The month of June is coming to an end, and we are ten weeks away from the beginning of the college football season. Last week, the ACC was given the spotlight. This week, the Big XII is on alert. The Big XII might be the deepest and most competitive conference in college football. Nine teams from the conference went bowling last year. Having 90% of your conference go bowling is quite impressive. Is there a team in this conference that could play for the Crystal Ball this year? That is the question. View attachment 53605 The Baylor Bears had one of the most exciting offenses in college football last season. The problem for the Bears, was the defense. Baylor finished 8-5 last year, but were very streaky. They started the season 3-0, then lost the next four games, only to finish the season on a four game winning streak. Expectations for the Bears are the highest they been in a while as the Bears look to extend their three year bowl streak. The Bears offense is explosive. They topped 40 points in all but three games last year, including 50-plus in five. They lost those three games. The offense does return six starters led by former Oregon running back Lache Seastrunk. Seastrunk finished with 1,012 yards on only 131 carries. Thatâ€™s an average of 7.7 yards a carry! What makes the feat even more impressive is that he did not carry the ball more than seven times a game until the eighth game of the year. To break it down even more, he had 831 yards on 102 over the past six games. Thatâ€™s an average of 8.15 yards a carry. Unfortunately, quarterback Nick Florence and receiver Terrence Williams are gone. Replacing Florence is junior Bryce Petty. If there is one thing we have learned about head coach Art Briles, it is that he has no problem grooming quarterbacks. The offensive line returns both starters on the left side of the line. Seniorâ€™s Stefan Huber and Kelvin Palmer will take over at center and right tackle with sophomore behemoth Desmine Hilliard taking over at right guard. This offense will continue to put up video game numbers. The Bears defense was the weakness. This defense surrendered 40-plus points six times last season, including 70 to West Virginia. The secondary was the main culprit as they gave up 323.5 yards a game. The blame falls on everybody though as the defense as a whole gave up 502.2 yards a game last season. The defense did improve as the season progressed. This is the same defense that held Kansas State to 24 and UCLA to 26. The defense ought to improve even more this season with eight starters returning. This defense will be breaking in new starters at defensive tackle and safety. Luckily, six of the returning starters are seniors, four of them in the secondary. With two new starters at the tackle, the rest of the front seven will face even more pressure to improve against the run. The defensive end depth is fantastic, led by Chris McAllister and Terrance Lloyd. Baylorâ€™s schedule is much friendlier this season. They host Oklahoma, on a Thursday night, and Texas this year while traveling to Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and TCU. If the defense improves as expected, the Bears could top out at 10-2. If the defense does not improve and the offense hiccups, the Bears could be looking at a 7-5 season. Either way, the bowl streak should stay alive. View attachment 53607 The Iowa State Cyclones were a frustrating team last season. Every time it seemed they turned a corner, they would fall back to mediocrity. This is a team that started out 3-0 yet stumbled to a 6-7 finish. They were a competitive team last season though, and seem to be a team ready to burst on to the National scene soon. I will admit I am a tad partial to the Cyclones as my buddy, receiver Dondre Daley, plays for them. The Cyclones offense returns six starters, including three offensive linemen. This is an offense that had a hard time at quarterback last season. The coaching staff is hoping that sophomore Sam Richardson is the solution to these problems. Richardson took over against Kansas and was electric. He did not look the same against West Virginia and Tulsa though. The offense will only go as far as the running game takes them and luckily, there is talent in the backfield. James White will lead the running game but donâ€™t sleep on Iowa Western transfer Aaron Wimberley. Wimberly averaged 11.7 yards a carry last season. The receiving corps is led by senior tight end Ernst Brun and sophomore receiver Quenton Bundrage. The offensive line returns the right side in seniorâ€™s Kyle Litchtenberg and Ethan Tuftee. Juniorâ€™s Jacob Gannon and Bob Graham take over the left side. The offensive line