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Is Texas ready to emerge as a Big 12 title contender once again?
2013 is shaping up to be an interesting year in the Big 12. Kansas State claimed the conference title in 2012, but a new champion should be expected next season. Oklahoma tied the Wildcats for the Big 12’s top spot, but the Sooners must replace quarterback Landry Jones, as well as a handful of key defenders. The Wildcats face similar problems, but coach Bill Snyder will find a way for K-State to stay in the hunt.
With Oklahoma and Kansas State expected to take a step back next season, look for Oklahoma State and TCU to emerge as the conference’s top teams. The Cowboys had to replace quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon but still possessed one of college football’s top offenses. The Horned Frogs finished 7-6 in their first year in the Big 12 and return 10 starters on defense for 2013. Quarterback Casey Pachall is back after leaving the team in early October due to off-the-field issues.
Texas is the Big 12’s wildcard team for next season. The Longhorns have the talent to compete for the conference crown but need improved quarterback play to finish higher in the standings next year.
Early Big 12 Predictions for 2013
1. Oklahoma State
Key Returnees: QB Clint Chelf, QB Wes Lunt, QB J.W. Walsh, RB Jeremy Smith, RB Desmond Roland, WR Josh Stewart, WR Charlie Moore, WR Blake Jackson, LT Parker Graham, RT Daniel Koenig, DT James Castleman, DT Calvin Barnett, LB Shaun Lewis, LB Caleb Lavey, LB Lyndell Johnson, CB Justin Gilbert, CB Kevin Peterson, S Daytawion Lowe, S Shamiel Gary
Key Departures: RB Joseph Randle, C Evan Epstein, RG Lane Taylor, DE Ryan Robinson, DE Nigel Nicholas, LB Alex Elkins, CB Brodrick Brown, K/P Quinn Sharp
There’s no clear early frontrunner to win the Big 12 in 2013, but Athlon gives a slight pre-spring edge to Oklahoma State. Without Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon leading the offense, the Cowboys were expected to take a step back in the win column but lost three games by a touchdown or less. Despite losing Weeden and Blackmon and having to start three different quarterbacks, the offense still averaged 45.7 points a game. The Cowboys need to settle on a starter in spring practice, but the rest of the offense is in good shape. Joseph Randle departs after rushing for back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, but Jeremy Smith and Desmond Roland is a dangerous one-two combination. Defensive coordinator Bill Young was released after Oklahoma State finished 80th in total defense and 110th nationally against the pass. Glenn Spencer was promoted to replace Young and is tasked with getting the defense to create more turnovers, as well as generating better pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Key Returnees: QB Trevone Boykin, QB Casey Pachall, RB Waymon James, RB B.J. Catalon, WR Brandon Carter, WR LaDarius Brown, LT Tayo Fabuluje, DE Devonte Fields, DT Chucky Hunter, DT Davion Pierson, LB Joel Hasley, CB Jason Verrett, CB Kevin White, SS Sam Carter, FS Elisha Olabode, S Chris Hackett
Key Departures: RB Matthew Tucker, WR Josh Boyce, WR Skye Dawson, C James Fry, RG Blaize Foltz, DE Stansly Maponga, LB Kenny Cain
TCU’s 7-6 record isn’t going to wow many observers, but it’s more impressive when you consider starting quarterback Casey Pachall was forced to leave the team early in the year, and the team had to transition to a tougher conference. Pachall rejoined the team in mid-January and is expected to compete with Trevone Boykin for the starting nod. Although Boykin had an effective run as TCU’s quarterback, Pachall is a much better passer and would allow the offense to stretch the field through the air. The rushing attack struggled in 2012 but will get a boost from the return of Waymon James from a knee injury, along with the arrival of transfer Aaron Green from Nebraska. Defense has been a strength for TCU under coach Gary Patterson, and the Horned Frogs could have the best in the Big 12 next season. Nine starters are back in 2013, including standout end Devonte Fields and cornerback Jason Verrett.
Key Returnees: QB Blake Bell, RB Damien Williams, FB Trey Millard, WR Jalen Saunders, WR Sterling Shepard, LG Adam Shead, C Gabe Ikard, RT Daryl Williams, DE Chuka Ndulue, LB Corey Nelson, LB Frank Shannon, CB Aaron Colvin, DB Gabe Lynn
Key Departures: QB Landry Jones, WR Kenny Stills, WR Justin Brown, LT Lane Johnson, DE David King, DT Jamarkus McFarland, DT Casey Walker, LB Tom Wort, CB Demontre Hurst, S Tony Jefferson, S Javon Harris, P Tress Way
The Sooners may not start the year as the No. 1 team in most preseason Big 12 predictions, but Bob Stoops’ team won’t fall too far in 2013. While there are some personnel losses, it’s difficult to call next season a transition year. New quarterback Blake Bell has shown promise in limited snaps but needs to develop as a passer this spring. Helping Bell’s adjustment into the starting lineup, Oklahoma returns running back Damien Williams and one of the Big 12’s top offensive lines. The defense has more question marks than the offense, as the secondary and line each lose three starters. This unit did receive some good news just before the NFL Draft deadline with Aaron Colvin deciding to return to Norman for his senior year. Although the Sooners will have some new faces in the lineup, this team should push for double-digit victories once again.
