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Even after starting the conference season losing the first two games, with an inexperienced QB, an inept running attack riddled with injuries, and an under-performing offensive line, Oklahoma bounced back and fought their way to the top and claimed the conference championship for the 6th straight year. They topped off the season with a total thrashing of Florida in the Cotton Bowl and come into 2021 as prohibitive favorites to win their 7th straight trophy. There is plenty to like about the Sooners and most pundits agree that this is Coach Lincoln Riley’s best team since taking over 5 years ago. That spells bad news for the rest of the conference.
Iowa State looks to have the best shot at dethroning OU. They had the Sooners on the ropes in the championship game before losing 27-21 and they beat them in the regular season. Coach Matt Campbell has done an unbelievable job of building a program at a place that is extremely hard to consistently win. They have a ton of players back from one of the best teams in Cyclone history and if they can live up to the high expectations (big if), they have a shot to knock off the Sooners.
Oklahoma State blew a chance last year when OU lost the first two games. The talent was there and a lot of experts thought they underachieved. A home loss to Texas in overtime was the killer and then they were blown out in Norman and lost later at TCU. The Pokes lost several productive players off of that team but there is still talent and Coach Mike Gundy, whether you like him or not, has that program where they consistently win.
Then there is Texas who fired Tom Herman for not winning enough. In comes Steve Sarkisian, who was at two very good programs (Washington and USC), and had a combined mediocre record of 46-35 in seven years. But, he went to Alabama as Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator, and miraculously got a whole lot smarter I guess. I’ve got news for you. Just because you have great success at Alabama doesn’t mean you can do it somewhere else. There are problems at QB. Translation: There isn’t one with any experience. The defense has only 5 starters returning and Texas has lost the mystique they once had. Might take a season for Sark to get it going.
In Fort Worth, TCU is trying to fight their way back into the upper. echelon of the Big 12. They have slipped a little bit in the last couple of years. They have experience at QB, a good wide receiver, and a defense that is trying to get back to TCU’s reputation. They have road games against most of the conference’s beat teams and that might keep them from moving up much.
Kansas State has the makings of a very good offense if the QB can stay healthy and even if he doesn’t it appears they have depth at the position. The running game looks solid and if need can find some reliable receivers (which they usually have) they will be tough to stop. The defense is the big question mark as only 3 starters are back. But, they might be rated just a tad low.
West Virginia, Baylor, and Texas Tech will duke it out and probably will decide 7th, 8th, and 9th place. The MtNeers probably are the better of the three but it remains to be seen.
And then there is Kansas whose head coach was hired a day before the spring game. That pretty much sums up KU football. One has to wonder about new coach Lance Leipold’s sanity. The good news he has a solid track record and the Jayhawks found a promising coach. The bad news is he didn’t have any time to evaluate what he has inherited which might be a good thing for him.
So, it looks like Oklahoma is still the one to beat and the others are playing for 2nd in the Big-12. But, they play the games for a reason and nothing is automatic. Oklahoma has shown they can lose games they shouldn’t and one of these days it is going to bite them on the butt.
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