2011 FINAL BIG 12 STANDINGS
Oklahoma State 12-1 (8-1)
Kansas State 10-3 (7-2)
Baylor 10-3 (6-3)
Oklahoma 10-3 (6-3)
Missouri 8-5 (5-4)
Texas 8-5 (4-5)
Texas A&M 7-6 (4-5)
Iowa State 5-7 (3-6)
Texas Tech 5-7 (2-7)
Kansas 2-10 (0-9)
RETURNING STATISTICAL LEADERS
Returning Leaders: Passing
Casey Pachall, TCU, Jr (228 of 343 for 2921, 25 TD, 7 INT)
Geno Smith, WVU, Sr (346 of 526 for 4385 yds, 31 TD, 7 INT)
Landry Jones, OU, Sr (355 of 562 for 4463 yds, 29 TD, 15 INT)
Seth Doege, Texas Tech, Sr (398 of 581 for 4003, 28 TD, 10 INT)
Collin Klein, Kansas St, Sr (161 of 281 for 1918, 13 TD, 6 INT)
Returning Leaders: Rushing
Joseph Randle, Oklahoma St, Jr (208 carries for 1216 yds, 5.8 ypc, 24 TD)
Collin Klein, Kansas St, Sr (317 carries for 1141 yds, 3.6 ypc, 27 TD)
John Hubert, Kansas St, Jr (200 carries for 970 yds, 4.8 ypc, 3 TD)
Wayman James, TCU, Jr (121 carries for 875 yds, 7.2 ypc, 6 TD)
Returning Leaders: Receiving
Tavon Austin, WVU, Sr (101 rec for 1186 yds, 8 TD)
Eric Ward, Texas Tech, Jr (84 rec for 800 yds, 11 TD)
Stedman Bailey, WVU, Jr (72 rec for 1279 yds, 12 TD)
Kenny Stills, OU, Jr (61 rec for 849 yds, 8 TD)
Josh Boyce, TCU, JR (61 rec for 998 yds, 9 TD)
Returning Leaders: Tackles
A.J. Klein, Iowa St, Sr (117 total, 9.00 tackles/game)
Jake Knott, Iowa St, Sr (114 total, 8.77 tackles/game)
Sam Holl, Baylor, Jr (113 total, 8.69 tackles/game)
Cody Davis, Sr (93 total, 8.45 tackles/game)
Returning Leaders: Sacks
Stanley Maponga, TCU, Jr (9.0 sacks)
Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas, Jr (8.0)
Meshak Williams, Kansas St, Sr (7.0)
Alex Okafor, Texas, Sr (6.0)
Returning Leader: Interceptions
Nigel Malone, Kansas St, Sr (7 Interceptions)
Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma St, Jr (5)
Brodrick Brown, Oklahoma St, Sr (5)
K.J. Morton, Baylor, Jr (4)
Tony Jefferson, OU, Jr (4)
Quandre Diggs, Texas, Soph (4)
BREAKING DOWN THE BIG 12 WITH THE ZEALOTS AND THE SATURDAY EDGE:
Jay (Prediction: #7 ): You don't lose a record-setting quarterback, a record-setting running back, and a record-setting receiver without seeing teeny, tiny drop-off in offensive productivity. Losing two NFL draft picks off the OL will also make an appreciable difference. If not for those facts, this looks like a really strong team on paper. The Bears have a senior quarterback, a five star talent at running back (presuming he doesn't pull a Bryce Brown), 77 returning starts on the OL, and a bunch of receivers who've been very productive. But those three guys were the difference in a lot of close games last year. And even though Baylor has really strong numbers back on defense, as well (17 of the top 20 tacklers return), it's still the Baylor defense. They just don't have the athletes to hold opponents to much lower than 30 points per game. This will still be a good team, but more like 2010 Baylor than 2011 Baylor.
The Saturday Edge: (Prediction: #7): Baylor lost the best QB in college football last year, but they still have plenty of talent coming back. They just won't have a game breaker like a Robert Griffin who gave them another huge dimension on offense. But they will still have a deep backfield, plenty of talent at WR and QB Florence saw his share of starts back in 2009. Defense is still a HUGE concern with this team. They MUST improve off of their 116th national ranking last season. The Bears had just 19 sacks last year. So unless they can improve their pass rush, they will have the same problems as KSU. This team will also have a ton of confidence coming into this season. They could very well finish higher than 7th if their defense can improve.
