Tag Archives: Baylor Bears

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There’s no doubt that Art Briles can coach as he turned around the fortunes of both the Houston Cougars and Baylor Bears during his respective tenures as the head football coach of both schools, but at what cost? In eight years at Baylor, Briles was 65-37 which included leading the Bears to their first Big 12 Conference Title in 2013. Briles also sent players such as quarterback Robert Griffin and wide receiver Corey Coleman to the National Football League. And when Griffin won the Heisman Trophy as college football’s top player in 2011, it helped Briles to get a foot hold on recruiting the top high school football players in the talent rich state of Texas. But in the race to win games, Briles took chances on players with character issues which would ultimately be his undoing at Baylor.

Art Briles

Last spring Baylor decided to fire Briles amid the sexual assault scandal that had engulfed their football team. Several reports of Baylor players being involved in rape and other acts of sexual misconduct came to light. And in the reports it was noted that school officials knew of the issues and attempted to cover it up.

Since Baylor fired Briles, he has maintained his innocence. Briles went on to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against Baylor which led to a settlement between both parties. Briles is looking to get back into coaching as some boosters at Baylor wanted him back. Baylor would ultimately settle on hiring former Temple Owls head football coach matt Rhule to lead their program. But for the 61-year old Briles, it will be very difficult for an athletic director at another school to open the doors at his/her campus for him.

Sexual assault and domestic violence are two crimes that have been put on the back burner in our society for too long. In many instances the victims of these crimes have been made to feel as if they were wrong for reporting it when they are simply seeking help. And after Briles failed to create an environment where this behavior would not be tolerated, it’s tough to get him another chance.

On April 30, 2012, Baylor defensive end Tevin Elliot was arrested on multiple chargers of illegal sexual conduct with a female on the campus. And in January 2014, Elliot was sentenced to 20 years in prison after he was convicted on two counts of sexual assault. In 2014, Briles opened the doors at Baylor for former Boise State Broncos defensive end Sam Ukwuachu. Ukwuachu would player one season for Baylor before he was indicted for sexually assaulting a female soccer player at the school. Ukwuachu was found guilty of sexual assault in August 2015 and would serve six months in a non-prison detention facility while also receiving 10 years probation.

After Ukwuachu’s conviction, it became public knowledge that he had a history of violence towards women during his time at Boise State. After this there would be a back and forth between Briles and former Boise State head football coach Chris Petersen. Petersen initially claimed to not know of any issues with Ukwuachu during his time at Boise State, but he would later change his story, while also claiming to have informed Briles. But either way Baylor ended up with a player in Ukwuachu that brought baggage with him to Waco, and left a huge stain on the football program’s reputation upon leaving.

After defensive end Shawn Oakman was dismissed from the Penn State Nittany Lions football program in 2011, he would find refuge at Baylor. Former Penn State head football coach Bill O’Brien would dismiss Oakman after an incident at a campus store with a female employee who was attempting to prevent him from stealing a sandwich. The female employee would attempt to confiscate Oakman’s student card, but she was grabbed by the wrist by Oakman. Oakman would then leave the store without taking anything, but the incident was enough for O’Brien to show him the door.

In 2013 while at Baylor, Oakman was arrested for allegedly physically assaulting a woman. But this incident would fly under Briles’ radar and in 2014, Oakman would have 11 sacks as he was named a Third-team All-American. Some scouts projected Oakman as a first-round pick heading into the 2016 National Football League Draft. But things changed drastically for Oakman on April 13, 2016 when he was arrested for sexually assaulting a woman at his off-campus apartment. Oakman would later be indicted for the most recent incident and in the process, the NFL bypassed him with the quickness.

Prior the Oakman indictment, Baylor would hire the law firm Pepper Hamilton to investigate sexual improprieties within their football program. And as the law firm went to work, it became public that some of the top administrators within Baylor such as school president Ken Starr and Briles knew of the issues, but they failed to act properly on it. And as Briles was let go by the school, Starr and athletic director Ian McCaw were among several administrators, or coaches who would either resign or get fired.

