So the most recent round of expansion might not have made much sense. The Big East added San Diego State and Boise State, and those schools are east of… Japan? The Pac-12 added Utah and Colorado, which is like being the sole proprietor of the Taj Mahal then allowing a couple of hobos to live there. Missouri and Texas A&M? Those make more sense regionally, but they made more sense regionally where they were. We haven’t gotten to the B1G yet, but Nebraska is a perfect fit there. The best move in realignment so far, however, has to be the Big 12-2 adding West Virginia and TCU.
TCU not only fits regionally with its old Southwestern Conference brethren, they also run a very Big 12-esque system. As for WVU, the Big 12 lost Mike Leach, so what did they do? Added a Leach disciple. West Virginia, as a school and state, may have lost a few rivalries by leaving the Big East, but they gained a group of states and schools that mesh much better with that state. Seriously, do you think West Virginia has more in common with New York and Pennsylvania or Texas and Oklahoma? I rest my case.
Speaking of the hill people, WVU is poised to contend in this conference in their first year as a member. They run an offense (AIR GENO) that fits so snuggly into this conference it will seem like they were always there. Their defense, however, could leave the door open to other contenders. Oklahoma has a Heisman hopeful at quarterback (who I believe has played QB for them for at least 12 years now) and National Title aspirations. Texas is out to prove their lull is over. Baylor and Oklahoma State need to prove they can win without last year’s stars. Iowa State and Kansas State need to prove they can maintain their levels of success and build on them. SO MANY STORYLINES. It’s like a goddamned Gore Verbinski movie up in this conference.
So get ready for the longest preview: TEN TEAMS, one conference, MASS HYSTERIA. Here are your 100% true predictions for the Big 12 in 2012:
Team Overall W-L Conference W-L
West Virginia 11-1 8-1
Oklahoma 11-1 8-1
Texas 8-4 5-4
TCU 8-4 5-4
Baylor 8-4 5-4
Iowa State 7-5 5-4
Oklahoma State 7-5 4-5
Kansas State 7-5 4-5
Texas Tech 4-8 1-8
Kansas 3-9 0-9
West Virginia: Well, I’ve already spent some time talking about WVU. This is year two of the AIR COAL attack in West Virginia, and they have plenty of pieces on offense to tear opposing defenses a new one. Geno Smith will have valid Heisman possibilities along with Barkley and Jones. I also expect him to see a (perhaps a bit unwarranted) rise up 2013 NFL Draft boards following the success of Cam and RG3 (hey, that’s a free prediction there!). He has two great receivers to help him, too. The questions do linger at other positions, though. The defense is rebuilding everywhere with only 6 starters returning. The offensive line was a question last year and will be again this season. And the running game is non-existent. Even with those weaknesses, I see a huge year for WVU. They only have four road games this year (Texas, Texas Tech, OK State, and Iowa State). They have an amazing offense. And Oklahoma has its own weaknesses to worry about. I’ll take WVU over Oklahoma at home to win the tie-breaker for the title. Best Possible Inaccuracy: But if that loss isn’t to Oklahoma, who is it?! Well, I have it to Iowa State. Two years ago the ‘clones took out Nebraska in Lincoln. Last year it was #2 Oklahoma State. This year they get WVU, potentially unbeaten, coming to Ames for WVU’s next to last game of the year (it’s ISU’s last). IT’S A TRAAAAAAAAAP.
Oklahoma: The media consensus seems to be pro-Sooners to win the title this year, but for every weakness the ‘neers have, the Sooners can match them. Landry Jones is a great quarterback… we think. There is solid evidence that without Broyles at WR he falls into mediocrity. The offensive line is as solid a unit you’ll find this season, but the defensive line is rebuilding. The Oklahoma secondary should be feared, which is a great thing in the spread-happy Big 12, but the run game leaves as much to be desired as West Virginia’s. These two teams are on the same level, and I would rather put my eggs in Geno and Holgo’s basket. Plus, the WVU-Oklahoma game is in Morgantown. Best Possible Inaccuracy: I focused on the WVU game for a reason. After that, Oklahoma’s biggest game will be on a neutral field vs. Texas. They get Notre Dame at home, and their only difficult road game after that is the last one of the year at TCU.
Texas: I don’t think Texas will be as good as 8-4 makes them look this season, but their schedule sets up nicely for them. They get the two Big 12 doormats (Kansas and Texas Tech) on the road, and thus are given the teams with whom they will face competitive games (Baylor, Iowa State, TCU) at home. If they can pull off a win at Kansas State or at Oklahoma State they could even reach 9 wins. Honestly, I would be much more comfortable predicting a team with no starting QB, only 6 returning starters on defense, and a ranking bestowed upon them solely because of their history, at 6 or 7 wins. The schedule just helps them get to 8. Best Possible Inaccuracy: I have them losing at OK State, at K State, and at home vs. WVU and Oklahoma for sure. TCU could beat them at home… hell, so could Baylor and ISU. This is a toss-up year for the Longhorns.
TCU: The second new recruit into the Big 12, the Horned Frogs are in for a decent year. They return a very good core of skill position players. QB Casey Pachall is a great, young QB. They have three great RBs and two excellent receivers as well. On the other side of things, they lose most of their offensive line, and almost all of their linebackers and secondary. Of all the things you can stand to lose in the Big 12, your secondary is probably the very worst one. Despite that, they should be able to outscore most of the teams in this league. The real turning points of the season will come at Baylor and at Oklahoma State. If they can pull those games off, they’ll be able to have a successful season 1 in the Big 12. Best Possible Inaccuracy: Well, they could fail to outscore the two teams I just mentioned (I have them beating one) and sit at 7-5. They could also get upset at SMU, at home vs. Virginia, or at home vs. Kansas State.
Baylor: Perhaps no team in the NCAA has as many questions hanging over it. Baylor has to prove that they can survive without RG3. They return most of their defense and draw a favorable home schedule (playing at WVU and at Oklahoma isn’t so bad; they were going to lose those games anyway). The quarterback position will be heavily scrutinized, but the word is Nick Florence is a capable QB. I expect Baylor to do acceptable things. Best Possible Inaccuracy: The Bears could fall straight back to the cellar where they were before RG3. This team could go 9-3 or, very easily, 3-9.
Iowa State: Paul Rhoads is the best possible fit for ISU. Annually ranking at the very bottom of the recruiting rankings is just about unavoidable in Ames (thanks in large part to it being a wide-open, boring, back-woods town)……..(okay, so I’m a Hawkeye fan, but I also live in Des Moines which is 30 minutes away from Ames, and my sister (regrettably) is attending ISU starting in the Fall, SO I KNOW, and Red can corroborate this). Anyway, back to the recruiting thing, ISU needs a coach who can maximize that talent they get; mainly guys who have energy more than talent, and Rhoads does an incredible job of that. The Cyclones have a great linebacker duo returning and good talent at the skill positions. They need to sort out their QB situation, and their defensive line is spectacularly ineffective, but this team manages to accomplish mediocrity with a roster filled with garbage, elbow grease, and energy. Why should this season be different? Best Possible Inaccuracy: Well, I did pick them to upset WVU. Far more likely that they end up 6-6 with that loss or 5-7 by losing either vs. Kansas State or vs. Baylor.
Oklahoma State: Mike Gundy has done a great job here building a team that can consistently compete. This season, however, will be for rebuilding. The defense returns mostly intact, but the offense is going to be almost entirely new. The D should be able to keep OK State from bottoming out, but don’t expect OK State to repeat what they did last year until some of the new guys get some experience. Best Possible Inaccuracy: I think 7 wins, one way or the other, is exactly where the Cowboys end up this year.
Kansas State: All the compliments I heaped on Paul Rhoads are really just a good way to set up how incredible Bill Snyder is. He wins in Manhattan, Kansas (And I mean really WINS), owns every junior college on the planet, and he even unretired after he retired because of this.That’s love for a university. I have K-State at 7-5, but lord knows they could go 10-3 again or just as easily go 4-8. They’re going to run. A lot. And they’ll depend just as heavily on Collin Klein as they did last season. Only time can tell what Kansas State will do. Best Possible Inaccuracy: Like I said, this could go both ways. Betting on Kansas State is like playing the slots.
Texas Tech and Kansas: This thing is already way too long, so I’ll make this short: Texas Tech is in a downward spiral brought on by the firing of Mike Leach, and Kansas just plain sucks, and it’ll take more than one or two years for Weis to fix it.
CODE RED RESPONDS:
The exact standings will be as follows:
West Virginia 11-1, 8-1 Conference
Everyone knows how much I love Mike Leach, but Holgo is the new kind of sexy. You're talking about a man who chugs Red Bull on the sideline, gets thrown out of casinos (in West fucking Virginia), racks up 40 ppg wherever he goes, and still rocks a mullet. This man is my coach. He's also fucking brilliant, since he came up with the next great innovation in football playcalling: packaged plays, where on any given play his quarterback can decide whether to dropback, hand off on a draw, or throw a screen AFTER the snap. Amazing. He's got a quarterback in Geno Smith who is very good and a relatively soft schedule. Holgo's back in the Big 12, baby, and things are gonna get wild.
Oklahoma 10-2, 7-2 Conference
Bob Stoops, in many ways, is the most successful coach of the last decade. His success, however, is often irrelevant. Oklahoma either runs the table to end up as title game fodder, or they lose a Big 12 game no one thinks they should lose and they end up in the Orange Bowl. This year I've got them losing to Holgo and one upset. I'm not even sure who it'll be. It'll just happen. Since I have to pick, I guess it's Texas?
Texas 9-3, 6-3 Conference
Texas is kind of like 2003 Nebraska right now. So many people seem to assume they're just a recruiting class or so away from being what they were up until Colt McCoy graduated, but what if they're not? What if the malaise has set in? They'll bumble their way to 9 wins thanks to their defense and a relatively soft schedule, but they're still not TEXAS.
TCU 9-3, 6-3 Conference
TCU takes a step up in competition, but they've got more pieces in place than most teams in this conference. A very successful 9 win season here.
Oklahoma State 8-4, 5-4 Conference
This is just a hunch that OK State will reload faster than Baylor.
Baylor: 7-5, 4-5 Conference
Kansas State: 6-6, 3-6 Conference
They overachieved big time last year. This year shall be the reckoning.
Iowa State: 4-8, 2-7 Conference
They'll do better than this. They always do. But logic says this is where they should be.
Texas Tech: 4-8, 1-8 Conference
Kansas: 3-9, 0-9 Conference.
Life's rough sometimes.
TO SUMMARIZE: Holy shit we are in almost-total agreement with the one exception being Iowa State (who defies logic every year so assuredly they will run the table and win the national title). The only conference remaining is the B1G. How badly did I overrate the Hawkeyes? Does Red even give a shit about Illini football? And if he doesn't, doesn't that make him MORE of an Illini football fan?!