The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 27, 2012

2012 Big 12 Conference Preview

A year ago at this time, the Big 12 Conference appeared to be on life support.  Colorado and Nebraska had already left.  Missouri and Texas A&M were in their last season.  The Pac-12 was still trying to lure four Big 12 teams away.  Even the ACC was rumored to be willing to offer Texas the moon and the stars.

 

The Big 12 raided the Big East and took West Virginia and a TCU program that had already committed to the Big East.  Not only did it save this conference and keep it at 10 schools, it received two conference champions to boot. 

 

Not only is the Big 12 stronger than ever, from number one to number eight, it is the equal of the strongest conference in the nation.

 

Looking at the aggregate schedules this year, the Big 12 has a chance to do something special.  It is possible that the league could go 30-0 in non-conference games.  There are just two non-conference games where the Big 12 team will be the underdog.  Because of this, eight teams should become bowl eligible, and if Iowa State can upset Iowa, then nine teams could gain bowl eligibility.

 

Here is the pre-season media poll.

 

 

Big 12

Votes

 

Rank

Team

1st Place

Total

1

Oklahoma

32

396

2

West Virginia

7

339

3

Texas

0

291

4

Oklahoma State

0

267

5

T C U

1

260

6

Kansas State

1

257

7

Baylor

0

162

8

Iowa State

0

121

9

Texas Tech

0

116

10

Kansas

0

46

 

 

The PiRate Ratings and PiRate Vintage Ratings disagree somewhat with the media poll, but not at the top.

 

PiRate Ratings

Rank

Big 12

PiRate

1

Oklahoma

130.6

2

Oklahoma State

125.2

3

Texas

121.4

4

Kansas State

119.9

5

West Virginia

113.0

6

Texas Tech

111.8

7

Baylor

111.6

8

T C U

111.2

9

Iowa State

105.9

10

Kansas

101.7

 

   

 

Vintage Ratings

 

Rank

Big 12

Vintage

1

Oklahoma

117

2

Texas

113

3

Kansas State

110

4

Oklahoma State

109

5

West Virginia

107

6

T C U

107

7

Texas Tech

104

8

Baylor

100

9

Iowa State

96

10

Kansas

92

 

 

 

Team

Baylor Bears

               
Head Coach

Art Briles

               
Colors

Green and Gold

               
City

Waco, TX

               
2011 Record              
Conference

6-3

Overall

10-3

               
PiRate Rating

111.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

28

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Ratings

100

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

63

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

3-6

Overall

6-6

 

Can a team that has not been a semi-power in college football almost two decades produce another ranked team following the loss of the Heisman Trophy winner, a 1st round NFL pick wide receiver, and a 6th round NFL pick running back?  Consider also, that these three players led the Big 12 in passing, receiving, and rushing.  Of course, the Bears are coming back to Earth this season, but it won’t be a bear hunt like it was between 1995 and 2007.  Yes, Baylor will struggle in league play this year.  However, as we stated in the preface above, most of the Big 12 teams will enter conference play with 3-0 records and need go only 3-6 in the league to become bowl eligible.  Baylor is one of five league teams that figures to be in the 3-6/4-5 range this year.

 

Have you ever heard of a baseball player named George Selkirk?  I doubt you ever heard of Bob Fothergill.  Most of you remember Lou Brock and Carl Yastrzemski.  Besides being baseball players, these four gentlemen share something in common.  Selkirk replaced Babe Ruth in right field.  Fothergill replaced Ty Cobb in the batting order.  Brock replaced Stan Musial, and Yaz replaced Ted Williams.  Selkirk hit over .300 with 20-HR power.  Fothergill hit over .360 for the immediate seasons after he replaced Cobb.  Brock led the Cardinals to an amazing pennant and World Series Championship.  Yaz became a big star with the Red Sox, eventually becoming baseball’s last Triple Crown winner.

 

Will Nick Florence become another Selkirk and company?  He only has one year to replace Robert Griffin III.  In three years as the understudy, he passed for 1,992 yards with eight touchdowns and nine picks.  He could top the 3,000-yard mark this season, but remember RG3 passed for almost 4,300 yards last year.  Obviously Baylor’s offense will retreat by at least two touchdowns if not more this season.

 

Replacing Kendall Wright and his 108 receptions, 1,663 yards, and 14 touchdowns will also be impossible.  BU has a potential all-American on its roster here, but Terrance Williams will see defenses concentrate their efforts on stopping him.  Last year, Williams was the “other guy,” and defenses played him looser than they will this year.  Williams caught 59 passes and averaged more than 16 yards per catch with 11 touchdowns.  His reception total will swell this year, but his average per catch will likely go down some.

 

Tevin Reese was another receiver that benefitted from being the secondary option and the defenses’ third priority last year.  He should top the 51 receptions he made in 2011, but like Williams, his yards per catch average will not be as high as last year’s 17.2.

 

Tight ends Jordan Najvar and Jerod Monk will see more balls thrown their way this year.  As reserves last year, they combined for 24 receptions and 246 yards. 

