As we near the start of the college football season, it’s always fun to try and play a little Nostradamus when it comes to teams’ projected over/under win totals. So, a few folks on the FOW staff have taken this opportunity to chat about how they think each Big 12 team will fare in 2018.
Baylor Bears | Projected Win Total: 6
Jamie Plunkett: Under. Baylor will most-likely improve on their one win season from a year ago, but a five game jump is a pretty big leap for a team that’s still in the early stages of a massive cultural/coaching overhaul.
Melissa Triebwasser: Under. Bears will win five games - including four straight to start the season, giving their fan base a lot of false hope. They’ll pull off one more upset along the way, but it’s hard to see them finding a third conference win in 2018.
Dean Straka: Under. While I don’t see Baylor enduring another 1-win season in 2018, Matt Rhule didn’t shy away from admitting during media days that his team is still learning how to win games. With the emergence of Charlie Brewer under center, you can probably count on the Bears beating a Big 12 opponent not named Kansas this fall, but conference-play will remain an uphill battle.
Parker Fleming: Under, but just barely - the Bears’ tumultuous 2017 provided playing time for plenty of underclassmen, and so BU returns a wealth of starters. Baylor has three clear wins with UTSA, their FCS opponent, and Kansas, and are prime for a stupid Big 12 upset.
Iowa State Cyclones | Projected Win Total: 6.5
Jamie Plunkett: Over. I see the Cyclones beating Iowa this season, and getting near their five conference wins from a season ago. They probably won’t beat TCU and OU again, but wins over Iowa, Kansas, Kansas State, South Dakota State, Akron, and Baylor will get them close.
Melissa Triebwasser: Over. Matt Campbell has his crew believing, and with Kempt back in the fold and one of the best running backs in the country, the offense will live up to the defense’s standards and vault them firmly into the top half of the Big 12.
Dean Straka: Over. Joel Lanning and Allen Lazard may no longer be in ames, but may I remind you that quarterback Kyle Kempt is back in action for his sixth season of eligibility? Combine that with the presence of running back David Montgomery, who led the nation in missed tackles forced last season, it’s hard to see the Cyclones’ offense alone not leading the program to consecutive winning seasons for the first time in more than a decade.
Parker Fleming: Over, but I’m tempted to take the under. ISU had a great defensive season, but turnovers bounced their way at an unsustainable pace, and despite their returning production, their depth is tenuous. Not to mention the fact that the Cyclones have to go to Iowa, TCU, Oklahoma State, and Texas, all tough road draws.
Kansas Jayhawks | Projected Win Total: 3
Jamie Plunkett: Under. There is no hope. There will never be any hope.
Melissa Triebwasser: LOL. If Kansas finds three wins, they should let them in a bowl.
Dean Straka: Under. David Beaty told reporters Monday that he’s not sure how many wins the Jayhawks need this season to show clear growth and success, but he “should know around Christmas.” Spoiler: It’s infinitely more than the number of times Kansas will find the win column in 2018.
Parker Fleming: Under. This is not going to be pretty - KU even has to go to Central Michigan, a game that will basically be a coinflip. David Beatty is a really nice guy in a terrible situation, though.
Kansas State Wildcats | Projected Win Total: 6
Jamie Plunkett: Push. It’s hard to envision Kansas State not going to a bowl, but with their road conference schedule and a Mississippi State non-conference game, it’s tough to see the Wildcats getting to seven wins.
Melissa Triebwasser: Over - but barely. This is the kind of year that the Wildcats seem to thrive in, but it’s hard to see them with more than seven wins. So go ahead and book them for Arlington ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Dean Straka: Over. The losses of wide receiver Byron Pringle and cornerback/return specialist D.J. Reed hurt, but I’m big on the dual-threat quarterback-duo of Alex Delton and Skylar Thompson after the way they looked against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in 2017, respectively. Their talent may not be quite enough to lead the Wildcats to the Big 12 title game, but it’s definitely enough to get the team to the ballpark of 7-8 wins.
Parker Fleming: Push. The Wildcats finished hot last season, winning 5 of their last six and really finding a groove with the whole platoon-QB situation. Unfortunately, KSU has new coordinators on both sides of the ball, and a schedule that features a sneakily good Mississippi State team, and OU-TCU in back to back weeks. They’ll go bowling, but it won’t be sexy.
Oklahoma Sooners | Projected Win Total: 10
Jamie Plunkett: Under. This is regular season wins, mind you, which is why I took the under. Replacing Baker Mayfield will be no small task, no matter how much money Kyler Murray is making, and with road games at TCU, Iowa State, and West Virginia, getting to ten will be tough.
Melissa Triebwasser: Under. I still don’t fully believe in Kyler Murray at QB, but the skill talent around him is unbelievable and he has the most experienced OL in the conference - and one of the most in the country. I think OU is still the team to beat, but that could be true and then still lose two games in the B12.
Dean Straka: Push. Life for Oklahoma without Baker Mayfield will be interesting to watch, no doubt, but the speed of Kyler Murray, Rodney Anderson and Marquise “Hollywood” Brown can be lethal for any given opponent. We may not see the Sooners back in the playoff this season, but they’re No. 1 in the preseason Big 12 poll for a reason, and taking them down will do wonders for any team’s resume.
Parker Fleming: Under. OU loses a ton on the offensive line, which was the lynchpin of their 2017 success. Kyler Murray will struggle to start the season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the “baseball money and losing focus” narrative follows an early season stumble. They’ll still be at Jerryworld for the championship game, but it won’t be as dominant as last year. FAU and UCLA are not cakewalk non-cons.
