Oklahoma loves the Big 12 Championship Game. In the 6 seasons when the conference dropped the league title game the Sooners only won the Big 12 outright once and shared a title another time. In the 13 previous seasons with a title game (including being reinstated for 2017) the Sooners have won the Big 12 on 9 separate occasions.
In the League of Quarterbacks no one has excelled quite like OU who witnessed back-to-back Heisman winners over 2017-18 featuring outright stupid production of 545 completions, 10,300 total yards, 102 total touchdowns, and just 13 interceptions. Somehow, these numbers are real.
Team – Overall – League – F/+ Rank
$ Conference Champion
Oklahoma, 12-2, 8-1, #4 $
Texas, 10-4, 7-2, #25
West Virginia, 8-4, 6-3, #23
Iowa State, 8-5, 6-3, #36
TCU, 7-6, 4-5, #56
Baylor, 7-6, 4-5, #80
Oklahoma State, 7-6, 3-6, #28
Kansas State, 5-7, 3-6, #89
Texas Tech, 5-7, 3-6 #51
Kansas, 3-9, 1-8, #102
Texas upset Oklahoma in a wild Red River Rivalry, then rose to No. 7 in the AP Poll while being unbeaten in Big 12 play following an embarrassing opener loss to Maryland. The Horns lost a pair of brutally close games in weeks 8 and 9 allowing the Sooners to rise to the top of the league and ultimately dish out some revenge with a 12-point win in the Big 12 Title Game.
Les Miles – Kansas
Chris Klieman – Kansas State
Matt Wells – Texas Tech
Neal Brown – West Virginia
Kansas–who has finished their 10th straight year without a winning record–let go of David Beaty after his 6-42 run with the Jayhawks was significantly worse than his predecessor Charlie Weis. They brought aboard former LSU head coach Les Miles on November 18, 2018 who had quite the head start to plan for the 2019 season.
The last time Kansas State replaced Bill Snyder it didn’t go so well as Ron Prince was fired for a mediocre 17-20 record only 3 months after signing a contract extension. The end of the second Snyder stint (28-24 since 2015) wasn’t much better and gives Chris Klieman–wildly successful 69-6 at North Dakota State–some work to do to stay competitive in the Big 12.
Texas Tech fired Kliff Kingsbury after 6 years who then went to sign up as the OC with USC, resigned, and is now the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Connections! The Red Raiders turned to Utah State head coach Matt Wells as their replacement after the Aggies finished 11-2 a year ago.
Dana Holgorsen–perhaps noticing he was wearing out his welcome–bolted West Virginia for the Houston job this off-season making the peculiar choice of voluntarily leaving a Power 5 job. The Mountaineers hired 39-year old Neal Brown who finished up a stellar 31-8 run over his final 3 seasons at Troy.
Easiest Schedule: Baylor
The Big 12 out of conference scheduling leaves a lot to be desired, and I mean a lot. Specifically, the Baylor schedule almost doesn’t feel like it belongs at the Power 5 level. The Bears will open with an embarrassing gauntlet of Stephen F. Austin and UTSA at home before a grueling road trip at Rice. They will also get most folks’ top 3 in league play (Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa State) at home. I think many are expecting an improved Bears squad largely because of this favorable schedule.
Toughest Schedule: West Virginia
The Mountaineers open up against perennial FCS power James Madison who are breaking in their own new head coach, then travel to Missouri, before hosting NC State in Morgantown. That’s a challenging first few weeks of 2019. They do have what should be a breather against Kansas next but then face Texas, Iowa State, and Oklahoma into mid-October. Neal Brown might be 2-5 by mid-season if he’s not careful.
Stock Up: Texas
This has to be Horns both because no one else in the Big 12 is really shaping up to claim this title and Texas did beat Georgia for a major bowl victory while simultaneously having plenty of room for improvement. They need to re-tool a lot on both lines which is kind of scary for a team that wasn’t very explosive on offense and is going to hope quarterback Sam Ehlinger can make decent improvements and stay healthy.
Stock Down: TCU
Gary Patterson has rebounded from a poor season several times in the past. Some are expecting him to do it again but I don’t like their quarterback situation in a league that really stresses offense. Their schedule is pretty friendly early on but includes a very interesting trip to Purdue in week two. If they get past the Boilermakers there could be enough momentum to do some damage in the Big 12.
Burning Question: What Does It Mean if Texas is Back?
Can Texas be back if they don’t win the Big 12? Maybe? If they can beat LSU in one of the nation’s most anticipated games there’s going to be a ton of hype as they (likely) head into the Oklahoma game undefeated. I don’t know how they would be viewed if they lose twice to the Sooners though. And yes, Texas should make it back to the Big 12 Title Game not doing so would be a major failure.
Top League Game: Texas at Iowa State
Outside of the obvious choice here which teams can challenge Oklahoma and Texas at the top of the league? The Horns might be double-digit favorites in 5 out of their last 6 games. This visit to Ames being the biggest challenge late in the season. Matt Campbell’s ascendant Iowa State program has defeated 4 ranked teams over the last 2 seasons and should be circling this game as their opportunity to move into league title game position.
Worst Team Not Named Kansas: West Virginia
A tough schedule and a completely overhauled coaching staff won’t make things easy. Neal Brown has pretty good offensive chops and should keep West Virginia’s fast-paced spread working pretty well. On defense, major question marks are there for a team losing a quality defensive coordinator in Tony Gibson plus replacing 6 starters. I don’t know if they can keep up for 2019.
Predicted 2019 Finish
Iowa State 8-4
Oklahoma State 7-5
Texas Tech 7-5
West Virginia 4-8
Kansas State 4-8
The Big 12 looks to be suffering from the same problem as last year–really no quality depth to challenge Oklahoma or Texas for the league title. In 2018, six teams lost at least 5 league games and finished under .500 in Big 12 play. A stronger team like West Virginia (6-3 last year) should take a step back as noted above while Iowa State (6-3) just doesn’t seem to have much of a higher ceiling when they can’t break into the Top 40 of the recruiting world.
Ideally, at least one team makes a sizable jump and if I had to pick I would go with Oklahoma State who is returning plenty of talent and were quite unlucky to lose 6 games a year ago as the #28 F/+ team in the country. I’m a believer in quarterback Spencer Sanders quickly becoming a playmaker in the Big 12 and if the Cowboys can get a little defensive improvement it could lead to a league challenge.
We should also mention Oklahoma’s attempt to turn Jalen Hurts into their 3rd straight Heisman winner should get plenty of publicity. On the surface, Hurts’ college numbers are pretty eye-popping for someone who lost his job last year: Over 5,000 passing yards, nearly 63% accuracy, only 12 interceptions, almost 2,000 rushing yards, and 71 total touchdowns. He’s never seemed that great on the field primarily because he’s never been an elite passer but Lincoln Riley has to be cackling behind the scenes with his ability to mold an experienced veteran whose proven to be a good playmaker in big games.