 

Jarred Salubi takes over at running back for Terrance Ganaway, and former Oregon back Lache Seastrunk will get a lot of action here is as well.  This duo could approach the yardage gained by Ganaway last year (1,547), but they will not team for 21 rushing touchdowns.

 

The offensive line returns three starters, but guard Cameron Kaufhold has lost his spot to Jake Jackson.  Center Ivory Wade and guard Cyril Richardson give the Bears a solid inside blocking wall.

 

Most schools would be happy with 28-32 points and 375-400 total yards, which is where we think this offense will be in 2012.  Of course, BU scored more than 45 points per game and gained almost 600 yards per game last year.  The Babe has left the building.

 

If Baylor is to get to six wins in 2012, the defense will need to show marked improvement over last year.  No BCS school surrendered 37+ points and close to 500 yards per game and won 10 games until this team did it last year.

 

Eight starters return to this side of the ball.  The secondary is the best unit of the three, as all four starters return from 2011.  But, these four were chiefly responsible for BU giving up 291 passing yards per game.  Nickel back Ahmad Dixon and cornerbacks Joe Williams and K. J. Morton gave up some big plays, but the trio teamed up for 27 defended passes.  Morton picked off four balls.

 

The rest of the defense is rather mediocre.  Ends Terrance Lloyd and Gary Mason teamed up for just five sacks, and neither proved to be a force against the run.  Middle linebacker Rodney Chadwick was not the answer at the key spot of the 4-2-5 defense, and sophomore Bryce Hager replaced him.

 

The opening game this Sunday afternoon against SMU may be similar to Baylor’s opening game against TCU last year.  BU won that one 50-48.  The Bears get 13 days to prepare for might Sam Houston State.  We are not being facetious here; the Bearkats could make this game close.  Baylor faces UL-Monroe in Monroe on the following Friday, and if the Bears are 3-0 on September 22, they will be in the hunt for a bowl game.  

 

 

Team

Iowa State Cyclones

               
Head Coach

Paul Rhoads

               
Colors

Cardinal and Gold

               
City

Ames, IA

               
2011 Record              
Conference

3-6

Overall

6-7

               
PiRate Rating

105.9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

45

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Ratings

96

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

80

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

3-6

Overall

5-7

 

Paul Rhodes has taken a page from former ISU coach Dan McCarney.  He has surprise league experts every year and produced better results than expected.  The Cyclones have now played in bowls in two of his three seasons in Ames.  His other year, they finished 5-7 and lost an overtime thriller to Nebraska that would have given them a sixth win.

 

Iowa State should continue to surf on the edge of bowl eligibility this year, as the Cyclones return enough talent to continue to hang around.

 

On the offensive side of the ball, ISU returns both of their co-starting quarterbacks this year, and both will play regularly this season.  Steele Jantz would have been the clear-cut number one had he not been injured early in the year.  Jared Barnett kept the offense going when Jantz was unable to play.  The duo teamed for better than 2,700 passing yards, but their TD/Int ratio was 16/17. 

 

The receiving corps has experience, but none of the players will play in the NFL one day.  Tight end Kurt Hammerschmidt should more than double his receptions this year after catching just 13 passes a year ago.  Aaron Horne has the potential to break out with a big season, after he caught 38 passes in a reserve role last year.

 

James White and Jeff Woody both return to the backfield after teaming for more than 1,100 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.  White is the speed back, and Woody is the power back.

 

The offensive line is not going to generate many headlines, but it actually is the best unit on the offense.  Three starters return, most notably center Tom Farniok.

 

ISU averaged 23 points and 390 yards per game last year.  We believe those numbers are approachable and possibly beatable this season.

 

The defense is more of a question as the season starts.  For starters, the defensive line has to be rebuilt, as three starters must be replaced.  Nose tackle Jake McDonough was pushed around a bit last year, but he made 35 tackles with 4 ½ going for losses.  Willie Scott and Roosevelt Maggitt are the new starting ends, while Cleyon Laing gets the vacant tackle spot.  Former Wyoming starter Ben Durbin will see action here as the fifth lineman.  He can rotate at three of the four line spots.

 

ISU’s top two tacklers return at linebacker.  A. J. Klein (116 tackles) and Jake Knott (115 tackles) need to improve on their 11 ½ TFL.

 

Iowa State had trouble stopping the pass, but then again, the Cyclones had to face seven premier quarterbacks last year.  Jacques Washington picked up 90 tackles at the free safety spot.  He only caught one enemy pass, but he broke up eight others.  Cornerback Jeremy Reeves tied with Knott for second on the team with two interceptions.

 

Iowa State is one of two teams that will be an underdog in at least one non-conference game.  They are a slight underdog at home against Tulsa, and they will more than likely be an underdog against Iowa.  Their third non-league game comes against Western Illinois.  Coach Paul Rhoads has outperformed expectations every year since he came from Auburn to Ames to replace Gene Chizik, who left Ames for Auburn.  This looks like a year where his Cyclones will fail to qualify for a bowl.  If there are any surprises with this team, we expect it to be on the wrong side of the norm.

