Covers Expert Marc Lawrence continues his tour around college football and breaks down the Big 12 for bettors:
Note: Team write-ups are excerpts from the 2013 PLAYBOOK Football Preview magazine. Numbers following team name represent the amount of returning starters on offense and defense, with an asterisk (*) designating a returning quarterback. Potential designated ‘Play On’ and ‘Play Against’ Best Bets follow each team’s preview.
Team Theme: FINDING THEIR SEA LEGS
If there was a hotter team at the conclusion of the 2012 season than the Bears, let them step forward. Art Briles’ squad finished with the No. 2 offense in the nation, one year after RG3 ran off with the Heisman and headed to Washington. And speaking of the coveted trophy, this just in… “I’m going to win the Heisman. I’m going to win it in 2013,” RB Lache Seastrunk said. “If I don’t, I’m going to get very close.” Seastrunk got regular carries in just the final six games of the season (in which the Bears went 6-0 ATS), and in that span, he flashed his 4.34 speed in the 40 and ran for 831 yards (8.1 average) and six touchdowns.
Stat You Will Like: The Baylor defense has regressed in total yards allowed each of the last four years.
PLAY AGAINST: vs. Kansas State (10/12)
IOWA STATE (7/6)
Team Theme: RHOADS TO SUCCESS
At first glance, one might think that three consecutive seven-loss seasons would start to warm up a coach’s seat. Not in Ames where the last two campaigns culminated in bowl games. Hometown hero Paul Rhoads has attendance at an all-time high while last year marked the first time in school history the Cyclones beat a ranked team in three straight seasons. The main task at hand in 2013 is replacing super-star LBs A. J. Klein and Jake Knott, both three-year starters. QB Sam Richardson started the final three games of the season last year and assumes the starting duties. With nine games against bowlers, including each of their six road games, another seven-loss season would be another small step on the long road to success.
Stat You Will Like: Head coach Paul Rhoads was born and raised 10 minutes from Jack Trice Stadium.
PLAY ON: vs. Tulsa (9/21)
Team Theme: DOWN FOR THE COUNT
Going downhill faster than an Olympic slalom racer, Kansas has watched its annual win total fall from 12, to 8, to 5, to 3, to 2, to 1 over the last six years. The good news for second-year head coach Charlie Weis is that since 1990, there have been a total of 108 Division-1 teams who won exactly one game the previous season, and 89 of those teams went on to improve on that total the following season, while only three teams regressed to zero wins. Better news is the Jayhawks return 96 percent of the rushing yards from a unit that owned the third-best running attack in the Big 12 last season. Squaring off against 10 bowlers and snapping a 21-game conference-losing skein is another matter.
Stat You Will Like: Kansas is 1-27 SU from Game Six out the last four years.
KANSAS STATE (8/2)
Team Theme: GREAT GRAND DAD
As we alluded to last year, not many great grandfathers can lay claim to winning National Coach of the Year honors. You can count on one finger how many of them have done it back-to-back seasons. That gold finger belongs to Bill Snyder who captured the honor once again last year after winning the same award in 2011. This accomplishment justly earned by a legendary coach who inherited a team in the midst of a 0-21-1 run over two decades ago. Last year’s Big 12 title was the first for the Wildcats since 2003 and the third in school history. The challenge is on for 2013, though, with QB Collin Klein and nine senior starters from last year’s defense now with diplomas in hand.
Stat You Will Like: Three fumbles lost last season tied with Iowa for top honors in the FBS.
PLAY AGAINST: vs. Oklahoma State (10/5)
Team Theme: A TOUGH STATE OF MIND
With no less than 11 bowlers from last season dotting the itinerary, the Sooners will be put to the test in 2013. And for the first time since 2007 they will take the field with a new quarterback behind center. That’s because four-year starter Landry Jones, who went 39-11 in his career at OU, is gone. Fortunately a strong upper class (45 seniors and juniors) returns for Bob Stoops, the fastest coach to reach 100 wins in modern history. Stoops also returns as the only coach to reach all four BCS bowl games and the National Championship Game. With 44 players residing on the roster from the state of Texas and 28 from Oklahoma, look for Big Game Bob to improve on his shimmering 69-18 SU all-time mark against teams from either state.
Stat You Will Like: The Sooners are 20-0 SU in games off a regular season loss since 2003.
PLAY ON: vs. Kansas State (11/30)
OKLAHOMA STATE (*7/8)
Team Theme: STRAIGHT SHOOTERS
On the heels of a school record seven-straight bowl games, the Cowboys shoot for eight in a row behind a revamped coaching staff and ton of talent. Mike Yurcich becomes the third offensive coordinator in four seasons at OSU. His Shippensburg team ranked first nationally among Division II schools in total offense while passing for a nation-best 387.7 YPG last season. With Wes Lunt transferring out, he’ll have two quarterbacks at his disposal who shared starting duties for the Cowboys last season in Clint Chief and J. W. Walsh – both of whom combined with Lunt to throw for over 4,000 yards en route to averaging 547 YPG of offense, setting a school record in the process. A brackish schedule finds opponents, other than Kansas, with an 82-47 record last season.
Stat You Will Like: Mike Gundy was 12-15 in his first 27 games with the Cowboys. He’s 55-20 since.
PLAY ON: vs. Texas (11/16)
Team Theme: THE SMOKE HAS CLEARED
Frog fever is back in the air in Fort Worth now that QB Casey Pachall has been cleared to resume duties following his arrest and subsequent suspension for a wacky-tobacco violation. Pachall returns as the active FBS career passing efficiency leader (163.1). Also back is his replacement last year, sophomore Trevone Boykin, along with leading WR Waymon James and top rusher B. J. Catalon. The fact of the matter is youth served TCU well last year as 20 players made their first career starts, while a total of 28 true and redshirt freshmen played. With the Frogs having been bowlers 11 of 12 years under Gary Patterson, it is no wonder TCU owns the best record in the state of Texas (84-19) since 2005.
Stat You Will Like: TCU has won 47 straight games when it has outrushed its opponent.
PLAY ON: vs. Texas Tech (9/14)
Team Theme: STEERING THE STAMPEDE
The only team in the nation to finish in the final BCS poll in 13 of the last 14 seasons, the Longhorns will mix experience (19 returning starters) with youth (34 of 48 freshmen have played the last two season) to form a potentially lethal combination in 2013. This year's squad is loaded offensively with 10 starters back, including the two-headed QB combo of David Ash and Case McCoy who combined to rank 10th in the land in passing efficiency last season. It's the defense that finds them shaking in their boots, one that slipped nearly 100 YPG last season. Here's hoping nine starters back from a unit that ranked sixth in the FBS in tackles for a loss last year holds up its end of the deal.
Stat You Will Like: Mack Brown has led his teams to winning campaigns in 22 of the last 23 years, including 14 of the last 15 seasons at Texas.
PLAY ON: vs. Kansas State (9/21)
TEXAS TECH (6/9)
Team Theme: PULL BACK FROM THE KLIFF
Following a spat at the conclusion of the 2009 season, Mike Leach left the Red Raiders and took his powerful offensive system with him. The air-miles registered by the Texas Tech offense began to drop like passes to a wide receiver wearing boxing gloves, causing the victory totals to diminish as well, with the Techsters averaging seven wins per season since. However, the hire of former TTRR quarterback Kliff Kingsbury has sparked new life into a dying program and as a result, more fans put off suicide and attended the spring game than ever before, anxious to see WR Eric Ward and a new high-flying offense at work. With 2011 three-star recruit QB Michael Brewer looking to lead an offense back to the Promised Land, Kingsbury’s popularity is winning fans over in droves. Let’s hope the football team does, too.
Stat You Will Like: The Red Raiders will face nine teams that were in bowl games last season, including seven in their final seven games of the season.
PLAY ON: vs. Baylor (11/16)
WEST VIRGINIA (4/7)
Team Theme: LIGHTS OUT
Like an insomniac, third-year coach Dana Holgorsen has not been sleeping well – at least not since the departure of his entire passing skill offense. QB Geno Smith and his top three wide receivers are off to the NFL, forcing Holgorsen to plug many missing holes from last year’s over-the-top 500-yard offense. RB Andrew Buie is the only experienced playmaker returning on offense. Thus the transfer of former Florida State QB Clint Trickett (ruled eligible this season with graduation degree in hand) provides a ray of hope and a chance for slumber. The nightmare persists, however, with a Swiss-cheese defense that surrendered the most points in the Big 12. All this on the heels of a team that had its heart ripped out following a 5-0 start last season. Pass the Ambien, please.
Stat You Will Like: The Mountaineers lose 3,752 passing yards and 42 touchdowns from last year’s offense.
PLAY AGAINST: vs. Baylor (10/5)
Be sure to check back here next Monday, July 1 for Marc’s 2013 Conference USA Football Preview!