Two perennial powerhouses of college football rule the Big 12 conference. Their meeting in October is the biggest attraction of at the Texas State Fair. It is a conference known for big offenses and lots of scoring. Home of the last two Heisman trophy winners, it is clear the Big 12 is an elite conference in college football.
The Reigning Champions
For the third time in as many seasons, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley has a new quarterback under centre. The last two won the Heisman trophy before going to the NFL as the number one overall pick. This time it’s former National Championship winner Jalen Hurts. Hurts transferred after losing his spot at Alabama last season. Hurts is joined by returning receiver Ceedee Lamb, but will have four new starters on the offensive line. It is possible we see some growing pains early in the year, but expect this offense to be a juggernaut once again by the time we reach the business end of the season.
The defense in Norman has steadily improved over the last couple of seasons. This year it has a couple of good NFL prospects and figures to be good enough to make a difference against all but the best offenses. If the defense can be a difference maker during the season the Sooners could be national title contenders.
Texas is Back
Sam Ehlinger was born to bring Texas back. Austin born and bred, Super Sam has been a Longhorn his whole life. Heading in to his junior season, Ehlinger has improved to be one of the premier quarterbacks in the country. He is joined by a solid offensive line that added Georgia Tech transfer Parker Braun this offseason and premier skill position talent in Keontay Ingram and Collin Johnson. This offense has all the pieces to be explosive.
The defense replaces a lot of talent coming in to 2019. Sophomore safety Caden Sterns is the star of the unit. The Big 12 freshman of the year snagged four picks last season as he made himself a household name. In most match-ups the athletic ability on this defense should be enough to see this team home. Texas is back into the playoff conversation for the first time in years and the college world is all the better for it.
Best of the Rest
Iowa State lost their number one receiver and running back to the NFL draft this offseason. However they return sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy and head coach Matty Campbell. The Campbell-Purdy pairing was a fruitful one last season in which Purdy put up great numbers starting as a true freshman. The cyclones once again figure to be one of the top challengers to the big two.
Heading back to the state of Texas brings us to TCU, Baylor and Texas Tech. The Red Raiders might actually be better for losing head coach Kliff Kingsbury to the NFL. Young quarterback Alan Bowman is a stud and the team returns some pieces around him. Baylor head coach Matt Rhule had NFL head coaching interviews last offseason. He is one of the nations most talented young coaches and returns enough talent to make the team interesting this season. Finally for the football state, TCU has a number of monster athletes. They will be nasty to come up against on both sides of the ball, it’s hard to picture a program with more talent on the lines in this conference.
Favourites – Texas
Dark Horses – Iowa State
Division MVP – Sam Ehlinger
Biggest Game – Oklahoma vs Texas – Red River Rivalry – Texas State Fair – 12th October
Despite loving what Matty Campbell is doing, I think Iowa State figure to challenge more in 2020. The winner of this conference is likely to come from one of the Red River duo. The meeting in the Cotton Bowl on October 12th is likely to be repeated in the title game later in the year. I think the Longhorns will once again win the regular season tilt and I have them winning the whole conference. Sam Ehlinger is comfortable in this system and has grown year to year. Compare this to Jalen Hurts who has to fit in to a new system, with a new team. This is the year it peaks for Texas, the year they overcome Oklahoma.
Image courtesy of the University of Texas Athletic Department