Tuesday, July 22, 2014

2014 College Football Preview: Big 12

The math still fails to make sense, as there are still only 10 teams in the Big 12. The conference failed to add two more members, and seems to be currently content sitting at ten. I feel that they are making the correct choice. Hosting a championship game isn't all it's hyped up to be, and now the regular season champion still holds the ability to get into a title game without the added pressure. The Big 12 may be the lone major that has it right. That being said, BYU, Boise State, Houston, and SMU are all still in play eventually, as is Cincinnati and U Conn.
The conference has two schools that will eventually play into the national title scene as Oklahoma looks to be back to their old dominating ways, and Baylor looks to rebound from their Fiesta Bowl failure to become a national player for certain in 2014. The rest of the conference looks to be decent to basically average this fall, so barring any miracles, it all falls on the Sooners and Bears to make something happen.

Projected Order of Finish
1. Oklahoma
2. Baylor
3. Texas
4. Kansas State
5. Oklahoma State
6. TCU
7. Texas Tech
8. West Virginia
9. Iowa State
10. Kansas

Coaches on the Hot Seat
Charlie Weis, Kansas
Paul Rhoades, Iowa State
Dan Holgorson, West Virginia

Best Coach
Art Briles, Baylor

Worst Coach
Charlie Weis, Kansas

The following teams will finish with winning records and bowl bids...

Oklahoma Sooners
Projected 2014 Record: 11-1
Head Coach: Bob Stoops (160-39, 15th season)

Trevor Knight has the job at QB now, and he blew up in the Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. Knight should be the guy to carry on the legacy of true top performers at QB that has become a staple of Sooner football. Stability here may give the Sooners a chance at moving up from a rough ranking of 90th last fall.
The RB position is a bit jumbled, but there are options. Keith Ford heads into camp with the job, but he will likely hand the job over to freshman Joe Mixon, a huge inbound talent from California. Alex Ross is also back and in the mix as well.
WR Sterling Shepard is going to have a huge season, and is the lone returning starter there. Derrick Woods will step in and start as a sophomore, and former Blake "Belldozer" Bell will also move to WR for the 2014 season. Isaac Ijalana will also get reps in the multiple set offenses. Much is also thought of TE Taylor McNamara, who may give the Sooners yet another standout TE.
The strength on the line is at tackle, as both Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams return. LG Adam Shead returns, giving the Sooners senior leadership at all three spots. Juniors should start at the open C and RG spots in Ty Darlington and Nila Kasitati.
The Sooners were a strong unit last fall, ranking 20th overall. Both DEs return in Charles Tapper and Chuka Ndulue, and three of four LBs return in Dominique Alexander, Frank Shannon, and Erik Striker. New starters will be needed at one LB spot, and at DT.Jordan Phillips has the lead at DT, while senior Geneo Grissom leads at LB.
The secondary could be well improved from a ranking of 30th nationally. Julian Wilsona and Zack Sanchez return at CB, while FS Quentin Hayes is back as well. Sophomore Hatari Byrd will likely start at the open SS spot.
Special Teams
Michael Hunnicutt returns as one of the best PKs in America, and the senior has missed only 10 FGs during his entire career.
Jed Barnett is back at Punter after averaging 41.7 yards per punt.
Opening Game
8/30 Louisiana Tech
Final Overview
Of course, there always trap games when it comes to OU, but they should maneuver their way through the season without much incident, until 11/8 when they meet Baylor in Norman. If the offense improves, as it should, and the defense builds off of last season, as it should, OU could be in the championship picture (Final 4).

Baylor Bears
Projected 2014 Record: 11-1
Head Coach: Art Briles (44-32, 7th season)

Baylor finished 1st nationally in both scoring and total offense last season, and there isn't much to make me believe that the Bears won't be back there again. What's even more impressive was the balance displayed on this offense, as the Bears also finished 13th in the nation in rushing.
Back is Bryce Petty at QB, who is actually better than any QB that Baylor has had (sorry, RG3). Petty passed for 32 TDs and just 3 picks last fall, and is largely the guy to finish as our QB of the Year this fall.
Shock Linwood will get the bulk of the carries at RB, after the Bears lost several RBs the last couple of seasons. Gone is the committee approach, and Linwood should be the guy.
The WR corps is loaded with Antwan Goodley, Levi Norwood, and Corey Coleman all returning to start. Depth is also plentiful, giving the Bears the best WR corps in the nation. Tre'von Armstead will get the nod at TE.
The main question will be on the line, where only LT Spencer Drango and RG Desmine Hilliard return.
This may be the Achilles for the Bears. The defense was surprisingly strong last fall for a traditionally rich offensive football team, finishing 28th nationally. The main issue is that the roster is loaded with new starters as only three starters return in DT Beau Blackshear, LB Bryce Hager, and FS Terrell Burt. Eight new starters will tell the tale as to how far the Bears could go.
Special Teams
The Bears will be handing their PK duties to a true freshman in 2014, as Aaron Jones has moved on. Chris Callahan has the job to lose now.
Spencer Roth is a beast at Punter, as he averaged a booming 45.8 yards per punt last fall.
Opening Game
8/31 SMU
Final Overview
The offense is like the Death Star of old, without the thermal exhaust port weakness. Nothing will likely stop the offense from pumping up nearly 50 points per game this fall, but can the defense come together to stop opponents from doing the same? The new starters on D need to gel early, or else the Bears may slip. If the defense even comes together marginally, Baylor will be able to challenge Oklahoma in the Big 12,. The schedule is highly manageable, but the Bears do travel to Oklahoma. That game should be for all the marbles in the Big 12 race.
Texas Longhorns
Projected 2014 Record: 8-4
Head Coach: Charlie Strong (1st season)

