TCU Horned Frogs 11-1 (8-1)
The 2014 college football season saw the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs rebound in a big way. TCU went 4-8 in 2013, but last year was a different story as they went 12-1 and they were within a eyelash of participating in the College Football Playoff. The expectations have risen immensely for the Horned Frogs and head football coach Gary Patterson in 2015 and if they want to get to be national champions, it begins with them being able to win the Big 12 Conference.
Led by senior quarterback Trevone Boykin, TCU returns 10 starters on offense as they were fifth in total offense in the nation last season. Boykin knows how to spread the football around to his wide receivers and he can also run as he was the Horned Frogs second leading rusher in 2014. The Horned Frogs primarily operate out of the spread offense and as a team they averaged 5.3 yards on the ground in 2014. As I previously stated, Boykin knows how to spread the football around and the combination of wide receivers Josh Doctson, Ty Slanina, Deante’ Gray, and Kolby Listenbee will be tough for opposing secondaries in the Big 12 to deal with. TCU also returns four starters on the offensive line with all five of the “big uglies” being seniors as they have a wealth of experience.
Patterson has built a reputation as one of the best defensive minds in college football. Last year TCU was 18th in total defense and they return six defensive starters and they’ll look to hold their own in the offensive happy Big 12.
TCU was able to sneak up on people in 2014, but that will not be the case this year. The Horned Frogs begin their regular season on the road as they’ll tango with the Minnesota Golden Gophers out of the Big Ten Conference. And TCU’s ability to get to the College Football Playoff will come down to the final two games of the season when they travel to take on the Oklahoma Sooners which will be followed against a home meeting with the Baylor Bears on November 27.
Baylor Bears 10-2 (7-2)
If the Baylor Bears are able to take care of their business, the 2015 college football season could be a special one for them. The Bears are coming off of consecutive 11-win seasons for the first time in school history and for Baylor head football coach Art Briles, he has his eyes set on bigger things this season. Like fellow Big 12 Conference member TCU, Baylor missed out on last season’s College Football Playoff and they are out to right that wrong this season.
Baylor possesses one of the most explosive offenses in college football which means that they are never out of a game. Last season saw quarterback Seth Russell get a few reps while backing up Bryce Petty. Petty has now moved on to the National Football League and as a junior, Russell is ready to sling the football around in Briles’ wide open system.
Luckily for Russell, he will be joining a very talented Baylor offensive team. The Bears return all five starters on the offensive line which is anchored by four seniors and they have immense speed at the wide receiver position in junior Corey Coleman and sophomore KD Cannon while junior tailback Shock Linwood has the potential to hover around the 1,500 yard mark in rushing.
The Bears do return nine starters defensively as they look to improve from being 51st in the nation last season in total defense.
Baylor’s season will be defined by what they can do in their final five games as they’ll meet the Kansas State Wildcats, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, TCU Horned Frogs, and the Texas Longhorns as the Big 12 Conference will once again be a gauntlet.
Oklahoma Sooners 10-2 (7-2)
Last year the expectations for the Oklahoma Sooners were really high and they were unable to live up to them. The Sooners were expected to contend for the national championship, but instead they had to settle for an 8-5 record as they were never able to take their game to another level. But for the Sooners and their fan base, they can take solace in the fact that the last two times in which they lost five games in a season under head football coach Bob Stoops, they were able to bounce back in the following year to win at least 12 games.
Just like the Sooners football team in 2014, quarterback Trevor Knight had a ton of expectations heaped onto him. Knight was unable to put up the season that Oklahoma needed from him, but he is expected to improve in 2015 under new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. The Sooners offense will lean heavily on the powerful legs of sophomore running back Samaje Perine. As a freshman in 2014, Perine rushed for 1,713 and 21 touchdowns as he added to Oklahoma’s legacy at running back. Perine will be a candidate to not only be the Big 12 Conference’s Player of the Year in 2015, but he’ll also be a candidate to win the Heisman Trophy.
The Sooners are set to return six starters on defense, but this unit must improve as they had seven games last season that saw them surrender at least 30 points. And the strength of Oklahoma’s defense will be in their linebacker corps where led by junior middle linebacker Dominique Alexander, they return all three starters from last year.
For Oklahoma’s non-conference portion of their schedule, they will have their hands full when they travel to face the Tennessee Volunteers from the Southeastern Conference on September 12. The early part of the Sooners conference schedule includes games with the Texas Longhorns and Kansas State Wildcats as they look to keep up with TCU and Baylor in the Big 12.
Texas Longhorns 8-4 (6-3)
For the Texas Longhorns and head football coach Charlie Strong, they are hopeful that the worst in behind them. Texas endured a 6-7 record in 2014, but in Strong’s first season year in Austin, he spent that time implementing his program, establishing his recruiting connections within the state, and getting rid of players that he felt were unworthy of wearing the burnt orange.
Texas’ potential improvement in 2015 begins with junior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. Swoopes displayed flashes last year, but Strong and the Longhorns need him to be more consistent this season; especially when it comes to taking over contests. With running back Malcolm Brown now in the National Football League, senior running back Johnathan Gray now has his opportunity to be featured running back in Austin as Texas will lean on him to carry the football at least 200 times this year. Led by senior offensive tackle Marcus Hutchins, Texas will have three seniors on their offensive line and all five lineman were starters last season.
Defensively Texas will return five starters and even though they’ll be a little green on that side of the football to begin the season, Strong will make up for it as he is one of the best defensive minds in college football and he knows how to motivate his guys.
