Take Two: Teams to feel better about after Big 12 media days


Baylor made it clear they took it personal when the media picked Oklahoma as the Big 12's preseason favorite in 2014, voicing their disdain during the conference's media days 12 months ago.

It was a not so subtle reminder that Baylor was indeed the returning champions and planning to add to its ring drawer later that fall. Art Briles program went on to win another Big 12 title, this time as a co-champion, while preseason favorite Oklahoma tumbled down the standings.

This July, other Big 12 teams made a case to encourage people to reassess their preseason expectations heading into camp in August. In today's Take Two, Brandon Chatmon and Jake Trotter single out one team who left them feeling better about their chances to excel in 2015.

Take 1: Jake Trotter -- Oklahoma

Nobody has been harder on Oklahoma than I this offseason for the way the Sooners closed out last season. Baylor ran the Sooners off their own field, then Oklahoma failed to even show up in the bowl game vs. Clemson.

But while the Sooners have several issues to resolve before this season, I do believe the hate on Oklahoma has gone too far. I get bothered when Sooners fans use this excuse on Twitter over and over, but the Sooners were in fact only three fourth-quarter plays away (a pick-six at TCU, a missed chip-shot field goal vs. Kansas State and a re-punt against Oklahoma State) from finishing 10-2. Oklahoma still boasts a trio of All-American-caliber players in running back Samaje Perine, receiver Sterling Shepard and linebacker Eric Striker. And Bob Stoops has a track record of overachieving when pegged the underdog (ask Alabama).

I'm not quite a believer in the Sooners just yet. A couple weeks ago, I picked them to finish fourth in the Big 12 behind TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State. I would pick them to finish fourth again.

But in talking to opposing coaches around the league over the last week, it's clear they feel the Sooners will be adding three potential difference-makers to the mix this fall in running back Joe Mixon, receiver DeDe Westbrook and linebacker Frank Shannon. Opposing Big 12 coaches faced Shannon two years ago; others recruited or scouted Mixon and Westbrook.

Obviously the quarterback will be paramount to Oklahoma posting a bounce-back season, and the jury is still out on Baker Mayfield and Trevor Knight. But the skill player quintet of Perine, Shepard, Mixon, Westbrook and promising flex tight end Mark Andrews could be downright frightening, especially with new coordinator Lincoln Riley sure to spread the field to create running lanes for Perine and one-on-one matchups for the receivers.

The Sooners have a ways to go to prove they can be a legitimate Big 12 title contender again. The pass defense will have to regain its confidence under new position coach Kerry Cooks. The offense will have to adjust with a less physically imposing line. And did I mention quarterback? But at the very least the Sooners are going to have the firepower to put up points. If the other areas come together, Oklahoma could return to the Big 12 title discussion come November.

Take 2: Brandon Chatmon -- TCU

Strange as it sounds, I feel better about TCU coming out of Big 12 media days.

I've wondered throughout the summer how the Horned Frogs would handle being the "it" team in the Big 12 during the offseason. After all, a year ago Gary Patterson's squad was just another under-the-radar Big 12 team hoping to surprise and make noise.

This year, Patterson said he likes the business-like approach of his players, who don't seem to feel like they've accomplished much or have arrived even after a 12-1 season and a Big 12 co-championship.

"A year ago you had to prove people wrong," Patterson said. "This year you have to prove people right. As a football team, that's really, from my approach on down, how we've tried to handle it."

More importantly, quarterback Trevone Boykin seems to be handling the hype of being a preseason Heisman contender with relative ease. The senior signal-caller proved many -- myself included -- wrong on his way to a stellar junior season when he was the Big 12's most dynamic playmaker. All the accolades that came with that could derail any player's success in the following season. But Patterson seems confident that’s not going to happen, saying his quarterback has handled everything "the right way."

Patterson's words should be music to the ears of Horned Frogs fans and one of the reasons I feel better about TCU's chances to build upon last season's excellence as opposed to sliding back towards the pack in 2015.