Big 12

More Stories:


#74 Iowa State Cyclones





HEAD COACH: Paul Rhoads, 29-46 (6 Years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Mark Mangino | DEF. COORDINATOR: Wally Burnham

Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads has cultivated a reputation of being able to do more with less. After a 5-19 record the last two seasons, Rhoads and his reputation are being put to the test. The Cyclones went winless in the Big 12 last season — which, of course, means they lost to Kansas — and rebounding by a significant margin would seem to be a tall task.

Follow Athlon Sports on Twitter: @AthlonSports

Previewing Iowa State’s Offense in 2015 

Iowa State finished last season ranked 89th in the nation in total offense. But with coordinator Mark Mangino’s system now fully in place and an experienced starting quarterback in Sam Richardson running the show, there is reason to believe the Cyclones can be greatly improved. 

One of the main reasons for the optimism is a wide receiving corps that should be among the best in the Big 12. Quenton Bundrage, who tied a school record with nine touchdown receptions in 2013, tore his ACL in the 2014 opener and is set to return at full strength. He will be joined by two large and talented partners in D’Vario Montgomery (6'6", 236) and Allen Lazard (6'5", 218), both of whom showed great promise during the 2014 campaign. 

It’s the offensive line and running backs who hold the questions surrounding this offense. Gone are both of Iowa State’s top tailbacks from last season, Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy. Sophomore Tyler Brown and redshirt freshman Mike Warren are expected to share carries this fall. 

Iowa State’s offensive line has been decimated by injuries in each of the last two seasons. However, because of that, there are a bunch of players at the position who have received significant playing time. Jake Campos, forced into the lineup early last season, will anchor the line at left tackle. 

Order a copy of Athlon's 2015 Big 12 College Football Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 10 conference teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

Previewing Iowa State’s Defense in 2015 

There is only one way for this group to go following last season’s final ranking of 125th in total defense. The good news for coordinator Wally Burnham is that his defensive line should be much improved, thanks in part to the arrival of junior college transfer Demond Tucker, who impressed at nose guard in the spring. Devlyn Cousin is a reliable defensive tackle, while Dale Pierson and Trent Taylor gained valuable experience in 2014 and should be viable defensive ends this fall. 

Linebacker is another story. Jevohn Miller was leading the team in tackles before he got hurt last year and is gone to graduation. Luke Knott can’t seem to stay healthy. A bulk of pressure is going to be put on the back of Jordan Harris, a junior college recruit from 2014 who redshirted last year because he couldn’t grasp the defense. Harris had a great spring and is the favorite to start in the middle. 

Iowa State is in good shape at cornerback with both starters from last year, Nigel Tribune and Sam E. Richardson, returning. The Cyclones’ second-leading tackler, strong safety T.J. Mutcherson, was dismissed from the team in the offseason and is expected to be replaced by senior Qujuan Floyd. The Big 12’s Freshman Defensive Player of the Year, Kamari Cotton-Moya, will be the man at free safety. 
Related: Athlon's 2015 College Football Rankings: No. 1 to 128

Previewing Iowa State’s Specialists in 2015 

There is no controversy when it comes to Iowa State’s kicking game. Cole Netten went 11-for-14 on field goals last year and is back for his junior season. Punter Colin Downing had an impressive freshman campaign, averaging 39.4 yards per kick. The return game will be interesting, but specialist Jomal Wiltz was brought in as a junior college recruit specifically for these duties. 

Final Analysis

There is significant pressure on Paul Rhoads, whose program has won a total of five games in the past two years, to show significant improvement this season. First and foremost, for that to happen, the Cyclones have to stay healthy. After that, the offense needs to be more explosive and efficient. The defense should be improved, but not enough to consistently slow down quality Big 12 offenses. Getting to six wins — and reaching bowl-eligibility — will be a challenge for the 2014 Cyclones.

The Debate

Where Does Sam Richardson Rank Among Big 12 QBs?

Click here to join the debate.


