The Oklahoma Sooners enter 2016 as heavy favorites to win the Big 12, but the conference as a whole is wide open. Here are Bruce Feldman's projections for every Big 12 team this season.
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY SportsMark D. Smith
Kansas (2-10, 0-9 Big 12)
David Beaty took over a bleak situation, but it’s getting a little better. They open with a cupcake in URI, and some positive things are starting to happen for a program that will get at least competitive with some Big 12 opponents. Last year: 0-12, 0-9, no bowl game.
Getty ImagesJamie Squire
Iowa State (4-8, 2-7 Big 12)
The Cyclones have an underrated QB in Joel Lanning and some good skill talent in RB Mike Warren and WR Allen Lazard, but they don’t have enough on defense to push up for a run at a bowl game. They also have to be much better at finding ways to win the turnover battle, especially at making some big plays on defense. Last year: 3-9, 2-7, no bowl game.
Getty ImagesMatthew Holst
Kansas State (6-6, 4-5 Big 12)
Having QB Jesse Ertz back to run the offense after missing last year is a big plus. His accuracy and speed will spark things, as will the arrival of JC transfer WR Byron Pringle. The defense has some nice talent, but I don’t think they have quite enough team speed to move up in the division. Last year: 6-7, 3-6, lost to Arkansas in Liberty Bowl.
Getty ImagesPeter G. Aiken
West Virginia (7-5, 4-5 Big 12)
Dana Holgorsen’s dangerous when he has a lot of firepower, and he does this year to go with a very good O-line. Problem is, they’re replacing a lot of good, experienced players at linebacker and DB, and only Youngstown State is a sure victory in the non-conference. Last year: 8-5, 4-5, beat Arizona State in Cactus Bowl.
Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY SportsBrendan Maloney
Baylor (8-4, 5-4 Big 12)
This program was already pressed to replace a lot of good linemen on both sides of the ball before Art Briles was ousted. Depth is a concern now, too. I still think there’s enough speed for a talented QB like Seth Russell to give plenty of defenses fits, though. Last year: 10-3, 6-3, beat North Carolina in Russell Athletic Bowl.
Ray Carlin-USA TODAY SportsRaymond Carlin III
Oklahoma State (8-4, 5-4 Big 12)
The OSU passing game should be explosive again with Mason Rudolph connecting with a terrific group of receivers. I’m not sure though that they’ll run it well enough again to be a legit Top 15 caliber team. Last year: 10-3, 7-2, lost to Ole Miss in Sugar Bowl.
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Texas (7-5, 5-4 Big 12)
The Horns are improving. The best players in this program though are almost all young. Consistency will still be a big concern. Nothing is going to be very easy. I expect a lot of two steps forward, two steps back this fall. And they’re probably a year away from being a Big 12 title contender. Last year: 5-7, 4-5, no bowl game.
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TCU (8-4, 5-4 Big 12)
Whoever wins the QB job will have plenty of speed to utilize, and Kevontae Turpin looks like a budding star. Still, I think they’re really going to miss Trevone Boykin’s play-making skills. Gary Patterson has outstanding edge-rushers to give opponents problems and he has much more experience than he had last year when he seemed to be doing it with mirrors. Last year: 11-2, 7-2, beat Oregon in Alamo Bowl.
Getty ImagesTom Pennington
Texas Tech (8-4, 6-3 Big 12)
I’m expecting a big year from QB Patrick Mahomes, who has a ton of ability and will continue to blossom in Kliff Kingsbury’s system. The defense, which has been atrocious, will be a little better, although that may not be saying too much. David Gibbs worked some wonders in Houston and I expect him to get things going some here. Last year: 7-6, 4-5, lost to LSU in Texas Bowl.
Getty ImagesJohn Weast
Oklahoma (11-1, 8-1 Big 12)
Baker Mayfield is back and capable of making a run at the Heisman. He has a lot of firepower at his disposal. The O-line is young but has promise. Defensively, there are some legit questions, especially in the front seven when you have some really good QBs on your schedule including Houston’s Greg Ward and OSU’s J.T. Barrett in the first couple of weeks. Last year: 11-2, 8-1, lost to Clemson in national semifinal.