Big 12 Football 2016 Predictions

Complete Big 12 preview for 2016.

After missing out on the College Football Playoff in 2014, the Big 12 had better fortune last season, as Oklahoma overcame an early loss to Texas to earn a playoff bid and a trip to the Orange Bowl against Clemson. As the focus shifts to 2016, the Sooners begin this season where they left off and in control of the Big 12. Quarterback Baker Mayfield headlines a dynamic offense, and two huge non-conference games – Houston and Ohio State – provide opportunities for the Sooners to earn marquee wins to build the playoff resume.

 

While Oklahoma is a clear favorite by Athlon Sports for the Big 12 title, TCU is a team to watch as a potential sleeper. The Horned Frogs must replace quarterback Trevone Boykin, but there’s still plenty of talent for coach Gary Patterson to build around, including a defense that could be the best in the conference.

 

Oklahoma State, Baylor, West Virginia, Texas, Texas Tech and Kansas State are all projected by Athlon Sports to earn bowl bids this season. Iowa State should show improvement under new coach Matt Campbell, but the Cyclones face a tough schedule. Kansas should break into the win column for second-year coach David Beaty after an 0-12 record last fall.

 

5 Key Questions That Will Shape the Big 12 in 2016
 

1. Back-to-Back Titles for Oklahoma?

Repeating as a conference champion is never easy, but it’s hard to find a reason to pick against Oklahoma in the Big 12. The Sooners return a solid core of talent with 12 returning starters, and the offense is led by Heisman Trophy candidate and quarterback Baker Mayfield. The combination of coordinator Lincoln Riley and Mayfield provided a much-needed spark for the Oklahoma offense last fall, and there’s optimism for this unit to be just as dynamic in 2016. The one-two punch of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon might be the nation’s best backfield duo, and Dede Westbrook, Mark Andrews and Penn State graduate transfer Geno Lewis headline a solid group of receivers. But there are question marks for Riley to address this offseason. Will a clear No. 1 receiver emerge to replace Sterling Shepard? And how will the offensive line jell after losing two starters? Each level of the defense suffered a key loss, but end Charles Walker, linebacker Jordan Evans and cornerback Jordan Thomas are three of the Big 12’s top returning defenders. With matchups against Houston and Ohio State in non-conference play, along with games against TCU and Texas before the midway point of the season, Oklahoma should quickly find out where it stacks up nationally in its quest to get back to the playoff. There are holes to fill for coach Bob Stoops, but the Sooners are a heavy favorite to win the Big 12 and push for a playoff trip once again.

 

Related: Athlon Sports 2016 College Football Team Rankings No. 1 to 128

 

2. TCU or Oklahoma State at No. 2?

While Oklahoma was a clear favorite in Athlon’s Big 12 prediction meeting, there was plenty of discussion between TCU or Oklahoma State for the next spot. The edge eventually went to the Horned Frogs, but both teams are projected as top 25 teams this season. Why TCU over Oklahoma State? Take a look at the schedule. The Horned Frogs catch Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech at home, while the Cowboys have road trips to Baylor, Kansas State, TCU and Oklahoma. Additionally, Oklahoma State had a bit of good fortune on its side with a plus-13 turnover margin and a 4-0 mark in one-score games last year. Despite losing standout end Emmanuel Ogbah, the Cowboys should be one of the Big 12’s best on defense. Quarterback Mason Rudolph and a deep group of receivers will carry the offense, but coach Mike Gundy’s team has to run the ball better and improve the line to push Oklahoma or TCU in the standings. The Horned Frogs have to break in a new quarterback – likely Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill – and retool the offensive line. However, there’s a deep cast of skill players in place, and the defense returns four starters, while four key players return from season-ending injuries. If Hill settles in at quarterback, TCU will have a chance to spoil Oklahoma’s run at back-to-back titles in the Big 12.

 

College Football: Breaking Down Athlon’s 2016 Top 25



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3. Reassessing Baylor for 2016

The fallout from the scandal that has rocked Baylor’s football program will continue well into the 2016 season and beyond. Art Briles transformed the Bears into a national title contender, but there will be a cloud of uncertainty hanging over this program in 2016, as interim coach Jim Grobe attempts to keep the team in contention for the Big 12 title. Even before the off-field issues cost Briles his job, Baylor had significant personnel concerns to address on both lines of scrimmage. Rebuilding both of those units will be an even bigger challenge with the departure of junior college recruits B.J. Autry (OL) and Jeremy Faulk (DL), while the status of the rest of the 2016 signing class is up in the air. Quarterback Seth Russell is expected to return to full strength from a neck injury, and there’s no shortage of skill talent in place with wide receiver KD Cannon and running backs Johnny Jefferson and Shock Linwood. Grobe is a good choice to clean up the program for 2016, but how will his style mesh with the current roster and schemes in place? Additionally, how much will the ongoing uncertainty weigh on this team this fall? After spring practice, Baylor was considered a top 10-15 team for 2016. Fast forward to June and it’s fair to wonder if the Bears will finish as a top 25 team this fall.