 

 

Team

Kansas Jayhawks

               
Head Coach

Charlie Weis

               
Colors

Dark Blue and Red

               
City

Lawrence, KS

               
2011 Record              
Conference

0-9

Overall

2-10

               
PiRate Rating

101.7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

56

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Ratings

92

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

95

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

1-8

Overall

3-9

 

Charlie Weis was well-liked by his players at Notre Dame.  That’s why some of them left South Bend and ended up on the roster in Lawrence.  In fact two starters on offense began their careers playing for Weis in South Bend.

 

Dayne Crist is one of those players.  He will start under center this year.  At Notre Dame, he was the starter in 2010, but he was benched last year.  Expect Crist to top 2,500 passing yards this year, but he will have to run for his life more than he ever did with the Irish.  If he cannot make it through a full season, redshirt freshman Mike Cummings will take over.  KU fans need to pray for Crist’s safety.

 

The cupboard isn’t necessarily bare at receiver.  Expect last year’s top two receivers, D. J. Beshears and Kale Pick, teamed for 74 receptions and 781 yards.  We expect those two to team for more than 100 catches this year.  Another transfer from ND is tight end Mike Ragone.  Ragone is a sixth-year player after missing two seasons with injuries.  When he was healthy, he was considered one of the top recruits at his position, and he started for the Irish.

 

Kansas will have to get by without its best running back for the first three games following a DUI arrest.  James Sims might have challenged for 1,000 rushing yards this year, but he won’t come close to that number now.  Tony Pierson may actually have better skills, and he may not relinquish his newfound status.

 

KU’s offensive line is a liability.  Weis is a good teacher, and he will mold this unit into a competent quintet, but there will be games where enemy defensive lines get the better of them.  Guard Duane Zlatnik and tackle Tanner Hawkinson will protect Crist’s blind side.

 

The defense was on the defensive too much last year.  The Jayhawks gave up more points against Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and Texas A&M (64.0 ppg) than their basketball team gave up in many games.  All of KU’s defensive units have a long way to go to become competitive in the Big 12.

 

Up front, end Toben Opurum is one player that belongs in this league.  He led the ‘Hawks with four sacks and 10 ½ stops for loss.  Those four sacks represented 40% of the team total.  His counterpart, Keba Agostinho, recorded just one sack and two TFL.

 

In the second line of defense, middle linebacker Darius Willis made 81 tackles with eight for loss, but he will be unseated by another former Notre Dame player.  Anthony McDonald is a graduate student, and he will play one year in Lawrence (like Crist and Ragone).

 

The back line returns three starters, but this is clearly the weakest secondary in the Big 12.  KU allowed QBs to complete 70% of their passes.  These were not cheap passes thrown two yards downfield either.  Cornerbacks Tyler Patmon and Greg Brown teamed up for 10 defended passes.  Safety Bradley McDougald made 89 tackles, picked off two passes, and broke up five others.

 

Games against South Dakota State and Rice give KU a shot at a 2-0 start.  After that any win would be an upset.  We figure Weis is good for one upset, so we’ll go with 3-9 as the ceiling this year.

 

 

Team

Kansas State Wildcats

               
Head Coach

Bill Snyder

               
Colors

Royal Purple and White

               
City

Manhattan, KS

               
2011 Record              
Conference

7-2

Overall

10-3

               
PiRate Rating

119.9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Ratings

110

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

24

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

4-5

Overall

7-5

 

Coach Bill Snyder has used the same formula for his previous 20 seasons in “The Little Apple.”  He schedules winnable non-conference games to increase his team’s confidence.  He relies on a ball-controlling power running game mixed with longer than average passing routes to spread the field vertically.  Defensively, his teams play a bend, but don’t break style that forces opponents to make sustained drives.

 

Last year, Snyder guided the Wildcats to a surprising 10-win season, when they looked to be in rebuilding mode.  This year, he has considerably more talent returning than he had at the beginning of last season.  However, this league is much tougher in 2012, and his conference schedule is really difficult with road games against Oklahoma, West Virginia, and TCU.

 

If any team could go back to the Single Wing offense and succeed with it, KSU would be the one.  Quarterback Collin Klein is really more like a single wing tailback.  He ran the ball about 25 times per game last year, gaining 1,141 yards and scoring 27 touchdowns!  He is a modern day Bronko Nagurski.  As a passer, Klein completed 57% of his tosses for 1,918 yards and 13 touchdowns.

 

Klein’s top three receivers return this year (top four when you add the running back).  Tramaine Thompson is the breakaway threat.  He caught just 21 passes, but he averaged better than 16 yards per catch.  If he can remain healthy and play a full season, he could improve to 40-50 receptions.  Chris Harper has similar traits, but he is more durable.  Harper led KSU with 40 receptions last year.

 

John Hubert narrowly missed joining Klein in the 4-digit club last year, as he rushed for 970 yards.  He also caught 24 passes.  Angelo Pease gained 144 yards in a limited role, but he can pick up a tough couple of yards when the situation warrants it.

