We were planning on ranking the top 12 teams in the Big 12, but it turns out there aren’t that many teams in the Big 12. There are only 10. And this is something the Big 12 brags about. It likes to say that because it only has 10 teams, that means every Big 12 team plays every other Big 12 team every year, creating a balanced and superior schedule resulting in “one true champion.”
This year, as in most others, the clear favorite to be that champion is Oklahoma. But TCU is on quite a run the last few years, and has plenty enough talent to beat OU. Same goes for Oklahoma State. And you can never, ever, under any circumstances, assume Bill Snyder is done making runs at conference championships.
Anyway, the best of the Big 12:
10. Kansas Jayhawks
It has been 10 years, four head coaches and three athletics directors since the last time Kansas won a road game. And there is a lot more Kansas football gore where that came from. There’s a lot of time spent looking up records and superlatives and this-hasn’t-happened-sinces during Kansas games, and none of it shows any signs of abatement.
The best player from last year’s 1-11 squad, defensive end Dorance Armstrong, is now in the NFL. The offensive line, which barely even existed last season, has some bodies this year thanks to a recruiting class that included six offensive linemen and 11 junior college players. But the Jayhawks could improve by a fair amount and still win one or two games this year.
KU lost its Big 12 games by an average of 32 points past year and finished last in the league in:
- scoring offense
- scoring defense
- total offense
- total defense
- rushing offense
- pass efficiency
- defensive pass efficiency
- kickoff coverage
- first downs
- third-down conversions
- turnover margin
- red-zone defense
9. Baylor Bears
Back in the day, it was not uncommon for Associated Press stories to refer to Baylor as “lowly Baylor,” as in, “LAWRENCE — Kansas’ season went from bad to worse Saturday night with a loss to lowly Baylor, which entered the game having lost eight of its last …” and so on and so forth.
This was in the years after the big scandal, see.
No, the one before that.
But now Lowly Baylor is back, kept out of the conference mud only by Destitute Kansas.
Baylor lost to Liberty last year. And to UTSA, and Iowa State and, in fact, everyone else in the Big 12 except Kansas, which it beat 23-13. As you’d imagine, the Bears were right there with the Jayhawks near the bottom of most of the Big 12 stats.
But there was a hazy bright spot: Despite giving up more sacks than anybody else in the league, the Bears were fifth in the Big 12 in passing offense, gaining 287 yards per game that way (for comparison, Big 12 leader Oklahoma State threw for 389 per game).
This was achieved with quarterbacks Charlie Brewer and Zach Smith, who had almost the exact same number of attempts. Smith transferred from Baylor, leaving Brewer as the presumptive starter and one of only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.
Injuries last year forced the Bears to give Brewer four starts, earlier than they’d have liked to. And he played pretty well in the eight total appearances he made, completing 68 percent of his passes for 1,562 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Assuming Brewer is at least that good this year, Baylor is in OK shape at quarterback. But there’s still a lot of mess to clean up.
8. Texas Tech Red Raiders
As ever, the Red Raiders moved the ball in 2017. They ranked third in the league in total offense, passing offense and first downs, and they had the Big 12’s leader in all-purpose yards, Keke Coutee.
But Coutee is now on the Houston Texans, and last year’s quarterback, Nic Shimonek, is with the Chargers.
Texas Tech returns three quarterbacks from last year’s team, and added a freshman and a juco transfer. That’s a lot of guys to choose from, but a case can be made for McLane Carter. He did at least start a game last year, but it was such a lousy performance he got benched in the fourth quarter.
This is Texas Tech after all, and that means you can count on one of these guys to throw for about 3,600 yards if it’s a bad year.
The biggest issues last year were on the other side of the ball, and the talk is this should be Kliff Kingsbury’s best defense yet. It would be cruelly ironic if that were the case, but this was the year Texas Tech’s big weakness was the passing game. That sounds a little too close to the truth to trust the Red Raiders to do any better than they did last year.