The Sooners topped the league's preseason standings for the third time in the past four seasons, and have been picked to win their conference or division nine times in Bob Stoops' tenure.
Baylor finished No. 2 in the poll with nine first-place votes, followed by Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma State.
Since the conference went to a 10-team, round-robin schedule in 2011, the Big 12 preseason poll has yet to correctly identify the conference's eventual outright champion (excluding OU's shared title in 2012). The last correct preseason media poll was 2010, when league media members tabbed Oklahoma and Nebraska as the division favorites.
Last year, Baylor took the No. 5 spot in the preseason poll but was one of six teams that received first-place votes. Oklahoma State, OU, TCU and Texas were all picked ahead of the Big 12 champs.
The poll confirms what most preseason publications suggested this summer: the No. 3 through No. 7 spots are a real toss-up with a substantial gap between OU, Baylor and everyone else. Texas was two poll points away from surpassing Kansas State for the No. 3 spot. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech were separated by just four points, with Texas Tech and TCU separated by 11.
Like any other all-whatever team, there were several players deserving of making the cut that didn’t. But who had the biggest gripe about being left off the preseason All-Big 12 team?
Charles Tapper has a compelling grievance, considering he was All-Big 12 last year as a sophomore. Tapper, in fact, was the only defensive underclassman named All-Big 12 in 2013.
Tapper, however, isn’t the only one with a gripe.
Texas running back Johnathan Gray probably also would have been All-Big 12 last season, had he not torn his Achilles at West Virginia in early November. Gray rushed for 141 yards against Kansas State and 123 against Oklahoma. Teammate Malcom Brown took over at running back after Gray’s injury, and rushed for more than 100 yards in the Longhorns’ final three games. As a result, although Gray is expected to be good to go for the opener, Brown was selected to the preseason team over him.
Only five offensive linemen have more career starts than West Virginia guard Quinton Spain, who has been the Mountaineers’ top offensive lineman the past two seasons. Spain and Mark Glowinski form arguably the league’s best one-two punch at guard. Among the offensive linemen left off, Spain might have the biggest beef.
TCU cornerback Kevin White got overshadowed last year by All-American teammate Jason Verrett. And he’s getting overshadowed this preseason by safeties Sam Carter and Chris Hackett. But White was one of the better cornerbacks in the league last year, and should be one of the Big 12’s best this season.
Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman isn’t as accomplished as the other players mentioned above. But he might have the biggest upside. Despite being a part-time player last year, Oakman ranked sixth in the Big 12 in tackles for loss. Coach Art Briles called the 6-foot-9 Oakman “unblockable” during the spring, and is probably the biggest reason why Briles believes Baylor will have one of the best offensive lines in the country.
But we’re leaving it to you to decide via our weekly Big 12 poll – who actually has the biggest gripe?
No. 94 Alex Norman
Sophomore defensive tackle
Recruitment rewind: The Texas Longhorns plucked Norman from the private-school ranks -- Dallas Bishop Dunne -- when he walked into his 2011 junior day visit, got his offer and committed immediately. Oklahoma and TCU showed interest, but no other school offered Norman, an ESPN 150 recruit who earned Under Armour All-America honors and ranked No. 7 at his position nationally.
Career so far: Norman redshirted in 2012. He was used sparingly during his redshirt freshman season, playing in six games and recording one tackle. Norman did earn Scout Team Player of the Week honors once in 2013, and in the spring he worked with the No. 2 defense.
Best-case scenario for 2014: Texas needs to get something out of Norman in his third year in the program, and ideally he could become an asset off the bench behind Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson. If one of those two starters were to go down, a lot would get asked of Norman from a playing-time standpoint. The 6-foot-4, 292-pound lineman hasn't put it all together yet, but if he does, he could play a significant role to fortify depth up front.
