- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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It's finally game week. It's also finally time for our annual bold Big 12 predictions.
Max Olson's bold predictions
Andrew Billings wins the Outland Trophy. Why are you still sleeping on this dude, America? The Baylor defensive tackle gets overshadowed by Shawn Oakman, but he will be the most impactful defensive player in the Big 12 this season. He won’t put up the sack numbers Ndamukong Suh or Aaron Donald did in college, which will make his Outland candidacy a bit more challenging, but Billings will prove his power in big games and load up his trophy case in December.
Oklahoma starts the season 9-0. Yep, the Big 12 has a third College Football Playoff contender, and they’re going to play like one over the first two months of the season. By the time the first CFP rankings come out on Nov. 3, the Sooners will still be undefeated and sitting just outside the top four. They’ll finally take some L’s in November, but the return to the Air Raid at Oklahoma should get off to a fun start.
No Big 12 coach gets fired. I think I’ve written this before, but I’m feeling bold enough to repeat it here. Nobody gets the hot seat treatment this season. Paul Rhoads’ team shows progress, and Iowa State realizes they can’t find a better leader. Mike Gundy keeps the peace with T. Boone Pickens. Kliff Kingsbury gets back to a bowl. Bob Stoops and Charlie Strong get things pointing in the right direction. And for just the second time in 15 years, every Big 12 coach stays put.
Brandon Chatmon's bold predictions
Kansas wins a Big 12 game. And the Jayhawks will scare the daylights out of a top-3 finisher for the second straight season. There’s no comparison between the proven talent on the Jayhawks' 2014 roster and this year’s version. It could be a long year for David Beaty’s team, yet I have a feeling they are going to create more problems for Big 12 teams than many expect. I can’t say who or when, but I think Beaty’s focus on tempo and the general change in atmosphere around the program is enough for KU to earn a few surprising results.
Baylor doesn't top the Big 12 in points per possession. Baylor has done this every year since 2010. But the Big 12 could have several explosive offenses in 2015 with several teams looking to supplant Baylor as the conference’s most productive offense. Thus, I’m going with the field. TCU has the best offensive player in the Big 12 in Trevone Boykin, Oklahoma has the best running back and a new, explosive system. Meanwhile, offense has never been Texas Tech’s problem, West Virginia has plenty of athletes, and Oklahoma State has a triggerman (Mason Rudolph) unlike what they’ve seen since the days of Brandon Weeden.
Texas Tech finishes in top three in Big 12 in forced turnovers. In other words, David Gibbs will have a big impact in Year 1 as defensive coordinator in Lubbock. After finishing in the bottom three of the conference in forced turnovers every season since 2011, the Red Raiders focus on turnovers will pay off and, in the process, help Tech to create havoc and cause problems for every Big 12 title contender. Expect Tech to play a significant role in title race without actually being a title contender.
Jake Trotter's bold predictions
Baylor and TCU are undefeated in November. Baylor's toughest game before November is against Texas Tech in Arlington. The Horned Frogs have a slightly tougher slate, with road trips to Minnesota, Tech and K-State. Both Big 12 favorites, however, will make it to November unscathed at 8-0.
Joe Mixon becomes Oklahoma's most electrifying player. Samaje Perine will get more carries. Sterling Shepard will get more receptions. But Mixon will do the most dazzling. Not since DeMarco Murray has a redshirt freshman generated this much preseason buzz. We're about to find out why.
West Virginia fields the best defense in the Big 12. In their first season in the Big 12 four years ago, the Mountaineers owned one of the worst defenses in college football. Behind All-American Karl Joseph, tackling machine Nick Kwiatkoski and coverman extraordinaire Daryl Worley, West Virginia will feature the best defense in the Big 12, capping an incredible four-year transformation.
Our boldest prediction
The Big 12 will be in the playoff. Whether it's TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma or Oklahoma State -- one of those four will be in. The fun part? All four play one another during the month of November. What a thrilling month in Big 12 land it will be.
8dSam Khan Jr.
15dSam Khan Jr.