The 2020-2021 college football season is going to be one to remember. It seems like just about everything this year is out of the ordinary for the NCAA, including the rankings. Nine of the AP Top 25 have had their seasons cancelled/delayed due to COVID-19 concerns, so that means TCU is ranked now... right?
The Horned Frogs have had a shaky start to the 2020-2021 campaign. Starting QB Max Duggan is out indefinitely and the Frogs first game vs SMU was postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests on the TCU roster. With Duggan out people will surely doubt the Frogs this year, but alas, I have faith. If I have learned anything throughout my years as a Horned Frog, it’s that you always have faith when Gary Patterson is on your side line.
So where do the Frogs match up against the rest of the conference this season? Let’s take a look into the Frogs O’ War Big 12 power rankings for this season:
10. Kansas Jayhawks (3-9 last season)
Am I the only one who still hasn’t got past the fact that Les Miles ended up coaching for Kansas? 2009 was the last time this program won more than 3 games in a season, and with no cupcake games on the schedule this year, that statistic will likely remain. That being said, Miles needs more time before a fair assessment can be made, though I think it will be a bit longer before we see any major improvements from the Jayhawks.
Player to watch: Pooka Williams
9. Texas Tech Red Raiders (4-8 last season)
One of the most important factors for the Red Raiders to have a successful season is the quarterback situation. Alan Bowman struggled with injuries all last season, if he can stay healthy the Raiders definitely have a better shot of winning some games this year. Tech has 8 players returning on the defensive side of the ball adding some experience to a side which has never been known for their ability to stop the ball. If Tech can stop the long pass plays Big 12 opponents like to run, they have a chance of greatly improving their defensive reputation. Best of luck to coach Matt Wells in his second year.
Player to watch: TJ Vasher
8. Baylor Bears (11-3 last season)
Not often do you see a team that went 11-3 the previous season drop this low in rankings, but Baylor had a rough offseason losing many key pieces. The most notable losses for the Bears include Head Coach Matt Rhule and top-targeted wide receiver Denzel Mims, who are now in the NFL. Quarterback Charlie Brewer took a beating last season and it would do the Bears a world of good if the O-Line could protect that precious noggin from anymore concussions (seriously though, is he okay?). Baylor’s offensive line has got to improve this year if they want to finish anywhere near last year’s successful campaign.
Player to watch: Charlie Brewer
7. West Virginia Mountaineers (5-7 last season)
Similar to the Tech coaching situation, I think Head Coach Neal Brown still needs more time implementing his systems before a fair assessment can be made. It’s safe to say that the Mountaineer’s offense struggled tremendously last season. After finishing 128th in rushing in the FBS last season, coach Brown will certainly need to “establish the run” now that the offensive line has more experience. It appears that Jarret Doege will get the starting nod at QB this season. Doege had an impressive 3-game stretch last year when he took over for Austin Kendall which is likely what earned him the position. On the defensive side of the ball, the Mountaineers show some real potential. The defensive line, led by brothers Darius and Dante Stills, will be one tough unit to get past.
Player to watch: Darius Stills
6. Kansas State Wildcats (8-5 last season)
Quarterback Skylar Thompson is back under center for the Wildcats this year as Head Coach Chris Klieman heads into his second season. Thompson is exactly the type of QB K-state needs, he is a true game manager that plays fundamental football and is a great fit for the Wildcats offensive scheme. If the offensive line steps up to the plate, K-State could be a sleeper for a couple upsets in the Big 12 this season. Another key to a successful season for the Wildcats is defensive efficiency. K-State was one of the worst teams in the FBS in red zone efficiency; something Coach Klieman might want to focus on.
