Despite all the rumors this offseason, and there have been a lot of them, the Big 12 conference will still be at 10 teams for at least the 2016 season.Therefore, the Big 12 still has 10 teams, the Big 10 has 14 teams, and nobody dares to ask how many teams the ACC has. After what has seemed to be a desert wasteland of an offseason, we finally find ourselves back in the wild west shootout that is the Big 12. I mean, who really likes defense? It is just a phase Nick Saban!!
The 2015 season saw the Oklahoma Sooners win their 9th Big 12 title and that is six more than the second most (Texas – 3). Not only did Oklahoma win the Big 12, they also made the 2nd ever College Football Playoff and saved us all from hearing people sob about the lack of a Big 12 title game. The Sooners returned to the success of the Sam Bradford era with a spread out up-tempo attack led by Baker Mayfield. Mayfield had the help of a great running back in Samaje Perine and an incredible wide receiver in Sterling Shepard in creating an explosive offense. The Oklahoma defense returned to form thanks to Bob Stoops’ brother Mike Stoops and linebacker Eric Striker. In 2015, Oklahoma really knew how to pile it on their opponents:
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 11, 2016
People will look at 2015 and argue that Baylor dealt with a plethora of injuries and that TCU was in the waiting room looking to get checked on. Nevertheless, Oklahoma had been building for a few years to create the efficient 2015 team and were so very close to playing for a national championship.
But they did not…
So we move our eyes to the 2016 season and try to decipher who we think will win the Big 12 Conference. Who are the contenders? Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, and TCU seem to be the 4 teams likely to contend. Of course, Oklahoma seems to be the natural place to start when starting this process. The Sooners return Baker Mayfield and Samaje Perine to their offense. Mayfield threw for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns while adding 405 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground. Perine will have his running mate Joe Mixon back to create a dynamic power duo on the ground.
Baylor seems to me a natural team to take a step backwards in 2016. The Bears lost head coach Art Briles due to the lack of accountability and accusations toward the football program in response to sexual assault reports. First and foremost before I continue, it is despicable to know that a football program allowed this to happen and if it happened at my alma mater (Texas) I would hope for those responsible to be punished without hesitation. Human beings come first and they always should. In addition to Briles leaving, the Bears lost All-American and Biletnikoff winning wide receiver Corey Coleman. The defense lost some pieces along the line and it will be interesting to see if interim coach Jim Grobe can keep the ship afloat. Quarterback wise, the team is still solid with Seth Russell at the helm. Russell was having a great season before he got injured.
Oklahoma State has a lot to look forward to in 2016. The Cowboys return quarterback Mason Rudolph and they are hoping the defense can improve situationally to allow the team to have a more complete season. Oklahoma State had a lot of hype after the 2014 season but fell short of expectations in 2015. The Cowboys started off hot but the Rudolph seemed to take a step backwards at times and was replaced at QB a few times during games. Emmanuel Ogbah was a stud at defensive end for the Cowboys in 2015, however, he has since been drafted into the NFL and OSU will look to replace that production.
My pick to win the Big 12 for the 2016 season will be the Oklahoma Sooners. Oklahoma returns an explosive offense and if they can get new pieces to step up at wide receiver in addition to the growth of Dede Westbrook, then I think they can win the conference yet again. The defense will need playmakers to show themselves but they have the talent on that side of the ball.
A dark horse candidate for me will be the Texas Longhorns. The reason I have them as a dark horse is because they are not one of the 4 teams being mentioned as contenders like I mentioned them above. Texas will most likely start true freshman Shane Buechele at quarterback and will hope a deep stable at running back will allow this team to get back to where the program used to be.