Big 12 Football Preview 2015
By Tyler Smith (@arenafanatic) and Matt Hetzler (@thehetz)
*All images are via CBSsports.com
Big 12 Football Predictions 2015
Offense: This Horned Frogs offense will be even better than last season. Which is scary considering how dominant they were. Trevone Boykin exploded onto the scene last season. Boykin has thrust himself into a Heisman candidate coming into the season. Boykin threw for 3,901 yards with 33 TD’s, he also ran for 707 and 8 TD’s. Aaron Green returns at RB, he rushed for 922 yards will getting less carries than Boykin. Boykin’s go-to guy Josh Doctson is back. Doctson had 65 catches for 1,018 yards and 11 TD’s. Deante’ Gray added 8 receiving TD’s of his own in 2014. 4 returning lineman has this offense ready to exceed expectations in 2015.
Defense: James McFarland is one of 3 returning starters on the DL. McFarland led the team in sacks with 7 last season. Davion Pierson is a run-stuffer up the middle. Derrick Kindred is the leading returning tackler from a year ago. Kindred had 80 tackles and 4 INT’s at safety.
Special Teams: Jaden Oberkrom returns as kicker for the Horned Frogs. Oberkrom was a respectable 22-27 with a long of 47. Punter Ethan Perry averaged 39 yards per punt in 2014.
Forecast: TCU opens the season on the first Thursday of the year. TCU visits Minnesota in what should be a blowout. The conference opener at Texas Tech could be a potential early trap game for TCU. Once they get through that game, all eyes will be on Nov. 21 when they visit Oklahoma. If TCU escapes Norman with a W, it sets up the biggest game of the season with Baylor. My only concern with this team is the defense. The defense has to be able to not allow 40+ pts, which may sound crazy, but in the B12 offenses can put that up in a half. I like that TCU gets Baylor at home, it’s the only reason TCU is winning the conference by my predictions. If TCU wins the conference outright, they will be the CFP, where they should’ve been in 2014.
Offense: Baylor’s offense was incredible once again in 2014. Baylor has to replace Bryce Petty at QB and will do that with Seth Russell. Russell looked sharp in mop up duty last season. He had an 8-1 TD/INT ratio. Russell will be surrounded by some amazing talent. Shock Linwood returns at RB for the Bears and my pick for the B12 Offensive player of the year. Linwood rushed for 1,252 yards and 16 TD’s. Leading receivers Corey Coleman and KD Cannon return. Coleman hauled in an impressive 11 TD’s along with 1,119 yards. Cannon also went over 1,000 yards receiving and added 8 TD’s. Jay Lee should not be overlooked. Lee gives the Bears 3 viable deep ball threats. What’s even scarier is that the Bears return all 5 offensive lineman from 2014.
Defense: Baylor returns 9 starters from the 2014 team. DE Shawn Oakman was a force for Baylor, recording 11 sacks, 8.5 for loss, and 9 hurries on the QB. Andrew Billings has 9.5 tackles for loss at the DT position. Beau Blacksheer also had 44 tackles and 4.5 sacks on the line. Taylor Young is the leading returning tackler for this defense. Young had 92 tackles and 4 sacks. Xavien Howard is a lockdown CB, Howard had 4 INT’s and 13 break ups. Orion Stewart is back at safety, Stewart also had 4 INT’s and 81 tackles.
Special Teams: Chris Callahan was 18-26 in FG’s with a long of 46. Freshman Drew Galitz will be the punter.
Forecast: Baylor once again plays an awful non-conference schedule, which will always come back to hurt them. I don’t see Baylor being challenged until Oklahoma visits them in early November. The biggest game of the year will be at TCU on November 27. This game will more than likely be a play-in game to the CFP. However, if Baylor were to lose a tight game in Fort Worth, they could definitely sneak into the 4-team field. I think the B12 has the best chance to get 2 teams into the playoffs this season. I will predict Baylor goes 11-1 and misses the playoff because of the lack of non-conference SOS and no real championship game.
#3 Oklahoma State
Offense: Mason Rudolph will get first crack as starting QB coming into 2015. Rudolph is a special talent, with only 86 attempts last season he threw for 853 yards and 6 TD’s. The rushing game will need to find a replacement for Roland. The WR’s are a strong returning bunch. Brandon Sheperd may be the best of those returning. Sheperd had 5 TD’s with 39 receptions. David Glidden and James Washington are other weapons on the outside. Glidden led the Cowboys in receptions with 42 in 2014. Washington led the team with receiving TD’s with 6.
Defense: The defense will return 8 starters from a year ago. Emmanuel Ogbah was a force on the edge last season, recording 11 sacks. The linebackers may be the best group in the conference. Ryan Simmons and Seth Jacobs recorded 96 and 92 tackles respectfully. Simmons added 10 for loss. Kevin Peterson returns as the top CB on the roster. Peterson had 11 pass break ups in 2014. Jordan Sterns led the team in tackles with 103 last season.
Special Teams: Ben Grogan hit 22 of 28 FG’s in 2014 with a long of 47. Zach Sinor will handle the punting duties.
