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Big 12 Predictions – 2014

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Big 12  – 2014

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The Big 12, with just 10 teams and no championship game, is in a very interesting position for the new four-team playoff. I feel that any undefeated team from a major conference is going to be an automatic selection. The conference is on par with or better than most of the FBS, so a 12-0 team from the Big 12 is a playoff lock. It is the 11-1 Big 12 champion that is living on the edge. Unless committee members buy into the worthless value of strength of schedule, which is more of a glorified beauty contest, 11-1 with any schedule is going to take a back seat to 12-1 champs in the other conferences. If there are not more than four 12-1 or 13-0 teams, then the Big 12 champ will contend with other 11-1 teams and potentially 12-1 teams that lost in their conference championship. I feel that the lack of a 13th game hurts them in schedule comparisons, win totals and missing out on the exposure the championship week gives the other eight teams. Notre Dame could use a 13th game and so could BYU. Have the Big 12 champ meet the highest ranked of those two in championship week. There is risk and reward with any decision, and I feel there is greater longer term risk for playoff exclusion at 12 games than 13.

Bartoo’s Projected Finish with TLC

1. Oklahoma (11-1, 8-1 Big 12): If there was ever a schedule for the Sooners to get to 12-0 and into the playoffs, this is it. Texas is still a neutral site game, but the Longhorns are going through a huge transition. The next three most talented teams on their schedule, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Tennessee, are all at home, and the best head game coach, Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, also has to come to Norman. Their four road opponents offer no comparable talent, and the Sooners will be heavy favorites in all of them. 11.5 wins is my favorite middle and anything less than a conference title is a huge miss in scheduling gifts.

2 (t). Baylor (10-2, 7-2 Big 12): One of the easiest non-conference schedules in major college football gets the Bears off to a quick 3-0 start. The last three games are at home against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Kansas State, another great scheduling break. The only real threat is on the road against Texas, Oklahoma and the long trip to West Virginia at the end of four in a row and three of them on the road.

2 (t).Texas (9-3, 7-2 Big 12): Just because the Longhorns have a new coaching staff, it doesn’t mean they are not talented and dangerous. My biggest hesitation with coach Charlie Strong was his first two years at Louisville. It took him a while, and an NFL first-round QB to put it all together. After OSU, OU and Baylor, the talent really takes a dive in the conference. Anything less than 9-3 and a top 25 finish is a poor start for Strong and his staff.

4.Oklahoma State (8-4, 6-3) The Cowboys have one of the best coaches in the country with Mike Gundy; however, the loss of six starters on offense and seven on defense, including 61 percent of the defensive production, is a huge hole to fill. Odds are they take a win total step back. The good news is their schedule–after getting beat in Week 1 by Florida State–is very frontloaded with the easiest challenges on their schedule.

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5. Kansas State (7-5, 5-4 Big 12): The Wildcats only have the single greatest Coach Effect head coach this century. What Snyder has done at the level he recruits has been nothing short of astounding. His average annual value to K-State is an extra four to five wins per season. There is no one in college football even close to him. My best hope is to take what his team talent projects for wins (3), add four wins to it (7) and hope I can predict the games he will win this year.

6t. TCU (7-5, 4-5 Big 12): Coach Gary Patterson has not had the same Coach Effect in the Big 12 as he did coaching in the Mountain West. Sure the talent level has been raised, but so has the Horned Frogs’ recruiting due to the move to the Big 12. I see this season as three games to place them between 6-6 and 9-3. They host Oklahoma State, Kansas State and make the long trek to West Virginia. I have them dropping two of those three. Win all three and they are likely a top 25 team.

6t. Texas Tech (7-5, 4-5 Big 12): The Red Raiders need to start out 3-0, with two easy games and Arkansas at home. They need to take advantage early on, because the conference schedule is very much against them. Games against opponents with comparable talent are all on the road. Oklahoma State and TCU and their three toughest games all come in the last five weeks of the season, albeit at home. The Red Raiders will score a ton, but give plenty up on defense as well. They should be in a lot of fan friendly shootouts.

8(t). West Virginia (5-7, 3-6 Big 12): I really feel that the travel schedule for the Mountaineers, the toughest in college football, takes a huge toll on their seasons. Coach Dana Holgorsen has under-coached the talent by about a game a year, with many of the unpredicted losses were on the road. At home, WVU is solid, but they only have six home games, because they choose poorly in agreeing to play Alabama. That game will cost them physically, mentally and maybe even a bowl bid.

8 (t). Iowa State (5-7, 3-6 Big Ten): The numbers really like Paul Rhoads, but with recruited talent levels in the 60s, finding wins to even get bowl eligible are hard to pinpoint. They have two easy non-conference games and the rest feels like it is stacked against the Cyclones. Rhoads has a great track record of finding upsets, but to get four of them to get bowl eligible is a tough road to ride.

10. Kansas (2-10, 0-8 Big 12): The profile of Kansas coach Charlie Weis is very simple. Pick the Jayhawks to lose every game against any major conference football program and on the road to well coached mid-majors. The Coach Effect of Weis was very bad at Notre Dame, Florida showed zero improvement while he was in Gainesville, and the very few wins that he had tallied in Lawrence, are against mid-majors at home and random conference games. Until the trends changes, it is an easy, but painful one to follow.

Darkhorse: Texas – They have one of the top three most talented teams in the conference. Approximately 87 percent of all division and conference winners have had talent ranked in the top three in the division or conference.
The drawback is a new head coach and a culture that may take more than a year to re-teach how to win at an elite level. The Longhorns winning the Big 12 is not my pick, but I would not be surprised, should they pull it off.

Wildcard: Kansas State – Snyder has driven me crazy with his ability to win consistently. Last year, he lost to an FCS team, and I was thinking finally they will have a year closer to their recruiting level and then he goes on a tear in the latter half of the season and proved his incredible value once again. He is the wildcard as he can, unlike anyone in college football, pull out wins against anybody at any time, while having the talent to disappoint with an unexpected loss.

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