Four In A Row, Going for Five
Oklahoma QB and Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray won the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year award last season, marking the 4th consecutive season the Sooners have earned the honor. QB Baker Mayfield won the award in 2015 and 2017, and WE Dede Westbrook in 2016, were previous winners. In addition, the OU won the most individual conference awards (43) in the 22-year history of the Big 12.
Shrinking Big 12
The Big 12 isn't very old. The conference was born in 1996 when the remaining Southwest Conference schools - Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, and Texas Tech - joined Big Eight schools Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, and Iowa State. However, with recent defections, they are down to just 10 teams. That being said, a proposal for a Big 12, Pac-12 strategic alliance would make a lot of sense. Imagine a world in which Oklahoma’s non-conference lineup consists of Arizona, USC, and Utah all in the same season while Washington’s three out-of-league opponents that year are Oklahoma State, TCU and Iowa State. Meanwhile, Texas plays Oregon, UCLA, and Colorado. The Ducks? They get Texas, Kansas State, and Texas Tech. In this world, the Big 12 and the Pac-12 are bound together by a strategic alliance in which all available non-conference dates are filled by teams from the other league. No more FCS cupcakes. No more Group of Five opponents. It’s one Power Five against another: 30 head-to-head matchups, season after season. The conferences would gain in stature and only the strong would survive. Bring it on!
Note: Team write-ups are excerpts from the 2019 PLAYBOOK Football Preview Guide magazine on sale at newsstands nationwide. The numbers following each team name represent the amount of returning starters on offense and defense, along with the number of returning linemen, with an asterisk (*) designating a returning quarterback. The RPR represents each team’s overall, offensive and defensive rankings in overall returning production experience.
2019 BIG 12 CONFERENCE PREVIEW
BAYLOR Off - *8/3 Def - 7/2 RPR: 20/59/7
TEAM THEME: THE FIX IS IN
Following a similar pattern, Matt ‘The Fixer’ Rhule’s first year teams at Temple and Baylor went 2-10 and 1-11 respectively. In Year Two with those programs, they improved to 6-6 and 7-6. So what does the 3rd year hold for Rhule, you ask? If Temple’s 10-4 record is any indicator, the Bears should start making holiday reservations now. Sporting the most returning experience in the Big 12 this season, QB Charlie Brewer is back after tossing for more than 3,000 yards and 19 TDs in 2018. However, the Bears’ rush defense allowed 5.4 yards per carry, and gave up more than 200 ground yards in five contests, despite going 4-1 in those games. That will need to be addressed.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Rhule is 15-3 ATS against conference foes coming off a double-digit win.
PLAY AGAINST: as a favorite at Kansas (11/30)
IOWA STATE Off - *8/5 Def - 8/3 RPR: 80/98/53
TEAM THEME: WIN IN THE DARK
The good news is 67.8 percent of starters are back in 2019, including the entire defensive front. However, gone are offensive stars in RB David Montgomery and WR Hakeem Butler, along with starting CB’s D’Andre Payne and Brina Peavy who made 78 career starts combined. Blossoming QB Brock Purdy made great strides last season and he’ll look to take advantage of four home games in ISU’s first five contests. It’s the one road game in between that troubles us, though, as ascending Baylor thoroughly outplayed ISU in a 14-point home loss last season. Remember, as we called out last year: the Cyclones theme was “Win in the Dark”. The concept was simple. Games are won or lost in the offseason when nobody is watching. We’re watching, for sure.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: 14 of head coach Matt Campbell’s 22 career conference losses have come by a TD or less.
PLAY AGAINST: at Baylor (9/28) - *Key as a favorite
KANSAS Off - 5/3 Def - 5/1 RPR: 112/107/89
TEAM THEME: LES IS MORE
The Les Miles era in Lawrence begins, and it couldn’t come soon enough. Miles won two SEC championships and a national championship at LSU before being fired four games into the 2016 season. He’s anxious to get back to work, and while sometimes one should be careful of what one wishes for, the Mad Hatter inherits a Jayhawks team that finished No. 2 in the nation in turnover margin (+1.33 last season). Sure, their starting quarterback, three of their top four wide receivers and the entire defensive line must be replaced, but Miles was 114-34 overall and 62-28 in the SEC at LSU. What more could Kansas ask for?
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Kansas is 5-82 SU in conference games since 2009.
PLAY AGAINST: at TCU (9/28) - *Key
KANSAS STATE Off - *8/4 Def - 8/4 RPR: 31/46/28
TEAM THEME: SWEET DREAMS, GRAMPS
Recently retired Bill Snyder was only the fourth person in the history of college football to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as an active coach. In fact, he’s the only college coach to have a football stadium named after him while he was still coaching. Enter new coach Chris Klieman, tremendously successful at North Dakota State where his teams captured three FCC championships over the past five seasons. He brings QB Courtney Messingham from NDSU where he won two national championships the past two seasons, and Messingham will battle Skylar Thompson (71.5% completions in 2018) for the No. 1 QB spot. In addition, the Wildcats welcome back their top two WRs and a stellar OL. Don’t fall asleep on this team.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Klieman’s 69 wins and .920 winning percentage the last five years is tops among all Division 1 (FBS and FCS) head coaches.