The fallout has continued with reports of gang rapes along with numerous other incidents of sexual incidents. The NCAA has yet to drop the hammer on Baylor for this lack of institutional control, but at some point they must levy sanctions towards the Texas school in the mode that they did against Penn State in 2012 in response to the scandal that involved their former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

And with that schools also need to stay away from Briles as hiring him even as an assistant coach would be a public relations nightmare. As a head coach of a college football team, you cannot be around your players for every moment of the day. But you do have the opportunity to govern accordingly when your players get out of line. Briles and Baylor chose to take the road where they swept things under the rug as long as they were winning games on Saturdays, while also filling up the seats at McLane Stadium. The NCAA has dropped the hammer on people and institutions for much less than what Briles and Baylor have done, and he should not be allowed to put on a headset on a college sideline anytime soon.

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To Play, Or Not To Play

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Like it or not, you are going to see more college football players skip their bowl games in favor of the National Football League Draft. And you cannot blame them.

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2016 Key Games For Week 10 In College Football

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An upset win over the Alabama Crimson Tide will go a long way for Ed Orgeron who is looking to become the full-time head football coach of the LSU Tigers.

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2016 Key Games For Week 4 In College Football

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If ever there was a time for the Tennessee Volunteers to end their long losing streak against the Florida Gators, this is the year.

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2016 Big 12 Conference Football Projections

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Oklahoma Sooners 12-0 (9-0)

I expected a bounce back year for the Oklahoma Sooners in 2015, and they did not disappoint. The Sooners went 11-2 en route to winning the Big 12 Conference and making the College Football Playoff. But in the same fashion that the 2014 college football season ended for the Sooners, 2015 finished for them with a loss in the State of Florida to the Clemson Tigers. However, this is an Oklahoma team that won’t be shying away from the national spotlight in 2016.

Baker Mayfield

It didn’t take quarterback Baker Mayfield that long to become a household name within the State of Oklahoma. After transferring from the Texas Tech Red Raiders, Mayfield became the spark plug of Oklahoma’s offense as he accounted for more than 4,000 yards of offense to go along with 36 passing touchdowns. And now as a senior, Mayfield’s name will be mentioned in the Heisman Trophy race.

But Mayfield isn’t the only Sooners player that will get some Heisman attention as junior running back Semaje Perine is a work horse. Last year Perine rushed for 1,349 yards and 16 touchdowns. At 5’11”, 237 lbs., Perine has a very thick lower body which makes it difficult for defenders to hit him low, and as the game goes along, he gets stronger while the opposition gets weaker.

Bob Stoops

Since Bob Stoops has been the head football coach at Oklahoma, he has always done a tremendous job of bringing in solid offensive linemen, and he has another one on his hands with sophomore left tackle Orlando Brown who has the potential of being an All-Big-12 performer this year.

 

The Big 12 Conference is known for its high powered offenses, but Oklahoma’s defense was able to hold its own last year. Oklahoma was ranked 39th in the nation last year in total defense, but only one conference opponent was able to score 30 points against them. For Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, he has seven starters returning for his unit as they have the potential to be one of the better defensive squads within the Big 12.

Oklahoma will be tested throughout the college football season which will find them getting started against the Houston Cougars who are the defending American Athletic Conference Champions. The Sooners will also host the Ohio State Buckeyes from the Big Ten Conference who themselves are just a year removed from winning the national championship. And when the Big 12 Conference slate begins for Oklahoma, they’ll be on the road against the TCU Horned Frogs while the back end of their conference slate features games against the Baylor Bears, West Virginia Mountaineers, and Oklahoma State Cowboys in Bedlam. However if there is a team that could be able to survive such a gauntlet, it’s Boomer Sooner.

Oklahoma State Cowboys 11-1 (8-1)

2015 was setting up to be a landmark year for Oklahoma State Cowboys Football until the final couple of games. The Cowboys lost their final two conference games which prevented them from participating in the College Football Playoff while also losing out on winning the Big 12 Conference. And to makes matters worse, the Cowboys were run out of the Superdome as they were destroyed by the Ole Miss Rebels in the Sugar Bowl. But even after losing their final three games of the season, Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy has a team that will once again be in the mix to win the Big 12.

Mason Rudolph

Junior quarterback Mason Rudolph was able to emerge last year as Gundy’s dependable signal caller as he can sling the football around while lighting up the scoreboard. Rudolph has an array of talented wide receivers to throw the football to with junior wide receiver James Washington being the best of the bunch. At 6’1″, 200 lbs., Washington is a burner and his ability gives other Oklahoma State wide receivers such as senior wide receiver Marcel Ateman more opportunities at one-on-one coverage.

 

 

The Cowboys must improve on a rushing attack that was 114th in the nation as they were only able to average 3.6 yards per carry. But with all five starters returning on the offensive line, including senior left tackle Victor Selako, the running game should improve enough to somewhat balance out the high octane passing game in Stillwater.

The Cowboys have never been known for having a strong defense under Gundy, and even though that Oklahoma State will return seven starters on that side of the football, will they be able to make enough plays for them to win the Big 12 Conference?

Both with their non-conference and conference schedules, Oklahoma State has an extremely favorable schedule as their title hopes will be determined by their last game of the season and whether or not that they’ll be able to defeat the Oklahoma Sooners in the Bedlam Series which will more than likely determine the winner of the Big 12 Conference.

Texas Longhorns 8-4 (6-3)

Charlie Strong

The last two years haven’t been smooth for the Texas Longhorns under head football coach Charlie Strong, but will 2016 be the year that they turn things around? Under Strong, the Longhorns are just 11-14 and it is the first time since 1938 that Texas has had consecutive losing seasons. Strong has recruited solidly at Texas, but he needs to have more positive results on Saturdays in order to cool down his hot seat in Austin.

The Longhorns have a fierce battle going on to be the starting quarterback between senior Tyrone Swoopes, sophomore Jerrod Heard, and true freshman Shane Beuchele. Swoopes was the Longhorns starting quarterback in 2014 before he lost his job to Heard last year while Beuchele is the heralded freshman that wants to show that he is ready for the bright lights of big time college football. Heard did suffer a shoulder injury in spring practice, but it still appears to be his job to lose due to his ability as a dual-threat quarterback.

Under Strong, Texas has been able to run the football, but they need to find themselves a feature back. The Longhorns might not still have that feature back, but the combination of junior D’Onta Freeman and sophomore Chris Warren III gives Texas a duo that can put immense pressure on defenses in the Big 12 Conference.

As a head coach and defensive coordinator, Strong has buttered his bread on that side of the football which hasn’t translated so far in Austin. Last year Texas was 107th in the nation in total defense which saw them give up 30 points or more in a game six times. But Strong does have some young talent on that side of the ball which is led by sophomore linebackers Malik Jefferson and Anthony Wheeler who earned valuable playing time last year as true freshmen which could translate to some success in 2016.

The pressure is definitely on Strong and Texas, but some solid improvements and a bowl bid could be enough to buy him some more time in Austin.

West Virginia Mountaineers 9-3 (6-3)

The last three years have seen the West Virginia Mountaineers improve in the win column, but will 2016 be the year in which they’ll be able to contend for the conference title in the Big 12?

For West Virginia head football head coach Dana Holgorsen, he has a prolific offense that could be one of the best in the Big 12. Senior quarterback Skyler Howard is the maestro of Holgorsen’s spread offense as it is a thing of beauty when he gets into a rhythm with his wide receivers. The West Virginia wide receiver to keep an eye on this year is junior wide receiver Shelton Gibson. Gibson led the Mountaineers last year in receiving yards with 887 and he should be able to reach 1,000-yard mark in the category this time around.

With running back Wendell Smallwood having moved on to the National Football League, senior running back Rushel Shell will see an increase in his carries. And Shell will benefit from running behind an offensive line is returning four starters as the unit is led by senior center Tyler Orlosky.

Defensively West Virginia is only returning five starters from last year’s unit. And in the pass happy Big 12, it will be baptism by fire for any new starters.

The Mountaineers find themselves with a very favorable schedule with their only true road tests coming against the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Texas Longhorns which could give them the wiggle room needed to contend for the Big 12 Title.

TCU Horned Frogs 7-5 (5-4)

Gary Patterson

In 15 years as the head football coach of the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs, Gary Patterson has taken the program to heights that it hasn’t seen since the days of Francis Schmidt in the early 1930’s. Under Patterson, TCU has had ten seasons in which they’ve won at least 10 games, and they have pulled this off in three different conferences. The Horned Frogs have won 23 games in the last two years, but another 10-win campaign is going to be tougher for TCU to pull off in 2016.

Trevonne Boykin has been TCU’s starting quarterback for the past four years, and now that he has exhausted his eligibility, Patterson must rely on another signal caller. There could be an open competition this year to be the Horned Frogs starting quarterback, but sophomore Foster Sawyer could have the upper hand. At 6’5″, Sawyer has the prototypical size to play the quarterback position, but when given the opportunity, will he be able able to convince Patterson enough to be his starting signal caller?

