Big 12: 2014 team previews

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Previewing the 2014 season for the West Virginia Mountaineers:

Key returners: QB Clint Trickett, OG Quinton Spain, CB Daryl Worley, SS Karl Joseph

Key losses: RB Charles Sims, DT Shaq Rowell, DE Will Clarke, SS Darwin Cook

Most important 2014 games: Sept. 13 at Maryland; Sept. 20 vs. Oklahoma; Oct. 18 vs. Baylor; Nov. 20 vs. Kansas State

Projected win percentage: 38.5 percent

[+] EnlargeClint Trickett
AP Photo/Tyler EvertClint Trickett threw for 1,605 yards last season.
Over/under Vegas odds: 4.5 wins

Instant impact newcomers: DE Shaquille Riddick, FS Dravon Henry. Riddick was one of the top defensive players in the FCS last year for Gardner-Webb. He should give the Mountaineers an element of pass rushing they previously might have lacked. Henry, one of the top recruits in West Virginia’s freshman signing class, is pushing for a starting job at free safety right away. In Henry and sophomore Daryl Worley, the Mountaineers could have two young cornerstones to anchor the secondary for years to come.

High point from 2013: The Mountaineers got off to a tough September, including a 37-0 loss to Maryland that was even uglier than the final score. But the following week with a new quarterback, West Virginia pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the Big 12 by knocking off No. 11 Oklahoma State 30-21 in Morgantown. In his first start, Trickett was 24-for-50 for 309 yards and a touchdown, and the West Virginia secondary put the clamps on Cowboys QB J.W. Walsh.

Low point from 2013: Kansas has only one Big 12 victory in its past 30 tries. That lone win came against West Virginia last season as the Jayhawks snapped a 27-game Big 12 losing streak with a 31-19 win over the Mountaineers. West Virginia went on to squander a huge lead the following week and fell in triple overtime to Iowa State, which ended the Mountaineers’ season with six losses in their final seven games.

Best-case scenario for 2014: Trickett stays healthy, limits his turnovers and spreads the ball around to West Virginia’s bevy of playmakers. The defense holds up, too, with more depth and a playmaking secondary led by Joseph, Worley and Henry. The Mountaineers beat Maryland in a key nonconference game and go 8-4 to get back to a bowl game, with three of their losses coming to top-10 teams.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: West Virginia gets off to a 1-3 start against a rugged early-season schedule. The rest of the season doesn’t go much better. The quarterbacks can’t stop turning the ball over, and the defense doesn’t improve in the Tony Gibson/Tom Bradley regime. West Virginia goes 3-9 and its Big 12 career record drops to 8-19.

They said it: “I think our players in our locker room understand what the Big 12 is all about. They understand how challenging it is. They understand what the venues are like. They understand what the teams are like, personnel is like, coaching is like, style of play is like. I obviously tried my hardest to be able to relay that to not only the players, but the coaches and the administration and the fan base. And until we got through it for a couple of years, I knew it was going to be challenging.” – West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen
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Previewing the 2014 season for the Texas Tech Red Raiders:

Key returners: QB Davis Webb, WR Jakeem Grant, OG Le'Raven Clark, LB Kenny Williams

Key losses: TE Jace Amaro, WR Eric Ward, DT Kerry Hyder, LB Will Smith

Most important 2014 games: Sept. 25 at Oklahoma State; Oct. 25 at TCU; Nov. 1 vs. Texas; Nov. 15 vs. Oklahoma

Projected win percentage: 59.0

Over/under Vegas odds: 6.5 wins

[+] EnlargeDavis Webb
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsQuarterback Davis Webb and Texas Tech are hoping for a repeat of their 7-0 start last season.
Instant impact newcomers: Defensive tackle Rika Levi and offensive tackle Dominique Robertson. Kliff Kingsbury beefed up his trenches by signing six junior college offensive and defensive linemen. Levi and Robertson figure to make the biggest impact and are on track to win starting jobs this preseason. Robertson will protect Webb’s blind side, which has allowed All-Big 12 performer Clark to move inside to his more natural position of guard. Levi is a 340-pound potential run-stuffer, which the Red Raiders lacked the past season, when they were manhandled on the lines. With Levi and Robertson providing reinforcements, that could change this season.

