Big XII Preview by Lee Wakefield

Welcome to the Full 10 Yards Big XII Conference Preview

The most confusing conference, ten teams across five states – Texas, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and West Virginia… Yet it’s called the Big XII… Work that one out.

Well in 2010, four teams left the conference and only two joined during a period of conference realignment, so the numbers dropped from 12 to 10.

The Big XII is known for big rivalries, playing no defense and in recent times, for QB’s that win Heisman trophies and get drafted #1 overall.

The Big XII is a pretty fun conference and 2019 should be no different, so let’s get into it

What Happened Last Year?

It was a pretty familiar story at each end of the standings in 2018. Kansas were the worst team in the conference, both by conference record (1-8) and overall record (3-9), then at the top of the tree were the Oklahoma Sooners. The Kyler Murray led Sooners finished with an overall record of 12-2, 8-1 in conference play and a Big XII Championship win against Texas, which avenged the Red River Rivalry loss to the Longhorns earlier in the year. If that wasn’t enough the Sooners then had an appearance in the College Football Playoff as the 4th ranked team nationally. Yep, Oklahoma had a busy year!

Lincoln Riley’s men didn’t progress to the National Championship game due to the loss to Alabama in the Orange Bowl but Murray did crown a successful year for the programme buy being drafted #1 overall and taking home the Heisman Trophy.

After Texas, who were surprisingly good, was a whole lot of average. Texas Christian, Baylor and Oklahoma state all finished with an overall record of 7-6, while Kansas State and Texas Tech came in at 5-7. I guess the only talking point amongst that is how bad Oklahoma State were within the conference, despite a superior overall record, the Cowboys ranked 9th of 10 in the Big XII due to a 3-6 conference record – which they’ll want to improve upon in 2019.

The West Virginia Mountaineers were perhaps the biggest disappointments though; prior to the season, it was thought that they’d be the closest challengers to Oklahoma but that never materialised and they finished with an 8-4 record (the Mountaineers played one less game due to the cancellation of the game against N.C State because of Hurricane Florence).

Looking Ahead…

I feel like it will be very much of the much of the same. I have Oklahoma as strong favourites for the Big XII crown again and I see even less chance of a serious contender emerging this year.

Texas will be good again this year and will be the second best team in the conference. I’m sure QB, Sam Ehlinger and receiver Collin Johnson will be looking to build upon their showings in 2018 and boost their draft stocks some more. I’m particularly interested in both of these guys; As you may have read, Thomas Rowberry and I went head to head on Ehlinger in our Jury’s Out article – Which you can find here – So I’m intrigued to see how he progresses from toolsy and fun to watch to a potential starting NFL calibre quarterback.

Johnson has become one of my favourite receivers in college football this summer whilst I’ve been doing my summer film sessions. His size at the wide receiver position is rare and it’s something I think the NFL is going to fall in love with!

Iowa State and West Virginia were the next best after the Red River rivals in 2018 but I feel like both of these programmes have lost a lot of talent and are replacing with unproven players. Hakeem Butler and David Montgomery were the stars of the Cyclones’ offense and are now in the NFL and similarly WVU lost wide receivers, David Sills andGary Jennings as well as starting QB, Will Grier to the NFL. That’s a lot of offensive firepower to lose when you’re a team that is already playing catch up on the big dogs and as we know, the Big XII is pretty much all about how many points you can put up, not how few your defense can restrict the opponent to.

Elsewhere, TCU, Baylor and Texas Tech have some guys who will be noteworthy when it comes to draft season but I don’t expect any of these teams to make serious noise. If anyone though, I’d expect TCU to reply Iowa State in the second tier of Big XII teams.

Another Year, Another Heisman Winner?

I’m really going to be front and centre when it comes to this particular preseason hype train; I think Jalen Hurts has a fantastic opportunity to win the Heisman Trophy and make it three out of three for Oklahoma when it comes to the award.

Hurts could be a great comeback story, which the public just loves anyway when it comes to these kinds of things and I also feel like the potential to put up big numbers in Lincoln Riley’s offense, both through the air and on the ground, could put him over the top.

Both of the two most recent Heisman winners have come from this offensive system and whilst Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield were both very accurate QB’s (both had completion percentages of around 70% in their final collegiate season), I believe Hurts can raise his percentage towards that due to the up-tempo spread, system that Oklahoma runs and the fact that he’ll be facing Big XII defenses, instead of SEC defenses.

