It was a strange ol’ 2020 season for teams in the Big XII conference. Texas we certainly not “back”, as Sam Ehlinger had boldly predicted after the 2019 Sugar Bowl. The Longhorns finished a dismal fourth. The Iowa State Cyclones topped the conference, but fell in the Big XII Championship Game to the Oklahoma Sooners. The Baylor Bears began life after Matt Rhule with new Head Coach Dave Aranda. Elder statesman Gary Patterson entered his 20th year leading the TCU Horned Frogs.
Fans were permitted to attend Big XII fixtures in 2020. Oklahoma sold out every game played at Owen Field – 22,700 Sooner faithful were permitted into the 86,000 seater stadium.
Tom and Ash have collaborated to bring you their review of the 2020 Big XII season.
Season Record: 9-2
Bowl Game: Won 55-20 v. Florida (Cotton Bowl)
The emergence of Spencer Rattler
The Sooners allowed Spencer Rattler to start as a freshman in 2020, breaking with their recent trend of bringing in transferred QBs. Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts all had success after moving to Norman. Rattler redshirted in 2019, and was primed to start this year. He had an impressive start in 2020, justifying the hype surrounding him following his appearance on Netflix’s QB1. He threw for over 3,000 yards, 27 touchdowns and just 7 INTs. Although he had less than 200 yards rushing, he still managed 6 scores with his feet. All eyes are on him as the premium QB in the Big XII (and possibly all of college football) going into 2021.
Lincoln Riley would not have expected to be playing the Red River game with a losing record. The Sooners entered the game 1-2 on the season after back-to-back defeats. The game was incredible – four periods of overtime were required to separate the two teams. Oklahoma was the only team to lead in regulation, but Sam Ehlinger’s incredible QB play levelled the scores at the end of regulation. The Oklahoma defence conceded two passing touchdowns in the final four minutes. The teams traded touchdowns in the first two series of overtime, with the third scoreless. A Rattler TD pass to Drake Stoops as followed by a two point conversion. Oklahoma was up by 8. The defence, which had struggled to contain Ehlinger and the Longhorns offence as the game wore on, finally secured the win. Cornerback Tre Brown intercepted Ehlinger to win the game for Lincoln Riley.
It wasn’t the finest performance of the year, especially on defence. However, in the Red River Rivalry, wins don’t get more thrilling than this.
Cotton Bowl winners
It was a special end to the season for Riley and Oklahoma. The Sooners embarrassed a weakened Florida team, defeating them in the Cotton Bowl 55-20. It capped off a perfect postseason for Big XII teams, who went 5-0 against their Bowl Game opponents. It was the first time in Big XII conference history that this had happened.
Oklahoma’s victory came in the AT&T Stadium. Just twelve days before this victory, they had clinched the Big XII conference at the same stadium. The star of the Cotton Bowl was not young QB Spencer Rattler, but RB Rhamondre Stevenson. He ran for 186 yards and a score. Freshman RB Marcus Major also rushed for 100+ yards.
It was a poor start to the season. The Sooners comfortably won their only non-conference game, a 48-0 hammering of Missouri State. After that, they went 0-2 in Big XII conference games. It meant that Oklahoma would not be a playoff team, and that was before they had taken on their bitter rivals, Texas.
Both defeats were by less than a score. A field goal separated the two sides when Kansas State visited Norman (38-35). Iowa State beat The Sooners by a touchdown (37-30). The wheels on the Sooner Schooner could have fallen off at that point. However, the program went on an impressive 8 game winning run. That impressive period culminated in revenge over the Cyclones in the Big XII Championship Game, and a Cotton Bowl victory over Florida.
For the first time in Lincoln Riley’s career as Head Coach of the Sooners, he will have a starting QB returning to the program with at least two years left to play. He may declare for the 2022 NFL Draft, though. It remains to be seen what will happen, but expect a big year from Spencer Rattler in 2021.
His centre Creed Humphrey has entered the 2021 NFL Draft. Rhamondre Stevenson has also declared. On defence, edge rushers Ronnie Perkins and Nik Bonitto have left for the Draft, as has cornerback Tre Brown.
Iowa State Cyclones
Season Record: 9-3
Bowl Game: W 34-17 v. Oregon (Playstation Fiesta Bowl)
Breece Hall Hype
Iowa State had many highlights this year, including the regular season victories over Oklahoma and Texas. One man continued his climb up the rankings as the top college prospect in 2022: Running Back Breece Hall.
The shifty back loves to make defenders miss, but will also run through someone on impact. He has the blend you love to see from a Running Back. Hall is also reported to have mid 4.4 speed. He is tough to stop when he gets up to speed.
Hall ended the year with 1,572 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. He showed that he can catch the ball. Hall ended the year with 23 receptions, 180 yards and two touchdowns.
