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2017 Big 12 Conference Football Preview and Rankings

The Big 12 Conference has been talked about the least when it comes to the best college football teams in the nation. That will change this season. Fans believe that the reason they haven’t received much love is because they don’t play a conference championship game. That will change this coming season also. The Big 12 football championship is back. It’s also the only conference where every team has to play every team. Beating the same opponent twice is no easy task. The Big 12 Conference is on their way back up as teams are starting to get stronger. Here’s a Big 12 football team-by-team preview for the 2017 season.

Oklahoma Sooners:

Oklahoma Sooner fans were shocked when Bob Stoops announced his retirement, but Lincoln Riley will do fine as his era starts in Norman. The Sooners averaged over 40 points a game last season and will continue that trend in 2017. Quarterback Baker Mayfield returns for his third season. Mayfield is regarded as one of the best passers in college football. The Austin, TX native completed 70.9 percent of his passes for 3,965 yards and 40 touchdowns last season. After losing both key running backs, the Sooners will likely turn to Abdul Adams to fill the void. Guard, Orlando Brown will create wild running lanes to the left side. He’s also a projected finalist for the Outland trophy. The receiver position is uncertain so expect tight end Mark Andrews to be to go-to guy. The Sooners also return six starters back on defense. Linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is a stud and led the team with 9 sacks last season. The Sooners will have their first test of the college football season against Ohio State on September 9th. They’ll be pushed in conference play, but expect them to come out on top.

Baker Mayfield Oklahoma Sooners

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma Sooners

Oklahoma State Cowboys

With a high-powered offense and a suspect defense, expect to see the Cowboys in a lot of shootouts this college football season. Mason Rudolph can match Mayfield throw for throw and makes good decisions inside and outside of the pocket. In 2016, Rudolph threw for 4,091 yards and 28 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions. Justice Hill returns at running back and will top the 1,000 rushing yard mark again this season. The Cowboys are loaded at wide receiver field one of the best receiving corps in college football. James Washington caught 71 passes last season for 1,380 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s one of the best at gaining separation from defenders. When Washington is double teamed, Rudolph will look for Jalen McCleskey. The defense is going to struggle, but the secondary should be solid with Tre Flowers and Ramon Richards. Oklahoma State cannot win the Big 12 on shootouts, but if the defense can come together, this could be a better team than the Sooners this year.

Mason Rudolph Oklahoma State Cowboys

Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State Cowboys

Kansas State Wildcats

Head coach Bill Snyder has to be thrilled with all of the starters returning this season. There’s a ton of them. Jesse Ertz is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country and will lead this offense once again. While Ertz doesn’t throw often, he definitely will run and averaged 5.5 yards per carry for 1,012 yards last season on the ground. Alex Barnes and Justin Solomon are expected to platoon at running back. While wide receivers Byron Pringle and Dominique Heath aren’t flashy, they will make key catches and keep drives alive. The offensive line may be the best front Five in all of college football. Traditionally, the Wildcats field a tough defense and this year is no different. Losing Jordan Willis hurts, but the damage will be minimal. Will Geary and Reggie Walker are more than capable to handle the load on the defensive line. The secondary will be tough with D.J. Reed, Kendall Adams, and Duke Shelley all back this season. Kansas State will thrive on close games this season. If the offenses steps up, you could see them make a push for the championship game.

Duke Shelley Kansas State Wildcats

Duke Shelley, Kansas State Wildcats

Texas Longhorns

New head coach Tom Herman hopes to bring his success from Houston to Austin. Despite lack of production the past few years, the Longhorns have a lot of talent. Quarterback Shane Buechele posted a solid 2016 campaign and will thrive in Herman’s offense. Chris Warren will have a breakout year behind an experienced and solid offensive line. The Longhorns also have good wide receivers in Armanti Foreman, Collin Johnson, and Devin Duvernay. Jerrod Heard will also make a push for playing time. New defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has ten returning starters to work with. The defensive unit should improve greatly from giving up 31.5 points per game last season. Poona Ford will anchor the d-line, but Chris Nelson and Malcolm Roach will make this line a fierce one. The Linebacker position is deep with sacks leader Breck Hager returning along with Malik Jefferson and Anthony Wheeler. P.J. Locke will have his name called a lot from big plays in the secondary. Expectations are high for Herman due to his recent success. The Longhorns will struggle at times, but they’ll finish in the middle of the Big 12 this season.

Armanti Foreman Texas Longhorns

Armanti Foreman, Texas Longhorns

TCU Horned Frogs

The Horned Frogs dropped to a 6-7 record last season, but this season should show major improvements. Quarterback Kenny Hill needs to show more poise and consistency in the pocket. Despite completing 61 percent of his passes for 3,208 yards, Hill made a lot of throwing mistakes last season. He has good running ability, but he needs to learn when to throw and when to tuck and run. A good offensive line will help along with the return of Kyle Hicks at running back. Hicks rushed for 1,042 yards last season averaging 5.1 yards per carry. He will also be important in the passing game as he caught 47 passes for 417 yards. Taj Williams leads an experience wide receiver unit. Williams was the leading receiver for TCU in 2016 with 702 yards. John Diarse, Jaelan Austin, and Emanuel Porter add depth at the receiver position. TCU returns seven starters on defense. Both linebacker Travin Howard and defensisive Back Nick Orr is a game changers. If Hill can get the offense flowing, the Horned Frogs could be a top-three team.

