The road to the Big 12 title goes through Stillwater
The polls are coming out. The odds are set. The pundits and prognosticators have all had their say. There really isn't much more to do before the 2017 college football season kicks off, right?
Who am I kidding?
For better or worse, it's time once again for some OUTRAGEOUS* college football predictions heading into the 2017 slate.
Continuing on with our preseason series of outrageousness, it's time to take a look at the Big 12. With coaching changes at the helms of the two most prestigious programs in the conference, things are bound to get interesting.
Outrageous College Football Predictions for the Big 12 in 2017
Texas won't have a winning record
Despite Tom Herman taking over in Austin and the Longhorns being back in the preseason Top 25 of the major polls, Texas football is still a year or so away from being relevant again. For starters, it's another year of learning yet another new offensive system. Combine that with not having the type of quarterback Herman has historically had when his teams were at their best. The defense was not great last year, and it wasn't all due to coaching. This team just isn't ready to compete with the likes of some of the high-octane offenses it will face in conference – not to mention Week 3 foe USC. Texas will finish 6-6 in Herman's first season.
Baylor will win 10 games
Thanks to the drama off the field in Waco and the changes it has brought, many people seem to be writing off Baylor as irrelevant in 2017. I'm not convinced. There is talent on this roster – especially at the skill positions – and new head coach Matt Rhule is creative enough to figure out ways to make that talent flat-out lethal. On defense, the Bears have a couple of potential All-Americans roaming around in the front seven. They'll be getting after the pass-happy offenses in the Big 12 all year. I see a manageable schedule outside of the two tilts with the Oklahoma schools and a successful 10-win debut season for Rhule at Baylor.
Iowa State goes bowling
Things are looking up in Ames. Matt Campbell is bringing a new energy and you can sense the optimism around the program. Jacob Park provides solid leadership under center and wide receiver Allen Lazard is a matchup problem for almost every team Iowa State will face. A seasoned and athletic defense led by quarterback-turned-linebacker Joel Lanning will surprise a lot of people. A difficult schedule is dotted with just enough winnable games to get the Cyclones to six wins, sending their party-crazed student body and fan base on a road trip during the upcoming holiday season.
Oklahoma loses to Oklahoma State twice
The Sooners are going to be one of the best teams in the country once again, but the Cowboys will be just a bit better. The departure of Bob Stoops will be a contributing factor, as will the losses of Joe Mixon, Dede Westbrook and Samaje Perine to the NFL. You just don't lose that kind of offensive firepower and not take a step back. I see the Sooners’ secondary having issues stopping the Cowboys’ passing game, leading to a couple of shootouts that OU just doesn't have the weapons to keep pace in. One game at Stillwater and another on a neutral field at AT&T Stadium will obviously eliminate any chance of Oklahoma having a home-field advantage in either matchup. The end result will be a new king crowned in the Big 12.
Oklahoma State runs the table to the College Football Playoff
Not only will the Cowboys win the Big 12 title, but they'll also be perfect in doing so. Mason Rudolph will finally have a formidable offensive line protecting him as he looks downfield to target what might be the best wide receiver duo in the country in James Washington and Jalen McCleskey. To take some of the pressure off of the passing game, Rudolph can always hand the ball off to 2016 Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year Justice Hill. The sophomore toted the rock to the tune of 1,142 rushing yards a season ago. And don't look now, but Mike Gundy may have the most athletic group of defenders he's ever coached at his disposal. That unit will be led by a safety duo of Tre Flowers and Ramon Richards that could be a good as any in college football. It all adds up to a 12-0 regular season for Gundy and the Pokes, a second win over their in-state rival in the Big 12 Championship Game and a trip to the College Football Playoff.
*Remember, "outrageous" can be defined as “wildly exaggerated or improbable,” and “very bold, unusual, and startling.” These are "outrageous" predictions and should be treated as such.
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo!, Bleacher Report and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.