in 2016 & had the best defense to date in the Holgorsen era. A lot has to go right for WVU, but if Grier plays to his talent, they’ll be tough.
8 Computer Hope I hate putting Texas Tech 8th because I’m not sure that can allow HC Kliff Kingsbury to keep his job. The Red Raiders have some HUGE shoes to fill on offense needing to replace QB Pat Mahomes & WR Jonathan Giles. When you consider that the O-Line is young & they’re breaking in a new QB, things could get tough. On the other hand, TT brings back their top-2 rushers and the WR unit is still explosive. If QB Nic Shimonek can step in and play well, the Red Raiders will score. The problem is the disaster of a defense. TT has allowed 40+PPG in each of the last 3 seasons! Whatever happens, the defense has got to get better or it’s over.
9 Computer Hope HC Matt Campbell is doing a good job in Ames thus far and if not for a road date against Texas Tech, I’d have the Cyclones in 8th place this season. I think there is some upside to this squad. Offensively ISU brings back quite a bit at the skill positions. WRs Allen Lazard, Trever Ryen and Deshaunte Jones make a solid trio & TE Chase Allen has quite a bit of upside. QB Jacob Park has enough talent to exploit his weapons. The problem is that the O-line is young & inexperienced. Defensively I like JaQuan Bailey coming off the edge & ISU returns 5 of their back-7 which is interesting because those guys played well. They could get to a bowl.
10 Computer Hope Kansas hasn’t been relevant since the Todd Reesing years going back to the last 2000s! The Jayhawks haven’t had a winning season since 2008 so HC David Beatty has a lot of room to make up. Oddly enough KU is worth the price of admission because they have a couple of potential All-American candidates on defense in DE Dorance Armstrong & DT Daniel Wise. They have one of the better D-lines in the country which isn’t want you’d expect from a program like Kansas. No depth but solid players. Kansas is relying on a lot of JUCO talent while trying to slowly build the roster. Last year KU was 2-10. If they win 3-4 this year, solid!

BIG XII CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

1-SEED BIG XII CHAMPIONSHIP 2-SEED
Computer Hope I think this is a dangerous game for Oklahoma St. because it’s one thing to beat a rival the caliber of Oklahoma once in a season, but to be asked to do it a second time seems almost like an impossibility. I’ll say this for the Big XII this season, going to a championship could hurt them. If Oklahoma St. runs the table to 12-0 & Oklahoma is 10-2 with losses to both OK State & Ohio State, then it seems like a near impossibility for Oklahoma to get to the playoffs if they beat Oklahoma St. in the championship game. That’s bad for the conference, but I think OU wins here. Computer Hope
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August 26, 2017 Posted by | Baylor, Big XII, Iowa St., Kansas, Kansas St., NCAA, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Predictions, Preseason, Previews, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia | Leave a comment

TERRIFIC 20: TOP 20 INTERIOR DL FOR 2017 NCAA FOOTBALL

I always think it’s interesting to note that when we talk about the absolute best defensive players in the NFL the last couple of years we also begin and end the conversation with JJ Watt and Aaron Donald. They aren’t corners and they aren’t edge rushers but rather interior defensive linemen! To me this is a position that is sometimes overlooked, but it is the position that drives the defense. Having outstanding players up front that can collapse the pocket from within and control the running game between the tackles is almost indispensable when chasing down a national championship. You’ll note that both of Clemson’s starting DTs from a year ago find their way onto my list of Terrific 20 interior defensive linemen. Alabama ALWAYS has 1st round talent at DE and NT. Washington made the playoffs last season. Their starting DTs? Yep, both made my Terrific 20 list this season.

It’s also interesting to note sexy picks for the 2017 playoffs. Florida State is expected to make a playoff run. They look to have exceptional DTs. Miami-FL is experiencing a resurgence that some might think could propel them into the playoffs as early as this season. They have both starting DTs on my Terrific 20 list. There is a lot of flash on the defensive side of the ball. Who doesn’t like edge rushers who can flat get out after the QB? There isn’t much more exciting to me on defense than a bone crushing safety who lays the wood on suspecting WRs over the middle, but who are also exceptional ball hawkers. A shutdown corner has as much flash as anyone, but as is always the case with the game of football, if you want to win, you have to have the big uglies!

A quick reminder, the 20 players are listed alphabetically by their team. As I’ve said before, I don’t try to actually rank the top-20 because I’m not entirely sure how much value added I’d receive by doing so. The margins are fairly thin between some of the players.

TEAM COMMENTS
Computer Hope David Moa/6’3/270lbs/rJR: Coming out of high school, Moa was a 6’3/235lbs 2-star DE from San Diego that didn’t draw much attention. Having redshirted a year and then continuing to grow, Moa has turned into a 6’3/270lbs DT for the Broncos who had a standout rSO season with 8.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss! Still a little light at 270lbs, Moa has some solid first step quickness & he has room to get bigger. He should be a 1st team All-MWC and he’ll be interesting to watch for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Computer Hope Dexter Lawrence/6’5/340lbs/SO: Lawrence is going to make a solid case for being the #1 overall draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. He’s a MONSTER at 6’5/340lbs with uncanny athletic ability. Big enough to be a legit 2-gap daddy as a NT in a 3-4 scheme, Lawrence was a manchild in Clemson’s 4-3 racking up 7 sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss & 6 QB hurries all as a true freshman all the while being an important cog in a national championship run! Even more impressive possibly? Kid racked up 78 tackles!
Computer Hope Christian Wilkins/6’4/310lbs/JR: Wilkins was a 3rd team All-American last year as a junior and potentially deserved better. Like Lawrence, Wilkins does everything right as a DT. He gets incredible inside pressure and if you watch Wilkins a lot, he is a natural interior DL who always has his hands up to deflect passes. Last year he broke up 10 passes which is an amazing rate. His 13 tackles for loss was 3rd on the team and he still has upside as some of those tackles for loss could turn into QB sacks.
Computer Hope Derrick Nnadi/6’1/312lbs/SR: I love Derrick Nnadi’s game. He’s not overly huge at 6’1, but at 312lbs he definitely typifies the “dancing bear” stereotype of ultra athletic big men. Nnadi does everything well up front. He generates tremendous inside pressure but is also a space eater in the middle that will make tackles and clog up opponent’s running games. I think Nnadi has some more upside as well as Brian Burns, Josh Sweat & Demarcus Christmas should all be better in 2017 alleviating some pressure.
Computer Hope Trenton Thompson/6’4/295lbs/JR: According to Phil Steele, Thompson was the best defensive lineman in the 2015 recruiting class and last year Thompson finally showed that promise with a standout sophomore campaign that saw the big man record 5 sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss and 7 QB hurries! Thompson even won the Liberty Bowl MVP last year after Georgia beat TCU 31-23 to finish 8-5. Thompson has outstanding upside and hasn’t gotten as much run time as he’ll get this year. Expect big things.
Computer Hope Ed Oliver/6’2/290lbs/SO: The numbers are staggering. Last year as a true freshman Oliver recorded 66 tackles, 5 sacks, 23 tackles for loss, 9 passes broken up and 7 QB hurries! He was without question the best interior D-Lineman in the country in 2016. Did I mention he was a true freshman!? Already a 1st Team All-American, what does Oliver do for an encore? Like Dexter Lawrence, Oliver could be the #1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Losing Tom Herman is tough, but Oliver keeps Houston relevant.
Computer Hope Daniel Wise/6’3/290lbs/rJR: It is somewhat amazing that Kansas has a player on my Terrific 20 for both edge rushers and interior defensive linemen. Wise had an outstanding rSO year last year racking up 38 tackles along with 10 tackles for loss. The Jayhawks have a pretty solid D-Line and you have to give credit to David Beaty and his staff. Beaty recruited Dorance Armstrong to come to Lawrence and his staff has done a great job developing Wise as a solid DT. KU could win 4-5 games this year.
Computer Hope R.J. McIntosh/6’4/293lbs/JR: You know the ACC is being put on notice with “THE U” starts churning out top flight defensive linemen. McIntosh didn’t do much as a freshman, but came alive in his sophomore campaign with 2.5 sacks & 9.5 tackles for loss. That isn’t too bad for a young guy feeling his way through his first year starting. McIntosh has great size at 6’4 and almost 300lbs. Miami-FL has an outstanding D-Line coming back this year that I think only will make McIntosh that much better. Scary!
Computer Hope Kendrick Norton/6’3/312lbs/JR: Like McIntosh, Norton was also a first time starter last year at DT and put up pretty solid numbers with 2 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. I’ve seen some reports of Norton’s weight being as high as 320lbs so he’s a significant space eater in the middle who has quite a bit of upside when it comes to getting to the QB. Both McIntosh and Norton spent a lot of time in opposing backfields and it it’s just a matter of when (not if!) they start getting to the QB before he releases the ball!
Computer Hope Rashan Gary/6’5/293lbs/SO: I almost put Gary on my Terrific 20: Edge Rushers, but at 6’5 and almost 300lbs, he’s more of a 4-3DT or really a 3-4 DE. He didn’t get a ton of run time last year as a true frosh yet still managed 5 tackles for loss & 7 QB hurries. The QB hurries is the stat to watch. Gary didn’t get a ton of time so those 7 QB hurries could be closer to 17-20 if he starts 14 games and doesn’t get taken out. Some people are thinking Michigan might take a step back, but Gary might not let that happen.
Computer Hope Maurice Hurst/6’2/282lbs/rSR: Hurst took a huge step forward last year which his ability to get to the QB and generate interior pressure for the Wolverine defense. Some of that could have been defenses keying on Michigan’s other D-Linemen because they were a formidable bunch led by Taco Charlton, Ryan Glasgow & Chris Wormley, but I think Hurst’s improvements are for real and he’ll play a significant role this season. I think Hurst will be able to take advantage of Michigan having elite pass rushers.
Computer Hope Steven Richardson/6’0/300lbs/SR: Richardson is a little unheralded because he’s only 6’0 and he plays for Minnesota, but he put up a great year last year with 7 sacks, 11 tackles for loss and 2 QB hurries for a 9-4 Minnesota team that enjoyed their best season since 2003 when the Gophers finished 10-3. It was also Minnesota’s best defensive effort since 1999 and Richardson was a 3rd Team All-Big 10. With PJ Fleck around, confidence should be at an all-time high & Richardson should be good again.
Computer Hope Freedom Akinmoladun/6’4/270lbs/rJR: The scary thing about Akinmoladun is that the kid is still learning to play defense. Nebraska originally recruited him to play TE, but quickly abandoned the idea given Akinmoladun’s ability to add weight and retain his athleticism. The Cornhuskers are playing him as a 3-4DE, but he had 4 sacks, 5 tackles for loss and an incredible 10 QB hurries last season. It would be interesting to see him turned loose as an edge rusher or make him a 3-4 OLB on passing downs. I like him.
Computer Hope Kevin Givens/6’1/285lbs/rSO: Givens probably isn’t on anyone’s radar just yet but MASSIVE amounts of credit needs to go to James Franklin and his staff for getting in on this guy. Givens came out of high school as a 6’1/235lbs LB, but after a redshirt year he’s now bulked up to 290lbs with exceptional first step quickness. He’s not slated to be a starter this year & he didn’t start last year either but he racked up 4.5 sacks and 7 tackles for loss in very limited time. Don’t be shocked when he busts out in 2017!
Computer Hope Harrison Phillips/6’4/285lbs/rJR: Phillips road has a been a bit bumpy to his point. He didn’t get a ton of run time in 2014 as a true frosh and then had to redshirt in 2015 due to injury. Finally given the green light in 2016, Phillips didn’t disappoint racking up 46 tackles, 6.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss all from the DT position in Stanford’s 3-4 scheme. He’s a bit miscast as a NT, but he’s highly effective up the middle and should have no issues being an All Pac 12 player. He has double digit sack upside in ’17.
Computer Hope Zaycoven Henderson/6’2/305lbs/SR: Lost in all the Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall hype last season, Zaycover Henderson put together a pretty remarkable season for an interior D-Lineman recording 3 sacks and 10 tackles for loss along with 2 QB hurries. Sort of like Maurice Hurst, you wonder if Henderson will be as good now that offenses will key on him, but he’s got solid size at 6’2 and 305lbs and I think he’ll keep playing well. He should be a 1st Team All-SEC guy meaning he’s one of the best in the nation!
Computer Hope Rasheem Green/6’5/280lbs/JR: One of the most highly touted prospects in the 2015 class, Green is a monster with incredible size at 6’5/280lbs. As a true frosh, Green played in every game for the Trojans which is no easy task given the depth chart & became a full fledged starter as a true sophomore. Green led USC is sacks last year and was also 4th in tackles showing an outstanding ability to limit the run as well as the pass. Green is a big reason why the Trojans could end up being the national champions!
Computer Hope Lowell Lotulelei/6’2/317lbs/SR: Utah seems like a DT assembly line and Lotulelei is the latest edition. You can make a good argument his teammate Filipo Mokofisi deserves to be the on this list but I went with Lotulelei because the guy has been a model of consistency since he arrived in Salt Lake City. Of all the players on this list, if you were looking at bets as to who would reach their ceiling this year, I think Lotulelei would be the safest bet. Not a ton of flash but great size at 6’2/317lbs and he gets the job done.
Computer Hope Andrew Brown/6’4/285lbs/SR: A 5-star recruit out of Chesapeake Virginia, Brown elected to stay close to home and commit to the Wahoos over teams like Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Michigan, Ohio St., and Georgia. Brown had been hampered by injuries over this first two seasons in Charlottesville, but last year was able to stay on the field & ended the season with 6 sacks and 13 tackles for loss which is amazing considering how bad the defense was for UVA. The talent here is undeniable if healthy!
Computer Hope Greg Gaines/6’2/321lbs/rJR: I really like Gaines’ game. Washington plays sort of an odd ball 3-3-5 base defense or nickle package using a couple of huge DTs which one edge rusher and then hoping to get help via one of their outside LBs. This means that the Huskies need their DTs to generate a lot of inside pressure and Gaines does that. Gaines came to UW at 6’1/290 but has grown and inch and put on almost 30lbs. He had 8 tackles for loss and I think there is a lot more upside to his game going forward.
Computer Hope Vita Vea/6’5/344lbs/JR: Vea is an absolute BEAST physically at 6’5 and almost 350lbs! Vea is even bigger than Dexter Lawrence even if marginally so! Vea is an extremely unique player in that he’s a legit 2-gap daddy as a 3-4 NT, but he also gets tremendous pressure, finishing 2nd on the Huskies last season sacks with 5. He’s the reason UW can play the kind of defense they want because he takes up so much space and commands double & triple teams. He’s an All-American candidate that is also a top-10 NFL pick.

FIVE FRESHMAN WHO COULD MAKE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT IN 2017

Marlon Tuipulotu/USC/6’3/305lbs: Tuipulotu should get significant playing time and this is one of those instances where talent meets opportunity. The Trojans should have a dominant D-Line with starters Porter Gustin, Rasheem Green and Uchenna Nwosu. That should leave Tuipulotu with plenty of one on one opportunities in the trenches to make an impact. Opposing defenses are most likely going to key on known variables such as the 3 other starting D-Linemen along with other Trojan players like Cameron Smith and Ajene Harris. There is some concern going forward about the overall depth chart of the D-Line, but for the most part I think Tuipulotu gets significant playing time and makes an impact because he’ll be more of an afterthought for opposing offensive coordinators. It’ll be interesting to see how effective the true freshman can be, knowing this and getting quite a bit of playing time.

Jordan Scott/Oregon/6’1/340lbs: I’m really excited to see what Scott can do for the Ducks this season. Just a 3-star DT out of Florida, Scott wasn’t highly recruited by the big boys. He did have an offer from Florida State, but not much outside of that. He chose to go all away across country to Oregon where he seems like a more natural fit in the Ducks 3-4 scheme. Scott couldn’t walk into a better situation. He’s a space eater at almost 350lbs and should command double teams. He’s also in a unique position because DE Jalen Jelks is a returning starter and the other DE looks to be Clemson grad transfer Scott Pagano. That’s a lot of experience up front. Oregon also returns both inside LBs in Troy Dye and Kaulana Apelu meaning Scott is either going to take up a lot of space allowing the LBs to hunt or he’s going to get faced with a lot of one on one opportunities where he can shut down any type of interior running game while collapsing the pocket on opposing QBs. We are used to seeing dominant 3-4 DEs out of Oregon such as DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead. Scott might be a legit 3-4 NT for the Ducks that carries around 350lbs.

Marvin Wilson/Florida State/6’4/330lbs: Just a bit smaller than Dexter Lawrence, Wilson enters the 2017 NCAA football season as the most highly touted DL recruit in the 2017 class. Wilson has massive bulk and does everything well in the trenches. He’s exceptional at getting pressure on the QB while also being able to take up space and shut down running games. He demands double teams so it’ll be interesting to see if collegiate offensives will allow him to go one on one with a guard or center. The only issue I think Wilson will have his first season is finding playing time. Derrick Nnadi is one of the best DTs in college football and FSU also returns Demarcus Christmas as their other DT starter. HC Jimbo Fisher is also bringing in Ja’len Parks and Cory Durden. That is a massive amount of talent up front for the Seminoles. Wilson is going to play and I think he’s going to make an impact but it’ll be interesting to see if he makes the same kind of impact Dexter Lawrence made because of the logjam up front in Tallahassee.

Langston Murray/New Mexico/6’2/335lbs: As I’ve written many times, sometimes a player can make himself a household name because of opportunity and I think Murray steps into an interesting situation with the Lobos. Murray has tremendous size at 6’2/335lbs. New Mexico under HC Bob Davie employs a base 3-4 and there isn’t much returning at NT from last season meaning if Murray can step in and be effective, he’ll earn significant playing time. Murray is also big enough already that he won’t need a redshirt year trying to add bulk to his frame. There isn’t any doubt that New Mexico is a work in progress this season after a mass exodus of players from the defensive side of the ball, but that means opportunity for a guy like Murray. I’m not sure he’ll cash in that opportunity, but a legit 3-4NT who can eat up space makes the 3-4 defense flow and you can be sure that the New Mexico coaching staff understands this. The Lobos are going to run the ball and take up time. That’s for certain so the defense will get plenty of rest. If Murray can eat up space then the other defenders can hunt, making an otherwise rebuilding defense, highly effective. Let’s see if Murray can seize the opportunity.

Quinnen Williams/Alabama/6’4/285lbs: Williams is a rFR, but I wanted to get a guy from Alabama on this list because how can you talk about interior defensive linemen and not mention Alabama!? Regardless of who Alabama loses to the NFL Draft, they always have dominant D-Lines and I think Williams is going to be a star in 2017. Williams had an outstanding spring game for the Tide and he’s projected to be the starter along with NT Da’Ron Payne and DE Da’Shawn Hand. Payne & Hand could easily be All-SEC type of players meaning Williams as a relative unknown should have his way early on. That won’t last because he’ll be dominant, but Williams should be able to capture enough momentum early on to propel himself through the season and make people notice for the 2019 NFL Draft after his redshirt sophomore season. The only downside to Williams is the incredible amount of talent in Tuscaloosa, but if he can get playing time and remain in the starting lineup, I think Williams emerges as an All-SEC type of player.

July 22, 2017 Posted by | Alabama, Boise St., Clemson, Florida St., Georgia, Houston, Interior DL, Kansas, Miami-FL, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, Penn St., Predictions, Preseason, Previews, Stanford, Terrific 20, Texas AM, USC, Utah, Virginia, Washington | Leave a comment

TERRIFIC 20: TOP 20 EDGE RUSHERS FOR 2017 NCAA FOOTBALL

EDGE RUSHERS!!!!! The most exciting position in football in my opinion! This position was tough because there were quite a few edge rushers who probably deserved to be included yet missed the cut since I limited my selections to the top-20. One thing that stood out is that the SEC & ACC have tremendous pass rushers this season. Catching those conference games almost ensures you’ll see a couple of elite pass rushers. What also stuck out is that you could make a decent argument that Ohio St. has 4 of the top-20 edge rushers in the nation! If there is going to be a single reason why the Buckeyes could potentially win a national championship, it’ll be because of the RELENTLESS pass rush their edge rushers can generate! It should be mind boggling.

A quick reminder, the 20 players are listed alphabetically by their team. As I’ve said before, I don’t try to actually rank the top-20 because I’m not entirely sure how much value added I’d receive by doing so. The margins are fairly thin between some of the players.

