The Big 12 looks to be wide-open this season. Here are the biggest storylines surrounding the Power 5 conference as spring practices are now underway.
March Madness may be rapidly approaching, but so is college football spring practice. Every Power 5 team will be putting in the work on the football practice field this spring, and the Big 12 is no different. Two Big 12 schools have already commenced spring practice. The TCU Horned Frogs began on Feb. 28 and the Texas Tech Red Raiders began on March 3.
The other eight member institutions in the Big 12 will start spring practice here in the next few weeks. With the exception of the Iowa State Cyclones, every Big 12 school will host an annual spring game to conclude spring practice. TCU will have the first of the nine scheduled spring games on March 28. The Texas Longhorns will be the last team to hold theirs on April 25.
The Big 12 is in an interesting spot heading into the seventh season of the College Football Playoff era. The Power 5 conference has sent four teams to the playoff in its first six years of existence. However, the Oklahoma Sooners represented the Big 12 all four years and has yet to win a playoff game. Oklahoma is a favorite to win the conference, but there are other teams certainly in the mix.
With spring practice on its way in the Big 12, here are five big storylines and questions to follow.
Spencer Rattler looks to continue Oklahoma’s rich quarterbacking legacy
Few schools have done Oklahoma what has at the quarterback position this century. Four of the Sooners’ signal-callers have won Heisman Trophies, with several others getting invited to the presentation in New York in early December. In the wake of Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts, is Spencer Rattler next in line for Oklahoma quarterbacking greatness?
Rattler appeared in three games for Lincoln Riley as Hurts’ backup as a true freshman last year. Though he only attempted 11 passes, he was a five-star recruit coming out of high school in Phoenix. While he doesn’t have to get to New York to have a great year, this spring will be his first opportunity to Oklahoma that he is indeed the next great Sooners quarterback. Is he up for it?
What has to happen for Texas to finally be back already?
With rival Oklahoma in the midst of a quarterback transition, this leaves the door wide-open for Texas to win the Big 12 and reach the playoff for the first time. 2020 will be year four for head coach Tom Herman in Austin. He has a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback in senior Sam Ehlinger. This pairing will be key in Texas’ overall success this season.
Texas made a huge change to its coaching staff this season by parting ways with Todd Orlando in favor of former Rutgers Scarlet Knights head coach Chris Ash. Let’s also keep an eye on the Longhorns’ defense to see if it can do enough to complement what should be a strong offense. Texas won’t be back until it makes the playoff but can put in the work to get there this spring.
Is Iowa State ready to play on the big stage in Arlington?
Even though they won’t be playing a spring game this year for some reason, Iowa State is a team worthy of paying close attention to this season. Matt Campbell has done a remarkable job as the Cyclones head coach for the last four years. Though they have never finished the season ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll, very rarely are they humiliated by an opponent. That Notre Dame loss was brutal.
With quarterback Brock Purdy, Iowa State could be this year’s Baylor Bears in the Big 12 and play for a conference title. Iowa State has been a top-four Big 12 team under Campbell the last three years, but can they push for a New Year’s Six bowl? Campbell may leave for another gig in 2021, so Iowa State has to make the most of this season. That starts with spring practice.
Can Oklahoma State win big with Chuba Hubbard?
Along with Travis Etienne of the Clemson Tigers, Chuba Hubbard of the Oklahoma State Cowboys is the best running back in college football. He could have gone pro, but he made the right decision to return to Stillwater, hoping to give the Pokes their best season since 2011. With Jonathan Taylor of the Wisconsin Badgers gone, Hubbard has to be a favorite to win the Doak Walker.
Along with Iowa State and Texas, Oklahoma State is in the mix to reach Arlington this year with Oklahoma starting a new quarterback and Baylor having a new head coach in place. Though we’ve seen better years out of Mike Gundy than of late, we know he can win big at his alma mater. This question is if Hubbard will be the reason Oklahoma State wins Bedlam and goes to the playoff.
Dave Aranda and the challenges he faces replacing Matt Rhule at Baylor
While it was well-deserved to see Dave Aranda finally lead his own college program, the former LSU Tigers defensive coordinator has massive shoes to fill by replacing Matt Rhule at Baylor. Though Aranda inherits a program in exponentially better shape than what Rhule walked into in 2017, he will have to put his own stamp on Baylor football here in a hurry. He’s not Rhule.
From a schematic standpoint, Aranda should be in good shape. Like Rhule, he is a defensive-minded head coach who knows how to cultivate winning football. However, Aranda has to find his own coaching style that is different from his mentors, most notably Gary Andersen and Ed Orgeron. Baylor will regress in 2020, but let’s keep an eye on how Aranda builds a program.
Big 12 football spring practice starts, spring game
- Baylor: March 17, April 18
- Iowa State: March 12, N/A
- Kansas: March 17, April 18
- Kansas State: March 18, April 17
- Oklahoma: March 10, April 18
- Oklahoma State: March 9, April 18
- TCU: Feb. 28, March 28
- Texas: March 24, April 25
- Texas Tech: March 3, April 10
- West Virginia: March 10, April 18