 

The offensive line is the only liability here, and if it cannot get the job done, K-State will suffer on this side of the ball.  Center B. J. Finney and guard Nick Puetz are the only starters returning.  Two redshirt freshmen will start against Missouri State this weekend.

 

The defense is about as talented this year as it has been for the last three seasons since Snyder returned to the sidelines.  It is around the middle of the pack with all three units.  Up front, Adam Davis proved to be a nice addition last year at the end position.  He dumped enemy passers four times and threw runner for losses four more.  His counterpart, Meshak Williams, was more of a third down end, and he led the Wildcats with seven sacks and 10 TFL.

 

Mike linebacker Arthur Brown is the star of the defense.  He led the Wildcats with 101 tackles, 9 ½ going for negative yardage.  Tre Walker returns to the Will linebacker spot.  He was a better pass defender than run stopper, which may be more important in this league any way.

 

One of the top pass defenders in the league is cornerback Nigel Malone.  Malone led the Big 12 with seven interceptions last year and earned 1st Team All-Big 12 honors.  Safeties Ty Zimmerman and Thomas Ferguson and cornerback Allen Chapman round out this group.

 

Kansas State has one of the better field goal kickers around.  Anthony Cantele connected on 17 of 23 field goal attempts, and was 4 of 7 from beyond 40 yards with a high of 54.

 

After a 3-0 start against rather easy competition, the Wildcats will be able to test their confidence at Oklahoma on September 22.  We think they will leave Norman with much less confidence.  Still, this team should rebound from that loss and win enough games to return to a bowl.

 

 

Team

Oklahoma Sooners

               
Head Coach

Bob Stoops

               
Colors

Cream and Crimson

               
City

Norman, OK

               
2011 Record              
Conference

6-3

Overall

10-3

               
PiRate Rating

130.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Ratings

117

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

4

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

8-1

Overall

11-1

 

On July 15, when we first began to run the numbers through our computer programs, Oklahoma emerged as the top-ranked team before personnel losses began to chip away at their rating.  When you lose two starting offensive linemen who both were expected to be all-conference performers, it costs you on the scoreboard.  Of course, OU picked up a couple points when they received wideout Justin Brown in the Penn State fire sale.

 

Such is life trying to be a 21st Century ratings compiler for college football.  The Sooners will still contend for the national title, but if their two studs had been able to play, this team would have been number one in the PiRate Ratings and number two in the PiRate Vintage Ratings.

 

Landry Jones should still have a stellar senior season.  Already the school’s number one passer, Jones should add another 4,500 yards onto that record this season.  He needs to cut down on his interceptions, as he threw 15 to the wrong team last year.

 

Jones loses his go-to guy this year (he actually lost him in the final weeks last year and OU dropped two games).  Ryan Broyles is now Matt Stafford’s new best friend in Detroit.  Jones will have to make do without three of his expected key receivers this year.  Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks, and Kameel Jackson were all suspended indefinitely for violations.  The trio combined for 75 receptions last year.  Brown will immediately need to become a star.  At Penn State last year, he caught 35 passes.  Kenny Stills will need to step up as well and top 1,000 receiving yards after gaining nearly 850 last year.  Juco transfer LaColtan Bester will need to contribute immediately as well.  He will back up Brown.

 

OU’s top two running backs return after teaming for more than 1,200 yards last year.  Dominique Whaley and Roy Finch both averaged 5.5 yards per carry.

 

The offensive line is an even bigger question than the receiving corps, because the Sooners did not have the luxury of picking someone from Penn State’s roster.  Expected starting guar Gabe Ikard has made the switch to center to replace Ben Habern.  With guard Tyler Evans out, Coach Bob Stoops had to find two new guards.  Bronson Irwin and Adam Shead are capable blockers, but they are not 1st Team All-Big 12 linemen at this point of their careers.  Tackles Daryl Williams and Lane Johnson would have been the least talented of the projected starters, but now they are second and third best.

 

There is much more stability on the defensive side, but the stop troops are far from perfect.  OU gave up 44 points to Oklahoma State, 45 to Baylor, and 41 to Texas Tech.

 

The strength of this side is at linebacker, where two potential future pros return.  Corey Nelson and Tom Wort teamed for 130 tackles with 13 going for losses.  They added eight passes defended.

 

Two of the Sooners’ top three tacklers were defensive backs, and that is something that cannot happen this year if OU is to contend for the national title.  Cornerback Aaron Colvin and safety Tony Jefferson were responsible for 158 tackles.  Jefferson picked off four passes.  Cornerback Demontre Hurst finished among the conference leaders with 12 passes defended.

 

The Sooners have a rebuilding job to do up front.  They lost two NFL Draft picks (Ronnell Lewis and Frank Alexander), who teamed up for 14 sacks and 32 TFL.  David King and R. J. Washington replace the two stars on the terminals after combining for seven sacks as reserves.

 

Oklahoma only plays two non-conference games before starting league play, and they will win both by large margins (UTEP and FAMU).  They host Notre Dame in the middle of league play.  We tend to believe that they will fall at least one time, and it will come in the final three weeks against either West Virginia, Oklahoma State, or TCU.  Of course, they cannot overlook Texas.  A loss in November may be very difficult to overcome in the now lame duck BCS standings.  This league does not have a championship game, so the league champion needs to go undefeated in November to make it to the National Championship Game.  The odds are now stacked against Oklahoma.

 

 

Team

Oklahoma State Cowboys

               
Head Coach

Mike Gundy

               
Colors

Orange and Black

               
City

Stillwater, OK

               
2011 Record              
Conference

8-1

Overall

12-1

               
PiRate Rating

125.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Ratings

109

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

25

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

7-2

Overall

10-2

 

Coach Mike Gundy has gone from “A Man” who “could take it” at 40 to “The Man” who can dish it at 45.  Last year, Gundy’s Cowboys had the school’s best season since 1945.  That 1945 undefeated team beat Oklahoma 45-0; last year’s team won 44-10.

 

The best pass-catch combo in the nation will be impossible to replace.  Brandon Weeden is now the starting QB for the Cleveland Browns, and Justin Blackmon is now a future star for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

 

Wes Lunt is a true freshman, replacing a quarterback that was 28 years old last year.  The number two man is redshirt freshman J. W. Walsh.  Expect a drop in pass yardage by maybe 150 yards per game.

 

Besides losing Blackmon (122 receptions), the Cowboys must find a replacement for number two receiver Josh Cooper, who made 71 catches last year.  Tracy Moore becomes the new leader after finishing third with 45 receptions.  Josh Stewart should emerge as a dependable slot receiver.  He should at least triple his number of catches this year (19 in 2011).

 

OSU will need to rely more on its running game this year.  Gundy knows a thing or two about the running game at his alma mater.  As QB in Stillwater in the late 1980’s, he handed the ball off to backs named Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas.  We’re not saying that Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith can be mentioned in the same breath as Sanders and Thomas, but we would not be surprised if the two backs combined for 2,000 rushing yards this year.

 

A quality offensive line from last year gave up just 12 sacks in 13 games.  Only guards Lane Taylor and Jonathan Rush return from that starting unit.  New center Evan Epstein is serviceable, and he saw action at Air Force before coming here.  Parker Graham and Daniel Koenig have limited playing experience.  Expect the sack total to at least double this year.

 

In this league, giving up 27 points and 450 yards is cause for celebration.  In fact, in conference games only, OSU finished first in scoring defense.  Eight starters return from last year, but one is no longer listed as a starter on the depth chart.  End Cooper Bassett has moved ahead of Nigel Nicholas.  Bassett’s 17 tackles last year included four for losses. 

 

All three starting linebackers return this season.  Alex Elkins, Caleb Lavey, and Shaun Lewis should improve upon their joint effort of 225 tackles, 3 ½ sacks, and 19 ½ TFL.

 

Free safety Dattawion Lowe led the team with 97 tackles.  He intercepted just one pass.  Cornerbacks Brodrick Brown and Justin Gilbert both picked off five passes and combined to break up 25 more.

 

Quinn Sharp handles both punting and kicking duties, and he is exceptional at both jobs.  He was a 1st team All-American, making 22 of 25 field goals and averaging better than 46 yards per punt.

 

The Schedule is a big ally for the Pokes this year.  They should start 3-0 with a non-league slate of Savannah State, Arizona (which could be tough in Tucson), and UL-Lafayette.  They get an extra week to prepare for Texas when the Longhorns come to at Boone Pickens Stadium, and then they get another week off before travelling to Kansas, hosting Iowa State and hosting TCU.  By this time, it would not be much of a surprise if OSU was 7-0.  We believe another double-digit win season is coming to Stillwater.

 

 

Team

Texas Longhorns

               
Head Coach

Mack Brown

               
Colors

Burnt Orange and White

               
City

Austin, TX

               
2011 Record              
Conference

4-5

Overall

8-5

               
PiRate Rating

121.4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Ratings

113

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

12

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

6-3

Overall

9-3

 

After a rare losing season in 2010, Coach Mack Brown’s Longhorns rebounded with a respectable 8-5season last year.  Of course in Austin, going 5-7 and 8-5 better be followed up with a double-digit win season, or else the coach may be thrown on the grill with a couple of sirloins. 

 

The pieces are in place for Texas to win 10 or 11 games this year, but the league is really strong at the top this season.  We feel the Longhorns will have to win their bowl game to get that tenth win.

 

After scoring around 35-50 points per game during the times of dominance, the Longhorns averaged just 24 points per game in 2010 and 28 last year.  The offense figures to return to an average in the 30’s this year.  Both of last year’s co-regular quarterbacks return this season.  David Ash will begin the year as the starter.  As a true freshman, Ash completed 56.6% of his passes with four touchdowns but eight interceptions in 173 attempts.  Case McCoy (Colt’s little brother) completed 61.4% of his passes with seven touchdowns and four interceptions in 145 attempts.  Ash is the better runner, while McCoy has the better arm.  Both need to cut down on their interceptions.

