Oklahoma has been in a tier of its own in the Big 12 in recent years. From the end of the Bob Stoops era into the beginning of Lincoln Riley’s tenure, the Sooners have won five straight conference titles with four trips to the College Football Playoff. This year, Riley has to work in a new quarterback, leaving some to believe that there’s an opening for Texas or Oklahoma State to win the conference crown.
Meanwhile, there is some serious depth through the rest of the conference standings. Anybody can beat anybody. In a year where the absence of the Big Ten and Pac-12 is going to bring more eyeballs to Big 12 games, that competitiveness from 1-9 in the standings (sorry, Kansas) is a tremendous asset.
Below we’ve previewed the 10 Big 12 teams, listed in predicted order of finish. The teams’ preseason conference title odds from BetMGM are listed in parentheses.
1. Oklahoma (-120)
2019 record: 12-2
All eyes will be on Spencer Rattler as Oklahoma enters the 2020 season. Rattler is Lincoln Riley’s prized five-star QB recruit who is poised to take the reins at a position that has produced some of the game’s top stars in recent years. Riley helped Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts — all transfers — reach the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York, with Mayfield and Murray winning the award. Now Riley gets the chance to develop one of his own as he looks to coach the Sooners to a sixth consecutive Big 12 title and back to the College Football Playoff. And while Rattler will be one of several new faces among OU skill position players, the defense returns eight starters and could be a significantly improved unit in Year 2 with Alex Grinch as defensive coordinator.
2. Texas (+180)
2019 record: 8-5
Texas enters Year 4 of the Tom Herman era with a team that returns 16 starters, including QB Sam Ehlinger in his final chance to win the Big 12. Ehlinger will have the guidance of new coordinator Mike Yurcich (via Ohio State and Oklahoma State) along with an experienced group of linemen and running backs. UT will need its receivers to step up for the offense to fully click. The defense has a new coordinator as well in ousted Rutgers head coach Chris Ash. UT dealt with a bunch of injuries and ended up having one of the Big 12’s worst defenses a year ago, but Ash, who had a strong run as DC at Ohio State, has the returning pieces to execute a quick turnaround. The Longhorns are especially strong in the secondary.
3. Oklahoma State (+700)
2019 record: 8-5
It was a turbulent offseason in Stillwater, but Mike Gundy and the Cowboys have emerged on the other side with one of the most talented teams of Gundy’s 15-year run at OSU. The Cowboys return Heisman candidate Chuba Hubbard, who led the nation with 2,094 rushing yards in 2019. Hubbard is joined on offense by wideout Tylan Wallace, a senior with 139 catches over the past two seasons, and sophomore quarterback Spencer Sanders. Couple that firepower with 10 returning starters on defense, and you’ve got a legitimate contender for the Big 12 championship.
4. Iowa State (+1100)
2019 record: 7-6
Behind Sam Ehlinger, Iowa State’s Brock Purdy is the top returning quarterback in the Big 12. Purdy, now a junior, threw for 3,982 yards and 27 touchdowns last fall in a 7-6 season for ISU, which was a bit of a disappointment relative to preseason expectations. Matt Campbell has coached the Cyclones to three straight winning seasons, but is looking to push ISU into the status of legitimate Big 12 title contenders. To do so, Purdy will need some help from his running game. Breece Hall has the chance to be one of the better RBs in the Big 12, but ISU’s run blocking was rather unimpressive in 2019.
5. Baylor (+3500)
2019 record: 11-3
Baylor was one of college football’s surprise teams in 2019. The Bears started the year 9-0 and ended up facing Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game before meeting Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. After that run, Matt Rhule left Waco for the NFL, and BU brought in Dave Aranda, the defensive coordinator for the national champion LSU Tigers. Most of Baylor’s 2019 offense, including QB Charlie Brewer returns, but the defense has plenty to replace. Aranda has brought in several transfers to bolster his team’s depth. Ex-Iowa linebacker Dillon Doyle and ex-Arkansas State defensive end William Bradley-King should both make immediate impacts for the Bears on defense.
6. TCU (+2000)
2019 record: 5-7
The middle of the Big 12 should be extremely competitive with TCU as one of the teams poised for an improvement. Originally, we had TCU ahead of Baylor but the loss of quarterback Max Duggan is a big one for the Horned Frogs. Amidst TCU’s COVID-19 testing, Duggan was discovered to have a heart condition and his timetable for a return is unclear. Without Duggan, there could be a significant drop-off at the position. The loss of Duggan means TCU will rely on its defense even more. The Horned Frogs have an excellent defensive backfield with the safety duo of Trevon Moehrig and Ar’Darius Washington as one of the nation’s best.
7. Kansas State (+4000)
2019 record: 8-5
If the No. 7 spot feels low for Kansas State, it’s more of a reflection of the Big 12’s depth rather than what the Wildcats will bring to the table in 2020. Kansas State, in its second year under Chris Klieman, brings a contrast in style to the mostly spread-happy Big 12. The Wildcats are going to run the ball and play at a slow pace. It’s a formula that helped KSU win eight games in 2019, including a monstrous upset over Oklahoma. Senior quarterback Skylar Thompson is one of three starters back on offense while the defense has six starters back. Much of K-State’s inexperience is in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Still, the Wildcats can play with anybody in the league.
8. West Virginia (+2500)
2019 record: 5-7
Relative to the talent on the field, West Virginia getting to five wins in Neal Brown’s first season as head coach was a pretty solid outcome — especially winning two of three down the stretch with a near-upset of Oklahoma State. WVU played its final three games with Bowling Green transfer Jarret Doege at quarterback. Doege played quite well and was able to keep his redshirt. Now he takes over the starting role full-time and will get to develop as part of a solid young core. Brown has boosted his team’s depth with transfers, and should see Tony Fields (via Arizona) and VanDarius Cowan (via Alabama) play big roles at linebacker in 2020.
9. Texas Tech (+8000)
2019 record: 4-8
Year 1 for Matt Wells at Texas Tech looked a lot like other recent Red Raiders teams. Tech had the Big 12’s second-best offense, worst defense and had a losing record in conference play. The Red Raiders also had only three games of a healthy Alan Bowman at quarterback. Bowman has been limited to 11 games over the past two seasons due to injury. If he is healthy for the duration of 2020, it will go a long way toward moving the Red Raiders up in the Big 12 standings. The defense, with eight returning starters, needs to improve as well — especially against the pass.
10. Kansas (+10000)
2019 record: 3-9
Kansas is improving, but there’s still a clear gap between Les Miles’ team and the rest of the Big 12. The Jayhawks managed to win three games in Miles’ first season, and the new staff has been able to raise the team’s talent level on the recruiting trail. But there’s still more work to be done. KU has some exciting players at the skill positions with RB Pooka Williams as the most notable. But KU lacks a proven quarterback and is going to really struggle on defense again. KU hasn’t won two Big 12 games in a season since 2008, and it’d be a surprise if 2020 was the season that snapped that streak.
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