Forecast: Oklahoma State has an easy non-conference slate. The conference road schedule is pretty manageable with games at Texas, WVU, Texas Tech and Iowa State. The Cowboys last 3 home conference games are against TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma. Those three games will make or break their season. I think Oklahoma State bounces back from last season 7-6 record with 9 plus wins.
Offense: Sophomore Baker Mayfield will get his chance to shine as QB for the Sooners in the fall. Mayfield was B12 freshman offensive player of the year at Texas Tech in 2013. Samaje Perine was an absolute beast in 2014. Perine burst onto the college football scene with 1,713 rushing yards and 21 TD’s. Perine broke the single game rushing record with 427 yards. Sterling Shepard returns at receiver. Shepard is coming off of a 51 catch, 970 yard receiving season. Durron Neal added 42 receptions and 3 TD’s for the Sooners in 2014. There will be some new faces on the offensive line with only 2 returning starters.
Defense: Charles Tapper had 37 tackles and 3.5 sacks at DE last season. Tapper is big at 6”4 281, I look for him to have a big senior season. Oklahoma has some special linebackers. Eric Striker led the team with 9 sacks a year ago. Striker is my pick for defensive player of the year in the B12. Dominique Alexander led the team with 107 tackles in 2014. Jordan Evans added 93 of his own. There is so much talent with these 3 players it’s almost unfair. Zack Sanchez had 6 INT’s last season and 8 break ups. He’s one of 2 returners in the secondary. FS Ahmad Thomas is the other, Thomas recorded 75 tackles.
Special Teams: Freshman Austin Siebert will come into the season as a kicker. Jack Steed and Jack Braught will battle it out for punting duties. Alex Ross took 2 kickoffs to the house last season.
Forecast: Oklahoma came into 2014 with a ton of hype and expectations of a college football playoff trip. Oklahoma ended up 0-3 vs ranked teams (0-2) at home. Oklahoma opens with a pretty good Akron team before traveling to Neyland Stadium for a big showdown with the Vols. Oklahoma has a B12 schedule that could see them being 6-0 in the conference before heading to Waco to face Baylor. A home game vs TCU is next and they finish on the road vs Oklahoma State. Oklahoma could put together a great season in 2015. I feel like we will see Oklahoma lose a home game against either WVU or Texas Tech. Oklahoma should finish with no worse than 8 wins but could reach 10-11 regular season wins.
#4-T West Virginia
Offense: Skyler Howard will take over the QB position for 2015. Howard struggled with accuracy when he had chances to play, but had 8 TD’s and 0 INT’s. Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood should split carries for most of the season. They both had good seasons combining for over 1,500 yards rushing and 9 TD’s. The Mountaineers have to find receivers to replace Kevin White and Mario Alford.
Defense: Nick Kwiatkoski was the leading tackler in 2014 and is back for his senior campaign. He recorded 103 tackles with 11 for loss. The defense didn’t get much pressure on the QB in 2014 and will look to returning DE Noble Nwachukwu to build on his 2 from a year ago. KJ Dillion had 62 tackles and 7 for loss. The secondary returns all starters from last season. Daryl Worley had 3 INT’s and Karl Joseph added 92 tackles. The secondary is one of the best in the conference.
Special Teams: Josh Lambert kicked a ton of FG’s last season, going 30-39 with a long of 55. Punter Nick O’Toole returns.
Forecast: WVU should open 3-0 before heading to Norman for the B12 conference opener. WVU opens B12 play @Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, @Baylor and @TCU. If WVU can go 2-2 in that stretch the end of the conference slate looks easy. I think WVU is a sneaky team in the B12 this season even with the departure of White on offense. The defensive was good enough to keep them in games last season and it should be the same this season. I like WVU to finish 5-4 in conference play with an 8 win season.
Offense: Tyrone Swoopes returns at QB for the Longhorns in 2015. Swoopes struggled with accuracy a year ago, and had 13/11 TD/INT ratio. He threw for over 2,400 yards and rushed for 264. Johnathan Gray will be the main ball carrier this season. Gray averaged 4.7 yards per rush while splitting carries. Marcus Johnson is the top receiver returning. Johnson caught 27 balls, one for a TD. The good news for the offense is that the line returns 5 starters. That experience will be huge for Texas in 2015.
Defense: Texas loses a ton of playmakers from last season’s defense. Hassan Ridgeway will look to build off an impressive 2014, which included 6 sacks. The linebackers will all be new faces. Malik Jefferson comes in with a lot of hype. Duke Thomas and Dylan Haines return in the secondary. Haines is the leading returning tackler with 86, he also had 4 INT’s. Thomas added 3 INT’s of his own and 10 break ups.
Special Teams: Nick Rose returns at kicker. Rose was 14-21 with a long of 51 in 2014. Texas will have a new punter.
Forecast: Texas will be tested early, the Longhorns open the season at title contender Notre Dame and has a home date with an upstart Cal team. Texas opens conference play hosting Oklahoma State and then travels to TCU. After the Red River Rivalry, Texas should be able to win 3 straight contests. Texas finishes at Baylor. I think 2015 Texas will look just like 2014 Texas. There isn’t much about Texas to love. I think another 6-7 win is the ceiling.