Worst-case scenario for 2014: Norman is relegated to reserve duties again and makes more of an impact on the scout team than on a Big 12 field. If he can't rise to the occasion, the Longhorns only had five other scholarship DTs on the roster this spring. A true freshman like Poona Ford would face unfair pressure to be game-ready by the end of August if Norman can't prove he can handle the expectations.
Future expectations: Is it now-or-never time for Norman? That doesn't seem fair considering he's still just a sophomore, but still, this season is an important one for Norman's future with the program and his potential for stepping into a major role next year. Remember, if Brown goes pro, Norman would presumably be right in the mix to start in 2015. If he has a big season, he might even be in that mix to replace Jackson. There's real opportunity waiting for Norman if he can make serious progress soon.
In Finebaum's book with Gene Wojciechowski, "My Conference Can Beat Your Conference," Finebaum writes:
"Texas was dead serious about trying to money-whip Saban. Depending on who you talk to -- Bama big hitters or Texas big hitters -- the Longhorns were prepared to give Saban somewhere between a $12 million and $15 million signing bonus and a salary package worth $100 million [plus performance bonuses]."
In December, Saban received a new seven-year deal from Alabama through Jan. 21, 2022, worth $6.5 million in base salary per year and a total of about $55 million including performance bonuses.
In December after Alabama's contract with Saban was finalized, Saban told ESPN.com's Chris Low he "never considered" Texas.
"The way this sort of got spun, it was a little bit more like, 'OK, he got a new contract at Alabama, so he's going to stay at Alabama instead of going to Texas,'" Saban said. "I never considered going to Texas. That wasn't even a conversation.
"I knew that if Mack [Brown] stepped down, there would probably be an opportunity, but it wasn't something I was interested in doing, not at this stage in my career."
Texas ended up replacing Brown with Louisville coach Charlie Strong.
Saban addressed the matter Thursday at SEC Media Days, saying, "I did not have any conversations [with Texas] and nobody offered me anything. If I didn't have any conversations with them, there must not have been very much interest."
More Big 12 predictions for 2014.
Baylor 38, at Texas 28: The last time they met in Austin, we got a 56-50 shootout. In Charlie Strong's four years as a head coach, his defenses have yet to give up more than 45 in a game. He comes up with a creative approach to slowing the Bears early on, but Bryce Petty has too much firepower at his disposal to lose this ballgame.
at West Virginia 42, Kansas 16: The Mountaineers jump on top early and cruise to their first conference victory thanks to a sharp showing from Clint Trickett and his underrated collection of wideouts. A few costly first-half turnovers are the difference for Kansas in a game that's much closer in the second half that the final score suggests.
at Oklahoma State 31, Iowa State 13: Desmond Roland rocked the Cyclones last season to the tune of 219 yards and four TDs. He doesn't match those numbers, but he does surpass 100 yards, and so does backup running back Rennie Childs. Kevin Peterson vs. Quenton Bundrage is a sneaky good one-on-one matchup, and the Cowboys' corner comes up big.
at Kansas State 45, Texas Tech 35: Tech's five losses in 2013 came by an average margin of 20.6 points. This one isn't that bad, but KSU doesn't hold back against a suspect Red Raiders secondary. It's a statement game for Jake Waters, who might be the Big 12's second-best passer.
at TCU 34, Oklahoma 20: The Sooners had to slip up at some point, and TCU has played them close each of the last two seasons. This time, the Horned Frogs' defense forces three turnovers, their Air Raid turns those opportunities into points, and Gary Patterson gets a win far more rewarding than his last upset of OU in 2005.
Current Big 12 standings
1. Baylor -- 5-0 (2-0)
2. Kansas State -- 4-1 (2-0)
3. TCU -- 4-0 (1-0)
4. Oklahoma -- 4-1 (1-1)
5. Texas Tech -- 4-1 (1-1)
6. Oklahoma State -- 3-2 (1-1)
7. Texas -- 3-2 (1-1)
8. West Virginia -- 2-3 (1-1)
9. Kansas -- 3-3 (0-2)
10. Iowa State -- 1-4 (0-3)
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty was named Big 12 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. No surprise there. Oklahoma State RB/WR Tyreek Hill, the speedy juco transfer from Garden City (Kansas) Community College, received preseason Newcomer of the Year honors.
