Last summer it looked like the Big 12 would fall apart and there wouldn’t even be a 2011 Big 12 preview and prediction. The whole Big 12 hinged on what the Texas Longhorns would do.
Texas decided to stay and not join the Pac-10 (now Pac-12) but start the Longhorn Network, their TV network. The rest of the Big-12 schools decided to stay, and the Big-12 was saved...for now.
Right before the start of the season, Texas A&M got upset over said Longhorn Network and now wants to jump to the SEC. While the Aggies can’t leave the Big-12 this year, the conference is in danger once more.
There are two big things to watch this season in Big 12 conference play. First is that every team now has two open dates with no conference game. Second is that every team plays each other in conference play.
Those two things could prove huge. For teams like Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor and Iowa State, there is no dodging a couple of the stronger teams and no fourth game out of conference.
This could affect the bowl chances of the lower half of the conference. Teams will have to win their three non-conference games and three conference games or win at least four conference games (possibly more) and two of the non-conference games.
The extra week off during the season to prepare might provide some upsets. Lower teams needing wins might knock off top teams like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas A&M.
Top teams could also use the second bye week to get healthy or pull off a mild upset. Texas Tech and Missouri could end up in the middle of pack but determine who wins the conference by pulling off an upset or two.
It will be intriguing to watch how the Big- 2 plays out in what could be its final year as a conference. So let’s throw it against the wall and see what sticks and preview and predict the Big-12.
Last season, Baylor made it to a bowl game for the first time since 1994. The Bears bowl appearance means Duke has the longest bowl drought among BCS conferences.
This season, Baylor hopes to return to a bowl for the second season in a row for the first time since 1991-92. The Bears return most of their offense from last season, including quarterback Robert Griffin.
The defense has holes that need to be filled, and the offense will have to be good early on. Baylor was in the more dominate South division in the Big 12 so they already had to play all the big boys and know what they are up against to repeat last year’s success.
Baylor faces a big test in their first game of the season, stepping out of conference to play TCU. The rest of the non-conference schedule will be easy to navigate.
The Bears face TCU, Stephen F. Austin and Rice at home. Going 2-1 in non-conference games should happen. The only bump in the road, besides TCU, is Rice.
In conference, the Bears have a mixed bag for a schedule. They get Iowa State, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas at home. A 2-2 record is possible, but they must sneak past Missouri.
On the road, Baylor travels to Kansas State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Kansas. The best the Bears can hope for is a 2-2 split, but 1-3 or 0-4 is likely as well.
Baylor, like nearly every team in the Big 12, plays at least one game at a neutral location. This game for the Bears is against Texas Tech in Arlington, a game that is winnable for either team.
In his fourth year, Art Briles is 49-50 overall and has done a great job with this Baylor program. The Bears don’t get a ton of great players but play hard every week.
A second straight trip to a bowl game will be tough for this team, but 6-6 is likely. This season depends on how good the bottom teams in conference are and if Missouri and Texas are good.
Iowa State Cyclones
Iowa State was in bowl contention all season last year but fell short, going 5-7. Even worse than not going to a bowl was losing starting quarterback Austen Arnaud to a career-ending knee injury.
The Cyclones do not have a ton of returning starters, so the offense and the defense will have to be rebuilt. This is a tough year to have to rebuild with four to five teams in the conference that are BCS-caliber teams.
Things will not get easy with Iowa State non-conference schedule. The Cyclones play Northern Iowa (a very good FCS team), Iowa and travel to Connecticut. Finding two wins will be tough, and NI could pull an upset. This team, more than likely, will enter conference play 1-2.
Home games will be very important for Iowa State if they hope to reach a bowl game. Traveling to Ames this season will be Texas, A&M, Kansas and OSU.
Iowa State also gets two weeks to get ready for Texas (same for the Longhorns) and OSU. It will be hard to win two home conference games with this schedule. A 1-3 record seems likely unless the Cyclones steal the OSU game at home.
Road games on the conference slate feature trips to Baylor, Missouri, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Kansas State. Three of the five games are winnable, but it is hard to say any game on the road is a gimmie.
Paul Rhoads has done a heck of a job at Iowa State and has a 12-13 record entering his third year. It will be hard to keep him in Ames if he manages another 5-7 or 6-6 season this year.
It is tough to believe that Iowa State will win enough games to make the postseason. Just staying in the hunt until late in the season might be an accomplishment.
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