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My Unscientific Unempirial Totally Ridiculous But Halfway Serious 2011 College Football Predictions: Big 12 Conference

In 2009, I went through all the major BCS conferences and created some semi-amusing, totally off-base and (eventually) inaccurate predictions and bowl projections for the upcoming college football season. In 2010, I was working nonstop throughout the summer without a break and never had the chance to put together some predictions. So now that I have some free time on my hands, it’s time to do some predictions – and I’ll start with the conference I know best, the Big 12.

 

As you will see in the attached image,  I have Oklahoma winning the Big 12 and securing an undefeated season. I’m completely sold on this team having seen them play numerous times last year. Most of the Sooners’ offense is back for 2011, and a very stout defense will often dominate. OU’s home schedule is very favorable this year as they draw Missouri and Texas A&M in Norman and assuming the Sooners knock off Florida State in week 2 in Tallahassee, they should be in a good position to play in the BCS National Championship game.

Texas A&M is my #2 team in the Big 12 with a 10-2 (7-2) record.. The Aggies have a ton of ability on both sides of the ball and have proven they can win big games. I think they’ll be ranked in the top 15 for most of the season as well, but having to go on the road to Norman and Manhattan in back to back weeks will be an extremely tough test. I think they’ll have a close, emotional loss to OU, then drop a game to sneaky Kansas State. Overall, A&M should finish 7-2 in the Big 12 and enjoy a second-straight bid to the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic. Yes, bowls don’t always pick teams in back-to-back years, but the Cotton Bowl is almost unanimously known as one of, if not the best non-BCS bowl to go to in terms of hospitality, exposure, and overall experience. And yes, the Aggies will have played at “Cowboys Stagjum” twice in the past two seasons, but that doesn’t stop legions of their fans gobbling up tickets. And as you’ll see in a later post, they’ll love a chance to play the SEC opponent in that game.

Missouri is my #3 team for 2011, going 10-2 (7-2). Despite losing Blaine Gabbert and Aldon Smith, the Tigers return 15 starters, most of whom were big contributors. If highly-touted  junior college transfer Sheldon Richardson makes an immediate impact on the defensive line, MU will be fearsome on D once again. I was impressed by James Franklin last year in his limited duties spelling out Gabbert at QB, so I’m confident he can come in and start without a problem.  I have the Tigers knocking off Arizona State in Tempe and Texas at home as the squad’s marquee wins, while losses to Texas A&M and Oklahoma on the road secure the #3 spot in the Big 12, a berth to the Valero Alamo Bowl, and another season ranked in the top-25.

I have Kansas State as my #4 team at 8-4 (6-3) in the Big 12. I know this might come as a surprise to put them ahead of Oklahoma State and Texas, but I’m not sold on either of those two. I’ll take a Bill Snyder-led team in its third year under his leadership to impress all-around. No one really knows what to expect at QB, but all indications point to the more mobile Collin Klein to start. But, Snyder may also pick junior college transfer Justin Tuggle (seemingly similar to Michael Bishop and Ell Roberson) to start as well if he impresses during the summer. Running back Bryce Brown, a transfer from Tennessee, looked good in K-State’s spring game and he should be KSU’s big horse to run the ball with. After 2010’s terrible defensive performances, I think the Wildcats added depth and a big-time playmaker at linebacker with Miami (FL) transfer Arthur Brown, Bryce’s brother. I expect KSU to lose its bouts at Miami (FL), home versus Missouri and Oklahoma, and at Oklahoma State, but easily earn another bowl bid, especially with upsets of Texas and Texas A&M. I have KSU slotted to the Insight Bowl.

Texas Tech is my #5 team at 8-4 (5-4) in the Big 12. I like what Tommy Tuberville is doing in Lubbock but I think he needs one more season of big recruiting classes to make an impact and have a shot at contending for the Big 12 title. The Red Raiders have to break in a new QB, junior Seth Doege, after Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield graduated last year, but shouldn’t have trouble putting up points with a typically-strong skill position lineup. Tech has an excellent defensive backfield returning in Tre’ Porter and Cody Davis, but they need last year’s JuCo transfer Scott Smith to step up and replace All-Big 12 lineman Colby Whitlock on the D-line if Tech wants to improve on 8 wins. I have the Red Raiders headed to San Diego to play in the Holiday Bowl.

