Oklahoma Wins Epic Extra Inning Championship Series Game One
A close and enthralling contest needed more than two full games to decide a victor. Oklahomawon 7-5 over Florida in 17 innings as they took a 1-0 lead in the 2017 Women’s College World Series Championship Series. Shay Knighten’s three run home run in the top of the 17th put the Sooners in front for good after the Gators battled back not once, but twice on their final strike.
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fourth when the Gators got on the board with a single by Aleshia Ocasio that brought home Nicole DeWitt. The Sooners responded right away in the top of the fifth with Sydney Romero driving home Nicole Pendley on a single.
Oklahoma took a 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth on a solo shot by Nicole Mendes. The Gators were down to their final out (and strike) when Sophia Reynoso hit a blooper into left-center field. The Sooners were deep in the outfield and could not come up with the catch as Ocasio came around to tie the game up and send the game into extra innings.
The teams failed to get much going in the eighth through eleventh innings as neither team had a runner get to second base in those innings. In the twelfth inning, Oklahoma’s Shay Knighten led off with a double and was followed by Fale Aviu, who crushed a two run shot to give Oklahoma a 4-2 lead.
The Gators started the bottom of the twelfth with a walk and a hit to put two on with no outs. The Gators then popped out on a bunt and struck out with back-to-back pinch hitters. Amanda Lorenz came up with two outs as Oklahoma went from Paige Parker back to starter Paige Lowary. Lowary got Lorenz to her final strike, but Lorenz was able to drive a ball to the left center field wall for a triple to bring home both runners and keep the game going.
The Sooners were able to get runners on first and second in the top of the 15th inning after Delanie Gourley hit Lea Wodach and a wild pitch followed to move the runners up a base. The next pitch was a ball to load the bases, but a ground out ended the threat.
In the top of the 16th, Oklahoma put two runners on with no outs and saw them both sacrificed up a base on a fly out to right center. A walk loaded the bases but a force out at home and strikeout left the bases loaded for the second straight inning.
The Sooners once again put two runners on base in the 17th and Shay Knighten finally put the runs across for Oklahoma with a three run home run. The Gators were able to load the bases with one out and Lorenz at the plate where she hit a sacrifice fly to cut the deficit to 7-5. A strikeout from Lowary ended the game to give the Sooners the win after an incredible game.
Lowary started and ended the game as she went 10 1/3 innings giving up two runs on eight hits while striking out seven to earn the win. Parker went 6 2/3 innings giving up three runs on four hits with seven strikeouts. Mendes, Knighten, Aviu, and Romero were the only Oklahoma hitters to finish with multiple hits.
Barnhill also started and ended the game for Florida, but she took the loss. She pitched 9 innings giving up five runs on nine hits with 13 strikeouts. Gourley threw 8 innings of relief ball giving up two runs on four hits with 13 strikeouts. Justine McLean, Reynoso, and Lorenz all finished with multiple hits for the Gators.
2017 Women’s College World Series Championship Series Schedule
The final two teams for the 2017 Women’s College World Series have reached the pinnacle of the season. The Florida Gators and Oklahoma Sooners are the two teams that will play in best of three series to determine the 2017 NCAA Division 1 Softball National Champion.
The Gators were the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and were one of the best teams all season especially in the circle. Florida has been on the brink of elimination a couple of times in this tournament, but they responded resolutely against Oklahoma State in the regionals and Alabama in the Super Regionals.
In Oklahoma City, the Gators hit another gear posting back-to-back shutouts against SEC foes Texas A&M and LSU. They nearly had a third against Washington, but gave up a home run when the Huskies were down to their final out. Nevertheless, Kelly Barnhill and Delanie Gourley pose an extremely formidable duo against the Sooners in what should be a series showcasing great pitching.
Oklahoma Sooners (59-9 Overall)
Regular Season: Big 12 Champions (50-8 Overall and 17-1 Big 12)
Conference Tournament: Won Big 12 Tournament (Defeated Texas 3-0, defeated Texas Tech 8-0, defeated Oklahoma State 2-0)
Regional: Lost to North Dakota State 3-2, defeated Arkansas 5-3, defeated North Dakota State 10-2, defeated Tulsa 6-4, defeated Tulsa 3-0
Oklahoma began the season as the top team, but hit a rough patch early on. Since the Sooners lost back-to-back games against Cal Poly in mid-March, they have been on a tear losing just twice: once to Baylor in the regular season and to North Dakota State in the opening game of the regional.
Since the loss to NDSU, the Sooners have not dropped a game though they were nearly eliminated against Tulsa in the regional. However, their last five games against Auburn (twice on the road), Baylor, Washington, and Oregon have been nothing short of impressive. PaigeParker and PaigeLowary will be key in the circle in the same manner as Barnhill and Gourley for the Gators.
2017 Women’s College World Series Championship Series
Below is the schedule for the 2017 Women’s College World Series Champions Series. This is set to be an excellent matchup between Florida and Oklahoma particularly in the circle with four excellent pitchers. This will mark the fifth straight season that either the Gators or Sooners will go home with the NCAA Championship.
Many of the top matchups are getting most of the press and rightfully so. LSU versus Wisconsin, USC versus Alabama, Notre Dame at Texas, Ole Miss versus Florida State, Georgia versus North Carolina, Clemson at Auburn, and Oklahoma versus Houston are all tantalizing on paper. All of those games will be fun to watch, but let’s take at some of the games that may not be on the radar.
