The Big 12 didn’t really play out as we expected it back in August. We tabbed four teams as being in close contention for the conference title (we got three of them right) but had none of them in the top 15. In other words, we didn't think the Big 12 would produce a national title contender.
Baylor, though, swooped in and surprised us all.
The dark horse candidate with a no-name quarterback to start the season became the Big 12’s last hope for a team in the national championship race and one of the most exciting teams of the season.
Baylor quickly became the on-field story of the Big 12. Bolstered by a weak early season schedule, the Bears started the season on pace to shatter a number of national records. The season turned, though, on Baylor’s loss on the road to Oklahoma State on Nov. 23 when the Cowboys re-announced themselves as conference contenders to set up a final week of the season with three teams still in contention for the Fiesta Bowl.
Baylor won out to complete perhaps the best regular season in its history.
The top off-field story, though, promises to send reverberations throughout the sport. The prospect of Texas coach Mack Brown’s retirement became apparent as the season progressed, from losses to BYU and Ole Miss in September, to the retirement of longtime athletic director DeLoss Dodds, to the report Tuesday that Brown’s resignation was imminent.
There may not be another coaching change in the Big 12 this season, but a change at Texas will create a domino effect throughout the coaching ranks and will surely be the top storyline for the remainder of December and perhaps into January.
Big 12 2013 Season Awards
Coach of the Year: Art Briles, Baylor
So Baylor didn’t break every offensive record in the NCAA and Big 12 record books. So Baylor didn’t finish undefeated as seemed to be a possibility in mid-November. This is still a Baylor team that went 11-1, won the Big 12 with one loss in a season when it seemed two losses wouldn’t be too many for the Big 12 champion. Baylor came back from injuries to Lache Seastrunk, Glasco Martin, Teven Reese and Spencer Drango to beat Texas on the last day of the season to seal the outright title. Briles led Baylor to its first 11-win season, potentially its first top-10 finish since 1951 and first conference title since 1980.
Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
Petty told Athlon in the preseason Briles “still hasn’t given me the keys to the car.” It didn’t take long for Bryce Petty to look more like Richard Petty in that regard. Petty finished second in the nation in passing efficiency and yards per pass attempt to Jameis Winston. Petty is the only quarterback since at least 2007 with 30 touchdown passes and two interceptions.
Defensive Player of the Year: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Gilbert became the key player on another ball-hawking defense at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys cornerback finished the season with six interceptions, including two in a key win at Texas. Oklahoma State was second in the Big 12 and ninth nationally in pass efficiency defense.
Newcomer of the Year: Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia
Here’s a scary thought: What if Sims hadn’t transferred from Houston and become eligible immediately? Sims was one of the few consistent spots on offense in a 4-8 season. The senior delivered as a multi-threat back with 1,095 rushing yards, 401 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.
Biggest Disappointment of 2013: The 2012 imports
TCU and West Virginia had rocky first seasons in the Big 12, but the bottom fell out in 2013. Neither could withstand player injuries and departures to compete for bowl berths. TCU might be the bigger disappointment as the Horned Frogs had hoped to compete for the conference title, but the offense was dismal when Casey Pachall was injured. West Virginia, though, finished the season with losses to the other dregs of the league in Kansas and Iowa State. Dana Holgorsen enters 2014 on the hot seat.
Biggest Surprise of 2013: Texas’ Greg Robinson-led comeback
Texas ranked 119th in run defense at the end of September after embarrassing losses to Ole Miss and BYU cost one-time rising star Manny Diaz his job. The Longhorns plucked former coordinator and Syracuse coach Greg Robinson from his couch in a move that was widely lampooned. Robinson simplified the defense, though, and put Texas in a position to contend for the conference title on the last day of the season. Texas finished fourth in the Big 12 in run defense in conference games and led the league in sacks.
Athlon’s 2013 All-Big 12 Team
First Team Offense
Second Team Offense
QB Bryce Petty, Baylor
QB Clint Chelf, Oklahoma State
First Team Defense
Second Team Defense
DE Ryan Mueller, Kansas State
DE Cedric Reed, Texas
First Team Special Teams
Second Team Special Teams
K Anthony Fera, Texas
K Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma