It is safe to say that 2020 that been one of the more weirder years in modern time. Covid-19 came onto the scene in the early parts of this year and changed the course of all sports across the globe. Now, here we are, six months after the initial cancellation of sports. Will college football be different than what we are all used to? Of course. Conferences and teams who have decided to play have restrictions on how many fans can attend the games. Most schools have decided on a 20%-25% stadium capacity fan limit.
Now that the first weekend of P5 football is upon us, let’s look at how the Big 12 may potentially shape up this season. Will Oklahoma repeat for its 6th consecutive Big 12 title? Will Les Miles and Kansas continue to be more respectable in year two? Is Texas actually “back?” We’ll answer a lot of these questions and then some below in the 2020 Big 12 Football Preview.
2019 Record: 11-3 (8-1)
Returning Starters: 9 (7 offense, 2 defense)
Baylor had an impressive 2019 campaign going 11-3 (8-1). The Bears had continued to get better every year under Matt Rhule. But now, Rhule accepted the head coaching job of the Carolina Panthers. Baylor’s 2019 defense is what really shined and led to that impressive record. Baylor ranked 1st in the conference last year in team defense, only surrendering 19.8 points per game. But now with coaching changes, including new head coach Dave Aranda from LSU, will the Bears have the same success as last year? It will be hard to match the numbers from last year, especially when you mix in the coaching changes. With a senior-filled defense in 2019, Baylor will look to younger players to step in and fill the void. Expect Baylor to struggle on the defensive side of the ball this year.
Prediction: 4-6. Baylor’s first game against Louisiana Tech has been postponed, so they could potentially only play 9 games if it is never rescheduled. But there are too many question marks on the defense to expect another great season. Look for Baylor to take a step back under first year coach, Dave Aranda.
2019 Record: 7-6 (5-4)
Returning Starters: 13 (5 offense, 8 defense)
With another decent season under Matt Campbell, Iowa State has gotten a lot better since his arrival in Ames back in 2016. They finished in a four-way tie for 3rd last season with Oklahoma State, Texas, and Kansas State. Iowa State is losing some offensive experience, especially on the offensive line, but they do return their leader at QB, Brock Purdy. To help Purdy at QB, they also return one of their top running backs in Breece Hall and a favorite target in the passing game, Charlie Kolar (TE). The defense is looking solid, with production returning from a little bit of everywhere. A lot of people are high on Iowa State, but I am not necessarily one of them. This team will struggle to run the ball with the offensive line departures from last season; which will cause them to become dependent on the pass. And I do not trust that Iowa State has the guys to make that happen.
Prediction: 5-5. Look for Iowa State to be a middle of the pack team in 2020. For this team to be better than 5-5, they will need a consistent run game.
2019 Record: 3-9 (1-8)
Returning Starters: 12 (7 offense, 5 defense)
The Les Miles era officially began last season at Kansas. I saw everything from unrealistic year 1 expectations to him never being able to get the job done, even in the future. The top player returning for Kansas is Pooka Williams at running back. It seems like he’s been there for years, but that’s only because he has been their starter for a few years now. Kansas also gets back some top receiver targets in Stephone Robinson and Andrew Parchment. The defense on the other hand might be a little better as well because a few of the guys who started the last four games of the season were not included in the returning starters. So will Kansas be respectable this year? Maybe. Look, Kansas is still Kansas, but that doesn’t mean they can’t improve from year to year. However, they will still finish dead last in the conference in 2020 when it’s all said and done.
Prediction: 2-8. What hurts Kansas is the fact that non-conference games were taken away this year outside of one. The Jayhawks beat Coastal Carolina and then upsets one Big 12 school during the season.
2019 Record: 8-5 (5-4)
Returning Starters: 8 (2 offense, 6 defense)
The Wildcats pleasantly surprised a lot of people under first year head coach Chris Klieman from North Dakota State, going 8-5 (5-4). The infamous upset over Oklahoma initially comes to mind when thinking about last season for the Wildcats. Unfortunately, Kansas State returns the least experience for 2020. A lot of younger guys will be asked to step up in 2020. Will the Wildcats repeat and have another successful season? In short, no. But, I do believe the defense will be tough for Kansas State. Wyatt Hubert is returning on defense, and will be the leader on that side of the ball. If Kansas State wants to repeat last year’s success, they’ll need their defense to shine and their offense to put the pieces together to score some points. If neither of these things happen, it will be a long year for Kansas State. But if both of these things do happen, Kansas State could be a sleeper again. This year Kansas State will field a solid defense, but the offense will struggle to score consistently.
Prediction: 3-7. In a conference that demands a lot of scoring for success, the Wildcats just can’t keep up with a lot of the other teams. Look for Kansas State to struggle this season putting up points.
