OU and TCU in dead heat with OSU and Baylor on their heels
Most prognosticators like Oklahoma to win the Big Twelve this season in football, with Texas Christian a possible surprise to break through and upend the Sooners for the title. Oklahoma State and Baylor, both having loaded offenses, are considered outside contenders, but strong enough teams to warrant consideration. I tend to see it that way, giving each of these four schools a chance to bring home the hardware in 2016.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Head Coach: Mike Gundy 12th Season (94-47)
Can the Pokes run the ball? Does the offensive line get better? Can a feature back emerge? Can Glenn Spencer get his defenders to play better? Plenty of question marks in Stillwater but if those questions can be answered in the positive look for Oklahoma State to have another productive and successful season in 2016.
On offense, OSU will be effective, but if they can get a running game to go along with Mason Rudolph’s passing and James Washington and his fellow pass catchers successes, the Pokes can be special in moving the ball and spinning the scoreboard. Only time will tell if Mike Gundy’s team will have to outscore opponents like Oklahoma and Baylor. The defense must be better if this team wants to get past just making a major bowl. Ole Miss pointed that out last year in the Sugar Bowl. Glenn Spencer knows what it will take to become a better than just average team on that side of the ball and the Poke defensive coordinator knows that the difference in winning might mean just one or two additional stops. The Cowboy defense will again have speed and experience and should be better than last season.
A home game in week two against Pittsburg and a road test at Baylor the following Saturday will tell us how much better the defense will be. Road tests at TCU and OU in the final two games will be tough. Making a New Year’s Day bowl will be a challenge but it can be accomplished. OSU cannot be counted out against anyone but the three other like teams in the league won’t be easy as they are all on the road.
Offense Grade: B
Defense Grade: C
Special Teams Grade: A
Games OSU will win: Southeastern La., Central Michigan, Iowa State, Kansas
Games OSU should win: Pittsburgh, Texas, West Virginia, Kansas State, Texas Tech
Games OSU can win: Oklahoma, TCU, Baylor
Prediction: 9-3 and 6-3 in conference
Acting Head Coach: Jim Grobe 19th Season (110-115-1; 0-0 at Baylor)
Art Briles is gone, history. The 2016 recruiting season was a disaster, not good. Jim Grobe is acting head coach and that is not the best of news. No, plenty of negatives on the campus at Waco. But the players that were expected to play in 2016 are back, the entire staff of assistants are coaching, and the expectations for the Bears should be high, very high. This team will be good, very good even if the long range outlook is not. Baylor will be in the hunt and the other coaches in the league know that the Baylor game will be a bitch (no pun intended).
Seth Russell will be the trigger on another high explosive offense. The senior is well and ready to impose his will on the defenses that have to stop the Bears. Johnny Jefferson and Shock Linwood are the best two runners south of Norman in the conference and are Sunday players after their departure from the Brazos. Don’t expect much of a drop-off at receiver as KD Cannon and company will be tough covers. Cannon has 20 career starts and is only a junior. The offensive line will be big and strong and will good experience.
The defense will good if the Bears can find a corner on one side of the field. Better than last year. Aiavion Edwards at the linebacker, they have that one stopper than can deliver the wood. I like what Defensive Coordinator Coach Phil Bennett brings into 2016. This will be one of his best defensive team in his six years at Baylor.
Offense Grade: A
Defense Grade: B+
Special Teams: B
Game Baylor will win: Northwestern State, SMU, Rice, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State
Games Baylor should win: Texas, West Virginia, Texas Tech
Toss Up games: TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma State
Prediction: 10-2 and 7-2 in conference play
Texas Christian Horned Frogs
Head Coach: Gary Patterson 16th season (143-47)
If the Frogs can beat Oklahoma in Fort Worth watch out. This could be the season that TCU has been looking for since Gary Patterson came to the campus on the southwest side of Metroplex some sixteen years ago. Finding a quarterback (Kenny Hill, transfer from aTm) is a big deal for this team and Hill should be the guy to lead them to the water pf victory. A schedule that will be challenging but one that is good enough to bring success starts with a home contest with Arkansas followed two weeks later with OU. Win those two and the Frogs are on their way. Getting Oklahoma State at home doesn’t hurt and a trip to Baylor could be a trip up contest. Expect the Frogs to contend in 2016 but go undefeated in conference will also be a chore.
The defense is always good and expect Patterson to put a better than average group on the field. If the injury bug doesn’t wreck them like last year, the numbers and experience gained in 2015 make the Frogs strong both on the line and in the secondary. James McFarland (6’2 250) is an all-league linebacker. With Kenny Hill taking snaps, TCU will be explosive on offense if their young line comes through. I expect it will.
Offensive Grade: B+
Defense Grade: A
Special Teams Grade: B
Games TCU will win: South Dakota State, Iowa State, SMU, Kansas State, Kansas
Games TCU should win: Texas Tech, Texas, West Virginia, Arkansas
Toss Up games: Oklahoma, Baylor, Oklahoma State
Prediction: 11-1 and 8-1 in Conference
Head Coach Bob Stoops 18th season (179-46)
Not the best Stoops team ever but at certain positions this Sooner team has a look of quality that says we can win any game we play. Baker Mayfield is the key, specifically his health. If Mayfield can get through this season without any major injury or concussion, OU will score on anyone, and will be the top dog in the conference and the national play yard. The running backs and pass catchers are top notch and the offensive line will be better than in 2015. On defense, the secondary might be the best in the country and with enough returning linebackers and down linemen. OU will have the best stoppers they have had in many a fall in Norman. With that, for OU to run the table will be almost impossible, with teams like Houston, Ohio State, TCU, Oklahoma State and Baylor major tests. That said, OU, on paper, is the pick to win it but not be unblemished. Look for TCU to win in Fort Worth in Game four.
Offense Grade: A
Defense Grade: A-
Special Teams Grade: A-
Games OU will win: La. Monroe, Kansas State, Kansas, Iowa State
Games OU should win: all the rest but TCU and Baylor, Oklahoma State and Ohio State
Toss up: TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Ohio State
Prediction: 11- 1 and 8-1 in conference