High point from 2013: The Red Raiders trailed by double digits late in the third quarter Oct. 19 at West Virginia. But in his second career start, Webb rallied Tech to a 37-27 victory, which vaulted the Red Raiders to a 7-0 start and their first top-10 ranking in five years.

Low point from 2013: After the 7-0 start, the Red Raiders went the other way and lost five in a row to close out the regular season. The low point came when Tech was obliterated 41-16 on Thanksgiving night at Texas. The Longhorns rushed for 281 yards against Tech’s hapless defense, and the Red Raiders failed to score an offensive touchdown until the fourth quarter.

Best-case scenario for 2014: The Red Raiders get off to another hot start by taking care of Arkansas, then stopping their five-game losing streak to Oklahoma State. Tech goes on to seriously contend for the Big 12 title, but comes up just short because of another daunting November schedule.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Tech loses its sixth in a row to Oklahoma State and never fully recovers. The Red Raiders collapse yet again in November, finish 5-7 and miss out on a bowl game for the second time in four years.

They said it: “I think Year 2 for our entire staff, our entire program, there's a comfort level. And having a guy in Davis Webb who is an established leader and an established player at quarterback position in our system really helps and has helped the entire offseason. So we're excited about him. We're excited about our team, and we'll see how it shakes out.” -- Head coach Kliff Kingsbury

TCU Horned Frogs season preview

August, 13, 2014

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Previewing the 2014 season for the TCU Horned Frogs:

Key returners: DT Chucky Hunter, S Sam Carter, CB Kevin White, RB B.J. Catalon, QB Trevone Boykin

Key losses: DE Devonte Fields, CB Jason Verrett, QB Casey Pachall, WR Brandon Carter

Most important 2014 games: Oct. 4 vs. Oklahoma, Oct. 11 at Baylor, Nov. 8 vs. Kansas State

Projected win percentage: 58.4 percent

Over/under Vegas odds: 8 wins

[+] EnlargeSam Carter
Andrew Dieb/Icon SMIThe Horned Frogs hope safety Sam Carter helps lead one of the Big 12's best defenses.
Instant impact newcomers: Quarterback Matt Joeckel. Johnny Manziel's backup at Texas A&M made the move to TCU this summer with the intention of winning the starting job. He is comfortable running an Air Raid offense, which gives the senior a leg up on his peers, but Gary Patterson still says the quarterback competition is wide open.

High point from 2013: Beating Iowa State 21-17. Boykin scored with 38 seconds left, one of his three rushing touchdowns of the day, helping the Horned Frogs stop a three-game losing streak. Some might say the way TCU battled then-No. 9 Baylor in the season finale was a higher high, but that ended in a tough 41-38 loss.

Low point from 2013: Losing to Kansas State 33-31. K-State kicker Jack Cantele drilled a 41-yard field goal with 3 seconds left to stun TCU after the Horned Frogs had taken the lead late in Manhattan. That loss put TCU at 4-7 and ineligible for a bowl game for the first time since 2004.

Best-case scenario for 2014: The new-look offense engineered by Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie gets rolling under Joeckel's guidance, the defense is one of the Big 12's best and the Horned Frogs shock Baylor and Texas Tech and start the season 7-1. The Frogs lose intense, close games against K-State and at Texas, but at 9-3, they aren't complaining.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: TCU loses three of its first five (Minnesota, Oklahoma, Baylor) and can't seem to figure out the right fit at quarterback. Start off that way, and the schedule suddenly looks a lot scarier. Throw in a few injuries, and worst case, you're talking about potentially another 4-8 or 5-7 season.

X factor: Close games. Let's recap last season: TCU was within three points of LSU in the fourth quarter, tied 10-10 with Texas Tech midway through the fourth, trailed 13-10 for most of the fourth against Oklahoma, cut it to 17-10 in the fourth against Oklahoma State, went to overtime against West Virginia, led 31-30 with 2 minutes left at Kansas State and was in field goal range down three points in the final minute against Baylor. They lost them all. The probability of that happening again seems slim.