Note, these games are listed in order of when they will be played.
1. South Carolina at Vanderbilt (9/1 at 8 PM EST) – This probably does not strike as much, but it could be a game that determines if one of these schools reaches a bowl game in 2016. This will be Will Muschamp’s first game at South Carolina and he inherits just nine returning starters (four on offense and five on defense). It will be interesting to see if Vanderbilt’s offense can improve from 2015 and the impact Muschamp has on the South Carolina team.
2. Kansas State at Stanford (9/2 at 9 PM EST) – A Friday night game at the Farm featuring Heisman hopeful Christian McCaffrey against a formidable Bill Snyder coached Kansas State defense is worth watching. Heck, just a chance to see McCaffrey in action is a game worth watching. Can the K-State defense keep McCaffrey somewhat in check? How will Stanford’s new quarterback play? Can K-State keep the game close and provide some worry to the Stanford fans? There are a lot of things that will be interesting to keep track of in this one.
3. Western Michigan at Northwestern (9/3 at 12 PM EST) – Western Michigan is a team that could make some serious noise in the MAC West in 2016. A game against a team like Northwestern will be a very good measuring stick. The Broncos have offensive weapons like quarterback Zach Terrell (3,510 yards with 67% completions as well as 29 touchdowns and 9 interceptions), Jamauri Bogan (1,051 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns), Jarvion Franklin (735 yards rushing and five touchdowns), and receiver Corey Davis (90 catches for 1,436 yards and 12 touchdowns). Meanwhile, how Clayton Thorson progressed for the Northwestern offense is a big question because they cannot rely solely on Justin Jackson (1,418 yards rushing and 5 touchdowns).
4. Missouri at West Virginia (9/3 at 12 PM EST) – Missouri had one of the top defenses from last year (gave up 16.2 points and 302 yards per game) while West Virginia averaged 34 points and 480 yards per game. The contrasting styles and how each team can effectively make adjustments will be exciting to see.
5. UCLA at Texas A&M (9/3 at 3:30 PM EST) – UCLA is coming off an 8-5 season and is considered one of the favorites for the Pac-12 and Pac-12 Title. They are led by sophomore Josh Rosen (3,668 yards with 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions) and have nine starters back on defense. Kevin Sumlin may be under the microscope more than usual this year after back-to-back 8-5 seasons. Two former Sooners will be in the back for the Aggies as Trevor Knight and Keith Ford. The Aggies will also have back the top five receivers from 2015 and this could be a fun game to watch if the offenses explode.
6. BYU versus Arizona(9/3 at 10:30 PM EST) – BYU may appear on this list quite often given their schedule. Taysom Hill is back for yet another season and he goes up against an Arizona team that went 7-6 last year and returns 15 starters. This game will also be Kalani Sitake’s first game in charge of BYU after 11 years of Bronco Mendenhall. This game will be a fun one to watch between Arizona’s Anu Solomon and Hill.
7. FCS Teams versus FBS Teams – These matchups are always worth keeping an eye on because they can produce some shocking results (see Portland State winning not once, but twice in 2015 against FCS teams). It is always great to see the FCS teams holding a late lead and see if they can complete the upset.
Check back next week for under the radar games for week two.
Five Predictions For The Big 12 Conference In 2016
The 2016 College Football season is coming fast and that means prediction time. Below are five predictions for Big 12 Conference for the 2016 season. Some predictions will be right, some predictions will be wrong, and some will be spectacularly awful (or correct) by the end of the season.
There are no changes for the Big 12 Conference as the ten teams remain the same. Those ten teams are Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, and West Virginia. In addition, the Big 12 employs a true round robin in which each team will play one another.
Here are five predictions for the Big 12 Conference in 2016:
1. Kansas State will make a seventh straight bowl game – Bill Snyder has a special touch with this Kansas State program. He took them from the doldrums in the late 80’s to national prominence in the late 90’s. Since returning to the Wildcats in 2009, Snyder led the team to a bowl game each year with the exception of that 2009 season when they went 6-6.
This year the Wildcats have five starters back on offense and seven back on defense. The defense underperformed last year giving up 31.5 points and 452 yards per game with those totals the highest since Snyder’s return. The defense should be better after a poor 2015 season.
The schedule has some bumps with the opening game at Stanford on Friday, September 2. They also face West Virginia, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Baylor, and TCU on the road in conference play, but three wins is not out of the question between those teams. At home the Wildcats will play Florida Atlantic and Missouri State in non-conference (two presumed wins) while playing Texas Tech, Texas, Oklahoma State, and Kansas. The Wildcats looked poised for another bowl game in 2016 and a few upsets look like they are in the cards as well.
2. Oklahoma will lose at least one game they are favored in – This is a common theme for Oklahoma under Bob Stoops, but this one will not necessarily be a bad thing. After the Sooners lost to Texas in 2015, they went on a tear by winning their final seven games and reaching the CFB Playoffs where they lost to Clemson 37-17.
In 2014, Oklahoma lost to TCU, Kansas State, Baylor, and Oklahoma State while favored in each of those games. In 2013, they lost to Texas as a 12 point favorite while in 2012 they lost to both Kansas State and Notre Dame at home as a double digit favorite. 2011 saw them drop games to Texas Tech (favored by 28.5 points) and Baylor (15.5 point favorites). The chances Oklahoma drops a game they should not are pretty good, but that does not mean the CFB playoffs are out of reach.
