Offensive player of the year: Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor. Love his game, love his chances of getting to New York, love his outlook. After throwing for 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns, Petty wants to cut down on his interceptions. There were three last season.
Defensive player of the year: Cedric Reed, DE, Texas. The Horns won't be pushed around up front in Charlie Strong's first season. A big reason is the 6-foot-6, 270-pound Reed (10 sacks in '13).
Top newcomer: K.D. Cannon, WR, Baylor. The Bears have rather arrogantly started calling themselves "Wide Receiver U." It ain't bragging if you can back it up. Cannon, the nation's No. 4 receiver, came to Baylor to catch passes from a Heisman candidate in a deep wideout corps.
Coach of the year: Bill Snyder, Kansas State. No, I'm not saying the Wildcats will win the league. But haven't we all learned not no underestimate Snyder and the Cats? Snyder will become the fourth-ever active coach eligible for the College Football Hall of Fame in October. He has one of the best qb-wr tandems in the country with Jake Waters and Tyler Lockett. A couple of former walk-ons are stars (DE Ryan Mueller and C B.J. Finney). K-State is picked in the middle of the Big 12, but they will overachieve.
Most underrated team: Texas. Charlie Strong has laid down the law. He inherits loads of talent. Now he just needs to get consistent quarterback play out of David Ash. Don't forget, this team came within 30 minutes of winning the Big 12 in '13.
Most overrated team: Texas Tech. Isn't the jury still out on Kliff Kingsbury? The Red Raiders won their first seven and got into the top 10 before losing five in row. Tech won the bowl game but can we make any hard and fast conclusions about Kingsbury as a head coach as yet?
Most intriguing conference game: Texas vs. Oklahoma, Oct. 11. What else? This is Strong's first Red River Shootout going against the projected Big 12 champs. This game never seems to disappoint. Stoops is 9-6 against the Horns.
Most intriguing non-conference game: UCLA vs. Texas in Arlington, Texas, Sept. 13. If the Bruins are all that we'll know quickly in a de facto road before a sold-out Jerry Dome.
Bold conference prediction: The Big 12 will be left out of the playoff this year.
Offensive player of the year: Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor. Might have the country's best passing numbers by late November. He's eager to shake that ugly Oklahoma State performance. This is a quarterback-driven league and Petty's the best the Big 12 has to offer. Loaded with receiver options. Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett is a close second.
Defensive player of the year: Ryan Mueller, DE, Kansas State. The Wildcats defensive end looks to build on his 11.5-sack performance. With Devonte Fields gone from TCU, Mueller is the best player in a low-watt year for Big 12 defensive stars.
Top newcomer: Rushel Shell, RB, West Virginia. Dorial Green-Beckham would top this list but is no guarantee to play for OU this year. Shell, a talented Pitt transfer running back, will bolster what should be a potent WVU running game. Shell rushed for 641 yards and four scores as a freshman at Pitt.
Most overrated team: Texas. Texas usually gets preseason love off its name but this year's Longhorns look like a 7-5 team with an 8-4 ceiling. With a shaky quarterback situation, questions at receiver and a rash of dismissals/suspensions, UT's promise under Charlie Strong will come in Year 2.
Most underrated team: TCU. Gary Patterson has tailored his offense to accommodate the Big 12's no-huddle ways. Quarterback Luke Joeckel and Trevone Boykin are capable. Patterson's defenses are always good. The Horned Frogs will win at least a few of those close games they lost a year ago.
Most intriguing conference game: Baylor at Oklahoma, Nov. 8. The Sooners are a popular preseason pick for the four-team playoff but Baylor aims to change that. The Sooners get Baylor in Norman. The Bears need to quell the perception that they underwhelm on the road in big games.
Most intriguing nonconference game: Florida State vs. Oklahoma State, Aug. 30. It's not time to write off the Cowboys as a factor nationally, but a young defense has a brutal first task against the loaded Noles. It's time for Mike Gundy to get creative. He's hinted at using two quarterbacks in Week 1.