must have a great year, or Iowa State will be in trouble. The defense returns five starters but lost All-Conference linebackers A.J. Klein and Jake Knott. A porous secondary returns three starters, all seniors. The front seven is where the focus will be. Senior linebacker Jeremiah George and Senior defensive end Willie Scott are the only returning starters. George will be joined by juniorâ€™s Jevohn Miller and Jared Brackens. The defensive line will have to improve quickly. This defense wasnâ€™t awful last season. They gave up 442.2 yards a game, but only allowed 23.9 points a game. This is the same defense that held Baylor to 21 and Kansas State to 27. The most points they gave up was 35 to Oklahoma. The schedule wonâ€™t be easy. The Cyclones travel to Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and to Tulsa on a Thursday night. They do host Oklahoma State, TCU, and Texas on a Thursday night. Iowa State at best is looking at 8-4 and another bowl appearance. At worst, the offense canâ€™t get going which puts too much pressure on the defense and they stumble through a 4-8 season. View attachment 53608 The Kansas Jayhawks were awful last season. After defeating South Dakota State 31-17 in their opener, they lost the next eleven. this season, does not look much better. Give the Kansas coaching staff credit though, they hit the JUCO circuit hard this year. With the team being run by Charlie Weis and Dave Campo running the defense, this team ought to produce some NFL talent. The offense returns four starters led by running back James Sims. Sims has been phenomenal for the Jayhawks. BYU transfer Jake Heaps is taking over the quarterback spot. Fans can only hope that Heaps pans out better than Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist did last season. The offensive line returns one starter in senior right tackle Aslam Sterling. This offense will start eight juniors, two seniors, and one sophomore. The question is whether or not those players will be talented enough to run Weisâ€™ offense. The defense returns two starters in linebackers Jake Love and Ben Heeney. The defensive line and secondary will be breaking in new guys at every spot. The defensive line took a blow with the dismissal of defensive end Chris Martin. Martin started his career at Florida, but could not stay out of trouble. The defense will be starting nine juniors, one sophomore, and one freshman. As with the offense, do those upperclassmen have the talent to make Kansas competitive again? Kansas' schedule is no walk in the park with road games at TCU, Texas, and Oklahoma State. At home, they host Oklahoma, Baylor, and Kansas State. Kansas looks to have another rough year. Luckily there is light at the end of the tunnel as Kansas will have 20 transfers eligible to play next season. This year, Kansas is looking at a 4-8 season with the worst looking like another 1-11 year. Either way, Kansas is not a bowl team this season. View attachment 53609 The Kansas State Wildcats had a magical season, until they played Baylor. That loss cost them a chance to face off against Notre Dame in the National Championship. The old general Bill Snyder returns for another season in the Little Apple, and of course expectations involve a bowl game. Kansas State offense returns seven starters on offense, led by senior tailback John Hubert. Gone is Heisman finalist quarterback Collin Klein though. To replace him, Kansas State will turn to Iowa Western transfer Jake Waters, for now. Sophomore Daniel Sims is pushing Waters hard for playing time, but it will be hard to not start the former NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year. The offensive line technically returns only four starters, but sophomore left guard Cody Whitehair looks to man the spot full-time this year after being named a Freshman All-American last season. The defense returns two starters from a year ago, which is why expectations for the Wildcats are lower this season. Junior corner Randall Evans and senior All-American canidate safety Ty Zimmerman are the only returnees. With a whole new front seven, the stout rushing defense might take a step back this year. Senior linebacker Blake Slaughter returns to the linebacking core this season after redshirting last year. Slaughter must step up his game as he will be replacing Arthur Brown. Senior linebacker Tre Walker returns after missing time last season due to injury. The defensive line looks to be the weakness of this defense. Sophomore Dante Barnett looks to man the other safety spot. At corner, Kansas State must develop quickly. This is a defense that was susceptible at times against the pass last season. Kansas