#48 Texas Tech Red Raiders





HEAD COACH: Kliff Kingsbury, 12-13 (2 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Eric Morris | DEF. COORDINATOR: David Gibbs

Kliff Kingsbury has had an interesting two-year start to his head-coaching career at Texas Tech. Year One featured big offensive numbers and an impressive postseason victory over Arizona State. Year Two featured another undisciplined team, seven Big 12 losses and no postseason. Kingsbury has plenty of talent, both as a coach and on his depth chart, but has to correct his team’s sloppy play if Tech expects to get back to a bowl game in 2015.

Follow Athlon Sports on Twitter: @AthlonSports

Previewing Texas Tech’s Offense for 2015

Texas Tech’s quarterbacks production was up and down throughout the 2014 season. Sophomore Davis Webb started the team’s first eight games before being shut down for the season due to a shoulder injury. True freshman Patrick Mahomes replaced Webb in the lineup and showed enough promise to emerge as a strong candidate to earn the job in the fall.

The offense as a unit was inconsistent and prone to turnovers. But with eight starters back, the Red Raiders are hoping to build on the last few games of the year when they finally seemed to get things on track.

The two strengths are the starting offensive line, which will return four veterans, including all-conference left tackle Le’Raven Clark, and running back, led by DeAndre Washington. The Red Raiders are looking for consistency at receiver as a young group turned in an uneven performance in 2014. Jakeem Grant is the leader of the pack, and the shifty senior should be a versatile weapon for the offense. Devin Lauderdale and Ian Sadler both emerged late in the year, but they’ll need to build upon that success if Texas Tech is to take a step forward this fall. The coaches are hoping that junior Reginald Davis will step up — he has loads of talent but has yet to realize his potential.

Ultimately, the Red Raiders’ offense will go as the quarterback goes. If the winner between Webb and Mahomes can limit turnovers and produce at an above-average level, Texas Tech should return to the postseason in 2015. 

Previewing Texas Tech's Defense for 2015

Order a copy of Athlon's 2015 Big 12 College Football Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 10 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

The word of the offseason around the Texas Tech football office is turnovers. The offense is focused on reducing the amount committed, and the defense, led by new coordinator David Gibbs, is focused on forcing them.

Gibbs’ defense at Houston did a fantastic job of forcing turnovers over the last two seasons, and the hope in Lubbock is that he can duplicate some of that magic on the South Plains.

In the secondary, Gibbs will have some experience and potential with which to work, including sophomore corner Nigel Bethel and safety Keenon Ward. At linebacker, senior Micah Awe is the only experienced, veteran piece. But there are interesting options, including linebacker Dakota Allen and former five-star prospect and Ohio State transfer Mike Mitchell.

The defensive line returns all but one player, including Big 12 sack leader Pete Robertson (12 sacks in 2014) at one end and senior Branden Jackson on the other. Things must improve on the interior, however, as former junior college transfers Rika Levi and Keland McElrath are being relied upon to take big steps forward, which they appeared to do in the spring. It’s a unit that must improve if Tech is to make a bowl, and things appear to be moving in the right direction. 

Related: Athlon's 2015 College Football Rankings: No. 1 to 128

Previewing Texas Tech’s Specialists for 2015


Clayton Hatfield, a former U.S. Army All-American Bowl selection, will compete with Michael Barden and Taylor Symmank for the starting placekicking job. Hatfield has a big leg and likely has the edge. Symmank is expected to be the Red Raiders’ starting punter. The coverage units should take another step forward with an influx of young talent from among the incoming freshmen. 

Final Analysis

In Year 3 of Kliff Kingsbury’s tenure, two things are very clear: The offense must find some consistency and the defense simply has to be better. The addition of Gibbs should help stabilize the ailing defense, but all bets are off until they hit the field this fall. The big key, however, is at quarterback. The winner of the Mahomes vs. Webb battle must play at a high level for Texas Tech to return to form.

The Debate

Where Does DeAndre Washington Rank Among Big 12 RBs?

Click here to join the debate.


