The 2016 season could be the end of an era in the Big 12. Here is a positive and negative for every school along with BetOnline odds to win the Big 12 title.
Positive: Pretty clearly the most-talented team in the conference, led by quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Baker Mayfield, who just missed an invite to New York last year as a finalist for college football's biggest award. He threw for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns to just seven interceptions to win Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors. Also back is star running back Samaje Perine, who ran for 1,349 yards a year ago with 16 touchdowns. The Sooners are +1100 on college football odds to win the national title.
Negative: There really isn't anything glaring. I suppose the defense is a minor worry with the departure of four All-Big 12 selections. Jordan Evans is the lone returning linebacker. But probably the biggest negative is the schedule. You aren't getting to the College Football Playoff with two losses most likely and OU has very tough non-conference games against Houston and Ohio State plus a challenging trip to TCU and the annual slugfest in Dallas vs. Texas.
Positive: Maybe QB Kenny Hill can play like he did early in his Texas A&M career. Do you remember the start of the 2014 season? Hill, then a freshman, was spectacular in the Aggies' first five games. But then he started to struggle, was replaced as the starter, suspended for a few games and decided to transfer. The Frogs have one of the best young receivers in the Big 12 in KaVontae Turpin, who caught 45 balls for 649 yards and eight scores in 2015.
Negative: The Frogs have to replace two of the best players in school history in quarterback Trevone Boykin and wide receiver Josh Doctson. They were the biggest reasons that TCU was a combined 23-3 the past two seasons. Four starters on the offensive line also are gone. No Big 12 team has fewer returning starters.
Oklahoma State (+600)
Positive: The Cowboys return a Big 12-best 16 starters. Nine of those are on offense, led by excellent quarterback Mason Rudolph. In some other conferences, he would be the top returning QB. In his first full season as Oklahoma State’s starter in 2015, Rudolph threw for 3,770 yards and 21 scores and completed 62.3 percent of his passes.
Negative: The Cowboys could well start 10-0 with a friendly schedule. However, then they finish at TCU and Oklahoma. The defense lost its best player, Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Emmanuel Ogbah. He the Big 12 with 13 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss.
Positive: The Longhorns have struggled in Coach Charlie Strong's two seasons so perhaps the addition of new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert is just what UT needs. He developed high-scoring offenses at Eastern Illinois and Tulsa. The Horns' strength, though, is at running back with D’Onta Foreman and Chris Warren III.
Negative: If the Horns lose a game or two early, things could mushroom in a bad way. The pressure is heavily on Strong, who is just 11-14 at Texas. No coach is on a hotter seat in 2016. And it appears that Strong's make-or-break season will be led by a freshman quarterback in Shane Buechele. UT has a wins total of 7 on college football picks for 2016, and if Strong doesn't surpass that he's gone for sure.
Positive: The Bears should again be one of the nation's highest-scoring teams with the return of quarterback Seth Russell. He passed for 2,104 yards and 29 touchdowns through seven games last year before suffering a season-ending injury. Tailback Shock Linwood (1,329 yards, 10 TDs) also returns.
Negative: Do I even need to address this? No school had a worse offseason than Baylor with all those off-the-field problems regarding overlooked sexual assaults by members of the football program over the past few years. That led to the firing of the architect of that high-flying offense, Coach Art Briles. Nearly every incoming recruit also decided to bail on the program. Baylor will take years to recover from all this -- if it ever does (think SMU).
West Virginia (+1200)
Positive: This should be one of the conference's top offensive teams with quarterback Skyler Howard and seven other starters, including four on the offensive line, returning. Howard had his ups-and-downs in 2015 but perhaps can build off his stellar performance in a Cactus Bowl win over Arizona, passing for 532 yards and five scores.
Negative: Like Strong at Texas, Dana Holgorsen is very much on the hot seat at WVU, so early struggles could be a death knell in Morgantown as well. Plus Holgorsen's teams have struggled on defense and that side of the ball has just three starters back.
Texas Tech (+3300)
Positive: OU's Mayfield is the most high-profile quarterback in the Big 12, but the guy who likely will put up bigger numbers and is a better pro prospect is Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes. He led Big 12 quarterbacks by throwing for 4,653 yards and tied for first with 36 touchdowns last year. Mahomes also rushed for 456 yards and 10 scores. If TTU were a better team, Mahomes would be a legit Heisman contender.
Negative: Same as it is every year: the Red Raiders can't stop anyone defensively. TTU allowed a ghastly 43.6 points a game in 2015.
Kansas State (+4000)
Positive: KSU will at least be better than rival Kansas again. The defense should be the strength for the Wildcats, as seven starters are back led by end Jordan Willis and linebacker Elijah Lee.
Negative: Program is going backward and it's time for Bill Snyder to retire again. Kansas State suffered its first losing season since 2008 last year and things could be more of the same in 2016 with a likely Week 1 loss at Stanford and Big 12 road games at West Virginia, Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU. Frankly, the only sure wins I see are Florida Atlantic and Missouri State out of conference and Iowa State and Kansas in the Big 12.
Iowa State (+10000)
Positive: This program won all of eight total games the previous three years under Paul Rhoads so it needed a reboot. The school hired Toledo's Matt Campbell to replace him and Campbell was considered a rising mid-major star. He was 35-15 with Toledo. His .700 winning percentage was third in school history. No. 1? Some guy named Nick Saban (.818).
Negative: Iowa State ranked last in the Big 12 in turnover margin last year and might again with four long-time starters on the offensive line gone.
Positive: The basketball team's Midnight Madness is less than three months away! There's nowhere to go but up for probably the worst Power 5 football program in the country after KU was 0-12 last year, the first team in Big 12 history to finish winless. There are a few winnable games this year: Sept. 3 vs. Rhode Island (should win), Sept. 10 vs. Ohio (should win) and Nov. 12 vs. Iowa State.
Negative: It's a basketball-first school and always will be. The football team had just two losses by less than 10 points last year and actually was beaten at home by FCS team South Dakota State. The Jayhawks went winless for the first time since 1954.