2013 NCAA Football Preview: Big 12 Conference

August 26, 2013

I didn’t expect to finish two articles today, but this is a nice surprise.

Here is the Big 12 Conference preview.


The Big 12 might be the most interesting conference in the country this season. There isn’t really any one team that is head and shoulders above the rest, but there are several teams with the talent and coaching to win this league. The best teams from last season lost some key pieces, while the teams that were “on the rise” in 2012 retained most of their best players. Thus, there is now a cluster of teams at the top.

The paragraph above might scare some of you that only want to watch conferences where there is a possibility that the national champion could emerge from it. Don’t be fooled by the fact that there are a lot of teams capable of winning this league; that doesn’t mean that everyone will beat up on each other. It is very possible that a team from the Big 12 could run the table in 2013. Texas, Oklahoma State, TCU and even Oklahoma have the talent to do so with some good luck this season.

If I had to take a guess (and since I’m writing this preview, I think I do), I’d say that the quality of this league probably falls somewhere in between the Pac-12 and ACC. This is pretty typical for the conference if recent history is any indication, so those who enjoyed Big 12 football in the past will probably continue to enjoy it this season. There will still be lots of scoring, and the addition of young minds such as Texas Tech’s new head man Kliff Kingsbury should add even more intensity to a conference that was not lacking it from its coaches before.

Team(s) With the Best Shot at a National Championship Bid


Some say that Mack Brown should still be feeling the heat after a couple of mediocre seasons, but he did well enough with a young squad in 2012 to suggest the Longhorns should be back to the team that was once a feared Big 12 competitor under Brown. Now, the pressure is on, but not from outside critics. Brown and the Longhorns believe that they are good enough to compete for not only a Big 12 crown, but a national title bid. No team in the conference returns more starters than the Longhorns, and last year’s Alamo Bowl proved that David Ash can become a reliable starter in Austin.

One area of concern for Texas is the defense, which was particularly disastrous at times last season. If the Longhorns really want to be treated like a serious title contender, they are going to need to give up less yardage on the ground. Texas was eighth in the conference in run defense last year, and there are still several teams in the Big 12 with good enough backs to expose that weakness. If the Longhorns can find a way to plug the holes in the defense, they’re arguably the most talented team in the league.

The schedule is fairly forgiving, with a trip to TCU and the annual Red River Rivalry game in Dallas with Oklahoma being the toughest games away from Austin. If Texas looks strong against BYU, then they’ll be pegged as a team that can play well on the road as winning in Provo isn’t easy for any team. Mack Brown shouldn’t worry about his job; this team will at least meet expectations, and could succeed them in 2013.

Oklahoma State

Even more so than Texas, Oklahoma State makes this list thanks to a very favorable schedule. The Cowboys have to face one difficult opponent on the road, and that is the Longhorns. Trips to Iowa State and Texas Tech will only be made tough if Mike Gundy’s team isn’t focused, because the Cowboys are much better than both of those teams.

The biggest question for Oklahoma State is whether a team with no clear favorite to win the quarterback job outright can truly compete for a national title. Both J.W. Walsh and Clint Shelf are going to see time in the opener at Mississippi State, and the Bulldogs aren’t the kind of team you’d normally see an opponent testing two different quarterbacks against. However, both Walsh and Shelf produced last season, with Walsh contributing as both a passer and rusher and Shelf simply lighting up the scoreboard in his five starts at the end of the year.

With enough talent returning on both sides of the ball and apparently two quarterbacks with starter potential, anything short of a Big 12 title would be a disappointment in the minds of Cowboys fans. I’ll bite on that, and go a step further and say that if Oklahoma State isn’t still in the title hunt by the time the Texas game rolls around on November 16th, the season can already be labeled as a disappointment.

Watch Out! (Team That Could Surprise)


Some are calling for a rare down year for the Sooners, but there is a reason Bob Stoops is regarded as one of the best regular season coaches in the country in my book. Despite losing a lot of pieces on defense, Oklahoma can still beat any team in the Big 12 this year. Many of the pieces lost on the defensive end were on the line, which was the weakest part of the defense last year. In fact, the Sooners were downright awful at stopping the run, giving up an average of 192.2 yards per game on the ground and ranking next to last in the conference in that category.

The run defense will at the very least be as good as it was last year, and it will probably end up being better. On the offensive end, Stoops has announced that he will be going with redshirt freshman Trevor Knight over junior Blake Bell at quarterback. While this is a shock to some, let’s not forget that Stoops made a similar call back in 2007 when he decided to ride with a redshirt freshman named Sam Bradford…and proceeded to make it to the Fiesta Bowl. This is definitely not out of the realm of possibilities at a place like Oklahoma, so the rest of the Big 12 better not sleep on this team.

Hi, My Name Is… (Player To Watch)

Devonte Fields (So.), TCU defensive end

IF TCU ends up competing for the Big 12 title this season, Devonte Fields will most likely have played a large part in the success of the Horned Frogs. The sophomore is the reigning conference Defensive Player of the Year, which is amazing considering that two years ago the young man was still in high school. This year he will try to best his mark of 10 sacks from 2012, which admittedly was made easier thanks to the fact that opposing teams had to deal with Stansly Maponga as well as Fields coming after the quarterback.

Without Maponga, Fields will without a doubt be the main focus of every opposing offensive line. But thanks to a stacked defensive secondary, Fields won’t always have to take down the quarterback to have made an impact. Just pressuring the quarterback and making him throw the ball when he doesn’t want to will help immensely for a defense which racked up 21 interceptions last season.

Out-Of-Conference Game To Watch

Oklahoma vs. Notre Dame (September 28th)

By this time, we’ll know whether Coach Stoops’ decision to name a redshirt freshman starting quarterback was a good idea (as well as whether he stuck with his decision). If Stoops was right and Trevor Knight is the real deal, then Notre Dame will be facing a solid Oklahoma team for the second straight season. It will likely be another battle between Oklahoma’s potent passing attack against Notre Dame’s vaunted defense.

With eight starters returning on defense, Notre Dame will probably be able to contain Oklahoma’s offense in a way most Big 12 teams cannot. However, without Everett Golson at quarterback and an unproven set of guys at running back, the Fighting Irish could have a tough time getting things going on offense as well. Thus, this game may turn into a defensive stalemate, with the best team being the one that can perform on third down (which, if you’re a true football junkie, makes perfect sense). This should be a very hard fought game.

In-Conference Game To Watch

Oklahoma State vs. Texas (November 16th)

I believe this game has a very good chance of deciding the Big 12 champion in 2013. Both teams could be undefeated heading into this game, which would just increase the intensity even more. Although Oklahoma State may have a better shot at coming into this game undefeated, the Longhorns may actually be the team that benefits the most from this matchup.

If the Longhorns defense continues to improve throughout the year, there is a good chance that they will be one of the most stifling in the conference. Depending on how Walsh and Chelf perform, there is a good chance that one of the two Cowboys quarterbacks will assume the starters role. If it’s Walsh, Texas might struggle against the potential run threat. If it’s Chelf, the Longhorns just might have the answer to his air-it-out approach. If this is a barnburner, Oklahoma State will win. If it’s a average scoring affair, give me Texas.

Conference Predictions

1. Texas (11-1, [8-1])

2. Oklahoma State (11-1, [8-1])

3. TCU (9-3, [7-2])

4. Oklahoma (9-3, [6-3])

5. Baylor (8-4, [5-4])

6. Kansas State (7-5, [4-5])

7. West Virginia (6-6, [3-6])

8. Texas Tech (6-6, [3-6])

9. Iowa State (4-8, [1-8])

10. Kansas (2-10, [0-9])

Questions from the Readers

This is a section dedicated to the readers, where I will answer the questions you have sent me through Facebook, Twitter (@KBecks_ATC) or email (kbecks@aroundthecorn.com). Unfortunately, there were no questions sent regarding the Big 12 or its teams. Feel free to ask multiple questions, as I will answer any appropriate question that is submitted in time. Thanks guys.

– K. Becks

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