Article by: Andrew Sheridan (@SidelinesKState), Hunter Martinez-Buehrer (@Sidelines_OU)
We are only two weeks out from the first game of the Big 12 season! It’s been a long and confusing ride the past several months as the status of College Football in the Fall of 2020 has been in constant question. Alas though, we have arrived, so here it is:
The 2020 Preseason Big 12 Rankings
#10) Kansas Jayhawks
The Kansas Jayhawks have finished in the bottom two of the Big 12 every year since 2009. Several people have high hopes for the Jayhawks this season, but quite simply, we don’t see it happening. KU returns only 11 players on offense and defense combined, good for 9th in the Big 12. If you know simple math, you will realize this only accounts for 50% of total returning production. The Jayhawks also lose QB Carter Stanley leaving a big question mark at quarterback for 2020. On the bright side, the Jayhawks do return star running-back Pooka Williams, who is looking to have a break-out year in 2020. Can Les Miles find a way to improve the Jayhawks in year 2?
#9) West Virginia Mountaineers
Neal Brown enters year 2 as the head coach of the Mountaineers. The West Virginia offense seemed to find more of their groove as the 2019 season came to a close, but it was much too late to be effective on the season. If the offense can find more of a groove early on, this ranking might be too low, but until proven otherwise, the Mountaineers find themselves at the bottom of the pack. West Virginia returns lots of talent, including a highly experienced D-Line, but as mentioned before, the offense must find their groove early on in order to have a successful season.
#8) Texas Tech Red Raiders
Texas Tech returns just over 59% of their 2019 starting production. If Alan Bowman can stay healthy, the Red Raider offense could have a very successful offensive outing in 2020. Alan Bowman will be joined by a highly skilled receiving corp including veteran receivers T.J. Vasher and Seth Collins. However, the pass defense MUST improve vastly if the defense expects to have the same success the offense does. Last season, the Red Raider secondary finished ranked 128th in the country. In a conference like the Big 12, the 128th ranked secondary simply won’t cut it. Can Matt Wells find the answer in his 2nd season as the Texas Tech head coach, and can Alan Bowman stay healthy? Their season might depend upon it.
#7) TCU Horned Frogs
The Horned Frogs of TCU took a bit of a hit in 2019, going 5-7 after going 7-6 in 2018. Although the Horned Frogs don’t return many starters from 2019, the TCU defense should be stronger this year, especially in its backfield with Ar’Darius Washington, also known as the 2019 Big 12 Freshman Defensive Player of the year, leading it. However, the offense is where the real question lies and is the determining factor on how well Gary Patterson’s crew does this year. Max Duggan was supposed to lead the offense this season as a true sophomore after last year’s transfer party left him to take the starting job but has since been ruled out indefinitely due to a heart condition. This leaves even more question marks for the TCU offense. Many eyes will be on freshman Zachery Evans as well, as his production in the backfield with an offensive line that was very troubling last year. If the offense can click, watch out for TCU to turn some eyes this season.
#6) Kansas State Wildcats
Kansas State went a surprising 8-5 in Chris Klieman’s first season as head coach. Klieman and company will look to build upon the success the Wildcats had in 2019 for the 2020 season. The biggest question-mark for the Wildcats coming into 2020 is the offensive line. The Wildcats lost all five offensive-line starters after last season which leaves a whole lot of inexperience up front. Josh Rivas will have to lead the Wildcat O-Line if they expect to have any sort of success. Collectively, the Wildcats only return 8 total starters from 2019, ranking 10/10 in the Big 12. K-State will need to rely heavily on Skylar Thompson’s experience as well as their Special Teams, which returns Preseason All-American Joshua Youngblood as well as kicker Blake Lynch. Can Chris Klieman lead the Wildcats to another successful outing in 2020?
#5) Baylor Bears
Ranking Baylor for the 2020 season was really difficult. In 2019, the Bears went a surprising 11-3 on the season. However, Baylor lost A LOT during the offseason. The Bears return a solid eight starters on offense including quarterback Charlie Brewer but are only returning three on defense. A lack of experience as well as a brand new coaching staff could bring a multitude of issues. Baylor is such an unknown team going into the season. The Bears could finish with 1 loss in conference play or they could only win 1 game in conference play. Honestly, who knows? Our prediction has Baylor finishing right at the middle of the pack because while the Bears do lose a lot on defense, their new coach was the defensive coordinator for the National Championship winning LSU Tigers. Surely, that means only good things for the Bears defense then, right?