The more debatable award, preseason Defensive Player of the Year, went to TCU defensive end Devonte Fields. He played in just three games in 2013 due to a foot injury but was voted the league's top defender and newcomer in 2012 as a true freshman.
Baylor led the way with seven players on the All-Big 12 team. Kansas State had five selections on the squad, and Oklahoma received four. Only one Big 12 program -- Oklahoma State -- did not have at least one player make the team.
All-Big 12 Team
QB Bryce Petty, Baylor
RB Shock Linwood, Baylor
RB Malcolm Brown, Texas
WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
WR Antwan Goodley, Baylor
TE E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State
OL Spencer Drango, Baylor
OL Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
OL B.J. Finney, Kansas State
OL Daryl Williams, Oklahoma
OL Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech
DL Ryan Mueller, Kansas State
DL Devonte Fields, TCU
DL Chucky Hunter, TCU
DL Cedric Reed, Texas
LB Bryce Hager, Baylor
LB Ben Heeney, Kansas
LB Eric Striker, Oklahoma
DB Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma
DB Sam Carter, TCU
DB Quandre Diggs, Texas
DB Karl Joseph, West Virginia
PK Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma
P Spencer Roth, Baylor
KR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
PR Levi Norwood, Baylor
There aren't many snubs to be found from this year's team. You can make a case for a bunch of other players -- TCU cornerback Kevin White, Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman, Texas' Johnathan Gray and Malcom Brown, West Virginia's Quinton Spain and Nick O'Toole. But based on 2013 performance, this list looks about right.
Any more exclusions stand out to you? Should Ryan Mueller or someone else win DPOY? Hit us with your complaints in the comments below.
Start planning accordingly. The Ultimate Pac-12 Road Trip continues.
Welcome to Week 3
Saturday, Sept. 13
- Wyoming at Oregon
- Illinois at Washington
- Army at Stanford
- Portland State at Washington State
- USC at Boston College
- UCLA vs. Texas (at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas)
- Arizona State at Colorado
- Nevada at Arizona
- Byes: Cal, Oregon State, Utah
Why: What an incredible Week 2 that was. Oregon made a national statement with its convincing win against Michigan State and I can’t believe Stanford-USC ended in another last-minute field goal! That had to be one happy team from the state of California.
For Week 3, let’s take a step out of our comfort zone and travel to a place not normally frequented by the Pac-12 faithful during the regular season -- Texas.
Let’s be honest. Texas isn’t what it used to be. The Longhorns are trying to get back there under new head coach Charlie Strong. But it might take a while.
However, the Texas brand still carries a ton of name value. And a win against the Longhorns at a neutral site (only by name), would be a huge boost for a UCLA program trying to make a splash on the national stage. The Bruins will likely be a top 10 team to start the season. And barring an unbelievable mishap at Virginia or home against Memphis, they will be a team the playoff committee is keeping an eye on when this game rolls around.
From an individual standpoint, this game could also be a big boost for quarterback Brett Hundley and his Heisman candidacy. Voters were already eyeing Marcus Mariota and his five-touchdown performance against Michigan State last week (three in the air, two on the ground). They aren’t going to care much what Hundley does against Virginia or Memphis. But if he goes into Texas and has a huge game, that will definitely give him a boost.
There are also, of course, the rumors that circulated about UCLA head coach Jim Mora when the Texas job became available. Whether those were substantiated or legitimate are irrelevant. They were out there -- and that adds an element of intriguing to this game.
This is a game UCLA should win, thus making it a must-win. If the Bruins want to go to where they hope they will, they have to win this game convincingly. If they do, they will get the benefit of beating a brand-name team, even if the Longhorns are currently re-branding.