3. West Virginia will not win more than 7 games – The offense for West Virginia will be solid in 2016 with eight starters back from a group that put up 34 points and 480 yards per game last season. The defense took a hit as only four starters are back from the 2015 group that allowed 24.6 points and 396 yards per game.
The schedule opens with Missouri and Youngstown State at home before facing BYU in Maryland for a neutral site game. In conference, they play Kansas State, TCU, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Baylor at home while facing Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Iowa State on the road. There does not appear to be enough on the schedule for the West Virginia to get more than seven wins, but they could find their way to a bowl game at 6-6.
4. TCU and Baylor will win 20 games or lesscombined – TCU went 12-1 in 2014 and 11-2 in 2015 while Baylor went 11-2 in 2014 and 10-3 in 2015. A repeat of even the worst outcome for those two would prove this one wrong.
TCU lost a lot of offensive firepower as quarterback Trevone Boykin, running back Aaron Green, and receiver Josh Doctson have moved on to the NFL. The offense put up 42.1 points and 563 yards per game in 2015 but only three starters are back. TCU does get former Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill for 2016 which definitely helps. The defense for TCU will be the strength as eight starters are back from last year’s group that allowed 27.2 points and 398 yards per game. This group should keep TCU in every game and the Horned Frogs look like the better of the two teams here.
For Baylor, they have plenty of concerns led by the ouster of former head coach Art Briles. He was replaced with Jim Grobe who is more of a defensive minded coach though he has kept most of the assistants from last year. Losing the mastermind of the offense, which has only five starters back, will no doubt hurt. Meanwhile on defense, there are also only five starters back from a unit that allowed 28.3 points and 397 yards per game in 2015. Those numbers were put up with nine starters back last year. There is enough turmoil and turnover that Baylor could take a step back in 2016.
5. Texas and Texas Tech will both make a bowl game – Texas did not make a bowl game in 2015 after going 5-7, but did make a bowl game in Charlie Strong’s first season in 2014 (a 31-7 loss to Arkansas). Texas Tech did the opposite: they missed a bowl game in 2014, but made the Texas Bowl last year where they were crushed by LSU 56-27.
Texas is likely to make a bowl game as they will be in Strong’s third season with seven starters back on offense and eight starters back on defense. The offense improved by five points and 34 yards per game from 2014 to 2015, but the defense took a step back. After allowing 23.8 points and 349 yards per contest in 2014, they gave up 30.3 points and 453 yards per game last year. The Longhorns play Notre Dame and UTEP at home as well as California on the road in non-conference, but there is no reason the Longhorns should not improve enough to have a winning record in 2016.
Texas Tech is the more worrisome team to make a bowl game. The offense will be prolific again in 2016 as they have six starters back led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes and a bevy of receivers to throw to. The defense is the worry as they allowed 43.6 points and 548 yards per game in 2015 with eight starters back and now there are six starters back. It could be another year of feasting for Big 12 offenses on the Red Raider defense.
For Texas Tech, they face Stephen F Austin, Arizona State (away), and Louisiana Tech in non-conference and a 2-1 record is likely and 3-0 is possible if they are in a shootout with the Sun Devils. In conference, they play Kansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas at home while facing Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State on the road. Their final conference game is against Baylor in Arlington, Texas.
The Prediction Schedule
With the Big 12 predictions above, there are now predictions for seven conferences in the books. Below are the predictions completed and which conference is next.
The Oklahoma Sooners won the 2016 NCAA Division 1 Softball Championship with an exciting 2-1 win over Auburn in game three of the Championship Series. It was the third National Championship for Oklahoma after winning in 2000 and 2013.
Oklahoma (57-8), as they had done in both games 1 and 2, started the scoring. A one out single by CaleighClifton was followed by two throwing errors on Game 2 heroine Emily Carosone that allowed Clifton to score. Fale Aviu brought home Shay Knighten two batters later to make it 2-0 Sooners after one inning.
Auburn (58-12) started the top of the second with straight singles, but went down in order to end the bright start to the innings. The Tigers had an even better opportunity in the third with an error by Oklahoma’s PaigeParker allowing Victoria Draper to reach first. Singles by Tiffany Howard and Kasey Cooper loaded the bases for Carosone, but she struck out and a double play ground ball by Carlee Wallace ended the scoring chance.
Auburn finally broke through in the top of the third with a rocket of lead off home run by Jade Rhodes. That made it 2-1 in favor of Oklahoma while Parker would give up a walk to force some action in the Sooner bullpen. Parker got out of the inning with no further damage by retiring the next three batters.
Oklahoma had a chance to pad their 2-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth with two on and two out, but a LeaWodach ground out ended the inning.
The top of the seventh started with Parker striking out Madi Gipson. Parker then induced a pop out from Whitney Jordan before a nerve racking 11 pitch at bat to Courtney Shea led to the Championship clinching victory.
Parker (38-3) went the distance giving up just the one run on five hits while striking out 5 batters to win her 27th straight start. She was named the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after going 10-0 in the postseason and 5-0 in the WCWS. The Sooners won 32 of their final 33 games en route to the Title.
Jade Rhodes was the sole Auburn player to record multiple going 2 for 3 including the solo shot in the fourth inning. Makayla Martin went a solid six innings giving up two runs on five hits. The Tigers were attempting to win their first softball National Championship.
Oklahoma becomes the third team to win at least three National Championships after UCLA and Arizona.
