According to the NCAA, the Big 12 ranked third among FBS conferences with an average attendance of 58,899.
The SEC ranked first with an average attendance of 75,674, followed by the Big Ten at 70,431.
Though a distant third, the Big 12 was comfortably ahead of the Pac-12 (53,619) and the ACC (49,982).
All told, five Big 12 teams had increases in attendance.
Bucking a national trend of declining student attendance to college football games, Texas Tech actually set a student season-attendance record in 2013. The first home game had 14,915 students in attendance, breaking the game record of 12,910 set in the 2010 home opener. The student clamor for tickets kept growing, and eventually the school had to open another section of seats to meet the demand. Texas Tech students know how to have a good time, too. So does their football coach. Kliff Kingsbury gave out cash prizes to the best costumes during Tech’s home game against Oklahoma State, which fell two days after Halloween. The students responded and arrived dressed up as everything from Bender from the TV show “Futurama” to William Wallace from “Braveheart.” There was also a “future Mrs. Kingsbury” donning a bride’s dress. Jones AT&T Stadium is one of the most difficult places to play in the Big 12, thanks in large part to Tech’s rowdy student crowds.
Kingsbury took notice of the Red Raiders' student section ranking.
- West Virginia cornerback Travis Bell has arrived at another precipice in his life, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Stephen J. Nesbitt writes in this profile.
- Texas Tech nose tackle Bennett Ofor had surgery after the season for a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament and will miss spring practice, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Don Williams reports.
- Members of the Red Raiders football team will have a slam-dunk contest during halftime of Tuesday night's basketball game. No word on whether Kliff Kingsbury will be a participant.
- The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey profiles Oklahoma signee Steven Parker, who is headed to the school where his grandfather left a legacy.
- Former Sooners QB Kendal Thompson, who is transferring, visited Utah over the weekend.
- Kansas running back James Sims is still focused on the NFL, despite being snubbed on the NFL Scouting Combine invite list, the Lawrence Journal-World's Matt Tait writes.
- A man is lobbying in hopes that a mural of a bear his relative created for Floyd Casey Stadium will find a new home in Baylor's new McLane Stadium.
- Former Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden called the proposed rule changes to slow down the game "bogus," according to The Oklahoman's Gina Mizell.
A couple of notes: These are the best student sections in the Big 12 right now, and only in the context of football (sorry, Kansas basketball fans). Factors included attendance, interest, noise and, well, who seems to have the most fun.
2. Baylor: In the final game played at Floyd Casey Stadium, Baylor students picked up 9,943 tickets. Baylor’s undergraduate enrollment is only 13,292, meaning close to 75 percent of the entire student body watched the Bears defeat Texas to clinch the school’s first Big 12 title. Even when the Bears weren’t yet winning big under coach Art Briles, the students still showed up. The “Baylor Line,” in which the school’s freshmen wear yellow shirts (and various other crazy outfits) and dash across the field to form a human tunnel for the players to run through, is one of the more underrated traditions in the Big 12. Lately, Baylor students have had plenty to cheer about. In each of the past four seasons, they’ve stormed the field to celebrate program-building victories.
3. Oklahoma State: The “Paddle People,” a group of Oklahoma State students who bang their boards against the padded side walls of Boone Pickens Stadium, had become so menacing that other Big 12 athletic directors passed a rule in 2012 that they could no longer bang their boards while the ball was in play or the offense was at the line of scrimmage. Even with the rule change, the Oklahoma State students, who sit almost on top of the opposing team’s sideline, have fueled one of the best home-field advantages in the Big 12, which includes a 34-7 record in Stillwater over the past six seasons.
4. Kansas State: K-State’s rendition of the "The Wabash Cannonball" is one of the best pregame traditions in the Big 12. The school’s 9,000-plus student section goes wild (at a rhythm) through it every time, ensuring Bill Snyder Family Stadium will be raucous throughout. Stretching from one end zone to the 50-yard line, the K-State students are right behind the opposing sideline, which is often perilous for the opponent considering one of the best coaches to ever live is on the other sideline.
