Fans of every team head into the season with some sort of blind optimism. It could be hoping your team makes a bowl game, or simple as not going winless. On the other hand, you have those fans that will be disappointed if their team isn’t holding up the big crystal ball at the end of the season.
Regardless of how good your team really is, there is always that best case/worst case scenario that runs through your head as the season starts.
So here is a team-by-team look at the Big 12:
Best Case- With a more than capable QB in Dayne Crist and an offensive guru for a head coach in Charlie Weis, the Jayhawks start off 3-1 and get upset victories over Texas Tech and Iowa State in November to finish the season 5-7. The Jayhawks look like they have a solid foundation for the future.
Worst Case- After winning at home to South Dakota State to kick off the season, a defense that was last in the Big 12 in 2011 fails to improve and Kansas runs off 11 losses in a row to finish 1-11. Folks in Lawrence suffer for a day, but remember it’s now basketball season and all is well.
9. Texas Tech
Best Case- With a stronger defense and a solid QB in Seth Doege, the Red Raiders start the season 4-0, pull off an upset in an extremely tough part of their schedule (Okla,WV,at TCU,at Kansas St.,Texas) and finish off with three straight wins to go 8-4 with a trip to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.
Worst Case- The defense doesn’t improve, and Texas Tech goes into the meat off its schedule, loses 5 in a row and Tommy Tuberville gets the axe. The Red Raiders finish 5-7 for the second season in a row and head into the holidays looking for a new coach.
8. Iowa State
Best Case- Headed by one of the better LB crews in the Big 12, Jake Knott and AJ Klein lead the Cyclones to some gritty, hard-fought wins and get home upsets against Kansas State and in the season finale against West Virginia. Iowa State finishes 6-6 and heads to another Pinstripe Bowl, this time against Cincinnati where they win and finish 7-6.
Worst Case- After losing in back-to-back games to start the season against Tulsa and Iowa, the Cyclones get their first win against Western Illinois. Fans realize that the LBs are the only thing they have, and the Cyclones sputter through a disaster of a season and finish 3-9.
Best Case- Nick Florence does his best job to let the fans in Waco forget about RGIII. While throwing the ball all around the field to his trio of WRs in Terrance Williams, Lanear Sampson, and Tevin Resse, Florence earns All-Big 12 Honorable Mention, and an improved Baylor defense helps carries the Bears to an 8-4 record and a berth in the Texas Bowl.
Worst Case- Florence remembers that he’s not good as RGIII, and the Bears’ offense sputters following the departures of Kendall Wright and Terrance Ganaway. Baylor wins the games it should, but doesn’t pull out any upsets, finishes 6-6 and loses to Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl to finish under .500. Art Briles decides to leave before it’s too late, and becomes the head coach at Arkansas in place of a departing John L. Smith.
6. Kansas State
Best Case- With Collin Klien at QB and Arthur Brown at ILB, the Wildcats start off 5-2 with only road losses at Oklahoma and at West Virginia. They finish off the season strong and win at home against Texas to end up 10-2. They head back to the Cotton Bowl, defeat Georgia and get to 11 wins, the most since 2003.
Worst Case- Klein and his aggressive ways finally catch up to him. In the midst of a 50-yard run against Miami (FL) in the second game of the season, Klien gets a concussion and the Wildcats lose. The defense does its best, but they aren’t able to pull off the close wins like they did last season. Klien never gets back to 100% and Kansas State treads water all season and finishes at 7-5.
Best Case- Casey Pachall proves that the Big 12 isn’t that tough and has the Horned Frogs ranked #6 in the nation after starting off 7-0. WRs Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson are one of the top WR tandems in the nation, and Waymon James makes up for the loss of Ed Wesley. As the schedule gets tougher, TCU loses at West Virginia and home to Oklahoma and gets to 10 wins for the fifth season in a row.
Worst Case – Pachall proves that the Big 12 isn’t that tough and has the Horned Frogs ranked #6 in the nation after starting off 7-0. Boyce and Dawson are one of the top WR tandems in the nation, and James makes up for the loss of Wesley. As the schedule gets tougher, TCU loses their final five games and finishes 7-5, ending with a trip to the Poinsettia Bowl against Nevada.
4. Oklahoma State
Best Case- Wes Lunt and Tracy Moore become the second coming of Weeden/Blackmon, and Joseph Randle leads the Big 12 in rushing. The Cowboys are led on defense by an excellent secondary with CBs Brodrick Brown and Justin Gilbert. They only suffer two tough losses on the road against Kansas State and Oklahoma and win the Cotton Bowl against Arkansas to finish 11-2. Mike Gundy wins Coach of the Year.
Worst Case- Lunt plays like a freshman, and the Cowboys lose their second game at Arizona. Joseph Randle tries to do too much and wears down as the season goes on. They finish 7-5 but get an Alamo Bowl victory against Stanford to go 8-5 on the season. Gundy heads for greener pastures and becomes the head coach at Florida after the firing of Will Muschamp.
Best Case- David Ash squashes any QB controversy and does his part in not losing any games for Texas. He hands off to his trio of RBs who all finish with over 500 yards rushing and throws more TDs than interceptions. They lose a tough home game to West Virginia due to looking toward the Red River Rivalry, which they win. The Longhorn defense finishes No. 1 in the nation and Texas ends up finish 11-1 with a Big 12 title. They get a win against Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl to go 12-1, their best season since 2008.
Worst Case- Ash struggles and Mack Brown switches between him and Case McCoy for every drive all season long and the offense never finds a rhythm. The defense is solid, but they lose games late because the offense can’t stay on the field long enough to give them a rest. They lose back-to-back games in October against West Virginia and Oklahoma, and lose the last two games against TCU and Kansas State. The Longhorns finish 8-5 after losing the Holiday Bowl.
2. West Virginia
Best Case- Geno Smith doesn’t miss a beat as the Mountaineers switch to a tougher conference. Smith puts up Heisman-like numbers and WRs Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin tear up Big 12 defenses. West Virginia loses at Oklahoma State but wins the Big 12 and earns a berth in the Rose Bowl. Smith finishes second in the Heisman voting.
Worst Case- West Virginia realizes that they aren’t playing in the Big East anymore and have trouble on a weekly basis. With losses at Texas, Kansas State, TCU, and Oklahoma, the Mountaineers go 8-4 and head to the Holiday Bowl against UCLA.
Best Case- Mike Stoops is back as the defensive coordinator and the Sooners’ defense responds. The Sooners win an overtime thriller against Texas and take care of West Virginia on the road. Landry Jones and Kenny Stills put up great numbers and finish the season undefeated. Jones is a Heisman finalist and, in typical Bob Stoops fashion, Oklahoma losses the title game to USC 55-19.
Worst Case- Jones continues his decline as a QB. After tossing 2 picks in a loss to Texas, a QB controversy arises. The team doesn’t respond and loses at home to Notre Dame and on the road against West Virginia. They finish 9-3 and in Stoops fashion, they lose the Holiday Bowl to Stanford 55-19.
Jeremy Cabler covers the NFL Draft and College Football for Rant Sports. Check out his Scouting Reports