Key Returnees: QB David Ash, RB Malcolm Brown, RB Joe Bergeron, RB Johnathan Gray, WR Mike Davis, WR Jaxon Shipley, LG Trey Hopkins, RG Mason Walters, DE Jackson Jeffcoat, DT Desmond Jackson, LB Jordan Hicks, LB Steve Edmond, LB Kendall Thompson, LB Tevin Jackson, CB Quandre Diggs, CB Carrington Byndom, S Adrian Phillips, S Josh Turner
Key Departures: DE Alex Okafor, DT Brandon Moore, S Kenny Vaccaro
The personnel is in place for the Longhorns to contend for the Big 12 title. But is this team ready to take the next step in 2013? Much of Texas’ chances at winning the conference crown will rest on the right arm of quarterback David Ash. With one of the nation’s top backfields and a solid offensive line returning to Austin, Ash will be the difference between a nine-win season and a BCS berth. The Longhorns’ defense was a disappointment in 2012 but returns nearly everyone in 2013. End Alex Okafor and safety Kenny Vaccaro are huge losses, but the return of end Jackson Jeffcoat from a season-ending injury should help ease the departure of both players. Improving the run defense, along with generating more turnovers will be the top priority for coordinator Manny Diaz.
Key Returnees: RB Lache Seastrunk, RB Glasco Martin, WR Tevin Reese, WR Levi Norwood, LG Cyril Richardson, LT Spencer Drango, RT Troy Baker, DE Terrance Lloyd, DE Chris McAllister, LB Bryce Hager, LB Eddie Lackey, CB Joe Williams, S Ahmad Dixon, S Sam Holl
Key Departures: QB Nick Florence, RB Jarred Salubi, WR Terrance Williams, WR Lanear Sampson, C Ivory Wade, RG Cameron Kaufhold, DT Gary Mason Jr., CB Chance Casey, S Mike Hicks
The Bears were one of college football’s hottest teams at the end of the regular season, finishing with four consecutive victories, including a 52-24 win over Big 12 champ Kansas State. Despite losing quarterback Robert Griffin, the offense didn’t miss much of a beat. Baylor averaged 44.5 points a game behind quarterback Nick Florence and running back Lache Seastrunk, while receiver Terrance Williams led the nation with an average of 140.9 receiving yards per game. Florence departs, but the Bears have a promising passer ready to emerge as the new starter (Bryce Petty). The defense allowed 502.2 yards per game but played better at the end of 2012. If Petty keeps the offense performing at a high level, Baylor should finish in the top half of the Big 12 in 2013.
6. Kansas State
Key Returnees: RB John Hubert, WR Tyler Lockett, WR Tramaine Thompson, LT Cornelius Lucas, C B.J. Finney, LG Cody Whitehair, DE Ryan Mueller, LB Jonathan Truman, S Ty Zimmerman, CB Randall Evans, S Jarard Milo, S Dante Barnett
Key Departures: QB Collin Klein, RB Angelo Pease, WR Chris Harper, TE Travis Tannahill, DE Meshak Williams, DE Adam Davis, DT Vai Lutui, LB Arthur Brown, LB Jarell Childs, CB Allen Chapman, CB Nigel Malone
As long as Bill Snyder is on the sidelines in Manhattan, it’s difficult to rank the Wildcats in the second half of the Big 12 standings. However, Kansas State has some significant holes to fill, starting at quarterback with the departure of Collin Klein. Daniel Sams showcased potential in limited action, rushing for 235 yards and three scores on 32 attempts. He will compete with junior college transfer Jake Waters for the No. 1 job in the spring. With Klein out of eligibility, the Wildcats will likely lean on running back John Hubert and an offensive line that returns all five starters in 2013. There’s no question Klein is a huge loss, but the defense is losing most of its key contributors. Linebacker Arthur Brown was one of the Big 12’s top defenders over the last two years, while defensive end Meshak Williams was Kansas State’s best pass rusher, and cornerback Nigel Malone picked off five passes in 2012. The Wildcats remain dangerous but repeating as Big 12 champions is a tall task.