Kevin (Prediction: #7): Last year, Baylor gave up 33.4 points per game in their ten wins. In three of those wins they gave up over 40 points. From 2010 to 2011, Baylor increased their offensive scoring by 14 points per game. This year, I would expect Baylor to come back down to somewhere around 30 points per game which means that their season will be decided based on how much improvement is seen on the defensive side of the football. Look for Baylor to be a very competitive football team this year but they will struggle to win those close games that they won last year (they won four games by one score or less).
Jay (Prediction: #9): I feel like I'm probably undervaluing the Cyclones a little bit here. They've never won fewer than three conference games under coach Paul Rhoads. But though they look very strong up the middle on defense with returning senior starters at nose guard, Mike linebacker, and free safety, they also seem really inexperienced on the edges, which is where a lot of football gets played in the Big 12. If Steele Jantz or Jared Barnett can consistently recapture their mojo from their respective 3-game winning streaks last season, they have the potential to be a tough out for any team that's not at their best. But their schedule is vicious and doesn't allow them any sure home wins in the conference. It took the Cyclones two overtime upset victories to get to a bowl game last season. I don't see them catching that many breaks in 2012.
The Saturday Edge (Prediction: #9): The Clones never fail to throw in a surprise win or two every year. And beating the conference winner last year was their biggest. I can see just about the same type of team we saw last year. Maybe a little better if they can find a QB. I do expect ISU to be a little more potent on offense. They also have a couple of the best LB's in the conference on defense, but like a lot of teams in the conference, they are lacking playmakers in the secondary. The biggest thing is the QB issue with this team. Rhoads has done a good job of recruiting backs and receivers. And we'll see their talents this year if they can just find a QB that can deliver them the ball. This will probably be another 6-6 or 5-7 team. But Rhoads is building the Clones one piece at a time.
Kevin (Prediction: #9): Iowa State is no longer an easy out. Just ask Mike Gundy and Tommy Tuberville. I would expect Iowa State to challenge for a bowl game and keep some of the Big 12 challengers on their toes. The difference between this team being mediocre and good will be the offense. Completing 50% of your passes simply isn't going to help you win the majority of your football games. Offensive improvement is needed for the Cyclones to take the next step.
Jay (Prediction: #10): This program is a dumpster fire. Which is strange, because it was just in 2007, a mere five seasons ago, when they had their greatest season ever and played in a BCS bowl. This should be the season that they're reaping the greatest rewards from that year, instead of starting over for the second time in three seasons. And Charlie Weis isn't exactly known as a quick fix artist (in fact, he's more of a gradual destruction artist), so I don't see much hope for a dramatic turnaround in 2012, though doubling their win total from last year (2) wouldn't be entirely out of the question, if Dayne Crist's knees don't explode. When he's upright, he's a much better passer than anyone the Jayhawks have trotted out to the huddle since Todd Reesing.
The Saturday Edge: (Prediction: #10): The Jayhawks should be better on offense this year. They'll be bringing Notre Dame QB transfer Dayne Crist. Kansas will also have an experienced offensive line and a couple of good, experienced running backs. But this is still a team who has won only three Big 12 games in the last 3 years. So it's going to take some time to rebuild this team. Kansas was dead last in defense in college football last year (516 ypg). So it will take a monumental task to rebuild this unit.
Kevin (Prediction: #10): It will be interesting to see how improved the offense is under Weis. How successful will Dayne Crist be? His familiarity with Weis's system is big and if he can replicate what he did at Notre Dame in 2010 (15 TD, 7 INT) that will be better than anything Kansas has had since Todd Reesing left. Under Weis, Kansas will be more in line with the rest of the Big 12 in terms of offensive production then they have been in the last two years under Gill. Weis will be free to run the type of offense that he wants and we should see a solid improvement over what Kansas put on the field last year. The key to the season is the defense, which was last in the Big 12 in just about every category you can imagine. If the defense takes a big step forward then maybe Kansas can take a step out of the cellar but I don't think that happens for at least another year.
Jay (Predicton: #5): If Colin Klein could throw at all, I'd give this team an outside shot to make a run at the conference title. But he can't. And the Wildcats draw 5 conference away games, anyway, including trips to Oklahoma and West Virginia (the latter being the last of back-to-back travel games). That said, K-State's power running game with Klein and John Hubert will continue to give the smaller finesse defenses in the Big 12 nightmares. But, just like last year, when they run up against teams with big, athletic front sevens that can match up in the trenches, they won't have an answer. Because Colin Klein can't throw.