Walk Off Grand Slam By Auburn Ties Up WCWS Championship Series
The Auburn Tigers defeated the Oklahoma Sooners 11-7 in 8 innings thanks to Emily Carosone’s walk off grand slam. The win pushed the 2016 Women’s College World Series to a decisive and winner take all game three.
The Sooners got the scoring started in the top of the first with a two out infield single by Fale Aviu with Aviu beating the throw to first to allow Erin Miller to score. The Sooners left runners stranded on second and third, but took a 1-0 lead after a half inning.
The Sooners built a bigger lead in the second with a lead off homer by Kady Self. That was just the beginning as back-t0-back singles followed by a throwing error allowed a run to score and it became a 3-0 game. Two straight squeeze bunts and a single brought home three more runs for the Sooners to push the lead to 6-0 and forced Auburn’s starting pitcher Kaylee Carlson out of the circle. Oklahoma added another run with a single by Nicole Pendley and led 7-0 after just an inning and a half.
However, the Tigers had a scoring barrage of their own in the bottom of the second. Carlee Wallace was hit by a pitch to start the inning, but two straight strikeouts left Auburn against the wall. After a walk, Whitney Jordan hit a three run home run to left field to get Auburn on the board. After an error, TiffanyHoward tripled home another run to make it 7-4 Sooners and that chased Oklahoma’s KelseyStevens from the circle.
The Tigers got a single from Kasey Cooper to drive home Howard while a hit by pitch and walk loaded the bases for Auburn. The rally ended with Jade Rhodes striking out to end the second, but Auburn cut the deficit to 7-5.
Auburn would complete the 7 run comeback in the bottom of the fourth with a single from Howard followed by a two run blast to right field by Cooper.
Oklahoma had a great chance to reclaim the lead in the top of the sixth. A two out single by Caleigh Clifton was followed by a deep shot to left field by Shay Knighten. The ball was headed over the fence when Auburn’s Tiffany Howard made a great catch to keep the game tied at 7.
The fatal blow for Oklahoma came in the bottom of the eighth. After a ground out, two singles and a bunt loaded the bases for Emily Carosone. Carosone took the pitch over the right center field to end the game in grand fashion.
The Sooners RBIs from six different hitters, but only Sydney Romero and Kady Self had multiple hits. Jayden Chestnut took the loss after throwing 5 2/3 innings giving up 6 runs on 11 hits. Oklahoma had won 31 straight games prior to this loss.
Auburn was led by Tiffany Howard who went 4 for 5 with one RBI and three runs scored. Carosone went 3 for 4 with all four her RBIs coming on the last pitch. Kasey Cooper went 2 for 4 with three RBI. MakaylaMartin was awarded the win after tossing two innings and giving up only one hit. However, it was RachaelWalters who helped the Tigers from giving up more runs after the Sooners built a 7-0 lead. Walters threw 5 innings of shutout ball giving up just four hits.
The Sooners’ Kelsey Arnold drew a walk to start the bottom of the third followed by a bunt by Erin Miller that put two on with no outs. After Auburn forced a strike out and fly out,Romero came up and hit a three run shot to left-center to give the Sooners a 3-0 lead.
The Sooners loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth after three straight hits by Miller, Caleigh Clifton, and Shay Knighten. Romero came up with one out, but grounded into a double play to end the inning with the Sooners still leading 3-2.
The Auburn Tigers did not have many chances to score in the first six innings, but that changed dramatically in the seventh. Carlee Wallace drew a lead off walk before Jade Rhodes lifted a two run shot over the center field wall to close the deficit to one run.
The Tigers were not done threatening as Haley Fagan singled up the middle and a throwing error by Paige Parker on a hit back to her allowed runners to be on second and third with only one out. The Sooners forced a ground ball fielder’s choice that threw the runner out at home thanks to a heads up play by Knighten. That gave Auburn two outs with runners on the corners, but Tiffany Howard popped out to end the game.
Parker got the win for Oklahoma after throwing a complete game allowing four hits and three walks with only one strikeout. She threw 91 pitches in the game to push her 2016 Tournament total to 955. She has won 26 straight starts in the circle.
Lexi Davis, the surprise starter for Auburn, pitch 6 innings giving up three runs on seven hits and two walks with only one strikeout. Davis had only pitched one inning in the NCAA Tournament prior to this game.
Game Two of the 2016 WCWS Championship Series will be on Tuesday at 8 PM Eastern Time. Auburn will be the home team as they look to stave off elimination while Oklahoma would capture their third National Championship with a win.
The final eight teams in the 2016 NCAA Division 1 Softball season will be playing for the chance to win the Women’s College World Series with an updated bracket here. Each game of the 2016 Women’s College World Series will take place from ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The 8 teams will compete in a double elimination format until only two teams are left. Those two remaining teams will then play in a best of three championship series to determine the National Champion.
Returning from the 2015 WCWS are Michigan, Auburn, LSU, Alabama, and UCLA.
Below are the eight teams that made the 2016 Women’s College World Series.
WCWS Appearances (Including 2016)
The Women’s College World Series will get underway on Thursday, June 2 with four games scheduled for the opening day. The entire schedule can be found in the table below with the Championship Series located in a separate table. The tables below will be updated with final scores as the games go final each day.
6/2/2016 Update: The final two games scheduled for Thursday, June 2 were postponed to Friday due to weather. If games 13 and/or 14 are needed to be played, they will take place on Monday, June 6, pushing back the start to the Championship Series to Tuesday, June 7. If games 13 and/or 14 are not needed, the Championship Series will begin on Monday, June 6 as scheduled.
