2018 Big 12 Preview

August 21, 2018 by CFP Staff

Oklahoma won its third consecutive conference title in 2017, beating TCU in the first conference championship playoff game held since 2010 which, incidentally, was also won by the Sooners.

The Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com predict an easy four-peat for Lincoln Riley's sophomore season as head coach. The computer has Oklahoma favored by double digits in every game except a road trip to TCU where the Sooners are 'only' favored by 9.86.

The biggest thing to look for in the Big 12 in 2018 is which quarterbacks will step up to supplant the likes of Baker Mayfield (Heisman, Oklahoma), Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State), and Kenny Hill (TCU). An educated hunch says head coaches such as Riley, Mike Gundy and Gary Patterson will have the easiest time figuring it out. The computer seems to agree as it puts TCU and Oklahoma State at Nos. 2 and 3, behind the Sooners.

Baylor and Kansas are still down at the bottom of the conference, but not so much because things aren't improving in Waco and Lawrence, but rather because there is just so much talent in the entirety of the conference. Eight of the ten teams made a bowl appearance last season. Baylor and Kansas were not among them.

West Virginia gets Will Grier back at QB, but the computer has the Mountaineers winning just 4 games and finishing 8th in the league.

The starter at Baylor is Charlie Brewer, the latest Lake Travis, Texas prospect. Baker Mayfield, Garret Gilbert (former Texas QB) and Brewer's brother, Michael (former Virginia Tech QB) all starred at Lake Travis. Brewer took over the signal-calling duties in early November last season. But the Bears are still picked to win just 3 games.

Kansas has 2017 starter Peyton Bender back, but the Jayhawks have options with Carter Stanley also returning and JUCO transfer Miles Kendrick added to the mix.

Iowa State returns Kyle Kempt behind center after he threw 15 TD passes against just 3 INT's in 2017 and led the Cyclones to their first bowl appearance since 2012 and first bowl win since 2009.

Oklahoma State looks to turn to redshirt junior Taylor Cornelius who has attempted 24 passes in college, including just 10 last season. In Stillwater, the man to watch could be RB Justice Hill. He led the Big 12 in rushing last season as a sophomore with 1,457 yards and 15 touchdowns, but he also had Rudolph to loosen up from the front seven. The Cowboys are picked to go 10-2 with both losses in conference action in the last 3 weeks of the season at Oklahoma and TCU.

At TCU, Shawn Robinson could be poised to break out big time even though he was just 13-of-27 in limited action as a freshman a year ago. He committed to the Horned Frogs as a junior in high school in Desoto, Texas. After he committed, he led DeSoto to their only state championship in 2016. TCU is projected to be a 10-2 team in 2018 with a non-conference loss at home to Ohio State, and a single conference loss at home to Oklahoma in the regular season. And just like last year, TCU is expected to suffer another loss to Oklahoma in the conference championship game in Arlington.

Texas, behind a pair of returning QB's in Sam Ehlinger (expected starter) and Shane Buechele, could be a team to keep an eye on. The 6-6 forecast includes 3 losses by fewer than 5 points to TCU (home), Kansas State (away), and Texas Tech (away).

In Lubbock, there is no heir apparent to Nic Shimonek. Kliff Kingsbury will have to decide who starts the opener between freshman Alan Bowman, junior McLane Carter and sophomore Jett Duffey. The Red Raiders open against Ole Miss in a neutral site game at Houston on September 1and are picked to go 7-5 overall, but just 4-5 in the Big 12.

As for Oklahoma, the likely starter is two-sport star (baseball and football) Kyler Murray who saw backup duty behind Mayfield in 7 games last year. Murray also started three games in 2015 with Texas A&M as a freshman 5-star prospect and No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in 247 Sports' rankings.

In the 22-year history of the Big 12, Oklahoma has won the title outright 10 times and shared one other.

Last season, Oklahoma advanced to the College Football Playoffs where they lost 54-48 to Georgia in overtime at the Rose Bowl. Subsequently, Georgia lost 26-23 to Alabama in the championship game in Atlanta. Obviously, the Sooners are expected to make a return trip to the Final Four this year as they are picked to once again beat TCU in the championship game to get to 13-0 on selection Sunday.

After that, the computer has a #2 seed Oklahoma edging a #3 seed Clemson and advancing to the National Championship against Michigan State as a 0.15-point underdog.

2018 Projected Order of Finish

Big 12

  Team W-L CW-CL Rank Power SOS
1 Oklahoma 12-0 9-0 2 94.74 22
2 TCU 10-2 8-1 18 81.88 23
3 Oklahoma State 10-2 7-2 17 82.92 46
5* Iowa State 7-5 5-4 44 78.81 30
4* Kansas State 7-5 5-4 42 79.50 32
6* Texas Tech 7-5 4-5 46 77.86 37
7* Texas 6-6 4-5 57 78.33 9
8 West Virginia 4-8 2-7 87 73.26 24
9 Baylor 3-9 1-8 101 67.01 25
10 Kansas 2-10 0-9 117 61.84 31

*-Tie-breakers: Iowa State beats Kansas State; Texas Tech beats Texas