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Free NCAA Pick Thursday

#517 Fresno State +10.5 over TCU 8:00 PM CT

Fresno State is one of the last programs to play a division I game, as they defeated Alaska-Anchorage on November 6 and this is the only game on the early season slate until November 22. The Bulldogs went 21-11 last season and only once all season did Fresno State lose by more than 12 points. Two senior starters are gone for Fresno State and new head coach Justin Hutson should have a lot to work with for another competitive season.

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TCU won 21 games under Jamie Dixon last season but the 12-0 start featured one top 50 win. Two frontcourt seniors are now gone including Vladimir Brodziansky who was one of the top players in the Big XII last season. Jaylen Fisher also had to have another knee surgery and will miss the early part of the season. TCU has struggled in a light early season schedule beating Cal-State Bakersfield by just five points and beating Oral Roberts by just 17.

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This is a very young group with TCU playing four freshmen in the early season eight-man rotation and turnovers have been a big issue for the offense. TCU has shot 66 percent from the line so far this season as points will be left off the board for the Frogs tonight laying a double-digit spread despite a big decline in offensive effectiveness so far this season. The Bulldogs have three senior starters for a big experience edge and a lot is going to be poured into this big opportunity for Fresno State and the first big game for Hutson leading the program.

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Thursday NCAA Texas Tech/TCU

Thursday Night College Football – Texas Tech at TCU

This week’s Thursday night game is a prominent Big XII clash as Texas Tech and TCU face off. While both teams are closer to the bowl bubble than the Big XII title game at this point in the season, this will be a key game in the conference pecking order not to mention one of the main rivalry games of the season for both squads.

Match-up: Texas Tech Red Raiders at Texas Christian Horned Frogs

Venue: At Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas

Time/TV: Thursday, October 11, 7:30 PM ET ESPN

Line: TCU -7, Over/Under 62

Last Meeting: 2017, TCU (-7) 27, at Texas Tech 3

This line on this game was released late with questionable quarterback situations for both teams. Since the ‘West Texas Championship’ renewed on an annual basis in 2012 these squad have each won the Saddle Trophy three times with the road team now winning the past three years.

Both TCU and Texas Tech are knotted at 1-1 in league play and while West Virginia and Texas are both 3-0 on top of the standings, those teams will need to face off and both have some difficult hurdles remaining as it is still a wide-open race for a spot in the Big XII title game. The Big XII has Texas back in the national spotlight rising to the top 10 of the polls but the conference as a whole is likely clinging to a long shot 13-0 run for West Virginia in regard to the national playoffs with Oklahoma upset last week.

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TCU looked the part of a Big XII contender and possible national sleeper with a 2-0 start and an 8-point lead over Ohio State well into the third quarter in a big mid-September game in Arlington. The Buckeyes scored three touchdowns in four minutes to send TCU’s season spiraling in the other direction. The Frogs lost to the Texas the following week with a combined seven turnovers in those two defeats before getting back on track in late September with a narrow 17-14 victory hosting Iowa State.

A critical sixth season for Kliff Kingsbury coaching his alma mater started poorly with a 24-7 1st quarter deficit against Ole Miss in Houston on the opening Saturday, with starting quarterback McLane Carter injured. Freshman Alan Bowman was handed the offense from there and posted big numbers including leading notable wins over Houston and Oklahoma State. Bowman was seriously injured and hospitalized after taking a hit in the 42-34 loss to West Virginia with the Red Raiders down to sophomore Jett Duffey for the duration of that game. All three quarterbacks may be available for this week’s game.

For TCU sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson has had mixed results with six interceptions in four FBS games but offering big play potential in the air and on the ground. Robinson was injured late in the win over Iowa State with a shoulder issue on his non-throwing arm and while he has been cleared to return, Gary Patterson has hinted that he may not start this week with sophomore Michael Collins likely to play in the game as well. Collins has only thrown 14 passes this season and not in any meaningful moments.

