The 2020 Big 12 football season is barely one week old, but as we look ahead to the 2021 season, it’s already shaping up to be a two-horse race between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Iowa State Cyclones. Not that Texas, TCU or Oklahoma State can’t be a surprise, but right now, it’s Oklahoma and Iowa State who will be the heavy favorites. But as of now, who should be considered the favorite?
Let’s make the way-too-early case for each program.
The Sooners made it six Big 12 Championships in a row this past season and clearly own this conference. And it should remain that way until proven otherwise. And then they went out and whipped the SEC East Champion Florida Gators in the Cotton Bowl.
Yes, they’re missing some players, but Oklahoma doesn’t rebuild, it reloads, and most importantly it returns QB Spencer Rattler, who is already the Heisman Trophy favorite for the 2021 season.
Also on offense, while they lose Rhamondre Stevenson, they are bringing back Kennedy Brooks, who was the team’s 2019 starting running back but opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID. The Sooners will essentially return their entire group of weapons at wide receiver and should have more stability with Trejan Bridges, Austin Stogner and Jadon Haselwood, who all played sparingly for different reasons this season.
Defensively, Ronnie Perkins is gone, but Oklahoma brings back Justin Harrington, Jalen Redmond, and Caleb Kelly, who were all lost before the season due to injury. These are huge boosts that fans outside of Norman may be forgetting about.
And let’s be honest, this is Oklahoma’s conference until proven otherwise. Sure, Iowa State is really good and all, but the Oklahoma Sooners deserve an enormous amount of respect as the class of the Big 12 Conference. Also, the 2021 regular season match up will be in Norman after Iowa State won the 2020 match up in Ames for the first time since the 1960’s. That gives OU the regular season edge prior to a potential meeting again at AT&T Stadium.
Iowa State Cyclones
The Cyclones got even more good news on Sunday when Charlie Kolar and Greg Eisworth announced they would also be returning for the 2021 season, joining Brock Purdy, Mike Rose and other who are using their free year of eligibility.
This news gives Iowa State 20 of its 22 starters back for the 2021 season, making it one of the most talented and experienced rosters in the country.
Brock Purdy will enter his fourth season as a starter, will have the bulk of his weapons back, including RB Breece Hall (who was coming back no matter what) after he was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. On the other side of the ball, LB Mike Rose, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, is also returning to lead his unit.
It’s clear that this group of guys at Iowa State is motivated by one thing and one thing only: winning a Big 12 Championship (and maybe more). At Oklahoma, they’ve won six in a row and maybe there’s a sense of entitlement and comfort that sets in. That’s clearly not the case right now in Ames, Iowa.
Plus, while the Oklahoma Sooners are full of four and five-star players, they lost a lot of leadership from 2020, including center Creed Humphrey, DE Ronnie Perkins and RB Rhamondre Stevenson, just to name a few. No doubt Oklahoma reloads, but it’s the Cyclones who have more experience back, and that should never be understated in college football.
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