Breece Hall will most certainly be a name to look out for next season, and a name on many NFL franchise owners’ watch lists for the 2022 NFL Draft.
Matt Campbell’s blow up
Iowa State finished 8-1 in the Big XII, and only lost to Oklahoma State in the regular season (their other loss was out of conference against Louisiana).
The Cyclones came into the Big XII title match up against Oklahoma with immense confidence after beating them earlier in the season. This was not the same Sooners or erratic Rattler that came to town in October.
The final score (27-21) makes this contest look close. In all honesty, Oklahoma got this done in the first half. The Sooners went in at half time 24-7 up. Brock Purdy could not handle the pressure from the Oklahoma front, and threw three interceptions in the game.
At the end of the day, Oklahoma remains the big dog of the Big XII. For all of the positives this season, the missed chance to topple The Sooners will hurt for a while. HC Matt Campbell was losing his mind on the sidelines a number of times. He was particularly incensed with the Isheem Young ejection and a failed fourth down offside call. Both calls controversially went against The Cyclones.
Iowa State is one of the fortunate programs in 2021. A number of Seniors will be returning, thanks to the extra year granted from the NCAA. TE Charlie Kolar and DB Greg Eisworth are the standout returnees, as is QB Brock Purdy. In fact, Iowa State are remaining largely intact for the 2021 season. They will be adding a number of 3 star recruits to the program.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Season Record: 8-3
Bowl Game: Won 37-34 v. Miami (Cheez-It Bowl)
Bowl Game victory
The Oklahoma State Cowboys won the games they were supposed to in 2020. They even edged out Iowa State, who finished ahead of them in the final Big XII standings. Defeats against Texas and Oklahoma would have been expected before the season had begun. The defeat to The Longhorns came in overtime. The humbling at the hands of The Sooners wasn’t anywhere near as close. They were defeated 41-13. The Cowboys have won just two Bedlam games under Mike Gundy. This defeat was the least amount of points his team had put up since they were comprehensively beaten 27-0 in 2009.
That said, the season ended on a high. Gundy and The Cowboys saw past a Miami Hurricanes team that had impressed in the ACC this year. QB Spencer Sanders led the team in both passing and rushing (305 yards, 4 TDs and 45 yards respectively) in the game. The Cowboys went 7-0 ahead in the first quarter, and although it was a close game, maintained their lead throughout. It was a positive end to a largely successful season. Now, to take the next step…
Mike Gundy’s t-shirt
Before a game had been played, Mike Gundy had landed himself in hot water. Not with the NCAA, or the Big XII conference powers, but his own players. He was pictured with a One America News t-shirt. OAN is a right-wing news platform that would make FOX look like lily-livered liberals. It had made baseless accusations about the Black Lives Matter movement. It even insisted that an elderly passer-by pushed over by police in Buffalo was an “antifa” radical. To put it short, they’re a nasty lot.
Gundy claimed to be unaware of the network’s position on key issues. Gundy did say he was “disgusted” when he discovered the content that OAN puts out. He called himself a “dumbass” for wearing the t-shirt without knowing what the company represented. This was after star Running Back Chuba Hubbard tweeted that he wouldn’t practice or play for the Cowboys until things changed on the program. His tweet was supported by teammates and alumni.
Gundy’s apology was enough to bring Hubbard back into the fold. Hubbard was made to apologise for his tweet in a joint-video with his Head Coach. Importantly, Gundy did not utter the word “sorry”. He did however promise future changes to the program.
Three key offensive pieces have entered the 2021 NFL Draft: RB Chuba Hubbard, WR Tylan Wallace, and OT Teven Jankins.
As with most Big XII programs, The Cowboys have been busy in the transfer portal. Eight players have left the program, with three key pieces incoming. They are RB Jaylen Warren, Centre Danny Godlevske, and DB Trey Rucker.
Season Record: 7-3
Bowl Game: W 55-23 v. Colorado (Valero Alamo Bowl)
Coming out on top in Texas
The rivalry game against Texas Tech was a slug fest in 2020. The Longhorns overcame the Red Raiders 63-56 in overtime in a back and forth contest that could have gone either way.
Texas got off to the better start. The Longhorns were up by a field goal at half time, before a three TD showing in the third by Texas Tech. Texas tied the game up with under a minute remaining. Quarterback Sam Ehliger threw his final TD in overtime and DB Caden Sterns was able to come up with the interception from Alan Bowman to end the game and win the contest for the Longhorns.
Goodbye Tom Herman
Herman is gone from Texas, despite a 32-18 record in four seasons in charge of the Longhorns. His tenure can be remembered as an inability to close the gap on Oklahoma as there was a continued decline of recruits coming into the program.
The writing was on the wall earlier in the season. Herman was replaced with Alabama OC Steve Sarkisan despite ending the season 7-3. Despite winning the Valero Alamo Bowl, rumours abound that Herman lost the dressing room. After that, there was no turning back.