5. Iowa State: This past season, Iowa State sold out its student season tickets in July -- the earliest the school had ever sold out of its student allotment. The students have been a big reason why Jack Trice Stadium has set single-season attendance records in each of the past three seasons (averaging 55,361 in 2013, 55,274 in 2012 and 53,647 in 2011). On homecoming weekend in November, Iowa State played TCU with nothing on the line but pride. Sill, the fans showed up, including the students, as 55,000 total fans watched the Horned Frogs win an ugly 21-17 game. The next home game, more than 54,000 showed up to watch Iowa State play last-place Kansas. Under coach Paul Rhoads, Iowa State has always been a tough out in Ames. Student fan support is one reason why.
Yet, more and more, the at-home experience is intriguing for college football fans.
The Big 12 understands the challenges that continue to emerge as its member schools try to fill their stadiums each weekend, and the conference is trying to be proactive in overcoming the attendance challenges each school faces.
“It’s an ongoing conversation with our athletic directors,” said Bob Burda, the Big 12’s associate commissioner of communications. “How can we continue to encourage people to come out? How can we give them an invaluable experience for a return on their investment of buying a ticket and coming to the venue?”
For example, member schools began showing in-game highlights conference-wide for the first time in 2013.
Arguably the biggest issue could be Internet access in stadiums on game days. With social media developing into a staple of most fans' game experience, lack of connectivity has the potential to have an impact on fans’ decisions to attend games or watch from the comfort of their own living rooms with no concerns about connectivity.
“Many of our institutions are now addressing the connectivity challenges that are faced when you have 50,000 to 100,000 people in one setting,” Burda said. “More and more, fans' sporting game experience includes the use of a handheld device.”
It can be particularly troublesome for college students, some of whom are unwilling to risk spending several hours without cell phone service.
“That’s the next generation of season-ticket holders,” Burda said. “So it’s incumbent upon our facilities to provide a fan-friendly experience. And that’s part of it.”
Connectivity issues or not, the game-day experience is difficult to match. Memories are more likely to be made in stadiums than on couches. Being in the stadium as history unfolds is different than watching from afar.
“There’s a excitement that comes with being a part of the crowd attending a game, not only inside the facility but outside the facility as well,” Burda said. “Having attended the Sugar Bowl and the Oklahoma win over Alabama, it was truly magical in the stadium that night. For those in the stadium cheering Oklahoma, that was an experience they are going to have for the rest of their lives, an experience they would not have had if they were not inside the venue.”
Overall, the Big 12’s attendance has been solid for the past few seasons. Eight of 10 Big 12 schools played to 90 percent of capacity and all Big 12 schools played to at least 80 percent capacity in 2013, Burda said. Seven Big 12 schools averaged at least 50,000 fans for their home games.
“We play an exciting game of football in the Big 12, and I think it resonates with fans,” Burda said. “All of our teams are competitive and everybody plays everybody. You don’t win a championship in the Big 12 because of who is not on your schedule. You have to play everybody, and that resonates with fans as well -- to see your team play the best teams in the Big 12, year in and year out.”
Also, Happy Valentine's Day to all the couples out there.
To the 'bag:
Jay Young in Midland, Texas, writes: Seriously, Jake? Texas Tech ranked eighth in Big 12 nonconference schedules, below TCU, Kansas and Iowa State. You might want to take some vacation time and revisit this in a few weeks. Come on, man!!
Jake Trotter: Vacation time sounds good to me, but that won’t change the fact that -- by far -- the best team on Tech’s nonconference schedule lost nine straight games to finish the 2013 season. The Hogs will be better (they can’t be any worse). But when you factor in UTEP, which won just two games playing in a bad conference, and a mediocre FCS opponent, the schedule doesn’t match up with those others you named.
John in Dallas writes: How can you put Tech’s schedule ahead of Baylor’s? I don’t understand your logic at all.
Trotter: Now you’ve forced me to defend a schedule I just trashed. You can’t blame Tech for Arkansas becoming mediocre. But you can blame Baylor for failing to schedule a single BCS conference opponent. Every other Big 12 team did. The Bears didn’t. That’s why their nonconference schedule was last.
Scott Hughes in Edgewater, Md., writes: Jake, thank you for recognizing that WVU has the hardest out-of-conference schedule next year. With Maryland becoming a B1G team and returning so many starters, Towson coming off going to the FCS finals against North Dakota State, and Bama, WVU hands down probably has the hardest nonconference schedule in the country. Thanks for giving credit where credit is due!
