For its entire existence, the Big 12 has been a conference dominated by parody. This parody has been centered around The University of Oklahoma. The Sooners are on a six-year Big 12 winning streak and have won the conference a whopping 14 times, 11 more than any other team.
However, winning a conference is never easy, and it certainly won’t be for Oklahoma this year. While they are the pre-season favorites, teams like Iowa State are not far behind and could make a serious push at the crown this year. In the other ranks of the conference, we have some really young teams on the rise, and some historic programs trying to get back in the mix of things.
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Top Conference Players
The Big 12 has some serious stars. In fact, this is the most star-studded conference in the country. The big name here is Spencer Rattler. People have been calling him the next number one overall pick in the NFL Draft and he’s been compared to Patrick Mahomes at times. Besides Rattler, we have a lot of other great players. Iowa State’s running back Breece Hall and tight end Charlie Kolar are the best in the nation at their respected positions and look to have fantastic seasons for the Cyclones. Texas’ running back Bijan Robinson is one of the most exciting players in the sport and he’s only a true sophomore.
On the defensive side of things, Baylor’s Terrell Bernard is one of the better linebackers we’ve seen and looks to make a really nice jump in 2021. Finally, going back to Oklahoma, edge rusher Nik Bonitto is an absolute star and needs to get talked about more after his 8.5 sack season.
Coaches on the Hot Seat
Every team has a current excuse not to fire their head coach in this conference, except TCU. Lots of teams have younger head coaches who have just started at their program or guys who have just succeeded incredibly well. Now, TCU and Gary Patterson should be a pairing that splits ways. Look, the guy has been there for 21 years now, and while he’s seen a lot of success, he has been painfully mediocre since 2014. To be quite frank, it’s about that time that TCU changes the scenery. They can love Patterson all they want but sometimes, it’s best to get a fresh set of eyes on the field. If TCU doesn’t improve from last year’s 4-6 record, then Patterson should be on his way out come January.
Three Conference Games to Watch
In this year’s Big 12 slate, the old mixes with the new. We have thrilling rivalry matchups, but also the rising programs getting a chance to make a statement of their own. The high-flying offenses that the Big 12 are most well known for going up against some new defensive stalwarts in the nation, and it should be a lively year in the conference.
Iowa State vs Oklahoma
The clearcut two top teams in the conference go head to head in Oklahoma during the second to last week of the season. This game could really shake some trees in the standings, as well as be a preview for the potential conference championship matchup. In 2020, the Cyclones beat the Sooners in the regular season but lost to them in the conference championship back in December. Both games were decided by a touchdown and it shouldn’t really be any different this year. The game will be close, fast, and nerves will be at an all-time high throughout. In the end, Iowa State won’t be able to overcome a hostile crowd and Oklahoma takes this one in a near shootout.
Oklahoma vs Texas
The classic Red-River Rivalry. This at least a top-five rivalry in the sport if not top-three. This game seems to always feature incredible offense and a game that comes down to the very end. In last year’s matchup, the teams combined for 98 points in a 53-45 overtime win for the Sooners. It just looks like no matter how bad either team is, this game will always be a close one. Texas’ season, as well as this game, is all going to come down to how well first-year starting quarterback Casey Thompson and new head coach Steve Sarkisian work together to run a potentially electric offense. Overall, however, Rattler and the Oklahoma offense will have a field day on Texas in a high-scoring 10 point victory.
Iowa State vs Kansas State
Well, this is certainly an interesting choice. There’s no real rivalry here, and Kansas State isn’t necessarily a good team. However, this one has all the makings of a major trap game for Iowa State. Kansas State is very familiar with being the upsetter. Last year, they defeated Oklahoma in a wild comeback, and their strong offense can always have the potential to explode when they need it to.
On top of all this, the Wildcats are at home, and it is the week before Iowa State plays Oklahoma. It wouldn’t be too surprising if the Cyclone players have their minds slip a week in advance and forget the task at hand. On the contrary, Matt Campbell is one of the best coaches in college football for a reason and won’t allow this to happen as Iowa State will take this one in a very close, offensive, affair.
One Bold Prediction
Iowa State and Oklahoma both make the playoff. Two teams from the same conference have only happened once and in the best conference the SEC. It would be a little bit unbelievable if these two were to actually make it, but the writing is on the wall. How this would play out is that Oklahoma would run through their entire regular season. If they do this they would, most likely, be the number one, or two, ranked team in the country. Then, Iowa State would have to come into the conference championship game with a singular loss to Oklahoma and beat them handily. All in all, it is certainly bold, but nowhere near impossible.
Dark Horse Teams
We’ve already mentioned their upset potential a little bit but Kansas State is always a pretty dangerous team. Their quarterback, Skylar Thompson, is one of the absolute best in the conference and looks to have a big fifth season. The dual-threat quarterback is also supported by perennial All-American Deuce Vaughn at running back and these two stars will lead the way for their team the whole season. They definitely won’t win the Big 12, heck they may not even have a winning record, but don’t be surprised when the Wildcats knock off a few teams this year.
- Iowa State
- Oklahoma State
- Kansas State
- West Virginia
- Texas Tech
These standings are a bit different from last year’s but lots of teams have only shifted one spot. For example, Oklahoma finished in second last year only because of a few minor slip-ups early on with a new quarterback. Now, these slip-ups won’t happen, and they should edge Iowa State out by a game. TCU takes a bit of a tumble this year but shouldn’t be too far beyond the Kansas States and West Virginia’s of the world. The bottom three remain the same, which shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone. Maybe Texas Tech can make a few moves up the ladder but with no real quarterback named yet, we never know. All in all, it should be a tight race at the top and a fun watch all year long.
Conference Championship Matchup
We’ve talked about these two teams over and over and they meet in the ultimate culmination of this conference. Iowa State and Oklahoma, round two. In this scenario, Oklahoma defeated Iowa State in their first matchup. However, we are going to go with the Cyclones to win the Big 12. This game will be a must-watch. It will most certainly be a close encounter, and there’s no way it’s not a one-score game based on the atmosphere it’s in and what’s at stake. Coach Campbell’s squad now finally gets revenge on last year’s loss in the conference championship, and they’ll see if what they’ve done is enough to get them into the playoff.
Follow Charlie Parent on Twitter @Charlie_Parent
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