 

Last year’s three starting wide receivers are back again this year, so the passing game should see improvement.  Mike Davis, Jaxon Shipley, and Marquise Goodwin split the receptions rather democratically, teaming for 122 catches and 1,637 yards.  All three showed the ability to run after the catch.  The ‘Horns have three quality tight ends in D. J. Grant, Greg Daniels, and Barrett Matthews.

 

The one-two running punch of Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron is not the most talented tandem in the league, but they get the job done.  Last year, the teammates combined for 1,205 rushing yards and 10 TDs.

 

With all the turmoil up in Norman, UT now has the top offensive line in the Big 12.  Guards Mason Walters and Trey Hopkins have no peers in the league, and they will team up with center Dominic Espinosa to open nice holes inside.  Tackle Josh Cochran started as a true freshman last year and could sneak onto the second or third All-Big 12 team.

 

There was little slippage on the defensive side the last two seasons.  Yes, the Longhorns gave up 55 points to Oklahoma, and they gave up 48 to Baylor.  They also “held” Oklahoma State to 38, which was more than 10 below their average.

 

This year, Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz has a top-flight defensive line and secondary.  If the linebackers can develop quickly, Texas could return to allowing less than 21 points per game.

 

Almost every college team would take ends Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat as their starters.  Okafor, a 1st Team All-American, Should be a first round pick in the next NFL Draft.  He comes off a season in which he made seven sacks, 14 tackles for loss, and 17 QB hurries.  Jeffcoat led UT with eight sacks and 21 TFL.

 

Jordan Hicks is the only returning starting linebacker.  He was a fairly good pass defender but average run stopper.  Middle linebacker Steve Edmond has the potential to become a star.  As a freshman reserve last year, he made 16 tackles.

 

The secondary will shine once again this season.  Cornerbacks Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom teamed up for six interceptions and 36 passes defended.

 

Coach Brown has signed a kicker and a punter that graduated from other colleges.  It makes this team much stronger to have former Penn State kicker Anthony Fera over a true freshman.  Fera was perfect on his PATs and hit on 14 of 17 field goal tries for the Nittany Lions.  Alex King comes to Austin from Duke, where he averaged better than 42 yards per punt.

 

UT opens with three easy wins (Wyoming, New Mexico, and Ole Miss).  They get a week off to prepare for Oklahoma State, but they have to play that one on the road.  They follow that game with a home tilt against West Virginia and then the Red River rivalry game in Dallas against Oklahoma.  They could be 3-3 or 5-1 after this game, but they will more likely be 4-2.  After these three tough games, the Longhorns should run the table through November and be no worse than 8-3 when they head to Kansas State.  We think Texas improves their won-loss record again this year, but the Longhorns will not win the Big 12 title.

 

 

Team

T C U Horned Frogs

               
Head Coach

Gary Patterson

               
Colors

Purple and White

               
City

Ft. Worth, TX

               
2011 Record              
Conference

7-0

Overall

11-2

               
PiRate Rating

111.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

31

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Ratings

107

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

34

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

4-5

Overall

7-5

 

TCU is in a similar situation that is facing Temple.  The Horned Frogs were members of the old Southwest Conference through the 1995 season.  They were perennial fodder for Texas, Texas A&M, Houston, and before they left for the SEC, Arkansas.  Yearly, they fought with Rice to avoid the basement.  When the Big 12 was created, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor joined the former Big Eight teams to create the membership.  TCU was not invited, and the Horned Frogs joined the WAC for five years.  In that time, the Frogs rode the legs of some fantastic runners, including LaDainian Tomlinson, and became relevant in football for the first time since the mid-1950’s.  In 2001, the moved to CUSA for four years.  Current coach Gary Patterson became the coach and began to make defense the staple in Ft. Worth.  TCU joined the Mountain West in 2005 and dominated the league for the next seven seasons, moving as high as number three in the final polls after going 13-0 and winning the Rose Bowl in 2010-11. 

 

The Horned Frogs were supposed to become Big East members this year, but when a spot opened up in the league they always wanted to be a part of, they jumped at the chance.  Too bad, this comes in 2012 and not two years ago, because this could be the weakest TCU team in eight years.

 

At least, the Horned Frogs return their quarterback from the 2011 MWC champion team.  Casey Pachall was second only to Kellen Moore in the MWC.  He is third, fourth, or fifth best in this league.  In 2011, he completed 66.5% of his passes for more than 2,900 yards and with a TD/Int ratio of 25/7.  Redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin backs him up, and it will be quite a drop if Pachall were to be injured.

 

Pachall has a nice team of receivers with talent and experience.  Josh Boyce led the team with 61 receptions, 998 yards, and nine touchdowns last year.  Skye Dawson gained an even 500 yards on 45 grabs.  Brandon Carter showed some breakaway speed when he caught 23 passes and averaged better than 15 yards per catch. 

 

The running game took a small blow this summer.  TCU would have returned a trio of quality backs that all topped 700 yards rushing last year.  However, one of those backs, Ed Wesley has already graduated, and at the 11th hour, he decided to turn pro.  After placing his name in the supplemental draft, he went unselected and then signed a free-agent contract with Dallas and was released.

