We are another step closer to the start of the college football season. This week it’s the Big 12 preview, and it’s the last year this conference doesn’t have a title game…FINALLY! It’s about time this happened because this was a major pot hole for them getting teams into the playoffs. Oklahoma didn’t have that problem last year when they ran the gauntlet and beat #6 Baylor, #18 TCU, and #11 Oklahoma State. This year all those teams should still be in contention plus a sleeper in Texas Tech. TTU has a bunch of question marks, but one hell of a QB in Patrick Mahomes, and an offensive guru in Kliff Klingsbury. Right now I would say that Oklahoma and TCU are the two teams to beat with Ok St right outside them.
Let’s start off with the defending champs in the Sooners. Oklahoma went on an awesome run last year, and it had a lot to with Heisman finalist Baker Mayfield. The kid reminds a lot of people of that kid #2 that used to play at Texas A&M. Baker is a true gun slinging duel threat type of QB. He is a ton of fun to watch, especially when he is outside of the pocket and is just creating. He did lose his #1 option in Sterling Shepard to the NFL draft, so someone new will have to step up. The good thing for this Sooner offense is they have their dynamic duo in the back field back in Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. The offense really shouldn’t be the problem it’s the defense. This defense lost a lot of leaders and big-time play-makers in Eric Striker, Charles Tapper, Dominique Alexander and Zack Sanchez. That’s four first-team All-Big 12 selections, 265 tackles, 16.5 sacks and nine interceptions no more in Norman.
Next up is TCU led by Gary Patterson. Usually when talking about a Gary Patterson team, you start with the defense. That really hasn’t been the case though in the last couple of years. The Horned Frogs averaged more than 40 points each of the last two seasons since going to the air raid offense, like so many Big 12 teams. They did lose their stud starting QB in Trevon Boykin and WR Josh Doctson, but they did bring in Kenny “Thrill” Hill the transfer from Texas A&M. Now he hasn’t been handed the job and has a lot of work to do to try and pass Foster Sawyer. So far “Thrill” has impressed which is nice to see because we all have seen the flashes of dominance. Now Sawyer is a redshirt sophomore who was once was a four-star signee who was ranked by Scout.com as the No. 2 quarterback prospect in Texas and No. 13 nationally. He played last year in 4 games and started 1, which just happened to be against Oklahoma. He did go 8-of-18 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown pass in Norman and only lost by 1 point. No matter whom the QB is this offense; they have tons of talented skill position players. You have to start with the young guns in KaVontae Turpin, Jaelan Austin and Jarrison Stewart who combined for 76 catches, 1,051 yards and 11 touchdowns as freshmen. Also you have Ty Slanina coming back from a broken collarbone that sidelined him early in 2015. Lastly, they have Deanté Gray who is returning after missing a year recovering from knee surgery. Grey had eight touchdown catches in 2014. This offense does have to replace 4 offensive linemen which could be a big issue. The defense last year was banged up all year and had guys playing early and out of position, so it was a rough time. This defense will have four starters whose 2015 seasons were cut short by injury back. All four of them are expected back to join seven other returning starters, who all got significant experience last year being thrown into the fire. As long as this defense can stay health, this should be another solid if not a really good Gary Patterson defense.
TCU over Oklahoma- The Big 12 always comes down to who can survive the other big time teams in this conference. A main reason I give the edge to TCU is they play Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech at home. They also will get a down Baylor, who will not be the same after all, the shit they have gone through even with Jim Grobe at the helm now.
Offensive POY- Patrick Mahomes QB, TTU-
I said it before that Texas Tech will be a sleeper this year. If they want to make me look smart then this man will have to light it up. The combo of his skills and head coach Kliff Klingsbury ability to coach QB’s, this could be a match made in Heaven. He played as a freshman in 2014 and started in 7 games that year. He completed 56.8% of his passes and threw for 1547 yards and threw 16 TD’s. In 2051 he actually pushed the starter to transfer. He became the starter and put NFL scouts on high alert. As a sophomore he completed 63.5% and threw for 36 TD’s and 15 interceptions. AND HE CAN RUN!! He rushed for 10 TD’s while averaging 3.5 yards per carry. He is a legit QB and has a chance to take it to the next level this year. If Mahomes has a big year you can bet your bottom this kid will have a chance to be the #1 QB in next year’s NFL Draft.
Defensive POY- Malik Jefferson LB, Texas-
Speaking of stars this kid could be the best LB in the country by years end. He has a lot of similar traits as Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith, maybe not the elite speed, but fast. Jefferson started last year as a true freshman and took the leadership of the defense quickly. Even after the 1st game when they got blown out by Jaylon’s ND, Malik looked like he belonged. He finished second on the team in tackles (61), led it in pressures (six) and was fourth in TFL (seven), while adding 2.5 sacks, three PBU, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery, which he returned for a TD. With those stats it earned him being selected to the Freshman All-America team and named honorable mention All-Big 12 and Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. 2016 could be the year Malik Jefferson just dominates the Big 12.
Breakout Player-Connor Williams OL, Texas-
Another true freshman to start for Texas last year was this big boy. A lot like Jefferson, Williams had a lot of hype coming into 2015, and didn’t disappoint. He also was named to the first-team freshman All-America team, and honorable mention All-Big 12. A lot of people saw how talented he was last year, and by that he made the Outland Trophy preseason watch list only in his second year. I could have put both Mahomes and Jefferson here, but that would have been too easy. Left tackles are the second most important position in football because they protect the QB (the #1 important position in football), and Connor Williams is about to break out and be one of the best in the country.
Freshman of the Year- Jeff Gladney CB, TCU-
When you are starting at corner for a Gary Patterson defense, you have to have some skills. Patterson has always had very talented CB’s, and this could be another one. He is a redshirt freshman that is in his second year of learning the system, so that shouldn’t be a problem. He is listed at 6-0, 175 so he has decent size for the position. Teams will try and go after the freshman early, but by the end of the year they will be re-thinking that tactic.
Coach of the Year- Gary Patterson TCU-
If Gare Bear wins the Big 12 over the heavily favorite Oklahoma then yes this award is all his. Last year was a downer for TCU with all the talent they had, but they were bit by the injury bug hard. 2016 should be different and you should see a classic TCU squad that can get them into the playoffs.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : George