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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Neal Brown‘s West Virginia football coaching staff is whole again.
Earlier this month, Al Pogue left God’s Country to return to Auburn as a defensive assistant. A week later, West Virginia football confirmed that Dontae Wright has been tapped as Pogue’s replacement.
Wright will coach the Mountaineers’ outside linebackers.
“Dontae is an excellent addition to our coaching staff and comes highly recommended,” the West Virginia football head coach said in a statement. “He brings years of defensive experience and has an ability to recruit with success in different areas of the country. I was impressed with his leadership and player development at each of his stops. We are looking forward to Dontae joining the Mountaineer Football program.”
The past two seasons, Wright was the safeties coach at Western Michigan. That was Wright’s first on-field role at the FBS level.
This will, obviously, be his first on-field job at a Power Five program as well.
“This is an unbelievable opportunity for me to be a member of Neal Brown’s staff, work with a great group of players and be a part of a program with the tradition of West Virginia University,” Wright said. “I’m looking forward to competing against the best in the conference, competing against the best in the nation in recruiting and assisting everyone in the football building to elevate our program. Growing up right outside West Virginia, I understand and respect what this state is about. I look forward to getting started.”
West Virginia football will kick off spring practice early next month. The Mountaineers will hold their annual spring game April 18.
After one of his Kansas football assistants left and created a hole in his staff, Les Miles moved quickly to fill it.
Last week, Tony Hull exited the Kansas football program. Tuesday, it was confirmed that Hull had taken a job at Hawaii. That hiring completed Todd Graham‘s first coaching staff at the Mountain West Conference school, incidentally.
The same day Hull’s Hawaii hiring was announced, Kansas football confirmed that his replacement, Jonathan Wallace, was been hired. The former Auburn quarterback/wide receiver will coach KU’s running backs. The Alabama native will also serve as special teams coordinator.
“Jonathan is a detail-oriented coach, who is also a dynamic recruiter,” the Kansas football head coach said in a statement. “He has experience with a championship-caliber football program as both a player and a coach and knows the intricacies of the offensive scheme we want to run. Additionally, he has a strong understanding of what we want to accomplish in all phases of the kicking game.”
In 2019, Wallace was the tight ends coach at Air Force. That was his first on-field job at the FBS level.
The year before that, Wallace was on the coaching staff at NAIA Bethel as wide receivers coach. That program’s head coach? Current Jayhawks offensive current Brent Dearmon.
Wallace began his coaching career as an offensive graduate assistant coach at Auburn from 2016-17. He worked with quarterbacks and wide receivers during the 2017 season.
During Wallace’s time as an Auburn football player (2012-15), Miles was the head coach at SEC West rival LSU.
Concern over his long-term health has prompted one Baylor football player to step away from the sport. Permanently.
On his personal Twitter account Tuesday, Bralen Taylor announced in a statement that he is “medically retiring from the game I love.” The wide receiver-turned-tight-end-turned-defensive end stated that he has “suffered from a number of concussions while playing” football. Taylor didn’t specify when and at what level those concussions occurred.
“This is the game that I grew up playing and loving. [T]his game has [given] me everything I have ever asked for and more,” Taylor wrote. “The brain is nothing to mess around with. [W]hile some won’t understand, [God] has already made a plan.”
Taylor was a three-star member of the Baylor football Class of 2018. He was rated as the No. 90 player regardless of position in the state of Texas.
During his brief time in Waco, Taylor played in six games. Four of those appearances came this past season. In that limited action, he was credited with three tackles and one-half of a sack.
Baylor football has gone from 1-11 in Matt Rhule‘s first season with the Bears in 2017 to 11-3 this past season. The 2019 campaign included a berth in both the Big 12 championship game and the Sugar Bowl.
Unfortunately for BU, Rhule left to take the head job with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.
The massive renovation of Clay Helton’s USC football coaching staff has taken another official step.
Last week, it was reported that USC was expected to poach Vic So’oto from Virginia. As Clint Sintim‘s hiring as So’oto’s replacement was announced a few days later, the latter’s move to the Trojans was a mere formality.
Tuesday, USC football confirmed So’oto’s addition to Clay Helton’s staff. As he did with the ‘Hoos, So’oto will serve as the Trojans’ defensive line coach.
The 32-year-old So’oto was the line coach at Virginia for the past three seasons. Prior to that, he was a defensive graduate assistant at the ACC program.
So’oto played his college football at BYU, ending his four-year career in 2010. After his NFL career ended, So’oto began his collegiate coaching career as a football intern at his alma mater.
For those unaware, So’oto is the second cousin of USC football legend Junior Seau.