 

That leaves Waymon James and Matthew Tucker to possibly both top 1,000 rushing yards this season.  Tucker has the punch to crack through the inside of the line and burst to the outside, running to daylight.  James is more of a speedster that gets to the outside quickly.

 

The big problem on offense is the offensive line, where just two starters return.   Blaize Foltz is a quality guard, and center James Fry is more than adequate.  There are a host of options to fill out the other three spots.  Tayo Fabuluje, a BYU transfer, figures to be one of the new regulars.

 

The great TCU defense will take a step backwards this season.  Joining this league will inflate the numbers without any changes in the talent level.  Unfortunately, there has also been a change in the talent level.  10 talented contributors out of the Horned Frogs’ top 15 defensive players are no longer on campus.  One of those five returning players, end Ross Forrest, has missed practice time nursing an injury.  Forrest joins holdovers Stansly Maponga and tackle David Johnson to make the D-line the only defensive area that is not a concern to Patterson.  Chuck Hunter rounds out the front four.

 

The Horned Frogs have dealt with some adversity in their two-man linebacking crew.  Kenny Cain returns as the Frogs’ leading 2011 tackler, but two of the players expected to spend time in the lineup with Cain have missed practice time with injuries.  When fully healthy, look for Joel Hasley to emerge as the other LB starter.

 

The secondary has to almost start over from scratch.  Cornerback Jason Verrett returns after intercepting just one pass last year.  However, there are four positions that will be manned by inexperienced or mildly experienced players, and that spell trouble in the wide open Big 12.

 

TCU has a major weapon at kicker.  Jaden Oberkrom may have the strongest kicking leg in the Lone Star State since Tony Franklin and Russell Erxleben kicked in the 1970’s.  Oberkrom nailed a 60-yard field goal in high school, and he has hit two 61-yard field goals in scrimmages this year. 

 

TCU’s non-league slate should be worth three wins.  Beginning conference play with Kansas and Iowa State should allow them to start 5-0.  Their first big test comes at Baylor on October 13, and the Frogs can win that game.  A home game against Texas Tech follows, and there is a chance TCU will be 7-0 when they venture to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State.  A trip to West Virginia follows, and the Horned Frogs could be hit with back-to-back losses for the first time since September 2007.  With their confidence reeling, the final three games against Kansas State, Texas, and Oklahoma could give this team their first five-game losing streak in 15 years.

 

 

Team

Texas Tech Red Raiders

               
Head Coach

Tommy Tuberville

               
Colors

Red and Black

               
City

Lubbock, TX

               
2011 Record              
Conference

2-7

Overall

5-7

               
PiRate Rating

111.8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

27

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Ratings

104

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

50

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

3-6

Overall

6-6

 

Tommy Tuberville is quickly finding out how hard it can be to follow a legend.  Tubs replaced Terry Bowden at Auburn, but Bowden was not in the same legend league with Mike Leach.  The Texas Tech fans wanted their team to continue throwing the ball all over the field on any play in any down and distance.  Tuberville came from the old school, where you won games by establishing a strong ground game that kept your defense off the field.  What he inherited in Lubbock was like trying to put Charlie Sheen in charge of a dairy.

 

TTU suffered through its first losing season since 1992, and the fans in Lubbock want an instant turnaround in 2012.  It isn’t going to happen this year, as the Red Raiders at best will win one additional conference game, which should make them bowl eligible.

 

Tuberville welcomes back eight offensive starters, led by quarterback Seth Doege.  Doege quietly passed for more than 4,000 yards with 28 touchdowns, but he underperformed down the stretch, and TTU lost its final four games.  Redshirt freshman Michael Brewer could cut into Doege’s playing time, as he is a prototypical Tuberville quarterback.

 

There are no Michael Crabtree’s on this roster.  Eric Ward is a fine possession receiver. He will catch six to 10 passes per game and pick up at least a half dozen first downs or score a touchdown when TTU is deep in the red zone, but he will not catch a five yard pass and turn it into a 75-yard touchdown.

 

We can feel it in our bones; Tubs wants to get more production out of his running game.  He wants a Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown banging through the line and running for big gains.  Eric Stephens, Kenny Williams, and DeAndre Washington won’t pull a Williams and Brown act and make Tech unstoppable on the ground.  In fact, as of this writing, Stephens and Washington aren’t 100% healthy.  When all three are healthy again, expect Tech to rush for more than they have rushed in many years—maybe even 150 yards per game.

 

The offensive line needs two new starters, but there is some talent here.  Center Deveric Gallington and tackles (former guard) Terry McDaniel and LaDrian Waddle make up three-fifths of a fine blocking corps.  Le’Raven Clark and Alfredo Morales should keep this unit up to its usual standards.

 

Tuberville has suffered through the tribulations of coaching in a wide-open passing league, and he has not figured out how to get his troops to stop enemy movement.  Tech gave up close to 40 points and 500 yards per game last year.  At Auburn, his defense were usually good for about 16 points and 300 yards allowed.