The WVU Wonka in Canton, Ohio, writes: There are 108 reasons why we should just leave Texas alone. There are too many schools all vying for the top talent there. You repeatedly say we need to make inroads into Texas to be successful. But you are wrong in this instance. Just look at what we were able to do in Ohio last year and North Carolina and Pennsylvania this year.
Trotter: When have I written that West Virginia needed to make inroads into Texas? All I did Wednesday was point out that West Virginia was the only Big 12 school not to get a player out of Texas, which has become the grandest hotbed for talent in the country. Recruiting for West Virginia is a perpetual puzzle because there’s very little instate talent. Instead, the Mountaineers have had to develop mini-pipelines across several states, like the one they have to Miramar, Fla. Because of the distance, West Virginia is never going to recruit Texas like the other Big 12 schools do. But since they play in Texas now twice a year, would it not be advantageous for the Mountaineers to cultivate a mini-pipeline in the Lone Star State, as well?
Tyler in Red Bluff, Calif., writes: It looks like K-State will have some talent at WR with Tyler Lockett and junior-college transfer Andre Davis. With John Hubert and Robert Rose graduating, wouldn't Daniel Sams be a better fit as a RB?
Trotter: In theory, yes. The Wildcats need more help at running back than they do receiver. But there’s concern about Sams’ ball security as a running back. There also seems to be concern about whether he’d be able to take the weekly punishment. Personally, I think Sams could thrive in a role similar to the one TCU carved out for Trevone Boykin late last season as a receiver and situational quarterback. In addition, I think you could hand the ball off to Sams a few times a game. Bottom line, K-State has to figure out ways to utilize Sams more. He’s too big a playmaker to stand entire games on the sidelines.
Jon D. in Davis, Calif., writes: With Baylor losing so many key playmakers on offense and especially defense, do the Bears slide to an eight-win total in 2014? I think it’s certainly possible.
Trotter: I didn’t realize this until I looked it up, but Utah State is the only FBS team with fewer starters returning than Baylor, which only brings back nine starters. Even so, Baylor should be loaded again at the skill positions with QB Bryce Petty, Shock Linwood (who was seventh in the league in rushing as a third-team running back) and wideout Antwan Goodley, who will have plenty of help thanks to Baylor landing back-to-back standout WR recruiting classes. The defense will probably take a step back with seven starters gone. But if DT Andrew Billings and DE Shawn Oakman play up to their potential, it might not be as big a step as you’d think.
“I was diagnosed in June -- misdiagnosed, actually -- which set me back even further. They let me start to practice the beginning of two-a-days when I wasn’t supposed to, which set me back again. It was just small things like that which continually set me back.” Brewer told the LAJ.
Texas Tech disputed Brewer’s statements.
“The well-being of our student-athletes is something we take very seriously, and we would never jeopardize the health of any student-athlete. Within a month of Michael’s injury, Texas Tech sent him to a specialist, and he was under the care of that specialist from that point forward until his release,” Texas Tech spokesperson Blaine Beal told the LAJ.
Regardless, Brewer joins Baker Mayfield as departed Tech quarterbacks who were unhappy with how the quarterback competition was handled and leaves the Red Raiders quarterback position in flux. Recent signee Patrick Mahomes will have to be ready to play immediately with Davis Webb as the lone scholarship quarterback on the roster.
“We told him to get ready to come in,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “It's a unique situation. We only have one scholarship quarterback on the roster, get ready to come in and compete and play right away.”
And the worst-case scenario could emerge and leave the quarterback position in shambles this summer. Mahomes, the son of former major league baseball player Pat Mahomes, could have his name called early enough in the 2014 MLB Draft to make him consider signing to play professional baseball instead of playing football in Lubbock.
“He wants to come to college, but you never know how the money is going to be,” Kingsbury said.
Midway through the 2013 season, it seemed like quarterback concerns would be the last thing at the forefront of Kingsbury’s mind with two quality true freshmen in Webb and Mayfield alongside Brewer in the quarterback competition. Now, with spring football on the horizon, the Red Raiders are one Webb injury and one Mahomes decision away from complete disaster.
- Tony Gibson appears poised to become West Virginia's defensive coordinator.
- The Big 12 has gotten pulled into the SEC's civil war, writes The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel.
- Eric Morris was promoted to offensive coordinator at Texas Tech, reports Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
- Former Texas Tech quarterback Michael Brewer is unhappy about how his back injury was handled. Williams has the report.