Stateâ€™s schedule is much easier this season by getting Baylor, Oklahoma, and TCU at home this season. They will have to travel to Oklahoma State and Texas though. If the offense keeps pumping on all cylinders and the defense progresses as the year goes on, this is a Kansas State team that could finish 10-2. If the the quarterback situation proves to be troublesome and the defense doesnâ€™t come along, Kansas State could face a 8-4 season. Either way, Kansas State looks to keep up their winning ways and continue the bowl streak. View attachment 53610 The Oklahoma Sooners have been a mainstay atop the Big XII since winning the National Championship in 2000. Bob Stoops has proved to be a good coach, and can bring in the players; 69 have been drafted under his tenure. For the first time in eleven years though, he fired three assistants after what many people called a disappointing season. The Sooners finished 10-3 last season, with those three losses coming to Kansas State, Notre Dame, and Texas A&M. Those teams combined for a record of 34-5 and all three finished in the top twelve of the final AP poll. I would not call those bad losses, even though they lost to Kansas State and Notre Dame at home, and collapsed after halftime against Texas A&M. The Sooners offense returns eight starters, led by senior tailback Damian Williams. Junior quarterback Blake â€œBelldozerâ€ Bell will take over at quarterback after Landry Jones graduated. Bell has been a Wildcat quarterback for the Sooners, having rushed for 24 touchdowns. With Bell taking over, Oklahoma looks to lean more on the running game. Damian Williams, Brennan Clay, and Trey Millard will lead the way on the ground. Williams rushed for 946 yards and eleven touchdowns last season. With Clay proving last year that he a threat from the backfield as well, this will be a balanced rushing attack with Millard paving the way. The Sooners are extremely talented at receiver with Jalen Saunders, Sterling Shepard, and Trey Metoyer returning. Those three will be leaned on to replace Justin Brown and Kenny Stills production. The offensive line returns four starters but lost left tackle Lane Johnson. Junior Tyrus Thompson will fill in at left tackle. The defense brings back three starters from a season that statically, was the worst in school history. The defensive line does not return one starter. The linebacking core returns one starter in senior Corey Nelson. The secondary returns two starters from a year ago. Senior Aaron Colvin is one of the best corners in college, but does not have much help around him. The Sooners need to defense to improve quickly, or this season could be rough. The schedule will be much tougher than last season. The Sooners travel to Notre Dame, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and Baylor on a Thursday night. They host TCU this year, and as usual, will play Texas in the Cotton Bowl. If Bell proves that he can be a dual threat and the defense bounces back from last season, the Sooners could run the table and find themselves in Pasadena for bowl season as Big XII champs. If Bell has growing pains and the defense struggles, the Sooners could be looking at a 7-5 season, and possibly a new head coach for the 2014 season. View attachment 53611 The Oklahoma State Cowboys had a tough season last year. Between the many injuries at quarterback and the lackluster defensive play, the Cowboys struggled through a 8-5 season. This year, the Cowboys are many peoples favorites to win the Big XII. Those expectations are realistic this season though. The Cowboys return seven starters on offense this season. The Cowboys became first team in Big XII history to have three quarterbacks throw for over 1,000 yards in a season. That made picking a starter extremely difficult this spring. Sophomore Wes Lunt helped the situation by transferring to Illinois. That leaves senior Clint Chelf and sophomore J.W. Walsh to fight for the starting job. It seems safe to pencil in Chelf as the starter for this season, and that is the right call. Chelf bought his time behind Brandon Weeden, and his play last year proved that he earned the starting job. If anything, having Walsh as a backup assures the team that if Chelf does go down, they will be putting in a kid who already has the experience. Joseph Randleâ€™s graduation leaves a hole at running back. Senior Jeremy Smith looks to fill that role. Oklahoma State has the best receiving corps in the Big XII, led by senior Josh Stewart. The offensive line returns three starters but will be plugging in new starters at left tackle and center. The defense returns seven starters as well. Every starter returning