Big 12 Media Days
Last week the SEC marked the de facto beginning to the 2014 college football season with its media days in Alabama. Starting today in Dallas, the Big 12 takes its turn.
Not much is new to the league overall, save perhaps a fresh logo. There are no real changes to the league’s format, a round-robin schedule that is one-of-a-kind among the five power conferences with no championship game.
Ah, but there is change in college football with the new playoff system, and the Big 12’s goal on that front is simple – land its champion among the four teams who will vie for the title. The game will even be played in the heart of Big 12 country – set for AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
The Best Bets
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Oklahoma or Baylor probably have the best chance to win the Big 12 and possibly land a spot in the College Football Playoff. In fact, the Sooners and Bears were the only two schools to get first-place votes among the 56 tallies from media (with OU getting 47). That’s quite a change from last year, when six different teams got first-place votes. Then again, what does the media know? Last year, Baylor was picked fifth with only two votes to win the league.
This Used to be a QB League
Well, it kinda still is, though we don’t know much about most of them. Only three quarterbacks will be at Big 12 Media Days – Baylor’s Bryce Petty, OU’s Trevor Knight and Kansas State’s Jake Waters. Petty we know – 4,200 yards last season with 32 touchdowns and 14 rushing scores. He was voted as the Big 12’s preseason offensive player of the year. Knight is still living high on a spectacular performance in the Sugar Bowl vs. Alabama, throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-31 win. Waters is a senior signal caller for the Wildcats and one to definitely watch in 2014. He’s won wherever he’s been, winning two state titles in high school, going 37-2 as a starter. Waters won a national title at Iowa Western Community College and became the first KSU QB to win a bowl game since 2002.
Five Big Questions That Will Be Huge in 2014
- Can Charlie Strong make an immediate impact with Texas? The answer to that may come down to health. That was one of the main problems in Austin last year. Strong inherits a good defensive line but his D lacks depth at some other positions. His quarterback situation could be better (that’s being kind), but if the Horns can find some offense, they could surprise a few teams. Texas is probably still at least another year away from contending again.
- Can TCU make headway on offense to possibly contend? Gary Patterson knows defense, this we know. Expect TCU to field another good one. But can they score some points? It may come down to new QB Matt Joeckel, who transferred in from Texas A&M. With B.J. Catalon at running back and some high-potential wide receivers, the Frogs have a chance to put some more points on the board. TCU will probably surprise, but not enough to contend. A bowl game win is something to look for from these Frogs.
- Can Baylor keep rolling? Last year, Baylor won its first Big 12 title and played in a BCS bowl game. The good news is that the Bears return most of the offense that was lighting up scoreboards most of the season. The bad news is that there is not a good chance that Baylor will match the 29 turnovers its defense forced last season. But it may not need to. The Bears will be in the running to the end. Baylor at OU may decide the conference champion.
- Who’s the dark horse? Take your pick – Kansas State or Texas Tech. Both will hold their own in 2014. Kansas State won six of their last seven games and downed Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. They return a ton. Don’t count them out. Kliff Kingsbury isn’t the only key Red Raider entering his sophomore season. Quarterback Davis Webb is expected to have a large role, as are three of the four projected starters in the secondary. Just as important is Kenny Williams, who led Tech in rushing each of the last two seasons.
- Are we jumping the gun on OU? Oklahoma has been as consistent as they come in college football. But they were far from it last season. Yes, they downed Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. They took away Oklahoma State’s chance at a league title with a road win at Stillwater. But they also lost by a combined margin of 77-32 to Baylor and Texas. Much is expected because of Knight, who only looked average in the regular season. People forget he’s only had four career starts. But he also had an excellent spring. OU will go as far as the young QB takes them. We’re predicting a Big 12 title.