- Brewer's appeal to transfer to Texas or TCU was denied by Texas Tech.
- A breakdown of Baylor's 2014 schedule.
- A breakdown of Texas Tech's 2014 schedule.
- A breakdown of TCU's 2014 schedule.
- Baylor physician Jon Ellis is headed to the NFL combine.
- Charlie Strong wants to put the "T" back in Texas.
- Another one-on-one with Strong.
- Youth played a major role in TCU's struggles in 2013, Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson says.
Happy to announce the hiring of Bob Connelly to our coaching staff http://t.co/DJYa2ANFM7. #okstateConnelly, who has been coaching at the college level since 1995, has experience coaching offensive line at Washington State, UCLA, Alabama and Arizona State. Connelly joined Todd Graham's staff at Arizona State in 2012 but was fired after just one season there.
— Mike Gundy (@CoachGundy) February 14, 2014
Connelly spent last season coaching high schoolin Arizona. Earlier this week, Connelly was announced as an assistant at Georgia Southern.
This is an important hire for Gundy. Under Wickline, who was part of Gundy's original staff, Oklahoma State had one of the best offensive lines in the Big 12 on an annual basis. That in turn allowed the Cowboys to have one of the league's best offenses, as well.
Gundy reportedly also showed interest in Oregon State’s Mike Cavanaugh for the position. But Beavers head coach Mike Riley indicated in a tweet Thursday night that Cavanaugh would be staying in Corvallis.
It's a great day to STAY a Beaver! #GoBeavs @CoachCavOSU
— Mike Riley (@Coach_Riley) February 14, 2014
His son, Tommy Mangino, was hired as the Cyclones’ receivers coach last week.
Tommy Mangino served as an offensive graduate assistant at Kansas for two seasons (2008-09) under his father, and most recently was a graduate assistant at Arkansas.
Mangino took time from settling into his new home in Ames to speak with ESPN.com about his new gig, coaching with his father and the upside of the Iowa State offense in 2014:
How excited are you about being a full-time assistant at a BCS school?
Tommy Mangino: I’m really excited. I couldn’t be in a better situation from the head coach (Paul Rhoads) to obviously the offensive coordinator (Mark Mangino) to working with guys I’ve worked with before. There’s a certain comfort level here for a young guy to come into a BCS job. It’s really exciting.
On top of this being your first full-time assistant job, you get to coach with your dad. That has to make it even more special, right?
Mangino: It’s great to be with him and to have the opportunity to work with my dad -- all that’s great. But that’s not the only thing. It’s fun to be with him and to work under him. But there are a lot of other aspects to this job. The one who is most excited is my mom because she gets to see her grandson.
What have you learned from your dad about being a coach?
Mangino: That you gotta take every day with the same attitude. You can’t get too high, or too low. You have to be even-keel and keep faith in the plan you’ve got. If you stick to your plan, good things can happen. If you deviate from the plan, it’s not going to work out.
Your dad has had some time away from coaching at this level. Have you seen any changes in him during that time?
Mangino: I wouldn’t say he’s changed or a different person. But I will say he’s taken the time to reflect on what he’s done in the past. He’s gotten to spend a lot of time with people around the country. He’s had time to gather his thoughts. Coaches never have time to gather thoughts and reflect. That’s a huge advantage he’s had. Other people are always coaching nonstop. This has given him a chance to reevaluate the system, the way he goes about things. The chance to reevaluate everything has really helped.
It’s been four years since he’s coached at this level. How excited is he about that?
Mangino: There’s no doubt he’s excited to be back at this level. But he’s also excited to be at Iowa State. The fan base, the mentality of the team, what coach Rhoads has instilled in his kids, it’s one of those special places. Playing against Iowa State, watching them compete, you can just tell there’s an edge to the team and the program. They have a structure and a plan here and they follow it, and that’s right up his alley.
Mangino: I don’t have a magic eight ball to tell you that. You never know. But what I can tell you is the plan is there and the mentality is there. Sometimes the chips fall your way. I can’t tell you being here a week or six months from now that we can win 12 games. But I can tell you a plan and everything is in place to have success. Whether that’s seven wins, eight wins, nine wins, whatever it is, you’ve gotta stick to your plan.
How important was it for Iowa State to sign Allen Lazard, and how good can he be?