is a senior except for defensive tackle James Castleman who is a junior. They will be breaking in new starters at defensive end in sophomore Jimmy Bean and senior Tyler Johnson. Those two will need to get after the passer as this defense was one of the worst against the pbutt. The secondary returns three starters in corner Justin Gilbert, safety Shamiel Gilbert, and safety Daytawion Lowe. Those guys will need to step it up this year. This defense led the nation in takeaways three years in a row before last season. The slip up led to defensive coordinator Bill Young being replaced by linebackers coach Glenn Spencer. Will that change actually make a difference? The schedule is much more favorable this season. The Cowboys have one tough road contest in Texas. They get Kansas State, TCU, Baylor, and Oklahoma at home. They also play Mississippi State in Reliant Stadium to kick off the year. The Cowboys offense will put up points. Their success will rely on the defense. If the defense improves from last seasonâ€™s disaster, Oklahoma State could finish the season 12-0 and spending their holidays in Pasadena as Big XII champs. If the defense implodes again, Oklahoma State could wind up finishing 8-4. View attachment 53612 The TCU Horned Frogs had a tough season last year. Some people might try to chalk it up as a transition year, but thatâ€™s not the reason. The reason behind TCUâ€™s tough season, was suspensions and injuries. TCU returns five starters on offense from a year ago. Two players not accounted there are senior quarterback Casey Pachall and senior running back Waymon James. Pachall abruptly left the program last season to enter rehab. In doing so, that left Trevone Boykin at quarterback. To be honest, Boykin did not look ready last season. Now that Pachall is back, TCUâ€™s passing game should look much better. Waymon James returns after injuring his knee in TCUâ€™s week two matchup against Kansas. He should be able to improve the running game. TCU did lose Josh Boyce at receiver, but back is junior Brandon Carter. The offensive line returns three starters, but lost both guards. Sophomoreâ€™s Joey Hunt and Jamelle Naff will have to make a seamless transition to ensure James has some running room. TCUâ€™s defense has always been the strength. They return nine starters from a year ago. The defense was fantastic last season. With the whole secondary returning, the defense should be even better this season. Senior Jon Koontz is the only new starter on the defensive line. Junior Marcus Mallet will be the new guy of the linebacking core. The secondary will be the strength of this team, behind the leadership of senior All-American corner Jason Verrett. The secondary combined for 21 interceptions last season. TCUâ€™s schedule will be tougher than last year. With road games at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas Tech on a Thursday night, and an opener against LSU at Cowboy Stadium. They do get Texas and Baylor at home this season. If the offense can improve from last season, TCU could go 12-0. That is not a misprint folks. Their defense is good enough, but it will all hinge on the offense. If the offense is comes out flat again, TCU could find themselves struggling through a 6-6 season. Hey, defense can only take you so far. View attachment 53613 The Texas Longhorns are immensely talented. Every year, they seem to be bringing in a fantastic recruiting clbutt. Yet, since Colt McCoy graduated, Texas has struggled. Head coach Mack Brown is on the hot seat this year due to those struggles. As is defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. This is a make-or-break year for Brown. If Texas doesnâ€™t win ten games, his reign in Austin could very well be over. The Longhorns return every starter on offense except receiver Marquise Goodwin. Talk about having experience on your side. Junior quarterback David Ash was 21st nationally in passing last season, but had some downright horrible games against Oklahoma, Kansas, and TCU. He needs to be consistent this season. Sophomore running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown will lead the way on the ground. Ash has two pretty good targets in Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis. Every single starting offensive lineman returns. With three seniors and two juniors, this is one of the most experienced lines in the country. Texas has the experience and talent on offense to be one of the best in the country. Texas was supposed to have one of the best defenses in college football last season. Talk about false advertising. The defense gave up the most yards per game last season than any other team in school