We came into the season thinking the November 27th game between Baylor and TCU was going to determine the playoff picture in the Big 12. Turns out, that wasn't true while that game was almost literally played under water. Up stepped a blue blood program to give the league its first playoff bid.
Oklahoma (11-1, 8-1)
It took a while to accept they'd be a candidate to win the league and make the playoffs and the Sooners pulled it off. Scoring at least 30 in every game but one Oklahoma's offense found new life under OC Lincoln Riley averaging 45 per game. That one game under 30, a 24-17 loss to Texas, didn't end up blowing the season.
Depending on Oklahoma's performance against Clemson and beyond this post-season, the Sooners could be a hyped team next year or a super hyped team, especially with quarterback Baker Mayfield returning. However, the addition of Houston and Ohio State on the schedule in 2016 makes for a significant more difficult road to repeat this year's performance.
Oklahoma State (10-2, 7-2)
As per usual the rest of the country wasn't paying much attention to things in Stillwater as the Cowboys won their first 10 games. Their 9th win was a comfortable victory over TCU then the next week they had a big comeback against Iowa State on the road. Could they run the table? Umm, no. Oklahoma State gave up 103 points in their last two games and finished second in the league via tie-breakers.
I'm very tempted to bump them up in stock but adding Pitt to the OOC schedule will offer a tough challenge not seen in 2015. Still, a whole lot of players are coming back which is going to make the Cowboys a hot team going into next year. A downer point is that the Baylor, TCU, and Oklahoma games are all on the road next fall.
TCU (10-2, 7-2)
Another Big 12 team that went into late November undefeated. Despite a rash of injuries on defense the Frogs persevered and the offense led by Trevone Boykin kept piling up the points. The end of the year proved too much for the banged up Frogs losing in Stillwater, sneaking past Kansas, absolutely gutted in Norman with a close loss, and then outlasting Baylor in an epic rain storm.
TCU will be facing a major rebuild on offense and that's never a good sign in the Big 12 conference. They do have a friendly schedule with most of their tough games (Arkansas, Oklahoma, Okie State) at home, though. Just don't think they'll have the guns to keep up in 2016.
Baylor (9-3, 6-3)
The Bears were one of 5 teams in the league to average at least 40 points per game and they led the Big 12 with 48.0 points per game--also leading the country in that category. Once Seth Russell was out for the season in late October the offense took a severe down turn--averaging 29.6 points over their final 5 games. When this offense isn't humming it leads to stretches where you can lose 3 out of 4 which is exactly what happened to Baylor to end the season.
Corey Coleman will be missed on offense but the selections at quarterback will be exciting if it doesn't devolve into a distracting controversy. The schedule offers little resistance as Art Briles walks into yet another 3-game season.
Texas Tech (7-5, 4-5)
Hard to believe Kingsbury has already finished his 3rd regular season with the Red Raiders. So far, he's a game over .500 and 7 games under .500 in league play. For the second time in 3 years Tech has won 4 league games and won the tie-breaker over West Virginia (who defeated them) to finish 5th in the Big 12. An early season victory over Arkansas offered promise then the Raiders fought valiantly in some games but ultimately lost to every team with a pulse.
This may be the ceiling for Texas Tech. Somewhere around .500 in league play and fighting for a Tier 2 bowl game depending on how they do early in the season out of conference. They'll face ASU in the desert next year which offers a nice challenge. Patrick Mahomes getting better at quarterback offers some hope, too.
West Virginia (7-5, 4-5)
Dana Holgorsen was very, very close to being fired several days ago. Does that seem crazy? Holgo posted 10 wins in the Big East during his first year with WVU and since then has been 15-21 in Big 12 play. A brutal 4-game stretch saw the 'Neers lose to all ranked teams but they turned around and won 4 straight prior to a brutal loss in Manhattan. That loss in the finale nearly cost Holgorsen his job. That's now 4 straight years with less than 8 wins during the regular season.
Coaches like this on the hot rarely seem to have things work out in the end. The 2016 schedule offers up Missouri and BYU out of league which will be challenging. If they can start 5-0 there may be breathing room for Holgorsen. A couple losses before late October and the pressure may be too much to overcome.
Texas (5-7, 4-5)
Wins over Oklahoma and Baylor among a 7-loss season. Just like we all thought. Fourteen losses through 2 seasons isn't looking so good for Charlie Strong but there are still folks out there determined he'll turn things around soon. A search for an OC in recent days also doesn't engender much belief that A) Texas knows what they want to do with their offense and B) That side of the ball is going to get a lot better.
A couple of OC candidates said no thanks to Texas and it looks like Tulsa's Sterling Mongtomery will accept the job. Strong will hope the hire works out like TCU's a couple years ago and Oklahoma last year. In what should be a pressure packed season, Texas faces Notre Dame and Cal out of league play leaving not much room for error.
Kansas State (6-6, 3-6)
Bill Snyder is going nowhere! During mid-season the Wildcats were in a funk and the rumors began to swirl that Snyder might finally retire--for good this time. After losing 6 straight, Kansas State rebounded and won their final 3 games to get bowl eligible. So it seems Snyder will be back coaching in 2016 turning 77 next October.
K-State seems to always do a good rebounding from a mediocre season. They open at Stanford next year which will be a fun contest for both sides. The Wildcats also return a ton of bodies so there will be hope to move up in the league. But if those starters aren't all that great?
Iowa State (3-9, 2-7)
The Paul Rhoads era finally came to an end after 7 years and 55 losses. Never more than 3 wins in Big 12 play and never more than 7 wins in a season--the latter coming in his first season in 2009. A 4-23 run in the league over the last 3 years pretty much crippled Rhoads' chances to continue running the program. Still, they shutout Texas 24-0.
In steps young Matt Campbell after a 35-15 run at Toledo. When the program is only winning a few games a year there's plenty of room for improvement. Still, let's wait a year and see how he does stepping up to the big leagues.
Kansas (0-12, 0-9)
The Jayhawks hired a high school coach and he went win-less in his first season. Perhaps Kansas should be excited they didn't have to hire a Pop Warner coach instead. They are now 12-60 since the beginning of the 2010 season. This program is so broken.