2019 Big XII Preview - Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa
With the Texas teams and (the inexplicably part of the Big XII) West Virginia previews out of the way, we begin our tour of the Great Plains teams. First up…
Oklahoma – 12-2 (8-1) – And the beat goes on. At least in Norman, Oklahoma it does. For those of us old enough to remember Barry Switzer’s teams of the 70’s and 80’s (and I am, just barely), I just don’t remember them being this dominant. And this year is no different than the previous two. We (again) have a QB lining up under center that will be among the Heisman favorites (currently third at 10/1 as of July 15) and a high-octane offense that, despite returning only three starters, will almost certainly put up video game points and stats. The defense on the other hand is almost completely intact returning ten starters including the entire D-line and four of five DBs (it's not unusual in the pass-heavy Big XII, five other teams play with a base defense that involves five DBs).
If everything goes right – The Sooners could be celebrating their eighth National Championship and HC Lincoln Riley’s first. Now, that’ll involve at least one big upset (*cough* ‘Bama *cough* Clemson), maybe two, who knows, but if anyone is capable it would be Oklahoma.
If everything goes wrong – Oklahoma might fall as far as the… the… Alamo Bowl! Yeah, that’s right, the Sooners' floor is third place. I’m not going to feel too sorry for them.
Prediction – Predicted finish in Big XII – 1st – A 46th Conference title for the Okies and a CFP berth. Texas is getting better and actually got them in the Red River Shootout (that’s what it’s always going to me, political correctness be damned) last season, but this isn’t their (Texas’) year.
Iowa State – 8-5 (6-3) – As someone who cut their teeth watching old Big 8 football, it feels odd, almost wrong, to be predicting a Cyclone team to be finishing this high in the conference. Prior to Matt Campbell’s arrival in Ames, the Cyclones had more 0-for-the-season seasons (3) than they did back-to-back 8 win seasons (0). With Campbell’s success came suitors (Campbell was rumored to have been in the mix for the Ohio State job before Ryan Day was awarded it) and surprisingly Campbell chose to stay and continue building his program. He’ll have players to work with too. Sophomore QB Brock Purdy returns after stepping into the job as a true Freshman and he’ll have most of his O-line coming back to protect him as well. As far as the #1 (scoring) defense in the Big XII is concerned, they return 7 of 11 starters and that number includes All-Big XII safety Greg Eisworth.
If everything goes right – Iowa State upsets either Texas or Oklahoma and avoids any upsets themselves to make it to their first Big XII Championship Game.
If everything goes wrong – This year looks much the same as last year, losses to the Sooners, Longhorns, Hawkeyes, and a couple of games they probably shouldn’t lose, but do. While an 8-5 floor should have Cyclone fans turning cartwheels, it’ll probably leave them wondering what “could have been?”
Prediction – 3rd in the Big XII – Losses to the two big boys in the Big XII leave the Cyclones still in Ames for the Big XII CG, but if they can convince Matt Campbell to keep building the program, he could have something special in Iowa (State).
Oklahoma State – 7-6 (5-2) – 2018 was an up-and-down season for the Cowboys – beating three ranked teams only to follow that up with a loss to an unranked team each time. While it seems like Coach Mike Gundy always comes up with a new QB who throws for a gazillion yards, this is the first time since 2012 where the ‘Pokes starter will have never thrown a pass for Oklahoma State. If I were making a pick I’d say that Hawaii transfer Dru Brown gets the nod over RS-freshman Spencer Sanders or freshman Brendan Costello. He’ll get to throw to junior WR Tylan Wallace who caught 86 passes for 1,491 yards and 12 TDs last year and was a Biletnikoff Award finalist. On the other side of the ball, the Cowboy “D” needs help stopping the run, Last in Big XII Vs rush, and they may have gotten some with the addition of Sione Asi, a JC transfer who at 6’1”, 325lbs looks like the run-stuffing DT he is.
If everything goes right – The Cowboys might see an 8 or 9 win season. The offense gels fast, the defense shows some spine, and they catch a team or two unawares in the league schedule.
If everything goes wrong – We find coach Gundy still playing “QB Roulette” in the last half of the season, the defense is still doing its best impression of a sieve and they lose at least two games they should win, failing to go bowling for the first time since 2005, his first year in Stillwater.
Prediction – 6th in the Big XII - Barring any mild upsets (either way), I’m picking the Cowboys the repeat last year’s record. It’s also wouldn’t surprise me if they got an extra win or an extra loss, either way, they’re likely bowling before the New Year.
Kansas State – 5-7 (3-6) – It wasn’t a great ending, maybe it should have been better, but, like many things in life, it ended regardless of how appropriately or emotionally it should have been different. After 27 years and two tenures at Kansas State, Bill Snyder retired following the 2018 season as the Wildcats all-time winningest coach (and it’s not close, seriously) by blowing a 17 point 4th quarter lead and failing to go to a bowl game for only the eighth time in his tenure. His replacement, former North Dakota State coach Chris Klieman, knows a little about winning, after being named the new K-State coach, he returned to NDSU to win a fourth FCS title in five years (69-6 during that span). On offense the ‘Cats return junior QB Skylar Thompson and get Ball State transfer RB James Gilbert. On defense the front seven returns six while only CB AJ Parker returns in the secondary.
If everything goes right – Maybe the Wildcats can squeeze out six wins and hit the ground running. That number includes a couple of mild upsets, but Klieman knows his way around an upset (HC when they downed Iowa in 2016 and Iowa State in 2014, also on the staff for wins over Minnesota, Colorado State, and Kansas State).
If everything goes wrong – It could be bad, really bad. Three wins, maybe four? That’s not going to get Klieman fired, I hope not anyhow, but if K-State give him time, he could have it back to the glory days of Snyder in no time.
Prediction – 9th in the Big XII – K-State should start off 2-0 with wins over Nicholls State and Bowling Green, but the hill gets much steeper from there and the only game I see that they should expect to win is @Kansas on Nov 2 (and even then, who knows).
Kansas – 3-9 (1-8) – Perhaps no team has ever received a new coach with the level of enthusiasm, expectations, and hope that Kansas is receiving Les Miles. A quick perusal of past Kansas Head Coaches shows only one other football coach to have won a National Championship… Phog Allen (yes, that Phog Allen)… in basketball. So, to say that expectations are rising is an understatement. Will it work? Who knows, but it can’t get much worse, the Jayhawks have won 8 games in the last 5 seasons, for comparison, 59 teams won 8 or more games last season. With all that said, there IS talent on this roster. Just a few days ago (as of this writing) sophomore RB Pooka Williams, a 4-star get out of Louisiana for former coach David Beaty, was reinstated to the team for the 2019 season, and we know how Les likes to run the ball. On defense, the Jayhawks, get the luxury of returning all but one of their five DBs, including sophomore CB Corione Harris. The downside is that no one on the front six returns.
If everything goes right – They could get upsets over Boston College and West Virginia if those teams aren’t prepared, but after that finding wins will be tough, only in-state rival K-State could be “got”.
If everything goes wrong – the five game stretch between @Boston College and @Texas demoralizes the team and they quit. It could be even worse if they lose one of their first two (Indiana State and Costal Carolina).
Prediction – 10th in the Big XII – It might take a couple of years, but Les Miles could bring Kansas all the way back to not-terrible-ness.