Ryan Mayer

You know the deal by now. As college football approaches, we’re previewing each conference based on Vegas win totals for that conference, with a quick overview of each team. Today it’s the Big 12.

If you’ve missed any of our other previews, check out the links below.

| ACC | AAC | Big 12 | Big Ten |

Oklahoma Sooners-

(O/U 10 wins)

How do you replace a program legend talent at QB? Just drop in a former five-star recruit, who’s so athletic he was also drafted in the first round of the MLB Draft. The Sooners have that in Kyler Murray, and while there’s been some question about whether the starting job is his, it’s hard to imagine he would have stayed in school without a guarantee of some kind of playing time. Murray will only play one year, and he’ll have the weapons to make the most of it, with RB Rodney Anderson, receivers Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb and an offensive line with three All-Big 12 starters back. The offense will be explosive. The defense? It was young and endured a roller-coaster season last year, but should be better now with a year more experience and some stud freshmen added. There’s no marquee out-of-conference game this year that equals the past two season’s Ohio State battles, but traveling to TCU and West Virginia will be key in trying to repeat. Push 10

Texas Longhorns-

(O/U 8.5 wins)

The Longhorns enter Tom Herman’s second year with the QB situation still unsettled. Shane Buechele and Sam Ehlinger both started about half the season last year, and neither really stood out over the other. So Texas will need the supporting cast to step up. The offensive line should be solid despite the departure of LT Connor Williams, as nearly everyone around him returns. Last year’s trio of backs are here, as are the top two receivers. Most of these guys are former highly rated recruits and, in theory, should take the next step in their progression. If not, the Longhorns will rely on Todd Orlando’s defense, which returns plenty of depth, but lost stars like Poona Ford, Malik Jefferson and DeShon Elliott. The biggest loss may actually be punter Michael Dickson (bear with me) who reliably flipped the field and gave the defense solid starting position when the offense sputtered. A tough match-up with USC looms, but they get most of the conference big boys at home outside of Oklahoma State. If one of the QBs begins to live up to potential, it could be a big year. More likely it’s a one-win improvement. Under 8.5

Oklahoma State Cowboys-

(O/U 8 wins)

The Cowboys lost QB Mason Rudolph (Steelers), WRs James Washington (Steelers) and Marcell Ateman (Raiders), along with a pair of All-Big 12 linemen. That’s a lot to replace on offense, so a step back from 10 wins is likely coming. RB Justice Hill is still here to ease the transition to a new QB, and new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has most of the front seven back to work with. Still though, a regression from the offense is likely with a new QB and receivers stepping into new roles. That shouldn’t be a problem early in the season (though a home date with Boise State could be dicey), but the back-half is loaded. @Oklahoma, vs. WVU and @TCU wraps up the season in three consecutive weeks. Brutally tough. Under 8

TCU Horned Frogs-

(O/U 7.5 wins)

Like the four teams above them, TCU is unsettled at the QB spot, with last year’s starter Kenny Hill departing. In addition, last year’s top RB, top four linemen and two of the top three receivers are gone. That’s a lot of transition, so the defense will be relied upon heavily while the offense figures things out. Luckily, the defense returns seven starters from last year and adds grad transfer LB Jawuan Johnson from NIU. RB Darrius Anderson, WR Jalen Reagor and utility man KaVontae Turpin should help whoever steps in under center, but as you can probably sense, there’s a theme emerging. If they can find a QB, the Horned Frogs could have a special year, if not, it’ll be tight. They get both Oklahoma schools at home, but they do have to travel to Morgantown and also face a LOADED Ohio State team in Week 3. The defense should be enough to get to eight wins. Over 7.5

West Virginia Mountaineers

(O/U 7 wins)

The Mountaineers have the one thing the schools above them do not: a returning starting QB. Will Grier is back from injury, and he’s got most of his offensive line and four of his top five receivers including stud red-zone target David Sills V. The offense should hum, though replacing RB Justin Crawford’s production will be key. On defense, WVU struggled last year (31.5 PPG, 90th FBS) with a lot of guys getting their first taste of playing time. A solid core returns, and transfers from USC (DT Kenny Bigelow), Clemson (DT Jabril Robinson), and UCLA (DB Denzel Fisher) should help solidify that unit. The good news for Mountaineers fans is Oklahoma and TCU both have to come to Morgantown. The bad news? Trips to Texas, Oklahoma State and N.C. State are also on the docket. If Grier and the offense stay healthy, this team pushes for the top of the conference. Over 7