They said it: "I think the key is to find the guy that has the swagger, that allows us to move the football, score the points and the guy that's not going to turn the ball over. Felt like last year, if we just would have done that, we would have had an opportunity to win a couple more ballgames. So really that's what we're trying. But we don't really have a timetable or anything else. It's just finding that guy that makes the offense go, and when you put all the pieces of the puzzle together, what makes us the best football team we can possibly be." -- Patterson on the quarterback battle.

Texas Longhorns season preview

August, 12, 2014
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Previewing the 2014 season for the Texas Longhorns:

Key returners: DE Cedric Reed, RB Malcolm Brown, CB Quandre Diggs, DT Malcom Brown, RB Johnathan Gray.

Key losses: DE Jackson Jeffcoat, K/P Anthony Fera, WR Mike Davis, OG Trey Hopkins, QB Case McCoy.

Most important 2014 games: Sept 6. vs. BYU, Sept. 13 vs. UCLA (AT&T Stadium), Oct. 4 vs. Baylor, Oct 11 vs. Oklahoma (Cotton Bowl)

[+] EnlargeMalcom Brown
John Albright/Icon SMIDefensive tackle Malcom Brown made 68 tackles as a sophomore at Texas.
Projected win percentage: 57.5 percent

Over/under Vegas odds: 7½ wins

Instant-impact newcomers: RB Donald Catalon, WR Armanti Foreman, DT Poona Ford. Texas will count on several freshmen to shore up depth in key spots. Foreman should be one of several young wideouts who play early on, and Catalon is the clear No. 3 option at running back. QB Jerrod Heard isn't listed here simply because, as the current third-string QB, there's no guarantee he plays.

High point from 2013: Defeating Oklahoma 36-20 last season in the Cotton Bowl. The Longhorns were two-touchdown underdogs, a loss away from 3-3 and facing an undefeated, No. 12 Sooners squad that had whipped them for three consecutive seasons. But Texas owned the line of scrimmage, Brown and Gray each rushed for more than 100 yards and Mack Brown got the last laugh.

Low point from 2013: Losing to Oregon 30-10 in the Valero Alamo Bowl. The Ducks didn't bring their "A" game that night, but Marcus Mariota was masterful. After a crazy, emotional final month, the Longhorns failed to send Brown off with a victory in his final night in burnt orange.

Best-case scenario for 2014: Texas figures out it's really good at two things -- playing defense and running the ball -- and Charlie Strong coaxes more toughness out of his team, especially up front. The Longhorns get 12 healthy, solid games out of David Ash and the pieces all come together. They rally and regroup after a tough loss to UCLA, beat either Baylor or Oklahoma and win five of their final six games to finish 9-3, good for a share of the Big 12 title.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: A few injuries to critical veterans (including Ash) and some tough breaks in tight games makes 2014 a rebuilding year. Strong gets the buy-in he demands and this team isn't lacking for talent, but the schedule does no favors and an oh-fer against the trio of top-10 foes is a real setback. Road losses in nail-biters against Kansas State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State leave the Longhorns at 6-6.

X factor: Coaching. What advantages can Strong and his staff create for this team? The head coach and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford are fine-tuning their aggressive defensive philosophy to fit their personnel and their conference. Shawn Watson and Joe Wickline must mesh their respective styles to create a cohesive plan on offense while also sharing play-calling duties. How quickly can this staff begin to maximize the potential of a roster full of former four-star and five-star recruits?