Texas Tech was anticipating being a stronger defensive team this season as after years of being consistently involved in shootouts, the Red Raiders improved dramatically in the defensive numbers last season. This year the positive gains haven’t been there despite an experienced unit led by linebacker and future NFL draft pick Dakota Allen. Texas Tech has allowed nearly 450 yards per game and 31 points per game including allowing 42 or more points in three of four FBS games.

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Patterson has a reputation for defense and this year’s team has allowed fewer than 21 points per game, holding three of five foes to 14 or fewer points. Texas and Ohio State combined to score 71 points against the Horned Frogs but a 7-0 turnover deficit in those games contributed significantly. TCU has only surrendered 178 passing yards per game this season and that will be the key matchup against a Red Raiders offense averaging 408 passing yards per game. TCU is 14th nationally allowing only 5.7 yards per pass attempt while Texas Tech has allowed 7.7 yards per pass attempt although opposing quarterbacks have completed below 56 percent of throws against both teams.

With Oklahoma up next this is a critical spot for TCU as a 1-3 Big XII start would be realistic with a loss this week. TCU will still have to play in Morgantown in November as a bowl bid could even be cast into a doubt for a squad that was projected to compete for a Big XII title after being the runner-up last season. The stakes may be higher for Texas Tech who still has Iowa State, Oklahoma, and Texas on the schedule. If the Red Raiders fall to 3-3 overall this week they might be in line for another dramatic run in late November with Kingsbury in danger of missing a bowl game for the third time in six seasons.

Last season: TCU was 8-2 heading to Lubbock last November in the game following a 38-20 loss at Oklahoma. The Horned Frogs turned in a great performance with a 27-3 win on the road. The defense did the heavy lifting as TCU managed only 289 yards of offense and led just 10-3 late in the third quarter. TCU completed only six passes in the game in what was Robinson’s first career start and then added a late defensive score. That loss left Texas Tech at 5-6 but they beat Texas in the season finale to earn a bowl bid. The three-point showing was the lowest output for Texas Tech since losing 12-3 at TCU in 2006.

Historical Trends: Texas Tech is 14-8 S/U and 14-10 ATS in this series since 1980, covering in 13 of the past 19 meetings. TCU has won S/U in three of the past four games but has lost S/U and ATS in two of the past three home games in the series. TCU has won S/U in eight consecutive home games since the start of last season but is just 3-12 ATS at home since the start of the 2016 season. TCU is 1-5 S/U and ATS in six instances since 2016 as a home favorite of 10 or fewer points. Texas Tech is 22-14 ATS on the road since 2011 including going 8-3 ATS as a road underdog since 2015 with five S/U upsets.

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Friday Night NCAA: TCU at SMU

TCU at SMU: Preview courtesy of POINT TRAIN

For 364 days of the year, the Dallas-Fort Worth area is for the most part very friendly when it comes to college football. The one day it is not is the day the football teams of Texas Christian University and Southern Methodist University meet on the field and battle for the Iron Skillet. This year’s edition comes to us from Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas on Friday, September 7th.

The start of the season for TCU and SMU could not have been more different. TCU opened the season last Saturday by absolutely shellacking Southern 55-7. Horned Frogs quarterback Shawn Robinson lead the way by scoring five touchdowns (three in the air, two on the ground) in the first half while also throwing for 182 yards on 24 attempts. SMU kicked off Saturday night against the Mean Green of North Texas at Apogee Stadium. The Mustangs didn’t look great as they came out of Denton with their tails between their legs in a loss 46-23. Quarterback Ben Hicks completed 12/24 passes and finished with a quarterback rating of 1.3. SMU running backs had a big night combining for a grand total of 4 yards on the ground on 19 carries. Defensively the Mustangs gave up 444 yards and three touchdowns on fifty attempts to North Texas starting quarterback Mason Fine.

A far from ideal debut for new Mustangs head coach Sonny Dykes.