TEAM COMMENTS
Computer Hope Harold Landry/6’3/250lbs/SR: Landry didn’t play much as a freshman, but flashed quite a bit as a sophomore as he tied with LB Matt Milano for the BC lead in tackles for loss in 2015 with 11. That was a harbinger for things to come as Landry exploded last year racking up 16.5 sacks which led all of college football! While a 4-3DE for Boston College, Landry projects as a 34OLB at the NFL level. Regardless, the Eagles are going to get back to a bowl this year & Landry will have an incredible season.
Computer Hope Clelin Ferrell/6’5/265lbs/rSO: It was easy not to concentrate so much on Ferrell last year during Clemson’s run to a championship because the defense had guys like Ben Boulware, Kendall Joseph, Carlos Watkins, Cordrea Tankersley, Dexter Lawrence & Christian Wilkins, but Ferrell was a huge part of the success racking up 6 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss and a team leading 9 QB hurries. Oh by the way he was only a rFR! He returns with a ton of supporting players. He’ll go double digit sacks.
Computer Hope Jabari Zuniga/6’3/245lbs/rSO: Like Ferrell, Zuniga was another redshirt freshman having a helluva year. Zuniga finished the season for the Gators with a team leading 5 sacks, which also happened to be the most sacks by a freshman since 1987! Zuniga wasn’t highly thought of coming out of high school, but he proved to be an incredible get. In limited time last season he still managed the 5 sacks and an astonishing 11 QB hurries. If those hurries turn into sacks, Zuniga becomes an All-American.
Computer Hope Brian Burns/6’5/218lbs/SO: Burns has perfect height to be a 4-3 DE at the next level, but he’s a little light at 218lbs so it’ll be something to watch moving forward. While he might not have ideal bulk at the moment, it’s impossible to overlook the numbers the true frosh put up last season. In limited time, Burns recorded 9.5 sacks which was 2nd on the team to DeMarcus Walker’s 16. With Josh Sweat on the opposite end, Burns should be in for another huge year in what should be a playoff run for Florida State.
Computer Hope Josh Sweat/6’5/250lbs/JR:Opposing teams are screwed with FSU’s edge rushers because Burns and Josh Sweat make the list. Sweat is more of a complete package seeing that he’s 250lbs although his ceiling might not be as high as Burns. Sweat really came on down the stretch in FSU’s last 3 games against Syracuse, Florida & Michigan. In those 3 games, Sweat had 4.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. If Sweat keeps that momentum going in 2017 and improves from his ’16 campaign, then look out!
Computer Hope Davin Bellamy/6’5/240lbs/rSR: Bellamy is almost the ideal size for an NFL 4-3 DE. At 6’5 and almost 250lbs, Bellamy has elite physical size, but one thing that he hasn’t been able to do is transform his QB hurries into sacks. In 2015 Bellamy had 9 QB hurries yet only 3 sacks. Last season he recorded a ridiculous 17 QB hurries but manged only 5 sacks! Those numbers should be reversed! Georgia is a big time threat to win the SEC East and you’d have to think Bellamy could be a deciding factor in the SEC East.
Computer Hope Lorenzo Carter/6’6/242lbs/SR: Everything I wrote above about Bellamy is somewhat true about Carter as well. Despite his IDEAL size for a 4-3 DE, Carter has had trouble converting QB hurries to sacks. In 2015 he had 6 QB hurries but no sacks. Last year he recorded 13 QB hurries but just 5 sacks. Neither Carter or Bellamy show up on first round mock drafts for 2018 so something is up. I’m betting on both of them. The upside is simply too strong there for me to ignore them. I think they both dominate.
Computer Hope Dorance Armstrong/6’4/256lbs/JR: There wasn’t a lot to be excited about regarding Kansas football last year but along with the win over Texas, Dorance Armstrong was a HUGE bright spot for the Jayhawks campaign. Armstrong wasn’t fantastic in 2015, but he exploded last season with 10 sacks and 20 tackles for loss! Armstrong was consistent all season & he put up big numbers against some very tough offensive lines. He could be KU’s 1st first team All-American since CB Aquib Talib back in 2007.
Computer Hope Jaylon Ferguson/6’5/255lbs/rJR: Guys like Ferguson are always interesting because you wonder who exactly they got to where they are. Ferguson is from St. Francisville, LA which is about 30 or so miles north of Baton Rouge. How in the world did this guy NOT grow up an LSU fan, and how in the world did LSU NOT want to recruit the guy? It doesn’t look like LSU even offered the guy so maybe it was never on the table. Ferguson exploded last year with 14.5 sacks! He’s an All-American candidate for 2017.
Computer Hope Arden Key/6’6/255lbs/JR: Speaking of Ferguson to LSU, could you imagine the LSU defensive line if it has Ferguson and Key coming off the edge!? Good grief! How in the world would opposing QBs not get killed!? Key is a MONSTER! HC Ed Orgeron is already saying can be as good if not better than former Texas A&M, and #1 overall NFL draft pick, Myles Garrett! Those are lofty words, but Key is fully formed & is an outstanding pass rusher. Coming off shoulder surgery, let’s hope it doesn’t hinder him.
Computer Hope Joe Jackson/6’5/258lbs/SO: I wavered on throwing Jackson on this list because he’s not even projected to be a starter for THE U at DE. The Canes have seniors looking to start in Chad Thomas & Trent Harris. Both are solid players, but it’s hard to ignore what Jackson did last season as a true freshman. He led Miami in sacks with 8.5 and recorded 11.5 tackles for loss which also led the team. Jackson has incredible size at 6’5/260lbs. I’d be shocked if Jackson doesn’t get a ton of reps & net double digit sacks.
Computer Hope Marquis Haynes/6’3/222lbs/SR: Haynes doesn’t have ideal size as a 4-3 DE, but he fits the position well and has a ton of natural pass rushing ability. It’s hard to ignore his production. As a sophomore Haynes posted 10 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss. Last year as a junior Haynes had 7 sacks & 11 tackles for loss but also had 8 QB hurries. It was somewhat of a surprise to see him come back for his senior season, but Haynes has the ability to post numbers that could make him an All-American candidate.
Computer Hope Marcell Frazier/6’5/265lbs/rSR: Incredible size for a DE, Frazier could think about gaining 25lbs and becoming a 3-4 DE who could provide pocket pressure off the edge. He’ll have no problem taking over for the departed Charles Harris who the Miami Dolphins took in the 1st round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Frazier might be one of the most important players in college football this season because if he provides significant pressure, Missouri has a chance to shock a lot of people given their schedule.
Computer Hope Bradley Chubb/6’4/275lbs/SR: Chubb flashed enormous potential for the Wolfpack as a sophomore netting 5.5 sacks & 12 tackles for loss. Those numbers are gigantic but Chubb ranked 2nd on the team in tackles which is amazing for an edge rusher. Last year Chubb flashed for real, racking up 10.5 sacks and 22 tackles for loss along with 7 QB hurries. Chubb has tremendous bulk at 275lbs, but he’s got a lot of speed for that size. There are a lot of very good edge rushers in the ACC, but Chubb is the best.
Computer Hope Sam Hubbard/6’5/265lbs/rJR: Hubbard didn’t go nuts last year with his stats with only 3.5 sacks and 8 tackles for loss, but he’s roundly considered a first round draft pick and if you watch Ohio St. for very long, it’s not hard to see why Hubbard has as much hype surrounding him as anyone. What could prevent Hubbard from having a huge statistical season is Ohio St. having so much depth on the edge. This will be true for Tyquan Lewis as well but Nick Bosa & Jalyn Holmes are going to need reps too!
Computer Hope Tyquan Lewis/6’4/265lbs/rSR: Lewis has always been an elite pass rusher but playing in the shadow of Joey Bosa, it isn’t easy to get noticed for you own play. In his first season without Bosa, Lewis led the Buckeyes in sacks with 8, in tackles for loss with 10.5 and in QB hurries with 5. He didn’t get to come out of the Bosa family shadow for long though as little brother Nick came in and had a fantastic true frosh season. Like Hubbard, Lewis is a 1st round NFL DE, but his reps won’t be as high because of depth.
Computer Hope Breckyn Hager/6’3/227lbs/JR: KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR THIS GUY! Hager had an outstanding sophomore campaign for the Longhorns despite only making 5 starts. Hager made the most of his opportunities finishing 2nd on the team in tackles, 1st in sacks and first in tackles for loss. He has a relentless motor and is constantly on the move regardless of play/position. Hager is a little light but Texas is moving to a 3-4 base defense which forces Hager to a 3-4 OLB spot which he’s more suited for. Scary!
Computer Hope Porter Gustin/6’5/260lbs/JR: Gustin didn’t get a ton of run time as a true frosh back in 2015, but he flashed hard last season for the Trojans picking up 5.5 sacks and a team leading 13 tackles for loss. Gustin is an edge rusher with incredible size at 6’5/260lbs, but he’s quick off the line and he does a great job holding the edge and containing the running game. He’s not a one trick pony to be sure. USC is this close to being back to the glory years under Pete Carroll. Gustin is a big part of that as the defense is solid.
Computer Hope Tremaine Edmunds/6’5/236lbs/JR: A 3rd team All-American last season, Edmunds is a scary sight off the edge down in Blacksburg. Giving Bud Foster an ELITE edge rusher is a thing of beauty. The last time VT had an edge rusher the caliber of Edmunds was back when Jason Worilds was playing in 2008-2009, but Worilds isn’t as good as Edmunds, wasn’t as big or have near the upside. Edmunds only had 4.5 sacks last year but 18.5 tackles for loss! He has the potential to reverse those numbers.
Computer Hope Duke Ejiofor/6’4/275lbs/rSR: Ejiofor was a big part of Wake Forest getting to a bowl game last year for the first time since 2011 and winning a bowl game for the first time since 2008. The 2008 season was also the last time Wake had a winning season before the 2016 campaign. Ejiofor got spot duty his first couple of seasons after redshirting but flashed last year when he became the starter. He led the team in sacks with 10.5 and recorded 17 tackles for loss. The ACC has a lot of outstanding edge rushers.

FIVE FRESHMAN WHO COULD MAKE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT IN 2017

Jaelan Phillips/UCLA/6’6/250lbs: A consensus 5-star defensive end out of Redlands, CA, Phillips is a man-child at 6’6/250lbs which is already IDEAL size as a 4-3 edge rusher. Phillips enrolled early at UCLA and was on campus for spring practice. The Bruins hardly have anything coming back as far as pass rush is concerned so Phillips could get some run time early getting a chance to show the coaching staff that he can be an impact player right away. The only downside to Phillips potentially is his size. The kid is already 6’6/250lbs and UCLA runs a 4-3 defense. If he gains 25-30 pounds then Phillips will be a prototypical 34DE at 6’6/280lbs! There isn’t much by way of production last season in front of Phillips and opportunity is half the battle for these newcomers. I think Phillips gets a chance to shine as a true freshman.

A.J. Epenesa/Iowa/6’5/270lbs: I wanted to mention Espnesa because he is the most highly decorated recruit that committed to Iowa that I can remember. Typically the Hawkeyes don’t nail down too many no doubt 5-star studs, especially on the defensive line, but the Illinois native signed with the Iowa and Kirk Ferentz couldn’t be happier. I think opportunity is what is key for freshman contribution and that isn’t easy to see with Epenesa in Iowa City this year. Iowa already has a solid 3-man rotation at edge rusher featuring Parker Hesse, Matt Nelson and Anthony Nelson. What makes it so intriguing however, is that the Hawkeyes could easily make that a 4-man rotation by adding Epenesa  making their D-Line deeper and even more talented. It would also be incredibly BIG! Matt Nelson is 6’8/285lbs. His younger brother Anthony Nelson is 6’7/260lbs. Hesse is 6’3/260lbs and Epenesa is already 6’5/270lbs! Pass rush counts for a lot in football and because of this 4-man rotation, Iowa has a shot at the Big 10 West. I think Epenesa gets a chance to help Iowa.

Jake Lawler/North Carolina/6’3/220lbs: Lawler is a little light for an edge rusher but he’s a true freshman so you’d have to think the weight will come at some point. That being said, Lawler looks like a prime candidate to redshirt, but as I’ve said repeated times, opportunity is a good sign a freshman might have an impact and Lawler might have a shot to get solid reps. The Tar Heels have Malik Carney returning who will be their primary pass rusher, but UNC is a little thin on the opposite side which is where Lawler could come into play. You could make an argument that Lawler is the most talented edge rusher on the squad so that might garner him some opportunities. Admittedly this might be a bit of a stretch, but it’s worth noting because Lawler enrolled early and Carolina needs the help on the edge.

Drew Jordan/Duke/6’2/255lbs: Staying on Tobacco Road, Jordan as a true freshman immediately steps into the starting role for Duke and is easily the most talented edge rusher the Blue Devils have heading into 2017. Typically a team like Duke (or Vanderbilt or Indiana or Northwestern) can sometimes get a solid blue chip recruit along the O-Line or at QB. Even LB, but getting a blue chipper as an edge rusher is a rare thing, yet HC David Cutcliffe managed to pull this off with Jordan, a Georgia native. Jordan has ready make bulk at the collegiate level at 255lbs and to be honest, he’ll need to figure out a way to keep his weight under control unless he shoots up to 6’4-6’5. One thing I like about the impact Jordan could have is that it improves Duke’s pass rush from the edge because the Blue Devils do a pretty good job getting QB pressure from their LBs. Joe Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys get after it a big and a solid edge rusher like Jordan could open up lanes for the LBs to swarm a little bit better. If Jordan gets a lot of reps and his numbers don’t look great, but Giles-Harris & Humphreys get big bumps, it’ll be because Jordan freed them up a bit.

Bryan Jones/Houston/6’5/245lbs: It’s a different coaching staff at Houston with Tom Herman going to Texas, but what sticks out to me about Jones is the presence of Ed Oliver. Jones is a fully formed 43DE at 6’5/245lbs and he was a highly recruited DE. Oliver as a true frosh last season was a 1st team all-american and he’ll be clogging up the middle while Jones is on the edge. Jones is the most talented edge rusher on the Cougars team and it’s not even close. He should get opportunities and Houston’s front-7 is good enough that Jones should see a lot of one-on-one matchups on the edge which could lead to some big plays. Given how well Oliver did as a freshman, I wonder if Jones can come in and have a similar impact especially with Oliver coming back for his sophomore season. Houston lost both of their starting edge rushers from a season ago so competition should be wide open.

July 13, 2017 Posted by | Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Edge Rushers, Florida, Florida St., Georgia, Houston, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana Tech, LSU, Miami-FL, Mississippi, Missouri, NC State, North Carolina, Ohio St, Predictions, Preseason, Previews, Terrific 20, Texas, UCLA, USC, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest | Leave a comment

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – #50 to #65

Let’s get back into action with some college football talk. This marks the beginning of my ranking the 65 Power college football coaches in the nation. I looked all the head coaches from the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, ACC and Notre Dame. I took the last 5 years and looked at their records, conference records, history, recruiting efforts, bowl records and the overall trends of their team over these past 5 seasons. I’ll go in reverse order starting at the bottom and working my way up by 10 spots. This beginning post will start with the bottom 15. Here we go!

#65 – Chris Ash – Rutgers

Ash didn’t exactly walk into the best situation given the Kyle Flood controversy but in his first year in New Brunswick, the former Ohio St. DC finished 2-10 with a conference record of 0-9. His 2016 recruiting class also ranked #78 according to Rivals meaning talent isn’t pouring into New Jersey either. Most of Rutgers games weren’t even that competitive. In their games against Ohio St., Michigan, Michigan St. and Penn St., the Scarlet Knights were outscored 224-0! The Big 10 East isn’t the easiest division to play in, but good grief Rutgers can’t get HAMMERED like that. Ash probably has a little more rope but another 2-10 (0-9) season might spell disaster.

#64 – David Beaty – Kansas

Beatty has gone 2-22 in his first two seasons in Lawrence with a Big 12 record of 1-17. There has been improvement. Beatty went 0-12 his first season at the helm and improved by 2 games last season to 2-10. He also improved his conference record from 0-9 to 1-8. The powers that be at KU thought enough of that improvement to give Beaty a contract extension through 2021! Beaty did lead Kansas to their first win over Texas since 1938 and they came pretty close to beating Iowa St. and TCU! Recruiting it up a bit and Beaty has a chance to improve this ranking quite a bit. Sure Kansas only won 2 games, but in 2015, their average margin of defeat was 30.8 PPG. In 2016 it was 17.0!

#63 – Barry Odom – Missouri

Almost impossible to replace a HC like Gary Pinkel who had tremendous success at Missouri, but if there is anyone that knows Pinkel it’s Odom. Another positive about Odom is that there can’t possibly be a more dyed in the wool Mizzou Tiger than Odom himself. There will never be a lack of passion for Missouri football coming from the head coach! Odom’s first year as HC wasn’t a great one as the Tigers went 4-8 (2-6). That was the worst record the Tigers have had since 2000 when Missouri went 3-8 the year before Gary Pinkel was hired. Pinkel’s worst record in 15 years was 4-7. Odom has his work cut out for him and he needs to recruit better, but Pinkel did more with less so maybe he can too.

#62 – Bronco Mendenhall – Virginia

Mendenhall is a tough one to evaluate. His first year in Charlottesville was a disaster as the Cavaliers went 2-10 with a 1-7 conference record. I don’t think much was expected of Virginia in Mendenhall’s first season, but Virginia should have been at least comparable to their 2015 version which went 4-8. Instead, they regressed. Sometimes seasons can go sideways and that seems to be the case with Virginia. They shouldn’t have lost to FCS Richmond to open the season. They let road games at UConn and Wake Forest get away from them as well. Those 3 games turning to wins would have at least allowed UVA to get to 5-7. There is a lot of room to move up this season for Mendenhall.

#61 – Lovie Smith – Illinois

Before last season, the last time Lovie Smith coached in the college ranks was 1995 when he was DB coach for Ohio State. He was the head coach for the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 11 years leading the Bears to a Super Bowl in 2006, so it was quite an odd move that Smith would leave the NFL for collegiate football and all the headaches involved with recruiting 16 and 17 year old boys. Smith got a rude awakening his first season. The Illini finished 3-9 (2-7) with one of their wins coming against Murray State. The games weren’t even that competitive and Smith didn’t exactly tear it up on the recruiting trail. With Jeff Brohm and PJ Fleck joining the Big 10 West, it’s not getting any easier.

#60 – Dino Babers – Syracuse

Babers was an assistant coach for almost 30 years before he finally got his shot at Eastern Illinois and made the most of it. He went 19-7 with EIU winning back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference championships. He parlayed that job into the head coaching gig at Bowling Green and did well there too. Babers posted an 18-9 record with the Falcons, winning the MAC East in both years and the MAC championship in 2015. He traded that job for a Power-5 conference job with Syracuse. Unfortunately for Babers, he didn’t do as well at Syracuse as he did with EIU and BG. A 4-8 (2-6) record wasn’t fantastic and Babers didn’t kill it on the recruiting trail either. He still has plenty of time left.

#59 – Justin Wilcox – California

Wilcox has never been a head coach but for the last 11 years he’s been the defensive coordinator for Boise St., Tennessee, Washington, USC & Wisconsin. In those seasons here is how his defenses ranked in scoring defense:

2006: #20 (Boise St.)
2007: #26 (Boise St.)
2008: #3 (Boise St.)
2009: #13 (Boise St.)
2010: #56 (Tennessee)
2011: #36 (Tennessee)
2012: #39 (Washington)
2013: #29 (Washington)
2014: #46 (USC)
2015: #50 (USC)
2016: #4 (Wisconsin)

Clearly Wilcox has a track record of success which is good for Cal because the Bears haven’t had anything resembling a decent defense these past 5 seasons. Losing QB Davis Webb will be tough, but Wilcox will do a good job if he can keep Cal from giving up 40PPG.

#58 – Tom Allen – Indiana

Allen did a stellar job as a defensive coach at Ole Miss and South Florida before coming onto Kevin Wilson’s staff last season as the defensive coordinator. Allen didn’t disappoint, improving the Hoosiers’ scoring defense by 10PPG! That’s good news for Indiana as their problem has always been on the defensive side of the football. Allen has never been a head coach and his ascension to the throne was somewhat odd in light of the dismissal of former HC Kevin Wilson, but I think Indiana is in a much better place with Allen leading the charge than with Wilson, even if Wilson guided the Hoosiers to back-to-back bowl appearances. It doesn’t get any worse than the Big 10 East, but Allen has started recruiting well which is a good beginning.