#6-T Texas Tech
Offense: Texas Tech has two dynamic QB’s heading into the season. Davis Webb and Patrick Mahomes will compete for the starting job. Webb completed 61% of his passes and threw for 24 TD’s. Mahomes had a 4-1 TD/INT ratio and had over 1,500 yards passing. DeAndre Washington returns off of a 1,103 yard rushing season. Jakeem Grant led the team in catches and yards with 67 and 938 respectfully in 2014. Devin Lauderdale is another playmaker at WR, he hauled in 7 TD’s last season. The offensive line returns 4 starters and could be one the best lines in the conference.
Defense: Pete Robertson returns on a defensive line that features 3 returning starters. Robertson was by far the best defensive player for the Red Raiders in 2014. Robertson had 81 tackles and 12 sacks. Micah Awe is back for his senior season. Awe had 69 tackles in 2014. The secondary returns every starter from a season ago, and they will be the key to the success of this team in 2015.
Special Teams: Clayton Hatfield is expected to start at kicker. Taylor Symmank averaged nearly 43 yards per punt last season.
Forecast: Texas Tech has to play a road conference game at a very good Arkansas team in week 3. The Red Raiders then open conference play by hosting TCU and playing a neutral site game vs Baylor. Road games at Oklahoma, West Virginia and Texas will be tough tasks. Home games vs Oklahoma State and Kansas State could make or break the season. The offense is undoubtedly will be great, if the defense can manage to improve this is a team that could win 7-8 games.
#8 Kansas State
Offense: Kansas State has to figure out a way to replace the nearly 4,000 yards of offense that left with Jake Waters. Alex Denton and Joe Hubener are competing for the QB spot. Charles Jones returns at RB. Jones rushed for 540 yards with 13 TD’s. Kansas State also lost Tyler Lockett and the top 3 receivers from last season’s team. Kody Cook is the leading returning in catches with 20. The offensive line returns 4 starters. It will be good to have that experience with the growing pains this offense will suffer.
Defense: Jordan Willis recorded 4.5 sacks last season and will be back. The secondary returns all 4 starters from last year. Dante Barnett is the leading returning tackler with 77 tackles and also added 3 INT’s. Morgan Burns also had 3 INT’s and 55 tackles.
Special Teams: Matthew McCrane was 18-19 with a long of 53 last season. Nick Walsh returns at punter, averaging 41 yards per punt.
Forecast: The Wildcats should manage to open the season 3-0 in non-conference play. The B12 schedule is pretty manageable this season. They play Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech all on the road. TCU, Oklahoma, Baylor and West Virginia all visit Manhattan. The questions surrounding the offense have me feeling underwhelmed by this team. You can’t count out Bill Snyder’s ability to get the most out of his players though. I see Kansas State getting to a bowl game but it will be close.
#9 Iowa State
Offense: Sam Richardson returns at QB for the Cyclones in 2015. Richardson threw for 2,669 yards and 18 TD’s last season. Richardson also added 421 rushing yards and 3 scores. Richardson will have a couple familiar faces at WR. D’Vario Montgomery and Allen Lazard return. They had 44 and 45 catches with 5 combined TD’s. The offensive line will be an experienced unit, with 3 starters back and plenty of game action.
Defense: DE Trent Taylor recorded 2 sacks and 37 tackles. He is back for a defense that returns some talented players. Kamari Cotton-Moya leads an experienced group in the secondary. Cotton-Moya led the team with 77 tackles. Nigel Tribune and Sam Richardson combined for 7 INT’s last season.
Special Teams: Cole Netten hit 11-14 FG’s in 2014 with a long of 47. Colin Downing is back at punter for Iowa State.
Forecast: It will be another rough season for the Cyclones. A brutal conference road schedule will keep them from making any progress off of 2014. Beating rival Iowa again would be a highlight for the season. 2-3 wins seems likely for Iowa State.
Offense: Montell Cozart will get the first crack at bringing Kansas back to being relevant in the league. Cozart struggled when he had the opportunity to play QB last season. JUCO transfer Ke’Aun Kinner, De’ Andre Mann and Corey Avery may all see reps at RB in 2015. The WR core is pretty slim with talent. The OL will struggle with only 2 starters returning.
Defense: Jake Love and Tevin Shaw are the top returners on the defensive side of the ball. Love had 53 tackles and 3 sacks a year ago. Shaw had 36 tackles. The secondary is young and inexperienced which could doom Kansas in the BIG12.
Special Teams: Matthew Wyman returns at kicker, Wyman was 9-15 with a long of 43. Eric Kahn will handle the punting duties.
Forecast: Kansas will be pretty bad in 2015. If they can get a win in the opener vs South Dakota State it may be their only win of the season.
Big 12 Offensive POY
Shock Linwood, RB, Baylor
Big 12 Defensive POY
Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma
Big 12 Coach of the Year
Gary Patterson, TCU