Not too long ago Oklahoma had itself a bit of a drought in the Big 12 with only 2 league titles in 6 chances from 2009 through 2014. The horror! The Sooners have since rebounded to win the last 3 conference championships and head into 2018 as the favorites once again.
Summary of Last Year
Both Oklahoma and TCU lost to Iowa State which was fun. The Sooners and Horned Frogs met in the league title game anyway which was fairly uneventful all around. Oklahoma had defeated TCU by 18 earlier in the year and took the conference crown with a 24-point victory.
It was a season of haves and have-not’s that is for sure. OU, TCU, and Oklahoma State combined to go 33-8 while Baylor and Kansas combined for abysmal 2-22 records. Things are just so depressing in Lawrence where the Jayhawks have lost 81 games since 2010.
At least in recruiting, Texas is back. The Horns finished the 2018 cycle 3rd nationally while the next-best in conference fell to Oklahoma at 9th overall. It was quite the drop off after these two blue-bloods with TCU (#25), Baylor (#31), Oklahoma State (#33), and West Virginia (#35) rounding out the top 6 in the league.
Safeties Caden Sterns (Texas, No. 19 overall) and B.J. Foster (Texas, No. 24 overall) were the top Big 12 signings while offensive tackle Brey Walker (Oklahoma, No. 29 overall) was the other 5-star who inked within the league.
Top Out of Conference Game: USC at Texas
For the Big 12 it’s likely either this game or TCU and Ohio State inside AT&T Stadium in Arington. The Trojans visiting Austin is important historically as its their first since 1966 (how is this possible I don’t know). If the Horns are taking a step or two forward this is potentially a game with playoff implications. I’m not sure Texas will be that good but it’s possible.
Most Important League Game: TCU at Texas
Guys, the Big 12 might not be very good. We’re always waiting for Texas is Back™ and TCU lost a lot from last year. I kind of like Oklahoma State to surprise (they aren’t expected to be a conference contender) and the same for West Virginia, too. Still, the prognosticators like Texas and TCU to battle it out behind Oklahoma for that league title game spot. What makes this matchup even better is that it comes directly after USC at Texas and Ohio State vs. TCU.
Sell 2018: TCU
This is me largely selling the Frogs’ quarterback situation in conjunction with replacing half their starters. Using the Coaches Poll recently released they have TCU at No. 16 ahead of the likes of Florida State, UCF, and LSU plus all other non-Oklahoma teams in the Big 12. Checking out their forecast I’m seeing more of a 8-4 regular season.
Buy 2018: West Virginia
Hello, it’s the Big 12 and offense is crucial. The Mountaineers do have several holes to fill on defense which likely keeps them from winning the league. However, you could make the case that heading into the season they have the best–and certainly the most stable–offense situation in the Big 12. West Virginia was 7-3 with 3 close defeats last year when Will Grier was healthy at quarterback. I really like them to be a top 15-ish team in 2018.
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma
Of course, Grier is the easy choice here. If not him, Anderson led Oklahoma last year by a wide margin with 1,487 all-purpose yards. Without the Heisman-winning Baker Mayfield I’m sure we’ll see Anderson touch the ball at least 20% more this fall.
Defensive Player of the Year: DE Ben Banogu, TCU
I found this stat pretty amazing: Of the 29 solo tackles by Banogu last year (6th best on the team) 16.5 of them were for a loss. He also chipped in 8.5 sacks, 7 quarterback hurries, and 3 forced fumbles last year. Yup, he’s very good.
League Title Game: Oklahoma vs. West Virginia
Here’s the deal, you may want to sell Oklahoma without Baker Mayfield and I get it. The No. 1 overall pick totaled 152 touchdowns in 3 years with 6 losses to 34 wins. When you’re looking up hard to replace for 2018 there’s Mayfield’s face. Then you see his replacement is a former cast-off from Texas A&M, talent for sure, but also standing 5’10” and could break in two on any scrimmage snap. Imagine a quarterback with the build of Everett Golson except up to 2 inches shorter.
On the flip side, this may be the easiest Oklahoma schedule in recent memory. Lincoln Riley should absolutely keep the train rolling. Sure, pesky FAU and Lane Kiffin await in the opener followed up by an interesting Chip Kelly-led UCLA in week two. The Sooners should win both, though. I’m worried more about visits to TCU and West Virginia, the latter coming in the final week of the season which, in my predictions, would include a rematch a week later.