 

Related: Explaining Athlon's Big 12 Predictions for 2016

 

4. Texas…The Big 12’s Mystery Team

With an 11-14 record in his two seasons at Texas, it’s no secret there’s a lot of pressure on coach Charlie Strong. While the Longhorns continue to reel in solid recruiting classes and have a promising core of talent in place, Strong needs a good season to show the program is clearly headed in the right direction. A breakout year from Texas wouldn’t be a surprise, especially if the pieces fall into place under new offensive play-caller Sterlin Gilbert. The Longhorns are hitting the reset button on offense after averaging only 26.4 points a game in 2015, and true freshman quarterback Shane Buechele should provide stability under center. Buechele needs time to get acclimated to the FBS level, and Gilbert can ease his quarterback into the starting role by leaning on the one-two punch of running backs D’Onta Foreman and Chris Warren. More weapons need to emerge at receiver, but the Longhorns are starting to build a good foundation in the trenches. Texas finished fifth in the Big 12 in scoring defense (30.3 ppg allowed) in 2015, and the back seven could take a big step forward with the emergence of sophomores Malik Jefferson (LB), Holton Hill (CB) and Davante Davis (CB). With a non-conference schedule of Notre Dame and California, along with road trips to Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas Tech, the path to marked improvement in the win column isn’t easy. However, if the offense improves as expected and the young talent on defense delivers, the Longhorns will easily exceed Athlon’s projected finish of No. 7 in the Big 12.

 

5. Defensive Question Marks at Texas Tech and West Virginia

With uncertainty surrounding Baylor and Texas still trying to put the right pieces in place, Texas Tech or West Virginia has an opportunity to surprise in the final Big 12 standings. However, both teams must rely on their offense to win games, while the defense looks to fill major voids. Offense hasn’t been the problem for Texas Tech in recent years, and there’s no shortage of firepower in Lubbock with the return of quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Coach Kliff Kingsbury has to restock the trenches and find a go-to receiver to replace Jakeem Grant, but the offense shouldn’t miss a beat. Coordinator David Gibbs is the right coach to help Texas Tech’s defense take a step forward, and there’s a lot of work ahead this offseason after giving up 43.6 points a game in 2015. Each level of the defense has significant concerns, but the Red Raiders have two potential impact transfers up front (Kolin Hill and Ondre Pipkins), and a few sophomores – Breiden Fehoko, Jah’Shawn Johnson and D’Vonta Hinton – providing hope for improvement. West Virginia’s offense returns eight starters and needs more consistency out of quarterback Skyler Howard to alleviate concerns on a defense that features a rebuilt back seven. How quickly will both teams find the right answers on defense? 

 

College Football: Others Receiving Votes



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Big 12 Team Previews for 2016
           
 

National

Rank:

25 71 99 48 6
 

National

Rank:

24 17 43 42 40

Visit the Athlon Sports Online Store to order a copy of the 2016 Big 12 Preview Magazine, which features in-depth analysis and previews for all 10 teams, predictions, rankings and features to prepare for the upcoming year. 
 

Big 12 Predictions for 2016
         
Rank Team   Projected Big 12 Record Projected Overall Record
1

Oklahoma

(No. 6)

7-2 10-2
Read the full, in-depth preview of Oklahoma for 2016.
2

TCU

(No. 17)

6-3 9-3
Read the full, in-depth preview of TCU for 2016.
3

Oklahoma State

(No. 24)

6-3 9-3
Read the full, in-depth preview of Oklahoma State for 2016.
4

Baylor

(No. 25)

5-4 8-4
Read the full, in-depth preview of Baylor for 2016.
5

West Virginia

(No. 40)

5-4 8-4
Read the full, in-depth preview of West Virginia for 2016.
6

Texas Tech

(No. 42)

5-4 8-4
Read the full, in-depth preview of Texas Tech for 2016.
7

Texas

(No. 43)

5-4 7-5
Read the full, in-depth preview of Texas for 2016.
8

Kansas State

(No. 48)

4-5 6-6
Read the full, in-depth preview of Kansas State for 2016.
9

Iowa State

(No. 71)

2-7 4-8
Read the full, in-depth preview of Iowa State for 2016.
10

Kansas

(No. 99)

0-9 2-10
Read the full, in-depth preview of Kansas for 2016.

 

 

