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Big 12 Football 2017 Predictions

Complete preview for the Big 12 in 2017.

The race to win the Big 12 in 2017 took an interesting turn this offseason. Oklahoma is Athlon’s predicted champion, but the Sooners will be under the direction of new coach Lincoln Riley after Bob Stoops retired in June. Riley will continue to direct Oklahoma’s high-powered offense, which is good news for the Heisman hopes of quarterback Baker Mayfield. Oklahoma State and Texas are locked into a tight battle for the No. 2 spot in Athlon’s Big 12 predictions, with Kansas State, West Virginia and TCU rounding out the next tier. Iowa State and Baylor are two sleeper teams to watch in 2017.

 

Here are five key storylines or discussions that shaped Athlon’s Big 12 predictions for 2017:

 

1. Oklahoma (with Lincoln Riley) Still the Pick at No. 1

In Athlon’s prediction meeting for the Big 12, Oklahoma was the clear No. 1 team for 2017. Fast forward to June, and the dynamics for this pick have changed just a bit. Bob Stoops retired in early June, with rising star (and offensive coordinator) Lincoln Riley taking over the full-time head coach duties. Riley has never been a head coach before, but his stock has been on the rise over the last few seasons. Under Riley’s direction, Oklahoma has averaged over 40 points in back-to-back years, with quarterback Baker Mayfield emerging as a Heisman contender and one of the top signal-callers in the nation. Riley is expected to put his own stamp on things, but don’t expect many drastic changes for the Sooners in 2017. Provided a couple of key targets emerge at receiver, and running backs emerge to replace Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, the offense should eclipse nearly 40 points a game once again. The defense played better over the final month of 2016 and returns six starters to provide a strong foundation for 2017. Sophomore linebacker Caleb Kelly is a breakout candidate, and the secondary should take a step forward with the emergence of Jordan Parker and Parnell Motley at cornerback opposite of Jordan Thomas. The change from Stoops to Riley doesn’t impact the pick of Oklahoma as the top team in the Big 12 now – and it wouldn’t have made a difference in our prediction meeting prior to the printing of the magazine.

 

2. Oklahoma State vs. Texas

Deciding between Oklahoma State or Texas for the No. 2 spot in the Big 12 predictions was probably the toughest debate of Athlon’s preseason meeting. The Cowboys are loaded with firepower on offense behind quarterback Mason Rudolph and the nation’s top receiving corps. With Rudolph and big-play receiver James Washington leading the way, coach Mike Gundy won’t need a shutdown defense to push for a spot among the top 10 teams in the nation this fall. But the Cowboys have some work to do on that side of the ball after suffering key losses at each level. The addition of graduate transfer Adrian Baker should alleviate some of the concerns in the secondary. A program that has posted three consecutive losing seasons isn’t normally projected to make a jump into the top 10-15 nationally. However, that’s exactly the case for Texas in 2017. The Longhorns made the offseason’s best hire with the addition of Tom Herman from Texas, along with new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando. While the on-field results haven’t been anything noteworthy, the Longhorns aren’t hurting for talent. Quarterback Shane Buechele, running back Chris Warren and a solid line lead the way on offense. And on defense, Orlando – thanks to 10 returning starters – should be able to quickly turn around a unit that surrendered 31.5 points per game last fall. In this debate, Oklahoma State is a much safer pick at No. 2. However, Texas hosts the Cowboys on Oct. 21, which could be the difference in a tight contest for second behind Oklahoma.

 

3. Don’t Forget About Kansas State

Virginia Tech Football/ACC Magazine Athlon Sports’ Big 12 magazine delivers full team previews, schedules, scouting reports, conference predictions, national rankings, as well as complete 2017 college football coverage. Click here to buy your copy today or visit your local newsstand!

It seems like we say this every year in this space, but it’s worth mentioning again: Don’t count out Kansas State in the Big 12 title mix. Simply, coach Bill Snyder will find a way to keep the Wildcats in the hunt to finish in the top two and earn a trip to the conference title game. Road trips to Texas and Oklahoma State won’t make life easy for Kansas State, but the personnel is there to be a factor. The Wildcats return one of the Big 12’s top offensive lines, with quarterback Jesse Ertz and running back Alex Barnes anchoring the backfield once again. Defense is usually a strength in Manhattan, and this unit will be strong once again despite losing linebacker Elijah Lee and end Jordan Willis. Cornerback D.J. Reed, tackle Will Geary and end Reggie Walker top the list of headliners for Snyder on defense. Kansas State is projected to finish fourth, but it wouldn’t surprise us if this team finished a spot or two higher.

 

Related: Big 12 Football 2017 All-Conference Team

 

4. West Virginia and TCU

Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Kansas State were a cut above the rest of the league in Athlon’s Big 12 predictions, but TCU and West Virginia will be two intriguing teams to watch. The Mountaineers lost a good chunk of talent from last year’s squad that finished 10-3. But coach Dana Holgorsen has stability with a long-term extension and can build an offense around transfer quarterback Will Grier. The former Florida signal-caller should push for All-Big 12 honors this fall. Helping Grier in his first full season as West Virginia’s starter will be a deep backfield, a line that returns two full-time starters, and a receiving corps featuring Ka’Raun White and David Sills. Similar to last year, the Mountaineers enter the fall with a significant rebuilding effort on defense. However, just like 2016, West Virginia should be able to find the right answers for a quick reload behind coordinator Tony Gibson. The return of safety Dravon Askew-Henry and addition of Syracuse graduate transfer Corey Winfield bolsters a secondary losing standout Rasul Douglas. Even with just seven returning starters, Holgorsen should keep West Virginia in the mix for eight (or nine) wins. TCU won 23 games from 2014-15 but slipped to 6-7 last fall. Can the Horned Frogs get back on track? In order for TCU to be a top 25 team once again, coach Gary Patterson needs more consistency out of quarterback Kenny Hill. TCU’s offensive line, receiving corps and running backs are all among the best in the conference. However, the offense will continue to struggle unless Hill cuts down on the mistakes. The Horned Frogs are always tough on defense under Patterson, and seven returning starters provide a good foundation. Patterson’s biggest concern on defense is a revamped line and depth at cornerback.

