Before diving into all the individual team previews, a few insane ideas popped into my head. I call them, you guessed it, bold predictions. What you are about to read here are things not likely to come true. However, even if they have a five-percent (or better) chance, we must, as football crazies, debate on them. These are the Big Almost 12 predictions:
No. 1 – Bedlam will determine the conference champion
My Thoughts: Well this is a three-fold bold prediction. The first aspect is that it discounts Texas (ranked above Oklahoma), TCU (another top 25 team) and dismisses K-State and Baylor outright as sleepers. The second part is that it assumes Oklahoma will live up to their annual lofty predictions. So the final moving part is this prediction rests with the Okie State club. While highly ranked heading into 2013 and boasting several solid seasons recently, they lack the overall track record of UT or OU. Looking at the Pokes a little more in-depth, they return a pair of QBs (J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf) who played well last season as well as dynamic wideout Josh Stewart. OSU also has a favorable schedule, netting two of the three preseason ranked Big 12 teams in Stillwater. I am also of the opinion Mike Gundy is one of the finest coaches around and probably a top five offensive guru. The more I think about this, the more it seems like Oklahoma is more likely to stumble and not make the Bedlam Game the de facto title match.
No. 2 – Mack Brown “retires”
My Thoughts: UT football is crazy. Mack Brown has been there quite a while now but lately the heat has really been on. Can he absorb another year of failing to reach expectations? Hmm. Well, with a preseason ranking of No. 15 what would a reasonable expectation be? Fans, players and Brown are all expecting a Big 12 championship, with no more than three losses overall. Well they have to play everyone in the league so there are no ways to dodge anyone like some conferences nationwide. They do have to play TCU on the road and road trips to Morganville and Waco could trip them up if they don’t live up to the hype. They also have an interesting non-con with a trip to BYU and Ole Miss coming to town. Overall though, this schedule doesn’t scare me too much, I think 9-3 is a lock barring injuries. Longhorn fans just can’t get rid of ‘ol Mack, sorry!
No. 3 – Nine of ten teams make bowls again
My Thoughts: This was an incredible feat last season with just woeful Kansas preventing the league from going 10/10; of course with Iowa State going 6-6 in the regular season the margin for error is very tight for a repeat performance in 2013. In light of that, it would still be mathematically possible if the bottom feeders manage to win all three of their out-of-conference games. For instance, last year Kansas could have made league-wide perfection had the Jayhawks beaten South Dakota State, Rice, NIU, and then knocking off any teams that went 7-5 or better in-league (so they would have earned bowl eligibility at 6-6). Instead coach Charlie Weis’ crew stunk up the field in turning in a 1-11 performance a year ago. Throwing out Kansas, the teams most on the bubble would appear to be Kansas State, merely based on roster turnover, Baylor for being okay last season and also dealing with turnover, Iowa State for barely making it last season, Texas Tech for a new coaching staff and West Virginia for their collapse and roster turnover. KSU has an incredibly soft non-con slate as well as well as all of these borderline bowl teams (save for Texas Tech) coming to Manhattan. They finish the year at the wretched Kansas team. Bowl looks highly likely. Baylor’s non-con looks even easier but their final five games are OU, Tech, at OSU, at TCU, Texas. They need to get bowl eligible early, unlike last year where they got hot late. Iowa State has pesky Northern Iowa, hosts Iowa and goes to Tulsa. That isn’t nearly as easy as KSU and Baylor early on. They also travel to all of the listed borderline bowl teams meaning if they do make a bowl they will either be road warriors or stun a couple teams in Ames. Paul Rhodes continues to defy expectations but the scheduling gods did his club no favor this go around. Tech has a laughable non-con slate with an in-state road trip to SMU being the hardest of the three. They also get all of the listed borderline teams at home, with the lone exception West Virginia. Like Baylor and KSU, Tech looks like a lock to play a 13th game somewhere. Finally WVU: When a trip to Maryland is your toughest non-con, you’ve done something right. Visiting Waco and Manhattan doesn’t help though. They lost a ton of offensive talent but they will live and die by that “D” again. It cannot be exposed in the league last last year, ending ranked No. 117-nationally. WVU and Iowa State make me the most nervous about the notion of the league going 9-for-10 again, but even they have a decent look at it. I’ll say eight out of 10 make it, with WVU struggling to get enough stops all year.
No. 4 – Kliff Kingsbury will upgrade Texas Tech’s offense so much that his club will win enough games for him to win Coach of the Year.
My Thoughts: This one is super bold for a reason you wouldn’t expect. It’s not because of Seth Doege’s graduation, its not because I don’t think Kingsbury will be a good coach and its not because of a tough schedule. No the reason is that Texas Tech’s offense was already pretty dang good. No. 2 in passing and No. 20 in scoring last year. It’s hard to improve on either number. Here’s the fact about Kliff though: in a short time he coached at Houston and was co-OC and QB coach in 2011, the year the Cougars went 13-1 and finished 18th in the AP and 14th in the Coaches Poll. He then went with Kevin Sumlin and had great success in his one season at TAMU. I know this guy can coach offense, he has proven that already.
You could have reservations about him coaching overall, but that is a cop-out and this is bold prediction time, isn’t it?
Let’s ignore the offense for a moment and just focus on his COY potential. As discussed in the bowl prediction, TTU has a very easy non-con and then hosts TCU. Going 3-1 is a lock but maybe they stun the Frogs since it is at home and they are 4-0. At Kansas and Iowa State should be two wins, but maybe he suffers an early coaching stumble. Who knows, but anywhere from 4-2 to 6-0 in the season’s opening salvo is more than reasonable. At WVU and at Oklahoma. The Mountaineers seem to have as many question marks as Tech, but for the sake of this argument I’ll say another split. At this point, the Red Raiders could be anywhere from 5-3 to 7-1 overall. OSU, KSU, Baylor and at Texas. Two home, one neutral and the roadie. The Pokes look real good and KSU/Baylor looks like another possible split. 6-5 to 8-3. The finale at Texas could be the deciding game. If Tech pulls off the road upset to get to eight or nine wins and Oklahoma/Oklahoma State/Texas each have nine or 10, I see Kingsbury as the favorite to win Big 12 COY. Of course if any of those big three (or even ranked TCU) hit 11 wins and/or is in the BCS hunt, he might miss out. Of course if Tech can’t replace some of the lost talent and only wins six or seven, he’ll also miss out.
No. 5– Kansas’ football team wins more games than the basketball team will in the NCAA tournament.
My Thoughts: For those of you not in a March mindset, six games wins you a national title (unless you are in the play-in games). Let’s assume Bill Self’s team makes at least the Sweet Sixteen and goes no farther than the Final Four. Both are pretty reasonable. That puts Charlie Weis’ squad on the hook for two to four wins. KU opens with South Dakota before a trip to Rice. Those might be their two best cracks. They will almost certainly be underdogs in every league game so according to Vegas if they win in the Big 12, it’ll be an upset. I think I’m going to take the basketball team since two to four wins in the Dance feels low to me. Final analysis, Weis’ Jayhawks: three to four wins. Self’s Jayhawks get four-plus in the NCAAs.