Player to watch: Skylar Thompson
5. TCU Horned Frogs (5-7 last season)
Yes, this power ranking does take into account the fact that starting quarterback Max Duggan is out indefinitely. Even with the jumbled QB situation, the Horned Frogs have a lot of potential this season. 6 of TCU’s 7 losses last season were by a margin of a touchdown or less; essentially one play/drive away from winning depending on how you view it. Even after losing star WR Jalen Reagor and RB Darius Anderson, the Frogs skill positions are stacked. All bias aside, one could argue that TCU has the best receiving core in the conference heading into the season. Taye Barber, Te’Vailance Hunt, and Pro Wells just to name a few; if transfer QB Matthew Downing plays well, the Frogs will have a field day in the air. TCU has added Doug Meacham to the offensive coaching staff once more as well as Jerry Kill to play an advisory role on the coaching staff. On the defensive side of things, TCU has the two highest graded Big 12 defensive returners in Ar’Darius Washington and Trevon Moehrig. Not to mention linebacker Garret Wallow who has earned multiple preseason honors himself. The Frogs defense is always solid under Gary Patterson, and I wouldn’t expect that to change this year especially with a more experienced unit. Will TCU make a bowl game this season? Yes. Will TCU make the Big 12 championship game? Eh, we’ll see about that.
Player to watch: Trevon Moehrig
4. Texas Longhorns (8-5 last season)
I will never forget quarterback Sam Ehlinger claiming “we’re back” into the microphone after a 2019 Sugar Bowl victory only to go 8-5 the next season. I am a firm believer that Texas is not “back” until they prove they are back. I won’t beat around the bush - Texas looks like they’ll have a great team in 2020, the question is whether or not they can produce consistently. Both Sam Ehlinger and leading rusher Keaontay Ingram return for the Longhorns as well as one of the best left tackles in the country, Samuel Cosmi. I believe the offensive line is set up for Ingram to have a big year on the ground. The defense has room for improvement this year considering they gave up a whopping 5,609 yards and 6.11 yards per play last season, including 569 yards in one game against Kansas (ouch). I expect a lot of high scoring affairs this season from the crew in burnt orange.
Player to watch: Keaontay Ingram
3. Iowa State Cyclones (7-6 last season)
The Cyclones return the majority of their high-powered offense that put up the most points in school history just a year ago. The most notable player for the Cyclones is quarterback Brock Purdy, the kid is a stud. He threw for nearly 4,000 yards last year and racked up 27 passing touchdowns and 8 rushing touchdowns. Though Purdy is a fun player to watch, the Cyclones have got to establish the run this year. They went 0-5 last year when failing to reach 100 rushing yards for the game, and this year more than ever defenses will be honed in on Purdy giving the Cyclones a great opportunity to sneak in some long runs. Iowa State’s defense finished 5th overall in the Big 12 last season and I expect coach Matt Campbell and his guys to produce a similar result. The defensive focus will turn to the solid linebacker duo of Mike Rose and O’Rien Vance who combined for 10 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss last season. The Cyclones are my sleeper team to win the Big 12 this year and I could definitely see them making a NY6 bowl if everything goes to plan.
Player to watch: Brock Purdy
2. Oklahoma State Cowboys (8-5 last season)
Chuba Hubbard. Chuba Hubbard. Chuba Hubbard. Oh, did I forget to mention Chuba Hubbard? The Pokes have one of the best running backs the Big 12 has seen over the last few decades, earning 2,100 rushing yards and 21 TDs a year ago, and an explosive offense to go with him. Oklahoma State is another candidate for best skill positions in the Big 12. They return 9 players on offense including stud WR Tylan Wallace, whose 2019 campaign was cut short due to a torn ACL. If the offense can stay healthy, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cowboys averaged over 40 PPG. Defense is not much of a worry for Oklahoma State’s style of play, as long as they can make a few key stops here and there, the offense will score enough points to win games. Over half of the defensive starters are returning and this experience will do the Cowboys D some good.
Player to watch: Chuba Hubbard
1. Oklahoma Sooners (12-2 last season)
I think we all expected this one, the sooners have been one of the best programs in the country over the past few years and not much should change this year. After having 3 Heisman finalist quarterbacks back-to-back-to-back, the Sooners will showcase another flashy name in Spencer Rattler. This marks just the first time the Sooners have not started a transfer at QB under Lincoln Riley. The Sooners defense improved tremendously after bringing in defensive coordinator Alex Grinch in 2018 as they finished 2nd amongst Big 12 defenses last year. All the pieces are in place for the Sooners to win another Big 12 championship and make a run for the College Football Playoff. The big question is can Rattler lead the crimson and cream to another playoff appearance in just his first year?
Player to watch: Spencer Rattler