The offense was highly average at best in 2013, ranking just 64th nationally, and the passing game struggled once again, ranking 79th.
David Ash is back to start at QB, but he will be challenged by USC transfer Max Wittek, Tyrone Swoopes, and Jerrod Heard in camp. Ash has never stepped all the way up to be the leader that he needs to be, and if he struggles early, look for a change to happen.
Malcolm Brown is a beast at RB, and will be joined by Jonathon Gray and Joe Bergeron as a strong group. Gray is coming back from severe injury, so he is the question mark of the group.
Jaxon Shipley and Kendall Sanders are back to start at WR, so there should not be any drama from the passing game this season. Greg Daniels is also back at TE to give the Horns one of their best receiving groups in a long while.
The line may be an issue, as only C Dominic Espinosa and RT Kennedy Estelle return.
The line may have some serious issues on one side, but there is some experience to lean on. Cedric Reed returns at one DE, and Malcolm Brown is back at DT. Desmond Jackson should be the new starter at DT, while Shiro Davis should start at DE. New coach Charlie Strong also brought big time DT recruit Poona Ford along with him, so look for him in the rotation.
The starting LB corps returns intact with Dalton Santos, Steve Edmond, and Jordan Hicks will all be back in the middle. The defense will need them to step up as they ranked just 83rd against the run last fall.
The secondary is experienced as well, but ranked just 53rd against the pass. Both CBs return in Quandre Diggs and Duke Thomas, while Mykkele Thompson is back at SS. Senior Josh Turner should step in at FS.
Special Teams
Anthony Fera handled both PK and P jobs last season, but he's gone now. Nick Rose steps in at PK, while William Russ should handle the P job heading into camp.
Opening Game
8/30 North Texas
Final Overview
Texas, like Michigan and Nebraska, has seen better days. That's why Mack Brown absolutely had to go after last season, and Charlie Strong was brought over from Louisville. Strong was about the eighth choice for the job last fall, but he was a solid choice. That being said, not everyone was onboard with this hire.
Texas still doesn't have the athletes that OU and Baylor have right now, so they fall into the second tier in the conference. Eight wins should not be an issue, but both offense and defense must step up to get there. Improvement everywhere is a must.

Kansas State Wildcats
Projected 2014 Record: 9-3
Head Coach: Bill Snyder (178-90-1, 23rd season)