Nevada at Arizona has some intrigue because it’s a rematch of the thrilling 2012 New Mexico Bowl. And Illinois’ trip to Washington is another Pac-12-Big Ten showdown. But as far as national interest goes, UCLA-Texas is the game to see this week.
You can see the rest of the road trip here.
More Big 12 predictions for 2014.
Texas Tech 52, at Oklahoma State 49: Offenses excel and defenses struggle as Tech and OSU provide one of the most entertaining games of the entire season. This game comes down to Tech quarterback Davis Webb handling the hostile environment at Boone Pickens Stadium with a superb final quarter as the two teams go back and forth. Webb comes through with a game-winning throw to Bradley Marquez in the final seconds.
Baylor 45, at Iowa State 21: The Bears defense looks like it is finally starting to come together, holding the Cyclones to seven points through three quarters. Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty and the offense continue to roll up the points and the yards on the way to 5-0.
at Kansas State 38, UTEP 24: The Wildcats rebound from the setback against Auburn with a win over UTEP to finish off their nonconference schedule. Two special teams touchdowns are the foundation of the win as Bill Snyder’s squad looks toward conference play with plenty of momentum.
TCU 34, at SMU 17: The return of Devonte Fields is complete as the Horned Frogs defensive end takes over the win over SMU with three sacks and two forced fumbles. Big 12 offensive tackles weep.
Texas 34, Kansas 17: It becomes pretty clear what the Longhorns focused on during their bye week after UT calls eight running plays to start the game and drives right down the field for an opening touchdown. UT finishes with more than 300 rushing yards while cruising to a comfortable road triumph.
Current Big 12 standings
1. Baylor 4-0, 1-0
2. Oklahoma 4-0, 1-0
3. Texas Tech 4-0, 1-0
4. TCU 3-0
5. Kansas State 3-1, 1-0
6. Texas 3-1, 1-0
7. Kansas 2-2, 0-1
8. Oklahoma State 2-2, 0-1
9. West Virginia 1-3, 0-1
10. Iowa State 1-3, 0-2
No. 91 Bryce Cottrell
Sophomore defensive end
Recruitment rewind: A rare two-star recruit for Texas, Cottrell initially chose Oregon over Arkansas during his senior season. The linebacker/end from Plano (Texas) West didn't get an offer from Texas until late January, just weeks before signing day, but that offer was enough to sway Cottrell to make an official visit and, soon after, a commitment. Mack Brown admitted on signing day that Jackson Jeffcoat (a fellow Plano West alum) played a role in helping the Horns find Cottrell late.
Career so far: Cottrell redshirted in 2012 as a freshman and is now 6-foot-3 and 241 pounds after gaining a good 10 pounds. In his first season on the field, Cottrell appeared in 11 games though primarily on special teams. He saw action with the defense in blowout wins over TCU and Texas Tech and finished the season with five stops, a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.
Best-case scenario for 2014: If Texas had released a post-spring depth chart, you probably would've seen Cottrell listed as Shiro Davis' backup at defensive end. If the third-year defender can keep improving he'll have an opportunity to spell the first-time starter and play a significant number of snaps off the bench. That could even lead to a few starts if Cottrell makes the most of the playing time he does receive.
Worst-case scenario for 2014: Caleb Bluiett does seem like he'll be the first end off the bench this season, at least based on his performance in spring ball, and it's entirely possible explosive freshman Derick Roberson will slide into a role as a pass-rushing specialist. Still, there's not really enough depth on paper to suggest Cottrell won't play a good amount in 2014 assuming he's ready.
Future expectations: Chris Rumph did not inherit the deepest position group on the team by any means. Once Cedric Reed graduates, you're looking at a defensive end unit that has Davis, Bluiett, Cottrell, Roberson, Jake McMillon (a potential DT) and committed DE Charles Omenihu. Unless Rumph lands some juco help in this class, the third-year trio of Davis, Cottrell and Bluiett will have to be ready to start and shine. Texas has had an impressive run of NFL defensive ends lately, and it's going to be up to that trio to keep it going.