Big 12 2016 Superlatives and Season Predictions
 

Steven

Lassan

Mitch

Light

Mark

Ross

David

Fox

Braden

Gall

  @AthlonSteven @AthlonMitch @AthlonMarkR @DavidFox615 @BradenGall
Offensive POY

Baker Mayfield

QB, Oklahoma

Baker Mayfield

QB, Oklahoma

Baker Mayfield

QB, Oklahoma

Patrick Mahomes

QB, TTU

Patrick Mahomes

QB, TTU

Defensive POY

Malik Jefferson

LB, Texas

Charles Walker

DL, Oklahoma

Malik Jefferson

LB, Texas

Malik Jefferson

LB, Texas

Malik Jefferson

LB, Texas

Coach of the Year

Gary Patterson

TCU

Gary Patterson

TCU

Bob Stoops

Oklahoma

Gary Patterson

TCU

Gary Patterson

TCU

Coach on Hot Seat

Dana Holgorsen

WVU

Charlie Strong

Texas

Charlie Strong

Texas

Charlie Strong

Texas

Charlie Strong

Texas

Top Freshman

Shane Buechele

QB, Texas

Shane Buechele

QB, Texas

Jameson Houston

DB, Baylor

Jeff Gladney

CB, TCU

Shane Buechele

QB, Texas

Top Newcomer

Kenny Hill

QB, TCU

Kenny Hill

QB, TCU

Kenny Hill

QB, TCU

Kenny Hill

QB, TCU

Kenny Hill

QB, TCU

Sleeper Team Texas West Virginia Oklahoma State Texas Texas
Top Coordinator Hire

Sterlin Gilbert

OC, Texas

Sterlin Gilbert

OC, Texas

Tom Manning

Co-OC, ISU

Sterlin Gilbert

OC, Texas

Jon Heacock

DC, ISU

Key Position to Watch TCU OL TCU OL Oklahoma WR Oklahoma WR TCU OL
Hardest to Evaluate Texas Texas Baylor Oklahoma State Texas
Coach on the Rise

Lincoln Riley

OC, Oklahoma

Lincoln Riley

OC, Oklahoma

Matt Campbell

HC, ISU

Lincoln Riley

OC, Oklahoma

Lincoln Riley

OC, Oklahoma

Must-See Game

Ohio State at

Oklahoma

TCU at

Baylor

Ohio State at 

Oklahoma

Oklahoma at

TCU

Oklahoma at

TCU

Breakout Player

Connor Williams

OL, Texas

Jesse Ertz

QB, KSU

Malik Jefferson

LB, Texas

Justin Stockton

RB, TTU

Connor Williams

OL, Texas

Comeback Player

Seth Russell

QB, Baylor

Dante Barnett

S, KSU

Dante Barnett

S, KSU

James McFarland

DE, TCU

Seth Russell

QB, Baylor

 

Ranking the Big 12's Coaches for 2016

 

1. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

2. Gary Patterson, TCU

3. Bill Snyder, Kansas State 

 

Click here to view the full Big 12 Coach Rankings for 2016

 

Grading the Big 12's New Head Coach Hires for 2016

 

1. Matt Campbell, Iowa State (A+)

2. Jim Grobe, Baylor (B)

 

Click here to view the full New Coach Grades and Rankings for 2016

 

Ranking the Big 12 Quarterbacks for 2016

 

1. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

2. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech

3. Seth Russell, Baylor

 

Click here to view the full Big 12 Quarterback Rankings for 2016

 

Big 12's Top 15 Players on the Rise for 2016

 

1. Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

2. Connor Williams, OT, Texas

3. KaVontae Turpin, RB/WR, TCU

4. Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

5. Kyle Bosch, OL, West Virginia

6. Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech

7. Jordan Brailford, DE, Oklahoma State

8. Jarrell Owens, DE, Oklahoma State

9. Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

10. Willie Harvey, LB, Iowa State

11. Duke Shelley, CB, Kansas State

12. Ryan Willis, QB, Kansas

13. Breiden Fehoko, DT, Texas Tech

14. Jameson Houston, CB, Baylor

15. Shane Buechele, QB, Texas

 

Big 12's Top 10 Non-Conference Games for 2016

 

1. Ohio State at Oklahoma (Sept. 17)

2. Oklahoma vs. Houston (Sept. 3 - NRG Stadium)

3. Notre Dame at Texas (Sept. 4)

4. Arkansas at TCU (Sept. 10)

5. Texas at California (Sept. 17)

6. Pittsburgh at Oklahoma State (Sept. 17)

7. Texas Tech at Arizona State (Sept. 10)

8. Missouri at West Virginia (Sept. 3)

9. West Virginia vs. BYU (Sept. 24 - Landover, Md.)

10. Kansas State at Stanford (Sept. 2)

 

Key Coordinator Hires for 2016

 

1. Sterlin Gilbert, Offensive Coordinator, Texas

2. Tom Manning, Co-Offensive Coordinator, Iowa State

3. Jon Heacock, Defensive Coordinator, Iowa State

4. Joe Wickline, Offensive Coordinator, West Virginia

 

Big 12's Top 15 Incoming Freshmen (from 247Sports)

 

1. Caleb Kelly, LB, Oklahoma

2. Devin Duvernay, WR, Baylor*

3. Brandon Jones, DB, Texas

4. Patrick Hudson, OL, Baylor*

5. Jeffrey McCulloch, LB, Texas

6. Erick Fowler, LB, Texas

7. Tramonda Moore, OL, Oklahoma State

8. Jordan Elliott, DL, Texas

9. Jean Delance, OL, Texas

10. Sewo Olonilua, RB, TCU

11. Isaiah Chambers, DE, TCU

12. Brendan Ferns, LB, West Virginia

13. Brandon Bowen, DL, Baylor*

14. Amani Bledsoe, DE, Oklahoma

15. Jordan Parker, DB, Oklahoma

 

* Due to the coaching change at Baylor, the incoming recruiting class is unsettled and several players may ask out of their LOI.

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