Texas Longhorns 11-1 (8-1)
After a bit of a slumber it is safe to say that the Texas Longhorns are back. In two years as the head football coach at Texas, Tom Herman is 17-10 which includes guiding the Longhorns to their first 10-win season since 2009. And even though that this is hard to believe, the Horns have not won the Big 12 Conference since 2009 as well. However following the strong finish by Texas last season which included an appearance in the Big 12 Championship Game and an upset victory over the Georgia Bulldogs of the Southeastern Conference in the Sugar Bowl this past January, there is a strong feeling that these ‘Horns are ready to not only contend for the conference crown, but win it.
Last year Sam Ehlinger emerged as Herman’s guy at quarterback and he will be expected to help Texas win the Big 12. Ehlinger is entering his junior season, and he plays with tremendous poise, while not turning the ball over which will big for a Longhorns offense that will be among the best in the conference.
Texas will miss the contributions of wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey who is now in the National Football League, but they still have senior wide receiver Collin Johnson. At 6’6″, 220 lbs., Johnson is a matchup nightmare for most defensive backs in the Big 12, and he combines this with deceptive speed for a player his size.
But as good as Texas will be at the skill positions, we have to keep an eye on their offensive line only has one senior in center Zach Shackelford.
2018 was not a banner year for Texas defensively as they were 67th in the nation in total defense, but one player to keep an eye on heading into the 2019 season will be sophomore strong safety Caden Sterns who aside from being a solid tackler also has a nose for the football as he led the ‘Horns in picks last season with 4.
And when the offense stalls for Texas, they are lucky to have one of the best kickers in the nation in sophomore Cameron Dicker. Last season Dicker was 8-of-12 on his field goals beyond 40 yards, and his strong leg will once again be an asset for the Longhorns.
Texas is not afraid to get it on with schools from the other Power Five Conferences as they’ll host the LSU Tigers from the SEC on September 7, while you can never overlook their annual showdown in Dallas versus the Oklahoma Sooners. Under Herman, Texas has already proved that they can make the Big 12 Title Game, but the eyes of the Lone Star State want to see if the ‘Horns will have what it takes to win the conference here in 2019.
Oklahoma Sooners 11-1 (8-1)
Since the Big 12 Conference was formed in 1996, the league has been dominated by the Oklahoma Sooners. The Sooners have won 12, Big 12 Titles with the closest school to them in the category being the Texas Longhorns with three. The Sooners have won the last four Big 12 Championships and the last two came with two different quarterbacks who each would go on to win the Heisman Trophy as the nation’s top player. And the overseer of this success has been Oklahoma’s head football coach Lincoln Riley who is quickly making a name for himself in Norman.
In two seasons at Oklahoma, Riley has compiled a record of 24-4 which includes consecutive trips to the College Football Playoff as he has quickly put to bed the notion that he would need some time to settle into his post after he replaced longtime head football coach Bob Stoops there. But Riley has put his own stamp on Oklahoma’s program, and he once again has a squad that is capable of winning the Big 12 Title.
For the third consecutive year the Sooners will have a starting quarterback who began his collegiate career at another school. Three years ago Jalen Hurts stepped onto the college football scene as a true freshman quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Hurts was unfazed by being the man under center for Alabama as he helped them to an undefeated regular season which included winning the Southeastern Conference Title, and earning a berth in the national championship game. In 2017, Hurts would only lose one game as a starter, but his ineffectiveness in the national championship game would be the precursor for Alabama head football coach Nick Saban to replace him with true freshman Tua Tagovailoa. The Tide would go on to win the national title on that night with Tagovailoa under center which made Hurts expendable. Surprisingly Hurts decided to remain at Alabama last season in spite of the fact that he lost his job to Tagovailoa, but for his senior season he decided to transfer to Oklahoma.
Hurts comes to Oklahoma without the big arm that the last two starting quarterbacks there had in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, but he is a winner. In three years at Alabama, Hurts’ record as a starting quarterback was 27-2, while he came off of the bench in last year’s SEC Championship Game to replace an ineffective Tagovailoa in order to help the Tide win. And as Riley has one of the better offensive minds in college football, he will find a way to utilize Hurts’ strengths as a runner in order to keep the Sooners offense rolling.
Last season Oklahoma had the top offense in the nation as they were always a play away from scoring. The Sooners still have the speed of junior wide receiver CeeDee Lamb as well as the running ability of sophomore running back Kennedy Brooks, and junior Trey Sermon, but there will be question marks on Oklahoma’s offensive line.
Oklahoma will have one of the youngest offensive lines in the nation as Riley is going with four sophomores and a freshman up front as it will be important for this unit to get some cohesion early.
