Tuesday, October 19

12 big predictions for 2021: conference standings, Heisman hopefuls and best matches

Is this the end of the Big 12 as we know it?

With Oklahoma and Texas seeking membership in the Southeastern Conference, the conference appears to be heading for another drastic change in the era of the college football playoffs.

On the field, the Sooners are still the team to beat. Oklahoma has won six consecutive Big 12 championships, and coach Lincoln Riley has another charged offense to work with in 2021. Heisman Trophy favorite Spencer Rattler is back at quarterback, and there’s enough talent to make a national championship.

Texas begins a new era with Steve Sarkisian, who won the Broyles Award for the nation’s best assistant coach in Alabama in 2020. Kansas also fired Les Miles and hired Buffalo coach Lance Leipold this offseason.

BENDER: The Best Realization Options of the Big 12

Looking for a challenger for Oklahoma? Iowa State, which parted ways with the Sooners last season, is the best bet with coach Matt Campbell. The Cyclones had three players on SN’s preseason All-American team at Breece Hall, Charlie Kolar and Mike Rose. Three-year starter Brock Purdy is also back.

Sporting News analyzes the Big 12 and makes its predictions for 2021:

2021 Big 12 expected first come first serve

  1. Oklahoma
  2. State of Iowa
  3. TCU
  4. Texas
  5. State of oklahoma
  6. West Virginia
  7. State of Kansas
  8. Texas Tech
  9. Baylor
  10. Kansas

Top 12 Big Story: Is This Farewell Tour Of OU, Texas?

The Sooners and Longhorns appear en route to the SEC, but it’s a question of when right now. Will it be 2022?

MORE: SEC Is Getting One Big 12 Superpower, Not Two

If so, those respective road schedules get a lot more interesting. Texas plays at TCU, Baylor, Iowa State and West Virginia this year. Oklahoma travels to the state of Kansas, Kansas, Baylor and the state of Oklahoma. Animosity for the Sooners and Longhorns will be amplified if those schools are exiting.

That could create some unmissable TV showdowns.

MORE: ACC Predictions | Predictions of the big ten

Impact Freshman

JD Coffey III, S, Texas

Coffey is one of three talented freshmen who should see immediate playing time for the Longhorns along with wide receivers Ja’Tavion Sanders and Xavier Worthy. Coffey fits in with new defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski, who worked with Budda Baker during his time in Washington. Expect Coffey to emerge as a playmaker, especially in the second half of the season.

Impact transfers

Tyler Shough, QB, Texas Tech

Shough has the attention of NFL scouts, and that’s down to a 6-foot-5, 221-pound frame. The Oregon transfer had 13 TDs and six interceptions last season. He’ll put stats on the Texas Tech offense, which is always quarterback friendly. The Red Raiders are 8-14 and haven’t finished above eighth in the Big 12 with Matt Wells. Shough will be counted on to change that.

Eric Gray, RB, Oklahoma

Gray averaged 5.1 yards per carry the past two seasons at Tennessee before transferring to what should be a deep backfield with the Sooners. Kennedy Brooks is returning after dropping last season, and Marcus Major also averaged more than 5.0 yards per carry. Gray will make the most of his new opportunity.

Heisman hopefuls

Spencer Rattler, quarterback, Oklahoma

Rattler turned a corner in the second half of 2020, one in which he passed for 18 TDs and two interceptions in his last eight games. He produced at least four TDs in five games, and the numbers should improve after another year with Riley. It’s a good bet to join Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray as the next Oklahoma Heisman winner.

Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State

It’s tough for running backs to win the Heisman, but Hall comes back as the FBS leader with 1,606 yards from scrimmage. He’s a consistent producer, and if the Cyclones win the Big 12 championship, the junior running back has a chance to make it to New York.

Marvin Mims, WR, Oklahoma

Did Alabama’s Devonta Smith start a trend last season with wide receivers? Mims has a similar structure, scoring nine TDs on 37 receptions as a freshman while averaging 16.5 yards per reception. This could be a year early, but the talent is there to be Oklahoma’s next great receiver.

Bigger games

State of Iowa in Oklahoma (November 20)

The Cyclones are 2-4 against the Sooners with Campbelll, and all of those games have been decided by 10 points or less. There’s a good chance these teams will race again in the Big 12 championship game, but the winner here should at least clinch a spot.

Oklahoma vs. Texas (October 9)

This will be Sarkisian’s first chance in one of college football’s historic rivalries, and the Longhorns will have an offense that revolves around SN Preseason All-American running back Bijan Robinson. The Sooners have won the last three meetings, including the 2018 Big 12 championship game.

Oklahoma in the state of Oklahoma (November 27)

Bedlam’s nature will change when the Sooners go to the SEC, but this game is likely to stay on the schedule. Still, it won’t have the same implications for the conference. This is an opportunity for the Cowboys, led by returning quarterback Spencer Sanders, to snap a six-game losing streak against their rivals. The atmosphere should come alive in Stillwater.

12 great stats that matter

Oklahoma has won the Big 12 a total of 14 times since the conference was formed in 1996, with only one of those conference championships being shared. The remainder of the conference has been combined for 13 conference championships, and two of them were shared.

The Sooners’ dominance in the CFP era has been even more impressive. Oklahoma is 56-10 in the Big 12 since 2014, and Oklahoma State (38-25) and TCU (38-26) are the next best bets.

The Cowboys and Horned Frogs have been worthy contenders at times, but those schools are now stuck with either wearing the new Big 12 or auditioning for a new super conference.

Big 12 Champion: Oklahoma

The Sooners have ranked sixth nationally in scoring offense since Riley took over as head coach, a four-year stretch in which Oklahoma averaged 44.8 points per game.

The pieces are in place for the Sooners to get past that and answer the overarching question: Can Oklahoma beat an SEC powerhouse in the college football playoff?

The state of Iowa poses an interesting challenge, and the rest of the Big 12 will be out looking for the Sooners. It does not matter. Oklahoma is 10-1 in the Big 12 championship game.

The Sooners add another and return to the CFP.


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