Buckle up sports fans, here comes the Big XII. Before we go any further, there’s something you need to know. There’s only ten teams in the Big XII. It’s the new conference on the block, formed in the 1996, and consisted of teams in the South and mid-west.
At the age of just 15, the Big XII had lost Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M and Missouri to rival conferences. Texas Christian University made it four Texas teams in the Big XII once more, and West Virginia joined from the Big East.
Unlike other Power 5 conferences, the Big XII is not split into divisions. The teams are:
Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Christian, Texas Tech, West Virginia
There are four Texan teams, and a further four in Oklahoma and Kansas. Iowa and West Virginia bring a “northern” flavour to a conference dominated by southern and mid-west schools.
Unfortunately for a conference so young, there isn’t much Big XII history to speak of. Of course, the teams themselves have rich and diverse pasts, but the conference in its current format is only 24 years old. Before 2010, each school would play 8 conference games a season. Things got complicated when the conference fell to just ten schools, as the divisional split was scrapped. Now, each college plays a nine game round robin with its Big XII rivals. Since 2015, each team must play another Power 5 school (plus independent Notre Dame) as part of its schedule.
Even before the exodus and influx of schools in the early 2010s, the conference has been dominated by Oklahoma and Texas, a rivalry known as the Red River Showdown. The Oklahoma Sooners lead the way, with 13 Big XII and 7 national titles. The Texas Longhorns trail behind them, with 3 conference and 4 national titles.
The Sooners and Longhorns dominate recruitment in the Big XII. The only 5 star recruits that committed to a Big XII team were running back Bijan Robinson and defensive end Alfred Collins, who both signed with Texas.
Texas and Oklahoma have fourteen 4 star recruits each joining their programs in 2020. Texas Christian (TCU) trails in third with just 5. With a clear disparity between the haves and have-nots, there’s no sign of the gap between rich and poor narrowing any time soon.
Baylor – Charlie Brewer, QB, Senior
Iowa State – Brock Purdy, QB, Junior
Kansas – Pooka Williams Jnr, RB, Junior
Kansas State – Malik Knowles, WR, Sophomore
Oklahoma – Creed Humphrey, IOL, Junior
Oklahoma State – Chuba Hubbard, RB, Junior
Texas – Samuel Cosmi, OT, Junior
TCU – Max Duggan, QB, Sophomore
Texas Tech – Erik Ezukanma, WR, Sophomore
West Virginia – Sam James, WR, Sophomore
The Best – Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma
Lincoln Riley has carved himself quite the reputation in his four years at Oklahoma. He has sent back-to-back number 1 overall picks to the NFL in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. He was also able to resurrect the stagnant career of Jalen Hurts, turning him into a 2nd Round draft pick. The “QB whisperer” has a new challenge on his hands with the exciting but unpredictable character of Spencer Rattler. Yes, that Spencer Rattler of QB1 fame on Netflix.
The Sooners have gone 12-2 for three years straight. With a freshman QB likely under centre and no CeeDee Lamb to throw to, the Sooners may take a step back in 2020. However, Riley will have his eyes fixed firmly on the top of the Big XII for another year.
Trending upwards – Chris Klieman, Kansas State
Klieman replaced Bill Snyder last year, and took the team from 5-7 to 8-5. Synder had served Kansas State since the 1980s, and is of legendary status amongst Wildcat fans. Klieman brought a fresh approach in 2019, and the team responded, picking up 3 further wins in the process.
The peak of last season was defeating the Sooners 48-4 at home. The signs are there that Kansas State can continue to improve in 2020. If they want to do so, they’ll have to overcome a tough schedule. In their last three games, they face trips to Oklahoma and Baylor, with a home game against Oklahoma State sandwiched in between.
The New Guy – Dave Aranda, Baylor Bears
There are big shoes to fill in Waco, Texas. Matt Rhule could have left the Bears for the New York Jets last offseason, before negotiations soured. One incredible 11-3 season later, and Rhule has found his home in the NFL. He will be leading the Carolina Panthers in the post-Cam Newton era.
Dave Aranda is quite the coup for Baylor. He was associate Head Coach and defensive coordinator on the record-setting LSU team of 2019. Bears fans will be hoping that he can bring good times to Baylor with his LSU experience under his belt.
The Hot Seat – Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
Gundy was in hot water with his players this offseason, after being pictured wearing a One America News network t-shirt. OAN has been openly critical of the Black Lives Matter movement, labelling it “a farce”. Gundy’s initial reluctance to apologise led star running back Chiba Hubbard to hit out at his Head Coach on Twitter. The two later appeared side-by-side on live television, in an attempt to settle any discord.
Gundy is not out of the woods. A school investigation into alleged racism found no evidence to remove him from his position, but he was docked $1m of his 2020 salary. It was judged that Gundy had failed to foster positive relationships with his athletes.
For off-field drama rather than on-field difficulty (the Cowboys were a solid 8-5 last year), Gundy is on the hot seat.
Best – Oklahoma Sooners
Sam Ehlinger might think that Texas is back, but it would be foolish to dismiss Oklahoma. The Sooners are looking for their sixth consecutive Big XII championship in 2020, and Lincoln Riley is the man to do it. In theory, there is a QB contest between Spencer Rattler and Tanner Mordecai. This provides an uncertainty at the position that they haven’t had in years. My prediction is that Rattler wins the starting job and shows precisely why he is so highly rated by his Head Coach. Charleston Rambo provides an experienced target at the wide receiver position. Kennedy Brooks is coming off a 1,000 yard sophomore year. The talent is there on offense to keep the Sooners on top for one more year.
Worst – Texas Tech
The Red Raiders were the worst defense in the Big XII in 2019, as the program slipped from 5-7 to a 4-8 record. Their key player on defense, Jordyn Brooks, left for the NFL and the Seattle Seahawks in April.
With a defense so devoid of talent, they will need to be competitive on offense. Quarterback Alan Bowman hasn’t yet had a healthy year, and made just three appearances before a shoulder injury ended his 2019 season.
Head Coach Matt Wells will need his QB to stay healthy if his team is to pick up wins in 2020. History is against him, and his Texas Tech team will be lucky to pick up more than last year’s 4 wins. If the Big XII moves to an in-conference schedule, expect Texas Tech to suffer.
Tom Scott @downthemannyrd