The college football season starts in two weeks, and everyone from every corner of the landscape has an opinion on the conference, the players, the teams and the coaches.
Will Kansas tumble? Can a Big 12 team reach the College Football Playoff? What about Texas Tech? Are the Red Raiders serious this year?
Feel free to debate and discuss these five bold prediction in the comments section.
Kansas wins three games
Do a quick Google (or Bing, if you roll that way) search for “Kansas football prediction” and you won’t find many prognostications having the Jayhawks winning more than one game. David Beaty is behind the eight ball with only five returning starters his first year at the head of a program that’s falling from the nest in the Big 12.
But the element of surprise could be enough for the Jayhawks to flap their wings high at least for a couple of games.
Their best shot at a win comes during their non-conference slate, taking on South Dakota State (FCS), Memphis, and Rutgers. Not cakewalks by any means, but with excitement around Beaty coming in with a new spread offense working on fast tempo they can likely swoop on the Jackrabbits in their home opener. As for the second win, Rutgers is a possibility who is as turbulent as they come in the Power Five conferences.
However, don’t write off the Jayhawks in Big 12 competition. They take on Iowa State (their only conference win last season) in week four, hoping to get a jump on staying out of the cellar. But this is where things get bold, Michael Cummings comes back late in the season from ACL surgery to win the closer of the season against Kansas State. Beaty told the Kansas City Star “If anybody can get ready, it’s going to be [him].”
Big 12 ousted from playoffs…again
Remember last season, Oklahoma was expected to win the conference outright and find a cozy spot in the playoffs. They lost five games, including losses to eventual co-champs Baylor and TCU. Now the reigning champs are considered the favorites again, and with a system in place to avoid a tie like last season (which presumably left the conference out of the playoffs) many believe it will come down to the rematch in Fort Worth.
Who can blame them? That game last season with the Bears winning in historic fashion was among the best games of the season. But it came during week six when TCU was considered anything but a championship contender. Now with the game in a primetime slot Thanksgiving week, the odds of it having the same importance is much less. It may determine the conference champion, but both have a good shot at losing before continuing the “revivalry”.
Baylor has to travel to Stillwater the week before and Texas Tech looks to upset them in AT&T Stadium once again. TCU opens things up in Minnesota who looks to be improved from last season, and they head to Norman where Oklahoma has only lost three times in as many seasons.
If we learned anything from last season, teams need to be as close to perfect as possible and one team is heading out of the TCU-Baylor game with two losses. The other’s one loss record probably won’t be enough to convince the committee the lack of a title game to put a Big 12 representative in once again.
Texas Tech loses only three games
Building off the TCU-Baylor prediction, Kliff Kingsbury’s squad is in contention to be one of those teams giving the reigning champs a run for their money. Aside from yet to name their starting quarterback (though Pat Mahomes is likely the winner), hardly anything is working against the Red Raiders right now.
If they can win in Arkansas to wrap up their non-conference slate, it should be easy going with the rest of their schedule. Only Norman and Morgantown offer much of a challenge on the road, they take on TCU at home while they play at a neutral location against Baylor once again. To beat those teams, they need all the help they can get, and playing in front of a home crowd certainly works in their favor.
But scheduling aside, it’s their roster that will have the final say. Things are looking up for the Red Raiders on both sides of the ball.
Mahomes could be a top three quarterback in the conference, possessing elite arm-strength and he has a great surrounding cast including a do-it-all running back in DeAndre Washington. Their offense should have no trouble coasting near 40 points a game. As for the defense — which was historically bad — their approach is “go big or go home” under David Gibbs. Based on his success with Houston as a top tier defense, this senior-dominated defense should be more than respectable this season.
Tyrone Swoopes loses starting job at Texas
As much as the Big 12 has a weak non-conference slate, Texas is the exception with Notre Dame and California, and that could spell trouble for the junior quarterback.
Texas has entered an era of rebuilding with Charlie Strong heading into his second year with the mic in Austin. Even though Mack Brown left the program in somewhat disarray, the perception is that the Horns are still an elite program to their fans, and to see Swoopes look inconsistent once again could force Strong’s hand to move redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard into the primary role.
Swoopes had five games with a completion rate under 60 percent and had three games with a QBR under 20 (out of 100 according to ESPN), all of which were losses. If he doesn’t improve his consistency, Heard will at least share the role with Swoopes if not take over the spot entirely.
Both offer similar abilities as big dual-threat quarterbacks, and Strong has already stated the two will both see action in the opener at South Bend — Swoopes is presumably the starter. If Texas beats the Fighting Irish, Swoopes’ role is secure. If Texas struggles through week three when California and Jared Goff come to town, the job is Heard’s since they can’t afford to stick with the same routine and expect to go bowling.
Baylor averages more than 50 PPG
Okay, is this really bold? Not when you consider Baylor has averaged over 40 points a game each of the past four seasons — leading the nation with 46.4 points last season.
But consider that only five teams have averaged over 50 points per game over the last decade, and no team has repeated that feat. Baylor would be the first program to repeat the feat since the turn of the century after averaging 51 points in 2013.
With Bryce Petty jetting for the NFL, it wouldn’t seem likely that they could climb to such a level considering he was at the helm for the past two seasons. But Baylor’s as good as any program at developing quarterbacks. Seth Russell should have no problems stepping into Art Briles’ system after spending three seasons learning from the best in the business.
Consider their receiving group brings even more speed to the field with exciting freshman while KD Cannon and Corey Coleman have developed this offseason, they’ll make Russell look even better than his predecessors. And let’s not forget Briles’ latest innovation with tight end LaQuan McGowan.
With the schedule looking as easy as last season, the only thing that might stand in their way of this milestone is Briles putting his foot on the brakes once they get a comfortable lead like he did against SMU in the season opener last season.