#57 – D.J. Durkin – Maryland

Durkin’s first year in Maryland doesn’t look horrible when you consider the Terps were 6-6 during the regular season and getting bowl eligible before losing the bowl game to finish 6-7. A deeper look is a little more rough as Maryland started the season 4-0 against garbage competition and then finished 2-6 in their final 8 with wins over Rutgers & Michigan State, two team who combined for a 1-17 conference record. That’s hardly awe inspiring. Maryland also lost to Ohio St., Michigan and Nebraska by a combined score of 149-13. That’s not Rutgers territory, but it’s not great either. Durkin is recruiting well in College Park and he’s in a fertile recruiting ground which makes it easier. Still a lot of room to make up on Ohio St., Michigan & Penn State.

#56 – Ed Orgeron – LSU

I get the pull of Orgeron being a Louisiana native and who in their right mind isn’t in love with the guy, but I wonder if LSU made the right call in bringing their native son back home to head up the Bayou Bengals? For Orgeron, this is a shot at redemption. There is no question that Orgeron can recruit with the best of them and he’s in a prime spot to bring in a top-5 class annually. There is also no question that Orgeron is a helluva defensive coach as well and the Tigers will most certainly have his fingerprints all over their defensive identity. The question will be whether or not Orgeron can pull it all together. He’ll need a strong staff around him, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Orgeron will get it done.

#55 – Matt Campbell – Iowa State

It wasn’t a banner year in Matt Campbell’s first year in Ames has head coach of the Cyclones, but the 3-9 record hid some exciting trends. The Cyclones let a close to Northern Iowa get away from them but they also played Oklahoma, Kansas St., Oklahoma St., and Baylor very close. ISU picked up conference wins over Kansas & Texas Tech, even beating the Red Raiders 66-10 which was Iowa St., most lopsided win since the Cyclones beat Colorado St. 69-0 back in 1980! Campbell is young and energetic. He had tremendous success at Toledo and he has recruiting trending the right direction. There is no reason to believe that Iowa St. can’t be a bowl eligible team on a yearly basis under his watch.

#54 – Matt Rhule – Baylor

Hard to argue with Rhule’s bonafides. His first year at Temple was 2-10. His 3rd year the Owls were 10-4 and AAC East champions. His 4th year they were 10-3 and AAC Champions! The only thing that was tough to argue about Rhule was his taking the Baylor job to begin with. Rhule is a Penn St. graduate and all of his experience is just not east, but east of Ohio! Now he’s smack in the middle of Texas against some HEAVY HITTERS in Texas, Texas A&M, TCU, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. That’s not easy, and I’m not even mentioning the inroads that places like Notre Dame, Alabama and LSU have made the Lone Star State. Rhule will definitely have the Bears playing outstanding defense early.

#53 – Will Muschamp – South Carolina

I’m probably being a little hard on Muschamp here seeing how in his first season he took the Gamecocks to bowl eligibility when nobody except the most dedicated Gamecocks fans though SC would do anything but finish in the basement of the SEC East. My only caveat is that South Carolina and Muschamp worked the schedule which allowed SC to finish 6-6 and get to a bowl. Their non-conference wins included those against East Carolina, UMass and Western Carolina. Missouri was in the tank last year and Vanderbilt wasn’t great so there is 5 wins there. An upset win, which they got over Tennessee, was all SC needed. Muschamp will recruit well enough. Let’s see how his 2nd stint through the SEC East goes.

#52 – Jeff Brohm – Purdue

Brohm wasted little time building off of what Willie Taggart and Bobby Petrino did before him at Western Kentucky. Brohm finished his time in Bowling Green with a 30-10 record with a 19-5 mark in Conference USA play. In his last two seasons at WKU, Brohm led the Hilltoppers to a 22-5 mark including 2 bowl wins and a CUSA record of 15-1 which led to back-to-back conference championships. Brohm had Western Kentucky’s offense flying and the Hilltoppers actually led all of FBS in scoring offense in 2016. Brohm inherits a mess at Purdue, but he’ll get the offense rolling and if the defense follows suit, the Boilermakers could definitely start making noise in the Big 10 West.

#51 – Steve Addazio – Boston College

Addazio’s a tough one to figure out. I think what you have to wonder is what kind of ceiling does a program like Boston College really have? Addazio has went 7-6 in 3 of his 4 years on Chestnut Hill and is 1-2 in bowl games. That’s isn’t terrible when you consider that BC plays in the same division as Clemson, Florida St., and Louisville. In reality, BC is probably looking at a ceiling like 8-4/9-3 and Addazio is pretty close to having the Eagles at this mark with some aspect of sustainability. I think he could recruit better to be sure. Boston College should be able to get better players than what they have. Matt Ryan & Doug Flutie showed how good BC can be when they get elite level talent on the roster.

#50 – Rich Rodriguez – Arizona

Rodriguez is better than this but his teams certainly aren’t playing like it. Rodriguez had somewhat of a breakthrough in 2014 when the Wildcats went 10-4 and won the Pac 12 North, but it was colored a bit by a 51-13 loss to Oregon in the Pac 12 Championship game followed up by a 38-30 loss to Boise St. in the Fiesta Bowl. In 2015 the Wildcats dropped to 7-6 and last year Arizona completely collapsed finishing 3-9 with a 1-8 mark in conference play! Arizona’s conference record over the past two seasons is 4-14 and Rodriguez’s recruiting classes have been trending downward. USC seems to be stabilizing under Clay Helton. Colorado is emerging. That doesn’t play well for RichRod in the Pac 12 South.

May 14, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Arizona, Baylor, Big 10, Big XII, Boston College, California, Coaching, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa St., Kansas, LSU, Maryland, Missouri, Pac 12, Purdue, Rankings, Rutgers, SEC, South Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia | 5 Comments

2015 BIG XII PREVIEWS and PREDICTIONS

RANK BIG 12 COMMENTS
#1 OFFENSE: Devastating. TCU averaged 47PPG last season and return 10 starters including Heisman candidate QB Trevone Boykin. The only loss offensively was LT Tayo Fabuluje, but Halapoulvaati Vaitai steps in after being an All-Big XII performer at RT last season. Nine of the projected 11 starters could be all-conference making this offense absolutely ridiculous. Boykin & WR Josh Doctson could be 1st Team All-Americans! RB Aaron Greene also returns after averaging 7.1ypc & rushing for 922yds/9TD in 2014. There simply isn’t a weakness to the offense that I can see. You can make an argument for both Baylor & Ohio St, but in my opinion this will be the most explosive offense in the nation. You knew HC Gary Patterson wasn’t going to come into the Big XII and not win. TCU has arrived & they’ll play with a huge chip after not making the playoffs in 2014. DEFENSE: The Frogs bring back just 5 starters but don’t let that fool you. The D-Line should be outstanding with DEs James McFarland & Terrell Lathan along with DT Davion Pierson. Lathan is a matchup nightmare at 6’5/280lbs while Pierson is a rare DT who can get great pressure on the QB. The LBs take a HUGE hit with losing Paul Dawson & Marcus Mallet. Dawson was a 1st Team All-American & racked up 136 tackles! The secondary also takes on some huge hits with losing S Sam Carter, CB Kevin White & S Chris Hackett! Overall TCU loses 6 of their top-7 tacklers! LB Mike Freeze, S Derrick Kindred & CB Ranthony Texada have some awesome potential & will need to play to it to overcome the defensive losses. It’s Gary Patterson though so you know the defense is going to play well. SCHEDULE: Tougher than it appears. Road games against Minnesota, Texas Tech, Kansas St., Oklahoma St. & Oklahoma! Baylor does have to come to Ft. Worth though. This is a team on a mission. BEST CASE: 12-0; WORST CASE: 9-3
#2 OFFENSE: The offense is INSANE. Baylor returns 9 starters from an offense that scored 48PPG last season! RB Shock Linwood ran for 1252yds/12TD! Backup Johnny Jefferson ran for over 500! WRs Corey Coleman & KD Cannon combined for 122rec/2149yds/19TD! Both return & both averaged more than 17ypc! WR Jay Lee also returns giving Baylor a big guy at 6’3! More devastating? The entire O-line returns intact including 4 senior starters! Coleman & LT Spencer Drango are potential All-Americans. Drango was a 1st Team All-American last season! Amazingly, 10 of Baylor’s projected 11 starters on offense could be 1st Team All-Big XII! The one question on offense is QB. Bryce Petty is with the Jets now so Seth Russell takes over. Russell can play & in Art Briles system, he’ll put up huge numbers. It’s crazy to think Baylor could score 50PPG but they did it in 2013! If Russell catches on fast then look out. DEFENSE: Better than you think. The last 2 seasons Baylor has allowed 24PPG & this is their best defense yet with 9 returning starters! Baylor has 6 players who should be considered for All-Big 12 honors while DT Andrew Billings & DE Shawn Oakman could be All-Americans. At 6’9/290lbs, Oakman could be the #1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft! DT Beau Blakshear & DE Jamal Palmer also return giving the Bears arguably the best D-Line in college football. The secondary returns all 4 starters as well. S Orion Stewart & CB Xavien Howard are the stars here & Howard is huge for a CB at 6’2. LB Taylor Young racked up 92 tackles last year but Baylor does lose LB Bryce Hager who led the team in tackles. This defense is the best Briles has had. SCHEDULE: OOC is a joke. Baylor gets Texas, Oklahoma & West Virginia at home! They do go on the road to TCU which should be a battle for the conference title. This team is fantastic. BEST CASE: 12-0; WORST CASE: 9-3
#3 OFFENSE: As explosive as TCU’s & Baylor’s offenses might be, Oklahoma’s offense might be the most interesting. New OC Lincoln Riley is a proponent of the “Air Raid” offense that Mike Leach ran at Texas Tech. Riley coached with Leach for quite a while in Lubbock so expect the fireworks to be aplenty. New QB Baker Mayfield went to Texas Tech in 2013 & played under Leach disciple Kliff Kingsbury before transferring into Oklahoma. With confidence to burn, Mayfield is already controlling the offense to an incredibly high level. Now throw in the fact that Oklahoma returns RB Samaje Perine (1713yds/21TD in ’14) & their top-4 receivers including Sterling Shepard (19.0ypc/5TD) & you can begin to see just how crazy the Sooners offense might be in 2015! The Sooners do lose 3 outstanding O-Linemen, but the projected starters have 4 seniors & a junior. Seven guys could be all conference with Shepard & Perine being potential All-Americans! DEFENSE: The unit returns 6 starters after allowing an uncharacteristic 26PPG last year. The Sooners return their top-4 tacklers & 5 of their top-7. There is some incredible talent coming back. CB Zach Sanchez could be an All-American. LBs Dominque Alexander & Eric Striker are as good as they come. LB Jordan Evans & S Ahmad Thomas should also play key roles. Keep an eye on the D-Line. OU suffered some losses & will need NT Jordan Wade & DE DJ Ward to step into holes left by departing players. Seven guys are legit all-Big XII players & OU runs a 3-4. Only West Virginia runs a 3-4 so it’s unusual to see. SCHEDULE: Oklahoma is tricky being #3 here because they have the most talent in the conference. OOC at Tennessee is brutal. They also have road games against Baylor & Oklahoma St.! They get TCU at home but a 10-0 start is very possible with TCU/Baylor to end the season! BEST CASE: 12-0; WORST CASE: 5-7
#4 OFFENSE: West Virginia brings back 6 starters from an offense that scored 34PPG in 2014. This is somewhat of a mixed bag but I really Dana Holgorsen as a HC & believe in what he’s doing in Morgantown. Gone is QB Clint Trickett, but Trickett’s decision making could be questionable at times. Skyler Howard is the new starter & the smaller stature QB gives the Mountaineers a more cerebral QB who can also be a running threat. WVU also brings back Rushel Shell & Wendell Smallwood as RBs. They do have to replace WRs Kevin White & Mario Alford. Those 2 are huge losses but WVU runs 4 wide & Jordan Thompson & Daikiel Shorts looks good. The O-Line returns 3 starters, but new LT Sylvester Townes could be dynamic. I think Holgorsen is still finding his way, but Rich Rodriguez showed WVU could be a national player & I expect Holgorsen to do the same. DEFENSE: WVU brings back 9 starters including 9 of their top-10 tacklers. DT Shaquille Riddick & LB Wes Tonkery are fairly big losses, but I think OLBs Nick Kwiatkoski & KJ Dillon are primed for big years. WVU’s secondary returns intact. S Karl Joseph is arguably the best safety in football & gives WVU a legit All-American candidate. Dravon Henry is a solid safety as well, while CB Daryl Worley is 6’2! The one question for WVU will be the D-line. They run a 3-4 so the big guys up front will have to pick it up. JUCO transfer Larry Jefferson could be an interesting 3-4DE who can get to the QB. WVU allowed 28PPG last year but should be better which will go along way if they knock that number down to 22-23! SCHEDULE: OOC is weak & they get winnable games at home against OK State, Texas Tech, Texas & Maryland. So what they get TCU, Baylor & Oklahoma on the road!? I think they can win the other Big XII games & finish 4th! I think the defense comes through. BEST CASE: 9-3; WORST CASE: 4-8
#5 OFFENSE: The Red Raiders return 9 starters from an offense that averaged 31PPG last season. This group is probably the most talented & experienced HC Kliff Kingsbury has had to date. QB Patrick Mahomes was solid last year as a true frosh passing for 1500+yds with 16TD to 4INT. His accuracy needs to improve but there is a lot to like. RB DeAndre Jordan also returns. He ran for 1100+yds last season & is also a threat in the passing game. Tech also returns 6 of their top-7 receivers including WRs Jakeem Grant & Devin Lauderdale. Lauderdale averaged 19.0ypc last year! The O-Line returns 4 starters with 3 seniors who could be all-conference & LT Le’Raven Clark could be an All-American. Watch out for frosh JF Thomas who gives Mahomes a huge target at 6’4. I think Texas Tech gets back to scoring massive amount of points & should be closer to 40PPG than 30PPG. DEFENSE: Remember that the defense was solid in 2008-2009 when Tech was 20-6! Those 2 teams averaged 24PPG allowed so in this type of offensive system, the defense doesn’t necessarily have to be like Alabama’s. Tech returns 8 starters from a unit that allowed 41PPG but there is some talent here. DE Pete Robertson is an all-conference player as is CB Justis Nelson. LB Mike Mitchell is a uber-prospect that transferred in from Ohio St. & is 6’3/230lbs at MLB! DE Braden Jackson is also a solid body up front at 6’4/270lbs! True frosh DT Breiden Fehoko was one of the top DL recruits in the nation. The defense is getting better and the move to a 4-3 defense fits their personnel much much better. Expect big improvement. SCHEDULE: OOC at Arkansas is brutal. The Big XII is tough so no easy games. They draw Kansas on the road which is solid, but they also get Oklahoma St. & Kansas St. at home which I think are must win games for them. I love Kingsbury here. BEST CASE: 8-4, WORST CASE 3-9
#6 OFFENSE: QB Mason Rudolph was impressive in his 3 starts last year beating Oklahoma & then beating Washington in the bowl game. The Cowboys bring back 8 starters from a disappointing offense that averaged a VERY uncharacteristic 27.6PPG a season ago, but Rudolph starting the year under center could be the tonic that turns it around. OSU returns their top-3 receivers as well along with 4 O-Linemen. The problem with OSU last season very much stemmed from inept QB play. JW Walsh was injured & Daxx Garman just wasn’t that good. The RB situation wasn’t great either as Desmond Roladn rushed for 3.8ypc! James Washington & Brandon Sheperd are big time receivers. I think new RB Chris Carson will be a huge upgrade & the O-Line is improved. Rudolph is the big player here, but if plays like he did against Oklahoma & Washington last year, OSU will be flying high. DEFENSE: OSU returns 8 starters from a unit that allowed 31+PPG but I think they’ll show big time improvement this season. DE Emmanuel Ogbah returns along with his team-leading 11 sacks a year ago. The entire secondary returns including leading tackler S Jordan Sterns. LBs Seth Jacobs & Ryan Simmons also return. The D-Line should be solid this year. I like Ogbah but DTs Motekiai Maile & Vincent Taylor are big bodies to clog up the middle & DE Jimmy Bean is a load at 6’5/250lbs. Seven of the projected 11 could be all-conference players while Ogbah will get All-American consideration! Expect a huge improvement from a year ago. SCHEDULE: The OOC is a joke & I feel bad ranking Oklahoma St. 6th but they have road games against both West Virginia & Texas Tech so I have them here which is too low. On the other hand the upside here is INCREDIBLE as they draw TCU, Baylor & Oklahoma all in Stillwater. This is a dark horse playoff team! BEST CASE: 12-0; WORST CASE: 5-7
#7 OFFENSE: Texas brings back 7 starters from an offense that was terrible, averaging 21.4PPG, but I think there is reason to be excited. QB Tyrone Swoopes returns after spending his sophomore season as a starter. Swoopes wasn’t great completing 58% of his passes for 2409yds along with a 13:11 TD to INT ration but the 6’4/250lbs behemoth looks the part & I think will get better. Texas also returns their entire O-Line. RB Jonathan Gray steps in as the starting RB & I think the rushing game will be a bit stronger. UT does lose their top 2 receivers but this is Texas. There is talent everywhere. Have Swoopes improve will go a long way for Texas this season. They’ll be better. DEFENSE: Texas suffers massive losses as the Longhorns lose 6 of their top-7 tacklers. LBs Jordan Hicks & Steve Edmond are HUGE losses. They also lose DT Malcolm Brown who was a 1st Rd. NFL Draft pick & DE Cedric Reed. CB Quandre Diggs is also a big loss. It’s a lot but on the other hand there are a lot of positives. Charlie Strong is a helluva defensive coach & Texas has quite a bit back along the D-Line & the secondary. Dylan Haines & Dylan Thomas are solid DBs while Hassan Ridgeway, Nassan Hughes & Shiro Davis will be solid up front. Strong’s top-5 recruits were all on the defensive side of the ball including #1 LB Malik Jefferson who should start immediately. I think the defense will ultimately come together. SCHEDULE: Strong did an outstanding job at Louisville & I’d expect the same in Austin. There is a lot of talent here. Strong made a HUGE jump at L’Ville in year 3. This is just Year 2, but the road isn’t getting any easier for him. The OOC is brutal with Cal & Notre Dame. UT also has road games against TCU, Baylor & West Virginia. Texas also has Oklahoma in Dallas. I think Strong will improve but Year 2 will be rough & still rebuilding. BEST CASE: 8-4. WORST CASE: 2-10!
#8 OFFENSE: A transition year for the Wildcats offensively. Last year KSU averaged 36PPG en route to a 9-4 season & a top-20 finish but QB Jake Waters (3501yds/66%/22TD) is gone along with WRs Tyler Lockett & Curry Sexton who combined to catch 185 balls for 2574yds & 16TD! TE Zach Trujilo who averaged 20.5ypc is also gone. That’s a lot of talent at the skill position to overcome & RB Charles Jones wasn’t a dominant force on the ground although he did score 13TD. QB Jesse Ertz looks to be the starter & he hasn’t attempted a pass at this level. Jones does return at RB & the Wildcats do return 4 starting O-Linemen. If Ertz can acclimate fast & Jones step up his game, the Wildcats can be decent. FB Glenn Gronkowski (of the Gronkowskis!) is fun to watch. He’s a bulldozer back there. KSU hasn’t averaged fewer than 30PPG since 2009. They might do that this year. DEFENSE: Like the offense, the defense returns 6 starters but loses 5 of their top-8 tacklers from last season including LB Jonathan Truman who led the team with 128 tackles. Other big losses are DE Ryan Mueller & NB Randall Evans. Given their positional importance, those are some big losses but there are also some key pieces returning. KSU returns both corners & Danzel McDaniel is an all-conference cover guy & big at 6’1. I think KSU can get pressure too with DEs Jordan Willis & Marquel Bryant along with LB Elijah Lee. S Dante Barnett was 2nd on the team in tackles last season & DT Travis Britz is an interior linemen who can get pressure. KSU runs the nickle package primarily which is almost required in the pass happy Big XII & despite some losses, I like what they are going here. SCHEDULE: Bill Snyder is an OUSTANDING HC so this feels low but the Big XII is stacked & KSU is in transition. A few winnable games are on the road so this year looks tough. BEST CASE: 7-5; WORST CASE: 4-8
#9 OFFENSE: The Cyclones bring back 8 starters from an offense that scored just 23PPG in 2014. ISU hasn’t had a winning record since 2009, but Paul Rhoads is a helluva coach in my opinion and I think the offense is trending up. Sam Richardson returns at QB & I like what’s he’s doing. He needs to improve his accuracy but Richardson passed for almost 2700yds last season with 18TD. He’s got 4 returning O-Linemen in front of him & some HUGE receivers in 6’6 D’Vario Montgomery, 6’5 Allen Lazard & 6’2 Quenton Bundrage. TE Ben Boesen is 6’5 so teams trying to cover ISU’s passing attack are going to find themselves in trouble especially if Montgomery hits his stride. RB Tyler Brown should be an upgrad too. Lazard has insane amounts of talent & should be a top NFL Draft pick when he comes out in 2017 or 2018. I’d expect some fireworks especially in OC Mark Mangino’s 2nd year. DEFENSE: The D has lost it’s way after having a pretty good run  from 2009-2012. The Cyclones return 6 starters including 4 of their top-6 tacklers to a defense that allowed 39PPG! DE Chris Morrissey is a big loss as is S TJ Mutcherson, but this should be a defense that is improved at every level. ISU’s secondary should be really strong with CBs Sam Richardson, Nigel Tribune & S Kamari Cotton-Moya could be all-conference players. LB Luke Knott was 3rd on the team in tackles & he returns. I’m also excited about the D-Line. DTs Bobby Leath & Demond Tucker are both juco transfers & DE Trent Taylor returns & is a solid talent. This is a lot more like the ISU teams of 2009-2012 where Iowa St. went to 3 bowls in 4 years. SCHEDULE: It’s a tough schedule. They always get Iowa OOC but they also have road games against TX Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma, K-State & WVU! They get Kansas & Texas at home which could be wins, but could surprise. BEST CASE: 7-5; WORST CASE: 2-10
#10 I’ve been keeping up the trend of looking at a team holistically rather than just breaking it down, and with the Big XII, I want to tackle Kansas, the worst program in the conference. What’s interesting about Kansas is what Mark Mangino was able to accomplish in Lawrence. Mangino was 2-10 in his first year at Kansas but had the Jayhawks in a bowl game in year 2 and had Kansas at 12-1 with an Orange Bowl win in Year 6! It’s possible a lot of that had to do with QB Todd Reesing as KU dropped to 13-12 (5-11) after that high water mark of 2007, but it is at least indicative (as in Colorado’s case as well) that Kansas can play competitive football. The Jayhawks might not be able to sustain a top-10 caliber team, but having a program that went to 4 bowls in 6 years is something I think Kansas fans could be happy with. When Mangino had his issues that ultimately got him fired, Kansas was left with a void they haven’t been able to fill. Turner Gil couldn’t figure it out. Neither could Charlie Weis. Now David Beaty is going to give it a shot, but has a HUGE uphill climb as Kansas returns just 7 starters total & the Big XII is as stacked as it’s ever been. What’s interesting here is how immediate anyone can expect a Kansas turnaround. Gil got 2 years which seems ridiculous in retrospect given the state of the program when he took it over. Weis got 3 years although he didn’t fare any better. The big question will be how long Beaty gets as the HC? If it’s 1-2 years then he’s not going to make it because Kansas is looking at a 2-10/3-9 year AT BEST this season and I’m not sure the team takes a big leap in Year 2 or even Year 3. You simply can’t give a coach a 10-year contract and hope for the best (I’m looking at you Indiana), but there needs to be some legitimate signs of improvement. Beaty must recruit like a demon to get this program back on track. BEST CASE: 3-9; WORST CASE: 1-11