Mangino: I got to meet Allen last weekend and spend time with him. What I can tell you about him is how unbelievably mature he is, how mature he was about the whole (recruiting process). He knew where he wanted to go. (Iowa State) did a great job recruiting him. At Arkansas, we evaluated him and wanted to go after him, but we just knew Iowa State had a great handle on him. He was a local kid, and they did a great job of getting him here. He has huge upside, because of his maturity. He has the intangibles you look for in a player. Not just as a wide receiver, but as a face of your program years from now. Will he leave as a great player? I can’t predict that. But he has what takes to be a really great player here.
If you just looked at last year’s stats, you wouldn’t be optimistic about Iowa State’s offense next season. But there are several pieces coming back to really like. So does this offense have the potential to, say, finish in the top half of the league statistically in 2014?
Mangino: I can’t predict that we’ll finish in the upper half, but I can say we have the pieces. I watched video from last year, and we have some really good players on this team. I might be putting some pressure on us, or putting my foot in my mouth, but we have a lot of players to be successful. From my position (wide receivers), we didn’t lose one kid from last year. I think it could be a really good group.
It seems the players there really respond to coach Rhoads. Being down 17 with no postseason on the line and rallying at West Virginia to win the final game seemed to underscore that. What have you seen from coach Rhoads so far?
Mangino: Like you said, being down to West Virginia, that just shows the toughness he instills in the kids, the edge they play with, the fight, never giving up. That’s what I’m about, and I learned that from my dad, being around him, to keep that level head, no matter what’s going on. I remember in 2008 we played up here and were down 20-something-to-zero at halftime, and we came back and won the game (35-33). That’s how we operated at Kansas, and I think coach Rhoads has that same exact makeup. It doesn’t matter what the score is, you play four quarters and give it your all. That’s what I love about coach Rhoads.
Several coaches have come out against the proposal, including Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy, who took to Twitter on Thursday evening to voice his opposition.
The no huddle, fast tempo style has changed the game of CFB. Our sport has exploded in popularity with high scoring games & packed stadiums.— Mike Gundy (@CoachGundy) February 13, 2014
College Football is constantly evolving. Coaches have to make adjustments based on their team, their talents and their opponents.— Mike Gundy (@CoachGundy) February 13, 2014
The 10-second rule is like asking basketball to take away the shot clock - Boring!. It’s like asking a blitzing linebacker to raise his hand— Mike Gundy (@CoachGundy) February 13, 2014
Why change our sport at the peak of its popularity— Mike Gundy (@CoachGundy) February 13, 2014
“Allen is a guy who could come and make an impact,” Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads said. “We’re going to give him every opportunity to come in and play his way onto the field as a true freshman. This is a guy who is going to continue to challenge himself, day in and day out, for the rest of his career.”
2. Nigel Bethel, Texas Tech cornerback: The Red Raiders are losing several senior defensive backs including cornerbacks Bruce Jones, Derrick Mays and Olaoluwa Falemi. Yet Bethel could combine with 2013 signee Justis Nelson to give the Red Raiders one of the best cornerback duos in the Big 12 over the next few seasons. As one of the best cover cornerbacks in the Class of 2014, Bethel should see the field early. Bethel, the No. 226 player in the ESPN 300, has the speed, ball skills and natural instincts to make a smooth transition to college football.
3. K.D. Cannon, Baylor receiver: The Bears don’t have a major need at receiver but Cannon is an exceptional talent. Cannon, ranked No. 30 overall in the ESPN 300, needs to put on additional weight but he should be able to overcome his slight build thanks to his excellent feet and quickness.
“K.D.'s the smoothest and purest receiver at the high school level I've ever seen,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “When the ball's in his hands, he is as instinctive as anybody I've ever been around.”
4. Steven Parker II, Oklahoma safety: The Sooners were the first team to offer the Jenks (Okla.) standout and remained in hot pursuit until he signed. Their pursuit could pay off as early as this fall. The No. 139 player in the ESPN300, Parker will bring athleticism and versatility to the Sooners secondary.
“He’s a guy we desperately needed at safety,” OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “Because he’s a guy that brings a different element to the safety position that a lot of players just can’t just by his mobility, his skill level, his cover ability. We ask our safeties to do a lot of that and he fits perfectly in to our system.”