#8 Florida State
0-3 (8 Innings)
Postponed to 6/3 due to weather
Postponed to 6/3 due to weather
#8 Florida State
#8 Florida State
#8 Florida State
7-8 (8 Innings)
Florida State Eliminated
Game #11 Loser
Game #11 Winner
Game #12 Loser
Game #12 Winner
2016 Women’s College World Series Championship Series
2016 NCAA Basketball Tournament Final Four Schedule
The 2016 NCAA Basketball Tournament is nearing its end with just four teams left to this point. The tournament may be close to over, but some of the action will live on for many years (Northern Iowa’s win over Texas and collapse against Texas A&M are just two examples).
The three remaining games will all take place at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas with the National Semifinals on Saturday evening and the National Championship on Monday night. The final three games will all be on TBS, the first time the National Championship game will not be shown on CBS in 35 years. The National Championship will return to CBS in 2017 and alternate between the two channels through 2024.
The Villanova Wildcats and Oklahoma Sooners will play in the first game of the Final Four while the all-ACC battle between the Syracuse Orange and North Carolina Tar Heels will be the nightcap on Saturday evening.
Part ten of the 2015 College Football Preview will look at the Big 12. Last year was a rough year for the Big 12 after having both Baylor and TCU left out of the College Football Playoff. Below is the schedule of previews left, as well as the previews already published.
Below is a look at each of the ten teams that make up the Big 12.
1. TCU Horned Frogs
Gary Patterson has led TCU since 2000 when he was the head coach for the bowl game that year. Since then, he has led TCU through Conference USA to the Mountain West to the Big East (for a moment) and finally here to the Big 12. During that time, he has had only two losing seasons and was close to leading TCU into the inaugural College Football Playoff last year.
TCU went from 25.1 points and 345 yards per game in 2013 to 46.5 points and 533 yards per game in 2014. The scariest part is that TEN starters return making this one of the best offenses in the nation. Trevone Boykin threw for 3,901 yards with 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while also rushing for 707 yards and 8 touchdowns. Top running back from 2014, Aaron Green, ran for 922 yards and 9 touchdowns while also returning. Wide receivers Josh Doctson (65 catches for 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns), Kolby Listenbee (41 catches for 753 yards and 4 touchdowns), and Deante’ Gray (36 catches for 582 yards and 8 touchdowns) all return as well. The defenses in the Big 12 better watch out for this incredible TCU machine.
TCU’s defense has only five starters back from a unit that allowed 19 points and 342 yards per game in 2014. The defensive line has three starters back including defensive end James McFarland, who had 41 tackles, 7 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, and an interception. Nebraska transfer Aaron Curry also joins the fray. The linebacking unit has been hit hard by losses with the top three gone leaving this the most inexperienced part of the defense. The secondary has both Ranthony Texada and Derrick Kindred back from a group that allowed only 48.5% completions. The TCU defense is the top priority for Patterson and it would be surprising to see them struggle for long during the season.
TCU opens with a road game against Minnesota before back-to-back home games against Stephen F Austin and SMU. The Big 12 plays a round robin schedule, which means TCU will face each team in the conference. TCU faces Texas (home), Kansas State (road), Oklahoma (road), and the biggest game against Baylor is also at home. TCU very well could run the table and make up for last year’s snub from the College Football Playoff committee.
2. Baylor Bears
Baylor used to constantly finish in the Big 12’s cellar prior to the hiring of Art Briles. Since then, Briles has led the Bears to a bowl game every year since 2010 and double digit win totals in three of the last four years. Last year, Baylor nearly made the College Football Playoff, but were left out by the committee.
Briles will have his most experienced offense since his first season at Baylor in 2008. There are nine starters back from a group that put up 48.2 points and 581 yards of offense. Gone is quarterback BrycePetty (3,855 yards, 29 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and 63.1% completion), but Briles is renowned for producing stellar quarterbacks. Seth Russell is ready to take his turn after throwing for 804 yards with 8 touchdowns and 1 interception while getting some playing time with Petty’s injury last season. ShockLinwood is back to run the ball after rushing for 1,252 yards and 16 touchdowns. The top two wide receivers return as well with Corey Coleman (64 catches for 1,119 yards and 11 touchdowns) and the speedy KD Cannon (58 catches for 1,030 yards and 8 touchdowns). The entire offensive line returns and Baylor should continue to put out points at will in 2015.
The defense for Briles will be his most experienced since he has taken over at Baylor. He has nine starters back from a group that allowed 25.5 points and 382 yards of offense per game. That was done with only four starters back for 2014 as well. The defensive line returns intact including the imposing ShawnOakman. Oakman had 51 tackles, 11 sacks, and 8.5 tackles for loss last year, but is probably best known for his imposing stance in last year’s Cotton Bowl against Michigan State. Linebacker lost one starter, but does return Taylor Young, the team’s second leading tackler at 92. The secondary also returns all four starters from a group that allowed only 54.6% completions.
Baylor has an easy non-conference schedule with games against SMU (road), Lamar (home), and Rice (home). In conference, Baylor has a brutal schedule to close out the year. The final five games are against Kansas State (road), Oklahoma (home), Oklahoma State (road), TCU (road), and Texas (home). That finish to the season could ultimately cost Baylor the Big 12 title, but they still have an excellent shot at getting to the TCU game undefeated to set up an unofficial Big 12 title game.
