By Kenny Howell
This is fourth part of my College Football Preview. This time we will look at Big 12.
The Big 12 will have my surprise team of the year: the Texas Longhorns.
I think Texas is poised to have a bounce back year in a big way. I think people will underestimate them because of their poor defensive showing last year, and I think that Mack Brown's back is against the wall. What will save them from both of those things is a team that is stacked. They will have a small freshman class this season, but the previous years, Rivals had them ranked No. 2, No. 3 and No. 3. The Longhorns also return 18 of 24 starters, if you include the kicking specialists. They get Oklahoma on a neutral field, Ole Miss, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State at home. Baylor should still have a solid team, so that will be a tough game on the road to end the season. But they can get through it. Add to that Kansas State and West Virginia should take steps back this year. I honestly think the Longhorns could get through the schedule unscathed and a possible spot in the National Championship. That is my out on a limb pick. I will look like a genius or a giant idiot in a few months. I am used to the idiot, so that is OK.
Their main competition should be rival Oklahoma. The Sooners will have a tough road trip to Notre Dame, and will probably drop their Red River Rivalry game with Texas. They will finish 10-2 and 8-1 in conference.
Oklahoma State is a popular pick to win the conference, but I don't think they have recruited well enough to get into that position. They have been ranked anywhere from 28-32 the past four years in Rivals rankings. They should still have a good year, going 9-3, 6-3 in conference.
Texas Tech should have a good season under new Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury. He is bringing a lot of energy, and they could be looking at a 9-3, 6-3 year as well.
I think in addition to those teams, Baylor, TCU and Kansas State should get to a bowl game.
1. Texas (12-0) (9-0)
2. Oklahoma (10-2) (8-1)
3. Oklahoma State (9-3) (6-3)
4. Texas Tech (9-3) (6-3)
5. Baylor (8-4) (5-4)
6. TCU (7-5) (5-4)
7. Kansas State (6-6) (3-6)
8. West Virginia (5-7) (3-6)
9. Iowa State (3-9) (1-8)
10. Kansas (3-9) (0-9)