Friday, August 5, 2016

College Football Preview: The Big XII (X for now)

Will they, or won't they?

Expand that is (not kick out Baylor, which I think is currently off the table but shouldn't be).

Whether they do or not, 2016 is the final year of the Big XII(X) in it's current iteration. Starting in 2017 they will return to playing a conference championship game regardless of whether they have 10-12 or 14 teams, the latter two options providing two divisions, the former being...well..odd, contesting for it.

There is one big dog right now in this conference and that is OU. TCU is a solid program, but not spectacular. I also think that their shot at the CFP will come down to when the two play, with OU breaking the conference' heart by winning over the Frogs in Fort Worth.

This will make 2 out of 4 years that the Big XII gets locked out of the CFP in my opinion, which could make for some interesting off-season talk. What I think will be even more interesting is when OU gets snubbed from a Big 6 bowl in favor of Notre Dame.

The details:
Conference Standings:
Overall Conference
Teams (No divisions) W L W L
Oklahoma 10 2   9 0
TCU 11 1 8 1
Oklahoma State 10 2 7 2
Texas 8 4 6 3
West Virginia 7 5 5 4
Kansas State 6 6 4 5
Texas Tech 5 7 3 6
Iowa State 3 9 2 7
Baylor 3 9 1 8
Kansas 2 10 0 9

Bowl Teams: 6
CFP: None
Big Six OU
CFP 2: None
Big Six 2: TCU
Oklahoma State
West Virginia
Kansas State
Most Underrated: Texas 
Most Overrated: Baylor
Coaches on Hot Seat: Texas Tech
West Virginia

Now, the teams:

1. Oklahoma - Until someone on the top proves they can consistently knock them off, I don't see how you can exclude the Sooner's from your number one slot. They are the most talented team with (still) the best coaching in the league. Yes, Bob Stoops has lost a little off of us fastball of late, but he's still better than 95% of coaches in the Country. Tough non-conference games against Houston and Ohio State keep them out of the playoff IMO.

2. TCU - I like head coach Gary Patterson and you have to admire what TCU has done since their initial snub from the Big XII back in the dark ages.  The University had a plan and they executed.  Defensively I think they are the best in the Big XII and, while they do have some talent on offense, I question their level of coaching. They have a much easier non-conference schedule than do the Sooners and I think their final record will indicate that. Unfortunately for them, the best I think they can hope for is a Big Six bowl game.

3. Oklahoma State - The Cowboys are a sexy dark-horse pick for the conference crown and, offensively anyway, I think they will be competitive. They have a very solid offensive line, the best WR's in the conference and an offensive backfield that should be excellent. Outside of Tre Flowers however I'm not entirely sold on a defense that has a ton returning, but from a unit that wasn't very good in 2015. Plus, I'm not sold that Gundy is the head coach who is gong to allow the Cowboys to round the corner into national contention. A good season, but losses to TCU and OU (again) will hurt.

4. Texas - I think the Longhorns are an underrated group this year, IF their offense can make some improvement. Highly touted recruit Shane Buechele is the starting QB, and he's surrounded with talent. The defense is young, and very talented. I think this is the beginning of Texas' return to prominence on the National Stage. If it's not, then you can add his name to the top of my "coaches on the hot seat" list.

5. West Virginia - For all of the talk of Head Coach Dana Holgorsen being "cool" and "hip" the question of whether or not the guy can coach is frequently not asked. I'm not sold. He does trot out an experienced, Senior-laden, starting group this year who should be similar to a poor-man's Oklahoma State. They're going to score (a lot) and give up (a lot of) points. I feel that we'll be hearing more about whether or not Holgorsen is going to keep his job near the end of the year than about which bowl they're going to.

6. Kansas State - This is it (again I guess) for long-time head coach Bill Snyder. And in true Snyder fashion, I think he gets an upset or three in his last year.  On paper this team doesn't appear to have much talent, much like almost every other team Snyder has coached over the years. But with a Bill Snyder coached team the sum is always greater than the parts. Last year we saw some very un-Snyder like mistakes from the Wildcats. I've a feeling they clean those up this year and get Snyder one last bowl game before he rides off, and K-State rides back to the bottom.

7. Texas Tech - The publications are wild about him, the media outlets love him, his bae is Beyonce and he looks a little bit Hollywood.  All Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury hasn't done is win games. He's probably got the best QB in the conference in Patrick Mahomes. And Tech will put some pretty talented pieces around him on offense. What they don't have, and have not had in a while, is a workable defense. Of all the coaching hot-seats out there I think Kinsbury's is the hottest. I don't think he'll be coaching this team next year.

8. Iowa State - The bottom of the Big XII(X) is pretty bad. And with Iowa State the news is going to be 'New uniforms, same bad result'. Talent-wise they lack the size and speed to compete with the bigger schools, and I'm not sure new HC Matt Campbell can rebuild to credibility in year one considering the hole they are in.  The Cyclones haven't had a head coach with an overall winning record since Earle Bruce in the 70's. New coach, same old long year. Future could get better though.

9. Baylor - A lot of people are saying that Baylor is still going to be pretty good this year. I don't see it. Most of their good players are gone, either due to graduation or transferring out, and what's left is just OK with the possible exception of RB Shock Linwood. Interim HC Jim Grobe is a nice man, but he doesn't have the personality to run anything resembling Art Brile's run-n-gun, run-up-the-score (and let the other team score) offense. On defense I think the Bears are going to be one step south of pathetic. If QB Seth Russell gets injured early it could be a very long year.

10. Kansas - Is it basketball season yet? Head coach Dave Beatty is trying to rebuild from ground zero. Kansas as a football program has no talent, bad facilities and no prospects. They have a pillow-soft non-conference schedule but, even then, I pick their two wins with trepidation. This is, quite probably, the worst Power conference school in the country.

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