In three consecutive weeks in October, the Longhorns will meet the TCU Horned Frogs, Oklahoma Sooners, and Kansas State Wildcats. And if Texas is able to survive that stretch, it will be strong sign that they are once again ready to be a player in the Big 12 Conference.
West Virginia Mountaineers 8-4 (5-4)
The brief time of the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Big 12 Conference has been a rocky one and they are hopeful to avoid taking another step backwards. The Mountaineers went 7-6 in 2012 only to go 4-8 in 2013. West Virginia finished last season with a record of 7-6 and they are hopeful to not alternate a winning season with another losing campaign.
For West Virginia head football coach Dana Holgorsen, he is pinning the hopes for his spread offense in 2015 on the arm of junior quarterback Skyler Howard. Howard played briefly in 2014, but with the departure of Clint Trickett who was forced to give up football due to head injuries, it is now Howard’s job to lose in Morgantown.
Defense has never been a hallmark for Holgorsen’s teams at West Virginia. But the Mountaineers do return nine starters on a defense that must improve as they were ranked 68th in the nation last season in total defense.
Three of West Virginia’s first four conference games are on the road this season as they’ll face Oklahoma, Baylor, and TCU which could put them in a bind in the Big 12 Conference.
Oklahoma State Cowboys 8-4 (5-4)
With the exception of his first year at the helm of the Oklahoma State Cowboys football program, Mike Gundy has never led his alma mater to a losing season. The Cowboys started 2014 with a record of 5-1 before they lost their next five only to bounce back and win their last two contests. And for Gundy and Oklahoma State, they are hopeful to avoid that same scenario this season.
Senior quarterback Daxx Garman is looking to improve off of a see-saw season in 2014 that saw him throw 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions which cannot happen again this year if Oklahoma State is going to hang with the big boys in the Big 12 Conference. Led by senior wide receiver Brandon Shepard, the Cowboys have a ton of experience returning at the skill positions as Gundy is hopeful that familiarity will lead to success on the football field.
But as good as Oklahoma State’s offense can be, they will need more from a defense that surrendered 30 points or more in a game seven times last season.
Oklahoma State’s first two road games of their conference schedule find them clashing with the Texas Longhorns and West Virginia Mountaineers as they look to make a statement in the Big 12.
Texas Tech Red Raiders 6-6 (4-5)
If ever there is a football program in the Big 12 Conference that is looking to get on track in 2015, it is the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Former Texas Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury took over as the Red Raiders head football coach in 2013 and he got off to a roaring start as he won his first seven contests. But since then Texas Tech is just 5-13. The offense hasn’t been the problem for Texas Tech as they can score with the best of them, but defensively they were ranked 125th in the nation last year in total defense as they had 10 games in which they gave up at least 30 points which is a challenge for defensive coordinator David Gibbs as he’s set to embark on his first campaign in Lubbock, Texas.
The arm of junior quarterback Davis Webb, the legs of senior running back DeAndre Washington, and the speed of senior wide receiver Jakeem Grant will keep Texas Tech in ballgames, but their hopes this season will hinge on the defense’s ability to stop opponents.
In three straight weeks, Texas Tech will meet the Arkansas Razorbacks from the Southeastern Conference followed by Big 12 foes in the TCU Horned Frogs and Baylor Bears as this could be a tough season for the Red Raiders to navigate through.
Kansas State Wildcats 7-5 (4-5)
In 23 seasons as the head football coach of the Kansas State Wildcats, head football coach Bill Snyder might not be able to convince the top-tier high school recruits to come to the Little Apple in Manhattan, Kansas, and he may not have a pipeline that consistently sends players to the National Football League, but you cannot underestimate the fact that all he does is win.
When the 2015 college football season begins, not that many people will know the name of Kansas State junior quarterback Joe Hubener, but he’ll make a name for himself as he will be another blue-collar signal caller for Snyder. The Wildcats will be replacing a ton of talent offensively at the skill positions. But aside from Snyder, Kansas State can rely on the fact that four starters who are all seniors will be returning to the offensive line. And the Wildcats also return six starters on defense which includes three senior starters in their secondary.
The Wildcats might not have that much eye appeal when the season begins, but they will a very tough foe for each opponent that they come across in the Big 12 Conference this fall.
Iowa State Cyclones 3-9 (1-8)
As the Iowa State Cyclones are prepping to go on their voyage that is the 2015 college football season, they are simply hoping to not get swallowed up by the competition in the Big 12 Conference. The Cyclones have not had a winning season since 2009 and they have failed to play in a bowl game since 2012. For Iowa State head football coach Paul Rhoads, he has a play maker at quarterback in senior Sam B. Richardson, but one guy cannot do it by himself on the field in college football. The best thing that the Cyclones can hope for in 2015 is to get busy in the non-conference portion of their schedule as the riggers of the Big 12 will more than likely prove to be too much for them.
Kansas Jayhawks 2-10 (0-9)
After a brief glimpse of success in the mid-2000’s, the Kansas Jayhawks have reverted to being a bottom feeder in the Big 12 Conference. Kansas has not had a winning season since 2008 and for the folks in Lawrence, they are already looking to Midnight Madness which symbolizes the start of the college football season. For first year Kansas head football coach David Beaty, he is hopeful that he can establish himself as he looks to turn the Jayhawks around which is very from being an easy task.