3. Texas Longhorns
Charlie Strong took over at Texas prior to last season after 16 years of Mack Brown at the helm. Strong instituted much more discipline, which resulted in some losses, but still guided the team to a 6-6 regular season before losing the Texas Bowl to Arkansas by a score of 31-7.
The offense averaged 21.4 points and 337 yards per game in Strong’s first season. This year, seven starters are back including quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. Swoopes threw for 2,409 yards with 13 touchdown and 11 interceptions while also rushing for 264 yards and 4 touchdowns. Jonathan Gray may finally get his chance to get all the carries at running back after rushing for 637 yards and 7 touchdowns as the team’s second leading rusher. John Harris and Jaxon Shipley were the top two receivers last year, but have departed leaving Marcus Johnson as the top returning receiver. He caught 27 passes for 313 yards and a touchdown. The entire offensive line returns and the offense should perform better in 2015 with a year of Strong’s schemes under their belts.
The defense returns only five starters, but the strength of Strong’s coaching tends to be on this side of the ball. Two linemen return including tackle Hassan Ridgeway, who had 43 tackles, 6 sacks, and 5 tackles for loss. The line gave up 164 yards rushing per game in 2014 and will probably improve on that in 2015. The linebackers are all gone leaving this unit very inexperienced, but Malik Jefferson is expected to start immediately as a true freshman. The secondary has three starters back led by safety Dylan Haines. Haines had 86 tackles to finish third on the team while also tallying 7 pass breakups and 4 interceptions. The defense gave up 23.8 points and 349 yards per game in 2014 and should have a similar year this time around as well.
Texas has an interesting non-conference schedule with games against Notre Dame (road), Rice (home), and California (home). They face Oklahoma State (home), TCU (road), Oklahoma (Dallas), Kansas State (home), and Baylor (road). They also have a tricky road game at West Virginia. Strong has recruited well and should be able to get Texas back to a winning season this year.
4. Oklahoma Sooners
Oklahoma has been good under Bob Stoops, but only won a single National Championship (2000) during that time while playing in three others (2003, 2004, and 2008). Stoops has produced many double digit win seasons, but the lack of National Championship appearances in the last 7 years has left some weary.
The Oklahoma offense has seven starters returning including quarterback Trevor Knight (2,300 yards with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions), but he may not be the starter. That could be Baker Mayfield. Mayfield started at Texas Tech in 2013 (2,315 yards with 12 touchdowns and 9 interceptions) where he had an excellent start, but decided to move on to Oklahoma. Whichever player is behind center, they will have running back Samaje Perine to handoff to. He ran for 1,713 yards and 21 touchdowns as a true freshman. Also returning are the top four receivers led by Sterling Shepard with 51 catches for 970 yards and 5 touchdowns. The offensive line has only two starters returning, but the unit as a whole should be able to match 2014’s output of 36.4 points and 465 yards per game.
The defense under Stoops has been consistent with most years giving up points per game in the low to mid 20s and less than 400 yards per game. 2014 was no different at 25.9 points and 383 yards per game. There are six starters back and only one of those is on the line in Charles Tapper. Tapper had 37 tackles, 3 sacks, and 4.5 tackles for loss while the group allowed only 106 yards rushing per game. Three of the four linebackers return including Dominique Alexander and Jordan Evans. Alexander had 107 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 4.5 tackles for loss while Evans finished 2014 with 93 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and an interception. The secondary has two starters back in Zack Sanchez and Ahmad Thomas while giving up 276 passing yards per game and 56.3% completions. Expect another typical finish for the Sooners on defense.
Oklahoma opens the year with Akron at home, Tennessee on the road, and Tulsa at home before a bye week leads into conference play. In conference, they will face West Virginia (home), Texas (Dallas), and Kansas State (road) early. The last three games consist of Baylor (road), TCU (home), and Oklahoma State (road). The Sooners could surprise this year if the defense improves, but Stoops’ teams have a tendency to underachieve a bit.
5. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Oklahoma State has three double digit win seasons since 2010 and have been to a bowl game each year since 2006. 2015 has a chance to produce another one of those double digit win totals.
There are eight starters back on offense for the Cowboys from a group that put up 27.6 points and 379 yards per game. Daxx Garman threw for 2,041 yards with 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, but has opted to transfer. Mason Rudolph started the last three games and finished 2014 with 853 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. Rudolph is expected to beat out JW Walsh and John Kolar for the starting spot. The top two running backs are gone with Ronnie Childs the top rusher returning from 2014 with only 294 yards and 3 touchdowns. Chris Carson arrives from junior college in the fall while coming back from injury is Sione Palelei. Wide receiver is not an area of concern with the trio of BrandonSheperd, David Glidden, and James Washington returning after posting at least 450 yards and two touchdowns each. The offense should get back to putting up a lot of points in Stillwater.
The defense struggled last year giving up 31.2 points and 432 yards per game with only four starters returning. The number of starters returning doubles to eight this year. The defensive line is hit the hardest with two starters lost, but still have two starters coming back in Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean. Ogbah was excellent last year with 49 tackles, 11 sacks, 6 tackles for loss, and 5 pass breakups. Linebacker is strong with the duo of Ryan Simmons (96 tackles, 2 sacks, 10 tackles for loss) and Seth Jacobs (92 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions) back. Three starters are back in the secondary led by JordanSterns. Sterns was best on the team in tackles last year with 103 while also recording 4.5 tackles for loss and 4 pass breakups. The defense should be better in 2015 with the amount of experience they have returning.