 

BIG 12 OVERALL OUTLOOK: This truly is an amazing conference. I think the top-8 teams here really have something to play for & Iowa St. could be a lot better than most people think. Really this is a 3-team race between TCU, Baylor & Oklahoma. I can’t see Oklahoma winning although Kirk Herbstreit has the Sooners winning the Big XII & getting the playoffs! That would be incredible, but to be honest, from a talent standpoint it wouldn’t be all that surprising. That in and of itself is what makes this conference so nuts. Texas & Oklahoma are the two teams that seem head & shoulders above everyone when it comes to talent, but neither team has won an outright Big XII championship since 2010! I think that shows just how good the conference can be. Adding TCU was amazing & you can see how fast Gary Patterson was able to get the Horned Frogs to the top of the conference. What will probably be the most interesting aspect to watch for in the Big XII is what happens with the playoff picture. TCU & Baylor were left out last year and you at least can make an AMAZING argument that TCU was more qualified to get in than Ohio St. who eventually won the championship! This year if a Big XII team finishes 11-1 and gets left out, you can be sure that conference expansion will be a huge discussion as the Big XII will surely have been put on notice that they are being penalized for not having a conference championship game. The big question then will be who joins the conference? There just aren’t that many big time programs that are available. BYU comes to mind, but I’m not sure Boise State is the other option although there isn’t any other choices really when you look at it unless you go UCF or South Florida. Either way, the Big XII is going to have a million storylines this year. It’ll be really interesting to see how the results on the field trigger discussions about the conference off the field. In any case, the conference is going to be incredible to watch in 2015!

August 31, 2015 Posted by | Baylor, Big XII, Iowa St., Kansas, Kansas St., Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Predictions, Previews, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia | Leave a comment

BIG 12 OUTLOOK WITH 7 WEEKS LEFT

The Big 12 got a lot more interesting last week when West Virginia got the better of Baylor in Morgantown & Kansas St. pulled off a stunner by beating Oklahoma in front of the Sooner faithful. What it ensured is that the Big XII can’t count on an unbeaten team forcing their way into the college football player. What might be even a bit scarier is that Big XII can’t rely on the power of the Oklahoma brand commanding respect even with a loss. Now that the Sooners have 2 losses, the Big XII might be completely shut out of the playoffs unless Baylor, Kansas St. or TCU can run the table and get to 11-1 with significant style points. I’m really pulling for West Virginia to come out of the Big 12. What’s amazing here is that if WVU does a great job and gets to 10-2 & wins the Big XII, they probably won’t make the playoffs, but there is a significant chance that coaching openings at Florida, Michigan & Miami-FL could open up. If that happens, could Holgorsen (assuming WVU does in fact finish 10-2 or even 11-2) potentially leave? If WVU sucks then this is probably not a question, but it’s worth contemplating if some universities think Holgorsen’s star is on the rise, which it is.

That’s all speculation of course. The real stories will be played out in the next 7 weeks, and this conference has a story to tell!

 

TEAM REC WHAT TO WATCH FOR OVER LAST 6 WEEKS OF 2014
5-1 The win over Oklahoma changes everything but now Kansas St. has to hope that the loss to Auburn (in Manhattan by the way) has to be far enough removed for them to make a splash nationally. I think talking about the Big XII title or playoff potential is premature for Kansas State. Let’s remember that they still have road games against Baylor, TCU & West Virginia. Those are all likely losses which means the best K-State can do is finish 8-4 (6-3), but if they can beat Oklahoma in Norman, who is to say they can’t keep winning on the road? If Kansas St. beats Texas & Oklahoma St. at home they’ll move to 7-1 before heading to Ft. Worth with a date with TCU. I think we can start to take K-State seriously if they can upend the Horned Frogs.
5-2 Can West Virginia win the Big XII? It’s not completely out of the question. If the Mountaineers can beat Baylor in Morgantown, then they are a pretty good bet to beat any other conference team at Mountaineer Field. Texas & Iowa St. simply aren’t that good meaning that this weekends game against Oklahoma St. in Stillwater could make all the difference. Unlike Kansas St. who has road games against Baylor, TCU & West Virginia, the Mountaineers play TCU & Kansas St. at home. Where it gets interesting for WVU is if they win out. If that happens they are 10-2 & Big XII champions. They’d need a lot of help getting into the playoffs but the Big XII is right there with the Pac 12 behind the ACC. If SEC West can cannibalize itself & the Big 10 gets a 2-loss team, West Virginia could be in the Final 4!
6-1 The loss to West Virginia hurts but let’s face it, if you were to pick a team most likely to lose a couple of conference games, it probably would be WVU so the loss might not hurt Baylor as bad as it may sound. The best team in the Big XII might very well be TCU & the Bears hold the tiebreaker over the Frogs! Baylor still has just one loss so winning out puts them at 11-1 & in the playoff picture & most likely in the playoffs. That road is a bit tricky because of a road date against Oklahoma, but if Baylor can survive Norman then the loss to WVU might not matter too much. It’s definitely important for Baylor to be West Virginia fans at this point. They need WVU to be good but not too good. WVU losing to TCU would be good. If West Virginia finishes 9-3 to Baylor’s 11-3, it would do Baylor good.
5-2 To be fair to Oklahoma St., they can argue they are a pretty darn good football team at 5-2 with their only losses coming against 7-0 Florida St. & 5-1 TCU. On the other hand, TCU might have exposed the Cowboys for what they are which is a very inexperienced football team. Remember that OSU went 10-3 in 2013 & only had 4 returning starters! They should have been some period of reloading in Stillwater. Even though the Cowboys have just one conference loss, they need to be thinking about bowl eligibility. Oklahoma St.’s remaining schedule is: West Virginia, at Kansas St., bye, Texas, at Baylor, bye, at Oklahoma. Let’s assume road trips to Austin, Waco & Norman are losses. That makes them 5-5 with 2 home games against West Virginia & Texas. Getting to 6-6 is no guarantee for Mike Gundy & his troops.
5-1 The loss to Baylor HURTS but the Frogs got a huge lift from West Virginia when the Mountaineers knocked off the Bears. If TCU wins out & Baylor loses at Oklahoma, TCU will be 11-1 and Big XII champions! Their only loss will have come on a wild 61-58 loss to a team that will likely finish the season out 10-2. The only roadblock for TCU is back-to-back games against West Virginia & Kansas St. on October 25th & November 1st respectively. The game against WVU is in Morgantown which Baylor just learned isn’t an easy place to play. With Kansas & Iowa St. on the schedule, the bowl game isn’t a problem, but one of the most remarkable stories of the year will be if TCU wins out & gets to the playoffs. This is a team that was 4-8 last season & just 2-7 in Big XII play. That’s a helluva turnaround.
5-2 The loss to Kansas St. in Norman basically destroyed any hope Oklahoma had of making the playoffs. With losses to both Kansas St. & TCU, Oklahoma needs massive help to win the Big XII & even with a conference championship, I’m not sure a 10-2 Oklahoma squad would get into the playoffs over an 11-1 Ole Miss or 11-1 Alabama squad if Mississippi St. finished 13-0. The interesting part is that Oklahoma’s tough schedule is finished. They do have Baylor remaining but the Sooners get them in Norman. If OU can hold serve at home they should finish 10-2. They would need TCU & K-State to lose 3 conference games which seems impossible but who knows? Would anyone really be surprised if OU didn’t wind up 11-2 with a bowl victory? They’d be ranked in the top 6-7 but somehow I think Sooner Nation would be disappointed.
3-4 A lost season for Charlie Strong in his first year in Austin. The Longhorns are floundering at 3-4 and at best they can hope for a potential bowl appearance. The problem with that is finding 3 wins in their last 5 games. Texas still has road games against Kansas St., Texas Tech & Oklahoma State. Assuming 2 of those games are losses that would give Texas 6 losses meaning they’d have to win their remaining home games against West Virginia & TCU to get to 6-6 & into the postseason. The best aspect to Texas at this point is watching the progression of the players who will return in 2015 & watching how effectively Strong can recruit at Texas. This isn’t the same Texas program that Mack Brown took over. TCU is in the Big XII now. Baylor has Art Briles & Texas A&M is now in the SEC. It’s still Texas, but life is a bit harder.
3-4 Last season Texas Tech started off 7-0. It’s amazing what a soft schedule will do for you! Texas Tech was able to leverage that easy slate last year to a bowl game they won over Arizona St. to finish 8-5 in HC Kliff Kingsbury’s first year in Lubbock. He might not be so lucky this year. The Red Raiders need 3 more wins to get bowl eligible they have TCU, Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa St. & Baylor left on the schedule! Iowa St. is in Ames so that might not be an easy game. Assuming Texas Tech gets wins over Texas & Iowa St., they’d still need to beat one of the TCU, Oklahoma & Baylor. I don’t see it happening. This team is at best 5-7 and at worst 3-9. I think a major aspect to look for the last few games is the continued progression of QB Davis Webb & I’d keep an eye on the running game which has been very good. Maybe Texas Tech can play spoiler?
2-5 This is a really difficult time for Iowa State. I think Paul Rhoads is a good coach but if Iowa St. can’t get wins against Kansas (in Lawrence) & Texas Tech (in Ames) then it’s possible the Cyclones finish the season 2-10 which is a significant step back in the Paul Rhoads era. There was some thought that Rhoads might have bought himself some time by hiring former Kansas HC Mark Mangino as the new OC and while Iowa St.’s offense does have improved numbers, the defense has been abysmal which has resulted in losses. The remainder of the season isn’t easy at best this team finishes 4-8. Iowa St. isn’t quite in the same category as Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky & Duke in regards to being basketball schools trying to win at football (Duke is actually doing it!) but this has to be a brutally tough coaching gig.
2-5 Speaking of difficult coaching jobs, Kansas has already fired Charlie Weis! Kansas’ remaining schedule isn’t favorable. They have road games against Baylor, Oklahoma & Kansas State! Those are 3 losses right there moving them to 2-8. They get TCU at home which makes them 2-9 meaning all that separates them from a double-digit loss season is a home date against Iowa State! If you are wondering what to watch for from the Jayhawks going forward then I’d just look to see if they can get that Iowa State win which would at least match last year’s win total. The last time Kansas has had more than 3 wins in a season was back in 2009 which was Mark Mangino’s last season as HC! Maybe getting rid of Mangino wasn’t such a good idea in the first place!?

October 22, 2014 Posted by | Baylor, Big XII, Iowa St., Kansas, Kansas St., Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Playoffs, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia | Leave a comment

