MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — With spring football practice having wound to a close across the Big 12, Allan Taylor opens up a six-pack of predictions for the coming season:
1. Sooners fans won’t miss Landry Jones.
Goal-line sensation Blake Bell looks like a tight end but apparently throws a great deep ball, according to Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. Of course, fans haven’t seen the Belldozer stretch the field, considering his meager 16 pass attempts the past two years.
Stoops has confidence in Bell’s passing ability — “When we recruit them, it’s all about how they throw and not how they run,” — but the junior’s biggest advantage is a stable of talented running backs and an offensive line that returns four starters.
Too bad the 6-foot-6 Bell can’t play defensive tackle, where the Sooners are ultra thin.
2. Dana Holgorsen will beat his old roommate Kliff Kingsbury in Morgantown on Oct. 19.
Big 12 wins could be scarce this season for WVU, but the Mountaineers will get one when Texas Tech comes east in Week 7.
Holgorsen was the receivers coach at Tech during the final three seasons Kingsbury was slinging up record passing numbers, and more recently, the two lived together as members of the Houston staff. The now-33-year-old Kingsbury credited his meteoric ascension to Holgorsen’s influence.
“Just how I game plan and install the offense is something I take from (Holgorsen),” he said. “I have a lot of respect for him as a man and as a coach, and it will be a surreal moment when we’re out there before the game.”
3. Kansas, currently in a 21-game Big 12 losing streak, will win two league games.
On Nov. 6, 2010, KU rallied from 28 points down to beat Colorado 52-45, which marked the last time Kansas won a Big 12 football game. (If not for that monumental comeback, the drought would stand at 33 games.)
Thanks to an infusion of junior college talent, the Jayhawks not only will be more competitive in 2013, but they’ll actually win a couple of their five league home games.
The Jayhawks didn’t get much production in 2012 from Notre Dame transfer Dane Crist, but expectations are high for the next transfer experiment, ex-BYU quarterback Jake Heap, who sat out last season under NCAA rules.
“He’s gonna be a guy who gives us a chance to win some ballgames,” said Kansas defensive coordinator Dave Campo. “He is very, very accurate, and that’s the thing that hurt Dane last year— getting it to people when it really mattered.
“In Jake, I think you’re going to see this guy is a winner and a leader, and that’s what we need back there.”
4. The Big 12 will post zero nonconference wins against BCS Top 25 teams.
A casualty of the realignment rush, the league suffered last season from a lack of marquee intersectional games. It went 0-1 during the regular season against the top 25, before splitting four bowl games to finish 2-3.
This season’s nonconference highlights feature TCU-LSU in Arlington and Oklahoma-Notre Dame in South Bend, matchups in which the Big 12 teams figure to be sizable underdogs.
5. Baylor and WVU won’t produce half the 134 points they combined for last year.
Both offenses lost their quarterbacks and top receivers, and both defenses should be more sound. That means the Oct. 5 matchup in Waco — starring Bryce Petty vs. Paul Millard — could produce a 33-30 defensive struggle.
6. Texas will win the Big 12 championship.
Since earning a trip to 2009 BCS title game, the Longhorns are 22-17 overall and only 11-15 in conference play. During that three-year stint, Mack Brown has tried to reconfigure Texas into a power-running offense, an experiment that likely met its end when Major Applewhite took over as coordinator in January.
Of course, the play-calling could be rendered all but irrelevant if the defense doesn’t stiffen up, and with nine starters back, it likely will do so. After taking care of a rebuilding Oklahoma squad in the Red River Rivalry, Texas draws Oklahoma State at home.