 

5. Texas Tech, Baylor or Iowa State – Is There a Sleeper Team to Watch?

Kansas is slowly improving behind coach David Beaty, but Texas Tech, Baylor and Iowa State fit the preseason talk of being a potential sleeper or surprise team. Can any of these three teams crack the top half of the Big 12 this fall? It’s tough to see that happening, but Iowa State and Baylor are two intriguing teams to watch. The Cyclones improved throughout the 2016 season and five of their nine losses came by 10 points or less. Quarterback Jacob Park returns after a promising debut, and he’s throwing to one of the nation’s top receiving corps, which includes standout Allen Lazard. A bowl game isn’t out of reach for Iowa State, but the offensive line and defense are two areas of concern for coach Matt Campbell. At Baylor, new coach Matt Rhule is digging out from the scandal left behind by former coach Art Briles. Depth on both sides of the ball remains an issue for Rhule, but the former Temple coach has some pieces to work with in 2017. Sophomore quarterback Zach Smith is promising, the ground game is in good hands with Terence Williams and JaMycal Hasty, and end K.J. Smith is one of the Big 12’s top linemen. At Texas Tech, coach Kliff Kingsbury sits squarely on the hot seat after a 5-7 record last fall. Even with quarterback Patrick Mahomes leaving early for the NFL, the Red Raiders should be dynamic on offense once again. New quarterback Nic Shimonek is a good fit for Kingsbury’s scheme, and there’s no shortage of receivers. But any hopes of a bowl or saving Kingsbury’s job likely rests with the defense. This unit gave up 43.5 points a game last fall and has significant concerns up front and in the secondary. 

 

 

Big 12 2017 Unit Rankings

Best RB

Units

Best WR

Units

Best OL

Units

Best DL
Units

Best LB

Units

Best DB

Units

1.  1.  1.  1.  1.  1. 
2.  2.  2.  2.  2.  2. 
3.  3.  3.  3.  3.  3. 
4.   4.  4.  4.  4.  4. 
5.  5.  5.  5.  5.  5. 

 

Big 12 Football 2017 Predictions

         
Rank Team   Projected Big 12 Record Projected Overall Record
1 Oklahoma 8-1 11-2
2 Texas 7-2 9-4
3 Oklahoma State 6-3 9-3
4 Kansas State 5-4 8-4
5 West Virginia 5-4 7-5
6 TCU 5-4 7-5
7 Baylor 3-6 6-6
8 Iowa State 3-6 5-7
9 Texas Tech 3-6 5-7
10 Kansas 0-9 3-9
         
Big 12 Championship Game
 Oklahoma over Texas 

 

 

Big 12 2017 Superlatives and Season Predictions

 

Steven

Lassan

Mitch

Light

Mark

Ross

  @AthlonSteven @AthlonMitch @AthlonMarkR
Offensive POY

Baker Mayfield

QB, Oklahoma

Baker Mayfield

QB, Oklahoma

Baker Mayfield

QB, Oklahoma

Defensive POY

Dorance Armstrong

DE, Kansas

Jordan Thomas

CB, Oklahoma

Travin Howard

LB, TCU

Coach of the Year

Tom Herman

Texas

Tom Herman

Texas

Tom Herman

Texas

Coach on Hot Seat

Kliff Kingsbury

Texas Tech

Kliff Kingsbury

Texas Tech

Kliff Kingsbury

Texas Tech

Top Freshman

Jack Anderson

OL, Texas Tech

Jalen Reagor

WR, TCU

Jalen Reagor

WR, TCU

Top Newcomer

Will Grier

QB, West Virginia

Jeff Badet

WR, Oklahoma

Will Grier

QB, West Virginia

Sleeper Team West Virginia West Virginia Iowa State

Key Position

to Watch

Oklahoma WR Oklahoma State DL Oklahoma WR
Best Coordinator Hire

Todd Orlando

DC, Texas

Doug Meacham

OC, Kansas

Todd Orlando

DC, Texas

Hardest Team

to Evaluate

TCU Baylor Baylor
Coach on the Rise

Todd Orlando

DC, Texas

Tony Gibson

DC, West Virginia

Matt Campbell

HC, Iowa State

Must-See Game

Texas vs. 

Oklahoma

Texas vs. 

Oklahoma

Texas vs. 

Oklahoma

Breakout Player

Caleb Kelly

LB, Oklahoma

Jacob Park

QB, Iowa State

Justin Crawford

RB, West Virginia

Comeback Player

Dravon Askew-Henry

S, West Virginia

Marcel Ateman

WR, Oklahoma State

Chris Warren

RB, Texas

 

Event Date: 
Tuesday, June 6, 2017 - 16:30

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