#44 Kansas State Wildcats





HEAD COACH: Bill Snyder, 187-94-1 (23 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Dana Dimel, Del Miller | DEF. COORDINATOR: Tom Hayes

As long as Bill Snyder is the head coach in Manhattan, Kansas State will always be a contender in the Big 12. After another nine-win season last year — Snyder's 13th with the Wildcats — KSU enters the '15 season with some big holes to plug. Kansas State needs to find a leader at quarterback, replace stars at wide receiver and fill major voids in the front seven on defense if the Cats want to compete for a Big 12 crown.

Follow Athlon Sports on Twitter: @AthlonSports

Previewing Kansas State’s Offense for 2015

Bill Snyder’s teams are at their best when he has a returning quarterback he trusts throwing passes. This season, he will try to prove he can win with a new quarterback, too. And when we say new, we mean brand, spanking new. The frontrunner, Joe Hubener, has never started a football game at any level at quarterback. The junior from Cheney, Kan., played other positions in high school and walked on at K-State as an athlete. He has since worked his way up to scholarship status and served behind Jake Waters as the team’s backup quarterback a year ago. He spent the spring battling with sophomore Jesse Ertz and freshman Alex Delton but says the job is his to lose.

No matter who ends up claiming the prize, K-State’s offense will look very different next season. While Waters was a gifted passer, his potential replacements are better runners.

Running will be key behind an offensive line that returns everyone other than center B.J. Finney. But the Wildcats will need better production from their running backs, none of whom exceeded 76 yards in a game last season. Charles Jones returns as the presumptive starter after rushing for 540 yards and 13 touchdowns a year ago.

The Wildcats lose star receivers Tyler Lockett and slot expert Curry Sexton and will look to an untested group of receivers to take their place.

Previewing Kansas State’s Defense for 2015

Order a copy of Athlon's 2015 Big 12 College Football Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 10 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

Dante Barnett is understandably confident about K-State’s secondary. Allow the senior defensive back to explain why: “We are so experienced. We have the talent. We have a physical corner and a speed corner. That is big.” Barnett has started 28 games at safety, and he is ready to lead K-State’s defense as a senior, especially with fellow seniors Danzel McDaniel and Morgan Burns returning at corner. McDaniel covers short passes as well as anyone, and Burns has eye-popping speed.

That trio should help the Wildcats as they try to improve their front seven after the loss of leading tackler Jonathan Truman. Linebacker Elijah Lee did not make as many stops as most of his teammates while playing regularly as a true freshman, but he had as many highlight hits as anyone. Lee finished his first college season with 19 tackles, including 4.5 sacks. He did all that while playing mostly on third downs as a standup pass rusher. Now, K-State hopes he can do more in an expanded role, joining Will Davis in the middle of K-State’s defense.

Up front, all-conference defensive tackle Travis Britz should lead the way, while Marquel Bryant and Jordan Willis try to replace Ryan Mueller’s production at defensive end.

Related: Athlon's 2015 College Football Rankings: No. 1 to 128

Previewing Kansas State’s Specialists for 2015

Placekicker Matthew McCrane had a fantastic freshman campaign, connecting on 18-of-19 field goals. He will provide a steady foot in the kicking game, while Nick Walsh returns as punter. At specialist, the main question is: Who will replace Lockett? The do-everything player was hard to catch a year ago. Morgan Burns returned a kickoff for a touchdown last season, so he should slide into that role.

Final Analysis

On paper, Kansas State looks like it lost too many playmakers to match its win total from a year ago, but you can’t count out a Snyder-coached team.

“It is obvious there were some critical elements in our program that we lost. When you lose the production that we had offensively, it certainly is sorely missed,” Snyder says. “From a defensive standpoint, we lost fewer people, fewer numbers. The dynamics are difficult, and they are every year. Some positions are a little harder to reconstruct than others. We have a lot of work ahead of us.” 

The Debate

Is Bill Snyder the Best Coach in the Big 12?

Click here to join the debate.