Oklahoma State Cowboys | Projected Win Total: 8
Jamie Plunkett: Over. If you haven’t read Dean’s piece on the Cowboys being underdogs this year, do so quickly. At first glance, I see nine wins on Oklahoma State’s schedule (not including TCU, of course).
Melissa Triebwasser: Push. Plenty of talent on offense, but a new QB, a new #1 WR, and some turnover on defense could mean lowering the expectations, slightly, in Stillwater.
Dean Straka: Over. You heard Jamie -- this is an extremely positive and motivated group, and running back Justice Hill has all the makings of a dark-horse Heisman contender after leading the Big 12 with more than 1,400 rushing yards a year ago. Unless the quarterback situation pans out disastrous for the Pokes, I see nine wins in the cards.
Parker Fleming: Push. I want to say under, and I believe they’ll lose to an off-the radar G5 champ Boise, but in Gundy’s time, 7 wins has been OSU’s floor, and I’m not sure they’re that low. Justice Hill is great, and the defense should improve, but remember that OSU’s insane offense couldn’t singlehandedly carry them, and they were a bonehead move (Texas) last year from a flat 9 win season. With QB turnover, it should be somewhat of a turnover year.
TCU Horned Frogs | Projected Win Total: 7.5
Jamie Plunkett: Over. Tossups against Ohio State, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, and win everything else.
Melissa Triebwasser: Over. TCU will win at least eight games this fall, barring a complete disaster on offense. If the OL is as good as Sewo thinks it is, and QB play is at least above average, the defense can carry this team to eight wins.
Dean Straka: Over. The Horned Frogs’ o-line is certainly the wildcard this fall, and for that reason I can understand the concerns from some about TCU’s production on the scoreboard. But knowing how many times Patterson has successfully preached the “next man up,” it’s hard to not see TCU reaching at least the 8-win mark.
Parker Fleming: Over. This seems like a weird line. If the O-Line has a pulse (which some players think they do), TCU should have no problem getting to six wins - FCS, SMU, Tech, Kansas, K State, Baylor. Will the Frogs win two of Ohio State, at Texas, OU, OSU, and in Morgantown? They should, but this will be a closer over than any others in the conference.
Texas Longhorns | Projected Win Total: 8.5
Jamie Plunkett: Under. I see losses to Oklahoma, TCU, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and USC. I also see a team in Texas that still hasn’t figured out who will play quarterback, and a coach in Tom Herman who doesn’t even know if any player on his team is elite.
Melissa Triebwasser: Under. When will Vegas learn? The Longhorns don’t have a QB, don’t know who is calling plays, and lost a ton of talent on defense. They’ll be better, but not quite a nine win team in 2018.
Dean Straka: Under. Tom Herman was stumped for all to see at Media Days when asked how many elite, championship-caliber players are on his roster. If that doesn’t tell you all you need to know about the Longhorns’ outlook for the 2018 season, I’m not sure what will.
Parker Fleming: Under. There is a world where Texas has a real QB stand up, but I’m not sure it is this one. Their defense is pretty good, and will be a little better this fall, but I’m not sure a convincing bowl win over a deceptively bad Missouri team has spillover effects for this fall.
Texas Tech Red Raiders | Projected Win Total: 6
Jamie Plunkett: Under. I think they get to five wins, and I think they fire Kliff when the season is over.
Melissa Triebwasser: Under. Everyone seems to think Texas Tech will have a good defense, good enough to make up for an offense that could be one of the worst the Red Raiders have had since the days of The Pirate. But… it’s Tech. Until they prove they can stop someone, I’m not buying it.
Dean Straka: Push. This is a really weird year for the Red Raiders, and I mean weird as in having the most defensive players of any team on the preseason All-Big 12 squad. True, the offense could regress significantly, but anything can happen on the windy plains of Lubbock -- a place which Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia and Houston will all be paying a visit to this fall. I can see Tech just getting to six wins again.
Parker Fleming: Under. Four conference wins might be a stretch. Is Tech’s defense going to be good? David Gibbs is in his fourth year year now, and his defense has gotten better each year. This might be the rare Texas Tech year where the Raider defense outperforms the offense.
West Virginia Mountaineers | Projected Win Total: 7
Jamie Plunkett: Over. Even with two P5 schools on their non-conference slate, I see West Virginia sitting at 3-0 heading into Big 12 play, and with a favorable early home schedule the Mountaineers will eclipse seven wins by October 25th.
Melissa Triebwasser: Over. The Eers have yet to finish over .500 in Big 12 play, but if they don’t do it this year, they may never. It’s definitely a prove it year for Holgo, and with the best QB in the conference, they should contend for a conference title. I don’t bet on sports, but this would be a bet I would be tempted to place.
Dean Straka: Over. In case you weren’t aware, West Virginia is bringing back a Heisman-hopeful quarterback and two of his top receivers back from a year ago. The Mountaineers also get both Oklahoma and TCU -- arguably their two biggest hurdles within the Big 12 -- on home turf. Barring another Will Grier injury, I’d be stunned if West Virginia isn’t in the conference title fight up to the final week of the regular season.
Parker Fleming: Push. I want to believe. I really do. Wild Bill Grier is the best QB in the Big 12 heading into the fall, and David Stills came back! But, Grier is coming back from an injury, the offensive line isn’t going to be very good, and their depth is non-existent. The Neers could have six wins headed into a brutal end of season stretch - at Texas, TCU, at OSU, then OU. I’m not sure WVU will be healthy to win two of those.