Oklahoma State has a very easy non-conference schedule with Central Michigan (road), Central Arkansas, and Texas-San Antonio on the slate. In conference, they have Texas and West Virginia on the road, but get Kansas State, TCU, Baylor, and Oklahoma all at home. Oklahoma State has a shot of getting back to 10 wins in 2015 with just an upset or two.
6. Kansas State Wildcats
Bill Snyder retired in 2005 and handed over the program to Ron Prince. However, Prince led KSU to records of 7-6, 5-7, and 5-7 prompting Snyder to come out of retirement. Snyder has led KSU to at least a .500 record or better in the last six years including two double digit win seasons.
The Wildcats have six starters back on offense, but the losses are heavy with quarterback Jake Waters as well as wide receivers Tyler Lockett, Curry Sexton, and Zach Trujillo all departing. The quarterback job is not settled and will come down to freshman Alex Delton, junior Joe Hubener, sophomore JesseErtz, or junior college transfer Johnathan Banks. Charles Jones led KSU in rushing last year, but had only 540 yards while scoring 13 touchdowns. The top receivers back are Kody Cook (20 catches for 251 yards and a touchdown) and Deante Burton (17 catches for 171 yards). Four offensive linemen return from a unit that scored 35.8 points and put up 422 yards per game. The offense probably will not match those numbers in 2015, but Snyder always gets the best out of his teams.
The defense also has six starters back from a group that allowed 23.2 points and 369 yards per game. The line has two starters back in Jordan Willis (26 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and .5 tackles for loss) and Travis Britz (27 tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 tackles for loss). Linebacker has no starters back, which will hurt the defense, but three starters return in the secondary. Dante Barnett had 77 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 8 pass breakups, and 3 interceptions last year. The defense will have another solid year under Snyder.
Kansas State has an out of conference schedule comprised of South Dakota (home), Texas-San Antonio (road), and Louisiana Tech (home). They will face the TCU, Oklahoma, Baylor, and West Virginia at home while going on the road to play Oklahoma State, Texas, and Texas Tech. KSU should take a step back, but still be able to make a bowl game this year as well as pull an upset or two in the Big 12.
7. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Texas Tech began sparklingly in 2013 going 7-0 and reaching as high as tenth in the nation. An eight point loss to Oklahoma started a five game losing streak that ended with four consecutive blowouts. Texas Tech finished that season 8-5 thanks to a win over Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl, but high hopes for 2014 were dashed following a 4-8 record. Kliff Kingsbury needs to have a bounce back season in 2015.
The offense has nine starters back including two quarterbacks who played last year. Davis Webb started the year, but was injured late in the season and finished with 2,539 yards with 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Patrick Mahomes started the last four, throwing for 1,547 yards with 16 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. DeAndre Washington, who ran for 1,103 yards and 2 touchdowns last year, returns at running back. Washington also caught 30 passes for 328 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jakeem Grant (67 catches for 938 yards and 7 touchdowns), Devin Lauderdale (31 catches for 589 yards and 2 touchdowns), and Ian Sadler (23 catches for 336 yards and 2 touchdowns) all return at receiver with only the number two guy (Bradley Marquez; 65 catches for 821 yards and 10 touchdowns) departs. Four starters also return on the offensive line and the Red Raiders are likely to beat their 2014 output of 30.5 points per game this year.
The defense has eight starters returning, but struggled mightily last year. With four starters back, the defense allowed 41.3 points and 513 yards per game. Those numbers were over 10 points and nearly 100 yards per game higher than 2013. Defensive end Pete Robertson led Texas Tech in tackles last year with 81 while also recording 12 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 3 pass breakups. Micah Awe returns at linebacker after tallying 69 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 tackles for loss. The secondary has all four starters back and should improve on their 253 passing yards given up per game in 2014. Overall, the defense should get back to 2013 numbers of 30.5 points and 419 yards per game.
Texas Tech opens with Sam Houston State and UTEP at home before traveling to face Arkansas in their final non-conference game. In conference, they face TCU, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State at home. They will face Baylor in Arlington, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Texas on the road. Texas Tech will need to pull a couple of upsets to reach bowl eligibility, but they certainly are able to do so.
8. West Virginia Mountaineers
West Virginia moved to the Big 12 prior to the 2012 season and has seen some success. They have gone 7-6, 4-8, and 7-6 in their first three seasons while having some potent offenses. 2015 will be Dana Holgorsen’s fifth season with the team.
Six starters are back for West Virginia on offense, but two of those will not be quarterback Clint Trickett and wide receiver Kevin White. Skyler Howard is expected to lead WV after throwing for 829 yards and 8 touchdowns (no interceptions) after starting the final two games. Rushel Shell ran for 788 yards and 7 touchdowns while Wendell Smallwood ran for 722 yards and 2 touchdowns with both of those backs returning. Jordan Thompson is the top returning wideout after grabbing 49 catches for 598 yards and 2 touchdowns. The offense put up 33.5 points and 500 yards of offense last year and may come up short of reaching those numbers this year with a new quarterback and the loss of White.