Iowa State Cyclones-

(O/U 6.5 wins)

Matt Campbell has done a tremendous job in Ames, engineering two massive victories (OU and TCU) last season and leading a victory over Memphis in the Liberty Bowl. This season, the deck is stacked against the Cyclones a bit. They do have QB Kyle Kempt, RB David Montgomery and WR Hakeem Butler back, with a defense that returns some solid talent in the front seven. On the flip side, three of the top four receivers are gone, as are big playmakers LB Joel Lanning and DE J.D. Waggoner. The biggest problem is the schedule: road trips to rival Iowa, TCU, Oklahoma State and Texas, with home dates against Oklahoma and WVU. Tough to see the Cyclones repeating an eight-win season, but a bowl is possible. Under 6.5

Kansas State Wildcats-

(O/U 6 wins)

Bill Snyder is still coaching, and that means the Wildcats will be a tough opponent regardless of talent level. They finished last year on a 5-1 run and return QBs Alex Delton and Skylar Thompson, who are still battling for the starting role. New offensive coordinator Andre Coleman has some weapons to work with in RB Alex Barnes, receivers Isaiah Zuber and Dalton Schoen and every offensive line starter. The defense lost playmakers in LB Jayd Kirby, DT Will Geary and DE Tanner Wood, and they have a new defensive coordinator (albeit a former KSU player, like Coleman). Experience is here, but the talent level isn’t as high as the rest of the conference, which is always the case. They’ll have to navigate a tough schedule featuring Mississippi State, road trips to WVU, Oklahoma and TCU and a home date with Oklahoma State. A ninth straight bowl game could be tough to come by. Under 6

Texas Tech Red Raiders-

(O/U 6 wins)

Kliff Kingsbury has yet to replicate the success of Year 1, when he went 8-5. The defense has been the culprit in most years, but this year, it could (gasp) be the strength of the team. The offense loses its QB (Nic Shimonek), RB (Justin Stockton), and four of last year’s top five receivers. Offense is Kingsbury’s specialty, but that’s still a LOT of production to replace. The good news is nearly the entire defense is back from a group that lopped 11 points off its average last year (43.5 to 32.2). Granted, that scoring average ranked 100th in FBS, so there’s still plenty of work to be done, but there’s at least a blueprint for some success there. The schedule isn’t kind, though, with Ole Miss, Houston, and road trips to Oklahoma State and TCU. But the Red Raiders do get WVU, Oklahoma and Texas at home. Still, it’s hard to expect too much from a team replacing nearly its entire offense. Under 6

Baylor Bears-

(O/U 6 wins)

Matt Rhule didn’t have much to work with in Year 1, and it showed, with the Bears going 1-11. The good news is that allowed them to play a lot of young guys, who will now be more comfortable in Year 2. QB Charlie Brewer, RB John Lovett, most of the offensive line and the top two receivers are back on offense, so you’d expect the 24.3 PPG average to rise this season. The defense brings back nearly everyone, but how coordinator Phil Snow’s attacking style holds up against the Big 12’s wide-open offenses is a big question mark. But the biggest intrigue surrounding the program is about former Tennessee RB turned WR Jalen Hurd, who, at 6’4″ 220 pounds, looks like a prototype receiver. Hurd’s an interesting story to watch develop over the season, and the Bears could be too. The first six weeks are key. Abilene Christian, @UTSA, Duke, Kansas, @Oklahoma and Kansas State is conceivably a 5-1 or 4-2 start to the year, meaning they’d need just one or two more to hit the number. Push 6

Kansas Jayhawks-

(O/U 3 wins)

Kansas has struggled to get the program off the ground since Mark Mangino left in 2009 amidst a scandal over how he treated players. The Jayhawks have gone a combined 15-81 since and were 1-11 last year. The good news? RB Khalil Herbert is back along with an experienced offensive line to run behind. The QB spot is more unsettled, with returnees Peyton Bender and Carter Stanley battling JUCO transfer Miles Kendrick. That, combined with a solid, if unspectacular receiving corps should be enough to improve upon the 18.7 PPG they scored last year. The defense loses star DE Dorance Armstrong Jr., but basically everyone else returns, and a flood of JUCO guys come in. In theory, there’s enough here to expect more than a 1-11 season. In practice, it’s hard to expect more than three wins, as the program hasn’t managed that since a 5-7 campaign in 2009. Push 3

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