history. That will not do this year as they return eight starters. The defensive line lost the most with defensive end Alex Okafor and defensive tackle Brandon Moore graduating. Junior Cedric Reed will have to replace Okaforâ€™s sack production. The entire linebacking core is back. The biggest loss to the defense though, was safety Kenny Vaccaro. Both starting cornerbacks return, which should help cover that loss. Texas looks to have a tough schedule with road contests against BYU, TCU, Baylor, and Iowa State on a Thursday night. They will host Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech on Thanksgiving. Letâ€™s not forget, they still have Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. If the offense can be even better than last season, and the defense figures out how to stop the running game, Texas could finish the season 12-0 and win the Big XII for the first time since 2009. If the David Ash continues to have troubles with inconsistency and the defense does not improve, Texas could find themselves at 7-5 and looking for a new head coach. View attachment 53614 The Texas Tech Red Raiders welcomes back Kliff Kingsbury, as he takes over as head coach. Kingsbury starred as a quarterback for the Red Raiders from 1998-2002. Now, he looks to take the program out of mediocrity and turn them into contenders. The Red Raiders finished 8-5 last season behind an explosive passing attack and a shutdown secondary. Texas Tech returns seven starters on offense. The losses on offense are the bigger problem though. Gone is quarterback Seth Doege. His replacement is sophomore Michael Brewer. Fun fact about Brewer, he was a higher ranked dual-threat quarterback prospect than Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Football Manziel and led his team to victory over Manzielâ€™s in the Texas High School State Playoffs. The offense line only returns two starters with the whole right side and center being replace. Luckily, Texas Tech is ridiculously deep at wide receiver, led by senior Eric Ward. As is the the backfield, led by junior Kenny Williams. If Brewer comes along, the offense should be amazing. The defense returns seven starters as well. The problem is that none of the secondary is back. The front seven from a year ago is still intact though, and that should help up in stopping the run. Kingsbury even went as far as to call the front seven, the strength of the team. The secondary will be breaking in four new starters though. The secondary will have maturity on their side as it will start three seniors. Corner Derrick Mays could be the weakness though, and he will be tested early and often until he can prove otherwise. Texas Tech will be going through a transition year coaching wise. The offense is extremely talented as the skill positions, and the defense returns the entire front seven. The schedule actually set up quite favorably with the tough road tests being Oklahoma, and Texas on Thanksgiving. They will get Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor, and TCU on a Thursday night at home. If the offense picks up where they left off and the secondary can avoid growing pains, Texas Tech should be able to finish a respectable 9-3. If Brewer has some growing pains, and the secondary proves to be a weakness, they could struggle to a 6-6 finish. View attachment 53615 The West Virginia Mountaineers were the toast of the college football world after starting 5-0 last season. With quarterback Geno Smith putting up video games numbers, it seemed like nobody could stop them. Then Texas Tech happened and they lost five straight. West Virginia finished a disappointing 7-6 last year, capped by a 38-14 embarrassment at the hands of Syracuse in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Expectations this year are much lower. The offense returns three starters from a year ago. Gone are quarterback Geno Smith, receiver Tavon Austin, receiver Stedman Bailey, and four offensive lineman. To say this will be a tough transition year on offense is an understatement. West Virginia will also be dealing with three new coaches as quarterback coach Jake Spavital left for Texas A&M, running back coach Robert Gillespie left for Tennessee, and offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh left for Oklahoma. Andrew Buie returns to man the backfield, and he might be the most reliable weapon they have West Virginia has no clue as to which direction they will go at quarterback. Right now it seems that junior Paul Millard has the lead, but redshirt freshman Ford Childress is pushing him hard for the job. Florida State transfer Clint Trickett also figures to compete for the job. The