And not Baylor-Texas Tech. Matching Oklahoma at West Virginia on Nov. 23 was a bit of scheduling daring by the Big 12. The Sooners are the league favorite. The Mountaineers are a popular choice as the top challenger. This game could the precursor of the Big 12 title game set for Dec. 1 at Arlington, Texas, or a high-stakes elimination game. Go with the former, OU-WVU for the Big 12 title.
2. No Big 12 team in the College Football Playoff
Oklahoma played in the CFP in two of its four seasons, but no Big 12 team will make it this year. The combination of the Sooners breaking in a new quarterback playing challengers like TCU and West Virginia on the road will mean two league losses somewhere along the line for Oklahoma. That will be enough to reach the Big 12 title game, but not the CFP. Only undefeated or one-loss teams have played in the first four years of the CFP.
3. Will Grier wins the Heisman
Only three of the top 10 vote-getters are back from last year’s Heisman Trophy voting. The race is open for a big stats candidate and Grier fits that description. Look for him to increase his 2017 totals of 3,470 yards and 34 touchdowns and if the Mountaineers remain ranked throughout the season, Grier will be in the running to become West Virginia’s first Heisman winner. The program’s best finish is third, by quarterback Major Harris in1989.
4. Matt Campbell defies the odds and remains at Iowa State
The return of quarterback Kyle Kempt keeps the Cyclones’ momentum going. Look for Iowa State, the only team to beat Oklahoma and TCU last year, to push for an upper-division finish and for bigger budget programs to attempt to money-whip coach Matt Campbell away. (Could Ohio State be in the market?) It will be tempting, but Campbell remains for at least one more season.
5. K-State’s Dalton Risner will be the first Big 12 player selected in the NFL draft
Unlike last year with Baker Mayfield, the league doesn’t have a clear-cut choice as a top draft pick. But the first one off the board could be Kansas State offensive lineman Dalton Risner. He was a first-team All-America by Pro Football Focus and has started 25 straight games at right tackle. If it’s not Risner, it could be Oklahoma wide receiver Marquise Brown or Sooners’ running back Rodney Anderson or OU offensive lineman Ben Powers, or Iowa State running back David Montgomery or wide receiver Davis Sills of West Virginia or Collin Johnson of Texas. As if we need reminding, it’s an offensive-minded conference.
Predicted order of finish
West Virginia 7-2
Kansas State 6-3
Oklahoma State 4-5
Iowa State 4-5
Texas Tech 3-6