The Saturday Edge: (Prediction: #5): If KSU had a little easier schedule I might rank them one or two places higher. With their ball possession style, mistake free, penalty free, turnover free football. they'll continue to play close games. But I think with those tough road games, they won't come out on top as many times as they did last year. The fact still remains that they were just ranked 110th in total offense last season, and won six games by a TD or less. Another problem I see is a DL that appears like it won't be able to get enough pressure on the QB. They had real problems with this last year when they went up against talented QB's like Landry Jones, RGIII and Brandon Weedon, who combined to score 145 points on them. It makes those trips to Norman, Morgantown and Fort Worth precarious at best.
Kevin (Prediction: #2): I've mentioned this before but I really think the Big 12 is going to be a league where teams are going to pick each other off and there will be several teams that are clumped together when the dust settles. Kansas State can be as good as any team in this league but they also have the possibility of falling as far as sixth or seventh place in the conference. I was impressed by what Bill Snyder accomplished and my expectation would be for K-State to compete in every game this year and win the majority of them. I'm not expecting a big fall off for Kansas State.
Jay (Prediction :#1): I guess I'm picking Oklahoma to win the Big 12 because, you know, that's just what you do when you don't think Texas is quite championship material. I definitely think Landry Jones' development (or lack thereof) is a concern. He seemed to reach a plateau last year, then Ryan Broyles went out, and he actually seemed to regress. If he plays as badly in 2012 as he did down the stretch in 2011, this Big 12 is wide open for the taking.
The Saturday Edge: (Prediction: #1): I've got to go with OU because of their combined offensive and defensive strengths. They may not have the offense of WV or the defense of Texas, but they aren't lacking in either. But it's by the smallest of margins, especially if they incur any more key injuries on the offensive line. And if Landry Jones goes down, all bets are off. It's anybody's game. But even if LJ stays healthy, OU has a number of potential roadblocks. First off is Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Does anybody really think the Sooners win this game by 38 this year? Another roadblock is having to play in both of the conference newcomers backyards. There will be many unknowns to deal with in going to new stadiums. With Landry Jones dealing with a semi-reshuffled OL, new WR's and handing off to a RB that is coming off a season ending injury, OU is far from a sure thing this year. Things will have to fall just right for them to win the outright Big 12 title.
Kevin (Prediction: #1): Oklahoma has had their share of off the field issues this year but I still see them as the most talented team in the league. Texas might have as much talent, but they don't have a quarterback. Mike Stoops returns to Norman and that will help that side of the football be re-energized. Look for OU to take the Big 12 Title.
Jay (Prediction: #6): Mike Gundy has done a good job building this program, but you don't lose Brandon Weedon and Justin Blackmon without missing a step. Especially when you replace them with a true freshman (That's the plan right now, anyway. We'll see if it sticks.) and no on in particular, respectively. I really feel like Joseph Randle is more of a complementary player at running back, not a workhorse who can carry the team until West Lunt gets on track. I think the Cowboy defense will continue to be what it is. They'll give up a lot of yards and a lot of points, but also generate a lot of turnovers and create bonus scoring opportunities for the offense. Weeden and Blackmon were able to cash in on those more often than not, to the tune of nearly 50 points per game in 2011. If Lunt and the new guys are unable to take advantage of those opportunities, Okie State will see several close games go the other way this year. My guess is that A) the defense doesn't quite produce turnovers at last year's astounding rate, and B) the young offense doesn't get the most out of the ones they do, resulting in the Cowboys dropping back to the middle of the pack.
The Saturday Edge: (Prediction: #4): I'm having trouble buying that the Pokes are going to fall THAT much. They have a very underrated coaching staff and system in place that promotes continued success with this program. I just don't see the Pokes regressing that much. Aside from a game versus Texas, OSU doesn't have a difficult first half schedule, so freshman QB Lunt should have ample time to get up to Big 12 speed. With the exception of their game at OU, they get all of their tough games at home. Stillwater in recent years has not been an easy place to play. They should also have a ton of confidence after their Big 12 title breakthrough last year. RB Joseph Randal could be the best and most versatile RB in the Big 12. He should help ease some of the pressure placed on the rookie QB.