Defensive football was not the calling card for Oklahoma last year, but there is the possibility that defensive end Ronnie Perkins will be able to build off of his solid freshman campaign last season where he led the squad in sacks with 5 in order to give the Sooners a legit presence in their pass rush. Linebacker Kenneth Murray was all over the field last year for Oklahoma as he led the team in tackles with 155, and you once again expect him to have an impact for the unit.
The road to a fifth consecutive Big 12 Title will not be an easy one for Oklahoma as their first game of the season won’t be an easy one as they’ll host the Houston Cougars of the American Athletic Conference who upset them last year. And more intrigue will be added to the contest as Houston is now led by former West Virginia Mountaineers head football coach Dana Holgorsen who is very familiar with how Oklahoma plays football in the Big 12. On September 14th, Oklahoma will travel to face the UCLA Bruins of the Pac-12 Conference. And even though that UCLA is not the same opponent that Oklahoma faced in the 2018 Rose Bowl, there is still a bad taste in the mouths of the Sooners as they return to Pasadena. But when the Big 12 slate of games roll around for the Sooners, there season will be defined by their annual meeting in Dallas with the Texas Longhorns as there is a good possibility that these longtime foes will meet twice this season for the second consecutive year.
Iowa State Cyclones 9-3 (6-3)
In three years as the head football coach of the Iowa State Cyclones, Matt Campbell’s crew has become a very pesky team in the Big 12 Conference. In 2017, Iowa State upset the Oklahoma Sooners, while their frantic style on both sides of the football have made them a matchup nightmare. And although that the Cyclones might now win the Big 12 here in 2019, this team could still be a force to be reckoned with.
What has helped Iowa State in recent years has been their tough defense under defensive coordinator Jon Heacock. The Cyclones were second in the Big 12 last season in total defense, and they are poised to cause more problems for opposing offenses in the conference.
Sophomore middle linebacker Mike Rose possesses good lateral movement, while senior defensive end Jaquan Bailey is one of the best edge rushers in the Big 12 as this duo will look to be key players on a unit that is looking to once again wreak havoc on opposing offenses around the league.
The Cyclones must replace some talent at the skill positions on offense, but they will have one of the most experienced offensive lines in the conference as led by left tackle Julian Good-Jones, Iowa State will have a quartet of seniors up front. Sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy will look to build off of a solid freshman season where he threw 16 touchdown passes to just 5 picks. But the departures of running back David Montgomery and wide receiver Hakeem Butler to the National Football League will mean that more will be put on his shoulders in regards to carrying the offense in 2019.
If Iowa State is able to take care of their business versus the teams that they should beat in the Big 12, they could then give conference superpowers in both the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners a run for their money in regards to claiming the league crown.
TCU Horned Frogs 8-4 (5-4)
For the second time in the past three years, the Texas Christian Horned Frogs began the college football season with high expectations, but failed to live up to them. After TCU made the Big 12 Conference Championship Game in 2017, they were expected to once again contend for the top spot in 2018; however a string of questionable October losses last fall put an end to that. The Horned Frogs were able to salvage their season by winning their last three contests of the campaign. And for TCU head football coach Gary Patterson, he’ll look to build off of that as his team looks to make a move in the Big 12 in 2019.
TCU’s offense was up and down in 2019, but Patterson is hopeful to have some more cohesion with senior Alex Delton at quarterback. Delton began his collegiate career in the Big 12, but with the Kansas State Wildcats, and now he makes his trek south where his dual-threat ability as both a passer and runner should be able to give the Horned Frogs offense a spark.
One bright spot for Texas Christian’s offense last year was wide receiver Jalen Reagor who became one of the Big 12’s breakout players in 2018 as he nearly averaged 15 yards per catch, while also tallying 9 touchdowns. Reagor is an explosive player along with being a solid route runner which will put him in the running to be one of the top receivers in the Big 12.
Last year TCU had the top defense in the Big 12 and you can expect this unit to once again be stingy. Junior outside linebacker Garret Wallow is a good tackler in space versus the pass and run which is vital versus the potent offenses in the Big 12.
A non-conference road affair in September versus the Purdue Boilermakers of the Big Ten Conference will a huge test for TCU, while it will be interesting to see how Patterson’s club is able to bounce back in 2019.
Oklahoma State Cowboys 7-5 (4-5)
The Oklahoma State Cowboys find themselves in the midst of the best stretch in program history. The Cowboys have put together 13 consecutive winning seasons, while they’ve won four of their last five bowl games. Mike Gundy has been Oklahoma State’s head football coach during this run, and he has done it all at Stillwater which includes win the Big 12 Conference Title in 2011. Oklahoma State will have their work cut out for them in regards to winning the Big 12 this year, but will they prove to be a thorn in the side of those contending teams in the conference?
