Big 12 conference preview: Week 1

By Krista Pirtle
Sports Editor

The Bears enter the 2012 season with a notion to prove itself.

After last year’s fairy tale season with Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III, Baylor looks to make sure this season does not do a Humpty Dumpty fall.

Senior quarterback Nick Florence has gained the trust of his teammates and has executed over the offseason.

As the offense does under head coach Art Briles, the Baylor program has evolved from where it was last season.

Where most people think the Bears are a pass-happy team, a solid run game made possible by a sturdy offensive line and downhill turbo running backs will show the true strength of the green and gold.

As for the defense, more time with defensive coordinator Phil Bennett will be a blessing, but two new linebackers could be a curse.

Iowa State

After being replaced at quarterback toward the end of the season after suffering a foot injury and struggling with turnovers. Steele Jantz is back to lead the Cyclones for 2012.

He completed 138 of 259 passes for 1,519 yards for 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Iowa State will run the ball before anything this season, whether to get some yards or set up a pass.

Junior Shontrelle Johnson was a productive starter in the first four games last season before a neck injury nearly ended his career.

He has been cleared to return and brings a break-away threat.

In Johnson’s absence, junior James White became the team’s leading rusher with 743 yards.

On the defensive side, the line holds the team’s weakest link.

Last season, Iowa State allowed 193 yards a game rushing and recorded just 17 sacks.


In the past three seasons, the Jayhawks have gone 2-23 in Big 12 conference play.

Last season alone, Kansas ended the conference season with a goose egg in the win column.

Former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis is now calling the shots for Kansas and brought senior quarterback Dayne Crist with him from Notre Dame.

Kansas State

Senior quarterback Collin Klein set an NCAA record with 27 rushing touchdowns.

Overall, he recorded 317 carries in 2011.

His teammates on the other side of the ball said his willingness to drop a shoulder and take a hit for extra yardage was an inspiration to get work done defensively.

The Wildcats bring back 14 starters.


Some things don’t change: Oklahoma is picked to win the Big 12 conference.

But, some things need to change, like the Sooners’ defense.

Last season in its losses, the defense would give up 40-plus points.

Oklahoma is out for redemption this season, and it likes how things look on the offensive side of the ball with senior quarterback Landry Jones returning for his senior season.

The Sooners are looking to win the conference as they did in 2010 and bring home the title to repeat 2000.

Oklahoma State

It is out with the old and in with the new for the Cowboys.

With the drafting of Brandon Weeden, freshman Wes Lunt is stepping in for Oklahoma State at quarterback.

This is all part of Coach Gundy’s mentality that he wants instilled in his players: next man up.

The Cowboys understand that 2012 will not depend on any one player but on the team as a whole.

Last season, Oklahoma State’s defense was astounding, but the loss of its defensive coordinator will bring a different approach to that side of the ball.


The Horned Frogs are excited to be in the Big 12 conference, but it lacks what is needed at any level of college play: depth.

If any player were to get injured, it’s game over for TCU.

The one area with the promise of depth is at running back.

With three guys capable of plowing for yardage, the Horned Frogs will run a diamond set on offense to get each guy a look and keep the defense questioning.

As for its own defense, the linebacker position is weak, and that position is vital to an offensive-heavy conference such as the Big 12.

Texas Tech

The Red Raiders had the worst defense in the conference in 2011.

Mainly, the problems came when Tech’s opponents ran the ball.

For 2012, the defense has adopted a slogan: chain gang.

An ironic slogan for the defense that keeps the chains moving against themselves.

If one link were to break, the other links must step up and fill the gap.

As for the secondary, the Red Raiders return four seniors.

Offensively, Seth Doege is back to lead his team on the astroturf once again.


Texas has a slogan for this season. RISE: Relentless, Intensity, Sacrifice and Emotion.

The players wanted the “S” to stand for swagger, but their coaches told them that was something they must earn.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Longhorns will bring the same reputation, especially with six returning starters.

Offensively, however, Texas still looks like a train wreck.

The Longhorns recently named sophomore David Ash as starter for this weekend.

West Virginia

West Virginia looks to make a big splash in its new conference, pegged to finish No. 2.

Heisman favorite, senior quarterback Geno Smith will command the wide open offense that will fit right in in the Big 12.

Defensively, West Virginia acquired defensive coordinator Joe DeForest from Oklahoma State over the offseason.

DeForest led the Cowboys defense to total 44 turnovers on the season.