Kyle Hicks TCU Horned Frogs

Kyle Hicks, TCU Horned Frogs

West Virginia Mountaineers

The Mountaineers are going through some changes, but most of them are for the better. Dana Holgorsen brought in Jake Spavital to call the shots on offense, which will without a doubt be an upgrade. Skyler Howard is gone and now is the time for Florida transfer Will Grier to be the new quarterback for the Mountaineers. Grier was phenomenal with the Gators for six games in 2015 before being suspended by the NCAA for using an illegal substance. He’s now been cleared to play this season and should make his mark early on. The Mountaineers have good depth at running back with Justin Crawford leading the way. Crawford rushed for 1,184 yards last season and averaged 7.1 yards per carry. The receiver position also has a lot of depth. David Sills returns after playing quarterback for a year in junior college. Ka’Raun White will lead the receivers and Gary Jennings and Marcus Simms will make an impact. On defense, the Mountaineers lost a lot of starters, but their not in too bad of shape. While new faces will start on the defensive line, linebackers David Long and Al-Rasheed Benton will step to help in the trenches. Safety Drayvon Askew-Henry is coming back from an injury last year. He’ll team up with Kyzir White and Syracuse graduate transfer Corey Winfield to solidify the unit. Consecutive 10-win seasons are a reach for the Mountaineers, but this is a good team. They are most likely to make their championship run 2018 though.

Will Grier WVU Mountaineers

Will Grier, WVU Mountaineers

Baylor Bears

Baylor is going through some big transitions these days. Matt Rhule left Temple to dig out the Bears from the Art Briles‘ scandal. Quarterback Zach Smith has potential, but needs to find a way to put it all together. Terence Williams and JaMychal Hasty are a great one-two punch at running back. The Bears lost their two best receivers from last year, but Chris Platt and Blake Lynch are ready to take over. Defensive end K.J. Smith and linebacker Taylor Young combined for 11.5 sacks in 2016. They’ll need to be dominant as the secondary is the weak link. Baylor won’t be back at the top of the Big 12 anytime soon. As long as they give Rhule several years to turn things around, they’ll be fine I. The future. Expect no more than six wins in 2017 though.

Terence Williams Baylor Bears

Terence Williams, Baylor Bears

Texas Tech Red Raiders

Coach Kliff Kingsbury is on the hot seat. It doesn’t look to get any better as he tries to find a replacement at quarterback for Pat Mahomes. Nic Shimonek looks to be the guy, but isn’t very experienced. Giving running back Da’Leon Ward more carries could help, but rushing doesn’t seem to fit in well with the offense. The Red Raiders feature some good wide receivers that should help with Shimonek’s growing pains. Keke Coutee leads that group of receivers, but Dylan Cantrell and Cameron Batson are almost as good. On defense, Texas Tech needs some magic. This team gave up 43.5 points a game last season and the secondary doesn’t match up well with opponents this season. Kingsbury might be able to save his job for a year with seven wins. However, don’t look for this team to win over six at the most.

Keke Coutee Texas Tech Red Raiders

Keke Coutee, Texas Tech Red Raiders

Iowa State Cyclones

The Cyclones could be a sleeper this year in the Big 12. Quarterback Jacob Park showed some potential last year and he has a great receiving unit to back them up. Especially with the return of Allen Lazard. The senior caught 69 passes for 1,018 yards and obviously was Park’s favorite target. Running backs David Montgomery and Mike Warren could surprise many this season. Both have the potential to break the 1,000 yard mark with enough carries. The defense will be the downfall of the Cyclones, but they will have their moments. They can keep games close, but they have to finish stronger. Overall, expect to see a lot of improvement in Iowa State. This team isn’t good enough for the top half of the Big 12 yet, but they are good enough to get a bowl bid in 2017.

Kansas Jayhawks

It’s hard to tell that the Jayhawks are improving, but they gradually are. JUCO transfer quarterback, Peyton Bender will get first crack under center this season. Bender is a pocket passer with a lot of potential. He’ll actually have some good receivers to work with in Steven Sims Jr. and LaQuivionte Gonzalez. Khalil Herbert will start at running back. Defensively, the Jayhawks could have the best defensive line in the conference, but a weak linebacker and secondary unit could overshadow the line. Dorance Armstrong Jr. will be at the top of All-Big 12 honors again this season. Armstrong recorded 10 sacks and 20 tackles for a loss last season. Daniel Wise and DeeIsaac Davis round will contribute and round out the defensive line. The Jayhawks play a weaker non-conference schedule that should help them better last year’s record, but only one or two wins in conference play will keep Kansas at the bottom.

2017 Big 12 Football Preseason Rankings

1. Oklahoma (19) 303

2. Oklahoma State (12) 294

3. K-State (1) 231

4. Texas 213

5. TCU 202

6. West Virginia 183

7. Baylor 129

8. Texas Tech 85

9. Iowa State 83

10. Kansas 37

 

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