2014 BIG XII PREVIEW & PREDICTIONS

RANK B1G EAST COMMENTS
#1 PROJECTED RECORD: 12-0 (9-0); OFFENSE: Oklahoma returns 5 starters from last year’s team which seems like it represent a step back from the 32.8PPG they scored in ’13, but the talent is ridiculous in Norman that Oklahoma’s offense might just improve! QB Trevor Knight carved up Alabama in the Sugar Bowl & replacing Blake Bell & giving stability to the position only helps OU. The O-Line returns 3 starters in Adam Shead, Daryl Williams & Tyrus Thompson who should all be all-B12 players. Keith Ford, Alex Ross & Joe Mixon provide incredible depth at RB while Sterling Shepard, Durron Neal, Derrick Woods & Taylor McNamara make for a dynamic receiving corps. Blake Bell moves to TE & all of these players will be in the running for all-B12! Expect fireworks! DEFENSE: Opposing offenses better strap it up because OU returns 9 starters from a defense that allowed 22.1PPG! That’s impressive considering how offense happy the B12 is! LB Frank Shannon is a potential All-American & I’m excited about the D-Line which returns intact with DE Chuka Ndulue, DE Charles Tapper & NT Jordan Phillips. Phillips is a true 3-4NT at 6’6/350lbs! LBs Eric Striker, Geneo Grissom & Dominique Alexander should be even better. The secondary returns 3 starters in CBs Zack Sanchez & Julian Wilson along with S Quentin Hayes. All are all-B12 candidates! SCHEDULE: OU’s toughest game will be at TCU but they get a week off before that game. They draw K-State, Baylor & Oklahoma St. at home & play Texas in Dallas. There is no reason for OU not to get to the playoffs.
#2 PROJECTED RECORD: 10-2 (7-2); OFFENSE: Baylor averaged a RIDICULOUS 52.4PPG last year en route to the school’s first ever Big XII title! They return 6 starters from that unit including QB Bryce Petty who completed 62% of his passes for 4200yds/32TD/3INT! Petty returns for his senior season & should wind up Baylor #2 all time leading passer! Six of Baylor top-7 receivers return so Petty will have plenty of weapons. The Bears do lose RB Lache Seastrunk who ran for 1177yds/11TD/7.4ypc but Shock Linwood (881yds/8TD/6.9ypc) is ready to step in with Johnny Jefferson & Terence Williams providing depth. Petty is the best QB in the B12 & could be an All-American. WR Antwan Goodley (71rec/1339yds/13TD) is also an All-American candidate as is OT Spencer Drango. If you are being picky you could say the Bears return just 2 along the O-Line, but this team is going to score A LOT! DEFENSE: Baylor returns just 4 starters from the best defense they’ve seen in Waco in quite some time. There are some nice pieces like LB Bryce Hager & the D-Line led by Andrew Billings, Jamal Palmer & Shawn Oakman could be intriguing. Palmer (6’3/250lbs & Oakman 6’9/275lbs) make for a very interesting pair of 4-3DEs. Baylor might look more like they did in ’11 & ’12, but they were 18-8 in that period. If everyone stays, Baylor could be looking at 10 returning starters in ’15! SCHEDULE: Baylor gets unlucky getting Oklahoma on the road. They also get Texas on the road but outside of those two squads, it’s not too bad drawing Texas Tech, K-State & Oklahoma St. all in Waco.
#3 PROJECTED RECORD: 10-2 (7-2); OFFENSE: TCU brings back 8 starters from an offense that averaged 25.1PPG. The last time TCU had more than 7 starters return on offense was 2010 when they scored 41.6PPG & went 13-0! TCU pretty much brings the rest of the offense back. The O-Line returns 3 starters & every projected starter is an upperclassman. RB Aaron Green could be all-B12 & BJ Catalon ran for 569yds/6TD/5.3ypc last season. TCU brings back 5 of their top-6 receivers. The problem for TCU could be at the QB position. Casey Pachall & Trevone Boykin didn’t play well last season. Matt Joeckel has transferred in from Texas A&M & could be in the mix too. If TCU has troubles under center it could be a tough year, but they do return quite a bit. DEFENSE: HC Gary Patterson’s calling card, TCU hasn’t matched their typical dominant self since joining the B12, but that could change this year with 8 starters returning from a defense that allowed 25.3PPG in ’13. The Horned Frogs have DT Chucky Hunter, DE Devonte Fields, S Sam Carter, S Chris Hackett, LB Paul Dawson & CB Kevin White who could all be 1st Team All-B12! Fields & Carter could be All-Americans! DE Terrell Lathan (6’5/280lbs) could be amazing & look for LB Jonathan Anderson. When you have 9 defensive players who could make significant impacts, the defense is great. SCHEDULE: Not bad. They draw Baylor & Texas on the road which is unfortunate & get Oklahoma at home but the Sooners have a bye week. I think this is TCU’s coming out year as a B12 member. They’ll be really good.
#4 PROJECTED RECORD: 8-4 (6-3); OFFENSE: The Wildcats bring back 6 starters from an offense that scored 33.2PPG. QB Jake Waters returns after completing 61% of his passes for 2469yds & 18TD. HC Bill Snyder has always done a great job in Manhattan & it seems like KSU finds a way to average 30+PPG on offense no matter who returns. Waters is a good signal caller & KSU returns 3 of their top-4 receivers including Tryler Lockett who was Waters’ favorite target in ’13. There are some losses. KSU only returns 2 starters on the O-Line but all 5 projected starters are upper classmen. The Wildcats lose RBs John Hubert & Daniel Sams who combined for 1800+yds/21TD so they’ll definitely have to make sure the running game is decent, but they’ll score. Waters & Lockett should compete for 1st team All-B12. Lockett & C BJ Finney could be All-Americans. DEFENSE: The Wildcats bring back 5 starters from a unit that allowed 22.9PPG. Losing LB Blake Slaughter is tough but KSU returns 4 of their top-6 tacklers. DE Ryan Mueller is a beast & could be an All-American. He had 11.5 sacks last year & 18.5TFL! KSU has some other good pieces too in DTs Terrell Clinkscales & Travis Britz, LB Jonathan Truman, CB Randall Evans & S Dante Barnett. The defense looks OK & should be decent which is all KSU really needs. SCHEDULE: Kansas St. gets a very tough break with scheduling as they get road games against Oklahoma, Baylor & TCU. They also have a non-conference game at home against Auburn. If they can pull an upset of 1-2 of those 4 games, they could get to double digit wins.
#5 PROJECTED RECORD: 8-4 (6-3); OFFENSE: Charlie Strong walks into a solid situation in Austin as the Texas offense averaged 29.3PPG last season & returns 7 starters. QB David Ash played well last season before being injured & Texas gets him back. The Longhorns return 7 of their top-8 receivers & their top-8 rushers. RBs Johnathan Gray & Malcolm Brown should compete for All-B12 honors along with WR Jaxon Shipley. The one problem could be the O-Line in that it returns just 2 starters but the talent is RIDICULOUS & C Dominic Espinosa is an all-conference player. Strong inherits a MUCH better situation here than he did at Louisville & he took the Cardinals to the BCS in year 3. This offense will score more than 30PPG. DEFENSE: Strong’s background in defense should serve this team well as the Longhorns return 8 starters from a unit that allowed 25.8PPG in ’13. UT loses their top 2 tacklers in DE Jackson Jeffcoat & S Adrian Phillips but they return 11 of their top-13 tacklers. This is Texas so the talent is crazy & the guy I can’t wait to see is DE Cedric Reed who at 6’6/275lbs is a beast as a 43DE & had 19TFL in ’13. He should be an All-American candidate along with CB Quandre Diggs. If that isn’t enough, 6 other projected starters for Texas could be All-B12. UT returns 6 of their back 7 & I actually think the D-Line is the best part of the defense. Expect big things. SCHEDULE: I’m bearish because of the new coaching staff, but Texas gets BYU, Baylor, & TCU at home with Oklahoma & UCLA on neutral ground. I’ve got them at 8-4 but UT could go 10-2 easy.
#6 PROJECTED RECORD: 7-5 (4-5); OFFENSE: Texas Tech went back to the old Mike Leach passing ways when they hired Kliff Kingsbury & the new HC didn’t waste time. The Red Raiders went crazy with their passing attack & averaged 35.8PPG. What’s crazy is that TT returns 9 starters on offense including QB Davis Webb who completed 63% of his passes for 2718yds & 20TD. Webb was a true frosh by the way! He’s only going to get better. Texas Tech returns their entire O-Line & 6 of their top-8 receivers. Losing TE Jace Amaro hurts quite a bit, but there are a lot of balls to go around. Webb should be a consideration for All-B12 while receivers Jakeem Grant & Bradley Marquez could be all-B12 guys too. The Red Raiders have 3 O-Linemen who could be all conference & this really starts to remind you of the great Leach offenses. LT Le’Raven Clark could be an All-American & I wouldn’t be surprised to see TT score 40PPG. DEFENSE: TT returns 4 starters from a defense that allowed 30.5PPG. Maybe that’s good because better players can come in & contribute but the Raiders lose a lot of experience & production with losing 6 of their top-9 tacklers. Texas Tech has some interesting pieces like DT Rika Levin, DE Pete Roberton & LB Sam Eguavoen but I can’t help but think the defense will be down. SCHEDULE: A weird schedule for the Raiders. They draw road games against Oklahoma St., K-State, TCU & Iowa St. at home. They get home games against Arkansas, Texas & Oklahoma & neutral against Baylor. TT’s season will depend on how they play at home.
#7 PROJECTED RECORD: 4-8 (2-7); OFFENSE: Normally I would be a little concerned about an offense that only returns 4 starters with losing their QB to boot. On the other hand, this has actually happened to Oklahoma St. twice in the last 4 seasons. In 2012, Oklahoma St. averaged 45.7PPG and in 2010 they averaged 44.2PPG! There is no doubt OSU loses some players but they return QB JW Walsh who actually got quite a bit of run time along with RB Desmond Roland (811yds/13TD/4.6ypc) & WR Jhajuan Seales (39rec/571yds/3TD). Roland & Seales could be all-conference. It’s a Mike Gundy led offense so it’ll be potent but I don’t think this is the same as 2012 or 2010, but even if the offense regresses by 15pts they’ll still average more than 30PPG! DEFENSE: If the losses on offense are bad the losses on defense are BRUTAL! The Cowboys lose 8 of their top-9 tacklers! Like Texas Tech, there are some interesting pieces such as DT James Castleman, LB Ryan Simmons and CB Kevin Peterson but there is no way this defense comes close to last year’s unit which allowed just 21.6PPG. Keep an eye on DE Jimmy Bean. The 6’5/250lbs junior had 9.5TFL last year & could have a big year. Same goes for 6’4/270lbs soph Emmauel Ogbah. SCHEDULE: Opening up against Florida St. won’t be pleasant but OSU has bigger problems in conference as they draw road games against TCU, KSU, Baylor & Oklahoma! Home against Texas won’t be easy & neither will games against Texas Tech with a suspect defense! They must win at home to get bowl eligible. Can’t see it.
#8 PROJECTED RECORD: 4-8 (2-7); OFFENSE: Paul Rhoads is a helluva coach in an impossible situation in Ames. The good news on offense is that ISU returns 10 starters including QBs Grant Rohach & Sam Richardson. The bad news is that they return 10 starters from a unit that only averaged 24.8PPG! The only loss on offense is WR Justin Coleman but he’s replaced by true frosh Allen Lazard who at 6’5/215lbs gives the Cyclones a legit high end #1 receiver possibility. The receiving corps is the best part of the offense. Along with Lazard, ISU has D’Vario Montgomery (6’5/212lbs), Quenton Bundrage (6’2/190lbs) & TE EJ Bibbs (6’3/265lbs). It’s a mismatch nightmare waiting to happen if Rhoads can figure out his QB situation & find consistency at the position. The entire O-Line returns intact, but that is tough too because the O-Line only paved the way for ISU to average 3.5ypc & allowed 38 sacks! This offense should be much improved. DEFENSE: ISU returns 5 starters from a unit that allowed 36PPG in ’13! They lose 2 big players in LB Jeremiah George (133tkls) & S Jacques Washington (119tkls) but the other losses aren’t too bad. There isn’t a lot of talent here at all. DE Cory Morrissey should be pretty good, but for the most part this is an undersized & inexperienced defense. That’s not a recipe for success if the offensive minded Big XII. SCHEDULE: Lucky for ISU they get West Virginia at home and that Kansas is also a member of the B12! They do get Texas Tech & Kansas St. at home but I’m not sure the defense can keep it close enough for ISU to steal those.
#9 PROJECTED RECORD: 2-10 (1-8); OFFENSE: After averaging 38PPG in his first 2 seasons in Morgantown, HC Dana Holgorsen’s offense had the wheels come off in 2013 with WVU averaging just 26.3PPG en route to a dismal 4-8 campaign. West Virginia returns 6 from that unit which includes QB Clint Trickett. The offense has a chance to be really good. They lose RB Charles Sims but replace him with Rushel Shell who could be exceptional. WVU also returns their 3 top receivers so if Trickett & QB Ryan Millard can figure out a way to be more accurate & make better decisions, the Mountaineers will be much better than 26.3PPG. The O-Line should be better too as they’ll be in the 2nd year of new O-Line coach Ron Crook’s system. Things are trending up here but the difference between improvement & being excellent is the QB play. DEFENSE: WVU returns 7 starters from a unit that allowed 33.3PPG. There is good & bad associated with that & like the other bottom tier teams in the B12, there are some nice pieces such as LB Isaiah Bruce, LB Nick Kwiatkoski & S Karl Joseph. WVU returns 8 of their top-11 tacklers. I can’t wait to see Gardner-Webb transfer DE Shaquille Riddick! He’s a monster at 6’7/265lbs & could potentially give WVU an exceptional pass rusher from the 3-4 DE spot. SCHEDULE: NASTY! Big 12 teams only get 3 non-conference games so WVU plays a road game against Maryland & a neutral site game against Alabama! They get Texas, OK State & Texas Tech on the road. Luckily they get Kansas at home but play ISU on the road. Tough year.
#10 PROJECTED RECORD: 3-9 (1-8); OFFENSE: The Jayhawks return 7 starters from last year’s unit which scored 15.3PPG! This is a really tough situation to evaluate. Last year QB Jake Heaps was abysmal completing 49% of his passes for 1414yds, 8TD & 10INT. True frosh Montell Cozart was even worse in very limited action meaning Kansas enters the 2014 season without a real viable candidate to play QB. They also lost their best offensive weapon in RB James Sims who rushed for 1100+yds & 7TD last season. WR Nick Harwell & TE Jimmay Mundine are solid players but they need a QB to throw them the football. Cozart is a legitimate dual threat QB so he has the running ability to spread things out and take pressure off his arm. KU does have 3 starters returning on the O-Line with all 5 being upperclassmen. It won’t be a great offense but how can they not improve on 15PPG? DEFENSE: KU returns 9 starters from a unit that allowed 32PPG. Again you could take it that you don’t want such bad players or you could think a year of experience really helped and the defense will be better because of it. The Jayhawks do return 9 of their top-10 tacklers & I’m excited about LB Ben Heeney & CB Dexter McDonald who could be all-B12 players. McDonald is especially interesting because he’s a 6’2/205lbs corner. His counterpart at CB, Kevin Short, is also 6’2. SCHEDULE: Does it really matter? Kansas is 3-40 in conference play over the last 5 years. I have them winning 1 which is a stretch but who knows. Charlie Weis might simply be ill suited to coach NCAA football.

 

BIG XII OVERALL OUTLOOK: I think the conference is Oklahoma’s to lose especially with the Sooners getting Baylor in Norman and always playing Texas on a neutral field. The one hiccup that could occur is a road date against TCU, but as good as the Horned Frogs might be this season, they might have issues at QB. It probably won’t affect them against most teams, but against teams like Baylor & Oklahoma it will and I think that makes the difference. The one aspect of the conference that I’m unsure about is the role that Oklahoma St. plays. I have the Cowboys at 4-8 which would actually be the worst record Oklahoma St. has posted since Mike Gundy’s first year in Stillwater. What is troubling is how their season starts off. I don’t think OSU can beat Florida St., but I have them at 3-3 in their first 6 games which to me puts them in a state of disarray for the second half of the season. On the other hand I think Oklahoma St. could easily be 5-1 after the first 6 which I think propels them to an 8-4/9-3 record. To me I think Oklahoma St. loses entirely too much and I have them losing a shocker to Kansas in Lawrence. The key game to me is Week 4 against Texas Tech in Stillwater. If they win that game then they’ll be set but a loss there I think upends the season. Both teams are on bye weeks prior to this Thursday night tilt and given what TT has returning along with what Oklahoma St. doesn’t have returning on defense & I get the feeling this could be a 63-56 type of game Texas Tech wins on the road. Texas & TCU both have opportunities to win double digit games. I think TCU will anyway but Texas could as well if things go their way. The other interesting storyline is West Virginia. I have the Mountaineers finishing 2-10 and it’s mostly a product of scheduling. Phil Steele says WVU has the 4th toughest schedule in the nation & it’s going to show. I hope the folks in Morgantown are patient with HC Dana Holgorsen. I think he can be an excellent HC but moving to the Big XII has been a tough transition and he needs to adjust WVU’s roster to the more rigorous conference. He knows what it takes so hopefully he can pull a rabbit out of his hat in 2014 or else he can get a little extra time.

August 26, 2014 Posted by | Baylor, Big XII, Iowa St., Kansas, Kansas St., Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Predictions, Previews, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia | Leave a comment

2014 Big 12: A Look At Predictive Analytics From 2013

It’s always fun to look at the big picture when evaluating college football teams to get an idea of where their season might be headed. There are some advanced metrics that can give us some insight into some of the “luck” that teams will have in the coming season based on these particular stats regression to the mean in most cases. For the discussion below, I use the following:

CLOSE GAMES: Games decided by 7 points or fewer
TURNOVER MARGIN (TO Margin)
PYTHAGOREAN: A theoretical winning percentage based on points scored & allowed; (PS*PS)/((PS*PS)+(PA*PA))
LUCK: The difference between Pythagorean & a team’s actual record

This doesn’t always mean that teams will trend opposite of what they did the previous year. You have to look at context and previous years to get a sense of where a team might be headed in the upcoming season. It also doesn’t mean that regression to the mean will be reflected in the overall record. A team could be 0-7 in close games with a TO margin of -25 and a Pythagorean suggesting they were 2.62 wins better than their win total from the previous season, but if the team is short on talent and has an extremely difficult schedule ahead without many opportunities for home wins, regressing might not mean that much in the win column.

Moving on to the Big 12 here are the overall trends for each team. Discussion follows:

TRENDING UP: Kansas St., Texas Tech, TCU, Iowa St.
TRENDING DOWN: Oklahoma St., Oklahoma, Texas
TREADING WATER: Baylor, West Virginia, Kansas

The Big 12 is really an interesting conference for what could have been. Given how Nebraska & Colorado have fared in the Big 10 & Pac 12 respectively, you wonder if those programs wouldn’t have been better off just staying in the Big 12? You can throw in Missouri here too. Given what Missouri did last year in the SEC, you’d have to think they might have won the Big 12 outright & potentially went 13-0 which would have set up a date with Florida St. in the national championship game! If the Big 12 was making a grab, why not keep their teams & go out and add TCU & West Virginia moving them to 14 teams in some variation. It’s an interesting though made all the more interesting because the Big 12 has quietly become a better conference than the Big 10 & ACC even though at first glance you wouldn’t think so largely because of defections and the downward spiral of Texas over the last couple of seasons. Even Phil Steele rates the Big 12 as the 3rd toughest conference behind the SEC & Pac 12 for 2014!

How did this happen? Mike Gundy showed you can compete for a national championship at Oklahoma St. back in 2011. Art Briles showed you could compete for one at BAYLOR OF ALL PLACES last season! Bill Snyder came back to Kansas St. and Kliff Kingsbury looks like a perfect fit at Texas Tech! If Texas can surge under Charlie Strong then all of a sudden the Big XII is top to bottom a great conference with their only one real weakness being Kansas, but even the Jayhawks should be a pretty good team this year although you might not see it in the W-L column. Can a conference lose some pretty heavy hitters (Nebraska & Missouri) & yet come out ahead? The Big 12 has seemingly done so.

Couple of points to talk about with respect to the trends. Baylor is an interesting team to watch because they are basically treading water yet went 11-2 last season! It’s hard to think Baylor will be as good as they were a season ago, but if Lady Luck has a big year in Waco, Baylor could actually be in the playoff hunt. TCU is the one I’d really keep my eye on. They had horrific predictive metrics last season showing they could be in for a huge step forward in 2014. This is Gary Patterson’s best team in Ft. Worth since joining the Big 12 and the schedule looks favorable. Oklahoma reminds me a bit of UCLA. They have an even better team than their 11-2 2013 squad but their metrics point towards regression. This is true for UCLA and you almost wonder if Oklahoma won’t have a solid 2-year spike in Lady Luck propelling them to a potential national championship in 2014 before the big regressions come in 2015 & 2016.

Teams are listed in descending order of their Pythagorean winning percentage. Following the chart are the raw numbers in each category.

RANK TEAM COMMENTS
#1 It’s hard to finish the season 11-2 with a conference championship & not get a little bit lucky but the Bears weren’t as lucky as you would thing. Yes they were +13 in TO margin but they were just 1-0 in close games & their Pythagorean .832 suggests they were only 0.18 wins worse than their final record. Baylor shows trends of vacillating between TO margins from year to year so I’d expect some regression there, but the luck factor isn’t overwhelming. Baylor really was that good & the defense had A LOT to do with that. The defense will be down this year with just 4 starters back, but I don’t think Baylor will take a step back offensively with QB Bryce Petty under center again. Unfortunately Baylor drew both Texas & Oklahoma on the road so a repeat performance as Big XII champ might not be in the cards, but they could still win 10 games even with regression in TO margin.
#2 The Cowboys had another year dashed because of an unexpected loss. In 2011 the Cowboys were 10-0 when they went into Ames as 27-point favorites over Iowa St. only to come out with a 37-31 2OT loss! That killed their national championship hopes & they ended up 12-1 & ranked #3 in the nation! Last season OSU was a 19-point favorite going into Morgantown & came away with a 30-21 loss! It was only the Cowboys 4th game of the year so who knows how the season would turn but OSU had a chance to win the Big XII title & get to the Fiesta Bowl if they had beaten Oklahoma at home as 10-point favorites. They lost 33-24. OSU should regress this year. They were +15 in TO margin, 1-0 in close games & their Pythagorean of .766 shows they were 0.05 games worse than record. TO margin is key here but OSU returns 8 starters & the schedule is brutal. They could finish 6-6!
#3 Oklahoma is a pretty interesting squad. They look towards significant regression as their TO margin was +9 while their Pythagorean of .689 suggests they were 2.05 wins WORSE than their final 11-2 record. They were the luckiest team in the Big XII according to point differential. They were just 1-0 in close games. Normally you’d think significant regression here & you can’t help but think Oklahoma will regress down, but what’s interesting is that Oklahoma has a better team in 2014 than they did in 2013 and the schedule is a lot more forgiving. The Sooners draw Kansas St., Baylor, Oklahoma St., & Tennessee at home while the game against Texas is neutral. Their toughest road game will be at TCU. What stands out too about Oklahoma is they return 9 starters on defense so expect it to be one of the top units in the nation. Even with regression, this team will dabble with 12-0!
#4 Kansas St. is a team that could rebound in 2014. While the TO margin isn’t significant at ZERO, KSU was 1-2 in close games & their Pythagorean of .678 suggests they were 0.81 wins better than their final 8-5 record. Here is an interesting stat, since Bill Snyder came back to Manhattan, the Wildcats are 13-16 in games they are dogs in! Kansas St. is 12-3 against the spread when they are road dogs! Kansas St. might not be the kings of the Big 12, but they play HARD. Despite the possibility of an uptick in luck in 2014, the schedule hurts K-State quite a bit. They drew Oklahoma, TCU & Baylor as road games & have a non-conference game against Auburn! In the middle of their schedule they a 4-game stretch of @Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma St. & TCU! There are 7 wins here & if they can get a couple of upsets & play well at home, Kansas St. could pull an 8-9 win season.
#5 Texas Tech is another team that could benefit from Lady Luck in 2014. Texas Tech was just 1-0 in close games & their Pythagorean of 0.578 suggested they were 0.48 wins worse than their 8-5 final record. Those numbers are pretty inconsequential, but what sticks out is TT was -14 in TO margin. Even more predictive for regression is the fact they are -27 over the last 2 seasons in TO margin! The schedule also works well for the Red Raiders as they draw Texas & Oklahoma as home games & get Baylor on a neutral field. Their toughest game will be a road date at TCU. The offense returns 9 starters including QB Davis Webb from a unit that averaged 36PPG. They’ll be weak again defensively, but Texas Tech just wants to outscore teams. Texas Tech has a chance to start the year 7-0 like they did in 2013, but I think this year they won’t stumble & lose their final 5 games.
#6 Texas is one of the more interesting teams in the nation. The Mack Brown resignation to Charlie Strong entering the foray in Austin is interesting enough but Texas would seem to be a prime candidate for regression. They were 2-0 in close games & +4 in TO margin while their Pythagorean of 0.563 suggests they were 0.69 games WORSE than their final 8-5 record. The problem with saying the Longhorns will regress down is that those numbers aren’t huge in any direction & Texas brings back 15 starters & gets a very serious jolt of enthusiasm with Strong taking over. Texas ALWAYS has incredible talent so that won’t be an issue. Over the past 4 years UT is -3 in TO margin & 8-6 in close games so maybe regression looks a little shaky. The schedule is tough. Non-conference games against BYU & UCLA. Road dates with KSU & OKST. There are 10 wins especially with luck!
#7 If you are looking for a team primed to breakout in 2014 then look no further than TCU. The Frogs suffered bad luck last season going 1-4 in close games with a -2 in TO margin. Their .497 Pythagorean suggests they were 1.96 wins BETTER than their final 4-8 record! All of these signs point up for TCU, but what really helps them is their schedule & who they have coming back. This is HC Gary Patterson’s best team since joining the Big XII with 8 starters returning on both offense & defense. The schedule is decent, getting Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Texas Tech, & Kansas St. all in Ft. Worth! Baylor & Texas are the two tough road games, but keep in mind TCU was THIS CLOSE to Oklahoma & Kansas St. on the road last year. The final 4-8 record could have been 8-4 & TCU is better this season. Lady Luck is coming & Gary Patterson is a TREMENDOUS HC. They’ll contend.
#8 West Virginia has a mixed bag when it comes to predictive analytics from 2013. They were 2-1 in close games but -4 in TO margin. Their .384 Pythgorean suggests they were 0.61 wins better than their final 4-8 record. None of these really show much & WVU has been fairly stable in recent years. I don’t think things in Morgantown have gone like HC Dana Holgorsen envisioned. The Mountaineers have decreased their win total by 3 games in each year from when Holgorsen took the 2011 team to a 10-3 record. The WVU fan base needs to be patient because this year could be a long one. WVU has non-conference games against Alabama & @Maryland! They draw OU, Baylor, TCU & KSU at home! Potential wins against ISU & TT are road games. This is a superior team to the ’13 version but that schedule is BRUTAL. They’ll need a huge swing in luck to get to 4-5 wins.
#9 Lady Luck should be trending in the right direction for Iowa St. this season, but much like West Virginia, the schedule is set up in a way that the Cyclones might not be able to capitalize on it. ISU was -1 in TO margin & 0-4 in close games. Their Pythagorean of .322 suggests they were 0.87 wins BETTER than their final 3-9 record. These are similar numbers to what TCU brings back. Paul Rhoads is an excellent HC & will get the most out of this steam. With 10 returning starters on offense, ISU should average 30PPG & the defense has nowhere to go but up even with 5 starters returning. What gets ISU is the schedule. They draw Iowa, OSU, Texas & TCU on the road with Oklahoma & Baylor coming to Ames. This team plays extremely hard & even with the schedule could easily get back to a bowl game especially if Lady Luck shines on them, which I think happens for 7-8 wins.
#10 The Jayhawks are a squad treading water. In 2013, Kansas was +1 in TO margin & 1-0 in close games. Their Pythgorean of .188 suggests they were 0.74 games worse than their final 3-9 record. All of these numbers basically show us nothing because they aren’t extreme on any level. With 8 starters back on offense & 9 on defense, this will be the best team HC Charlie Weis has had in Lawrence. The problem for the most part though is that Kansas isn’t up to par with the rest of the talent in the Big 10 and their schedule isn’t kind either. Potential wins against Texas Tech & West Virginia are on the road. They even get a non-conference road game against Duke. Iowa St. does come to Lawrence but unless Kansas can pull some road upsets, this is looking like a 3 win team. This is a senior laden team & Lady Luck could shine making KU primed for delivering upsets.

