We continue with our Big 12 Football Q & A sessions by taking a look at some of the teams that could show the most improvement over last season, and which teams may be overrated.
We are once again joined by our panel of Big 12 football experts, including Jay Beck of Turfburner, the home for Big 12 football. Amanda Staver of Ride Schooner, Ride, an Oklahoma Sooners blog. Allen Kenney of Blatant Homerism, a college football blog that emphasizes the Oklahoma Sooners. Flint Harris of Holy Turf, a site that firmly believes that God started devising college football on Day 8 (I agree). And the folks at EER Insider, a site that takes you inside the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Question # 3: Which team do you believe will show the greatest improvement over last season? Which team is overrated (not nearly as good as they are being made out to be)?
Jay Beck – Turfburner.com: I think Texas makes the biggest jump record wise. They finished 4-5 in the conference last year. If they can get any consistency out of their offense, I’m guessing they should be at least 6-3 if not better in Big 12 games. Their defense will likely be the best in the conference and should keep them in most games which will help make up for whatever struggles they face on offense.
I hate to say they are overrated but Kansas State is one team that might not reach expectations in 2012. I don’t like to use overrated because I think they’ll be every bit as good on the field as last season, but last year they were involved in nine games that were decided by seven points or less. Their record in those games; 8-1.
To their credit, they earned every one of those wins, but their margin for error isn’t great. If they suffer an injury or two, a couple of those wins can turn into losses in a hurry. They won’t be an easy out for anyone on their schedule, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in the 7, maybe 8 win category after winning 10 last season.
Amanda Staver – Ride Schooner, Ride: As far as teams improving from 2011, I’m going to throw Kansas out there. Yes, Kansas. We will find out quickly once Kansas gets into conference play whether or not hiring Charlie Weis was the answer for the Jayhawks. His track record might not be the best, but kids still want to play for him. And after last year, they don’t really have anywhere to go but up; they’ve already hit the bottom. Firing Mark Mangino was the worst move the school could have ever made.
Overrated going into 2012? I’d have to say Texas. I’ve seen them preseason-ranked as high as No. 1 and as low as No. 6 in the Big XII. Texas has talent, don’t get me wrong. Their defense is solid, it always is. But their offense has a big question mark next to it. They have offensive playmakers, but putting it all-together is the Longhorns biggest problem. Bringing in gimmicky OC, Bryan Harsin could have helped them if they had a QB that could execute. So if the offense can turn it around, the Longhorns will have an honest chance. Until we see it on the field, they will sit in the overrated slot.
Allen Kenney – Blatant Homerism: It seems odd to say this, but if one team is going to make a big jump from a year ago, it has to be Texas. The Longhorns simply have too much talent to continue treading water. Another year under the new coaching staff should eventually start paying dividends, and the D was already rounding into shape at the end of last season. I foresee a 10-win regular season for UT in 2012.
Overrated: Kansas St. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration for me to say that the 2011 Wildcats were the least talented major conference team in the BCS era to win 10 games. KSU went a staggering 8-1 in games decided by seven points or fewer. It was another example of Bill Snyder’s mystical coaching powers, but replicating that will be tough.
Flint Harris – Holy Turf: If Texas will commit to running the ball and playing great defense, they can win a lot of games. Not sure that Kansas State or Baylor can repeat their successes from 2011 in 2012 with attrition on their offensive lines.
EER Insider: We discussed earlier that Texas was named as one of the odds on favorites to win the conference. If that’s the case, they’d fall under this category. And I think they will. While I do have concerns over the QB position and youth in key skill positions, I think they definitely improve on last season’s 8-5 record.
Talent wise, Texas has been better than their record has indicated the last couple of years. With a few key games in Austin in 2012, this could be the year they get back in the national spotlight.
Picking a team who I’d deem “overrated” is tough. But if I had to pick someone I’d go with Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys defensively struggled in 2011. And with Brandon Weedon’s departure they must turn to a true freshman at quarterback. I worry this could be a transition year in Stillwater.
Saturday Edge: Last year Texas had a totally new coaching staff and a very young team, so they definitely should be improved this season. But one other team that I’ll be watching is Texas Tech. They don’t have the blue-chip players that Texas has, but keep in mind that the Red Raiders were one of the most injured teams in the country last year. 23 players required surgery, with 17 being the major type. When a team loses 31 players from the top of the depth chart, it makes you lose games.
A fairly healthy Texas Tech team beat a fairly healthy Oklahoma in Norman last year. Then the injuries really started to pile up for the Red Raiders, and they never won another game after that. Texas Tech also should have beat KSU. But too many true frosh mistakes did them in in the 4th quarter.
Believe it or not, Texas Tech could have the best secondary in the Big 12 this year after being almost dead last in 2011. This team could really sneak up and bite somebody if they aren’t ready for them. For Tommy Tuberville, it all depends on how many of his players come back 100%, and then staying healthy. But those freshmen could be pretty salty in their sophomore seasons after getting thrown into the fire last year.
Texas Tech has a cupcake schedule to begin the season. They should be 3-0 going to Iowa State. That is the pivotal game for Texas Tech to set the tone for the rest of the season. It’s pretty much a must win for them because Texas Tech’s schedule is very top heavy with all of the top teams played in their first half of their conference schedule.
This is definitely not a team to be taken lightly. They should have an improved pass rush and secondary to go along with an underrated QB and excellent receiving corp.
As far as who is the most overrated team in the Big 12? I hate to say this because I was pretty high on this team a month ago. But TCU’s problems just keep piling up. I just heard today that their best rusher is leaving the team. And on top of the suspensions they handed down a few weeks ago, a couple more offensive lineman and a linebacker are now off the team because of grades.
That’s just too much attrition for a team moving into a BCS conference for the first time.. So the Frogs are in trouble. Patterson will have to coach his ass off for this team to remain competitive down the stretch with their bottom loaded schedule.
Join us tomorrow when we take a closer look at how well the two new additions will perform in the Big 12 this season – GS.