NCAA Football 2017 Season
Big 12 Conference Preview
The race to win the Big 12 in 2017 took an interesting turn this offseason. The Sooners will be under the direction of new coach Lincoln Riley after Bob Stoops retired in June. Riley will continue to direct Oklahoma’s high-powered offense, which is good news for the Heisman hopes of quarterback Baker Mayfield. Oklahoma State and Texas are expected to contend also. Kansas State, West Virginia and TCU completes the top 6. Iowa State and Baylor are two sleeper teams to watch in 2017. The new season of fantasy college football kicks off Saturday August 26 at FanPicks
Kansas St. Wildcats
The Wildcats will have serious experience and firepower on offense this season. If they can develop a few players on defense and improve against the pass, they could be one of the Big 12’s biggest threats to dethrone Oklahoma.
Oklahoma St. Cowboys
There are a lot of optimistic references to 2011 in Stillwater, with the look of this team bearing an obvious resemblance to that squad — at least on paper — with the array of offensive playmakers and the promise of an opportunistic defense. Now, can it look and perform like that squad, which won the Big 12 and finished decimal points out of the national championship game?
The Cowboys will have to manage trips to Pittsburgh and West Virginia, but the rest of the schedule sets up nicely. And they’ll have to find a way to beat Oklahoma, which has blocked their path the past two seasons.
Tom Herman is 22–4 as a head coach and is 6–0 against teams ranked in the AP top 25. He may also be a master of timing. At Houston, he took over a veteran team coming off an eight-win season and went 13–1 in his first year.
Now, Herman takes over a Texas roster returning 37 of the 44 in the two-deep from last season, stocked with back-to-back top-10 recruiting classes under former coach Charlie Strong. On his way out, Strong said whoever was coaching the Longhorns in 2017 would win 10 games.
Texas fans can’t take any more hype, only to be let down again. But things may be set up for Texas and Herman to crash the Big 12 party this season thanks to UT’s veteran roster, including experienced offensive and defensive lines and a laser-accurate quarterback in Shane Buechele.
The Sooners enter 2017 as the favorites to win a third straight Big 12 championship. Still, the push is for much more. QB Baker Mayfield and the standout offensive line give them a shot, although reliable weapons must develop, and the defense must prove capable.
There will be a challenging road schedule that features a September 9th visit to Columbus to meet an Ohio State team that thumped Oklahoma in 2016. And there are trips to Kansas State and Oklahoma State, two of the other top contenders in the Big 12. And, if all goes well, there’s a rematch with someone in the resurrected Big 12 Championship Game.
West Virginia Mountaineers
As head coach Dana Holgorsen said throughout the spring, West Virginia has talented players. Will Grier at quarterback, Ka’Raun White at receiver and Justin Crawford at running back comprise a trinity that’s tough to beat. Offensive line coach Joe Wickline should be able to build a decent front with guard Kyle Bosch as the anchor.
On defense, though, questions swirl around the line and at corner. Expect the opposition to test the WVU front early and often in 2017. Also, uncertainty at corner might give blitz-happy defensive coordinator Tony Gibson pause. In addition, there’s concern as to whether those in key positions coming off injuries will return to prior form.
Overall, though, WVU has plenty of confidence coming off a 10-win season and enough talent to challenge in a watered-down Big 12.
TCU Horned Frogs
The Air Raid-based Frogs will go as far as their quarterback takes them. Improvement from Kenny Hill is a must if TCU wants to return to its winning ways, let alone compete for the Big 12 championship. There are tools to work with on offense, but the best of them may still be a year away from making a legitimate impact. At least head coach Gary Patterson is likely to put out a sound defense. Experience is on his side this year, and that typically has meant good things.
Considering all of the turnover and culture change this program is undergoing, finishing above .500 and earning a bowl bid would be an impressive debut for new head coach Matt Rhule and the Bears. There are too many holes and question marks for Rhule to match the back-to-back 10-win seasons he had in his final two years at Temple. But Baylor — which returns 10 starters from a team that went 7–6 — is good enough to reach a bowl game for the eighth consecutive season.
Iowa St. Cyclones
The Matt Campbell era got off to a rough start, with a Week 1 loss to Northern Iowa followed up by a lopsided defeat to rival Iowa. But by the end of the year, Iowa State was competing with the best of the Big 12.
Now comes the most difficult task for the second year head coach: winning some of those games and getting Iowa State back to the postseason for the first time since 2012. To make that happen, the Cyclones will have to show significant improvement in the trenches — on both sides of the ball.
KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger understands that his offseason contract extension and raise for head coach David Beaty — 2–22 in his first two seasons — will look questionable to some. Beaty’s pay raise — he went from $800,000 annually to $1.6 million in 2017, with a $100,000 bump each season — is further proof, however, that Zenger sees progress outside the team’s wins and losses. Beaty has improved the team’s roster numbers after a scholarship crunch his first season and also built up some positive recruiting vibes. In 2016, bowl eligibility is unlikely given that the rebuild is still in its early stages, but improving on a two-win season should be an expectation, especially after Zenger gave Beaty the offseason vote of confidence.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Texas Tech has a lot to prove in 2017. There are glaring weaknesses that need to be addressed — specifically the run game, offensive line and one of the worst defenses in college football. Even in an area where Texas Tech typically succeeds — throwing the football — the Raiders are tasked with replacing arguably the best quarterback in school history (Patrick Mahomes) with a player who has never started at the collegiate level.
All of this uncertainty on the field will add to the uncertainty with the coaching staff. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury is back for the fifth season at his alma mater, but the former record-setting quarterback is no doubt in a precarious position. A 13–23 record in Big 12 games simply is not good enough.