The Longhorns are losing a lot of talent to the 2021 NFL Draft. Starting QB Sam Ehlinger, OT Samuel Cosmi, DE Joseph Ossai, DB Caden Sterns are the big names off to the NFL this year.
New HC Steve Sarkisan is coming into town with much fanfare, after his impressive stint as Alabama OC. He will be looking to improve both sides of the ball and get the program back to the top alongside Oklahoma. His first job is to decide which QB will start under centre in the absence of Sam Ehlinger.
West Virginia Mountaineers
Season Record: 6-4
Bowl Game: W 24-21 v. Army (Autozone Liberty Bowl)
First Bowl Game victory in five years
West Virginia hadn’t won a Bowl Game since the 2015 win over Arizona State. That run came to an end after the 24-21 victory over Army in the Autozone Liberty Bowl.
West Virginia went for the ballsy play late in the game, and converted a two point attempt to put them up three with five minutes left. Army then missed a field goal, and on their final drive WVU DB Josh Chandler-Semedo intercepted with 30 seconds left to effectively end the game.
Vic Koenning controversial exit
The lowest point of the season for West Virginia technically happened before the season started. Defensive Coordinator Vic Koenning lasted seven months in the job before he was put on leave. He was subsequently let go following allegations of player mistreatment within the program. It was reported that Koenning made numerous inappropriate comments in training sessions surrounding a number of issues.
This looked to derail the program before the season even started, but the team was able to overcome this and put up a winning season, with a Bowl Game victory to boot.
The main losses to the 2021 NFL Draft for the Mountaineers in 2021 are the Stills brothers; DT Darius and DE Dante. Darius is rumoured to be a mid round pick, whilst Dante may be selected on Day 3. This will be a blow to the number one defence in the Big XII, but they are bringing back a large portion of that defence for the upcoming season. QB Jarret Doege is also returning and will be looking to make up for his disappointing end to the season (he was benched in the Bowl Game).
West Virginia also has a trio of 4 star recruits coming into the program in 2021, including running back Kaden Prather.
TCU Horned Frogs
Season Record: 6-4
Bowl Game: N/A (Texas Bowl cancelled)
Beating Texas (again)
Gary Patterson led the Horned Frogs to a winning record in 2020, after finishing 5-7 in 2019. Of those wins, one particularly stood out.
The key victory came against TCU’s rivals, The Texas Longhorns. The two schools have been playing out this rivalry since the 19th Century. Texas has historically enjoyed the better record – they enjoyed a 24 game winning streak between 1968 and 1991. Since Patterson’s arrival in Fort Worth however, The Horned Frogs are 7-3. His reign has been the most fruitful for TCU since the 1930s.
In this game, a 4th Quarter goal-line fumble by Keaontay Ingram handed TCU the ball, and victory. The Longhorns were just one yard away from punching the ball over the line. Instead, they fell to an early season home loss as they tumbled down the AP Poll rankings. Before Ingram handed the win to the visitors, QB Max Duggan ran for two scores. His second was a 26 yard run to put the team up, 33-29. It meant that Patterson could instruct his QB to take the safety, rather than risk conceding on the punt return.
Not enough on offence
TCU had one of the best defences in the Big XII in 2020. If the offence could replicate that level of play, we could have been talking about a Horned Frogs team worthy of the Big XII Championship Game. In their losses to Kansas State, Oklahoma and WVU, they scored a combined 34 points.
2020 was a step forward for Gary Patterson and his TCU program. They may be left wondering what might have been.
Safety tandem Trevon Moehrig and Ar’Darius Washington have entered the 2021 NFL Draft. They will leave a humongous hole in what was an impressive 2020 defensive unit.
Sonny Cumbie has left his post as OC for a similar role at Texas Tech. He is to be replaced by former TE Coach, Doug Meacham.
Kansas State Wildcats
Season Record: 4-6
Bowl Game: N/A (withdrew – COVID outbreak on the program)
Beating Lincoln Riley
The Wildcats were predicted to finish seventh in the Big XII in a preseason media poll. They did. The highlight of their year has to be the close victory over Oklahoma in the first conference game of the season. Freshman Deuce Vaughn showed his abilities as a pass catching Running Back, with 164 yards from 8 carries and 4 receptions. He also had a crucial touchdown for his team.
The Wildcats were four score underdogs. They had lost their non-conference game to Arkansas State, who they were expected to see off with ease. In short, this result wasn’t on the cards. When they were 21 points behind, many had written this game of. A stunning comeback marked an historic win for Kansas State and Head Coach Chris Klieman.
The defence also forced star freshman Spencer Rattler into throwing three interceptions. This performance gave The Wildcats unlikely back-to-back victories over the Big XII’s most dominant program.