Sawyer or whomever will be TCU’s starting quarterback this year won’t have the luxury of playing behind an experienced offensive line as the Horned Frogs must replace four starters on the offensive line. After seeing action at right tackle last year, you can expect junior Joseph Noteboom to move over to left tackle this season to anchor an inexperienced offensive line.

Under Patterson, the Horned Frogs are typically a very solid defensive team which is something that they got away from last year as they were 63rd in the nation in total defense. But led by junior middle linebacker Travin Howard, TCU returns seven defensive starters and they will be relied on more than ever to carry the load in order to help out a very green offense.

2016 should be a rebuilding year for TCU, but that doesn’t mean that this team won’t be competitive while putting a scare into the title contenders in the Big 12.

Baylor Bears 7-5 (4-5)

In the eight years that Art Briles was the head football coach of the Baylor Bears, he increased the excitement for football in Waco, Texas exponentially as the team became a national power. In the last five years alone, Baylor has won 48 games which is a tremendous accomplishment being that the Bears won a combined games in their first 16 years in the Big 12 Conference. The Bears have claimed at least a share of the Big 12 Title in two of the last three years, but it will be much tougher for them in 2016.

Off-the-field issues have been running rampant at Baylor which includes sexual assault. And being that this happened on Briles’ watch, he was held responsible by the school which cost him his job. Former Wake Forest Demon Deacons head football coach Jim Grobe has been tasked to replace Briles as he has a solid reputation as far as running a quality football program which is something that Baylor needs now more than ever.

In 13 years at Wake Forest, Grobe had a record of 77-82 while leading the Demon Deacons to the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship in 2006.

As Grobe prepares to take over in Waco, he will to keep Baylor’s high octane offense going. Senior quarterback Seth Russell is looking to rebound from a neck broken neck that prematurely ended his 2015 college football season. When healthy, Russell provides Baylor with a solid quarterback that can fling the football all over the field. But Russell won’t have the luxury of having an experienced offensive unit around him as Baylor must replace four starters on the offensive line and wide receiver Corey Coleman. However, the Bears will have running back Shock Linwood returning to school for his senior campaign and he could be a first-team Big-12 player.

The Bears don’t have a strong reputation as far as being a strong defensive team, and Grobe must still replace five starters from last year’s team including three on the defensive line. But inexperience on the defensive line for Baylor will be overshadowed by a wealth of experience in the secondary where led by senior safety Saion Sells, there are three starters returning.

A weak non-conference schedule once again won’t help Baylor’s national reputation while they’ll also face a tough road gauntlet within the Big 12 as they will travel to face the Texas Longhorns, Oklahoma Sooners, and West Virginia Mountaineers which will be a telling tale of how this year will go for Grobe and his crew.

Kansas State Wildcats 6-6 (4-5)

The Kansas State Wildcats might not have the ability to land the blue-chip recruits, but that has not stopped them from competing in the Big 12 Conference. The Wildcats have compiled a trio of 9-win seasons in the last five years, and you can expect the group of no-names from the Little Apple to give it all that they have once more in 2016.

Bill Snyder

Kansas State head football coach Bill Snyder relies on dual-threat quarterbacks to run his offensive system and he is hopeful that senior Joe Hubener has what it takes to elevate his game to the next level. But Hubener will really have to put K-State on his back offensively as they are lacking talent at the skill positions, along with only returning one starter on the offensive line from last year’s team.

The Wildcats will rely on their defense that is returning eight starters which includes junior linebacker Elijah Lee who led the team in tackles with 80, and senior defensive end Jordan Willis who led Kansas State in sacks with 9.5.

Snyder and Kansas State are looking to make it seven consecutive years with a bowl appearance, but it won’t be easy as they have road games against the Pac-12 Champions in the Stanford Cardinal, along with traveling within the Big 12 to face the West Virginia Mountaineers, Oklahoma Sooners, Baylor Bears, and TCU Horned Frogs.

Texas Tech Red Raiders 6-6 (4-5)

Kliff Kingsbury

In three years as the head football coach of the Texas Tech Red Raiders, Kliff Kingsbury has posted a record of 19-19, and 2016 is poised to be another up and down year in Lubbock, Texas. The Red Raiders are coming off of their second winning season in three years under Kingsbury, but they must replace a wealth of talent on offense that helped to produce the second best passing offense in the nation last year.