Bold conference prediction: Baylor and Oklahoma are obvious contenders, but the third one won't be Oklahoma State or Texas... but Kansas State, which will upset Auburn on Sept. 18.
Offensive player of the year: Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor. The Big 12's best quarterback returns to one of the nation's best offenses. There's no reason to think Petty won't continue to put up video-game numbers.
Defensive player of the year: Dominique Alexander, LB, Oklahoma. Alexander was the Big 12's defensive newcomer of the year in 2013. He is one of the Big 12's hardest hitters and returns to an improving unit under defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.
Top newcomer: Tyreek Hill, RB/WR, Oklahoma State. Hill, a JuCo transfer, has been compared to former West Virginia star Tavon Austin. Hill won the Big 12 indoor 200-meter race last March and Mike Gundy wants him to touch the ball 10 to 15 times a game.
Coach of the year: Bill Snyder, Kansas State. Don't be surprised if the Wildcats make a move to the top of the Big 12 standings. Nobody coaches up talent quite like Snyder.
Most overrated team: Oklahoma. The Sooners have the chance to be very good. But by virtue of one win against Alabama, Oklahoma carries the burden of exceedingly high expectations as the No. 3 team in the coaches poll. Quarterback Trevor Knight needs to consistently do what he did at the Sugar Bowl for a full season.
Most underrated team: Kansas State. The Wildcats make a habit out of sneaking up on teams. Beware, Auburn, on Sept. 18 in Manhattan, Kan.
Most intriguing conference game: Baylor at Oklahoma, Nov. 8. Just go ahead and circle Nov. 8 now as the date you'll be glued to your TV: Baylor-Oklahoma, LSU-Alabama and Michigan State-Ohio State are all that day.
Most intriguing nonconference game: Texas vs. UCLA, Sept. 13. Kansas State-Auburn is a close second. But there's something intriguing about seeing how Charlie Strong handles his first high-profile game at Texas and how UCLA will handle high expectations.
Bold conference prediction: The Big 12 will get left out of the first College Football Playoff, causing more handwringing about whether the Big 12 needs to bring back a conference championship game.
Offensive player of the year: Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor. Petty leads the nation's most explosive offense and is on the short list of favorites to win the Heisman Trophy.
Defensive player of the year: Ryan Mueller, DE, Kansas State. Mueller had 11.5 sacks a year ago to anchor the Wildcats defense. Much will be asked of him this year, and he's up to that challenge.
Top newcomer: Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State. Lazard is a highly regarded recruit at a position of strength for the Cyclones, but he should still be able to have a significant impact.
Coach of the year: Bill Snyder, Kansas State. He's not a Hall-of-Famer for nothing. Snyder will have his team competing for a spot near the top of the league, even if the talent isn't quite at the level of the Sooners and Bears.
Most overrated team: TCU. This may have been true even with Devonte Fields, but it's more so without him. The Horned Frogs are one of the few teams in this league that wins with defense first. That's a bigger challenge now.
Most underrated team: Texas Tech. Scoring won't be a problem under Kliff Klingsbury. If the Red Raiders can find a defense, this team could pull a surprise or two.
Most intriguing conference game: Baylor at Oklahoma, Nov. 8. This will most likely decide the league title. If either can finish undefeated, they'll make the playoff.
Most intriguing nonconference game: Texas vs. UCLA, Sept. 13. This is a chance for new Longhorn coach Charlie Strong to get his program off to a flying start. The Bruins will start the season on the fringe of the top 10.
Bold conference prediction: This season will be the last as a college coach for Charlie Weis.
Offensive player of the year: Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor: Whether or not Baylor can win the Big 12 again is unknown at this point, but what we do know is that Baylor's offense is going to put up ridiculous numbers like it always does, and Petty will be leading the way.
