Iowa State Cyclones

NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 3:  Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Oklahoma Sooners looks to throw against the West Virginia Mountaineers October 3, 2015 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated West Virginia 44-24.(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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CFT Previews: the Big 12

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The 2015 season was a successful one for the Big 12. The league got into the College Football Playoff for the first time, overcoming the bitter denial of Selection Sunday 2014, but is still looking for its first title game appearance since 2009 and its first national championship since 2005.

Will this be the year it happens? Most likely, no. But will it be entertaining? You betcha.

A quick rundown of the conference as it enters the season.

  1. Oklahoma (11-2 overall, 8-1 Big 12 in 2015): The Sooners are your undisputed preseason favorites. The 2015 champs have college football’s most fearsome backfield and enough talent returning on defense to get the job done. Problem is, the poll position is exactly where this program doesn’t want to be. The last four times OU started the season in the top four nationally? A No. 15 finish, a No. 16 finish, and two finishes outside the rankings.
  2. TCU (11-2, 7-2 Big 12): A former Aggie (starting quarterback Kenny Hill) and a former Red Raider (offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie) will team up to try to lead TCU to its first undisputed Big 12 championship and Playoff appearance. Years where Gary Patterson has to re-tool are years where he’s most dangerous.
  3. Texas (5-7, 4-5 Big 12): Who would have ever thought it possible Texas could beat Oklahoma and Baylor — both away from Austin — and yet miss a bowl game? Such is life when you’re gutting a program to its studs and rebuilding all over. That’s all over now. Texas is no longer swimming upstream offensively with the hire of Sterlin Gilbert; it’s time to out-talent the teams below them and steal a game or two against those above them.
  4. Oklahoma State (10-3, 7-2 Big 12): Behind quarterback Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State has enough talent to be competitive in any Power 5 league. However, do they have enough, particularly up front, to actually win any of them? Another 10-win season in which they finish near the top of the table may be the best Mike Gundy and company can shoot for.
  5. Texas Tech (7-6, 4-5 Big 12): Much like Oklahoma State above them, Kliff Kingsbury has figured his formula out in Lubbock. Now it’s about maximizing it as much as realistically possible — particularly while Patrick Mahomes still wears black and red.
  6. West Virginia (8-5, 4-5 Big 12): It’s a big season for Dana Holgorsen. His teams have played explosive offense at times. They’ve also played solid defense at times. Problem is, they’ve never done both at the same time. With a new AD in town, it’s now or never for the Mad Scientist.
  7. Baylor (10-3, 6-3 Big 12): Look up what happened to 2011 Ohio State and 2012 Arkansas before you throw your peanuts at the screen. Baylor won’t fall all the way to those depths — their sheer offensive talent plus a repugnant non-conference schedule virtually guarantees a 5-1 start at worst. But take a look at who the Bears play after their Oct. 22 bye: at an improving Texas team, back-to-back games with TCU and Oklahoma, a feisty, physical K-State team, a shootout against Texas Tech, then a trip to frigid Morgantown. For a team starting the season with 72 scholarship players and a smoldering crater in their head coach’s office, this has the makings of a team that falls down a cliff over the second half of the season.
  8. Kansas State (6-7, 3-6 Big 12): I’ll be honest here. All of these predictions are educated guesswork for us media types, but K-State’s preseason ranking is actual guesswork. I wouldn’t be surprised if this team won five games, and I would be even less surprised if they won 10.
  9. Iowa State (3-9, 2-7 Big 12): Matt Campbell is in stage one of a rebuild, but expect the Cyclones to be a tougher out than this ranking indicates. Iowa State won’t start in its default No. 9 slot for much longer.
  10. Kansas (0-12, 0-9 Big 12): David Beaty should be Big 12 Coach of the Year if the Jayhawks win two games, and national coach of the year if they win three.

Iowa State loses most, and only, experienced offensive lineman to leg injury

STILLWATER, OK - OCTOBER 04:   Iowa State Cyclones mascot Cy the Cardinal watches the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys October 4, 2014 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Cowboys defeated the Cyclones 37-20. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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First-year Iowa State coach Matt Campbell will be without his most, and only, experienced offensive lineman after junior tackle Jake Campos suffered a leg injury that will keep him out indefinitely. The Ames Tribune reported Campos has a broken leg and will miss the 2016 season.

Campos was a former four-star recruit who Rivals rated as the No. 1 player in Iowa in the prep class of 2013, and accounted for 23 of the 24 returning starts on the Cyclones’ offensive line.

Iowa State did bring in graduate transfer center Brian Bobek, who started five games for Minnesota last year before suffering a season-ending injury.

The Cyclones return 1,339-yard sophomore running back Mike Warren, though he may have a tough time replicating those numbers without much help up front.

Ex-UGA QB Jacob Park wins Iowa State backup job by injury default

Jacob Park
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There was a fairly decent chance that Jacob Park would’ve landed on the No. 2 quarterback spot on Iowa State’s depth chart anyway.  Thanks to an injury, he’s wrapped that job up.

Head coach Matt Campbell confirmed this past week that Zeb Noland sustained an unspecified knee injury that will sideline him for the entire 2016 season.  Noland suffered the injury in a non-contact drill during a Thursday practice, leading to speculation that the true freshman tore an ACL.

Noland and Park had been battling to be the backup to starter Joel Lanning.

We look forward to having him back,” Campbell said. “He should be full strength by the time we start spring practice.

“It’s just one of those things that’s part of football and fortunately we’ve got depth at that position. Zeb was really playing well for us and doing some great things, but it’ll give him a chance to kind of sit back now and really take some time to study. The silver lining in all of this is he’ll come back, he’ll be 110 percent when he comes back and it’ll be nothing that has longterm effects on Zeb and his performance going forward, so that’s huge for us.”

Noland was a three-star 2016 signee.  He enrolled early at ISU and participated in spring practice.

Park, meanwhile, is a transfer from Georgia by way of the junior college ranks who will man the backup job after a season away from the sport.  Park did not play football in 2015, instead focusing on academics at Trident Technical College in Charleston, SC.

In mid-June of 2015, it was confirmed that Park would be transferring from Georgia.  Two weeks later, he visited Alabama, although nothing ever came of that interest.  247Sports also reports that park had conversations with Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech before opting for ISU.

A four-star member of UGA’s 2014 recruiting class, Park was rated as the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the country; the No. 4 player at any position in the state of South Carolina; and the No. 229 player overall according to Rivals.com.  Park worked mainly with the scout team during his only season with the Bulldogs.

With Noland sidelined, the No. 3 spot will likely fall to Kyle Kempt.  Kempt began his collegiate career at Oregon State before going the JUCO route.

Arkansas State, Air Force, Northern Illinois, San Diego State on Big 12’s expansion list, too

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Friday it was reported that Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby will be conducting videoconferences with the 17 schools that have contacted the conference expressing interest in becoming a member of the league.  Of those 17, 14 schools were known.

Now we know the other three schools, as well as an 18th interested in membership.

As we had previously noted, San Diego State was believed to be one of the original 17 mentioned by ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy.  McMurphy confirmed SDSU is one of the now-18 that’ll state their case to the league, while also noting that the Sun Belt’s Arkansas State, Mountain West’s Air Force and MAC’s Northern Illinois will do so as well.

So, for those keeping score at home, below is a conference-by-conference breakdown of potential additions to the Big 12.

AMERICAN
Cincinnati
East Carolina
Houston
Memphis
SMU
Temple
Tulane
UCF
UConn
USF

INDEPENDENT
BYU

MAC
Northern Illinois

MOUNTAIN WEST
Air Force
Boise State
Colorado State
New Mexico
San Diego State

SUN BELT
Arkansas State

While 18 schools will be afforded the opportunity to stump for their inclusion, it’s believed that some combination of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, UCF and UConn will ultimately be part of any expansion.  While it remains to be seen whether the Big 12 expands by two or four, McMurphy also reported that it’s “less and less likely” that current 10-team conference will expand by four.

It has previously been reported that the Big 12 would like to settle the expansion issue before the start of the upcoming season, although that appears, like adding four schools, less and less likely.  Instead, a decision might not be made until a board of directors meeting scheduled for October.

Report: Big 12 will talk to 17 schools, expanding by two more likely than four

WVU vs Marshall
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While no announcement is imminent, it appears there’s some additional clarity on the Big 12 expansion front.

First and foremost, ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy is reporting, it’s becoming what sources described as “less and less likely” that the Big 12 will expand to 14 from its current 10-school membership.  Instead, the conference likely either stand pat or add just two teams.  The latter move would allow the conference to split into two six-team divisions.

As for potential expansion candidates, McMurphy reports that commissioner Bob Bowlsby will conduct videoconferences with the 17 schools that have contacted the conference expressing interest in becoming a member of the league.  Those 17 schools include oft-mentioned suspects such as Boise State, Cincinnati, BYU, Cincinnati, Colorado State, Houston, Memphis, Tulane, UCF, UConn and USF.  Additionally, East Carolina, New Mexico, SMU and Temple are part of the large group looking for inclusion.

Only 14 of the 17 schools that will be a part of the videoconferences were listed by McMurphy.  It’s believed San Diego State is another of the 17.  Air Force, Fresno State and Hawaii have also been previously mentioned as possibilities.

It’s believed that some combination of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, UCF and UConn will ultimately be part of any expansion.  The first one mentioned when it comes to presumptive front-runners will, however, have to overcome some negative attention some of its policies have received as of late.

It has previously been reported that the Big 12 would like to settle the expansion issue before the start of the upcoming season, although that appears, like adding four schools, less and less likely.  Instead, a decision might not be made until a board of directors meeting scheduled for October.