After beginning his collegiate career with the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, quarterback Dru Brown decided to finish eligibility at Oklahoma State. Brown is only 5’11”, but quarterbacks in Gundy’s system have the ability to light it up regardless of their size. And as long as Brown can get the football to the playmakers around him, he’ll fall into that category as well.
As always there is talent at the wide receiver position in Stillwater, and Brown’s go-to-guy in the passing game should be junior wide receiver Tylan Wallace. After having a quiet freshman campaign in 2017, Wallace announced himself as a breakout player last year as he tallied 1,491 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. At 6’0″, 185, Wallace is a problem for opposing defenses as his speed and elusiveness make him tough to deal with which is a big reason why he heads in the 2019 college football season as a preseason first-team All-Big 12 member.
There will be plenty of cohesion on the offensive line for the Cowboys as the starting unit consists of nothing but seniors and juniors with senior center Johnny Wilson having the potential to be the best of the bunch.
Defensive football has never been a hallmark of the Oklahoma State, but they must find a way to improve as they were 112th nationally last year in total defense. The Cowboys leading returning tackler is senior middle linebacker Calvin Bundage as he will be one of the few bright spots on a unit that will have their hands full in regards to slowing down the potent offenses of the Big 12.
Oklahoma State’s Big 12 schedule will be bookended by facing conference heavyweights as they start off by traveling to face the Texas Longhorns, while they will finish up at home against the Oklahoma Sooners in Bedlam. And in between that a road contest against the Iowa State Cyclones will definitely test the mental of the Cowboys.
Baylor Bears 7-5 (4-5)
When Matt Rhule took over as the head coach of the Baylor Bears in 2017, he knew that he would have his hands full in regards to turning the program around. And under Rhule, the Bears were trampled by the wave of the Big 12 Conference as they finished that season with a record of 1-11. But Rhule’s Bears would become competitive in 2018 which led to them finishing with a winning record. And as Baylor wave able to overachieve last year, do they have enough to build off of that in order to once again become a contender in the Big 12?
At Baylor, Rhule has found his guy at quarterback in junior Charlie Brewer. Brewer is solid in the pocket, and if he can get his completion percentage above 65%, we’re looking at a player that should be able to throw 25 touchdowns this year.
But if Baylor is going to take the next step this year, their defense must improve. Last year the Bears were 86th in the nation in total defense, and as Phil Snow enters his third year as Baylor’s defensive coordinator, his unit has to get stingier. However one player to keep an eye will be senior middle linebacker Clay Johnston who after leading the Bears in tackles last season will really need to bring the lumber in 2019.
Baylor has never been known for scheduling a tough non-conference schedule, and as that trend continues here in 2019, they should be able to rack up on the wins in that portion of their slate, while also taking care of some of the bottom feeders in the Big 12.
Kansas State Wildcats 6-6 (4-5)
For the second time in the last 12 years the Kansas State Wildcats football program is preparing for life with longtime head football coach Bill Snyder. Snyder once again decided to retire, but this time around all signs point to him staying in retirement. Snyder has been replaced by Chris Klieman who over the past five years complied a stellar record of 69-6 with the North Dakota State Bison where he helped the program win four Football Championship Subdivision Titles. Now Klieman has his chance to lead a K-State program that has a long reputation in regards to being an overachiever as he looks to build something special for this program in the Big 12.
The passing game was a struggle for K-State in 2018 as they were 116th nationally. Along with Kleiman, Courtney Messingham will join K-State’s team as he well serve as the offensive coordinator. One of the goals is to get more out of junior quarterback Skylar Thompson which would definitely provide a spark to the Wildcats offense.
One thing that will help Kansas State’s offense is that they will have a wealth of experience on their offensive line which features four seniors as starters as the cohesiveness of this unit will be important as Thompson gets his feet wet in a new offensive system.
First year K-State defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton will inherit a defensive unit that has the potential to be one of the best in the Big 12. Senior defensive end Reggie Walker is a member of the Big 12’s All-Preseason team as he is arguably the best pass rusher in the conference. The Wildcats also get their top tackler from 2018 back in senior linebacker Da’Quan Patton who is one of the leaders of the unit as this group has the potential to be very stingy at times.
2019 will be up and down for the Wildcats as they seek to find their footing under Klieman.
Kansas Jayhawks 4-8 (2-7)
The past ten years have not been kind to the Kansas Jayhawks football program as after making a bowl game in three of the previous four years, they have been one of the worst teams in the Big 12 Conference which includes them only winning six games over the last four years. The Jayhawks struggles led them to reach out to Les Miles to become the school’s new head football coach as “The Mad Hatter” is looking to bring some excitement to the football field in Lawrence.
