It’s hard to think of a time when there is as much parity as there will be in the Big 12 Conference during the 2013 college football season. With many teams losing their starting quarterbacks and important positional battles happening all over the conference, there’s a little more uncertainty this season than there has been in some time about who will rise to the top and take home the conference crown, and most likely, an appearance in the last series of BCS bowl games in January 2014.
Pre-season rankings and predictions have any number of possible scenarios playing out, but if there is a measure of consistency that would be a common belief that the Texas Longhorns, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, TCU Horned Frogs and Baylor Bears are the first-tier of the conference this season with the Kansas State Wildcats just on the outside looking in.
Oklahoma State is the most intriguing team in the conference with the Big 12 coaches picking them to win it all, while outlets like CNNSI not even including them in the pre-season Top 25. With the transfer of last year’s starting quarterback Wes Lunt to Illinois, there was some concern about the offense, but Mike Gundy has two guys who return under center in J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf who can both carry their weight. The Cowboys have all the tools to make another deep run and many are considering them the prohibitive favorite.
Oklahoma loses long-time starter Landry Jones, but has a ton of confidence in redshirt freshman Trevor Knight — a San Antonio Reagan product — who wowed the coaching staff with his strong arm, natural leadership ability and overall athleticism both in spring practice and prior to the season to win the job over last year’s specialty star, Blake Bell. There are some depth concerns where there haven’t been in the past for the Sooners, and this season may be a little more unstable than most for Bob Stoops, but a lesson learned time and again by Oklahoma’s Big 12 opponents is to never take them lightly.
The Texas Longhorns are in for one of the most important seasons in the recent history of the program, one that could determine the future of many associated with the team both in Bellmont Hall and on the sidelines. Mack Brown simply must find a way to knock off the Sooners in Dallas on October 12th or the rumblings about his future in Austin will be louder than they ever had been. The “youth excuse” so often used to defend Texas’ struggles the past few season is no longer viable as the Longhorns return one of the most experienced teams overall in the conference with depth and game minutes galore at each position– with only a few exceptions.
It’s time for Texas to deliver on the talent it has on paper and move back into the country’s elite, or there could be another shakeup a la 2010.
Things are a little less clear for both the TCU Horned Frogs and Baylor Bears for very different reasons. TCU will start Casey Pachall under center in its nationally-televised opener against the LSU Tigers Saturday evening, but redshirt sophomore Trevone Boykin will be waiting in the wings if Pachall’s off-field behavior catches up with him again. Gary Patterson’s squad may also be without Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year Devonte Fields in the early going which will require some unfamiliar faces to step up and produce.
Baylor has a new quarterback as well in Bryce Petty, who has drawn raving reviews from Art Briles and the Bears’ staff and media across the state as well in his efforts to replace gunslinger Nick Florence. Petty will have plenty of help in creating some balance on offense with Heisman Trophy candidate Lache Seastrunk in the backfield behind him, but will be tested early and often for the Bears to have any chance to be a part of the conference race as the weather cools in the Lone Star State.
If you’re a fan that likes intrigue and constantly shifting storylines, your attention should be firmly fixed on the Big 12 this fall. There will be no shortage of either.