Monday, August 20, 2012
Which Big 12 team will be the biggest surprise?
By David Ubben
Last season, Kansas State shocked everyone by winning 10 games and reaching the Cotton Bowl after the group of unknowns was picked eighth in the preseason.
Collin Klein emerged as a star and carried his team to a memorable season.
In 2010, Oklahoma State played the part of shocker. Despite losing Zac Robinson and Dez Bryant, the Cowboys won a school-record 11 games and Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon made names for themselves along the way to becoming first-round NFL draft picks.
So who's going to be the surprise team this season?
Cast your vote in our poll.
The Jayhawks have won just one of their past 24 Big 12 games, but there are a ton of new faces these days, and ultimately, it'll be hard to predict what to expect from the Jayhawks. Coach Charlie Weis couldn't be more different than former coach Turner Gill, and the Jayhawks already got a big upgrade at quarterback with Dayne Crist. Add an avalanche of transfers and newcomers who are cracking the two-deep, and the Jayhawks could shock plenty of people this season by flirting with bowl contention.
Texas Tech dropped its final five games last season after beating No. 1 Oklahoma in Norman, the first team to beat Bob Stoops' Sooners at Owen Field since 2005. That meant the first losing season since 1992, and the end of the Big 12's longest bowl streak. The catch? The Red Raiders were already thin, and fell apart once they were racked by injuries. Tech has one of the league's most underrated players in Seth Doege at quarterback, and a great set of receivers. With some defensive improvements under coordinator Art Kaufman and the end of its bad luck with injuries, could Texas Tech surprise and come close to a nine- or 10-win season?
The Cowboys are the defending champs, but the echoes of doubt won't be silenced. How will they replace Weeden and Blackmon? Sounds pretty familiar, no? (Read the top of this post for a refresher.) The defense is going to be pretty stout and still make big plays. True freshman Wes Lunt is progressing well and should have plenty of big targets. Will the Cowboys surprise and be a serious threat in the Big 12 title race?
K-State won 10 games, finished the season ranked 15th and second in the Big 12, and return 17 starters. Yet, because of all the close and comeback wins last season, plenty of folks are chalking it up to luck. K-State begins the season ranked outside the top 20 and picked sixth in the Big 12. Will Bill Snyder prove everyone wrong once again and contend for a Big 12 title?
Paul Rhoads has a quarterback controversy on his hands to deal with first. Once that's settled, could Iowa State show it's making steps toward being a bigger player in the Big 12? The Cyclones have just barely made bowl games in two of the past three seasons, courtesy of huge upsets. ISU wants those wins to be much less shocking. Rhoads once again is saying that this is the best team he's ever had in Ames. Can he prove it and win eight games for the first time as the Cyclones' coach? (Note: Keeping the beard can only help.)