7. Texas Tech
Key Returnees: QB Michael Brewer, RB Kenny Williams, WR Eric Ward, WR Jakeem Grant, TE Jace Amaro, RG Le’Raven Clark, DE Dartwan Bush, DT Kerry Hyder, LB Will Smith, LB Sam Eguavoen, DB Tre Porter, CB Bruce Jones,
Key Departures: QB Seth Doege, RB Eric Stephens, WR Darrin Moore, WR Tyson Williams, LT LaAdrian Waddle, C Deveric Gallington, DT Leon Mackey, CB Eugene Neboh, S Cody Davis, S D.J. Johnson
Tommy Tuberville left for Cincinnati, opening the door for a Texas Tech legend to return home. Kliff Kingsbury is only 33 years old, but the former Red Raider quarterback is the perfect fit to lead Texas Tech back into Big 12 contention. However, it will take Kingsbury a year or two to replenish the roster with his recruits. Quarterback Seth Doege will be missed, but backup Michael Brewer is a promising option and was sharp in limited action. The sophomore has talent around him, including running back Kenny Williams and receiver Eric Ward. If there’s a concern on the offense, it’s a line that loses center Deveric Gallington and tackle LaAdrian Waddle. The Red Raiders showed significant improvement on defense in 2012, finishing 38th nationally in yards allowed and 15th in pass defense. This unit returns most of its core but is still a work in progress.
8. West Virginia
Key Returnees: RB Andrew Buie, WR Jordan Thompson, LT Quinton Spain, DE Will Clarke, DT Shaq Rowell, LB Isaiah Bruce, LB Doug Rigg, LB Shaq Petteway, CB Brodrick Jenkins, S Karl Joseph, S Darwin Cook
Key Departures: QB Geno Smith, RB Shawne Alston, WR Stedman Bailey, WR Tavon Austin, WR J.D. Woods, LG Josh Jenkins, C Joe Madsen, RG Jeff Braun, DE Jorge Wright, LB Josh Francis, CB Pat Miller, S Terence Garvin
After a promising 5-0 start, the Mountaineers needed wins in their final two regular season games just to get bowl eligible. The offense was one of the best in college football, but the defense was horrendous and prompted staff changes at the end of the year. With quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey departing, 2013 will be a rebuilding year for West Virginia. Regardless of whether Paul Millard or Ford Childress wins the starting quarterback job, the offense will struggle to match its average of 39.5 points a game from 2012. For the Mountaineers to make a bowl game, the defense needs to show marked improvement. If there’s any good news about the defensive performance from 2012, most of the starters were underclassmen and return next season. Another set of practices to work with the coaching staff should help, but the Mountaineers can’t feel too good about the defense going into 2013. It won’t be easy, but West Virginia should find a way to get six wins and into a bowl game next year.
9. Iowa State
Key Returnees: QB Sam Richardson, RB James White, RB Shontrelle Johnson, WR Jarvis West, TE Ernst Brun, C Tom Farniok, DE Willie Scott, LB Jeremiah George, LB Deon Broomfield, CB Jansen Watson, FS Jacques Washington, P Kirby Van Der Camp
Key Departures: WR Aaron Horne, WR Chris Young, LT Carter Bykowski, DE Roosevelt Maggitt, DE Jake McDonough, DT Cleyon Laing, LB A.J. Klein, LB Jake Knott, CB Jeremy Reeves, SS Durrell Givens
The Cyclones and West Virginia are virtually interchangeable in the early power rankings for 2013. And considering Iowa State’s history of exceeding preseason predictions, it’s dangerous to predict Paul Rhoads’ team in this spot. For the Cyclones to make their third consecutive bowl game, the offense needs quarterback Sam Richardson to settle into the starting job, while getting more production from running backs James White and Shontrelle Johnson. The defense ranked third in the Big 12 in points allowed but must replace All-Big 12 linebackers A.J. Klein and Jake Knott, along with three starters on the defensive line.
Key Returnees: QB Jake Heaps, RB James Sims, RB Tony Pierson, WR Justin McCay, WR Andrew Turzilli, DT Jordan Tavai, LB Ben Heeney, LB Huldon Tharp, LB/S Jake Love, CB Tyler Patmon
Key Departures: WR Kale Pick, WR Daymond Patterson, LT Tanner Hawkinson, LG Duane Zlatnik, C Trevor Marrongelli, DE/LB Toben Opurum, DE Josh Williams, CB Greg Brown, S Bradley McDougald, S Lubbock Smith
As expected, the Jayhawks are still a long ways away from contending in the Big 12. Kansas was more competitive in 2012 than it was in 2011 in conference play but still finished 1-11 and winless in the Big 12. Coach Charlie Weis went the transfer route to upgrade the Jayhawks’ talent level last season, landing quarterback Jake Heaps from BYU and receiver Justin McCay from Oklahoma to start in 2013. Heaps has talent but struggled in his sophomore year at BYU. Running back James Sims should threaten 1,000 yards once again in 2013, but the Jayhawks must replace three key starters on the line. Depth and talent is an issue on defense, and coordinator Dave Campo must find a replacement for end/linebacker Toben Opurum and safety Bradley McDougald.
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