Leading up to the kickoff of the 2019 college football season, The Game Haus will be previewing each FBS conference and those independent teams. It is continued today with the Big 12, as league predictions and top performers will be looked at while also highlighting key games from each conference.
Here is the Big 12.
Most eyes will be on Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts under center to lead what should be another potent Sooners offense. However, the key to OU’s long-term 2019 success should depend on how an experienced defense can improve from giving up an average of 33.3 points from 2018.
Coming off its first 10-win season since 2009, there are plenty of expectations in Austin. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger (3,292 passing yards, 25 touchdown passes, 16 rushing TDs) should get some Heisman Trophy love. However, the Longhorns had to replace their starting defensive front seven, so national success is not guaranteed.
3. Iowa State
QB Brock Purdy (2,250 passing yards, 16 TDs, 308 rushing yards) is poised to build on an impressive freshman season. But, the Cyclones success should be keyed by a defense that returns some big-time talent (DB Greg Eisworth) from a unit that allowed 22.9 points per game last year.
The Bears went from one win to seven in 2018. They hope that progress continues under coach Matt Rhule. QB Charlie Brewer (3,019 passing yards). The key might come down to how well the Bears protect him after yielding 39 total sacks in 2018.
A 7-6 season was rather uncharacteristic for the Horned Frogs last year. In 2019, many feel they can challenge for a top-three finish in the Big 12. That’s because it’s never wise to sleep on a Gary Patterson team, especially on defense.
6. Oklahoma State
The Cowboys are a bit of a mystery entering the season. They might not put up as many points with QB Taylor Cornelius gone. Still, there is enough talent for Mike Gundy to be competitive. Big 12 games at Texas and Iowa State provide two major challenges.
7. Texas tech
There are a host of coaching changes in the Big 12, as Matt Wells comes over from Utah State to replace Kliff Kingsbury. The Red Raiders won’t be as high-flying as in the past, but if QB Alan Bowman can stay healthy, they might return to bowl eligibility.
8. West Virginia
The days of the high-octane, aerial attack in Morgantown are gone for now. New coach Neal Brown has the potential to be a good one, but there is plenty of work to be done on both sides of the ball.
9. Kansas State
Football life without the legendary Bill Snyder – again – is here. But, the Wildcats might have a good one in Chris Klieman. He helped maintain North Dakota State’s FCS dominance, and will run an organized program based on responsibility and accountability.
Former LSU boss Les Miles is back to guide a Jayhawks program that has not won more than three games in a season since 2009. There’s a good chance that trend will continue, but one has to think the football culture at Kansas is about to change for the better.
Players to watch
Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State: The Big 12 gets a lot of love for its quarterback play, but the best receiver in the nation might hail in Stillwater. Wallace caught 86 passes for 1,491 yards (second nationally) and 12 TDs in 2018.
JaQuan Bailey, DE, Iowa State: The Cyclones might have the best defense in the Big 12, and Bailey is a big reason for that. The senior has totaled 18 1/2 sacks – tied for the school record – over three seasons.
Sept. 28: Iowa State at Baylor. Expectations around both programs are high for 2019. They won’t have to wait long for a barometer game as the two open Big 12 play against each other.
Oct. 12: Oklahoma vs. Texas. The Red River Showdown is great fun, and once again could be a preview of the Big 12 title game. The stars of both teams shined bright in last year’s installment, won by the Longhorns 48-45.
Nov. 2: Kansas State at Kansas. Neither team is expected to challenge for the Big 12 title, but with new coaches at each school, this rivalry game could have conference implications sooner than we think.