Kevin (Prediction: #6): The schedule sets up nicely for the Cowboys to get off to a good start. Oklahoma State should be looking at 5-1 (give or take a win) going into the second half of their season. That is where they will get tested. They take on TCU, Kansas State and West Virginia in back to back weeks, then host Texas Tech and then go to Oklahoma. If the offense can gel and Lunt can get his feet under him in the first half of the schedule, Oklahoma State could be in for another surprising year but the Big 12 just looks so competitive this year I think there is going to be a lot of teams beating up on each other.
Jay (Prediction: tie for #2): Texas is looking like my kind of team this year. They're going to play great defense in year 2 of Manny Diaz's scheme, and they're going to run the football with powerful backs behind a veteran offensive line that will be ready to mash defenses in year 2 of a real pro running scheme (as opposed to whatever Greg Davis was doing in 2010). As long as whichever young quarterback that ends up with the hot potato can protect the football, I think this will be Texas' true bounce-back season. The Longhorns may have won a fair number of games last year, but they rarely looked impressive in doing so and were embarrassed on a few occasions. In 2012, the numbers 4 through 8 will not be present in Texas' final regular season record.
The Saturday Edge: (Prediction: #2): Just by their defensive personnel alone you have to put Texas at least #2. It comes down to the simple fact that nobody comes even remotely close to recruiting in the Big 12 like Texas and OU. And it usually takes outside circumstances to keep either of these teams from winning the conference. In OSU's case last year, they benefited from a series of key injuries to OU, and Texas going through a complete overhaul of their coaching staff, schemes and QB's. This year Texas should have things a little bit better together on offense. But the fact still remains that they have two QB's who had trouble reading defenses and completing passes over 5 yards. And in order to run the ball like they want to, to take the pressure off of the QB(s), the offensive line needs to improve. So far I'm not hearing that many positive things about the OL. My general feeling about this team is they are probably still a year away from winning the conference.
Kevin (Prediction: #4): Texas's schedule really comes in waves. Wave one has three games that Texas should not lose, but then the next three might be the three toughest games of the season (Okie St, WVU and OU in back-to-back-to-back weeks). After that Texas gets four in-conference games they should win and then they finish with two tough back-to-back games against TCU and Kansas State. More than likely the toughest five conference games will come down to QB play and in four of five of those games their opponent will have the better QB (Landry Jones, Geno Smith, Casey Pachall and Collin Klein). If everything aligns, Texas definitely has the talent to win the conference but I don't see their offense being consistent enough to make it happen. Look for Texas to improve but how much will depend on QB play.
Jay (Prediction:#8): The Horned Frogs are in for a rude awakening in 2012. The Big 12 schedule makers showed no mercy to the BCS conference neophytes, giving them 5 conference away games right off the bat, sending them on the road to face Oklahoma State and West Virginia on back-to-back weekends, and wrapping up their season with a double shot of Texas and Oklahoma. You won't find competition like that in the Mountain West, where 10 wins were a gimme. That schedule would be difficult to negotiate, even if TCU wasn't fielding what looks like it's weakest, least experienced defense in years, and, oh yeah, dealing with a major off-field distraction. Which they are. The Horned Frogs have won at least 11 games in 7 out of the last 9 seasons. This season, they're more likely to win 7 to 9 games.
The Saturday Edge (Prediction: #6): If it wasn't for Gary Patterson, I probably wouldn't even put TCU this high because of all of the offseason troubles they've had that has cut into their overall depth. TCU starts off with a favorable enough schedule to where I think they can rack up a decent conference record before they get into their bottom loaded schedule where things could fall apart in a hurry. QB Pachall is a clutch QB and a game changer. So TCU will have a punchers chance in every game they play. But depth is going to be a real issue with this team. TCU simply isn't used to playing this many good BCS teams in a row without a break. TCU also lost their kicker and punter, and their offensive line also must be retooled. This is a lot to overcome when entering into the BCS ranks for the first time. So unlike WV, this isn't the best time for TCU to be entering the league.
Kevin (Prediction: #5): The good news is that the schedule sets up nicely for TCU. It would not be shocking to see TCU at 7-0 as they play some decent teams but they are games they should win. October 27th is when the going gets tough. That's when TCU takes a trip to Stillwater to take on Oklahoma State and then it's a whirlwind of the best of the best of the Big 12 (at WVU, vs K-State, at Texas, vs OU). Will TCU be in for a rude awakening in their debut season in the Big 12 or will they prove they belong?
