The Big 12 in 2016 became the first Power Five conference to miss the College Football Playoff twice. Couple that with the departure of the man who presided over the league for 18 seasons in Bob Stoops and you would think the conference will be down in 2017. Maybe ... but maybe not.
Texas landed the top available head coach candidate in Tom Herman, Oklahoma turned to 33-year-old up-and-comer Lincoln Riley to lead a Heisman Trophy candidate, Oklahoma State returns the best set of offensive playmakers in the nation, and Kansas State may put up a fight in what may be Bill Snyder's last season.
With all that in mind, the CBS Sports college football team decided to break down the Big 12 entering the 2017 season. Keep reading for our slate of predictions and picks.
Most overrated team
Texas: The hype around Texas is stampeding through like a herd of, um, Longhorns. New coach Tom Herman has everyone excited in Austin, and they should be, but it is usually asking a lot for a big turnaround in year one of a new coach's tenure. This is a program coming off three straight losing seasons after only having one such season in the previous 16 years. Expect some improvement on the offensive side of the ball, which is Herman's bread and butter, but the Longhorns have to replace a 2,000 yard rusher in D'Onta Freeman. It's the defense that needs the most work and the key to Texas living up to the hype. Most of the defense returns, but it gave up over 31 points per game last year, so that may not be a great thing. Herman brought Todd Orlando, his defensive coordinator at Houston, with him to Texas to try to right the ship. The hype at Texas is legitimate, but the results are likely a year away. -- Jerry Palm (and Dennis Dodd, Ben Kercheval)
Oklahoma: Baker Mayfield is one of the most electric quarterbacks in college football and will win plenty of games working his magic in 2017. But all of them? Enough to keep Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff race? No, not with a first-year head coach in Lincoln Riley trying to figure things out quickly without two of his star running backs and stud wide receiver off of last year's squad. Oklahoma will be competitive but is far more likely to be part of a big hot mess in the Big 12 vying for two conference title game slots but far from the national title picture. -- Barrett Sallee (and Tom Fornelli)
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys' offense is not overrated. It may be the best offense in college football. But as we make our bold predictions before the start of the season, I am jumping off the Oklahoma State darkhorse playoff train. It's not the offense that concerns me. It's the fact that nobody seems to care about the defense. Statistically this was the 92nd best defense in college football last year in terms of yards allowed, and it loses six starters from that unit. I love teams that are composed of a bunch of wide receivers and a great quarterback. They're fun to watch. But how many teams with that identity plus an anonymous defense make the playoffs? It's going to be a fun year in Stillwater, but a playoff run won't ever be in the cards. -- Barton Simmons
Kansas State: For me, Kansas State's outlook is going to depend on where the team is after six games. On one hand, I could see this group rallying behind Bill Snyder and elevating itself from playing spoiler -- Oklahoma and West Virginia on upset watch, regardless of the Wildcats' record at the time -- to making a run at the Big 12 title. Even though there's reasons to be excited about the Jesse Ertz-led offensive attack, I've got Kansas State on the same tier as Baylor and TCU, not as a potential title team like others. -- Chip Patterson
Most underrated team
Kansas State: Never bet against Snyder with an experienced quarterback. The last time he was in this position, Collin Klein went to New York and finished third in the 2012 Heisman voting. Oh, and K-State won the Big 12 that year. Ertz is that latest experienced senior quarterback. He should easily be a 2,000/1,000 guy this season. If this is truly Snyder's last season after a battle with throat cancer, he's not going to leave anything in the playbook. The Wildcats should be picked no lower than third in the Big 12, and getting Oklahoma, TCU and West Virginia at home is advantage. -- Dennis Dodd (and Jerry Palm, Ben Kercheval, Barrett Sallee)
TCU: It's only natural to lower expectations for the Frogs this season. They're coming off a 6-7 season after entering 2016 with lofty expectations. Well, last I checked, TCU is still coached by Gary Patterson, and he has recruited as well or better than anybody in the conference not named Oklahoma or Texas. Also, there's a precedent here. In 2013, the Frogs had a horrible season, going 4-8. They then went 23-3 the next two seasons, winning the Big 12 in 2014. I don't know that they win the conference this year, but they're going to be a lot better than most expect. -- Tom Fornelli (and Chip Patterson)
Baylor: There's no question that Matt Rhule inherited some challenges at Baylor, but talent isn't one of them. To most, it seems that Baylor has become an afterthought that flew too close to the sun and now is back where it belongs at the bottom of the conference. I don't see that being Baylor's identity at all. This team is talented enough to win every game it plays. I've yet to talk to a coach, player or person with insight into Rhule that hasn't raved about what he brings to the table as a coach. With one of league's more talented rosters and one of the country's more talented coaches, what's stopping this team from making major noise in the Big 12? New coaches and new schemes take time, but Rhule had several opportunities out of Temple and he chose Baylor for a reason. This team is really dangerous. -- Barton Simmons
- Dennis Dodd: In an attempt to get his son the job, Bill Snyder will step down by the end of September forcing administration to elevate special teams coach Sean Snyder.
