2020-2021 Big 12 Football Preview: Odds and Predictions
In just four months, the college football season will commence, barring any setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. With that in mind we can take a look at each of the Power Five conferences, and who the betting favorites are to win each league.
We have previously previewed the ACC as well as the Big Ten, and will now turn our attention to the Big 12 conference, who has yet to send a team to the national title game during the playoff era. Odds in this article are from 888Sport NJ, with the odds focused on a team winning the conference championship game as opposed to finishing atop the conference standings.
— Ronnie Perkins™ (@7avageszn) April 24, 2020
For the third straight year, the Sooners will be led by a new quarterback after renting Jalen Hurts as a graduate transfer in 2019. Underclassmen Spencer Rattler and Tanner Mordecai will battle for the starting gig, with Rattler considered the favorite to win the job. The winner of that battle will get to work with a plethora of weapons, including 1,000-yard rusher Kennedy Brooks and receiver Charleston Rambo while being protected by All-American center Creed Humphrey.
The Sooners made progress on defense in 2019 after looking like an 11-man squad of matadors in 2018. That improvement should continue with the return of pass rushers Jalen Redmond and Ronnie Perkins as well as senior corner Tre Brown.
Oklahoma’s road to another CFP berth seems pretty clear outside of the Red River Rivalry. This year, the Sooners will get to host rival Oklahoma State on October 24th as opposed to the traditional Thanksgiving weekend, while a road trip to Iowa State could be a potential trap game after the Texas game.
Speaking of Texas, the Longhorns will look to rebound from last year’s disappointing 8-5 finish, with senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger back in Austin. Gone are leading receivers Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay, whose production will be sorely missed. Running backs Keaontay Ingram and Roschon Johnson should excel in the running game behind a line led by All-Big 12 left tackle Samuel Cosmi.
Junior linebacker Joseph Ossai will anchor a defensive unit that will need to improve on last year’s performance, where they ranked third last in the Big 12 in total yardage allowed, behind basement dwellers Texas Tech and Kansas.
The Horns will get a chance to make an early statement when they visit Death Valley to take on defending champion LSU. If they can manage to pull off the upset in Baton Rouge, the importance of the Red River Rivalry will increase tenfold. The season finale against Oklahoma State in Stillwater should also present a tough challenge.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Life is good ?? pic.twitter.com/EIIpkJoAgl
— Chuba Hubbard (@Hubbard_RMN) January 13, 2020
Cowboys fans were given a pleasant surprise after star running back Chuba Hubbard elected to stay in school for another season and possibly become the school’s all-time leading rusher. Joining Hubbard is dual-threat quarterback Spencer Sanders and receiver Tylan Wallace, the latter recovering from an ACL tear.
OSU’s defense will be headlined by a strong linebacking corps that features seniors Amen Ogbongbemiga and Malcolm Rodriguez. Junior safety Kolby Harvell-Peel will lead the secondary and aim to build on a solid sophomore season where he intercepted five passes.
Outside of the Bedlam game in Norman, a good barometer matchup for the Cowboys will be the Big 12 opener against TCU on the road. If Mike Gundy’s team can show up in that game, it could be an early indicator that the Pokes could be more than a middle of the road Big 12 team.
Iowa State Cyclones
With several key pieces back on offense, fifth-year head coach Matt Campbell should have enough firepower to lead Iowa State to their first nine-win season since 2000. Among those returnees is quarterback Brock Purdy, All-Big 12 tight end Charlie Kolar, and leading rusher Breece Hall. Purdy will be working with a greener offensive line, however, with the departure of tackles Josh Knipfel and Julian Good-Jones.
The Cyclones’ defense will be led by a strong linebacking trio of Greg Eisworth, Mike Rose, and O’Rien Vance, who should collectively make up for the departure of Marcel Spears Jr.
TCU Horned Frogs
— Ar’Darius Washington (@ad_washington24) May 2, 2020
Head coach Gary Patterson will be entering his 20th season in Fort Worth, looking to make double-digit win seasons a thing again after a 5-7 2019 campaign. Patterson will hope last year’s trial by fire for quarterback Max Duggan will help the Frogs’ quarterback take the next step in his development after completing just 53 percent of his passes. Losing dynamic receiver Jalen Reagor to the NFL won’t help.
TCU should lean heavily on their defense, which will be led by senior linebacker Garret Wallow who tallied 18 tackles for losses. Defensive backs Ar’Darius Washington and Trevon Moehrig-Woodard will have the attention of opposing offensive coordinators after combining for nine picks in 2019.
West Virginia Mountaineers
The Mountaineers were unwatchable on offense in 2019, ranking 116th among FBS programs in points per game (20.6). Second-year coach Neal Brown will need either Austin Kendall or Jarret Doege to establish themselves as an unquestioned starting quarterback. Receivers Sam James and T.J. Simmons will be back on campus, as will leading rusher Leddie Brown, each of whom should help improve the offense.
As for the defense, the defensive front should be strong with the Stills brothers expected to provide a solid pass rush. Senior corner Sean Mahone will be the most experienced returning member of a secondary that will have to replace All-Big 12 selections Keith Washington II and Josh Norwood.
Baylor fans did not get much time to celebrate their 11-3 season, as the man behind the rebuild, Matt Rhule, left Waco for the Carolina Panthers. Replacing Rhule is former LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who will be tasked with replacing multiple starters from a defense that ranked 19th in the nation in points allowed.
Quarterback Charlie Brewer will be back for his senior year, with three offensive line starters returning. Receivers Tyquan Thornton and R.J. Sneed will be expected to replace the production of last year’s top pass catcher Denzel Mims, who is now in the NFL.
Kansas State Wildcats
The Wildcats enjoyed mild success in Chris Klieman’s first year in Manhattan, with the highlight of the 8-5 season being an upset of Oklahoma. KSU will have their work cut out for them, with the entire starting offensive line from last season having graduated. Top receiver Dalton Schoen and running back James Gilbert also graduated, with junior Harry Trotter expected to be the lead back in 2020.
Redshirt junior defensive end Wyatt Hubert is the most notable returnee for the defense while leading tackler Elijah Sullivan will also be back as a senior.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
The first year of the Matt Wells era was a tough pill to swallow for Tech supporters, as the Red Raiders finished with a 4-8 record. Wells will need returning quarterback Alan Bowman to stay healthy after getting bit by the injury bug in 2019. Having an experienced receiving corps and leading rusher SaRodorick Thompson back should provide Bowman with sufficient support.
The leadership of departed linebacker Jordyn Brooks will be missed, as will the backfield presence of Douglas Coleman III who tallied eight interceptions last season. On the bright side, 2nd Team All-Big 12 defensive selection Eli Howard will be back to improve on a five sack 2019 campaign.
With Les Miles entering his second season with the Jayhawks, many college football fans will be curious to see if the former LSU coach can elevate the program to heights it has not seen since the Mark Mangino years. Getting star running back Pooka Williams Jr. for another season will certainly help improve an offense that averaged 23.5 points per contest. The defense as a whole will need to show marked improvement, particularly a pass rush that tallied just 17 sacks.