If you are looking for a spark from K State in 2014, it likely won't come from an offense that ranked only 71st nationally in 2013.
Jake Waters returns as a senior to start at QB, but he really isn't much of anything special, although he was stronger at the end of the season than the beginning.
Daniel Sams, who shared the job with Waters, moves to WR, but will not start there. Those jobs will fall to the dangerous Tyler Lockett, who will pair with Curry Sexton. Lockett scored 11 times last fall, and caught 82 passes. Zach Trujillo will also return at TE.
DeMarcus Robinson heads into camp as the starting RB, but will likely lose the job to freshman Dalvin Warmack at some point.
The line is a question, as only LT Cody Whitehair C BJ Finney return.
The defense has several questions, as only four starters returns. Three of those starters are in the front seven, which is the good news. DE Ryan Mueller, DT Travis Britz, and LB Jonathon Truman all return. JC transfer Terrell Clinkscales should start at DT, while junior Marquel Bryant will get the nod at DE. Senior Dackery Johnson and junior Charmeachealle Moore will likely win the open LB spots.
Only FS Dante Barnett returns in the secondary, and that unit was already the worst of the defense heading into this season. Randall evans and Morgan Burns lead to win the CB jobs, while SS Dylan Schellenberg should win at SS.
Special Teams
Jack Cantele returns at PK after hitting 11 of 13 last season. There will likely be a freshman handling the P job in Mitch Lochbihler.
Opening Game
8/30 Stephen F. Austin
Final Overview
The Wildcats look to be trending downward this fall, as the defense has to be largely rebuilt. The offense has some special athletes, but one of them isn't playing QB, and K State doesn't have the firepower to compete for a league title, and may even be overrated at 3rd or 4th. This could be rough go this season.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Projected 2014 Record: 7-5
Head Coach: Mike Gundy (77-38, 10th season)
The Cowboys return some special skill set players, but there are many holes throughout this unit, and that calls for a basic rebuild up front, where only LG Chris Grisbhy and RT Daniel Koenig return to block for QB JW Walsh, who now stands as the only QB in the system with experience.
Walsh could be poised for a breakthrough in 2014, but only if the line before him can hold up under development and pressure. Two of the new starters on the line are only sophomore (C Paul Lewis, RG Zac Veatch), so this could get interesting.
RB Desmond Roland will need that line to gel as well, as he returns as the primary back after rushing for 11 TDs last fall. Rennie Childs and JC transfer Tyreek Hill could spell him and take some work themselves. Hill will also see some snaps lined up wide at receiver.
The WRs could be a very solid group, but someone needs to step up and be a star this fall, as so far, nobody has clearly taken a leadership role. Jhajuan Seales and Austin Hayes return, while Blake Webb and Marcell Ateman will likely try to step into starting roles.
Defense has never really been a focal point in Stillwater, and it could be a weak link yet again in 2014, as only four starters return from a unit that ranked 52nd nationally in total D last season.
Jimmy Bean and James Castleman return up front for the Cowboys, but two new starters must be found. Sam Wren (DE) and Ofa Hautau (DT) could step up, but there's a group trying to compete heading into camp.
Ryan Simmons is the lone returning starter at LB, while CB Kevin Peterson is the lone returnee in the secondary.
Special Teams
Ben Grogan returns as the starting PK, but was largely average to awful, hitting just 11 of 18 FGs last season, his first as a starter.
Kip Smith returns as the Punter, , and while he pinned 24 punts inside the 20, he also only averaged 39.6 yards per punt on the season, which isn't anything to write home about.
Opening Game
8/30 Florida State at Arlington
Final Overview
The schedule certainly doesn't help, as the Cowboys open with defending champ Florida State, and finishes with Kansas State, Texas, and back to back road games at Baylor and Oklahoma. That alone is too much to overcome, but then again, the lack of depth and key talent is bad news as well. Overall, I tend not to bet against Mike Gundy, and he ought to be able to squeak enough out of this squad to get back to a bowl.

TCU Horned Frogs
Projected 2014 Record: 6-6
Head Coach: Gary Patterson (120-44, 14th season)
The Frogs biggest issues has been finding stability at QB, and they have finally settled on one guy there, and that's transfer Matt Joekel. Joekel transfers over from Texas A&M, and will be the guy from day one in a new no huddle system being implemented by Doug Meacham and Sonnie Cumbie as co-coordinators.
That move allows Trevone Boykin to shift out to WR, and the Frogs should make better use of his athleticism chasing down the ball in the field, but he isn't slated to start at WR juts yet. David Porter and Josh Doctson both return as starters, but the leaders for the open jobs are Ja'Juan Story and Ty Slanina.
BJ Catalon will be back to start at RB, and will share carries with Aaron Green. Both are speedy and explosive , and could be used together to diversify the spread attack.
The line is set at Tackle with Aviante Collins and Halapoulivaati Vaitai returning, but the entire interior is on rebuild mode.
Defense has always been the calling card of great TCU teams, and it certainly looks like the strength heading into 2014 as well, as the Frogs try to get back to a bowl.
TCU is set inside on the line with both DTs coming back in Davion Pearson and Chucky Hunter. DE is a bit of a problem, as projected new starter Devonte Fields is having some legal issues in a domestic assault case as of this writing. Junior James McFarland is slated to win the other DE job, but if Fields can't go due to suspension, depth could be a big time problem off of the edge.
Marcus Mallet and Jonathon Anderson will both be back at LB, and may be the heart of the entire unit.
The secondary is experienced and deep, with four starters returning in CB Kevin White, WS Chris Hackett, SS Sam Carter, and FS Derrick Kindrel. Look for JC transfer Kenny Iloka to get a look at Safety as well.
Special Teams
Both kickers return for their 3rd seasons as starters in PK Jaden Oberkron and P Ethan Perry.
Opening Game
8/30 Samford
Final Overview
The problem with TCU will again be the offense. There will be road bumps learning a new system, and the Frogs are still looking for quality and explosiveness. They haven't quite gotten there yet, but maybe Joekel will be an answer at QB. That being said, the defense should be good enough to hold on for the offense, and make a push to get TCU into a bowl, even a minor one.