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Sonny Dykes looks to end the six-game losing streak to the Horned Frogs this Friday night. To do so he’ll need significantly better play from his secondary. The Mustangs return four starters in the secondary, yet are statistically the second worst FBS school against the pass. One silver lining SMU can look at is that they only allowed 68 yards on the ground last weekend to North Texas. Stopping the run game from TCU as well as stopping Shawn Robinson’s ability to make plays with his feet will be a tall task, but if done well can have the potential to flip the script in the direction of the Mustangs.

Gary Patterson looks to improve upon his team’s current six game winning streak over the Mustangs Friday night in Dallas. TCU fans should feel pretty good about its chances having absolutely walloped Southern last week. To be successful against SMU Friday night the Frogs need to A.) continue to balance out the attack offensively and B.) not look too far ahead to their game against Ohio State on the 15th.

In reference to point “A”: In TCU’s win over Southern they were incredibly balanced yardage wise as they threw for 264 yards and rushed for 235. If the Horned Frogs can continue to keep such an attack going this Friday in Dallas and keep the Mustangs defense on their toes and their heels at the same time they will be very successful.

In regards to “B”: The Horned Frogs have a massive game next Saturday at AT&T Stadium against the Ohio State Buckeyes, but it won’t mean nearly as much if TCU falters this week. A rivalry game such as the battle for the Iron Skillet doesn’t necessarily fit the criteria for a trap game, however, it definitely is. TCU is the favorite, there’s no secret there, however SMU can play and if TCU isn’t focused and ready to play this can and will be a lot closer than people think.

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Point Train is 4-2 so far this college football season winning in last week’s biggest pick with a 5-unit winner on Cincinnati’s upset over UCLA! This week’s first 6-unit Top Play is lined up as the Non-Conference Game of the Year for Saturday! Point Train also started the NFL season 1-0 with a Thursday night ‘under’ play on Philadelphia’s 18-12 win over the Falcons.

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Early Big XII Preview

Early Big XII Preview

Many felt like adding a Big XII title game would cost the conference a possible playoff bid but last season Oklahoma managed to survive a rematch with TCU and was selected into the national field. In four seasons Oklahoma has represented the conference twice in the College Football Playoffs but no other team has been selected and the conference is still searching for its first victory on that stage.
This season the conference lacks a clear frontrunner as getting a team to go 10-0 in the always deep league looks unlikely. Last season the Sooners were able to shake off the home upset loss to Iowa State on the strength of their victory over Ohio State in non-conference play but they won’t have that margin of error this season. Ultimately a competitive race looks likely on top of the conference this season and getting a one-loss team in the tournament might be a challenge. Here is an early look at the 10 Big XII teams ahead of the 2018-19 season.

Texas: Tom Herman led Texas to its best win count since 2013 last season even if the expectations were much higher as a high profile hire that led dramatic success at Houston in just two seasons. Texas lost exclusively close games last season and had erratic defensive performances despite being one of the nation’s top run defenses. The offensive production also dropped by nearly 100 yards per game compared with Charlie Strong’s 2016 squad in Austin. This year’s team will be one of the more experienced Big XII groupings. The schedule is similar to last season facing both Maryland and USC again for a tough non-conference schedule but the Trojans will visit Austin as will TCU and West Virginia. Ultimately the Red River Rivalry game will determine whether or not Texas takes a big leap or has another decent season that isn’t up to the expectations of the Longhorns brass.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma was stunned at home against Iowa State last October but the Sooners rallied to return to the College Football Playoffs for the second time in three years. Oklahoma wound up on the wrong side of an epic battle with Georgia but it was an impressive first season for Lincoln Riley who took over suddenly for Bob Stoops last summer. Replacing the #1 pick in the NFL draft plus several other top contributors will be a challenge but this should remain a top offense team with Kyler Murray likely to quarterback the team for one season before pursuing a baseball career. Oklahoma was not an elite defensive team last season and it will be difficult to match the amazing production the Sooners had under Baker Mayfield. The schedule offers Oklahoma a realistic opportunity to run the table but they won’t have a marquee non-conference win like they did last season after beating Ohio State. That could mean little margin for error for a program that always seems to have at least one stumble in the regular season.

