Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 7:00 AM
Preseason publications and oddsmakers in Vegas and offshore are having trouble differentiating the top teams in the Big 12 conference. The respected Athlon publication is picking Oklahoma State first, Oklahoma second, and Texas third. Yet, the Las Vegas Hilton just made Texas a two-point favorite over Oklahoma on a neutral field in Dallas in their “Game of the Year” lines, and Texas a favorite of -4.5 when they host Okie State later in the season.
So, “the market” has TEXAS as the best team in the conference!
How should YOU have the league powers rated? And, how likely is TCU to crash the party? Let’s run some numbers! Remember that the returning starter data comes from Athlon. Remember to check out the big display ad for JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK across from Notre Dame on page 173!
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 7 on defense
Quarterback: Clint Chelf
Head Coach: Mike Gundy
The Cowboys run a “system” that most any quarterback can come excel in. Because of injuries, several guys got a chance last year. Chelf was in the mix, and did a good job when thrown into the fire. Some are pegging Chelf as the best QB in the Big 12 in 2013…though that’s mostly a reflection of how many teams lost last year’s starter. Can this defense be trusted to run the table? They will probably be favored to win every game but the one in Austin because they host OU in Stillwater.
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 4 on defense
Quarterback: Blake Bell
Head Coach: Bob Stoops
You’ll recall that Bell was the athlete who came in to run Oklahoma’s goal line offense last year whenever the Sooners got within striking distance. He may not be quite ready yet to pass out of the pocket against big time defenses…so we’ll have to see how that situation plays out. Oklahoma’s success this year will likely depend on what kind of production they can get from that position. The defense may be in trouble with only four returning starters from a unit that could only rank #64 last season. JIM HURLEY will again be looking for places to fade Stoops and the Sooners, who are notorious for laying eggs in big games except for the rivalry with Texas. We’re looking forward to the Oklahoma/Notre Dame rematch on September 28.
Returning Starters: 8 on offense, 9 on defense
Quarterback: David Ash
Head Coach: Mack Brown
Some publications are REALLY high on Texas this year…sticking them in the top five nationally. You can only make that case if you cherry-pick the best of David Ash last year, and ignore all of his bad games. The deal with young quarterbacks is that they sometimes improve from year to year in a way that really does make that a reality. If Ash learns from his mistakes…then Texas can become a national power. But, they were only 5-4 in the Big 12 last year…and this program has been trending in the wrong direction for awhile. Big test September 7 at BYU, and a month of BYU/Ole Miss/Kansas State will tell us a lot about the Horns before midseason.
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 9 on defense
Quarterback: Casey Pachall
Head Coach: Gary Patterson
This team can get very interesting very fast if Pachall has his head on straight. We’ve already reached the end of the line for returning quarterbacks. Everyone below this on the ledger will be breaking in a new signal caller! You know TCU will have a great defense. Nine starters are back on a unit that ranked #16 nationally while playing in a league with a lot of fast-break football. If Pachall delivers, this becomes a four-team race with the Frogs bringing by far the best defense to the table. Big opener vs. LSU at Cowboys Cathedral will give them a chance to make a statement.
Returning Starters: 8 on offense, 2 on defense
Head Coach: Bill Snyder
Goodness, Collin Klein isn’t there to carry the offense on his shoulders any more, and only two starters are back on defense. We love this coach…and we respect his ability to manufacture wins with creativity and toughness. The first true test won’t come until game four at Texas…so we’ll tread lightly until we can get a solid read on the newcomers.
Returning Starters: 4 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: Art Briles
Maybe the Bears won’t lose a beat…with a system offense that thrives under Coach Briles. At least the team has nothing but virtual scrimmages early with Wofford and Buffalo coming to Waco. A potential live dog late in the year if the newcomers click. Baylor’s schedule is backloaded in the extreme.
Returning Starters: 4 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: Dana Holgorsen
What an All-Star team you can make out of the quarterbacks who left the Big 12! Geno Smith will try to beat out Mark Sanchez with the New York Jets. The Mountaineers will try to rebuild an offense that failed to produce when it mattered most last year anyway. The defense has experience…but the defense only ranked #108 in the nation. The rigors of travel caught the team by surprise last year, and will always be an issue since the Mountaineers don’t belong geographically in this league. We’ll be looking to fade this team unless they give us reasons to do otherwise. They must play both Oklahoma schools before midseason.
Returning Starters: 4 on offense, 8 on defense
Head Coach: Kliff Kingsbury (new)
Kingsbury is the only new head coach in the conference…and he made a name for himself very quickly as an offensive coach with Texas A&M when they made their national splash in 2012. We expect more high octane aggression…which will either put up big numbers for the Red Raiders…or big numbers for their opponents after a bunch of turnovers. Good test for this offense on September 14 vs. TCU.
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 4 on defense
Head Coach: Paul Rhoads
You can usually count on at least one big upset per season from Iowa State. Look to fade opponents who are either in letdown or lookahead situations…or who are tired after a brutal schedule stretch. We won’t plan on any more than that for the Cyclones unless they really impress us in September vs. Iowa and Tulsa.
Returning Starters: 3 on offense, 3 on defense
Quarterback: Jake Heaps
Head Coach: Charlie Weis
Heaps isn’t a returning starter at QB, but you may remember him from his time at BYU. He wasn’t great with his prior team…but he’s likely to be a star (relatively speaking) for a Jayhawks group that was horrible last year, THEN got obliterated by graduation. The lines will be so high that we’ll likely pass most or all Kansas games this year…unless Heaps shows us something in early action.
That wraps up the Big 12. We’ll talk about the American Athletic Conference (formerly the Big East) tomorrow. Don’t forget that early bird football packages for JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK are available right now here at the website. If you’d prefer talking to a live human, call us during regular business hours at 1-800-323-4453.
Turn the BIG 12 into BIG MONEY all season long with THE BIGGEST NAME IN HANDICAPPING…JIM HURLEY!