2019 Record: 12-2 (8-1)
Returning Starters: 16 (8 offense, 8 defense)
Another year, another Big 12 Title. Oklahoma has now won five consecutive Big 12 Titles. Some people said that when Bob Stoops left, the program might come down a little bit. But it might’ve just been the exact opposite. With a lot of production and experience returning on both sides of the ball, Oklahoma looks to repeat for a sixth consecutive conference title. QB Jalen Hurts is gone, but Spencer Rattler looks to keep that same offensive production going in 2020. And there is no sign that says he won’t. But will Oklahoma repeat for a sixth time? I say no. But who finally topples them?
Prediction: 9-1. But they will lose in the Big 12 Championship Game.
2019 Record: 8-5 (5-4)
Returning Starters: 18 (8 offense, 10 defense)
You didn’t have to read far to find out who will end the Sooners’ consecutive Big 12 Title run. That’s right, it’s Oklahoma State. The Cowboys return the most starters of any Big 12 team this year. With a bit of a disappointing season last year, the Cowboys will bounce back very nicely in 2020. The dynamic trio of Spencer Sanders (QB), Chuba Hubbard (RB), and Tylan Wallace (WR) all return for the Cowboys. That in itself should scream College Football Playoff contender. Expect the Cowboys to get over the hump and take down the Sooners this year, while also making the CFP. Could OU also sneak into the playoffs? It remains to be seen. Either way, expect Oklahoma State to end Oklahoma’s consecutive Big 12 Title streak at five.
Prediction: 9-1. They’ll lose somewhere, but it’ll still be good enough to get into the Big 12 Championship Game and win it. Which will then lead them into the CFP.
2019 Record: 5-7 (3-6)
Returning Starters: 12 (5 offense, 7 defense)
TCU had a down season in 2019, posting a bowl-less 5-7 record. The defense looks to be better in 2020, with 7 returning starters. Recently, it was announced that QB Max Duggan is out indefinitely. That means TCU will most likely be looking to former walk-on Mathew Downing to step in and lead the offense. The offensive around the quarterback isn’t as experienced as they’d hope, but there is some talent returning. If TCU looks to improve on their 2019 season, they will need the defense to lead the way, at least until/if Duggan returns to the lineup. If he doesn’t return, TCU’s offense might not be able to keep up with the other high-power Big 12 offenses.
Prediction: 3-7. I really am not buying the hype of this TCU team. With their first game against SMU being postponed, TCU could also only be playing 9 games this season if it is never rescheduled.
2019 Record: 8-5 (5-4)
Returning Starters: 16 (7 offense, 9 defense)
Is Texas back? That seems to be the question that everybody asks before every season. And in recent years, outside of one, the answer has been no for Texas’ standards. The Longhorns return almost the entire defense, that was riddled by injuries last season. First year defensive coordinator, Chris Ash, looks to have a season where injuries don’t plague that side of the ball. Offensively, quarterback Sam Ehlinger returns, along with a very good offensive line. Texas should be able to move the ball on anybody this year, but will they reach the Big 12 Title Game or College Football Playoff? I am going to say no. But it would not surprise me if they did break through and take down the two Oklahoma schools.
Prediction: 8-2. Texas loses to both the Oklahoma schools in shootouts. But they will win their bowl game in blowout fashion.
2019 Record: 4-8 (2-7)
Returning Starters: 14 (6 offense, 8 defense)
Under first year head coach, Matt Wells, Texas Tech was probably the most inconsistent team in the Big 12 in 2019. Texas Tech beat a ranked Oklahoma State team by 10, beat WVU by 21 in Morgantown, and arguably should have beaten Baylor and a few others. But there were also a few games it looked like they didn’t show up to which includes the Kansas and Iowa State games. If quarterback Alan Bowman can remain healthy this season, the Red Raiders can surprise some people. They have some talented receivers returning, along with SaRodorick Thompson at running back. The defense will be improved, but by how much is really the question. Texas Tech’s defense seems to be their achilles heel every single year. Expect Bowman to be healthy all year and for the defense to be better.
Prediction: 5-5. There is no reason why Texas Tech shouldn’t be improved this season. They won’t contend for the Big 12 Championship, but they’ll win some games and give some teams a scare.
2019 Record: 5-7 (3-6)
Returning Starters: 12 (7 offense, 5 defense)
Last but not least, we have West Virginia. In Neal Brown’s first season in Morgantown, things got off to a rocky start. But they finished the season looking better winning the last 2/3 games; both of the wins being on the road with one close loss to ranked Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers will continue where they left off last season and are the sleeper in the conference this year. The returning starters number for them is a bit flawed because it doesn’t include quarterback Jarret Doege and a few others who started a few games. With an improved offense looming for the Mountaineers, the defense should be really good with preseason All-American talent Darius Stills on the front line. Expect the Mountaineers to have the best defense in the conference with an improved offense.
Prediction: 7-3. The start of conference play against Oklahoma State could put WVU on the national radar. The Mountaineers will surprise people this year in Neal Brown’s second season.