They said it: "It's all about each and every day just getting better and working hard. Just staying hungry and staying humble. That's what we have to do. That whole attitude has to change; we know that as a football team. This program will never change -- the culture won't change -- until the attitude of the players change. That's what we're seeking to do each and every day." -- Strong
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Previewing the 2014 season for the Oklahoma State Cowboys:

Key returners: CB Kevin Peterson, DT James Castleman, RB Desmond Roland, WR Jhajuan Seales

Key losses: CB Justin Gilbert, WR Josh Stewart, QB Clint Chelf, DT Calvin Barnett

Most important 2014 games: Aug. 30 vs. Florida State (in Arlington, Texas); Nov. 22 at Baylor; Dec. 6 at Oklahoma

Projected win percentage: 63.4 percent

Over/under Vegas odds: 7.5 wins

[+] EnlargeKevin Peterson
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiThe Cowboys will rely more heavily on Kevin Peterson in the defensive backfield with the departure of Justin Gilbert.
Instant impact newcomers: HB/WR Tyreek Hill, LB/S Josh Furman. Hill, as the Big 12’s Preseason Newcomer of the Year, brings plenty of hype along with his track speed and big-play ability. Furman, a graduate transfer from Michigan, brings much-needed experience as a defender with the versatility to play multiple roles for the Cowboys.

High point from 2013: The Cowboys hammered Big 12 champion Baylor at home 49-17 to put themselves on the doorstep of a second Big 12 title in three seasons. OSU’s defense shut down a record-setting Bears offense, making Bryce Petty look human on a chilly November night in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Low point from 2013: The following week the Cowboys watched Oklahoma come into Boone Pickens Stadium and take away their Big 12 title hopes with a late upset victory. It was easily one of the most disappointing defeats under Mike Gundy.

All eyes on me: The quarterback battle could extend deep into the season, like it has for the past two years in Stillwater. People tend to forget just how productive J.W. Walsh has been during his time under center for the Cowboys. He’s 6-2 as a starter and only Baylor’s Bryce Petty (86.7) and Texas Tech’s Davis Webb (79.7) have better adjusted QBRs than Walsh’s 77.8 during the past two seasons. But former walk-on Daxx Garman, who is expected to play against Florida State in the opener, has the ability to push past Walsh on the depth chart and emerge as the main triggerman for Mike Yurcich’s offense.

Keep an eye on: DE Emmanuel Ogbah, WR James Washington. After a solid redshirt freshman campaign, Ogbah has the chance to emerge as an impact defender for OSU’s defense this fall. Defensive line is the deepest position on OSU’s defense and Ogbah could make it even deeper if he forces his way into the starting lineup and begins to fulfill his potential. Much like Ogbah, Washington plays the deepest position on his side of the ball. Nonetheless there’s plenty of buzz around the true freshman and he could make an immediate impact.

They said it: “They're still very young. We've got a number of players that have a lot of experience and understanding, and then there's a gap. Then, we have more players that are talented, but don't have any experience. It's really the best definition of where we're at right now as a defense.” -- Gundy on OSU’s inexperienced defense

Oklahoma Sooners season preview

August, 8, 2014
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Previewing the 2014 season for the Oklahoma Sooners:

Key returners: LB Eric Striker, DE Charles Tapper, QB Trevor Knight, WR Sterling Shepard

Key losses: C Gabe Ikard, FB Trey Millard, WR Jalen Saunders, CB Aaron Colvin

Most important 2014 games: Oct. 11 vs. Texas (in Dallas); Nov. 8 vs. Baylor; No. 15 at Texas Tech.

Projected win percentage: 80.4 percent

Over/under Vegas odds: 10 wins

Instant impact newcomers: FB Dimitri Flowers, S Steven Parker. Flowers worked his way into the Sooners' plans during the spring as an early enrollee. He has the skills and maturity to play a similar role as departed standout Trey Millard as a fullback/tight end hybrid. Parker has impressed early in preseason camp and could work his way into the Sooners' secondary with his terrific cover skills and versatility at the safety spot.

High point from 2013: The Sooners’ Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Alabama carried them into the preseason top 10 in several polls. The win gave the nation a glimpse at the potential of a young Oklahoma team that returns the bulk of its major playmakers for this season.

