When the season begins, everyone has the same record. Each team starts the year with a clean slate just like everyone else. Obviously once the games get going, all bets are off. However, despite starting fresh every year certain teams are just flat out better than others. Here I try to separate them into two categories. You are either a Big 12 title contender or a Big 12 title pretender. Where does your favorite team fall?
West Virginia: Pretender
This is a hard team to figure out at times. Sometimes it looks like West Virginia wants to take that next step and other times, they look like they are stuck in the mud. I think Neal Brown is a good coach and I think the Mountaineers have some good pieces to build around. Defensively this team should hold their own, but I do have some questions on offense.
The offensive line took a step forward last season and veteran running back Leddie Brown returns which is good. However, the receivers did not play up tp standards and had way too many key drops. Sam James, Sean Ryan, Winston Wright, and Bryce Ford-Wheaton have the makings to be a good group, but they need to take it to another level in 2020. Speaking of another level, I need to see more from quarterback Jarret Doege before I can label this team as a serious threat to compete for a Big 12 title. If Doege steps up, then this team can go places, but I just don’t have the faith until I see it.
Iowa State: Contender
This is a team that will likely be in the top eight when the preseason rankings roll out and for good reason. Brock Purdy comes back for another year along with emerging superstar running back Breece Hall. And I can’t forget about the weapons on the outside with tight end Charlie Kolar and wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson who came on strong late last season. The offensive line should get better in 2021 as well. Defensively, this team has everything they need and while there will be a question on the defensive line, I think Will McDonald IV has what it takes to lead the Big 12 in sacks once again. The same goes for Mike Rose who should be a favorite once again to win the Big 12 defensive player of the year award. This team is for real and may wind up being the best team in Iowa State history.
Kansas State: Pretender
I just have too many questions for this team. Yes, senior quarterback Skylar Thompson returns from injury and running back Deuce Vaughn was sensational as a freshman but outside of that, who are the playmakers on this team? Malik Knowles took step back and there really is not a reliable weapon in the receiving core in my mind. Maybe it is Chabastin Taylor or Phillip Brooks? Who knows but running the ball will be key as always for K-State. The defense loses a good chunk of production last season and they will certainly have to fill the voids left by some good players, but they do have some talent on the defensive side of the ball that should be ready to take on bigger roles. However, they are just too offensively challenged to make me a believer this season.
I mean, do I really need to explain myself here? Let’s just hope Kansas can win a game or two this season before we start talking contender. Lance Leipold has his work cut out for him in Lawrence.
Well duh. Did you expect them not to be a contender after winning six straight Big 12 titles? They have the best quarterback in the conference in Spencer Rattler coming back and a solid defense loaded with good players from Perrion Winfrey to Nik Bonitto. The only real question I have about the Sooners is can they be better up front on the offensive line and have another wide receiver emerge outside of Marvin Mims. This team should not only be considered a Big 12 title contender but a national championship contender.