As the Big 12 season gets underway on Saturday, there are so many unknowns based on what has been the strangest offseason in college football history. Teams will probably look rusty, but that’s too be expected and it’s why this one non-conference game will be a good chance for coaching staffs across the league to evaluate what exactly they have to work with before Big 12 play begins on September 26th.
So here are the five biggest things I am going to keep an eye on heading into Week 1 of the Big 12 football season.
1. Dave Aranda vs. Matt Rhule
Aranda is the only new head coach in the conference and we really don’t know a ton about what his sideline presence will be as a head coach, how involved he will ultimately be with play calling on both sides, etc. Sure you can go watch LSU tape to get a glimpse, but being a coordinator is always different than being the head coach. We got used to three years of Matt Rhule in Waco, and his tough-nosed, while loving, style certainly grew on Baylor fans as they made their run from one win in 2017 to a Big 12 Championship Game appearance last fall. But how this team approaches things, the play calling and the rest of the Gameday nuances will be very interesting to follow on Saturday.
2. Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler
For the first time Lincoln Riley is working with his own quarterback who he has recruited out of high school in Spencer Rattler. Despite the fact that he was the No. 1 dual-threat QB in America in 2019, he’s still a redshirt freshman who will likely make some mistakes along the way. I don’t expect many of them to come against Missouri State, but still, it will be the first time he’s under center as the leader of the best offense in college football. Oh and he’s only following Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts, while having ridiculously high odds to win the Heisman Trophy. No pressure!
3. Texas’ Coordinators
Tom Herman blew out both his coordinators this past offseason after Texas followed up an impressive 2018 season with a total dud in 2019 going 8-5. Now he has Mike Yurcich as his new offensive coordinator, who just spent a season at Ohio State following six seasons with the Oklahoma State Cowboys. So he’s a familiar face to many in the Big 12, but does how does he mold his offense (lots of downfield shots) with Tom Herman’s run-first spread attack? Then there’s Chris Ash on defense who was formerly the Rutgers head coach who also worked with Herman at Ohio State. What does he bring to the table that is vastly different than Todd Orlando?
4. WVU’s Offense
The Mountaineers could end up with a top-3 defense in the Big 12 this fall. But if the offense can’t improve than it may not matter much and the win column won’t jump enough in Year 2 under Neal Brown. The biggest step was made last week when Jarret Doege was named the starting quarterback over Austin Kendall. This was the right move after Doege finished strong down the stretch, helping WVU close with a 2-1 record over the final three games. But the running game, which was by far the worst in the Big 12, has to get better, which includes the blocking on the offensive line. If the offense can make big strides, this team will surprise opponents this fall.
5. Can Kansas win?
Sad, but true. They lost to Coastal Carolina last year in the second game of the season 12-7. Now it did result in running Brent Dearmon’s offense starting with the Boston College game (which KU won 48-24) and then Dearmon was eventually promoted to offensive coordinator in the middle of the season. So all was not lost due to that brutal loss against Coastal. But regardless, if Les Miles wants us to believe this program is taking positive steps, albeit baby steps, forward, you have to win this game, and ideally win it in convincing fashion.
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