With spring practices around the Big 12 either under way or already over for the ten teams that make up the conference, a better picture is starting to take shape as to which teams will be on top during the 2013 season.
The top three are pretty clear with the Texas Longhorns, Oklahoma State Cowboys, and the TCU Horned Frogs bringing the most complete teams to the table at this point. The bottom two are also not a mystery with both the Kansas Jayhawks and the Iowa State Cyclones likely looking at yet another lackluster season for their football programs. With five of the ten teams in the conference already having places in the ranks that leave the middle chunk of the conference a relative mystery. Last season the Big 12 had five teams end up with 7-5 regular season records, and in 2013 I expect to see five teams once again end up with that record, give or take a win.
When eyeballing the schedules, the Kansas State Wildcats have the best chance of hanging near the front of the Big 12 than the other middle of the road teams. Still, it isn’t hard to pick out four losses with a fifth perhaps being only a matter of one play going the other way. I’ve got K-State losing three road games: at Texas, at Oklahoma State, and a third when they visit the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Their only home loss will be to TCU. K-State is looking like an 8-4 team, but could fall as low as 5-7 if things don’t go their way. I expect them to stick to the higher side of the win column though.
This is going to be a bit of a rough season for the Oklahoma Sooners as they attempt to figure out how to build an offense around a running quarterback. That adjustment period is going to cost the Sooners some wins. I’ve got OU dropping a non-conference game on the road to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, as well as Big 12 games to TCU, and at Kansas State. That isn’t the end of the bad news though, because I see the Sooners losing both of their big rivalry games in 2013. Texas will finally grab a win in the Red River Shootout (Rivalry), and the ‘Pokes will take the W in the Bedlam game when OU visits Stillwater. Add it up and that is a 7-5 season for the Sooners.
The West Virginia Mountaineers went 7-5 in their first season in the Big 12 and will probably not see improvement during their sophomore season due to key personnel losses. WVU drops three on the road to Oklahoma, K-State, and TCU as well as suffering home losses to Oklahoma State and Texas. For the second year in a row 7-5 will be the finishing mark for the Mountaineers.
Texas Tech has a new head coach in Cliff Kingsbury and with a new coach comes growing pains. The Horned Frogs and Cowboys will best TTU in Lubbock next season, though don’t rule out Tech surprising one of them since they are a different and much better team at home than on the road. As for those road games Tech will lose three of them: at West Virginia, at Oklahoma, and at Texas. The swing game for Tech will be their neutral site game against the Baylor Bears. That one could go either way, but at the moment I’m inclined to hand it to Baylor. Adjusting to a new QB is easier than adjusting to a new coach…and a new QB. With a loss to Baylor, Tech will go .500 on the year.
I’ve also got Baylor clocking in at 6-6 with an even split of home and road losses. The Bears will take traveling losses at K-State, OSU, and TCU. At home they will find themselves on the losing end in their games against WVU, OU, and Texas.
The Big 12 picture mirrors the rest of college football in that upsets have become more frequent. There are some games lurking in there where one of the middle of the pack Big 12 squads could step up and topple a top three team. Record books go out the window in rivalry games so the OU/Texas, OU/OSU, Baylor/TCU, Tech/Baylor, and even the Kansas/KSU games could end up with surprising results. Still, it is a good bet that these five teams will mostly be competing for the 3rd-8th slots in the conference.
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