[+] EnlargeEric Striker
Robin Alam/Icon SMIWith the likes of Eric Striker, Oklahoma is expected to have a fierce pass rush in 2014.
Low point from 2013: OU’s 41-12 loss to Baylor was disappointing to say the least, but the Sooners got embarrassed by Texas in the Red River Rivalry in a game they were expected to cruise to victory. UT won the battle in the trenches and never looked back in the 36-20 win.

Defining stretch: OU begins November with a challenging three-game stretch that could decide its College Football Playoff and Big 12 championship aspirations. The Sooners visit Iowa State on Nov. 1, host Baylor on Nov. 8 then visit Texas Tech on Nov. 15. Paul Rhoads always has his Cyclones ready to play, particularly in Ames, Iowa. The Bears' visit to Oklahoma Memorial Stadium could decide the Big 12 title and Lubbock, Texas, has never been kind to the Sooners. If OU sweeps this stretch, they could be in the middle of the conversation for a College Football Playoff berth.

X factor: LB Geneo Grissom. The Sooners' defense is full of talented playmakers such as Eric Striker and Charles Tapper, but Grissom has the ability to really take things to another level if he plays like he did in the Allstate Sugar Bowl when he was extremely active and disruptive. The thought of having Striker, Tapper and Grissom attacking the quarterback and Jordan Phillips in the middle should make quarterbacks shiver.

They said it: “Win or lose, we've lost seniors and the team chemistry and everything will be different than it was a year ago, so I don't ever buy into last year means you're going to do something this year. I guess where the positive is the number of guys that are back, but you're still going to be different in some areas and it has to come together, so you earn your stripes every year.” — Bob Stoops on the momentum from the Allstate Sugar Bowl victory.

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Previewing the 2014 season for the Kansas State Wildcats:

Key returners: QB Jake Waters, WR Tyler Lockett, C BJ Finney, DE Ryan Mueller

Key losses: RB John Hubert, WR Tramaine Thompson, OT Cornelius Lucas, SS Ty Zimmerman

Most important 2014 games: Sept. 18 versus Auburn; Oct. 18 at Oklahoma; Oct. 25 versus Texas; Dec. 6 at Baylor

Projected win percentage: 50.7 percent.

[+] EnlargeJake Waters
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsJake Waters is looking forward to playing for the first time at the Division I level in his home state.
Over/under Vegas odds: 7.5 wins.

Instant impact newcomers: DT Terrell Clinkscales, LB D'Vonta Derricott, CB Danzel McDaniel. All three players were part of Bill Snyder’s prized junior college signing class. McDaniel will have the best chance to start because he was with the team in the spring. But all three newcomers have a chance to impact the K-State defense.

High point from 2013: The Wildcats capped off their hot finish by blasting Michigan 31-14 in the Buffalo Wild Wings. Lockett caught three first-half touchdown passes and the K-State defense held the Wolverines touchdown-less until the final 2 minutes of the game.

Low point from 2013: The season ended well. But it did not start that way. FCS opponent North Dakota State went on an 18-play, 80-yard drive that chewed up 8½ minutes and ended with a touchdown plunge that gave the Bison a stunning 24-21 win in Manhattan.

Best-case scenario for 2014: The Waters-Lockett passing connection becomes one of the best in the country, and the juco additions pan out. The Wildcats ride the momentum from last year and topple Auburn in a home nonconference tilt to set the tone for the rest of the season. K-State goes on to knock off both Oklahoma and Baylor on the road to win the Big 12 title and force the College Football Playoff selection committee to think hard and long about including the Wildcats.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: The jucos don’t live up to their billing, leaving K-State with several holes on either side of the ball. Without a good option at running back, the Wildcats are forced to air it out, which gives Snyder indigestion all season. Auburn proves K-State isn’t equipped to hang with the big boys, smashing the Wildcats in Manhattan. K-State struggles along the rest of the season and has to slug out a 6-6 season just to become bowl eligible.