Defensive player of the year: Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma: Striker led the Sooners in sacks last season as a sophomore, but I expect him to improve on his total of 6.5 this year. Though I suppose I don't expect it as much as I'm hoping it happens, because let's be honest, there really isn't a better name for a linebacker in college football right now than "Striker." Especially if you've seen some of the hits he's laid out.
|Big 12 All-Conference|
|WR||Tyler Lockett||Sr.||Kansas State|
|TE||EJ Bibbs||Sr.||Iowa State|
|OG||Cody Whitehair||Jr.||Kansas State|
|OG||Quinton Spain||Sr.||West Virginia|
|DT||James Castleman||Sr.||Oklahoma State|
|P||Nick O'Toole||Jr.||West Virginia|
|All-Purpose||Tyler Lockett||Sr.||Kansas State|
Top newcomer: Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State: I would have chosen Oklahoma's Joe Mixon, but with his status up in the air at the moment, I'll go with Lazard. Top 100 recruits typically don't go to Iowa State, but thanks to Lazard's size (6-foot-4 and 207 pounds), ability, and circumstance, it wouldn't be surprising if Lazard makes his way onto the field early and plays a big role in Iowa State's offense.
Coach of the year: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: I feel like this is a two-horse race between Stoops and Art Briles, and since I think Oklahoma will end up winning the Big 12, and possibly earn a playoff berth, I'm going with Stoops.
Most overrated team: Kansas State. Big 12 media pick the Wildcats to finish third in the conference this season, and while I'm a firm believer in the magic of Bill Snyder, I just don't see it. Three new starters on the offensive line, not a lot of experience at running back, some key losses on defense, and a schedule that includes Auburn and road trips to Oklahoma, TCU and Baylor is a lot to deal with.
Most underrated team: Oklahoma State. I understand the skepticism heading into 2014 given the losses (only four returning starters on both sides of the ball), but this is a team that won 10 games last season, and has won 41 games in the last four seasons. While a slight step back wouldn't be shocking, I still believe Mike Gundy's program has reached the point where it will just keep plugging along, so I can see this team finishing third in the conference.
Most intriguing conference game: Baylor at Oklahoma, Nov. 8. Honestly, what other game could you pick? Yeah, Oklahoma-Texas is the historic rivalry, but right now the two best teams in the conference are the Sooners and Bears. The Big 12 Championship will be played on Nov. 8.
Most intriguing nonconference game: Texas vs. UCLA, Sept. 13. You know, the Big 12's non-conference schedule is somewhat lackluster, and while there are some interesting matchups, there's nothing that seems like must-see football. So I'm going with Texas and UCLA because it will be interesting to see Charlie Strong in his first chance to make a statement in Austin.
Bold conference prediction: Kansas will win multiple conference games. How bold of a prediction is this? Well, the last time Kansas won multiple conference games in the same season was 2008. In the five seasons since the Jayhawks have gone 3-40 in the Big 12. Seriously. 3-40.
Offensive player of the year: Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor. The last player to come back for a second season as Art Briles' starter in Waco won the Heisman, and if Petty's not quite rusher enough to reach the heights of Robert Griffin III, a trip to New York still seems more likely than not.
Defensive player of the year: Ryan Mueller, DE, Kansas State. In the typical "wait, what?" fashion of Bill Snyder's players, the former walk-on exploded onto the scene with 11.5 sacks and 7 tackles for loss as a junior, poising him for an even bigger senior campaign.
Top newcomer: Matt Joeckel, QB, TCU. It's possible Joeckel won't even win the TCU starting quarterback's job, in which case, ignore this. But if he does, he'll take command of a revamped offense with plenty of help at both the line and skill positions. And maybe more importantly, the Frogs defense looks to be at its strongest point in years -- meaning the former Texas A&M signal-caller could, almost by default, pilot his new team to a top-20 finish.
Coach of the year: Bill Snyder, Kansas State. Assuming the league won't just award it to Briles again (and my hunch that Oklahoma won't win the conference is correct), a third-place finish and at least one of his trademark seismic upsets should be enough for the Manhattan legend to make another addition to his overstuffed trophy shelf.
