American hero Ric Flair once said “to be the man, you gotta beat the man” and that’s exactly the case in the Big 12 with Oklahoma. The Sooners are the four-time defending conference champions and no other team belongs on the top of this poll until that changes. Lincoln Riley hopes to win his third straight with a transfer quarterback as the Jalen Hurts era begins.
The Longhorns are a sexy pick in the Big 12 as the program rises back toward national relevance. The hopes lie on the arm and legs of third-year quarterback Sam Ehlinger. Texas is breaking in new starters all over the field on both sides of the ball, but at least Maryland isn’t on the schedule. Depth at running back and fresh faces on defense are the main concerns entering the season.
3. Iowa State
Matt Campbell stayed in Ames to continue building the football program at Iowa State rather than chase success at a higher-profile school. That chance will still come, but the Cyclones are the dark horse to unseat Oklahoma and Texas atop the Big 12 thanks to the return of quarterback Brock Purdy and a stout defense.
It’s all about the quarterback position for Gary Patterson and the Horned Frogs. The defense should be improved and there are weapons at the skill-positions on offense. TCU has struggled with consistency over the past few years and there isn’t a clear leader at quarterback on the roster. Have the Horned Frogs flatlined after a decade-plus of success under Patterson?
5. Oklahoma State
Mike Gundy remains the man in Stillwater despite continuous flirtations with new jobs, friction with the biggest donor in the program and a haircut that is stuck between a party and a business meeting. The Cowboys are a middle-of-the-pack program expected to finish in the middle of the standings. Status quo.
Matt Rhule is improving the Bears and the program is home to one of the best quarterbacks in the conference with Charlie Brewer leading the way. Still, the roster isn’t where it needs to be to compete for a conference championship due to the wreckage left by former head coach Art Briles.
7. Texas Tech
Matt Wells is one of four new coaches in the Big 12 as the Red Raiders watched Kliff Kingsbury fail forward into the NFL. The Red Raiders haven’t been a threat in the conference since the program chose the word of Craig James over head coach Mike Leach, who is still owed money from the university as he flourishes at Washington State. It’ll be a rebuilding year with an exciting offense. Sound familiar?
8. West Virginia
The black sheep of the Big 12 is also under new leadership as Neal Brown takes over for the wildly entertaining Dana Holgorsen, who is now the head coach at Houston. Quarterback Will Grier is also gone. That spells trouble for the Mountaineers, who entered last season among the favorites to reach the conference championship game. It’ll be a forgettable year, but that’s why God invented moonshine.
9. Kansas State
I still expect to look at Kansas State’s sideline and see Bill Snyder mall walking his way around in purple even though the Wizard of Manhattan announced his retirement after last year. First-year head coach Chris Klieman is tasked with following in Snyder’s footsteps. Luckily for Klieman, the expectations are below low in 2019.
LES MILES IS BACK. Kansas fans will now wait four weeks until moving on to basketball season instead of the zero weeks the Jayhawks normally care about football. The 2020 recruiting class is looking solid, though.