Longhorn Football versus the rest of the Big XII


Dec 28, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; Kansas State Wildcats quarterback Jake Waters (15) runs the ball in the second half against the Michigan Wolverines during the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium. Kansas State defeated Michigan 31-14. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Since the Texas Longhorns last won the Big XII in 2009, five different teams have earned at least a split of the conference title, none of which are the Longhorns.  No team has repeated as Big XII champion in the last four years.  It seems realistic to say that one of those five teams will be the main competition for the Longhorns in 2014, as Texas attempts to get back to the BCS in the easiest way possible: winning it’s conference.

Oklahoma Sooners

The Sooners beat a quarterback quandry and an inconsistent offense to fall just short of a share of the conference last season.  Oklahoma was beaten soundly by Texas in Dallas, and at Baylor, turning a potential BCS season into a season where…well, Oklahoma back doored the BCS by upsetting Oklahoma State.  Of course, that means that instead of drawing a .500 for Bowl season, they instead got Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, a mismatch in ability where…Oklahoma won by two touchdowns.  Alright then, the Sooners overcame quarterback issues, and developed freshman QB Trevor Knight to a point where they had a really nice finish to the year and a year overall where they beat Oklahoma State and Notre Dame on the road and Alabama in a bowl.

Bob Stoops’ team may nominally be the favorite in the division, but a two game sample is inadequate to suggest a team’s offense is fixed for good, plus some graduation losses on defense means that the Big XII is very wide open behind Oklahoma.

Baylor Bears

Behind head coach Art Briles and OC Phillip Montgomery, the Bears set all sorts of records for NCAA offensive efficiency in 2013 using the up-tempo version of the spread that is the inspiration for the offense that the Longhorns utilize.  Baylor executes it’s offensive scheme very differently from other teams that use similar philosophies, and they were perhaps the best team in college football for about 10 weeks.  Baylor was winning a lot of games despite an unreasonable amount of injuries, and at some point, the dam broke and Baylor couldn’t sustain offense or stop anyone.  They got blown out of the national championship picture in November last year at Oklahoma State, and couldn’t stay with AAC Champion Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl.

It would be easy to assume that the Bears peaked last year, but a healthier program with a fifth* year senior at quarterback like Bryce Petty could absolutely surpass the levels they achieved last year.  But because Baylor (like Oklahoma) had a spike year on defense last season and have historically struggled to prevent other Big XII offenses from scoring, the smart money is on a step back in 2014.

*more like seventh, technically.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

The Cowboys are at a pivotal point in the sustained success of the program.  They are set up with their roster and facilities and recruiting to potentially be the dominant Big XII program, but they are also at the point where their head coach and former, Mike Gundy, is going to be a hot candidate for major college football jobs and may even generate some pro coaching interest.  Losing Gundy could be a crushing blow to the Oklahoma State window to compete, so that window is either really wide open, or potentially closing depending on how you look at that.

On the field, this is another team enjoying the best defensive seasons in recent program history, as the Cowboys finished 19th in the country in points allowed per game.  The offense has remained highly rated throughout Gundy’s tenure.  Roster wise, there is no specific reason to believe that Oklahoma State is entering a make or break year in 2014, but every successive offseason is going to threaten the long term health of the Cowboy football program until they establish themselves as a National Championship contender, which they have a great opportunity to do now.

Kansas State Wildcats

This Wildcats team isn’t going to get a ton of publicity in the pre-season headlines.  But as far as rosters set up to make an impact in 2014, Kansas State blows other teams away.  Bill Snyder has modernized his offensive approach without changing his time-tested football philosophies.  Jake Waters would be my selection for first team Big XII quarterback heading into the year.  And the Wildcats are always fast under Snyder throughout the roster.

Kansas State is going to have to do work at home to be able to play for the Big XII title against Texas at the end of the year, but I think their floor is a lot higher than other teams in this conference, and the Wildcats are the team most likely to be around the top of the conference standings at the end of the year.

Texas Tech Red Raiders?

Could the Red Raiders make a legitimate play for the Big XII Championship in Kliff Kingsbury’s second season?  It’s pretty unlikely.  An 8-5 season and a bowl win was a nice accomplishment for the team last year, but the top offensive target Jace Amaro, heads to the NFL instead of returning to play his senior season at TTU.  The Raiders are still poor defensively, and it will be years before we’ll know if Kingsbury can upgrade the overall talent on that side of the ball.  But points: they will score points and entertain.  They are just unlikely to repeat an 8 win season.

Will the Longhorns get back to the top?

This is not a season preview article, but Texas is set up nicely for the 2014 season.  They are, as covered here in previous weeks, a flawed team, but the majority of teams in the Big XII are flawed.