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TCU: Gary Patterson has led TCU to 11 or more wins in three of the last four seasons as it would be foolish to count out the Frogs as a serious Big XII threat. TCU loses a lot of key players from a very good defense from last season and they also need to break in a new quarterback. TCU faces Ohio State, Texas, and Oklahoma in the first seven games of the season as there will be opportunities to move up in the national and conference race with notable wins but it also means the Frogs could reach last season’s loss count rather early. TCU has gone undefeated at home three of the past four seasons and if they accomplish that again in 2018 a top three finish in the Big XII looks assured with five of nine games in Fort Worth, although a road heavy September could take a toll on the season goals.

West Virginia: Dana Holgorsen should finally feel some security in Morgantown with winning results in six of seven seasons. Will Grier returns for the Mountaineers after posting some of the nation’s best numbers last season prior to an injury that changed the trajectory of the season. TCU and Oklahoma will visit Morgantown this season as the Mountaineers will have opportunities for big wins with an offense that should be among the most productive in the conference if not the nation. The defense struggled at times last season however and has minimal depth back in action as shootouts should be the norm with Grier capable of being the top quarterback in the conference and a Heisman sleeper.

Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State has won 10 or more games in six of the last eight seasons but they have been stopped at 10 the past three seasons with expectations of a possible breakthrough to a Big XII title or a playoff bid. Highly productive quarterback Mason Rudolph departs but most of the backfield is intact as this can still be an above average offensive team. The defense should remain a stable though not dominant group but the schedule ahead in 2018 looks like a challenge. Five Big XII road games are ahead including several difficult tests and a non-conference game with Boise State lurks as a dangerous September matchup. Matching the 10-win level of recent years looks like a reach for the Cowboys this season.

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Kansas State: Kansas State lost five times last season but four of those misses were by seven or fewer points as the Wildcats found a way to compete even with one of the lesser offenses in the Big XII and a revolving quarterback situation. The offense could be better this season with much more experience but the defense could regress for a second straight season. While Kansas State had mostly close losses last season they also had several narrow fortunate wins as this team was soundly out-gained on the season despite a solid scoring differential. Coach Snyder always finds a way to keep this team in the mix as another winning season shouldn’t be ruled out.

Iowa State: Matt Campbell eschewed opportunities elsewhere to stay in Ames where last season’s 8-5 campaign was a historic rise for the Cyclones. Wins over Oklahoma and TCU were incredibly impressive and the Cyclones also stopped a great Memphis offense for a bowl win. Matching that success will be a challenge and Iowa State plays the heavyweights early in the Big XII campaign this season. Several key players are back as this is a program with average experience and while there were narrow wins last season all five losses came by 10 or fewer points as well as a more dramatic breakthrough had been possible. Iowa State is no longer the conference doormat and will be a competitive team likely on the bowl border.

Texas Tech: Kliff Kingsbury has done enough to stay on in Lubbock with five underwhelming seasons and a 30-33 record. There have been some close calls but still a few blowout losses every year to paint the gap between the Red Raiders and the elite teams in the conference. Texas Tech showed a dramatic improvement on defense last season and with 10 starters back the Red Raiders can take another stride to shake off their former reputation as perennially one of the worst defensive teams in the nation. The offense has some question marks however needing a third new starting quarterback in three seasons and losing most of the top receivers from last season. Oklahoma and Texas both play in Lubbock but that might mean fewer realistic opportunities for wins with a pair of challenging non-conference games in September as well.

Baylor: Matt Rhule stepped into a very tough situation at Baylor and a 1-11 season was the result. Baylor did show signs of progress late in the season and should show improvement but getting back to being a Big XII force looks like it will take a long rebuilding process. This will be one of the most experienced teams in the nation thanks to a lot of young players getting time last season and Charlie Brewer gave the offense life after taking over at quarterback. Statistically this didn’t look like a 1-11 squad that lost to a FCS school in September and if the Bears play all season like they did last November a handful of wins will follow.