Oklahoma State is my #6 team at a disappointing 6-6 (3-6) in 2011. Something does not seem right to me about the Cowboys this year, and I think the departure of offensive coordinator Dana Holgerson to West Virginia will be a bigger loss than people realized. Yes, the Cowboys should put up plenty of points this year with Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon, and Joe Randle back (along with their entire offensive line), but I’m concerned about the losses of Orie Lemon and Ugo Chinasa on defense. By that same token, many people picked the Cowboys to finish last in the Big 12 South division in 2010 and were proven wrong, so we could be in for a fun season again – especially if the Pokes’ cornerbacks are as strong as they were last year. Shaun Lewis, Brodrick Brown, Justin Gilbert, and Markelle Martin all had huge moments and they’ll be relied on again this year to anchor the defense. I have the Cowboys dropping a Friday night game to Iowa State in Ames and a tough contest with Texas in Austin, but should OSU win those games, they’ll be in for a much better season. I have the Cowboys slated into the Bowl Formerly Known as the Texas Bowl – the Mieneke Car Care Bowl of Texas.

Finishing a surprising 7th in my predictions is Iowa State at 6-6 (3-6). I think the Cyclones’ defense will be extremely good this year and really clamp down well on certain teams, but they’ll struggle to find a way to score on offense since they must replace RB Alexander Robinson and QB Austen Arnaud. ISU will beat Iowa at Jack Trice Stadium this year (mark it down) and also knock off UConn in Hartford, giving the Cyclones a boost heading into conference season. Home wins against Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma State will clinch ISU’s second bowl bid in three years. I have the Cyclones headed to the Bronx to play in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Baylor is my #8 team in the Big 12, finishing 5-7 (3-6). The Bears’ buzzsaw opener against TCU is the only thing preventing them from heading to a bowl game – should BU top the Frogs, they should manage to seal a few wins in conference and the rest of their non-conference slate and get to the 6-win plateau. I love Robert Griffin III and the rest of BU’s offense – so much speed and ability, while on defense they bring much of the same despite losing 1st-round NFL pick Phil Taylor. New defensive coordinator Phil Bennett comes to Waco from Pittsburgh, where he led the Panthers to several excellent defensive seasons, so if the Bears can get back to a bowl, it’ll come from their improvement on defense. Winnable games that I have penciled as losses include @ KSU and a trip to Arlington to play Texas Tech at Cowboys Stadium.

Texas may see another difficult year in 2011 if my prediction of a 5-7 (3-6) and #9 overall finish comes true. It seems like every year the Longhorns have top-5 recruiting classes filled with studs at every position, but it doesn’t mean that translates to winning games. I think with an almost-entirely new coaching staff, UT will improve as the season goes on but struggle initially. I’m not sold on Garrett Gilbert or Case McCoy at QB and they’ll be playing behind an offensive line with three new starters  while the two that return anchored one of the worst offensive lines in Texas history, so it may be a bloodbath at first as the ‘Horns break in their new offense. If freshman running back Malcom Brown is what he’s made out to be, he could be a complete beast. UT has some nice players on defense – Emmanuel Acho, Jackson Jeffcoat, Kheeston Randall (to name a few) and they’ll need them to play to their potential this season if the Longhorns want to get back to a bowl.

Kansas is my #10 team in the Big 12 as I expect the Jayhawks to finish 2-10 (0-9). This will be a particulary difficult year for KU, but their defense could impress. I like Toben Opurum at defensive end and Huldon Tharp at linebacker. Tharp, who earned Freshman All-America honors in 2009, missed all of last season with an injury, so if he comes back at full strength this year, he could put together a really nice season.

 

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