They said it: “My degree of optimism is negotiated daily, I think, and the mantra of our program has always been centered around that daily improvement. And when we make daily improvement, then I become a little more optimistic.” – K-State coach Bill Snyder

Kansas Jayhawks season preview

August, 6, 2014
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Previewing the 2014 season for the Kansas Jayhawks:

Key returners: LB Ben Heeney, RB/WR Tony Pierson, QB Montell Cozart, S Isaiah Johnson

Key losses: HB James Sims

Most important 2014 games: Sept. 13 at Duke, Sept. 27 vs. Texas, Nov. 29 at Kansas State

[+] EnlargeBen Heeney
John Albright/Icon SMILinebacker Ben Heeney is one of the top returning players for a Kansas team looking to improve on last season's 1-8 Big 12 record.
Projected win percentage: 27.1 percent

Over/under Vegas odds: Three wins

Instant-impact newcomer: WR Nick Harwell. The Miami (Ohio) transfer is explosive and proven as a playmaker. Cozart's development should be helped by Harwell, who has the ability to take short passes and turn them into big gains. In addition, Harwell should open up opportunities for Pierson, tight end Jimmay Mundine and KU's other skill players.

Instant-impact newcomer, coaches' version: Charlie Weis essentially fired himself as offensive coordinator and brought in former Rice OC John Reagan to run the Jayhawks' attack. Weis will step back from the offense and take more of a "sounding board" role for KU while Reagan brings a higher-tempo style that will look to take advantage of Cozart's run-pass ability.

High point from 2013: The postgame reaction told the story for Weis’ Jayhawks after a 31-19 win over West Virginia, which snapped KU’s 27-game Big 12 losing streak. It was party time in Lawrence, Kansas, as the Jayhawks finally got to celebrate after years of disappointing conference defeats at home.

Low point from 2013: One week later, KU lost all the momentum it gained from the win over WVU thanks to a 34-0 loss to Iowa State on a frozen field at Jack Trice Stadium. It was a disappointing response to the excitement and momentum created by the win over the Mountaineers.

Biggest question mark: Even though KU is counting on Cozart, a sophomore, to take his game to another level, the Jayhawks' destiny will be decided in the trenches. The offensive and defensive lines must improve if KU hopes to surprise this fall. The Jayhawks' recruiting class featured several big bodies, including ESPN 300 center Jacob Bragg, but it remains to be seen if KU has made significant strides in that area.

Upset special: Several Big 12 teams have learned to be on their toes when visiting Lawrence, but Texas could be the latest team to learn that lesson. The Longhorns' Sept. 27 visit to Kansas is sandwiched between games with UCLA and Baylor, although UT does have a bye before playing KU. The Jayhawks, who suffered a close four-point loss during UT’s last trip in 2012, will see this as a chance to make an early statement.

They said it: “In this offense that we're running, I think athleticism at the quarterback position is a critical factor, and he definitely has athleticism. So besides being able to stand in the pocket and deliver, I think that that added element to either on called runs by quarterback or just scramble ability to bail you out of some trouble situations gives us a better chance to score more points.” -- Weis on naming Cozart KU’s starting quarterback

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Previewing the 2014 season for the Iowa State Cyclones:

Key returners: TE E.J. Bibbs, C Tom Farniok, WR Quenton Bundrage, CB Nigel Tribune

Key losses: LB Jeremiah George, S Jacques Washington, S Deon Broomfield

Most important 2014 games: Sept. 6 vs. Kansas State; Sept. 27 vs. Baylor; Nov. 1 vs. Oklahoma.

[+] EnlargeE.J. Bibbs
Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY SportsE.J. Bibbs and Iowa State are looking to build off of a strong finish to the 2013 season.
Projected win percentage: 39.3 percent

Over/under Vegas odds: 3 1/2 wins.

Instant impact newcomers: WR Allen Lazard, WR D’Vario Montgomery. Lazard has impact freshman written all over him. Ranked No. 148 in the ESPN300, Lazard brings terrific receiving skills in a big package at 6-foot-5, 208 pounds. While the true freshman Lazard has garnered plenty of attention, South Florida transfer Montgomery could be poised to make a major impact as well.

