After early losses two Kansas State and Iowa State, Oklahoma regrouped to capture a 6th straight Big 12 title in 2020. The Sooners avenged a 37-30 loss at Iowa State in the regular season with a 27-21 win in Arlington to claim the crown. The victory extended Oklahoma's lead in the series to 77-7-2 with two of those losses in the last four years.
The Congrove Computer Rankings at collegefootballpoll.com expect a repeat performance in 2021, except it favors the Cyclones by a scant 0.47 points in the championship game to avenge a loss in Norman on November 20 when Oklahoma is favored by 2.54.
It's been stated, or alluded to, in other conference previews that this could be a year of greater parity across the FBS landscape. Practically everyone has a roster that's enhanced by players who didn't lose a year of eligibility under the "Covid rules". Thus, the 130 FBS schools return an averaqe of 74.8% of last year's starters, and 76.4% of letter winners. Fifty-three teams have welcomed back at least 80% of their starters and seventeen of those are returning upwards of 90%.
Last season's Final Four teams in the FBS playoff don't have that luxury. Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame all rank in the bottom 16 of returning productivity.
However, the Big 12 teams that finished in the top half of the conference a year ago are expected to do so again. Even with a new head coach, Texas is given preseason expectations of a 9-3 campaign overall and a 6-3 conference mark to tie Oklahoma State and TCU for third.
West Virginia and Kansas State follow with projected 6-6 records to give the conference a likely 7 bowl teams. That leaves Baylor just under the magical 6-win total to land a postseason bid, with Texas Tech and Kansas bringing up the rear.
As if they need it, the Jayhawks had a tumultuous offseason. Kansas named Lance Leipold as its new head coach on April 30, nearly two full two months after Les Miles was forced out on March 8. Athletic director Jeff Long' agreed to depart two days later. Travis Goff was hired as AD on April 7. The dust-up began when USA Today uncovered previous allegations of misconduct by Miles at LSU, centered around complaints by female students. After an internal investigation at LSU was concluded in 2013, then-athletic director Joe Aleva recommended Miles be fired but the school instead reportedly banned him from communicating with, or being alone with, female students. Miles was fired 3 years later after a 2-2 start to the 2016 football season. Kansas was 0-9 last season under Miles and just 3-18 in his two seasons in Lawrence. His teams were 1-16 in Big 12 play. For his career, Miles' won-loss record is 145-73 overall.
Leipold was 37-33 at Buffalo in 6 seasons. Over the last three season, his teams finished 24-10 and captured two MAC East titles, but lost in both conference championship games. Last year, Buffalo went 5-0 during the regular season, but lost 38-28 to Ball State in the MAC Championship game. The Bulls finished the year with a 17-10 win over Marshall in the Cameillia Bowl for a second straight bowl win for Leipold. The Bulls defeated Charlotte 31-9 in the 2019 Bahamas Bowl.
The new man in charge in Austin is Steve Sarkisian. On Saturday, January 2nd, it was reported that Tom Herman had been fired from Texas -- after the school had publicly announced on December 12 he would be retained. The only thing that happened since then was a 55-23 demolition of Colorado in the Alamo Bowl. Apparently, the wheels were turning behind the scene as reports that Sarkisian, Alabama's offensive coordinator, will be hired as his replacement quickly became confirmed by the school. Sarkisian stayed with the Tide through the national championship win over Ohio State, 52-24, on January 11.
Herman spent four seasons in Austin that produced records of 32-18 over-all and 22-13 in Big 12 play. His teams were 4-0 in bowl games.
'Sark' was 34-29 at Washington from 2009-2013, a job he left to become head coach at USC (12-6). But the job with the Trojans didn't last long as he was fired five games into his second season for alcohol problems. He sough rehabilitation and resurfaced as an Alabama assistant in 2016, spent two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, and returned to the Tide in 2019. He was 1-0 this season as a head coach when he served in that capacity for the Auburn game after Saban tested positive for Covid-19.
The last two coaches to take over the Texas program did not fare well in their first season as Charlie Strong went 5-7 in 2015 and Herman was 7-6 in 2017.
|** - Iowa State by 0.47 over Oklahoma|