Texas Tech will have quarterback Pat Mahomes returning for his junior year after he passed for 4,653 yards last year along with being the team’s second leading rusher. But Mahomes cannot do it all by himself as Tech lost four starting offensive lineman and running back DeAndre Washington to graduation. Kingsbury doesn’t have big wide receivers as he relies on the speed and elusiveness of smaller players on the outside. And for Texas Tech, they are hopeful that senior wide receiver Devin Lauderdale will be able to step up a become prime pass catcher for Mahomes.

David Gibbs is set to begin his second year as the defensive coordinator for the Red Raiders, and there is only one way to go for this unit as they were 127th out of 128 Division-I football teams last year in total defense which included surrendering at least 40 points in a game eight times. And if Tech is unable to sure things up on the defensive side of the football, they will get caught up in the wash that is the Big 12 Conference.

The Red Raiders must rack up on all of the wins that they can get in their non-conference schedule as it won’t be easy sledding for them in the Big 12.

Kansas Jayhawks 3-9 (1-8)

Overall the Kansas Jayhawks have failed to keep up in the Big 12 Conference and the bottom officially fell out them last year when they went 0-12 which marked their first winless season since 1954. And as David Beaty is set to begin his second season as the head football coach at Kansas, he must find a way for his team to compete in the Big 12 Conference which won’t be an easy task.

The talent pool simply isn’t there for the Jayhawks and it is going to a long few months for them in the Big 12.

Iowa State Cyclones 2-10 (1-8)

The past three years have been a rough go for the Iowa State Cyclones as they’ve combined to go just 8-28. The poor results on the field would cost Paul Rhoads his job as the Iowa State head football coach and he has been replaced by Matt Campbell. Campbell comes to Iowa City after spending the last four years as the head football coach of the Toledo Rockets where he compiled a record of 35-15 which also featured his Toledo team scoring a road victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks last September. Last year Toledo had the 27th ranked rushing attack in the nation as they averaged 5.1 yards per carry, and he’ll look to bring that solid ground game to Ames.

Mike Warren

Campbell does have a building block to work with as sophomore running back Mike Warren will enter the 2016 college football season as the reigning Big 12 Conference Offensive Freshman of the Year. Last year as a freshman, Warren rushed for 1,339 yards and he’ll once again be a key cog for the Cyclones. But Warren will have to do it with just one returning starter on the offensive line in senior left tackle Jake Campos.

And just like Iowa State’s defense, there is only one way for their defense to go which is up. Iowa State was ranked 108th in total defense last year, but they do have eight starters returning which gives them some optimism.

Before becoming a contender in the Big 12 Conference, Campbell must find a way to once again make the Cyclones competitive which in itself is no easy task.

Big 12 Coach of the Year: Bob Stoops-Oklahoma

Offensive Player of the Year: Semaje Perine-Running Back-Oklahoma

Defensive Player of the Year: Malik Jefferson-Linebacker-Texas

Sources: Sports-reference.com, Ourlads.com, Cfbstats.com

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2015 Key Games For Week 12 In College Football

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Lately when the Michigan State Spartans and Ohio State Buckeyes meet on the gridiron, the stakes are high.

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2015 Key Games For Week 11 In College Football

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Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners are looking to move up the ladder in the race for the College Football Playoff.

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2015 Key Games For Week 5 In College Football

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Kliff Kingsbury and the Texas Tech Red Raiders will have their hands full with another high octane offense this Saturday in the Baylor Bears?

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2015 Big 12 Conference Football Projections

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TCU Horned Frogs 11-1 (8-1)

http://www.tcu360.com/sites/default/files/media/2013/nid18113/fid12447.jpgThe 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.┬áLast 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.┬áThe 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)

http://content.sportslogos.net/logos/30/613/full/7369.pngIf 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)

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b1/SoonerSchooner.jpgLast 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.

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Trevor Knight

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)

http://photoblog.statesman.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/rbz-utku-49.jpgFor 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)

http://cf.juggle-images.com/matte/white/280x280/west-virginia-mountaineers-helmet-logo-primary.jpgThe 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.

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Daxx Garman

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)

http://www.stakingtheplains.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Texas-Tech-Logo.gifIf 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)

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Bill Snyder

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)

http://cdn1.sbnation.com/assets/3328331/Iowa_State_Cyclones.gifAs 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.

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