Most underrated team: TCU. The Horned Frogs lost four games a year ago by a total of 11 points, missing out on colossal upsets of both Baylor and Oklahoma by the narrowest of margins. If the Frogs can get anything from the quarterback position (see above), better breaks and Gary Patterson's usual defense could carry them back into Big 12 contention.
Most overrated team: Oklahoma. One swallow doesn't make a summer, as they say, and one incredible performance -- even against Alabama -- shouldn't mean a team that got crushed by Baylor and Texas, that needed late escapes to beat TCU and Oklahoma State, and basically never looked like a top-10 team until that Sugar Bowl is suddenly ready to challenge for a national title.
Most intriguing conference game: Baylor at Oklahoma, Nov. 8. Of course, with all that said, the Sooners are still without question of the Big 12's most talented teams and not likely to finish any lower than second. If I'm wrong and they are worthy of the playoff hype, there's no better chance to prove it than at home vs. the reigning champs.
Most intriguing nonconference game: Kansas State vs. Auburn, Sept. 18. The Wildcats will be at home, on a Thursday night, off a bye, vs. the defending SEC champions and an almost certain top-10 opponent. The trap is already set. Can Snyder and Co. spring it?
Bold conference prediction: The Big 12 will miss the inaugural College Football Playoff. There's precious little separation between any of this conference's top six teams -- the Bears and Sooners are solid, but you think they don't have anything to worry about from the likes of Charlie Strong's defense at Texas or Mike Gundy's offense at Oklahoma State? -- and while that balance should make for some incredible televised drama, it's also going to end with no team in the league finishing with fewer than two losses.
Offensive player of the year: Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor. Petty's teammates have started the word-of-mouth campaign to get the Bears' quarterback to New York City for the Heisman. With their high-powered offense it's not crazy to think he'll get there.
Defensive player of the year: Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma. The reason to pick Oklahoma to win the Big 12 is not because of what the Sooners did to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, it's because of Striker, Charles Tapper and a loaded defense that should dominate all but 2 or 3 teams in the league and give OU a chance to win against everyone.
Top newcomer: Tyreek Hill, RB/WR, Oklahoma State. The lack of incumbent skill position players in Oklahoma State's wide-open offense will allow Hill, a highly-touted junior college transfer, an opportunity to thrive immediately.
Coach of the year: Charlie Strong, Texas. If Texas reverses its recent defensive trends and finishes with 9+ wins, Strong will get credit for "fixing" Texas. The Longhorns fans will get restless for league titles soon enough, but avoiding those embarrassing losses with a dominant defense can be a tangible example of Strong's impact on the program.
Most overrated team: Oklahoma. Is it possible to be overrated and my pick to win the league? Oklahoma will be really, really good in 2014 but I'm not sold on the Sooners as the No. 3 team in the country yet.
Most underrated team: Texas Tech. Davis Webb should take a step forward after an entire offseason as the guy under center. With loads of talent at wide receiver and 9 starters back on offense, it'll be up to the D to determine where the Red Raiders finish in the standings.
Most intriguing conference game: Baylor at Oklahoma, Nov. 8. The howdown will set the stage for the Big 12 title race. It's the closest thing to a Big 12 title game, and OU fans are glad the game will be in Norman.
Most intriguing nonconference game: Texas vs. UCLA, Sept. 13. I assume that the arrival of Charlie Strong and Vance Bedford will improve the Longhorns' defense, but Brett Hundley and Co. will test that rebooted unit in Arlington on Sept. 13.
Bold conference prediction: Texas fans are satisfied with Charlie Strong's first year. Vegas has the Longhorns' projected win total between 7 and 8. A challenging early season schedule could keep the Longhorns from even being bowl eligible before November. Unless the Horns upset UCLA, Oklahoma or Baylor -- which is possible -- it could be a long first season for Charlie Strong.
|Big 12 Predicted Order of Finish|