Hats off to TCU head coach Gary Patterson on leading a once powerhouse program at the mid-major level and making the seemingly smooth transition to the adult table in a matter of seasons.
Back-to-back seasons of 11 or more wins and being ranked as high as top-3 in each of those season, the Frogs have cemented themselves as a legitimate contender in the Big 12. They were clicking on all cylinders a season ago, but some poorly-timed injuries to some key injuries ultimately did them in.
No more Josh Doctson and Trevone Boykin to highlight the track meets that TCU has been prone to showcasing over the last two seasons, but they still boast plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. They bring in former Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill via transfer to compete for the starting gig, along with redshirt sophomore Foster Sawyer.
They also lose running back Aaron Green to graduation so expect a bigger workload from Kyle Hicks and KaVontae Turpin in the backfield. Pair that with a top-3 recruiting class in the conference and what we should see is another solid season from the Frogs.
Another coach who relatively flies under the radar from a national perspective but has done an excellent job in his tenure is Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy.
Now entering his 12th season in Stillwater, Gundy notched his fourth ten-win campaign in the last six seasons. Unfortunately, it was not the type of finish to the season they looked for, losing their final three games of the season, two of them at home and all by an average of more than 24 points.
For the upcoming season, they return much of the roster from a season ago. Only one Cowboy was drafted in this year’s NFL Draft – defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah was selected by the Browns with the first pick of the second round. Quarterback Mason Rudolph enters his junior year coming off a 3,770-yard season and they will feature a duo of senior running backs to share the load, including Stanford graduate transfer Barry Sanders Jr….yes, son of the Lions’ very own Barry Sanders.
The absence of Ogbah will be a huge one for a defense that allowed more than 186 yards per game on the ground in 2015. How the Cowboys do in that department alone will further evaluate the difference-maker that he was for OSU.
This is more of a guess and less of a bold prediction of whether or not they will be a contender. Former head coach Art Briles was the mastermind behind the high-octane offense that the Baylor Bears have showcased over the last handful of years, prior to his termination.
Now with former Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe in place of Briles in an effort to somehow salvage any sort of success while being under fire all season, can and will the Bears still compete in a still fairly deep conference? They absolutely can and I think they will, just maybe a tick or two below the level they were in recent years.
Baylor has some big names to replace though heading into the upcoming season. Six players in total, including three All-Americans, were selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, the most for any Big 12 program this past season. The three All-Americans – wide receiver Corey Coleman, defensive tackle Andrew Billings, and offensive tackle Spencer Drango – all leave bigger-than-normal voids on the field.
However, the Bears do return a pair of seniors in quarterback Seth Russell and running back and resident owner of one of the coolest names in the sport, Shock Linwood. Russell played just seven games after suffering a neck injury but still threw for more than 2,100 yards and 29 touchdowns. Linwood and backfield partner Johnny Jefferson, who also returns for his junior year, combined to rush for more than 2,400 yards.
Baylor certainly still has firepower, but can they overcome the never-ending adversity?