By Hunter Hart
As part of a five-column series, columnist Hunter Hart previews the Big 12 Conference in his Way-too-early 2019 College football predictions.
Oklahoma has dominated the Big 12 since the turn of the century, winning the conference 12 times. The Sooners have captured a Big 12 title each of the past four years, continuing on to the College Football Playoff in three of those seasons.
Even so, the Big 12 has not been represented in a National Championship game since Texas fell to Alabama in 2009. That could change in the near future with several talented young coaches taking over at major programs in the conference.
Lincoln Riley has already shown his impact at Oklahoma. Tom Herman is slowly but surely turning Texas around. Matt Campbell at Iowa State and Matt Rhule at Baylor have done a tremendous job of making those football programs relevant again. Not only has the top of the conference gotten better, the bottom is improving as well.
Kansas recently hired former LSU head coach Les Miles as their new leader and Texas Tech, West Virginia and Kansas State boast new head coaches. Oklahoma and Texas will likely be the only title contenders this season but the Big 12 could be scary if it continues to improve.
- Oklahoma Sooners (2018 record: 12-2, 8-1 B12)
It seems like no matter who Riley plugs in at quarterback, they’re going to be one of the premier players in college football.
Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray have taken home the Heisman Trophy as quarterback of the Sooners the past two years. Up next in this impressive lineage is graduate transfer Jalen Hurts.
Hurts was the quarterback for Alabama in all but two quarters of its 2017 National Championship run. Because of the success of Tua Tagovailoa, Hurts is out at ‘Bama and in at Oklahoma. Despite star receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown departing for the NFL, the Sooners are still loaded on offense.
Even so, defensive woes have plagued Oklahoma for much of the past decade, especially the past few years. The Sooners have had to outscore all opponents and when facing tough defensive teams, they have struggled. Alabama rocketed to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter of last year’s College Football Playoff semifinal game against Oklahoma.
The Sooners hired former Missouri assistant Alex Grinch as their defensive coordinator in hopes of elevating their defense to the level of their offense. Grinch’s defense must improve if Oklahoma hopes to legitimately contend for a National Championship.
- Texas Longhorns (2018 record: 10-4, 7-2 B12)
In the opening week of 2016, after Texas took down no. 10 Notre Dame, ESPN broadcaster Joe Tessitore yelled the now infamous phrase “Texas is back, folks!”
Not quite then. The Longhorns finished 5-7 in 2016, and then 7-6 in 2017. However, after a Sugar Bowl win over No. 5 Georgia capped off Texas’ first 10-win season since 2009, Tessitore’s comment has a little more substance
The Longhorns bring back quarterback Sam Ehlinger as well as 6’6” receiver Collin Johnson. Texas will be tested early in the season with a game against LSU on Sep. 7, but the Red River Rivalry game on Oct. 12 will be the biggest game of the Longhorns’ season.
Texas split the season series with Oklahoma in 2018, winning the regular season game and dropping the Big 12 Championship. If the Longhorns can build on their success from last season, Texas will truly be back, folks.
- Iowa State Cyclones (2018 record 8-5, 6-3 B12)
In the four seasons spanning from 2013-2016, Iowa State won a combined 11 games. In last two years, under head coach Matt Campbell, the Cyclones have won 16.
Not only has the program significantly improved as a whole, the Cyclones are getting a reputation as an upset specialist. In 2017, the Cyclones took down no. 3 Oklahoma in Norman before beating no. 4 TCU at home.
Last season, they dominated no. 6 West Virginia at home, 30-14. This year, Iowa State won’t be sneaking up on anybody. A talented defense that was inconsistent but shined at times returns almost all of its starters and breakout freshman quarterback Brock Purdy is back for his sophomore campaign. The biggest challenge for the Cyclones is their schedule, featuring games against Iowa and Texas at home as well as matchups at Oklahoma, Texas Tech and West Virginia. If Iowa State is able to pull off another couple upsets, They may have a chance at the conference.
- Baylor Bears (2018 record (7-6, 4-5 B12)
- TCU Horned Frogs (2018 record (7-6, 4-5 B12)
- Texas Tech Red Raiders (2018 record (5-7, 3-6 B12)
- Kansas State Wildcats (2018 record 5-7, 3-6 B12)
- Oklahoma State Cowboys (2018 record 7-6, 3-6 B12)
- West Virginia Mountaineers (2018 record 8-4, 6-3 B12)
- Kansas Jayhawks (2018 record (3-9, 1-8 B12)
Edited by Garrett Jones | firstname.lastname@example.org