PYTHAGOREAN WINNING PERCENTAGE

Baylor: .832
Oklahoma St.: .766
Oklahoma: .689
Kansas St.: .678
Texas Tech: .578
Texas: .563
TCU: .497
West Virginia: .384
Iowa St.: .322
Kansas: .188

LUCK

Oklahoma: +2.05
Kansas: +0.74
Texas: +0.69
Texas Tech: +0.48
Baylor: +0.18
Oklahoma St.: +0.05
West Virginia: -0.61
Kansas St.: -0.81
Iowa St.: -0.87
TCU: -1.96

TURNOVER MARGIN

Oklahoma St.: +15
Baylor: +13
Oklahoma: +9
Texas: +4
Kansas: +1
Kansas St.: 0
Iowa St.: -1
TCU: -2
West Virginia: -4
Texas Tech: -14

RECORD IN GAMES DECIDED BY 7 POINTS OR FEWER

Texas: 2-0
Baylor: 1-0
Kansas: 1-0
Oklahoma: 1-0
Oklahoma St.: 1-0
Texas Tech: 1-0
West Virginia: 2-1
Kansas St.: 1-2
TCU: 1-4
Iowa St.: 0-4

July 14, 2014 Posted by | Analytics, Baylor, Big XII, Iowa St., Kansas, Kansas St., Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Predictions, Previews, Rankings, Statistics, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia | Leave a comment

Offensive Strengths and Weaknesses for 2012 Big XII

BAYLOR BEARS

Strengths: Losing WR Kendall Wright will be no small feat to overcome. The All-American was a 1st-Round draft pick by  the Tennessee Titans and caught 108 balls last year for 1,663 yards & 14TD! He leaves Baylor as the Bears all time leading receiver by a significant margin! Wright leaves Baylor with 4,004 career receiving yards. Next on the list is Gerald McNeil with 2,651! Despite this significant loss, Baylor’s biggest strength should be their receiving corps. While they do lose Wright, they return their next 6 leading receivers led by WRs Terrence Williams (6’3/205lbs) who caught 59 balls for 957 yards & 11TD and Tevin Reese (5’10/165lbs) who caught 51 balls for 877 yards & 7TD. Oddly enough, both Williams & Reese had better YPC averages than did Wright! Williams, Reese & TE Jordan Najvar all earned Honorable Mention All Big XII honors last year. Adding depth to the receiving corps are freshman Jay Lee (6’3/205lbs), Corey Coleman & Kiante’ Griffin. It’s almost impossible to think this unit will be as dangerous without a legitimate #1 WR in Kendall Wright, but Williams has the size to step into the role, and I think the receivers are easily the biggest strength on the Baylor squad. Another strength of Baylor’s should be their interior offensive line. Both guards (Cameron Kaufhold & Cyril Richardson) along with center Ivory Wade (moving from RT) all return as starters with both Wade & Kaufhold being seniors. Baylor has an amazing 75 returning starts from that trio! Cyril Richardson was an Honorable Mention All Big XII selection last year & both he and Wade should compete for all conference honors once again.

Weaknesses: Unfortunately for Baylor there is a lot of weaknesses to be found in 2012. That happens after your program wins 10 games for the first time since 1980! The obvious weakness coming into 2012 is at the QB position. Robert Griffin III won the 2011 Heisman Trophy! He passed for 4,293 yards & 37 TD to only 6 INT while completing a ridiculous 72.4% of his passes! If that wasn’t enough, Griffin also ran for 699 yards & 10TD! Griffin really wasn’t on anyone’s Heisman radar entering last season as guys like Trent Richardson, Landry Jones, Andrew Luck, Kellen Moore, Matt Barkley & Justin Blackmon were the marquee names being discussed. This goes to show you how amazing a year Griffin, and Baylor, had. Trying to replace Griffin is a brutal task but senior QB Nick Florence or sophomore QB Bryce Petty are the likely candidates. No matter what they do, it won’t be a replication of what Griffin did as the Heisman winner left Waco the Baylor all time leading passer. With all the hype around Griffin, it’s easy to forget that RB Terrance Ganaway rushed for 1,547 yards (6.2ypc) and 21TD which set school records for both marks! Like Wright & Griffin, Ganaway was a 1st-Team All Big XII selection and an NFL draft pick. Baylor does get some help with Oregon transfer Lache Seastrunk (5’10/205lbs) who was arguably the best RB in his high school class, but expecting Seastrunk or other Baylor runners to replicate what Ganaway did in 2011 is almost like expecting the new QBs to duplicate Griffin’s production. Clearly the backfield is a weakness for Baylor. Pass protection could also be a weakness for Baylor this year as HC Art Briles has two new tackles in sophomore Troy Baker (6’6/310lbs) & rFR Spencer Drango (6’6/305lbs). Both are highly touted recruits, but inexperienced. It’ll be interesting to see how the duo competes without a dynamic QB like Griffin making plays were there are none to be found.

Game Plan: Art Briles is a great offensive mind. He improved the offense by 10+ points in his 3rd season and improved it again by 14 points in his 4th! The year before Briles got to Waco, Baylor earned a 3-9 record. In his 4th season the Bears were 10-3 with their first double digit win season in 31 years! That’s an incredible accomplishment. Baylor has an interesting offense going in because it looks like they are weak at both QB & RB. As a defense I think this essentially means you wait and see what Baylor does well and then take it away forcing them to beat you with what isn’t working. The receivers are definitely a strength, but the QB is raw and you may be able to force him into bad decisions. The running game could be suspect so forcing Baylor to run could also be the way to go. What will be interesting is seeing how Art Briles adjusts without Robert Griffin. There is a thought that Griffin might have been a system QB, and we’ll see if there is some validity to that.

IOWA ST. CYCLONES

Strengths: Iowa State’s biggest strength heading into 2012 is most likely their offensive line! The big uglies return 3 starters up front with the two non-starters having some starting experience. Center Tom Forniok is the leader of the group and should compete for all-conference honors while 3 of the 5 projected starters are upperclassmen. Last year the unit allowed 27 sacks and paved the way for Cyclones rushers to average 4.2ypc. It’s going to be hard to be as good an offensive line when you lose an All-American like LT Kelechi Osemele and an All Conference player like RG Hayworth Hicks, but given the circumstances I think the offensive line will be one of the strengths of the football team. Relatively speaking of course. The other strength is returning RB Jame White. White led the team in rushing last year with 743 yards & 8TD, averaging 4.7ypc. FB Jeff Woody (6’1/245lbs) also returns after rushing for 381 yards & 6TD in 2011. This is somewhat of a “Thunder & Lightning” approach as White is 5’8/187lbs. Neither back is particularly fantastic in his own right and there are questions about both, but this should be one of the better aspects of the offense. In Shontrelle Johnson comes back this fall then Iowa State will have a 3-headed monster at RB that just might be able to keep all 3 healthy & fresh all season long. Another strength is probably the receiving corps. While the Cyclones do lose leading receiver Darius Reynolds, they bring back 3 of their top-4 receivers along with TE Kurt Hammerschmidt who is a matchup nightmare at 6’6/271lbs! WRs Josh Lenz, Aaron Horne & Albert Gary combined last season for 100 receptions for 1,228 yards & 4TD. It’s not a big group (Lenz is the biggest at 6’0/194lbs) but of the 4 receivers, 3 are seniors with Gary being the lone junior. Iowa State has size in the 2-deep which could also be beneficial. This could definitely be an under the radar unit in 2012.

Weaknesses: Last year Iowa State struggled under center. HC Paul Rhoads went with a 2-QB approach between Steele Jantz & Jared Barnett. Jantz started the first 7 games while Barnett started the last 6. Barnett went 3-3 in his starts including the bowl loss to Rutgers while Jantz was 3-4 in his starts. Statistically the players were almost identical except Barnett did show the better ability to run the football. At 6’3/230lbs, Jantz is definitely the more pocket orient passer of the two. Jantz returns as a senior QB with experience while Barnett earned Honorable Mention All Big XII honors along with the conference freshman offensive player of the year! Who knows who the starter will be when the season opens up against Tulsa on September 1st, but when you have two QBs you essentially have zero QBs. Even if the numbers improve just a bit, this position has to be considered a weakness. The biggest weakness here is talent. Iowa State simply isn’t on par with the other top shelf teams in the Big XII conference. If not for Kansas, this would be the weakest program in the conference and it doesn’t look to get any better in the near future. Paul Rhoads is an OUTSTANDING football coach. It’s a testament to his abilities that this program has been to a bowl in 2 of his three year in Ames. When you look at what Iowa State has coming back, you would actually think they’d be in for a great year if the talent matched the experience, but Rhoads is playing at a deficit to begin with. It’s too bad. Jack Trice Stadium is pretty sweet and Iowa State has a solid fan base. Getting kids to Ames is the problem. Recruiting in-state against Iowa isn’t easy and the big recruits who want to be in the Big XII gravitate towards Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State.

Game Plan: As a team last season the Cyclones completed just 51.4% of their passes and also threw 17 interceptions to only 16TD! That’s a recipe for disaster so the obvious play is to bottle up the running game and force the QBs to make throws and good decisions. For the most part I think Iowa State will do a decent job running the football so it will be incumbent upon the QB (whoever it is) to make plays so opposing defenses don’t have to stack the box to take away the running attack. The interesting aspect to the Cyclones is that they actually have the receivers to get this done. The receiving corps is deep & experienced so there is no reason Iowa State shouldn’t be able to show opposing defenses a balanced attack. Obviously this will all depend on the QB making good decisions and good reads. That will be the biggest obstacle Paul Rhoads and the Cyclones will face in trying to get back to bowl eligibility.

KANSAS JAYHAWKS

Strengths: Kansas could have a very interesting running game in 2012. James Sims (6’0/202lbs) led the team in rushing last season with 727 yards (4.0ypc) & 9TD. Those aren’t amazing numbers, but Tony Pierson (5’11/170lbs) ran for 396 yards (5.6ypc) & 3TD and Brandon Bourbon (6’2/220lbs) ran for 190 yards (6.8ypc) & 1TD in limited duty before missing time due to injury. It’s a small sample size for sure, but Pierson & Bourbon combined to average 5.9ypc! Sims and Bourbon have some serious size as lead tailbacks while Pierson definitely gives defenses a different look with more of a speed approach. This is also an area where Kansas has some decent talent as all three runners were pretty good recruits coming out of high school. Sims will miss the first 3 games due to suspension and if Bourbon takes off I could see him becoming the lead runner with Pierson being a change of pace RB. Still, this is a legitimate strength for the Jayhawks. I could be wrong here but I think Notre Dame transfer QB Dayne Crist is going to be a big strength for KU. At 6’4/235lbs, the kid has a perfect NFL body and a rocket arm. I think he got the shaft in South Bend after having a bad half against South Florida. Crist took it like a champion and is going to try and cash in on his last year of eligibility. He will be reunited with Charlie Weis and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Crist flourish in 2012. He’s familiar with Weis, got to Lawrence this past spring & was voted a team captain. I’m guessing Crist will be the best QB Kansas has seen since Todd Reesing led the Jayhawks to a 12-1 season and a top-10 finish! Although I think Kansas has weaknesses at receiver and O-Line, I think they’ll have solid players in TE Mike Ragone (another Notre Dame transfer), LG Duane Zlatnik & LT Tanner Hawkinson. All 3 players should compete for all-conference honors in some fashion.

Weaknesses: The biggest weakness will probably be getting used to a new system under HC Charlie Weis. That should be helped out a bit by Crist & Ragone being familiar with Weis, for the most part, anytime a new head coach comes to town you are going to see adjustment periods especially within the O-Line schemes. What’s interesting here is that I wonder how much of a problem it will be getting used to a new HC? Outgoing HC Turner Gil led the Jayhawks to a 5-19 mark over his two seasons in Lawrence. The team was downright awful so I wonder if a new system will actually go the team good early on. As for the players themselves, Kansas has a pretty significant weakness at receiver. WRs DJ Beshears & Kale Pick actually led the team in receiving last season, combining for 74 catches for 781 yards & 5TD. The problem is that the two combined to average 10.6ypc! That’s not fantastic and shows those two particular receivers aren’t doing much with the ball after they catch it. Kansas does get Daymond Patterson back after missing last year with an injury & Mike Ragone is going to significantly upgrade the TE position, but for now all we have is projections. As to actual football output on the field, Kansas looks fairly thin at wideout although they should be an extremely experienced group. The other weakness is the offensive line. This unit as a whole allowed 31 sacks last season while allowing KU rushers to average 3.5ypc! What’s interesting is that there is some potential along the line. As I wrote above, Zlatnik & Hawkinson are solid players. Center Trevor Marrongelli is a returning starter who is also a senior. New starters Gavin Howard & Riley Spencer are also upperclassmen. Like the receivers, Kansas has a lot of experience up front, but whether or not all that experience will lead to improved performance on the field is another matter entirely. The last weakness I’ll mention for KU is the relative lack of talent in the program. One thing that Charlie Weis did a good job of in South Bend was landing top-10 recruiting classes. It’ll be interesting to see if he can land better talent than what Kansas has had the last few seasons. Like Iowa State, the Jayhawks are at a large deficit when it comes to top shelf talent that teams such as Texas & Oklahoma possess. It’s unfortunate, but a weakness nonetheless.

Game Plan: If I’m a defense I’m going to shut down the running game and blitz Crist every chance I get. To me the biggest weakness for Kansas coming in is their lack of production at receiver and those receivers not doing much with the football after they catch it. There is possibilities with the running game so I’d shut that down and force Kansas to throw the football. If Crist can show he got screwed over in South Bend by getting the hook to early then you are definitely going to have to respect his ability to throw the football which should open up the running game a bit. I think the possibility exists of getting into Crist’s head, so I’m blitzing and hitting him to get him off his rhythm. If that happens then I don’t think Kansas will be able to do much offensively. I also think as a defense I’m really interesting in shutting down TE Mike Ragone. He’s the best receiver on the team and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Weis & Crist try to utilize him as a safety valve and also a person who Crist can dump off a couple of early passes to in order to gain confidence. If a defense can stack the box, blitz Crist and double Ragone, then it’s going to get interesting to see if the wideouts can make plays to take pressure off of Crist. That’s the key.

KANSAS ST. WILDCATS

Strengths: QB Collin Klein is the obvious strength here. A 1st-Team All Big XII QB in 2011, Klein tore up the Big XII last season rushing for 1,141 yards (3.6ypc) & 27TD while also throwing for 1,918 yards & 13TD to only 6INT while completing 57.3% of his passes. A converted WR, Klein was a first year starting QB last year for HC Bill Snyder and made the most of his opportunities. Klein is a load at 6’5/230lbs and obviously draws comparisons to guys like Vince Young, Cam Newton & Josh Freeman although not nearly as polished as that trio due to him not having spent a ton of time under center. RB John Hubert should also be a strength. The 5’7/185lbs junior was an honorable mention All-Big XII player last year after rushing for 970 yards (4.8ypc) & 3TD while adding another 188 yards through the air. RB Angelo Pease (5’11/220lbs) combines with Hubert to give K-State a little thunder & lightning action in the backfield, but Klein is the main runner with Hubert being the secondary option. I also think receiver will be a strength for Kansas State. The Wildcats bring back their top-4 receivers and their TE in Travis Tannahill. That quartet is made up of upperclassmen led by WR Chris Harper (6’1/225lbs) who led the team in receiving last season with 40 catches for 547 yards & 5TD. WR Tramaine Thompson (5’7/165lbs) is a smaller wide receiver but is a big play waiting to happen as long as Klein can get him the ball in open space. I’d also keep an eye out for JUCO transfer WR Marquez Clark & true frosh Vernon Vaughn who bring some much needed size to the receiving corps. Tannahill could also wind up being fairly productive and has a chance to be one of the better TEs in the conference.

Weaknesses: A big weakness for Kansas State is their offensive line. Last season the unit allowed a ridiculous 43 sacks and paved the way for the Wildcats to rush for only 4.0ypc. The 43 sacks allowed was by far the worst mark in the Big XII and only Kansas & Texas Tech had worse rushing averages. Sadly enough, Kansas State loses 3 starters meaning they won’t have a ton of experience coming back from the 2011 squad. The good news is that the offensive line may get better. Tackle Tavon Rooks is a 6’6/270lbs JUCO transfer who was one of the better pass blockers in the JUCO ranks in 2011. He should step in immediately and help. Tackle Manase Foketi wasn’t a starter last season but was a full time starter in 2010. He missed last season with an injury. Guard Keenan Taylor hasn’t started a game in his career but has played in 25 games so far for KSU. Center BJ Finney & Guard Nick Puetz are both returning starters with Finney being an honorable mention all conference player as a freshman last season. It’s somewhat of a cobbled together O-Line without much experience from a year ago, but it’s possible they get better. Until we see any real production however, it’s obvious this is the weakest aspect of the Kansas State offense. Another weakness is the obvious lack of balance towards the running game. Kansas State almost ran the football 70% of the time which gives defenses an easy pattern to identify. Klein & Hubert put up big numbers, but neither had an overly impressive ypc average. The last weakness is an overall lack of talent. Bill Snyder is a great HC who gets the most out of his players, but he mines a lot in the JUCO pools and typically has to play from a talent deficit when it comes to teams like Texas, Oklahoma & Oklahoma State. This team is no different.

Game Plan: Opposing defenses have to make Klein pass the football. Klein threw the ball at last 30 times in only 2 games a year ago and both times Kansas State lost. Kansas State already has a pretty unbalanced offense so stacking the box and forcing Kansas State to throw is the obvious answer to game plan. Klein & Hubert don’t look to be exceptional runners, but they can grind out yards to keep the chains moving. With K-State have a couple of new tackles, the best bet is to get edge pressure on Klein and keep him in the pocket. Load up the box and show Kansas State that they can’t have much success running the football. This will obviously force Klein to either throw the football which is what the defense wants, or it will force Kansas State to run the ball at their own disadvantage. You’ll see a lot of teams this year in the Big XII try and force Klein to beat them through the air. If Klein can make those adjustments then you have problems, but I’d definitely make K-State beat me with Klein’s arm and make him prove he can make big time passes in big time games.