5. Dalvin Warmack, Kansas State running back: Warmack should get plenty of opportunities to make an impact for the Wildcats. KSU is looking to replace John Hubert, who carried the load in the backfield for the past three seasons, rushing for 2,965 yards and 28 touchdowns.
With Jake Waters under center and Tyler Lockett making plays on the outside, KSU will need someone to help ensure offensive balance. Warmack can help keep defenses honest with his vision, versatility and open-field running. He might not be ready to step in and replace Hubert on an every-down basis but Warmack has the talent to make an immediate impact.
First five out: Jacob Bragg, Kansas center; Dravon Henry, West Virginia defensive back; Joe Mixon, Oklahoma running back; Kyron Watson, Kansas linebacker; Derick Roberson, Texas defensive end
- A closer look at Texas' nonconference schedule.
- Kansas quarterback T.J. Millweard is ready to throw his name into the mix for the starting spot.
- This walk on hopes to follow Jordy Nelson's path at Kansas State.
- Former Oklahoma Sooner Trey Metoyer had another brush with the law.
- With the proposed NCAA rules changes designed to slow the game, The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey looked back at some of the things Oklahoma coaches and players have said about up-tempo offense.
- Here's how the proposal could impact the Sooners, courtesy of Eric Bailey of the Tulsa World.
- Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury would be disappointed if the NCAA rule proposal passes. His team led the nation with 1,136 plays.
- A closer look at potential NFL draft pick Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State.
- Is Jace Amaro going to be a New England Patriot?
Then again, not every nonconference schedule is all that intriguing. So who has the toughest nonconference slate? And who has the softest? We rank them below, beginning with the most difficult (*denotes FCS opponents):
- Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .718
- Toughest opponent: Alabama
- Weakest opponent: Towson
- 2013 bowl teams: 2
- Quick take: This is a make-or-break season for coach Dana Holgorsen, but he will get no breaks from a brutal nonconference schedule. Alabama is still loaded and will be looking to take its bowl loss to Oklahoma out on the Mountaineers. Maryland beat West Virginia 37-0 at a neutral site last season, and with 17 starters returning, should be better this season.
- Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .692
- Toughest opponent: UCLA
- Weakest opponent: North Texas
- 2013 bowl teams: 3
- Quick take: It won’t take long to find out if new coach Charlie Strong will have an immediate impact on the Longhorns. UCLA could open in the preseason top 10, and BYU figures to be solid again. Texas is the only Big 12 team to play three teams coming off bowl games, including North Texas, which has been a tough out under coach Dan McCarney.
- Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .684
- Toughest opponent: Florida State
- Weakest opponent: Missouri State
- 2013 bowl teams: 1
- Quick take: The Cowboys might have two cakewalks. But they also have the toughest nonconference game in the league in that neutral-site clash with the defending national champs. Only Utah State returns fewer starters in the FBS than Oklahoma State, and those young players could get a rude welcome to the starting lineup from the Seminoles.
- Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .447
- Toughest opponent: Auburn
- Weakest opponent: Stephen F. Austin
- 2013 bowl teams: 1
- Quick take: The Wildcats have one of their biggest nonconference home games ever against Auburn, which travels to Manhattan for a Thursday clash Sept. 18. The rest of the schedule is trash, but nobody will care if K-State can topple the SEC defending champions.
- Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .750
- Toughest opponent: Iowa
- Weakest opponent: North Dakota State
- 2013 bowl teams: 1
- Quick take: North Dakota State is technically an FCS school, but as Kansas State found out last season, the Bison don’t play like one. North Dakota State has won three straight FCS titles. Iowa should be a preseason Top 25 team and coasted past the Cyclones in Ames last season. A 2-1 mark here is a must if Iowa State wants to get back to bowl eligibility.
- Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .333
- Toughest opponent: Tennessee
- Weakest opponent: Louisiana Tech
- 2013 bowl teams: 0
- Quick take: With Tennessee still finding its way and returning only 10 starters, the Sooners ought to run through this slate with little resistance. The game at Tulsa will basically be an Oklahoma home game. To Oklahoma’s credit, the Sooners join Texas as the only two Big 12 teams without an FCS opponent on the schedule.
- Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .500
- Toughest opponent: Duke
- Weakest opponent: Southeast Missouri State
- 2013 bowl teams: 1
- Quick take: A year ago, this wouldn't have looked like much of a nonconference schedule. Duke, however, turned the corner last season and made the ACC championship game. Southeast Missouri State should be a gimme, but Central Michigan probably won't. The Chippewas lose only two starters from last season.
- Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .553
- Toughest opponent: Minnesota
- Weakest opponent: Samford
- 2013 bowl teams: 1
- Quick take: The Horned Frogs basically have the same schedule as last season, except Minnesota replaces LSU. TCU never really recovered from that opening loss to the Tigers, but could easily jump to 3-0 against this slate.
- Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .333
- Toughest opponent: Arkansas
- Weakest opponent: Central Arkansas
- 2013 bowl teams: 0
- Quick take: With 15 starters back, Arkansas should be improved in Bret Bielema’s second season, but Texas Tech ought to be a comfortable favorite in Lubbock. The rest of the schedule should give Kliff Kingsbury a chance to get a look at some younger players.
- Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .513
- Toughest opponent: Buffalo
- Weakest opponent: SMU
- 2013 bowl teams: 1
- Quick take: Buffalo, the only decent team on this schedule from last season, returns only 10 starters and loses All-American linebacker Khalil Mack. SMU was mediocre in 2013, and there’s no reason to believe the Ponies will be any better. Baylor is the only Big 12 team without an opponent from one of the five major BCS conferences on its nonconference schedule. A weak nonconference slate could create a problem if Baylor emerges into contention for the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Where are the Big 12 schools getting their players? I examined every conference class to determine that answer.
The state of Texas, as expected, dominated the yield. But Big 12 schools mined talent from 23 different states and the District of Columbia.
Some thoughts on the data:
- Even as the competition for talent has exploded there, the Lone Star State remains the lifeblood of the Big 12. There’s no question that Texas is being more nationally recruited than ever. Alabama, LSU, Stanford, Oregon, Notre Dame and even Boise State landed top-15 players from the state. That’s a huge change from just three years ago, when only one top-15 Texas player signed outside Big 12 country. But even as the demand of SEC, Pac-12 and Big Ten schools has expanded, the number of Texas players signing with Big 12 schools has remained consistent. I went back and added up the Texas players who signed with current Big 12 schools in 2009. The tally was 114, only six more than the 2014 total. The Big 12 is still building its class depth in Texas, even if the clash for the elite talents in the state has become even more fierce.
- How important is Texas to the Big 12? Big 12 schools signed 108 players from the state and only 79 elsewhere.
- Texas supplied players to every program in the Big 12 except West Virginia. Surprisingly, former Big 12 state Missouri was tied with Florida as the next state that's spreading out its talent, sending eight players to five Big 12 schools. Evidently, Big 12 schools have retained ties to the Show-Me State, even though the University of Missouri is now in the SEC.
- Combined, Baylor, TCU, Texas and Texas Tech signed a total of 14 high school players from outside Texas.
- With the SEC encroaching on Texas, several Big 12 schools returned the favor in SEC country. Last week, the Big 12 signed seven prospects from Louisiana, compared with just three in 2009. All told, the Big 12 plucked 29 players from the states of Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Mississippi, including five ESPN 300 prospects.
- No school has shifted its recruiting focus in the last five years more than Oklahoma. Dating to the Bud Wilkinson era, the Sooners have always depended on Texas players. And while that still remains the case, the Sooners are opening another pipeline to California. OU landed four players from California and only seven from Texas.
- While Oklahoma has focused west, its Bedlam rival has turned the other way. Oklahoma State has now landed a recruit from Georgia in each of the last four classes. Cowboys defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer grew up and went to college in Georgia, and that connection clearly is paying off on the recruiting trail.
- With only one FBS prospect in state, West Virginia is the most creative Big 12 school when it comes to recruiting. The Mountaineers have yet to make any inroads into Texas, which could come as the school settles into the Big 12. In the meantime, West Virginia signed players from six different states, not including Washington, D.C. West Virginia had the most Florida players, with five.
- The Big 12 didn’t get much out of the Kansas high schools this year. Only three players signed with Big 12 schools from the state. Kansas, however, is fertile ground for junior-college help, this year included.
- The state of Wisconsin tied for ninth in Big 12 signees, thanks to Iowa State, which signed all three Big 12 players there.
- West Virginia, Iowa State and Kansas State each signed just one in-state high school player.