#28 Oklahoma State Cowboys





HEAD COACH: Mike Gundy, 84-44 (10 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Mike Yurcich | DEF. COORDINATOR: Glenn Spencer

Oklahoma State stumbled through its worst season since 2007, finishing 7-6 for the first season with fewer than eight wins since Mike Gundy’s second season. The Cowboys entered the season knowing they were in store for a rebuilding season. The Cowboys enter this season hoping that rebuilding is well on its way to being complete. At least at quarterback — always a position of interest under Gundy at Oklahoma State — the personnel is settled and ready to rise.

Follow Athlon Sports on Twitter: @AthlonSports

Previewing Oklahoma State’s Offense for 2015: 

Mike Gundy didn’t want to use quarterback Mason Rudolph in 2014. He still carries a trace of regret for doing so.

A tiny trace.

Rudolph, forced into action by injury in the season’s 10th game last fall, tossed aside his redshirt, fueled Oklahoma State’s late surge and provided much of the momentum that has the Cowboys as a stealthy pick to contend in the Big 12.

The Cowboys were mired in a four-game losing streak that would stretch to five in Rudolph’s first start, which became necessary due to injury. Yet even in that 49–28 loss to Baylor, Rudolph goosed a scuffling Oklahoma State offense with his live arm and moxie. 

Then he led an upset of Bedlam rival Oklahoma, pushing the Cowboys to 6–6 and bowl eligibility. And he was at it again in the Cactus Bowl against Washington, directing another win and driving optimism for a big season ahead.

“The best thing we did last year,” Gundy said, “was play him at the end of the year, when all the discussions were, ‘Do you play him or not?’”

Rudolph will have plenty of playmakers at his disposal, particularly at receiver, where nine of the top 10 pass catchers return, headlined by Brandon Sheperd and James Washington, physical and fast receivers who can dominate defensive backs. And there’s more, many more, including intriguing redshirt freshman Keenen Brown, a big wideout who wowed with the big spring.

The offensive line should be improved, bolstered by the addition of left tackle Victor Salako, a 6'6", 330-pounder with 23 career starts, freed to move when UAB dissolved its football program.

There are questions at running back, although one answer could come in August when four-star junior college recruit Chris Carson arrives.

Order a copy of Athlon's 2015 National College Football Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 128 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

Previewing Oklahoma State’s Defense for 2015: 

Overworked a year ago due to depth concerns and an offense that struggled through the heart of the schedule, the Cowboys defense now looks loaded.

There’s star power at every level, beginning with defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, who emerged as a force in 2014. Using his strength and burst on the edge, he amassed 11 sacks, 17 tackles for a loss and the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year award.

Ogbah is flanked by productive senior Jimmy Bean at the other end, giving the Cowboys strong bookends to accompany two new tackles. One of the major spring developments was sophomore Vincent Taylor’s emergence as a force inside.

Senior Ryan Simmons leads a promising young linebacking corps that runs three deep, while cornerback Kevin Peterson is the heart of a secondary that is also young yet talented.

Related: Athlon's 2015 College Football Rankings: No. 1 to 128

Previewing Oklahoma State’s Specialists for 2015: 

Ben Grogan followed a shaky freshman season by missing three of his first five field goal tries a year ago. Then he drilled 20 of his last 23, finishing ninth nationally at 1.69 field goals made per game and transforming into a reliable weapon. The Cowboys will have a new punter. Return men are also needed, although capable candidates should be found from a surplus of receivers.

Final Analysis

With the loss of 28 seniors leaving an inexperienced cast to try and contend in the Big 12, the 2014 season always figured to be a rebuilding effort. And it played out as such, turning worse when injuries and a lack of depth left the Cowboys exposed.

But Rudolph’s arrival, both to the lineup and as a key piece to the future, reversed course and momentum. Now there’s talk that Oklahoma State, like TCU a year ago, could rise from seventh place to the top of the Big 12 in 2015.

The Debate

Where Does Mike Gundy Rank Among Big 12 Coaches?

Click here to join the debate.