As they stand today, ESPN's preseason predictions suggest the Big 12's biggest games this season won't really be close contests. In the Oklahoma's toughest game of the season, at home against Baylor, it's being given a 60.1 percent chance of survival as 4-point favorites.
The projections have pegged Oklahoma's chances of beating Texas in the Red River Showdown at 74.2 percent, with OU as an 8-point favorite. And Bedlam is decidedly in the Sooners' favor (70.9 percent, 8.5-point favorite) as well. So with that in mind, we're instead taking a closer look today at the 12 games that ESPN projections indicate will be true nail-biters.
Some of these might not seem like high-profile matchups, but in real life they'll go a long way toward deciding how the league standings shake out. Here are the Big 12's biggest toss-up games:
1. Kansas State at West Virginia (Nov. 20)
Projection: KSU, 50.9%
In 2012, K-State spanked WVU by a score of 55-14 for the second of the Mountaineers' five straight losses following a 5-0 start. Last season, the Wildcats needed a second-half rally with four unanswered TDs to end a three-game slide in Big 12 play. ESPN projections say KSU will enter this season's matchup mired in a four-game losing streak.
2. Texas Tech at Kansas State (Oct. 4)
Projection: KSU, 51.9%
This one wasn't close last season, as K-State ran for 291 yards in Lubbock to win 49-26, but it's a potential do-or-die game for the Wildcats simply because their next four games come against Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and TCU. KSU is less than a 1-point favorite in the projections.
3. West Virginia at Iowa State (Nov. 29)
Projection: ISU, 52.8%
The best Big 12 game you did not watch last year was ISU's 52-44, triple-overtime victory in Morgantown. The Mountaineers might badly need this one: ESPN's projections peg them as favorites in only two of their games this season, and this is the season finale.
4. Texas at Kansas State (Oct. 25)
Projection: TEX, 53.1%
The Longhorns snapped their five-game losing streak to Kansas State last year, but they were fortunate that game was early in the season before KSU got on a roll. This game is a potential fork in the road for a Texas team projected to be 4-3 entering its trip to the Little Apple.
5. Texas at Texas Tech (Nov. 1)
Projection: TTU, 53.3%
Texas has won five in a row against the Red Raiders, who are projected at 5-3 entering this game but could easily be 7-1 or 8-0 if they win their close ones early on.
6. TCU at West Virginia (Nov. 1)
Projection: TCU, 54.8%
The battle of the Big 12 newcomers has gone to overtime in each of the past two years, and they've split those wins. The ESPN projections like TCU here, but only by a margin of 1.9 points.
7. Texas Tech at TCU (Oct. 25)
Projection: TCU, 55.9%
Texas Tech won a 56-53, triple-overtime thriller in 2012, and then a tough 20-10 win early last season to propel its win streak. If the Horned Frogs have their new (and somewhat Tech-inspired) offense rolling by the end of October, this could be another high-scoring affair.
8. Kansas State at Iowa State (Sept. 6)
Projection: KSU, 56.4%
That makes four Kansas State games on this list. The way K-State's schedule is built, the margin between 8-4 and 4-8 might be slight this season. This might seem like a gimme on the surface, but ESPN's projections say ISU is only a 2.5-point underdog.
9. Oklahoma State at TCU (Oct. 18)
Projection: OSU, 56.8%
These might be the two most unpredictable teams in the league in 2014. Either could finish as high as third or as low as seventh in the final Big 12 standings. ESPN's projections predict a five-game win streak for OSU (after losing to Florida State) heading into the matchup.
10. Iowa State at Kansas (Nov. 8)
Projection: ISU, 59%
Most assume this will be the battle for last place, and ESPN's projections agree. They have both KU and ISU with identical 2-6 records entering this contest, with each program starting 0-5 in Big 12 play.