OKLAHOMA SOONERS

Strengths: Where do you begin? QB Landry Jones returns for his senior season after having passed for 4,463 yards & 29TD as a junior while completing 63.2%! Now consider that Jones had a better season as a sophomore than a junior! He’s already Oklahoma’s all-time leading passer having thrown for 12,379 yards which is 4,000 yards above the guy #2 on the list, which is Sam Bradford! If Jones throws for 4500 yards then he’ll be the most prolific passer in Sooners history by almost 9,000 yards!!! That’s jaw dropping considering the incredible history Oklahoma has in college football. The 6’4/230lbs QB was a 1st round draft pick if he would have came out for the 2012 NFL Draft, but chose to return to Norman. He’ll be a Heisman frontrunner along with Matt Barkley if the Sooners can run the table to 12-0. Most people believe Barkley is the best QB in college football but Jones can make a pretty good case for the title. You know he has to be feeling like there is unfinished business he has to attend to regarding a Heisman Trophy and a National Championship. If Jones wasn’t enough, the Sooners bring back their top-3 running backs in Dominque Whaley (627 yards, 9TD, 5.5ypc), Roy Finch (605 yards, 3TD, 5.5ypc) & Brennan Clay (274 yards, 1TD, 3.7ypc). Whaley at 5’10/200lbs is a freak athletically and in the weight room squatting close to 600lbs! It’s worth noting that Whaley missed 6 games last season and over a full season projects to rush for 1200 yards & 18TD! Finch is 5’7/166lbs and gives Oklahoma a great alternate look. The Sooners also bring in Damien Williams (6’1/215lbs) & Alex Ross (6’1/210lbs) in this year’s recruiting class. Whaley has a chance to be a 1st-Team All-Conference player but if he can’t shake the injury bug, Oklahoma has more than enough to keep it humming. Although the Sooners lose Ryan Broyles, their receivers should be another strength. WR Kenny Stills (6’1/190lbs) caught 61 balls for 849 yards & 8TD while Jaz Reynolds (6’2/200lbs) caught 41 balls for 715 yards & 5TD. True freshman Trey Metoyer (6’2/200lbs) is expected to make a significant impact and was fantastic in the spring game. TE Brannon Green is a 6’4/260lbs JUCO transfer and don’t forget about Sam Grant who is huge at 6’6/240lbs. Stills was a 2nd-Team All Big XII receiver and is ready to become Oklahoma’s #1 WR and produce accordingly. The O-Line should be one of the best in the country and the best in the Big XII. The Sooners return 4 starters including 4 upperclassmen and 3 seniors! The only non-returning starter is tackle Daryl Williams who at 6’6/313lbs made 1 start and played in 9 games a season ago. Center Ben Habern, G Gabe Ikard, G Tyler Evans and T Lane Johnson all have the potential to be all conference players! This unit allowed only 11 sacks last season and paved the way for Oklahoma to average 4.5ypc.

Weaknesses: If you wanted to really nitpick you could say Landry Jones was a bit off last season throwing 15 picks to 29TD, but the year before Jones threw 38TD to only 12INT so you have to wonder if Jones might have been trying to do too much. Whaley’s ability to stay healthy could also be a weakness I suppose. That’s reaching because there simply isn’t a weakness on offense. Oklahoma scored 39.5ppg last season and I don’t see how they don’t increase that production into the 45ppg range which will make them practically unbeatable.

Game Plan: Pray for injuries. If Whaley stays healthy and can produce like he did a year ago in limited time, Oklahoma has a running game that will force defenses to play honestly against the pass which is a huge mistake given the ability of Jones and the size of the receivers. If you look at the games Oklahoma lost last season you see that opponents were basically hoping that Oklahoma couldn’t get into a rhythm or else they got lucky. The defense completely broke down against Baylor in Oklahoma’s 45-38 loss to the Bears. The 41-38 loss to Texas Tech was nothing more than insanity as the Sooners were favored by 28 points in that game! Oklahoma did take a pounding in Stillwater 44-10 to Oklahoma State, but obviously the offense was out of sorts, scoring just 10 points on a defense that wasn’t too stingy. Oklahoma has had problems closing the deal lately either on the road or in games they should win by large margins. Defensively you simply have to hope Oklahoma is off or else everything has gone wrong and a lot of players are injured. If things break right this is the best offensive team in the nation. That’s crazy.

OKLAHOMA ST. COWBOYS

Strengths: HC Mike Gundy. Whether it’s Zac Robinson to Brandon Weeden or Dez Bryant to Justin Blackmon, the Oklahoma State offensive machine keeps rolling and there is no reason to believe it won’t continue to score boatloads of points in 2012. There are reasons why it not be in the 45-50ppg range its operated in the last couple of seasons, but Gundy is a fantastic offensive coach and the Cowboys will score. The biggest strength returning is obviously RB Joseph Randle. A 1st-Team All Big XII performer last season, the 6’1/194lbs back ran for 1,216 yards (5.8ypc) and 24TD! Don’t forget about RBs Jeremy Smith & Herschel Sims either. In spot duty last season, Smith ran for 646 yards (7.1ypc) and 9TD while Sims chipped in 242 yards (7.8ypc) & 2TD. All three leading returning rushers put up gaudy YPC averages and I don’t see a huge drop off along the interior O-Line to make me believe Oklahoma State’s rushing offense won’t be anything other than dominant. Last season Oklahoma State threw the football 60% of the time which is still less than what you would think, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Gundy lean on the runners just a bit more. Randle & Smith are juniors while Sims is a sophomore so there are plenty of fresh legs to go around. The other strength for Oklahoma State is their offensive line. A senior dominated line, OSU has 4 seniors who project to start along with a junior. Combined the 5 projected starters have 63 starts and averages 6’4/304lbs. It isn’t the biggest or most talented offensive line in the conference, but Lane Taylor & Jonathan Rush will contend for all-conference honors and there is simply too much experience for this not to be one of the better offensive lines in the conference. The unit allowed just 12 sacks last season and paved the way for OSU runners to average 5.3ypc! There were some significant losses including C Grant Garner (1st Team All Big XII), T Levy Adcock (1st Team All Big XII) and T Nick Martinez, but over the past 6 seasons Oklahoma State has averaged over 5.0ypc as a rush offense and they’ve never given up more than 18 sacks. Even with the losses this is a strong unit.

Weaknesses: It’s practically impossible to replace a 1st Team All-American at WR and a 1st Team All-Conference at QB. QB Brandon Weeden had a tremendous year last season completing a ridiculous 72.4% of his passes for 4,727 yards including 37TD to only 13INT. He leaves Oklahoma St. as the schools all time leading passer with 9,260 yards. Those numbers are going to be difficult enough to replicate, but what makes Weeden an interesting case is his leadership abilities from an advanced age standpoint. Weeden played professional baseball for a few years before returning to college. He wasn’t just a senior QB, but a 26-year old senior QB who had been in the limelight for quite some time. Oklahoma State has named true freshman QB Wes Lunt the starting QB. Lunt has a world of talent and at 6’4/220lbs looks the part of an NFL QB, but Oklahoma State is going from a 26-year old seasoned veteran who is the most prolific passer in school history to an 18-19 year old kid who hasn’t throw a pass at the collegiate level. I have a lot of faith in Mike Gundy as a HC and his ability to keep winning despite players leaving, but the QB play has to be a MAJOR weakness heading into 2012! Replacing Justin Blackmon is a similar problem. Blackmon destroyed secondaries last season catching 122 balls for 1,522 yards & 18TD! Like Weeden, he was a 1st Round NFL Draft Pick in the ’12 Draft. Some scouts have said Blackmon is actually better than former OSU WR Dez Bryant which is insane! He’s expected to be Jacksonville’s #1 WR as a rookie which should tell you something. Oklahoma State is hoping Tracy Moore (6’2/220lbs) can fill Blackmon’s void, but Moore caught 45 balls for 672 yards & 4TD last season which was good enough for 3rd on the team. OSU also loses Josh Cooper (71 catches, 715 yards, 3TD) and Hubert Anyiam (27 catches, 370 yards & 3TD). That is 3 of their top-4 receivers from a season ago. Moore has big shoes to fill and JUCO transfer TE Blake Jackson should be a pretty integral part of the offense, but right now Oklahoma State looks pretty weak at WR when you look at talent & size on the depth chart.

Game Plan: A pretty basic gameplan for defenses. There isn’t much here with the QB and receiving corps so defenses are going to be able to stack the box and stop the run forcing the freshman QB to make plays with his head & arm in order to beat defenses. I’m not exactly sure how that will play out. With the box stacked defenses would also be wise to rush the QB to get Lunt as frustrated as possible which should lead to many incomplete passes and interceptions as the offense essentially beats itself. The one caveat to this plan is Oklahoma State’s ability to run the football even if defenses are gearing up to stop it. If that’s the case then Lunt should be able to feel fairly comfortable passing the football and potentially get into a rhythm with a couple of early completions. This would be ideal, but if I’m a defense I stack the box and force Oklahoma State to throw the football. If they can’t run, they’ll have to make the defenses honest by hitting some passes. If that doesn’t happen then Oklahoma State could be back to 2009 when they didn’t even average 28ppg. While this isn’t necessarily a throw away year for the Cowboys, keep an eye on what happens with the offensive line. OSU has 4 senior starters which could mean they’ll have only 1 returning offensive lineman back for 2013. If Randle comes back for his senior season and Lunt progresses into a star, then Oklahoma State will need to prepare some O-Linemen to support an offense that could be dominant in 2013. It’ll be interesting to see how many underclassmen get playing time along the interior.

TEXAS LONGHORNS

Strengths: Oddly enough I’m going to start out with the offensive line. While I think Texas is a hair behind Oklahoma when it comes to the best O-Lines in the Big XII, this is still a unit that has to be in the argument for best in conference and overall potentially a top-5 offensive line in the entire nation! The Longhorns bring back 4 starters and the 5th guy is LT Donald Hawkins who was one of the most dominant players in JUCO ball last season and comes in as an upperclassmen. Texas has 3 juniors & 2 sophomores starting but the 5 already combine for 62 starts which is amazing! Guards Mason Walters & Trey Hopkins along with RT Josh Cochran should compete for all conference honors and I’m not sure C Dominic Espinosa & LT Hawkins don’t do the same. The line averages 6’5/301lbs and can go talent for talent with any line in the nation. This unit allowed 28 sacks last season and paved the way for UT to average 4.5ypc but those numbers are going to significantly improve. The next biggest strength is the running game. Malcolm Brown was the best RB in the 2011 class and as a true freshman ran for 742 yards (4.3ypc) & 5TD on his way to earning 3rd-Team All Big XII honors. Backeup Joe Bergeron ran for 463 yards (6.4ypc) & 5TD. If that wasn’t enough, Texas brings in the #1 RB in the 2012 class in Johnathan Gray which is simply an embarrassment of riches. On raw talent alone there isn’t another RB corps in the nation better than Texas. Throw in that offensive line and Texas should steamroll any & every opponent trying to stop the run. Texas also bring back their 4 top receivers which should give them another strength offensively. Mike Davis (6’2/188lbs) & Jaxson Shipley (6’1/190lbs) combined to catch 89 balls for 1,216 yards & 4TD last season. That’s actually quite an accomplishment when you consider the QB problems Texas dealt with last season. Marquise Goodwin (5’9/177lbs) & DJ Grant (6’3/240lbs) were the 3rd & 4th leading receivers respectively and they both return. TEs Barrett Matthews & MJ McFarland are ahead of Grant on the TE depth chart and former RB DJ Monroe (5’9/175lbs) saw the writing on the wall and didn’t want to spend his senior season buried on the RB depth chart. True frosh Cayleb Jones (6’3/200lbs) should also be a huge boost to a dominant receiving corps. The size & talent of the receiving corps make it one of the best units in the conference.

Weaknesses: During Colt McCoy’s time in Austin, the Longhorns posted a 45-8 record including a trip to the 2009 BCS National Championship game. Since McCoy left UT, the Longhorns have been sort of floundering in the wilderness at QB. In 2010 Garrett Gilbert was thought to be the heir apparent but a 5-7 season along with Gilbert’s 17INT to 10TD had Gilbert on the hot seat. Uninspiring play and shoulder problems ended Gilbert’s career in Austin after 2 games last season and he has since transferred to SMU. After Gilbert was sidelined for the season, Mack Brown went back and forth between David Ash (56.6%, 1,068 yards, 4TD, 8INT) and Case McCoy (61.4%, 1,045 yards, 7TD, 4INT) eventually settling with David Ash. Ash is more talented than McCoy and looks the part a bit more as Ash stands 6’3/225lbs to McCoy’s 6’2/200lbs, but I wouldn’t discount McCoy’s ability. If he learned anything from his brother, he learned winning and clearly McCoy had better numbers than Ash did in 2011. Ash was the team’s MVP in the Holiday Bowl last season where Texas beat California 21-10. He’s slated as the projected starter, but TWO QB = ZERO QB and Texas needs to have this figured out. Potentially complicating matters is true frosh Connor Brewer (6’2/200lbs) who was one of the most highly touted QB recruits in the 2012 class. It’ll be interesting to see what happens, but remember that Ash was a true freshman in 2011 and McCoy was just a sophomore. Experience for these guys should do wonders for their confidence and the overall passing numbers should improve.

Game Plan: The game plan will be almost an exact replica of what to do with Oklahoma State. The problem is that Oklahoma State is a poor man’s version of Texas. The Longhorns are going to have a dominant O-Line with INCREDIBLE talent in the backfield. It won’t be as easy to simply stack the box and hope Ash/McCoy makes mistakes. The other problem is that Ash & McCoy aren’t coming in as a true frosh the way Wes Lunt is at Oklahoma State. That is going to be meaningful as the Longhorns have had a year of experience between the QB and the WR unit which is vastly more experienced than Oklahoma State’s receiving corps. I’m not willing to put Texas’s offense with Oklahoma’s, but if the QB situation works itself out then really there is nothing a defense can hope to do here. Texas should have no problems scoring 40+ points per game which means they’ll be back amongst the most elite college football programs. The QB situation has to work so defenses will key in on forcing the QB to beat them, but if David Ash or Case McCoy take a step forward then defenses are back to praying very hard and hoping for a few untimely injuries! At worst this team is 10-2.

TEXAS CHRISTIAN HORNED FROGS

Strengths: There is quite a bit to like about TCU’s offense in 2012. This unit averaged 41ppg in 2011 en route to an 11-2 season that saw them end the year ranked #14 in the nation and there is a lot coming back. QB Casey Pachall is a beast at 6’5/220lbs. Pachall had a great sophomore season completing 67% of his passes for 2,921 yards including 25TD to only 7INT. He’s big and durable and while he’s not going to touch the all time TCU record for passing yards set by Andy Dalton, Pachall has a chance to wind up #2 on the list if he stays healthy & stays until his senior season. He’s already completing 67% of his passes and really TCU is more of a run dominant offense. A 2nd-Team All MWC player last year, he’ll only get better. The bread & butter of TCU’s offense will be the running game. Amazingly enough, the Horned Frogs had 3 running backs make Honorable Mention All MWC last season! Ed Wesley (726 yards, 7.2ypc, 6TD), Matthew Tucker (702 yards, 5.7ypc, 12TD) and Waymon James (875 yards, 7.2ypc, 6TD)! Combined, that trio rushed for 2,303 yards & 24TD while averaging 6.3ypc! To make matters even worse for opponents, TCU also has UCLA transfer Aundre Dean, freshman Kolby Listenbee and freshman LeDarius Anthony. It’s truly an outstanding unit that is one of the best in the conference and potentially a top-10 unit in the entire nation! I think a huge strength of TCU but potentially a bit underrated is their receiving corps. The Frogs return their top-3 receivers in Josh Boyce (6’0/203lbs), Skye Dawson (5’9/183lbs) & Brandon Carter (5’11/161lbs). That trio combined for 129 catches for 1,850 yards & 17TD. Boyce almost had a 1,000 yard season himself catching for 998 yards & 9TD en route to a 1st-Team All MWC honor. Helping out this season will be rFR LeDarius Brown who is the most physically imposing of the group at 6’4/220lbs but runs a sub-4.5 40 yard dash. Brown screams #1 WR and could be ridiculously dominant as early as this season. Sophomore Cam White (6’2/190lbs) can make an impact and don’t forget about TE Corey Fuller who at 6’6/260lbs will be a match up nightmare in the red zone and underneath. Even with the move to the Big XII and the prospect of seeing outstanding defensive units on a week in and week out basis, it’s hard to find a better group of skill players than what HC Gary Patterson has at TCU.

Weaknesses: The big weakness to me will be the play of the offensive line. It isn’t a massively talented group and while TCU typically fares well in bowl games with inferior talent across the interior the weekly grind against top flight defensive lines will take a toll. TCU faced one ranked team all season long last year during the regular season. This year they will likely play at least 6 ranked teams. They have 2-game spans of Virginia/SMU, Baylor/Texas Tech, Texas Tech/Oklahoma St., Oklahoma St./West Virginia, West Virginia/Kansas St., Kansas St./Texas and Texas/Oklahoma. Last season TCU had 2 games stretches of Air Force/UL-Monroe, UL-Monroe/Portland State, San Diego St./New Mexico, New Mexico/BYU, BYU/Wyoming and Colorado St./UNLV. The big uglies up front are going to take a week in and week out pounding. TCU does have some size up front but not much talent. Guard Blaize Foltz was a 1st-Team All MWC last season and should compete for all conference honors this season, but that’s about it. The entire line has just 27 starts between them. Talent & experience are sorely lacking on this O-Line and that could be a huge problem for TCU in their first go around in the Big XII.

Game Plan: TCU is an interesting team to game plan for defensively because there isn’t as aspect to the offense that seems weak. What does seem weak is the offensive line so that will be the big issues. I think opposing defenses will do well to simply be uber-aggressive in attacking the Horned Frogs line and forcing them to get tired and make mistakes. Lots of substitutions along the D-Line could also wear down the offensive line even quicker. How TCU pass blocks and run blocks will be of paramount importance as they start to play a much more difficult schedule. It’ll really be interesting to watch play out because the overall fatigue could take a few weeks to settle in. If the offensive line can hold up over a full season then TCU’s offense is extremely balanced and teams are going to have a tough time stopping any one facet. If the offensive line breaks down over time, then I think defenses can key on any part of the offense they want and have success in stopping it. It’s not often you have an example of an offense that will determine success by how solid the O-line plays to the exclusion of the skill players, but TCU is a good example of that in their first season playing in the Big XII conference.

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS

Strengths: HC Tommy Tuberville has quite a bit returning this season on offense. Texas Tech’s biggest strength should be their receivers. They return 5 of their top-6 receivers from last season and also bring in 5 new receivers from the 2012 recruiting class including two from the junior college ranks. That makes for tremendous depth and a variety of options for QB Seth Doege. Junior Eric Ward (6’0/203) led the team in receiving last season with 84 receptions for 800 yards & 11TD. Certainly not a big play threat, Ward is a dependable possession receiver that can keep the chains moving even if not making spectacular plays. Alex Torres (6’1/200lbs) & Darrin Moore (6’4/220lbs) averaged 49 receptions & 590 yards including 6TD. Bradley Marquez (5’10/195lbs) & Cornelius Douglas (5’9/203lbs) round out the returners but Douglas has since moved to CB. Darrin Moore is the really interesting piece here. The 6’4/220lbs monster screams #1 WR and looked the part last season in Texas Tech’s first 2 games when he caught 21 balls for 339 yards & 4TD! That sort of production over 12 games equals 126 catches for 2,034 yards & 24TD! Moore battled injuries for the rest of the season, but is expected to be healthy and it’ll be interesting to see what the senior does. JUCO Javon Bell (6’0/180lbs) should also contribute early & often potentially giving Tech Bell & Moore on the edge with Ward being in the slot. Throwing to all of these receivers will be senior QB Seth Doege. Doege had a great year last season completing 69% of his passes for 4,004 yards including 28TD to 10INT. Another year like 2011 and Doege will leave Lubbock as Tech’s 3rd all time leading passer behind Graham Harrell & Kliff Kingsbury. Not a bad career at all! It’s unfortunate Doege won’t get more recognition than he potentially deserves but he’ll be competing for all conference honors behind Landry Jones & Geno Smith. He’s a considerable strength especially given his experience, leadership and ability. Another strength for Texas Tech should be their offensive line. They return 3 starters (all seniors) from last year’s squad and the 2 new starters bring considerable size & talent to the equation. The 5 projected starters  have 69 starts among them led by LT LaAdrian Waddle who was a 2nd Team All-Big XII selection last season. At 6’6/320lbs, Waddle has the size to play on Sunday and has an outside chance at competing for an All-American spot! Ward is the only other player currently projected to compete for all-conference honors although Doege & Moore should also be in the discussion.