The 2015 defense will be the most experienced under Holgorsen with nine starters returning. Two starters on the defensive line, but linebacker is where the top returnee is. Nick Kwiatkoski led the team with 103 tackles, but also had 0.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, and 4 pass breakups. The secondary has all four starters back as well as KJ Dillon (62 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 7 tackles for loss, 7 pass breakups, and 3 interceptions) at the Spur position. The secondary should be the best part of the defense this year.
West Virginia has three non-conference home games to start the year with Georgia Southern, Liberty, and Maryland all going to Morgantown. Also going to Morgantown in Big 12 play will be Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Texas. West Virginia will have to travel to Oklahoma, Baylor, TCU, and Kansas State. West Virginia will be close to bowl eligibility this year and should get there with an upset in the Big 12.
9. Iowa State
Paul Rhoads has led Iowa State to three bowl games in six seasons, but also has five losing seasons at Iowa State (two years of 6-7 records). Iowa State went 3-9 in 2013 and 2-10 in 2014. Rhoads will need to improve in 2015 if he is to keep his job in 2016 and beyond.
The offense has seven starters back led by Sam B. Richardson and his top two wide receivers. Richardson threw for 2,669 yards with 18 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He also ran for 421 yards and 3 scores. He will be throwing to D’Vario Montgomery (44 catches for 605 yards and 2 touchdowns) and Allen Lazard (45 catches for 593 yards and 3 touchdowns). A top running back will need to be found with Tyler Brown (109 yards) and Martinez Syria (47 yards and a touchdown) the top returning rushers behind Richardson. The offense will be guided by Mark Mangino in his second year. After putting up numbers of 23.2 points and 373 yards per game, Iowa State should be able to match those numbers on offense.
The defense last year was the worst under Rhoads. The unit gave up 38.8 points and 529 yards per game. Now, six starters are back (five were back in 2014) and Rhoads’ work is cut out for him. The defensive line has Trent Taylor back (37 tackles, 2 sacks, and 3 tackles for loss), but adds in two highly rated junior college transfers in Bobby Leath and Demond Tucker. Linebacker has only Luke Knott returning, but he had 74 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and an interception last year as a starter. The secondary is bring back three starters in Sam E. Richardson, Nigel Tribune, and Kamari Cotton-Moya. Cotton-Moya was the teams leading tackler in 2014 with 77 stops and was named the Big 12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year. It is hard to see the defense not getting better under Rhoads this year.
Iowa State opens with rivalry games against Northern Iowa and Iowa at home before a road test against Toledo. They open Big 12 play against Kansas at home in a game that could determine who finishes last in the Big 12. They also TCU, Texas, and Oklahoma State at home while facing Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma, Kansas State, and West Virginia on the road. Iowa State usually gets a shocking upset or two against Big 12 foes and that should be expected in 2015. However, it will probably not be enough to get the back to bowl eligibility.
10. Kansas Jayhawks
Given the current state of Kansas’ football program, it is surprising to think they were one of the top teams in 2007 when they reached #2 before a loss against Missouri in the regular season finale. Kansas went on to win the Orange Bowl 24-21 over Virginia Tech. Since then, it has been downhill with Kansas having six straight losing seasons. Since Mark Mangino was fired after the 2009 season, the Jayhawks have not won more than three games in a season. David Beaty is now in charge of turning the Kansas football program around and it will be difficult in 2015.
Kansas’ offense has not averaged more than 20 points per game in a season since 2011 when they hit 22.3 points per game. In 2015, there will be only four starters back for Beaty to work with. Montell Cozart (1,715 yards with 9 touchdowns and 6 interceptions) and Michael Cummings (701 yards with 5 touchdowns and 7 interceptions) back from 2014. Also with a chance to win the starting QB spot are TJ Millweard, CarterStanley, and Ryan Willis. Corey Avery ran for 631 yards and 5 touchdowns last year, but was suspended for spring and kicked off the team in June. That leaves De’Andre Mann as the top returning rusher with 399 yards. Ke’aun Kinner transferred in from his junior college and is expected to get snaps as well. Wide receiver was crushed by losses with the top six receivers gone. Kent Taylor, who was one of the top tight ends in 2013, has transferred in from Florida. The line returns two starters and Kansas may not even match last year’s production of 17.8 points and 324 yards of offense per game this year with a new coach and schemes.
Defense is also an issue for Beaty in year one. He has only three returning starters from a unit that allowed 33.3 points and 453 yards per game in 2014. Ben Goodman is the only starter returning on the line after recording 21 tackles, 1 sack, and a tackle for loss last season. The other two starters returning are at linebacker with Jake Love (53 tackles, 3 sacks, and 6.5 tackles for loss), and nickelback with Tevin Shaw (36 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss). The defense should be in store for another rough year.
Kansas opens with South Dakota State and Memphis at home before a bye week leads into a road game at Rutgers. Their Big 12 slate opens with a road game at Iowa State that will probably determine the bottom team in the Big 12. It is hard to see Kansas getting more than a victory or two in 2015 and Beaty has a lot of work ahead of him if Kansas is to get back to being competitive in the Big 12.
The Big 12 looks like a two horse race between TCU and Baylor for the title. However, the second tier of Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State could surprise with a few upsets or the top two do worse than expected. Texas Tech and West Virginia will be battling for bowl eligibility while Iowa State and Kansas will play to stay out of the cellar. Below is the predicted order of finish.
5. Oklahoma State
6. Kansas State
7. Texas Tech
8. West Virginia
9. Iowa State
Check back on Tuesday, August 4 for a preview of the ACC’s Coastal Division.