Kansas: Kansas has been patient with a major transition hitting year four for David Beaty and a combined three wins in three seasons. The non-conference schedule offers three viable opportunities for Kansas but the gap with the rest of the Big XII remains severe with only one Big XII loss even within 15 points last season. 19 starters return for Kansas as the pieces are there to take a step forward but it remains a steep uphill climb in Lawrence and the best opportunities for conference wins this season will unfortunately all be road games.

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Big XII Preview

Big XII Preview

08/09/2016

The Big XII figures to add a few teams in the coming years but in 2016 the 10-team conference will play again without a championship game and will hope for a better showing in the College Football Playoff. Last season there were a few clear cut national contenders in the league while this season there is more mystery with Oklahoma again projected to excel but a few others outside of the spotlight potentially ready to make the leap.

FAVORITE: Oklahoma

The Sooners survived an early season loss to Texas to take the Big XII title last season as injuries hurt a few of the other contenders and Oklahoma wound up 8-1 in the league and good enough to qualify for the College Football Playoffs. Oklahoma had a nice win over Tennessee early in the season but in the biggest Big XII games down the stretch the Sooners faced the top teams with back-up quarterbacks for some major scheduling breaks. Oklahoma was exposed in a 37-17 loss to Clemson in the national semifinals for tough finish to an 11-2 campaign and a tough debut for the Big XII in the short history of the College Football Playoff, a year after the league made a lot of noise about being left out. Oklahoma is a serious threat to return to the national stage but they again have a huge early season test out of the conference with Ohio State visiting Norman in Week 3. Oklahoma also faces Houston in the opening week in a dangerous game with the Cougars again a national threat from a smaller conference and a prime candidate to join the Big XII down the road. The schedule is front loaded as four of the toughest games of the season for Oklahoma will be in the first five games through early October but if the Sooners get by with only one loss they have a great shot to win out and put the program in a similar position as last season. Prolific passer Baker Mayfield is back after throwing for 3,700 yards last season as is top running back Samaje Perine. The Oklahoma defense will again present the most question marks and that unit will need to be up to the task early in the season with the pair of non-conference tests and perhaps the two toughest conference games being the first two games of the Big XII season with the opener at TCU ahead of the Red River Rivalry with Texas in Dallas.

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CONTENDER: TCU

Last season was supposed to be the year for TCU and the Horned Frogs fell a bit short of national goals, slipping from 12-1 in 2014 to 11-2 in 2015 with both losses in the Big XII. While TCU won’t get as much national attention early in the season as last year, the team may have a favorable path for a great season that could feature a rise to the top of the Big XII. Two big early season games at home will determine whether the Frogs are serious contenders, hosting Arkansas outside of the conference and then hosting Oklahoma in a key revenge game after losing 30-29 in Norman last season. Late season road games at Baylor and at Texas will be challenging but if Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill can smoothly take over the offense, the Horned Frogs figure to have one of the better defenses in the Big XII. It was a young defensive group depleted by injuries early last season but late in the year Gary Patterson’s defense stepped up in big overtime wins over Baylor and Oregon. With several other starters from last season absent on the offense it will be difficult to match the huge production of the past two seasons but the top of the conference also looks less formidable than last season and TCU will get to host likely the biggest game of the season on October 1.

CONTENDER: Texas

The Longhorns have made a habit out of failing to reach preseason expectations much of the last decade with a disappointing run for the program, featuring at least four losses in each of the last six seasons. After failing to make a bowl game last season this is a pivotal season for Charlie Strong in his third year in Austin and he appears to have the makings of a team capable of a breakthrough. The opening week game with Notre Dame will determine whether or not the Longhorns have arrived back on the national stage or whether they will simply lurk as a Big XII sleeper. The Big XII season will open in October with a road game at Oklahoma State and a Red River Rivalry game with Oklahoma after Texas stunned the Sooners 24-17 last season. Those two games figure to shape the season for Texas and if they find a way to win both they would move to the forefront of the conference picture as they will get to host the other possible contenders in big late season games with Baylor and TCU. Texas is returning a lot of experience on both sides of the ball and after several highly regarded recruiting classes the pieces should be in place for the results to shine. Texas is only 6-6 S/U at home the past two seasons under Strong however and for the Longhorns to have any hope for a title they will need to lock down wins at Memorial Stadium.