offensive line returns junior left tackle Quinton Sparks, and thatâ€™s it. The defense is in much better shape than the offense as it returns seven starters. The defense was awful last season though. Some real progression must happen this season, especially after the firing of cornerback coach Daron Roberts and replacement of defensive coordinator Joe DeForest with Keith Patterson. The secondary, which was the main weakness last season, returns three starters. The linebacking core returns only one starter. The Mountaineers are looking at a tough schedule with road contests against Oklahoma, Baylor, Kansas State, and TCU. They will host Oklahoma State and Texas this year with their game against Maryland being played in Baltimore. If the offense has a seamless transition and the defense steps it up, West Virginia could be looking at a 7-5 season. If the defense continues its struggles and the offense has a tough time getting consistent quarterback play, West Virginia could stumble to a 5-7 year. View attachment 53606 As with every conference, the Big XII will have some important games this season. Some are for conference pride and some are for the conference championship. Week 1: Mississippi State vs Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State kicks off the season by facing second tier SEC squad Mississippi State in Houston. This game will be a good barometer for how good Oklahoma State is. LSU vs TCU. TCU will be looking upset LSU in Cowboy Stadium. For TCU, this could be the launching pad for a National Title run. Week 2: Texas @ BYU. This game will let us see how Texas ought to look this season. It is never easy playing BYU in Provo. Week 3: TCU @ Texas Tech. Texas Tech has a chance to score an upset early in the year. TCU will be looking to start their conference slate 1-0. Ole Miss @ Texas. Another SEC-Big XII matchup. Texas dominated Ole Miss last season 66-31 in Oxford. Texas will be looking to keep rolling as they get ready for conference. Week 4: Kansas State @ Texas. Both teams will be looking to start off their conference schedule on the right foot. Texas will need the win for confidence and Kansas State will be looking to try and repeat as conference champs. Week 5: Oklahoma @ Notre Dame. Oklahoma will be looking to avenge last seasonâ€™s 30-13 loss in Norman. Week 6: Texas @ Iowa State. Iowa State will be playing their second straight Thursday night contest. Iowa State will be primed to go for the upset. Texas needs to try an avoid losing this trap game. TCU @ Oklahoma. This game will mean a lot for both squads. Oklahomaâ€™s play could all depend on their performance against Notre Dame. Week 7: Oklahoma vs Texas. Itâ€™s the Red River Rivalry at the Cotton Bowl. Need I say more? Baylor @ Kansas State. Kansas State will be looking to avenge their 52-24 beatdown last season that cost them a chance at the National Title. Week 8: TCU @ Oklahoma State: Oklahoma Stateâ€™s first true conference test. Are the favorites ready to take a hold of the conference? Week 9: Texas @ TCU. This old rivalry has been renewed with Texas looking to avenge an embarrassing 20-13 loss last season. Week 11: Oklahoma @ Baylor. Baylor will be looking to trap Oklahoma on this Thursday night contest. Week 12: Oklahoma State @ Texas: This will be an important game for both squads chances as winning the conference title. TCU @ Kansas State. Kansas State will be trying to protect the Little Apple from a Horned Frog invasion. The winner of this game will remain in conference championship discussion. Week 13: Baylor @ Oklahoma State. Two high powered offense look to go at it. This game will probably come down to whoever had the ball last. Oklahoma @ Kansas State. Oklahoma will be looking to avenge last seasonâ€™s 24-19 home loss. Week 14: Texas Tech @ Texas. Texas Tech takes over Texas A&Mâ€™s spot as the Thanksgiving Day rivalry game against Texas. Texas will need this victory. Baylor @ TCU. The two young guns of the Big XII look to battle for contention for the top spot. Week 15: Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State. The Bedlam Game could decide the conference champion. Texas @ Baylor. This game could also wind up settling the conference champion. The Big XII looks to be one of the deeper conferences in college football yet again. With traditionals powers Oklahoma and Texas trying to fight off upstarts Oklahoma State, Baylor, TCU, and Kansas State. Letâ€™s face it though, the conference winner will come out of Oklahoma or Texas. With that being said, I predict Oklahoma State to win the Big XII. Do I have them playing in the Fiesta Bowl or Pasadena? Youâ€™ll have to wait to find out.