Big 12 football race wide-open in 2013

big12_logoBy Parmida Schahhosseini
Sports Writer

Who will come out on top? That’s the burning question many are asking as Big 12 teams went though the offseason. Eights teams are expected to have different quarterbacks this fall and some teams made coaching changes. Texas Tech gained a new coach in Kliff Kingsbury, the former Tech quarterback was Johnny Manziel’s former offensive coordinator at Texas A&M during his Heisman winning season. The Big 12 also didn’t get much respect in the AP poll. No Big 12 team is ranked in the top 10 this season. This was also the first time since 2000 that Oklahoma began outside of the top 10. The Big 12 is up for grabs this year with no obvious clear-cut favorite.

bay-logo-thumbBaylor Bears:
The Baylor Bears finished the 2012-2013 season winning five out of the last six games including a 49-26 win over UCLA in the Holiday Bowl. Despite losing quarterback Nick Florence, wide receivers Terrance Williams, Lanear Sampson and center Ivory Wade, Baylor is poised to put up similar numbers with head coach Art Briles at the helm. Briles has turned Baylor into a contender after leading the Bears to three straight bowl games.

Baylor returns 12 starters including three on offense and seven on defense. Senior kicker Aaron Jones and junior punter Spencer Roth also return. Baylor also adds two high-profile recruits in freshman defensive tackle Andrew Billings and freshman wide receiver Robbie Rhodes, who were rated as four-star recruits by, exemplifying the type of program Briles has built.

Baylor’s defense was ranked 119 out of 120 FBS teams, but with depth and experience it’s poised to be a threat. During the four game losing streak, Baylor’s defense gave up an average of 206.5 rush yards, 393 passing yards and 599.5 total yards per game for an average of 6.87 yards per play. The Bears turned it around in the last six games giving up 442.2 total yards. The Bears have also switched the positions of senior Sam Holl from safety to nickel back and senior Ahmad Dixon from nickel back to safety, taking advantage of his speed.

Despite losing Williams and Sampson, the receiving corps is still expected to thrive in Briles’ system. Junior receiver Tevin Reese is expected to be the number one receiver after making 53 catches for 957 yards and nine touchdowns. Junior receiver Levi Norwood also added 487 yards on 40 catches. In addition, Rhodes is expected to be a solid contributor.

“They are doing great,” junior quarterback Bryce Petty said. “They are having a great camp. We have a lot of guys coming back. We lost Terrance, we lost Lanear, which are big losses, but at the same time we have new guys stepping up. They are having a great camp and doing a good job. We are just ready to go.”

The most notable change is at the quarterback position, but life did go on after Robert Griffin III’s Heisman Trophy 2011 season. Last year, Nick Florence broke Griffins record throwing for 4,309 yards averaging 375.1 of total offense per game. Petty is expected to succeed due to Briles’ quarterback friendly system.

Baylor is regarded as a sleeper team and has the potential to post 10 or more wins this season. Expectations are high this season and Seastrunk can attest to that.

“It’s short and sweet: Big 12 championship, national championship and Heisman Trophy,” Seastrunk said.

okla-logo-thumbOklahoma Sooners:
Despite the high expectations, Oklahoma’s disappointing season was capped off with a 41-13 blowout against Texas A&M at the AT&T Cotton Bowl. Bob Stoops fired three assistants as a result.

Former quarterback Landry Jones is now on the Pittsburg Steelers, so it looked like the job belonged to junior Blake Bell, who is regarded as a running quarterback. Bell rushed for 24 touchdowns, mostly in short yardage situations, but has only thrown 20 passes. On Aug. 22, Stoops announced that freshman Trevor Knight would be the starting quarterback.

Knight does have help with senior running back Damien Williams who ran for 946 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Senior wide receiver Jalen Saunders and sophomore receiver Sterling Shepard combined for 1,450 yards on 107 catches.

The previous season has not been kind to the Oklahoma defense as it gave up school record in yards allowed. In 2012 Oklahoma gave up 398.3 yards per game. With only three previous starters projected to start, Oklahoma hopes to rebuild its defense and to play better up front.

okst-logo-thumbOklahoma State Cowboys:
Oklahoma State is the favorite in many polls to win the Big 12 title. Senior Clint Chelf won the quarterback battle after throwing 1,588 yards and 15 touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Charlie Moore has 42 career catches for 656 yards and seven touchdowns and junior receiver Josh Stewart caught 101 passes last season.

The defense is expected to be the strength of the Cowboys as they return seven defensive starters. Senior linebacker Shaun Lewis had 25 tackles for a loss, five interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries in his career. Senior strong safety Shamiel Gary made 72 tackles last season.

tex-logo-thumbTexas Longhorns:
Despite coming off a nine-win season, Texas hasn’t displayed the quality of football it is usually accustomed to. The Longhorns have improved since its 5-7 season in 2010, but fans are looking for more.

Junior quarterback David Ash returns as the starting quarterback. Ash was ranked 21st nationally in passing efficiency, but his consistency has come into question. Against Oklahoma, Kansas and TCU, Ash completed only 47 percent of his passes throwing six interceptions and no touchdowns.

Texas lost wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, but the Longhorns hope senior receiver Mike Davis and junior receiver Jaxon Shipley to fill the void. Davis accounted for 57 catches for 939 yards last year and emerged as a deep threat in 2012. Shipley had 59 catches for 737 yards and is expected to thrive in a new system with Major Applewhite calling the plays.

Similar to Oklahoma, Texas’ defense also allowed more yards in 2012 than any defense in Texas’ history. In 2012, the defense gave up 29.2 points per game and 404.2 total yards per game. While leading tackler Kenny Vaccaro is now a New Orleans Saint, Texas hopes that junior linebacker Steve Edmond makes up for the loss.

Special teams have also been a question for Texas after inconsistency last year. Sophomore kicker Nick Jordan went 9-for-15 last year with his longest field goal being 40 yards. However, Jordan did make seven of his last 10 kicks. Sophomore Nick Rose, who is also competing for the job, has a big leg.

tcu-logo-thumbTCU Horned Frogs:
With expectations high, TCU faltered after losing starting senior quarterback Casey Pachall last season. While the sophomore backup quarterback Trevone Boykin led TCU to a 7-6 season, he only completed 57.2 percent of his passes. The return of senior running back Waymon James should help bring balance to the offense.

Pachall returns for the 2013 season as a senior to takeover as quarterback once again. Pachall should bring consistency to the offense.

After losing wide receivers Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson from last season, sophomore LaDarius Brown and junior Brandon Carter need to step up. Carter accounted for 590 yards and 6 touchdowns including one for 80 yards.

TCU is expected to be strong defensively after leading the Big 12 in total defense and ranks No. 16 nationally. Sophomore defensive end Devonte Fields led the Big 12 with 18.5 tackles for loss and was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press. Junior linebacker Joel Hasley returns after accounting for 79 tackles including 8.5 for loss.