Weaknesses: The Red Raiders actually have a pretty balanced offense coming back so there isn’t really any significant weakness, but if you were going to say one aspect of the offense is behind the other, I’d say the running game. Tuberville hasn’t messed too much with former HC Mike Leach’s pass happy system, still choosing to throw the ball 60+% of the time! RB Eric Stephens returns and led the team in rushing last season with 565 yards (5.2ypc) & 8TD, but basically split time with DeAndre Washington who is out for the year with an ACL injury. At 5’8/190lbs, Stephens is a solid back but I’m not sure he can take the every week pounding of a bell cow RB. Stephens missed the spring game with injury so Texas Tech potentially could be down their two leading rushers from a year ago! Sophomore Kenny Williams & JUCO transfer SaDale Foster are currently the two runners first on the depth chart at the moment. Williams  only had 135 rushing yards (3.1ypc) and 2TD last season as a frosh so Tech could be very raw at the position. I’m sure Red Raiders Nation would like Stephens to be 100% by the time the season starts against Northwestern St., but if not then this unit is certainly the weakest within the entire context of the offense.

Game Plan: Texas Tech averaged 34ppg last season and while they probably won’t be explosive on offense as Oklahoma, West Virginia or Texas, this is a team that can score some points. In a vacuum, being a bit weak in the rushing game isn’t a huge problem because Texas Tech doesn’t necessarily run the ball all that often. It’s a weapon to be sure to keep the defense honest, but Texas Tech is a pass happy offense that turns on the QB/WR play. Texas Tech shouldn’t have any problems there. Given that the offense is very experienced and has a lot of returning starters, it’s safe to say the Red Raiders might actually push their offensive production up to the 37-38ppg range which probably puts them in the top-10 to top-15 range nationally! Defensively, teams are going to have to force Texas Tech to run the football by dropping the safeties and potentially even dropping one of the LBs essentially showing Tech a 5-man box with 6 dropping back into coverage. Texas Tech has had dominating seasons when they’ve shown they can run the football which makes sense from a time of possession standpoint. Remember that if Tech throws the ball constantly they aren’t running off any clock. That gives opponents plenty of time to be on offense which produces shoot outs. Tech will win their fair share of those, but against superior teams, they’ll always lose because superior teams can score with Tech, but also throw in some defensive stops along with running the ball to prevent Tech from being on offense. We know they’ll throw, but forcing the rush will be the key to keep the offense unbalanced. What will be interesting is seeing if Tech can successfully run the football. If that happens then the team takes on an entirely new identity and will be just as effective as the top offenses in the nation. Defenses have to force Tech to run, but if they can run, then it’s going to be problematic. This is a very interesting offense to think about strategically.

WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS

Strengths: HC Dana Holgorsen. He’s an offensive prodigy and West Virginia has to be ecstatic that he’s coaching the Mountaineers. What’s interesting about Holgorsen is that Rich Rodriguez didn’t believe he could win a championship in Morgantown and essentially bolted for the University of Michigan. That didn’t work out and now RichRod is in Tuscon with Arizona, but Holgorsen gets an advantage that Rodriguez never had, namely that the Big XII is not the Big East and winning a Big XII title en route to a 12-0 season with guaranteed wins over Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Kansas St., Texas Tech & TCU is going to hold A LOT more water than running the table in the Big East. Holgorsen is a BEAST and if West Virginia dominates in 2012 then he’s going to be mentioned up there with Nick Saban, Chip Kelly & Urban Meyer as best college coach in the game. As far as strengths of the West Virginia offense, there are now weaknesses. QB Geno Smith is a Heisman candidate. The senior to be had a great year last season completing 66% of his passes for 4,385 yards & 31TD to only 7INT. He’s 700 yards shy of becoming the most prolific passer in West Virginia history and will shatter that mark sometime in September. A two time 1st-Team All Big East QB, Smith will be in hot contention with Landry Jones for 1st Team All Big XII and with Matt Barkley for 1st Team All-American! A 12-0 season with 4500 passing yards along with 40+TD passes might be enough to get the job done. The receivers are another group where West Virginia show an embarrassment of riches. Both Tavon Austin (5’9/174lbs) & Stedman Bailey (5’10/193lbs) were 1st-Team All-Big East receivers in 2011. Austin was also a 1st Team All Big East player as a returner! The duo combined to catch 173 balls for 2,465 yards & 20TD! Both caught for over 1,000 yards while Austin caught 101 passes and Bailey averaged a ridiculous 18 yards per catch! WR Ivan McCartney was WVU’s 3rd leading receiver with 49 catches for 585 yards & 3TD which was good enough to be on the 3rd-Team All Big East squad! This is by far the most accomplished group of receivers in the Big XII and will battle with USC for being the most prolific group of receivers in the nation! Both Bailey & Austin will compete for All-American honors and both are dark horse Heisman candidates. The running game is overshadowed a bit in this pass happy offense, but no less effective. RB Dustin Garrison (5’9/166lbs) led the team in rushing last season with 742 yards (5.5ypc) and produced almost 1,000 total yards! Shawne Alston (5’11/240lbs) brings a completely different look as he’s WVU’s thunder to Garrison’s lightning. Alston was terrific near the goal line as he rushed in for 12TD. Backing both up is Andrew Buie and don’t’ completely forget about true frosh Roshard Burney who at 5’10/210lbs looks a lot more like an every down back that Holgorsen is looking for in the mold of Kendall Hunter who he had at Oklahoma State. Another significant strength will be West Virginia’s offensive line. The line returns 4 starters and his made up of 4 upperclassmen. The lone player who isn’t a returning starter nor an upperclassman is LT Quinton Spain who at 6’5/340lbs brings more than enough bulk to hold down the position! C Joe Madsen, G Jeff Braun and G Josh Jenkins have all been on the All Big East teams at some point in their careers with the line bringing a incredible 101 career starts amongst the 5 projected starters! Madsen, Braun & Jenkins should compete for All-Big XII selections.

Weaknesses: You could argue that the running game is a bit thin, but I think for the most part that is a reflection of just how strong the other units are. Dustin Garrison is nursing a knee injury but should be fine to open the season. Buie is a little raw and the Mountaineers could lean on true freshman Roshard Burney & Tony Clayton, but they get Ryan Clarke back this season who is another bruiser like Shawne Alston. I could see this unit being thought of as a weakness, but I don’t see it. Buie could fill in nicely if Garrison isn’t ready to go and Holgorsen has plenty of options to run the football. With a receiving corps & QB as dangerous as West Virginia boasts, I don’t think they’ll have any problems finding room to run with Garrison & Buie being huge beneficiaries of opponents sleeping on the run game.

Game Plan: As with Oklahoma, there is no game plan. Opposing defensive coordinators need to pray that West Virginia is completely off their game or that a rash of obscure injures causes most of West Virginia’s players to go down. Maybe a weird sickness could give the West Virginia offense a stomach virus before game days? I think Dabo Swinney just called and said West Virginia scored again! West Virginia averaged 25.2ppg the year before Holgorsen took over. Last year in a season where the players were supposedly “getting used” to a new system, West Virginia increased that production to 37.6ppg! That’s a 2TD improvement! That number should get over 40ppg this season with the Mountaineers boasting of one of the 5 best offenses in college football. The only game plan you can have is to contain them a bit and hopefully keep them off the field. As with the Peyton Manning led Indianapolis Colts, the best defense was a good offense that was able to stay on the field for significant amounts of time. The way to stop this offense is to run the football a lot, take time off the clock and limit the opportunities that Holgorsen has with his offense on the field. Otherwise, WVU is going to hang 50 points on you and that’s extremely difficult to top. The stars are definitely aligning for this offense in much the same way they are for Oklahoma.

August 5, 2012 Posted by | Baylor, Big XII, Iowa St., Kansas, Kansas St., Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia | Leave a comment

2011 NCAA Football – Week 8 Best Games

Week 8!? I know I keep saying how fast this season is going, BUT WOW this season is going by FAST! It’s incredible. At this point in the season we are almost hoping for no gaffes by undefeated teams. LSU plays Auburn this week while Alabama plays Tennessee. Next week both SEC West leaders are on bye before meeting in Alabama in Week 9. Wouldn’t it be awful if one of them were to lose this week making that game almost meaningless for national championship purposes!? The same goes for a team like Oklahoma St. who walks into Missouri or Clemson who hosts North Carolina. Even other games are very very interesting as Wisconsin has a game they could lose in East Lansing against Michigan St.. Stanford hosts Washington, but the Huskies aren’t a pushover team & could put up a big fight. Even a game like Marshall/Houston is pretty good because Marshall has the ability to pull off a stunner.

At first I thought this might be a blase week, but it actually has quite a bit of juice to it. And oh by the way, there is this little rivalry game between USC & Notre Dame that is also taking place this weekend in South Bend. Can wait to get this started!

I just want to make a quick note and say that these are the most interesting games to me this week in descending order of importance. Obviously I think the most interesting and most important game of the week is the Badgers/Spartans matchup. This should give you an idea of why the games are in the order they are.

ROAD PREDICTION HOME
Michigan St. took one on the chin with losing DE William Gholston for this game against the Badgers, but I’m not sure the Spartan rush defense will be completely crushed by the loss. This might be the last game either team can potentially lose. Something to keep in mind is that Michigan St.’s game next week against Nebraska could be even more important than this one if the Big 10 championship is their goal. Either way, this comes down to how well MSU stops the Badger rush offense. Remember that Sparty does have the 3rd best rush defense in the nation. Keep in mind too that Wisconsin doesn’t need to win, but win BIG in this statement game. Current Line: Wisconsin (-7.5)
Wow. When was the last time the Irish were almost double digit favorites over USC? Notre Dame is closer to a top-10 team than you might thing. The two losses also had them being -10 in TO margin. Since then ND has eaten alive every opponent they’ve faced. USC will be a more difficult challenge, but not more difficult than Michigan St. was. This is another game where ND prevails & Kelly improves to 2-0 against the Trojans. Lane Kiffin is going to get it done in SoCal, but he needs a bit more time to finally get out from under the sanctions handed down from the previous regime. Current Line: Notre Dame (-9)
In case you haven’t noticed, Washington is 5-1 & on a 3-game winning streak. That’s certainly coming to an end against Stanford, but that line is too high. Sarkisian knows what he’s doing up in Seattle & UW is going to get better & better & better. If Kelly sticks at Oregon & Shaw does a good job replacing Harbaugh, the Pac-12 North is going to be straight BEASTLY soon enough! I can’t imagine Stanford losing, but it won’t be by 21 points. Washington is going to cover. This game will obviously have loads of attention on Andrew Luck, but keep UW QB Keith Price on the radar. Kid has 21TD & 4INT through 6 games meaning he’s on pace for 42TD:8INT! Washington could easily finish 9-3. This is the most underrated game of the week. Current Line: Stanford (-20.5)
Absolutely crazy that LSU will be without RB Spence Ware & CB Tyrann Mathieu! Ware is their leading rusher while Mathieu might be the most dynamic defensive player in the entire nation! Kirk Herbstreit has the kid winning the Heisman! That’s RIDICULOUS! RB Michael Ford has actually been better than Ware on a YPC basis while the LSU defense is a lot more than just one player. It’s inconvenient to lose a couple of starters, but LSU should still roll against War Eagle. Auburn’s defense is sieve like & they also have QB issues. That’s a tough nut to crack when in Death Valley! Current Line: LSU (-21)
At what point do you take a look at the schedule & come to the conclusion that Oklahoma St. is better than Oklahoma? A win here gives OSU road wins over Texas, Texas A&M, Tulsa & Missouri. Oklahoma’s true road wins? They have Kansas who sports the worst defense in the world & a Florida St. team that turned out to be massively overrated. If you argue that LSU is better than Alabama because of schedule, then you also MUST say Oklahoma St. is better than Oklahoma for the same reasons. I think the Cowboys roll again, but it would be nice to see them play a full game at 100%. With them scoring 40ppg it’s tough to notice when they are off, but it does happen. Current Line: Oklahoma St. (-7)
Very scary game for Clemson. I don’t think Clemson can have a first half against UNC the way they did last week against Maryland & expect to come back and win a high scoring affair. North Carolina’s defense is simply too tough for that kind of rally. UNC should be motivated to play as well because another loss virtually eliminates them from playing in the ACC Championship game by winning the Coastal Division. Keep in mind that the 5-2 Tar Heels could just as easily be 7-0. As for the Tigers, another win simply keeps the resume humming. A win here gives Clemson wins over Auburn, Florida St., Virginia Tech & UNC. It’s awfully good. Current Line: Clemson (-10.5)
It should be blow out city as the Volunteers travel to Alabama without their best QB & WR. This game really wouldn’t make it on the list as I’d expect the Tide to drop the hammer, but Alabama is currently 7-0 & any team undefeated at the halfway point or better is deserving of some recognition. I’ve said for awhile that I think AJ McCarron’s development is going to be critical for Alabama to win a national championship. In his last two games he’s 42 of 54 (77.8%) for 461 yards & 5TD without a pick. He’s right on schedule. Alabama rolls into their bye week before LSU comes callin’!Current Line: Alabama (-29.5)
Miami-FL made an EXCEPTIONAL hire when they picked up Al Golden. It reminds me a lot of when Miami-FL hired Butch Davis & what resulted from that hiring with the possibility of Golden turning into another Jimmy Johnson for the Hurricanes. Clearly the team is improving as the season progresses under Golden & I think he’s in a perfect situation to get the talent level back up to “THE U” standards. GT can’t afford to lose here and Miami-FL will be motivated to play well. In his last 3 games, QB Jacory Harris is 45 of 68 (66.2%) for 709 yards & 8TD without a pick so keep & eye on him especially because GT’s defense hasn’t been fantastic. My thinking is that GT rebounds, but another Canes win could show the tide is turning a bit. A win here should put THE U at 4-3 with a REAL shot at 9-3/8-4 & a chance at the ACC Championship game. Current Line: Miami-FL (-3)
LOVE LOVE LOVE West Virginia. The Mountaineers travel to Syracuse where I’m guessing they’ll give Doug Marrone & his boys a thorough whippin’, but Marrone seems to be a helluva coach & Syracuse wont’ lay down easily. These are the best kinds of games because they can give us insight into how dominant a team might be. I think WVU comes away with a victory here, BUT Syracuse isn’t going to lie down & they’ll play hard for 60 minutes. If WVU pounds them in their own backyards while the Orange bust nut for Marrone, then WVU is looking like a team that is going to give some poor unsuspecting BCS opponent a run for their life! Current Line: West Virginia (-14)
As you can see, this game probably isn’t going to amount to too much & makes the list for much the same reasons that Alabama/Tennessee make the list. It’s not this way nationally, but when you think about Oklahoma, they are fighting issues with perceptions. Think about it. If you had to go with undefeated teams that played more difficult schedules, wouldn’t you think LSU, Oklahoma St. & Clemson have the Sooners beat? Heck, if you believe LSU is the best team in the nation then it’s entirely possible to argue that Oregon is better than the Sooners. I don’t doubt how good Oklahoma is, but from a logical standpoint based on strength of schedule, Oklahoma should probably be trailing. They need blowout wins. Current Line: Oklahoma (-29)
USF is the favorite here & it probably has more to do with Cincinnati’s record from last season rather than their 5-1 mark. Sure the Bearcats haven’t beaten anyone & they did lost to Tennessee, but even with the loss, UC is on average beating teams by 25ppg! USF is one of the more frustrating teams in the nation. They get an early season road win over Notre Dame, but can’t manage to beat Pittsburgh (who the Irish beat in Pittsburgh) or Connecticut. It would be just like USF to beat Cincinnati this week, but turn around & lose to Rutgers the following week! I don’t get it. I hope UC wins as Butch Jones’ star is definitely on the rise & it’s exciting to see where he might land. Current Line: South Florida (-3)
An incredibly underrated game, both teams come into this one at 5-1 with SMU having the best record in CUSA at 3-0. How about a little love for SMU RB Zach Line! The Mustang RB is on pace to finish the season with 1,330 yards & 26TD! Southern Miss’ rush defense isn’t fantastic so it’ll be interesting to see how SMU HC June Jones uses Line. SMU’s defense is also better than Southern Miss’s. This could be a breakout game for Jones & the Ponies. People in Dallas have been waiting a LONG TIME for SMU to get back up to the top of college football. A win here could give enough momentum for wins over Tulsa & Houston! That happens? SMU is looking at 11-1 heading into the CUSA Championship game! Despite not being a BCS team, SMU being good helps college football so I’m rooting for them! Current Line: S.Mississippi (-3)
Game makes the grade because Kansas St. is 6-0. The Wildcats will certainly get to 7-0, but despite all this recent love gravitating towards KSU HC Bill Snyder, don’t forget that in KSU’s glory days the Wildcats never played for a national championship. Here they are 6-0, but have yet to play Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma or Oklahoma St! I have no doubt that KSU is going to walk into Lawrence & drop the thunder on the Jayhawks, but questions about the validity of an undefeated record are going to see some results after this week’s tuneup. Current Line: Kansas St. (-10.5)
How bad does it suck to be Indiana right now? Not only did you lose your 5-star QB commit in Gunner Kiel this week, but you also have to prepare to go on the road to Iowa where you are almost 4TD dogs! The rumors about HC Kevin Wilson are almost out of control in the Hoosier state. Maybe he’ll work out, but it certainly seems like the odds are stacked against him. The problems at Indiana certainly seem systemic in nature. I think this football team can win games, but they have to start looking at advanced football metrics to identify candidates some of the bigger boys might have overlooked. Current Line: Iowa (-23.5)
I thought Air Force would be better than this, but it turns out I was a bit optimistic for the Falcons this season. Obviously Boise St. makes this list because they are undefeated, but in reality this is a game on the blue turf which means the Broncos should roll yet again. It’s a broken record at this point, but Boise’s schedule sucks. From a different perspective, remember that Boise St. is never going to play for a national championship because they might actually win. If that happens, how can you not let them defend it if they go undefeated the following year? That means all AQ-conference schools are playing for 1 spot for a championship. It’ll never happen. Current Line: Boise St. (-29.5)
Not exactly a move the meter game. The Beavers are 1-5 while the Cougars a surprising 3-3. This is a neat game only because it could represent two programs going in vastly different direction. Oregon St. has been awful this season while Wazzou might finally be rising out of the mire it’s been in for quite some time. A win here gives WSU a 4-3 record needing just 2 wins out of their last 5 games to get bowl eligible. They could conceivably get there. As for the Beavers, I love the program, but is Mike Riley’s time finally up? I certainly hope not. Current Line: Washington St. (-3.5)
Houston is here because they are a 6-0 team so their games automatically become interesting from that standpoint. But there is certainly more to it than that! Marshall is actually a bit underrated in my opinion. Remember that the Herd have wins over Southern Miss & beat Louisville in Kentucky. Their 3-4 record includes losses to Virginia Tech, West Virginia, UCF & Ohio. Houston should roll, and roll big, but nobody thought Marshall was going to beat Southern Miss either. Oddly enough, doesn’t it seem like Houston QB Case Keenum is having an awfully quiet year? The Cougars are 6-0, Keenum is going to break every college passing record known to man, he’s on pace for 34TD to 4INT and yet you almost don’t hear anything about him. Very odd. Current Line: Houston (-23)
I’ve said this before about the MAC, but one of the things that makes college football so exciting it that even conferences that aren’t a part of the BCS really do have some games that are exciting. Tulsa is 3-3 (2-0) but remember that those 3 losses came against Oklahoma, Oklahoma St. & Boise St. Those 3 are a combined 18-0! Tulsa could be the one team that upsets Houston’s applecart when it’s all said & done and I wouldn’t be surprised if Tulsa ran the table from this point heading into the bowl season at 10-3 with a legitimate claim to top-15 if not top-10 status! So why the interesting game against the Owls? Well, Rice isn’t as awful as you think and with this being a home game could put up a decent fight. Who knows what will happen if Lady Luck gets involved? Current Line: Tulsa (-10.5)

October 22, 2011 Posted by | Air Force, Alabama, Auburn, Boise St., Cincinnati, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Houston, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kansas St., LSU, Marshall, Miami-FL, Michigan St., Missouri, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Oregon St., Rice, SMU, South Florida, Southern Miss, Stanford, Syracuse, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Tulsa, USC, Washington, Washington St., West Virginia, Wisconsin | Leave a comment