- Barton Simmons: A wild Texas season features a loss to Iowa State on the road followed by a win over Oklahoma two weeks later.
- Jerry Palm: The addition of the magic 13th game will not only fail to help the Big 12 get into the playoff, it will be the reason the league misses again.
- Chip Patterson: Experts will say the Big 12 Championship Game result keeps a team out of the playoff. In reality, the committee will already have a top four or five going into championship weekend -- without a Big 12 representative.
- Tom Fornelli: No Big 12 team will have fewer than two losses, and the conference will miss the CFP for the third time in four years.
- Ben Kercheval: In true, historic Big 12 Championship Game fashion, the lower-ranked team will win title game and disrupt the Big 12's playoff hopes.
- Barrett Sallee: Kansas State at Oklahoma State will be the biggest game of the year and will give Bill Snyder a taste of what's to come in the Big 12 Championship Game rematch.
Big 12 predicted order of finish
Big 12 champion
Oklahoma State: There are reasons why I think Oklahoma State can win the Big 12 that have nothing to do with anybody else other than the Cowboys. OSU had one of the best defenses in the conference last season, and while it loses some key parts, I believe the unit will be strong again. On offense, the Cowboys have the best QB-WR duo in the conference with Mason Rudolph and James Washington. I also believe the Big 12 is vulnerable this season. Can Oklahoma win the conference again? Sure, of course it can. It's the favorite for a reason. But I think people are underestimating the effect that Bob Stoops' retirement may have on the Sooners, as Lincoln Riley has proven to be a brilliant offensive coordinator but has never been a head coach before. There's a transition period there, and when you combine that with some huge losses on offense, the Sooners don't seem nearly as strong to me this year. And Oklahoma State is going to take advantage of it. -- Tom Fornelli (and Dennis Dodd, Jerry Palm, Barrett Sallee)
Oklahoma: I've got a lot of belief in Riley, his relationship with Baker Mayfield and the Sooners established place as the team to beat in the Big 12, currently riding a 16-game winning streak against conference foes. There are a lot of receptions, carries and yards missing from last year's team, but the traditional box score doesn't show offensive line stats and that's arguably the team's biggest strength going into 2017. Orlando Brown is a monster with All-American potential at left tackle, and every other starter from that group is back after earning some kind of all-conference accolades. That group is so good that even if Mayfield wasn't back, I'd still be excited to see Kyler Murray running Riley's offense and probably still pick Oklahoma to win the league. -- Chip Patterson (and Barton Simmons)
Kansas State: I was all in on Kansas State winning the Big 12 earlier this summer in our bold predictions piece. It would be disingenuous to walk it back now. With the return of the conference's title game, all K-State needs to do is finish No. 2 in the regular-season standings. Then, it's 0-0. This team, so young a season ago, returns a lot of playmakers. Plus, K-State gets three of its four toughest games on paper at home. No coach in the Big 12 (and maybe the country) is better at game-week prep than Bill Snyder. Then again, your's truly picked TCU to win the Big 12 a year ago, so... -- Ben Kercheval