High point from 2013: The Cyclones’ final win was their best, topping West Virginia in a 52-44 triple-overtime thriller in Morgantown, West Virginia, to end the season. Quite frankly, Paul Rhoads' team had nothing to play for against the Mountaineers yet rattled off 17 unanswered points to tie the game in the fourth quarter. Coupled with its 34-0 win over Kansas the previous game, ISU headed into the offseason with back-to-back victories.

Low point from 2013: ISU’s trip to Waco, Texas, was a nightmare, as Baylor thumped the Cyclones 71-7 in mid-October. ISU’s narrow 31-30 loss to Texas ranks a close second, but a 62-point loss to a conference foe counts as one of the biggest lows in Rhoads' tenure.

Best-case scenario for 2014: New offensive coordinator Mark Mangino sparks a complete turnaround of the Cyclones’ offense, helping ISU return to a bowl game this fall. Defensively, the Cyclones see a few unknowns step up along the defensive line, helping ISU secure a home upset against either Kansas State, Baylor or Oklahoma, and stabilizing a young defense with plenty of question marks.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: ISU’s defensive front simply does not have answers and becomes a weak link in the Cyclones’ squad. Teams take advantage of this weakness and, despite an improved offensive attack, the Cyclones cannot outscore teams resulting in a second straight bowl-less campaign.

They said it: “All credit to our kids, they continue to persevere. They continue to train Sunday through Saturday and finished with two victories and currently ride a two-game winning streak going into the 2014 season, and that certainly is what we're expanding and moving forward with.” — Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads

Baylor Bears season preview

August, 4, 2014

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Previewing the 2014 season for the Baylor Bears:

Key returners: QB Bryce Petty, WR Antwan Goodley, LB Bryce Hager, DE Shawn Oakman.

Key losses: RB Lache Seastrunk, OG Cyril Richardson, S Ahmad Dixon, LB Eddie Lackey, WR Tevin Reese.

Most important 2014 games: Oct. 4 at Texas; Nov. 8 at Oklahoma; Dec. 6 Kansas State.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsBryce Petty passed for 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns last season.
Projected win percentage: 80.1 percent.

Over/under Vegas odds: 9½ wins.

Instant impact newcomers: CB Chris Sanders, LB Grant Campbell. Baylor sought immediate help to replace some big-time talent on defense and found Sanders and Campbell in the junior college ranks. Both cracked the two-deep this spring and could see the field plenty. Sanders was limited with an injury during spring practices but will compete for a starting job, and Campbell is the top backup to Hager at middle linebacker.

High point from 2013: Defeating Texas 30-10 to clinch a Big 12 championship. In the final home game at Floyd Casey Stadium, Petty & Co. pulled away in the second half to give Baylor its first outright conference title since 1980, an 11-win season, a trip to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and its third win in the past four years over the Longhorns.

Low point from 2013: Losing to Oklahoma State 49-17. The Bears were 9-0, had climbed to No. 4 in BCS standings and had their sights sets on a national title run. They went to up to Stillwater and got dismantled, giving up nearly 600 total yards against a potent Pokes team. Baylor's first loss put OSU in the driver's seat to win the Big 12.

Best-case scenario for 2014: Petty and his impressive array of skill-position weapons power an offense that puts up ever better numbers than last year's unit, allowing Baylor to breeze through its first eight games before the big showdown against OU. The defense steps up big to shut down the Sooners and Baylor rides the momentum of that "W" to 12-0. If this team is still hot on both sides of the ball entering the College Football Playoff, everyone else might be playing for second place.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: The offense is as dangerous as expected, but Baylor learns the hard way that its defense has too many holes and too much inexperience to match the production of last year's senior-loaded unit. The Bears engage in too many shootouts and can't hang on in the big one at Oklahoma. An 8-0 start ends with Baylor losing three of its last four. It's still a nine-win team and a dang good one, but not the Big 12 champions.

They said it: "We have to learn how to prepare as the hunted as opposed to the hunter. We've always been the hunter. And I don't want to lose that edge and that attitude, and that's something that we're working hard to maintain." -- Baylor coach Art Briles.