I also feel that the potential for Hurts to better Murray’s rushing total from last year of 1,001 yards could cover up for his accuracy being lower than the past two winners.

A Conference of Wide Receivers!

I’ve mentioned once or twice throughout this article, the Big XII is a very offensive conference, defense is essentially damage limitation, even for the good teams!

In 2019, there are going to be a pretty special group of wide receivers in the conference so if you like points, the Big XII is going to be the conference for you.

The aforementioned Collin Johnson will be leading the way for the longhorns, at 6’6 he’s going to be pretty difficult to guard anyway and that doesn’t take into account his catching ability, which at times can be spectacular and his ever improving route running.

Texas Christian will be looking to Jalen Reagor to be their offensive centrepiece; he’s a wide receiver in a running back’s body with clean route running and explosive long speed.

Oklahoma have CeeDee Lamb is going to assume the role of WR1 for Jalen Hurts, now that Marquise Brown is in the league. Lamb may even be the best receiver in the Big XII.

Baylor have the feisty Denzel Mims, who has a really nice size and speed combination, who’ll be trying to make Charlie Brewers’ life easier as Bears QB.

Even the lesser teams like Oklahoma State have guys like Tylan Wallace and Texas Tech have T.J Vasher.

College football is awash with receiving talent this year and much of it resides in the Big XII.

And Some Good Defensive Backs to Guard Them All…

I’m actually pretty excited to see some the the Big XII’s DB’s go up against all this talent too! I feel like there are one or two corners who can seriously improve their draft stock should they perform well against most, if not all, of the receivers I mentioned above.

The first guy that springs to mind in this is A.J Green of Oklahoma State. Green still has a way to go to be a top prospect for next years’ draft but with that gauntlet of wide receivers to run, he’s certainly going to get tested a whole lot next year!

The next corner I’m looking forward to seeing develop is TCU’s Jeff Gladney. Gladney will be returning for his Senior season in Fort Worth and a little bit like Green, is in the second tier of corners in my rankings as things stand. Probably slated to be a day 2 pick next spring but like Green, will have plenty of opportunities to shine against the receiving talent of the Big XII.

The positives for Gladney over Green are that he’ll be playing on a better overall team, alongside experienced teammates in the secondary and that he doesn’t have to face Jalen Reagor, obviously.

Shout Out to…

Good offensive linemen! I want to give the big hogs some love. One thing the Big XII has produced a lot of in recent times in offensive linemen. Oklahoma especially has excelled in this; four of their starting five was drafted this past spring (Cody Ford, Bobby Evans, Dru Samia and Ben Powers). This season interior lineman, Creed Humphrey is going to be the next really good one off the conveyor belt too. Humphrey has a great build, 6’4 315lbs and a wrestling background alongside football and uses this to his advantage when coming up against defensive linemen. He looked awfully solid against Quinnen Williams last year versus Alabama and as always with Sooners linemen, he’s only going to get better – Humphrey is only going into his Redshirt Sophomore year so has plenty of eligibility left yet.

I want to mention one more lineman and I want to flip it to the outside and talk about a tackle – For that we go back to TCU.

This has actually made me feel like I underrated TCU when mentioning them as a whole earlier, since I’ve now mentioned a fair few of their players as players to watch… Anyway, I digress…

The other really, really good Big XII lineman I want to talk about is Lucas Niang. Niang is a 6’6, 340lbs tackle who is very highly rated by many analysts in the draft community and didn’t allow a sack at all last year.

A Little Bit of Future Scouting

So, whilst I’m here and inadvertently turning this into a full blown TCU love-in, I might as well go the whole hog, or should that be the whole frog? Apologies, that was bad. I just want to give a little shout out to Alexander Hӧnig and do a little bit of future scouting.

Hӧnig is a 4-star QB prospect from Germany who committed to TCU this summer and will be part of their 2021 class.

Hӧnig is an athletic, strong armed QB who wants to follow in the footsteps on recently retired NBA star, Dirk Nowitzski, and blaze a trail for Europeans over this side of the Atlantic.

Remember the name!

And Finally… It’s Prediction Time

PositionOverall RecordConference Record
1. Oklahoma12-09-0
2. Texas10-28-1
3. TCU8-46-3
4. Iowa State8-46-3
5. West Virginia7-55-4
6. Baylor7-54-5
7. Kansas State4-82-7
8. Oklahoma State3-92-7
9. Texas Tech2-100-9

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