#4) Iowa State Cyclones
Brock Purdy. That’s the name you continue to hear for the next 3 months. Iowa State’s success depends solely on Brock Purdy. If Brock Purdy has success, Iowa State will have success. If Brock Purdy has a bad day, well Cyclone fans, you better hope another player such as Breece Hall can have himself a day. Iowa State returns 12/22 starters from 2019, including 7 of those 12 on defense. Iowa State needs to find that ability to close out games in 2020, unlike in 2019 when the Cyclones lost four different games by seven or fewer points. If Matt Campbell and Brock Purdy can find success as well as the rest of the Cyclones can finish games out, Iowa State could potentially have a very successful season in 2020.
#3) Texas Longhorns
“HEY LONGHORN NATION”……okay, can we all agree that this has been played out a little too much? No? Okay. “WE’RE BAAAAAAAAAACK!” In all seriousness though, an 8-5 record and Alamo Bowl victory may not have been what Texas fans were hoping for, and so as you would expect, changes were made to Coach Tom Herman’s staff during the offseason. Chris Ash and Mike Yurcich take over the mantle of Defensive and Offensive coordinator respectfully. Sam Ehlinger, Keaontay Ingram, and Brennan Eagles will be the big names on offense with Tirak Black looking to make his name as a transfer from Michigan. 73% of the 2019 defense returns for the Longhorns this year and while not performing as well as expected last year, they look to improve under new leadership from Chris Ash. Ultimately, How the Longhorns do this season comes down to their performances against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. If they can win both or even one of those games, the Longhorns should stand a very good chance at making the Big 12 Championship Game.
#2) Oklahoma Sooners
Another year, another new quarterback for Lincoln Riley. This time, it’s Spencer Rattler who steps up to lead the offense along with seven returning starters. On the defensive side of the ball, the Sooners are ready to shake away the stigma of “Big 12 has no defense”. The defense returns eight starters from 2019 including Tre Brown, Ronnie Perkins, and Tre Norwood who will lead Alex Grinch’s group. As the Big 12 seems to have a normal league schedule with 1 non-conference game, this may seem like another Conference Championship appearance in-line for the Sooners, as they look to add a sixth championship win in a row. However, mid season roadtrips seem to be the achilles heel for this team. Our eyes this year are on the Iowa State game to see if Oklahoma can overcome the test of Brock Purdy in Ames. If they are able to do so, another Big 12 championship appearance and likely CFP appearance could be imminent. However, while the Big 12 typically runs through Norman, a different team looks to take the championship trophy on a detour route through a town about 90 minutes away.
#1) Oklahoma State Cowboys
What more can we say about the Oklahoma State Cowboys that the rest of the college football world hasn’t been thinking since Spring? They are returning 18 starters on offense and defense combined, as well as 6 specialists. Among them include Heisman Candidate Chubba Hubbard, Quarterback Spencer Sanders, Wide Receiver Tylan Wallace, and that’s just the offense! Although the defense is looking to grow from last year, they are bringing back a bunch of talent for Jim Knowles. Looking at the top 3 teams in our rankings, they have the best non conference test in the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes (compared to Missouri State and UTEP), and will be the team that is tested the most, with away games at Oklahoma and Baylor while also having tough home games with Iowa State and Texas. This Cowboy team has a lot to look forward to, and if they play their cards right, should have a strong chance at not only appearing in their first ever Big 12 Championship Game (2011 did not have a championship game), but a chance at the College Football Playoff. To have this happen, the team needs to utilize the running potential of their Heisman Hopeful RB, their 2019 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year QB, their potential Biletnikoff Award winning WR, and a defense that is looking to make a tough stand this year. Bedlam should be the Game of the Year in the Big 12 this season, and if Oklahoma State can go to the Palace on the Prairie and stun the Sooners, the sky’s the limit.