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SLEEPER: Baylor

There has been nothing but bad news this offseason for Baylor with Art Briles eventually ousted after misconduct was revealed and former Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe has taken over. There have been numerous players and recruits opting to leave the program and ultimately there are a ton of questions on and off the field entering the season for a Bears program coming off three consecutive double-digit win seasons. There are enough returning players to expect that Baylor can still compete at a high level and the early season schedule should allow the Bears to ease into the season. Baylor has a light non-conference schedule highlighted by games with SMU and Rice before opening the Big XII season with Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and Kansas. A 6-0 start still seems very realistic for the Bears heading into heavyweight matchups in the second half of the season. It is hard to envision Baylor beating Texas, TCU, and Oklahoma in successive weeks but the path to a surprise contending season amidst adversity is possible for a Baylor team that looked like one of the nation’s elite much of last season

IMPROVED: Kansas State

The Wildcats fell to just 6-7 last season for the worst season for the program since Bill Snyder’s first year back leading the team in 2009. Kansas State wound up starting 3-0 and then losing six games in a row before a 3-0 finish to the regular season but very competitive losses vs. highly ranged squads Oklahoma State, TCU, and Baylor were included in the slide. The Wildcats struggled mightily on offense last season, dropping almost 90 yards per game on average compared with the previous season and the defense had a similar regression in what was a very strong conference in 2015. Kansas State has a number of difficult road games but Manhattan should return to being a very tough place to play with the Wildcats capable of winning all of its home games in 2016, through they may be dogged hosting Texas even though the Longhorns haven’t won in Manhattan since 2002. The defense returns most of the key players from last season and the schedule lines up more favorably this season as the Wildcats won’t have to face all the top teams in consecutive weeks as they did last season. Expect a marquee upset at least once this season and an improved win count for a Kansas State program that should be back in the postseason.

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SINKING: Oklahoma State

The Cowboys were a great story last season with a 10-0 start to the season, climbing into the top 5 of the national polls. It was clearly a mirage as they had a very soft non-conference schedule and a back loaded conference slate.10-0 became 10-3 with double-digit losses in the final three games of the season including an embarrassing 35-point loss to Oklahoma and a 25-point loss in the Sugar Bowl vs. Ole Miss. Mason Rudolph returns at quarterback with a veteran roster but the schedule is demanding with five Big XII road games including four of those games likely being against the top half of the conference. Mike Gundy has delivered a great 11-year run in Stillwater with several overachieving seasons so anything is possible but it looks like a step-back season for a program that has alternated strong and mediocre seasons the last five years. Another bowl season looks very likely as Oklahoma State could definitely win all three of its non-conference games and with a few breaks the Cowboys could be a contender but it looks like a much tougher path than last season

SINKING: West Virginia

The Mountaineers are 17-21 in four seasons in the Big XII with a 5-4 2014 season being the best conference result. Despite underwhelming results since Dana Holgorsen led the Mountaineers to the Orange Bowl in his first season as head coach the team has improved in record each of the past two seasons, getting eight wins last year after a wild bowl win. Continuing that trend looks like a serious challenge in 2016 as West Virginia has two formidable non-conference games plus the Big XII schedule that brings the top contenders to Morgantown. West Virginia went 6-1 at home last season and if they repeat that record they could be in the title hunt as they host Missouri, Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma, and Baylor. With a productive senior quarterback in Skyler Howard leading a veteran offense West Virginia can certainly score a few big wins but doing so and also taking care of business in several coin-flip road games will be a tall order with West Virginia winning just once on the road last season. West Virginia did show slight improvement on defense with nine starters returning last season but it still wasn’t enough to compete with the top Big XII teams and this year almost all of the key players from the 2015 defense are gone. Expect some shootouts in West Virginia games but the most likely scenario is a fall back to a .500-type season.

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