Story by Yousaf Khan
The Big 12 has been lagging the other Power 5 conferences for some time and with the much needed changes, they can gain momentum and raise their profile. The biggest change involves bringing back the conference championship game back after the league had some outgoing members. Even though the conference only has 10 teams that are already playing against each other, the move seems to market the league, helps any potential playoff contender and drive some additional revenue. As Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby stated, “But make no mistake. It’s not about making the playoff. It’s about winning National Championships. That’s what we want to do.”
Other big news involves up and coming coaches Tom Herman and Matt Ruhle taking over Texas and Baylor, respectively. The biggest news came over the summer when 18 year veteran head coach of the Oklahoma sooners, Bob Stoops, abruptly retired and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley was promoted. Since Stoops took over, the Sooners won the 2000 National Championship and have ten Top 10 finishes and ten conference championships. Coach Riley seems up for the challenge and offered this on maintaining the success of the Sooner program, “So I understand the good and bad with it, but there’s pressure and expectations. But I also see opportunity –you know, opportunity to continue to win championships, to chase National Championships, and to do it in the right way. So I see a great opportunity that I’m thrilled to be a part of.”
The favorites to win the conference are the 2 teams from Oklahoma in the Sooners and Oklahoma State. Both return high octane offenses that are commanded by QB’s Baker Mayfield, a two-time Heisman finalist, and 6’5 NFL-ready Mason Rudolph. In the end, the OK State Cowboys should win with their superior skill position talent. This includes the best set of WR’s in the country, led by James Washington. Kansas State is my sleeper pick with experienced QB Jesse Ertz leading the way and longtime coach Bill Snyder coming back from throat cancer during the off-season. The Texas Longhorns should improve it’s win total under new coach Herman and finally might awaken the sleeping giant after years of being dormant. TCU and West Virginia should be competitive enough to win some big games leaving Baylor, Texas Tech, Iowa State, and Kansas to round out the conference.
Baker Mayfield is my favorite to win offensive player of the year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mason Rudolph wins instead. TCU Linebacker Travin Howard is my favorite to win defensive player of the year and Oklahoma RB Trey Sermon is my projected freshman of the year.