The Following teams are expected to finish with losing records and will not play in a bowl

Texas Tech Red Raiders
Projected 2014 Record: 5-7
Head Coach: Kliff Kingsbury (8-5, 2nd season)
The Good
Davis Webb now has the job at QB entirely to himself, but if he goes down, the Red Raiders are in deep trouble, as there is no other experience or depth. Webb looked solid in the spring, and looked stronger.
Two top WRs return in Jakeem Grant and Bradley Marquez,  but the other two spots are open.
The O line returns three starters
The Bad
The defense was awful, and helped contribute to an epic collapse at the end of last season, as Tech lost their final five regular season games.
Only three starters return on defense (DE Brandon Jackson, BAN Pete Robertson, and LB Sam Eguavoen), and there will be several JC transfers trying to make their ways into various positions. The schedule is back loaded, and being that the Red Raiders collapsed at the end last fall, I'd have to say that finishing isn't a strong suit here.
Opening Game
8/30 Central Arkansas

West Virginia Mountaineers
Projected 2014 Record: 4-8
Head Coach: Dana Holgorsen (21-17, 4th season)
The Good
The run game, which ranked 82nd last fall, gets a big push by getting transfer Rushel Shell from arch rival Pitt.
New starting WR Mario Alford showed some skill last season, and joins Kevin White and Dalkiel Shorts to give whomever wins the QB job some targets, along with TE/FB Cody Clay.
The guards are solid on the line, and they'd better be, as Quinton Spain and Mark Glowinski are the only returning starters up front.
Having Tom Bradley on staff should be a huge bonus for the Mountaineers.
All three LBs return in Isaiah Bruce, Nick Kwiatkowski, and Brandon Golson, and the secondary may go from being a curse to a blessing with two starters returning. Bruce may be the star of the unit.
The Bad
The QB position is largely a mess, with as many as five guys in the fight in spring. Clint Trickett is a walking ER and concussion magnet. There are no true answers here.
The line needs new starters at Tackle and Center, which are bad places for inexperience while trying to find a QB.
Both DEs need to be replaced from a defense that ranked 90th against the run, and 106th against the pass. WVU needs to find an edge presence that just isn't there right now.
WVU also finished -4 in turnovers last fall, and when you lose the turnover battle, you lose football games. It's really that simple.
On offense, there just isn't that one guy you can look to who you really believe can carry to to bigger things.
WVU could be headed to yet another 4 win season, and Holgorsen knows that the heat is blasting, as home attendance is taking a huge dump.
Opening Game
8/30 Alabama at Atlanta

Iowa State Cyclones
Projected 2014 Record: 1-11
Head Coach: Paul Rhoades (27-36, 6th season)
The Good
WR Quenton Brundrage is a big time playmaker, and gives ISU at least one major weapon. TE EJ Bibbs may also be one of the better weapons on this team, he also may be one of the best TEs in the country.
The O Line is completely intact, giving whomever steps in at QB a wall to hide behind, and with a line like this, Aaron Wimberly could break out at RB.
The Bad
Grant Rohach played well at times last season, but doesn't have the job locked down, and now it's a three man race at QB.
Other than Brundage at WR, nobody else really stands out, and that could be a problem down the line. Someone else needs to step up.
The defense was awful last season (105th in total D), and the entire line must be rebuilt with exception of DE Cory Morrissey. Javohn Miller is also the only returning starter at LB. Both CBs do return in Sam E. Richardson and Nigel Tribune, but both safeties must be replaced, so expect those corners to be out on an island in coverage most of the time.
Opening Game
8/30 North Dakota State

Kansas Jayhawks
Projected 2014 Record: 2-10
Head Coach: Charlie Weis (4-20, 3rd season)
The Good
A good start is that Weis dumped OC duties and brought in a new OC in John Reagan. He scraps the pro set offense and implements a spread.
Nick Harwell transfers in from Miami (Ohio), and gives the Jayhawks an elite receiver to get the ball to, if they can find anyone who can get the ball out of the backfield at QB.
WR Tony Pierson and TE Jimmy Mundine should provide some cover for Harwell, but again, a passer must be located, as Kansas finished just 117th nationally in passing.
The defense is loaded with returning starters, highlighted by a strong secondary that returns four of five starters. Ben Heeney may be one of the most underrated LBs in the Big 12.
The Bad
How does the former QB coach of Tom Brady go from Super Bowl heights to a Big 12 toilet like Kansas? As Blues Traveler once said, it's a long way to fall.
The entire offensive philosophy must be overhauled, and now that Kansas has some targets to throw the ball to, they hand the QB job to a runner in Montell Cozart. Huh?
The entire right side of the line must be rebuilt on offense as well.
So much talent returns on defense, but that same defense ranked just 96th nationally last fall, and gave up 31.8 points per game.
Charlie Weis may be shown the prairie door if KU cannot overcome even my modest expectations.
Opening Game
9/6 SE Missouri State

No comments:

Post a Comment