It sparked a 4-1 start to the season. Unfortunately, it was all to go downhill from there on.
It is safe to say that the wheels truly came off in Manhattan, Kansas. A 27 point defeat to West Virginia was followed by a close loss at home to Oklahoma State (20-18). The Wildcats didn’t put up a single point in their rivalry game with Iowa State. They were beaten 45-0, the most points conceded to The Cyclones since 1986. The last occasion Kansas State failed to register any points in this rivalry was 1976. The Wildcats won ten straight versus Iowa State between 2008 and 2017, but have since lost two of their last three matchups.
A total of 11 players transferred from Kansas State in the offseason. This was an unprecedented number, but characteristic of the hectic nature of the 2020-1 transfer portal.
Senior QB Skylar Thompson will return in 2021 after accepting the extra year of eligibility offered by the NCAA. It is no coincidence that his injury against Texas Tech in Game Week 3 coincided with the team’s change in fortunes last season.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Season Record: 4-6
Bowl Game: N/A
Mauling The Bears
Texas Tech and Baylor have a long and closely fought rivalry. Entering 2020, The Baylor Bears led the series 39-38-1 and had won the last two meetings between the programs.
Tech tied the series up in dramatic style in November. Down 23-12 entering the final quarter, the Red Raiders scored a TD, only to miss the 2 point conversion. They forced Baylor to punt on their next two possessions. Two field goals sealed the win with no time left on the clock.
Forget the other rivalries
Texas Tech did not have a great time in their big rivalry matchups in 2020. They squandered a 15 point lead against Texas to lose in overtime.
It got worse against TCU, where they lost comfortably by a 34-18 scoreline. Tech gave up three touchdowns in the third quarter effectively ending the game.
Starting QB Alan Bowman may be transferring to Michigan, but they have arguably upgraded at the position. Former Oregon QB Tyler Shough and 4 star recruit Behren Morton are joining the program this offseason.
Season Record: 2-7
Bowl Game: N/A
Is there one?
A blowout victory over Kansas cannot be considered a highlight. Every team in the Big XII beat The Jayhawks comfortably in 2020 (with the exception of Texas Tech).
Sorry, Bears fans. The sooner we forget about 2020, the better.
The Ghost of Matt Rhule
The Baylor Bears could not recover from the loss of talismanic Head Coach Matt Rhule, who left The Bears to join the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. Last year, Rhule led his side to the Big XII Championship Game, where they were defeated in overtime by Oklahoma. In 2020, new HC Dave Aranda mustered just two wins. It was a huge step back for the program. This was a miserable 2020 season, with an expected hammering of Kansas and one point win over Kansas State aside.
Baylor’s season opener with Houston was cancelled in September, after an outbreak on the team left one position group unfit to meet the Big XII conference’s threshold for playing. There were 490 cases within the first three weeks of students returning to campus. This naturally had an effect on the football team. Once more in October, the program was hit by the virus. All football operations were suspended, which led to the cancellation of the game with Oklahoma State. Unfortunately for the school, $80m in budget cuts have been enacted as a result of the pandemic.
QB Charlie Brewer, who started under centre in 2019 and 2020, has transferred to Utah. Running Back John Lovett has joined the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Former-BYU Offensive Coordinator Jeff Grimes has joined the Bears in the same role that he enjoyed at The Cougars.
In a strange turn of events, the program announced Troy’s Ryan Pugh as an Offensive Line Coach in January, only for HC Dave Aranda to reverse that decision in a later statement. It may be related to a 2010 incident, in which Pugh wore blackface to a fancy dress party.
Season Record: 0-9
Bowl Game: N/A
The season is over
Kansas has long been regarded as the whipping boys of the Big XII. An all-conference schedule in 2020 didn’t help the Jayhawks whatsoever.
2020 is the first winless season since 2015 for the Kansas Jayhawks. With the controversy surrounding HC Les Miles from his LSU days, it could be another turbulent offseason for the Jayhawks.
In an 0-9 season, it was a take you pick on a standout lowlight for the season. The blowouts to Oklahoma State (47-7) and Oklahoma (62-9) were a couple of selections.
However the 55-14 dismantling to rivals Kansas State must have hurt the most for the Jayhawks fans. They have now not beaten their rivals in 12 meetings in a winless streak spanning over a decade. Kansas still leads the overall rivalry 64-48-5, but with the state of this program, it could still be a number of years for the Jayhawks to add their tally.
Kansas are losing a number of players through the transfer portal in 2021, including their best two receivers Andrew Parchment and Stephon Robinson Jr.
They do have 4 star wide receiver Quaydarius Davis entering the program in 2021 as a freshman. Kansas remains at the bottom of recruiting in the Big XII and are a long way from being a competitive outfit.
Check out more of our 2020 season previews over @5yardcollege