11. Baylor at Oklahoma (Nov. 8)
Projection: OU, 60.1%
Probably our Game of the Year in the Big 12, and this time the Sooners will have home-field advantage. If the projections prove accurate, both teams would still be undefeated by this date. Baylor's average projected margin of victory in its first eight games before this showdown is 20.8 points.
12. BYU at Texas (Sept. 6)
Projection: TEX, 60.9%
We all remember what BYU did to Texas in Provo last season. The Longhorns will want revenge before they go up to Arlington, Texas, to face UCLA. Once again, do not sleep on the Cougars: ESPN projections say they're a 9-3 team in 2014.
Here are the Big 12 players that made this year's watch list:
- Antwan Goodley, Baylor
- Levi Norwood, Baylor
- Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
- Nick Harwell, Kansas
- Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech
- Jaxon Shipley, Texas
- West Virginia RB Wendell Smallwood was arrested Monday and is facing extradition.
- A Baylor player is also facing aggravated assault charges for a fight.
- Documents indicate an agent bought a meal for two unnamed Texas players.
- Oklahoma State has spent $165,000 on its investigation of its football program.
- That investigation is expected to conclude in the next few months.
- Why it's OK with Dana Holgorsen that West Virginia isn't getting preseason hype.
- The Dallas Morning news breaks down the secondaries for Baylor, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and TCU.
- If you missed it, Oklahoma and Michigan scheduled a home-and-home for 2025 and 2016.
- Iowa State's Cyclones.tv has the Texas game but is still missing on-air talent.
No. 90 Malcom Brown
Junior defensive tackle
Recruitment rewind: The No. 12 overall recruit in the 2012 ESPN 150 and an Under Armour All-American, Brown took visits to Texas A&M, Oklahoma and TCU but was ready to shut down his recruitment at Texas' 2011 spring game. He and linebacker Timothy Cole, his best friend and teammate at Brenham (Texas) High, committed on the same day. Brown was ranked as the No. 3 recruit in the state and No. 2 among all defensive tackles nationally.
Career so far: In 2012, Brown appeared in all 13 games and notched 25 tackles as a true freshman backup behind Desmond Jackson at nose tackle, and his playing time increased as the season progressed. He broke into the starting lineup last season, starting every game and racking up 68 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, two sacks, six QB pressures and five pass breakups. Brown enters his junior season as one of Texas' most promising players and perhaps its most talented defender.
Best-case scenario for 2014: A dominant season in which Brown is a consensus All-Big 12 defensive lineman, a borderline All-American and gets a first-round evaluation for the upcoming NFL draft. If that's the case, if Brown is truly that good, he could consider going pro early. Then again, from Texas' standpoint, the best-case scenario would be Brown having that all-conference-caliber season and then returning for his senior year.
Worst-case scenario for 2014: Unless he gets injured, which has yet to happen in his first two years in the program, what is Brown's floor? That he's just above average and has a hard time with the double-teams he'll now face? It's hard to envision him regressing at this point, especially under the tutelage of former Alabama assistant Chris Rumph.
Future expectations: Brown had all the makings of a future NFL player out of Brenham, and he's done nothing in two years to suggest that won't be the case. At 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds, he has everything you'd want from a size and power standpoint. He's going to get more consistent and the next step is becoming a game-changing force up the middle week after week, which we saw flashes of in 2013. This is a mean, hard-nosed dude who's just starting to tap into his All-America potential.
The following are the win-loss result projections for each and every Big 12 team in 2014. Remember, these are just preseason projections based on a lot of number crunching. New projections will be released weekly during the season.
Take note of the projected win totals on the right. OU and Baylor are each projected for close to 10 wins, while Oklahoma State leads a group of five teams that all seem likely to be in contention if one or both of the Big 12 favorites falter.
