Feldman’s Big 12 picks: Baylor’s time for undefeated title run is now

Shawn Oakman and Baylor's D-line will be nasty this season.

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The Bears vs. the Horned Frogs, last season’s biggest subplot to the playoff debate, will get new life this fall.

TCU returns more speed than anyone in the country. Just look at the Horned Frogs track team and you’ll see some really good football players. Quarterback Trevone Boykin is a whiz at extending plays and showed great decision-making savvy in 2014. However, TCU also has to replace a big chunk of its D — and as terrific a defensive coach as Gary Patterson is, I think the Frogs will take a little step back.

Art Briles’ team, on the other hand, is loaded. Andrew Billings and Shawn Oakman anchor a nasty D-line. Just like TCU, Baylor has speed everywhere. Expect Seth Russell, a 225-pound QB who runs a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash, to emerge as a Heisman candidate behind a good line and surrounded by game-breakers led by WR KD Cannon. The Bears do have to go to TCU this November, less than a week after traveling to Oklahoma State. Then again, TCU will be coming off a road game against the Oklahoma Sooners. My hunch is the Bears run the table in the regular season.

I was tempted to pick Oklahoma to crack the new big two in this division, but couldn’t pull the trigger because I’m not convinced the Sooners have enough answers to these explosive offenses, especially since OU doesn’t have guys like Baylor does on the D-line. Still, I see OU with a revamped and very potent attack, being the third-best team in the Big 12.

Also, don’t be surprised to see a bounce-back year in Lubbock. Texas Tech has two talented QBs, good speed and defensive coordinator David Gibbs was an excellent addition to remedy what should be a very improved defense.

ALSO: Mandel’s Big 12 picks: TCU has one key advantage Baylor can’t overcome

A few other thoughts:

OSU sophomore Mason Rudolph may be as talented a quarterback as Mike Gundy’s had and should be one of the better young QBs in the country. Gundy raved about his tools in May when I saw him at the Big 12 meetings.

• Charlie Strong is in the midst of a serious rebuilding effort at Texas. The ‘Horns fizzled at the end of last season and simply don’t have enough horses to contend right now. UT brass needs to show him patience, but if the ‘Horns don’t at least keep games competitive this year, that won’t bode well for Strong’s future in Austin. His teams always battled at Louisville. That wasn’t the case at times last year with UT.

• Iowa State doesn’t have as many athletes as most teams in the Big 12 do, but the Cyclones do have one of the more talented receiving corps in the league. Quenton Bundrage, coming off a knee injury in 2014, is a proven weapon after catching nine TDs in 2013. Towering former blue-chip recruit Allen Lazard, with 4.54 speed, is one of the top young wideouts in the country. “He really runs good routes, knows how to use his body and is long as heck,” said ISU OC Mark Mangino. D’Vario Montgomery at 6-foot-6 is another big target and a problem for opposing defenses. Don’t be surprised if ISU puts up a lot of points this fall and keeps things interesting.

Bruce Feldman is a senior college football reporter and columnist for FOXSports.com and FOX Sports 1. He is also a New York Times Bestselling author. His new book, "The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks," came out in October 2014. Follow him on Twitter @BruceFeldmanCFB and Facebook.

PREDICTED STANDINGS

TEAM RECORD (LEAGUE)
Baylor 12-0 (9-0)
TCU 11-1 (8-1)
Oklahoma 9-3 (7-2)
Texas Tech 7-5 (5-4)
West Virginia 7-5 (4-5)
Oklahoma State 7-5 (4-5)
Texas 6-6 (4-5)
Kansas State 6-6 (3-6)
Iowa State 4-8 (2-7)
Kansas 1-11 (0-9)

POWER 5 CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS