CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Big 12 Predictions

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As the 2014 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the Big 12 Conference.

And while we’re at it, check out our CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository for our team’s looks at the upcoming season.

BIG 12

1. Oklahoma (Last year: 11-2; beat Alabama in Sugar Bowl)
Will the real Oklahoma Sooners please stand up? Questions surround one of the most talented teams in college football. Will Trevor Knight be the quarterback that shredded Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, or will he revert to the player that couldn’t initially beat out Blake Bell (who converted to tight end) to become the team’s starting quarterback? Will wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham receive a waiver from the NCAA to play this season? How will the Sooners overcome the losses of their top tackler, Frank Shannon, and five-star freshman Joe Mixon? And, historically, the Sooners have a penchant to disappoint after being named a preseason Top 5 team. The program will enter this season ranked fourth overall in the AP Poll and third in USA TODAY’s Coaches Poll. Despite these questions, the Sooners are still the favorites to win the Big 12. Oklahoma returns eight starters to a defensive unit that was the Big 12’s best last season. The group is led by outside linebacker Eric Striker, who is one of the most feared defenders in the country. Knight is the key on offense, but the quarterback will benefit from an experienced and talented offensive line. Both of the team’s starting offensive tackles as well as left guard Adam Shead return for another season. The Sooners’ ability to win up front on both sides of the ball will give them a decided advantage each week. Oklahoma will need it, because the team may have to go undefeated to be a part of the inaugural College Football Playoff.

2. Baylor (Last year: 11-2; lost to UCF in Fiesta Bowl) 
Despite Oklahoma’s status as the favorite to claim a Big 12 crown, it’s a wide-open race and the Bears have just as much chance to win a conference title. Whereas the Sooners will rely heavily on a strong defense and an improving offense, the Bears will continue to score points in bunches and hope they can stop opponents at least once or twice per game. The biggest advantage the Bears have among their conference rivals is the play of quarterback Bryce Petty. Petty threw for 4,200 yards, 32 touchdowns and only three interceptions during his first full season as a starter. Petty should be even better during his second season as he continues to grow in all phases of the game. The Bears also lay claim to the most talented group of skill position players in the conference. Five of the team’s top six receivers from last year return, while running Shock Linwood will get an opportunity to show how explosive he is as the team’s new starting running back. The Bears will score points in bunches. It will fall on the defense to makes sure they don’t surrender more points than the team’s offense can score. College football is more offensive driven than its ever been, but we’ll give Oklahoma a very slight edge over Baylor due to the old adage, “Defense wins championships.”

3. Texas (Last year: 8-5; lost to Oregon in Alamo Bowl)
Everything Texas does this season will be under a microscope. New head coach Charlie Strong will be scrutinized at every turn. How the team responds to Strong, both on and off the field, will be compared to the program’s former coach, Mack Brown. Strong has already made a statement during the offseason by suspending or dismissing numerous players. Everyone will be anxious to see whether or not this new-found discipline in the locker room will eventually translate to the field. In four seasons with the Louisville Cardinals, Strong was 37-15 overall with an impressive Sugar Bowl victory over the Florida Gators in 2012. What Strong inherits in Texas is a far more talented roster than he ever had in Louisville, and his Cardinals finished No. 1 overall in total defense last season. Strong, a former defensive coordinator, should be giddy with the talent he now has on the defensive side of the football. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown and defensive end Cedric Reed are as good of an inside-outside defensive line tandem as can be found in college football. On offense, meanwhile, the team will will rely on quarterback David Ash again. Believe it or not, Ash is the most experienced quarterback in the Big 12. But this will be a run-first team with the talented Malcolm Brown and the recovering Jonathan Gray running behind a big and athletic offensive line. Texas has enough to compete for a Big 12 championship if it finally puts everything together on both sides of the football.

4. Texas Tech (Last year: 8-5; beat Arizona State in Holiday Bowl)
The Red Raiders did their best disappearing act a year ago. Kliff Kingsbury‘s squad started 7-0 and was ranked as high as 10th overall before the team faded down the stretch. Texas Tech lost five straight to end the team’s regular season but bounced back with a 37-23 victory against the Arizona State Sun Devils in the Holiday Bowl. The losing streak showed the Red Raiders weren’t ready to play against the big boys of the Big 12. However, the win in the bowl game showed the team’s resiliency and growth during the month the team had to regroup and grow with the extra practices. And the Red Raiders will continue to build their program under Kingsbury. The biggest growth should come on the offensive side of the ball. Texas Tech already had the best passing offense in the conference last year, and it should be even better in 2014. Davis Webb enters his first full season as starter. Webb threw for over 400 yards in four games and finished with 20-to-9 touchdown-interception ratio. Both of his offensive tackles and center return along the offensive line. And each of the wide receivers expected to start received plenty of playing time last season. The defense is another matter altogether, but this is a team built to win games with its passing game and offensive explosiveness. Kingsbury has made his mark in a very short time as a head coach, and his team should be expected to impress during his second season with the program.

5. Kansas State (Last year: 8-5; beat Michigan in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl)
Everyone will know whether or not the Wildcats are for real this season by Sept. 18. On that day, Kansas State will host the Auburn Tigers. The clash of styles will make for an highly intriguing game. The reason this game is so important for the Wildcats is because the teams they lost to last season either ran the ball very well or operated with tempo on offense. The Tigers do both, and they do both very well. The game is Manhattan, and Kansas State will be prepared very well by the ageless Bill Snyder. This is a program that is built around playing fundamental football and winning close games. Three top offensive linemen may have left the program after last season, but the team should still be very good up front with B.J. Finney at center and Cody Whitehair at left guard. They’ll be blocking for a quarterback, Jake Waters, who will be going into his second season as the team’s starter. And Tyler Lockett is one of the most dynamic wide receivers and return men in the nation. This is a team that could very well finish much higher or lower in the standings. It’s all dependent on whether or not the ball bounces in their favor, because they don’t have a player the caliber of Collin Klein to carry the team to the top of the conference.

6. TCU (Last year: 4-8)
It’s been a rough transition to the Big 12 for the Horned Frogs. The team is 11-14 since making the move. The program lost a combined 13 games the previous six seasons. However, this year’s squad is regarded as the most talented since it entered the league. Last season, the Horned Frogs’ defense played at a high level and finished second in the league. The biggest story line of the offseason, though, was the potential return and eventual dismissal of Devonte Fields. The defensive end was voted the Big 12’s preseason Defensive of the Year even after missing nine games last season due to injury. Fields, who was named the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2012, was a game-changing talent and his presence on the field will be missed greatly. The team also lost one of the best cornerbacks in school history when Jason Verrett graduated and went on to become a first-round selection in May’s NFL draft. Despite these losses, this unit is still talented, particularly at linebacker. Both Jonathan Anderson and Paul Dawson return. And head coach Gary Patterson always has that side of the football prepared to play at a high level. It’s on the offensive side of the football the Horned Frogs are expected to experience the most growth. While a starter has yet to be named at quarterback, Trevone Boykin should be more comfortable behind center after starting nine games last year and Matt Joeckel is a talented transfer from Texas A&M. The team can always lean heavily on its skill positions. Running backs Aaron Green and B.J. Catalon as well as the team’s top receiver, Josh Doctson, are back. TCU may not return to the level of winning it experienced prior to becoming a member of the Big 12, but the team should be much better than 4-8 during the upcoming season.

7. Oklahoma State (Last year: 10-3; lost to Missouri in Cotton Bowl)
It’s difficult to place the Cowboys this low in the standings. After all, the program has won at least 10 games three of the last four years. It’s been seven years since Oklahoma finished this low in the Big 12 standings. The biggest concern for this team is experience. Both sides of the ball will be overhauled after losing a total of 14 starters. It isn’t just how many starters the Cowboys lost, but who they lost. Justin Gilbert was an elite cornerback and returner. Defensive tackle Calvin Barnett could be dominant at times. The team’s top three tacklers from last season are gone. Three of the team’s top four receivers graduated. And the offensive line will have four new starters, while senior Daniel Koenig will transition from right to left tackle. Head coach Mike Gundy will still find ways to manufacture points due to his dynamic offensive scheme, but this is simply too much talent for a team to lose and still hope to be legitimate contenders.

8. Iowa State (Last year: 3-9)
Three years ago, Iowas State head coach Paul Rhoads was considered one of the top coaching candidates in college football. The Cyclones rewarded him with a 10-year contract worth $20 million. The Cyclones are 9-16 since then, and the team is coming off a 3-9 season. Two of those wins came at the end end of the season when quarterback Sam Richardson wasn’t in the starting lineup. Yet, Richardson won this summer’s quarterback competition. The rest of last year’s starting offense remains virtually intact. Plus, Richardson will now have a legitimate No. 1 target at wide receiver in freshman Allen Lazard. Despite the positives on the offensive side of the ball, the Cyclones’ defense was the worst in the Big 12 last season. The program simply doesn’t have the athletes on that side of the ball to compete against the explosive offenses they face this season.

9. West Virginia (Last year: 4-8)
It’s a make-or-break season for West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen. The team has gotten progressively worse each season Holgorsen has been at the helm of the program and tensions are building in Morgantown. Holgorsen’s entire program is built around his offense. An offense which disappointed in 2013 and finished 62nd overall in yardage per game. That level of production simply isn’t good enough when the defense continues to be an issue for the Mountaineers. The defensive coordinator position has been a revolving door under Holgorsen’s supervision. Former Penn State coordinator Tom Bradley was hired as a senior associate head coach during the offseason. Bradley’s inclusion to the staff is a last-ditch attempt to get a woeful defense on track. If it doesn’t and Holgorsen can’t revive his offense — and it doesn’t seem likely — there will be major changes within the program.

10. Kansas (Last year: 3-9)
At this point, what is there to say about Charlie Weis‘ tenure at Kansas? It’s a failed experiment. Yes, the team improved by two wins during Weis’ second season and finally captured a conference victory for the first time in three years. But Weis’ plan to inject talent into the roster with a plethora of junior college additions and transfers didn’t do nearly enough to close the gap with the rest of the teams in the Big 12. All is not bleak, though. The Jayhawks return 17 starters. The team has officially given the reins to quarterback Montell Cozart, who decided to stay in-state to be the future of Jayhawks football. His growth at the position will play a major part in Kansas’ improvement this season. The team also has a solid edge-rushing duo in junior Ben Goodman and senior Michael Reynolds. Overall, It’s difficult to win at this basketball school. And it’s even more difficult to establish a long-term winning culture. After a quick peak at the schedule, it’s hard to project this team winning more than three or four games even in a best-case scenario.

Stanford transfer QB KJ Costello to visit Washington

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KJ Costello may have left the Stanford football program, but he could still end up playing in the Pac-12.  Maybe.

In mid-December, it was confirmed that Costello had entered his name into the NCAA transfer database, the first step in a potential move from the Stanford football team.  Tuesday, Mike Vorel of the Seattle Times has reported that the quarterback will visit Washington today.

This would be the first known visit made by Costello.

Regardless of where he ultimately lands, Costello would be leaving Stanford football as a graduate transfer.  That would allow him to play immediately at another FBS school in 2020.  The upcoming season will be his final year of eligibility.

The 6-5, 222-pound Costello started all 13 games for the Cardinal in 2018 after starting seven the year before. As a redshirt sophomore during that 2018 season, Costello was named second-team All-Pac-12.

This past season was an entirely different story. In very large part because of multiple injuries (thumb, head), Costello played in just five games in 2019.  He last made an appearance Nov. 9, which turned out to likely be his last in a Stanford football uniform.

For his career thus far, Costello has completed 494 of his 790 passes (62.5 completion percentage) for 6,141 yards, 49 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.  He’s added another three touchdowns on the ground, although all of those came as a redshirt freshman in 2017.

This season, Costello threw for 1,028 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions as he completed just under 61 percent of his 166 pass attempts.

A four-star member of Stanford’s 2016 recruiting class, Costello was rated as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the country; the No. 7 player at any position in the state of California; and the No. 47 recruit overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  Only one signee in the Cardinal’s class that year, tight end Kaden Smith, was rated higher than Costello.

For those wondering: Yes, Stanford plays Washington in 2020, with the Huskies hosting the Cardinal Nov. 7.

RB Jaylin Bradley set to leave Nebraska via transfer portal

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For the fourth time in roughly a week, a Nebraska football player has left Scott Frost‘s program.

Multiple media outlets reported Tuesday morning Jaylin Bradley is set to leave the Cornhuskers.  A short time ago, a Nebraska football official confirmed that the redshirt sophomore running back is listed in the NCAA transfer database.

At this point, it’s unclear if Bradley will be leaving as a graduate transfer.  If Bradley has to sit out the 2020 season, he would then have one season of eligibility to use in 2021.

A three-star member of Nebraska’s 2017 recruiting class, Bradley was rated as the No. 3 player in the state of Nebraska regardless of position.  Showing promise as a true freshman, Bradley ran for 93 yards on 24 carries as well as catching four passes for another 38 yards in seven appearances.  He also returned six kicks for 124 yards.

The next two seasons, however, Bradley played in just one game.  He carried the ball twice for eight yards in his lone 2019 appearance.

In addition to Bradley, cornerback Tony Butler announced on Twitter late last week that he has entered the transfer database.  On top of that, linebacker Pernell Jefferson, a three-star 2016 signee, entered the portal last Wednesday.  Days before that, offensive lineman John Raridon decided to retire from football to pursue a career in architecture.

According to the Lincoln Journal-Star, all of the departures leave Nebraska football with 84 players on scholarship.  That’s one under the NCAA-mandated limit of 85 scholarship players.

In interview, Deion Sanders says he’ll be a head coach in college football ‘next year’

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If seeing Deion Sanders roaming the sidelines as a college football head coach is on your bucket list, the man himself says it’ll happen.  Soon.

Twitter in general and the college football world specifically was set ablaze in early November as a report emerged that Deion Sanders was a candidate for the Florida State head-coaching vacancy.  Subsequent reports stated that Sanders was not a candidate for the job at his alma mater, with the Hall of Famer himself stating that he had “not spoken to anyone from Florida State regarding” the job that ultimately went to Mike Norvell.

At the time, though, Sanders made it perfectly clear that coaching at the collegiate level is in his future.

“But let me assure you, I am 100 percent — 100 percent — desiring to coach at the next level. And I will.”

In that vein, Sanders appeared on the Dan Patrick Show earlier Tuesday.  During the interview, Sanders very emphatically stated that he will be a college football head coach “next year.” He also claimed that he had a second interview for a job this cycle with an unnamed school that wasn’t FSU.

Last January, it was reported that there was mutual interest between Sanders and the man Norvell replaced, Willie Taggart, in the former joining the latter’s first FSU staff as defensive backs coach, although that never came to fruition.

Sanders, whose NFL career ended in 2005, has never coached at the collegiate level.  He started his own ill-fated charter school in 2012 and coached the football team there — “[t]he school was plagued by ethical, legal, and financial issues, and closed on January 30, 2015, due to financial insolvency” — while he served as the offensive coordinator at a private school in Texas while his sons, now at the collegiate level, were players there.

Greg Schiano completes Rutgers coaching staff by hiring Adam Scheier as special teams coordinator

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Nearly two months after returning as the Rutgers football head coach, Greg Schiano has put the finishing touches on his second first staff.

Tuesday, the Scarlet Knights announced that Adam Scheier has been hired as Schiano’s special teams coordinator. Scheier has spent the past two decades working with special teams in various capacities.

“Adam is an accomplished, veteran special teams coach who will be a great asset to our coaching staff,” the Rutgers football head coach said in a statement. “In our time working together, I saw how passionate Adam is about teaching and mentoring young men. We look forward to welcoming Adam, his wife Erica and their children to our Rutgers family.”

Scheier has spent time as a special teams coordinator with three different FBS programs:

  • Texas Tech (2018)
  • Wake Forest (2014-16)
  • Bowling Green (2009-13)

Last season, Scheier served as a special teams consultant at Mississippi State.  In 2017, Scheier worked at Ohio State as a special teams quality control coach.

In Scheier’s lone season at OSU, Schiano was in the second of his three seasons as the Buckeyes’ defensive coordinator.

“I am fired up to be back home,” the Bronx native stated. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for coach Schiano and I look forward to working with him again. I appreciate the opportunity he has given me to coach at Rutgers in the great state of New Jersey.”

With this hiring, Schiano has now filled all 10 positions on his 10-man on-field coaching staff.  The others whose hirings have already been announced are:

  • Sean Gleeson — offensive coordinator (HERE)
  • Nunzio Campanile — offensive assistant (HERE)
  • Augie Hoffman, offensive assistant (HERE)
  • Tiquan Underwood — wide receivers (HERE)
  • Andrew Aurich — offensive line (HERE)
  • Robb Smith, defensive coordinator (HERE)
  • Jim Panagos — defensive line (HERE)
  • Bob Fraser — linebackers coach (HERE)
  • Fran Brown — co-defensive coordinator/secondary (HERE)