 

Nine starters return on this side of the ball, but two will not begin the season on the first team.  End Dartwan Bush gives way to Jackson Richards.  Richards is quicker off the ball, and Tech needs to find someone that can rush the quarterback.  16 sacks won’t cut it in the Big 12.

 

The back seven starters by the end of the year returned intact this season until a week and a half ago.  Linebackers Terrance Bullitt, Sam Eguavoen, and Daniel Cobb teamed up for 156 tackles and 18 tackles for loss.  Junior college transfer Will Smith will take over for Cobb following his dismissal from school due to an felony arrest.

 

As we preach here many times, your defense cannot be outstanding if your secondary is making all the tackles.  Tech’s top two 2011 tacklers were safeties Cody Davis and D. J. Johnson (176 total).  Davis had no interceptions, and Johnson had two.

 

The Red Raiders have three easy non-conference games and will start 3-0.  They could outscore Northwestern State (La), Texas State, and New Mexico by 100 points or more.  Tech will continue to struggle against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Kansas State, and they will not like facing West Virginia even on homecoming.  It adds up to a probable 6-6 season.

 

Team

West Virginia Mountaineers

               
Head Coach

Dana Holgorsen

               
Colors

Blue and Gold

               
City

Morgantown, WV

               
2011 Record              
Conference

5-2 (Big East)

Overall

10-3

               
PiRate Rating

113.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

25

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Ratings

107

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

35

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

5-4

Overall

8-4

 

The knock against Geno Smith was that he produced fat stats playing the weak Big East defenses.  Smith will get the chance to prove his critics wrong this year.  Of course, if anybody still holds that belief after watching what he did to Clemson in the Orange Bowl, they probably aren’t intelligent enough to waste the time needed to explain.

 

Smith thrived in Coach Dana Holgorsen’s offense.  His passing yardage ballooned up to 4,385 with 31 touchdowns against just seven picks. 

 

It helps that the top three targets from last year return to give Smith an excellent opportunity to top 4,500 yards this season.  Tavon Austin led finished second in the Big East with 101 receptions and third with 1,186 receiving yards.  He was not even the best receiver on his team!  Stedman Bailey led the Big East with 1,279 yards on 72 receptions, scoring 12 times.  It’s hard to believe that number three receiver Ivan McCartney (49-585) might lose his spot in the starting lineup to a true freshman, but it appears that Jordan Thompson might be that freshman.  If this is the case, this receiving corps might be impossible to stop.  It could become this year’s Oklahoma State (where Holgorsen was offensive coordinator until last year).

 

A knee injury to starting running back Dustin Garrison has thrust Shawne Alston into the starting lineup.  Alston is more of a three yards and cloud of dust bulldozer, whereas Garrison was a quick as lightning mighty mite. 

 

The offensive line returns four players that have been full-time starters at one point in their career.  The three inside players (center Joe Madsen and guards Jeff Braun and Josh Jenkins) could be the top three inside trio in the league.

 

Holgorsen’s wide open approach forced the Mountaineer defenders to defend more plays and stay on the field for more minutes per game, because the offense scored quickly and gave the ball back to the other team.  If WVU can replicate the same defensive numbers of last year, it will be a successful Big 12 debut.

 

The defense gets more talented the farther back you go.  In the secondary, six of the top eight players return, but the two lost may have been the best two.  Still, this group has some fine players.  Darwin Cook made 85 tackles from his safety position, and he picked off a couple of passes.  Corners Pat Miller and Brodrick Jenkins teamed for 15 defended passes. 

 

WVU will switch from a 3-3-5 to a 3-4 alignment this year, but there will be little change in the personnel.  Terrence Garvin simple becomes a full-time linebacker rather than a hybrid linebacker/safety.  Garvin contributed to the defensive effort with 72 tackles, 3 ½ sacks, two interceptions, and five passes defended.  Jewone Snow returns at the buck linebacker position, but he needs to do better than 1 ½ sacks if he is to remain a pass rusher.

 

Up front, end Will Clarke returns after posting five tackles for loss.  Nose tackle Jorge Wright might need to add some meat to his bones to avoid getting pushed back by all the quality centers and guards in this league. 

 

WVU should be an exciting team to watch in their first year in the Big 12.  They perfectly fit the mold of a Big 12 team even though they are the farthest outpost in the league.  Look for the Mountaineers to win eight or maybe nine regular season games.

 

Coming Tuesday evening, August 28: A look at the Southeastern Conference, where the Western Division is more like the ninth division of the NFL.  Will LSU and Alabama do it again?  How will Arkansas be affected by a coaching change?  Who is going to win a wide open SEC East race?  How will the two new members affect the way the game is played in the perennial top conference?

 

Note: Our initial PiRate Ratings and PiRate Vintage Ratings will be posted Wednesday, August 29.  We will take our initial stab at selecting some pointspread winners Thursday morning.  Our NFL ratings will be released Tuesday, September 4.  Our first Presidential election ratings will be released following the end of the second convention in Charlotte.

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