For nearly 12 years, Miles was the head football coach of the LSU Tigers where he compiled a record of 114-34 which included winning a pair of Southeastern Conference Titles and one national championship. But that stellar record was not enough for Miles to keep the critics off of his back as once Nick Saban became the head football coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Bayou Bengals became second-class citizens in the SEC West. However whereas Miles’ was frowned upon as being a “dinosaur” in the coaching ranks in the SEC, Kansas is welcoming him with open arms in order to potentially turn around their program.
There is not a wealth of talent returning to Kansas, but under Miles you can expect them to put an emphasis on running the football. Led by left tackle, the Jayhawks have three seniors on the offensive line, and that cohesion will be important as they look to plow the road for junior running back Pooka Williams who returns to the team after he averaged 7 yards per carry last season.
The Jayhawks struggled at times on defense last year and they lost the majority of their productive players, but one player to keep an eye of will be senior safety Hasan Defense. Last year Defense was tied for the team in interceptions with 3, and as this is a year of transition, Miles will lean on the upperclassman for leadership.
Kansas will definitely take their lumps at times in 2019, but do not expect this team to stop playing hard under Miles.
West Virginia Mountaineers 4-8 (2-7)
Since joining the Big 12 Conference in 2012, the West Virginia Mountaineers have had some success which included making a bowl game in each of the last five years. However West Virginia was thrown a curve ball this past January when head football coach Dana Holgorsen decided to leave the school after eight years with the program in order to accept the same position with the Houston Cougars of the American Athletic Conference. What made the move so surprising is that West Virginia is a part of a Power Five Conference, while Houston is not. But regardless of why Holgorsen decided to leave Morgantown, the Mountaineers must move on and support their new head football coach Neal Brown.
Brown spent the last four years as the head football coach of the Troy Trojans where he compiled a mark of 35-16 as they were one of the top programs in the Sun Belt Conference which is an aspect that he’ll bring to the Mountaineers in order to help them contend for the Big 12 Title.
Aside from losing Holgorsen, West Virginia will have to replace some talent; especially on the offensive side of the football, but one player to keep an eye will be senior running back Kennedy McCoy who averaged 5.7 yards per carry last season.
And that same sentiment will be on the defensive side of the football as well for the Mountaineers where junior free safety Kenny Robinson Jr. will be one of the few standout players.
There won’t be too many soft spots on West Virginia’s schedule as they’ll clash with the Missouri Tigers of the Southeastern Conference and North Carolina State Wolfpack of the Atlantic Coast Conference in non-conference play, while the Big 12 schedule sees them have to face both the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners in the month of October.
Texas Tech Red Raiders 3-9 (1-8)
As the Texas Tech Red Raiders football program is set to begin its 88th year, they’ve never been confused with being a national power in the sport. The Red Raiders only have a single 10-win season to their credit in the last 45 years, while they have not won an outright conference title since 1955. And although that Tech is known for having a mediocre football program, it didn’t prevent the powers that be in Lubbock from making a coaching change.
After six years at the helm of his alma mater, Kliff Kingsbury was relieved of his duties as Texas Tech’s head football coach following his third consecutive losing season with the Red Raiders, and he was replaced by Matt Wells.
In six years as the head football coach of the Utah State Aggies, Wells compiled a record of 44-34 which included leading his program to one appearance in the Mountain West Conference Championship Game. Now Wells will be charged with making the Red Raiders relevant in the Big 12 Conference.
Sophomore Alan Bowman enters 2019 as the incumbent as Texas Tech’s starting quarterback, but he must also be able to make the transition away from Kingsbury’s “Air-Raid” offense. Bowman had a strong freshman campaign as he completed nearly 70% of his passes, while throwing 17 touchdown passes to 7 interceptions. And as Texas Tech is in the midst of a transition, it will be important for Bowman to become a leader for this offense.
And aside from Brown, another thing that the Red Raiders will have going for them on offense is that they’ll have one of the most experienced offensive line in the Big 12. Led by left tackle Terrence Steele, the Red Raiders will have four upperclassmen on their offensive line, and one junior as this experience will be needed for them in 2019.
Defensive football has never been a hallmark for Texas Tech, but two players to keep an eye on heading into this season will be junior middle linebacker Riko Jeffers and sophomore cornerback Adrian Frye. Jeffers is Tech’s top returning tackler, while Frye quickly made a new for himself around the Big 12 last season with five interceptions. Texas Tech will still have their work cut out in regards to stop the high-powered offenses in the Big 12, but Jeffers and Frye should be able to emerge as leaders.
It will take some time for Wells to build this team in his own image as 2019 will be a feeling out process for him in Lubbock.