Here's how the ESPN preseason projections see this Big 12 season playing out:
Baylor: The defending Big 12 champs are projected to win 9.6 games with a 5.3 percent chance of going undefeated. The Bears have at least a 75 percent chance of winning all but three of their games: Texas (61.1 percent), Oklahoma (39.9) and Oklahoma State (69.4). Baylor is favored by 2 TDs or more against seven of its foes, including Kansas State and TCU.
Iowa State: ISU is projected to win 4.7 games -- essentially a 5-7 season projection -- and the computers see four of its Big 12 games as being especially winnable: Kansas State, Kansas, Texas Tech and West Virginia. The Cyclones are favored in two nonconference games and projected to be 10.2-point underdogs to Iowa in the annual rivalry game.
Kansas: ESPN's projections have KU winning 3.3 games, which is fewest for any program in Big Five conference (Purdue and Wake Forest were tied at 3.6) and third-fewest among all FBS teams. The Jayhawks' best bets for wins are against Southeast Missouri State (91.4 percent), Central Michigan (64.5) and Iowa State (41). They're projected to be double-digit underdogs in every other game.
Kansas State: The Wildcats are projected for 6.1 wins, but ESPN's data sees a schedule loaded with games that can go either way: K-State is considered a slight favorite against Iowa State, Texas Tech and West Virginia and a slight underdog versus Texas, Oklahoma State and TCU. As for the big battles, KSU is seen as a two-TD dog against Auburn, Oklahoma and Baylor.
Oklahoma: ESPN preseason projections see 9.6 wins but suggest Oklahoma will be favored in all 12 games and a serious playoff contender. OU's chances of winning dip below 75 percent for only five contests: TCU (69.6 percent), Texas (74.2), Baylor (60.1), Texas Tech (67.5) and Oklahoma State (70.9). Gotta like those odds.
Oklahoma State: The computers like this team more than a 7.6-win projection might suggest. These ESPN projections give OSU only an 8.6 percent chance of upsetting Florida State in the opener, but the Cowboys are then considered favorites in their next nine games before wrapping up with Baylor (30.6 percent) and OU (29.1).
TCU: The Horned Frogs' projection is almost exactly 7-5, with five of those wins coming by double digits. The defining stretch hits at midseason following projected losses to OU and Baylor. TCU is seen as a slight underdog to OSU but projected for very-close victories over Texas Tech, West Virginia and Kansas State in consecutive weeks.
Texas: Charlie Strong's debut season gets a projection of 6.9 wins. In addition to the trio of top-10 games in which they are underdogs (UCLA, Baylor, Oklahoma), the Longhorns are not projected to be favored vs. Texas Tech (46.7 percent) and Oklahoma State (34.3). Two more tough ones: Texas is a 1.2-point favorite at K-State and a 4.3-point favorite against BYU.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders' 7.1-win projection is very similar to TCU's, and beyond an easy one vs. Kansas (87.9 percent favorite), every Big 12 game is projected to be within single digits. Tech is projected to be an underdog against OSU, Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma and Baylor, though the K-State game is basically a toss-up (48.1 percent). TTU is actually projected to have a better chance vs. OU at home (32.5 percent) than against Baylor at AT&T Stadium (22.8).
West Virginia: ESPN's computers have little love for the Mountaineers in the preseason projections: 4.6 wins and underdogs in all but one Big 12 contest (KU, 78.4 percent favorite). In fairness, three games look extremely close in the projections: Kansas State (49.1 percent), Iowa State (47.2) and TCU (45.2). WVU's chances of stunning Alabama in the season opener have been set at 5.9 percent.
Bowlsby on Changes for Student Athletes
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
12:00 PM ET North Dakota State Iowa State 3:30 PM ET West Virginia Alabama 7:00 PM ET Louisiana Tech Oklahoma 7:00 PM ET Samford TCU 7:00 PM ET Central Arkansas Texas Tech 7:10 PM ET Stephen F. Austin Kansas State 8:00 PM ET Florida State Oklahoma State 8:00 PM ET North Texas Texas