Jay (Prediction: tied for #2): The more I research the Red Raiders, the more I get this crazy idea that they could be a major dark horse player in the conference. With a senior quarterback, solid experience back on the OL, everyone of significance in the receiving corps back, and potentially the return of a running back who showed flashes of being the best back Tech has had as far back as I can remember, this year's offense has the potential to be the most dynamic since 2008. You remember that one. But even more importantly, with 9 starters back on defense (and 16 of the top 20 tacklers returning), I think this is one of the more underrated defenses in the conference. The back seven, in particular, is loaded with experience. If the Red Raiders can get some new blood on the defensive line to generate pressure on the quarterback, I think there's great potential for some Oklahoma State-caliber ballhawking in Lubbock. Plus, they draw a great conference schedule with only 4 away games, none of which are against the better teams in the conference. Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia all have to travel to Lubbock. Watch out for these guys.
The Saturday Edge (Prediction: #8): With the amount of starters they have coming back, plus an experienced senior QB I very much want to rank this team higher. But TT is one of those teams I'm going to have to see before I make a proper evaluation on them. The reason for doubt lies at the top with Tommy Tubberville. I'm still not sure if he is the right man for the job. One thing that hasn't changed that much is the strength of the Red Raiders will be offense. Besides QB Doege, they'll have a talented group of WR's and a couple of good RB's. Their problem is a defense that will be on their fourth DC in four years, and yet another new scheme (4-3). They'll also have 5 new JUCO's that will try to make an immediate impact, which is always a gamble. But I don't see a quick fix with this unit since they gave up nearly 500 yards per game last year (114th nationally). They’ll also have a lack of depth in the secondary, which is never good in the pass happy Big 12. After the OU game last year, they suffered a ton of injuries. We're not talking about the minor type either. Most of the injuries were season ending injuries that required surgery. So Tech could be a little underestimated if people go strictly by what they did in the last 5 games of last season.
Kevin (Prediction: #8): Texas Tech is one of the more interesting teams in the league. Tommy Tuberville is going to be in trouble if he doesn't win this year and the Big 12 looks like a monster. Teams differ a lot from year to year but it's really hard to forget about a 34 point loss to Iowa State. The Red Raiders and Tommy Tuberville don't have a lot of goodwill built up right now and they are a team that needs to show me what they can do before I believe they are on the track back to the top of the Big 12.
Jay (Prediction: tied for #2): I've somewhat tempered my expectations for this West Virginia team. I still think they're schedule is highly conducive to winning the Big 12 title. If they can survive those back-to-back road trips to Texas and Texas Tech in early October, they'll get Oklahoma at home in November and have a great shot to close out strong. But, boy, I think it's going to be a real culture shock when they head down to Austin and see what that Longhorn front seven can do. And then to have to travel back home and then back to Lubbock in a week? That's rough. I can easily see this team opening up at 1-2 in the conference. But once they get settled in, I think they'll be fine. Dana Holgorsen knows how to win in this conference.
The Saturday Edge (Prediction: #3): With many of the Big 12 defenses seeming to be in a rebuilding mode or just downright awful, I tend to gravitate towards the teams with the best offenses and experienced QB's. West Virginia fits that bill. I think they are entering the Big 12 at a perfect time. They have the majority of their team back, they have an experienced QB, and they have one of the more favorable schedules in the conference. They also have a coaching staff who is familiar with the Big 12 (Holgersen coached at both OSU and Texas Tech). Of course this team's main question mark is their defense. But aside from the top 2 teams, who doesn't have major questions at defense? I think this team is well equipped for Big 12 play and they could simply outscore many of their opponents like Baylor had to do last year.
Kevin (Prediction: #3): Heading into the Big 12, the Mountaineers are going to get some serious competition this year. WVU should be 4-0 heading into a huge test at Texas. The Mountaineers should play five Top 25 teams in the regular season. Last year they played just two. When I look at their schedule I just think it's going to be difficult for them to escape their tough Big 12 schedule with any less than three losses but that should be good enough for third in the conference.
CFBZ PREDICTED 2012 BIG 12 FINISH
1. Oklahoma Sooners
2 (tie). Texas Longhorns
2 (tie). West Virginia Mountaineers
4. Kansas State Wildcats
5. Oklahoma State Cowboys
6. Texas Tech Red Raiders
7. TCU Horned Frogs
8. Baylor Bears
9. Iowa State Cyclones
10. Kansas Jayhawks