PLAY ON: at Kansas (11/2)
OKLAHOMA Off - 4/1 Def - 9/3 RPR: 57/109/13
TEAM THEME: LOVE HURTS
Former Alabama QB Jalen Hurts had enough of Nick Saban’s love of him as a backup. In transferring to Norman this season, Hurts realizes Baker Mayfield transferred to Oklahoma and Kyler Murray did the same as each went on to win the Heisman Trophy the past two years. The question is can Hurts make it three-for-three? If so it will likely start on the defensive side of the ball where the Sooners are deeply experienced and anxious to play for new DC Alex Grinch (Ohio State). With four Big 12 championships in the last four seasons and just three conference losses, Boomer remains the team to beat in 2019.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Oklahoma is 133-28 in regular season Big 12 games since 2000. That’s 24 more wins than the next best school (Texas).
PLAY AGAINST: vs. West Virginia (10/19)
OKLAHOMA STATE Off - 6/4 Def - 5/0 RPR: 74/91/56
TEAM THEME: NO SWEAT
As we called out last year, Mike Gundy has spent more than half of his life either quarterbacking or coaching at Oklahoma State. The man loves what he does. And he loves winning. Coming off his 13th straight winning season and a seventh bowl victory in the last nine years, Gundy suffered significant personnel losses and as a result, will welcome a new offensive coordinator, offensive line coach and starting quarterback in 2019. The change at quarterback means the Cowboys will have their third different starter in as many seasons. But given Gundy’s track record, it should be no problem as the Cowboys have ranked in the top 10 nationally in passing offense in each of the past four seasons.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Cowboys are 12-0 SU and 10-2 ATS off consecutive wins versus an opponent off consecutive losses under Gundy.
PLAY ON: vs. Baylor (10/19)
TCU Off - 7/4 Def - 5/2 RPR: 85/36/111
TEAM THEME: WHERE HAS ALL THE OFFENSE GONE
Head coach Gary Patterson’s first priority this season is resurrecting an offense that has slipped miserably each of the last three years, going from 42 points and 563 yards per game in 2015 to 23 points and 368 yards last season. Yes, the Frogs won 4 of their final five games of the campaign last season but they did so averaging just 16 points and 307 yards per game in the process. The QB race is on as two signal callers suffered injuries during spring camp while Kansas State transfer Alex Delton was learning the system. The good news is 4 starters are back from an OL that led the Big 12 in pass protection last year.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: TCU forced 76 TOs the last four seasons. The Horned Frogs forced 100 TO’s the prior three seasons.
PLAY ON: vs. Texas (10/26)
TEXAS Off - *5/2 Def - 3/0 RPR: 121/88/123
TEAM THEME: NO MORE BATTLE BRUING
The USA TODAY reports UT ranked 124th in plays of 40 or more yards. They also ended the season as one of only two teams without an offensive gain of 50 or more yards for the season, which is shocking for a 10-win team that toppled Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Meanwhile, another quarterback battle was potentially shaping up with former 5-star recruit Bru McCoy announcing that he was transferring in from USC to battle Sam Ehlingher (Is it us or does Ehlinger seem to always have to “win” his job back every season?). However, McCoy balked at coming to Austin and is said to be going back to USC as a wide receiver. With a bevy of senior starters that made 56.5% of all starts (6th most in the country) gone, and higher expectations for the Horns in 2019, it won’t come as easy as it did last season.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Longhorns head coach Tom Herman is 12-2 ATS in his career as an underdog.
PLAY AGAINST: vs. Texas Tech (11/29)
TEXAS TECH Off - *8/4 Def - 7/3 RPR: 78/82/67
TEAM THEME: WELLS ENDOWED
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury sat on the hot seat so long at Texas Tech (three straight sub .500 seasons) that he was hired away by the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL. Go figure. It had to be a Patrick Mahomes / Kyler Murray thing. Nonetheless, Utah State head coach Matt Wells takes over Air-Raid U and with it, he’ll turn the keys to the offense over to QB Alan Bowman, who showed signs of brilliance as a freshman last year before a collapsed lung ended his campaign the final week of October. Behind arguably the best offensive line in the league, Wells’ offense ranked 2nd in the nation in scoring last year should not miss a beat.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Red Raider pass defense ranked No. 128 in yards allowed last season.
PLAY AGAINST: vs. TCU (11/16)
WEST VIRGINIA Off - 4/2 Def - 6/1 RPR: 105/118/58
TEAM THEME: WHAT BROWN CAN DO FOR YOU
Consider this: less than 1% of all WVU team starts last year were made by freshmen, meaning former head coach Dana Holgorsen went all-in to win last season, not for the future. To that we say: no fear, Neal Brown is here. Brown is one of only six FBS coaches to win 10-plus games the last three years. And during the past four years, his defenses ranked No. 2 nationally in takeaways and No. 7 in interceptions. Replacing QB Will Grier will be challenging but Austin Kendall transfers in from Oklahoma where he backed up Heisman Trophy winners Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield. Safe to say, we’re big Brown boosters.
STAT YOU WILL LIKE: WVU is 14-1 SU and 12-3 ATS away against foes coming off a SU favorite loss since 2005.
PLAY ON: vs. Oklahoma State (11/23)
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