Kansas can expect to find themselves at the bottom of almost every Big 12 list. The Jayhawks showed some fight against Texas Tech and nearly pulled off the upset of the year at TCU, but Kansas is still a couple of years away from competing. True freshman Ryan Willis has given the program a glimpse of hope in his brief debut year, but going 0-12 is definitely going to halt any hope Kansas fans have for football. Because after all, it is basketball season.
9. Kansas State
After an impressive 9-4 year and wins over Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in 2014, the Wildcats needed three straight wins to end the season to make it to 6-6 and reach bowl eligibility. Kansas State started off 3-0, but ran into some trouble in the month of October. K-State played Oklahoma State, TCU, Oklahoma and Baylor in a six game stretch that also included at Texas and at Texas Tech. Much like Oklahoma State from a year ago, the Wildcats are just happy to be at 6-6 and going to a bowl game. To their credit, they should be happy they’re going bowling. At 3-6, everybody had written Bill Snyder and company off. If Kansas State can finish the year 7-6, the season will be considered a success. Just not as successful as last year.
Texas was not a very good football team this year. Yes they beat Oklahoma and yes they beat Baylor, but I’m not ready to call them good just yet. In year two of the Charlie Strong era, the Longhorns took a step back in their 5-7 season. The previous year, Texas went 6-7 and lost the Texas bowl to Arkansas 31-7. It’s not like the Longhorns didn’t have their chances. For what it’s worth, Texas should have beat Oklahoma State earlier in the year. They were a missed extra point away from heading to overtime with California, and they let a golden opportunity on Thanksgiving day slip away, in a loss to Texas Tech. Still, beating Oklahoma (fluke?) and Baylor (devastated by injuries) should warrant some hope for the 2016 season. But you start to wonder how many more mediocre seasons Charlie Strong can endure before Texas pulls the plug.
7. Iowa State
The Cyclones came along way from losing to Kansas last year. Well not really, but coming off an 0-9 record in conference from the year before warrants some improvement. The Cyclones were competitive in a few games, and recorded a 24-0 shutout over Texas. 3-9 isn’t much better than 2-10, but Iowa State notched two more conference wins than they did last year. If they keep up that pace, the Cyclones should be a Big 12 power in four to five seasons.
6. West Virginia
It’s hard to say that the Mountaineers improved from last year. For the second straight season, WVU finished the year 6th in the Big 12 and with seven wins. What really killed West Virginia was their four gamelosing streak; at Oklahoma, vs Oklahoma State, at Baylor, and at TCU. They were essentially the sacrificial Big 12 lamb. But four straight wins later and WVU was looking at an eight win season and a top five Big 12 finish. But a one point loss at Kansas State sealed up another average season for Dana Holgorsen and the Mountaineers. Holgorsen was on the hot seat for the majority of the year, but the school did say they were sticking with Dana for at least another year. If West Virginia beats Arizona State in the Cactus Bowl, you can probably consider this season a success. However, another 7-6 season and three straight bowl losses will really put a damper on the program moving forward.
Baylor didn’t grab a share of the Big 12 title this year. Can I get an amen? The Bears were struck with injuries just as bad as TCU was, if not worse. Baylor got off to an 8-0 start before running into Oklahoma. The Bears went on to lose two of their next three, playing behind a third string quarterback and a fourth string wide receiver turned quarterback. It’s hard to compare the 2014 Bears to their 2015 counterparts. Last year, Baylor rolled over almost everyone, but Baylor’d in the Cotton Bowl. Now the Bears have a chance to show the Big 12 and the nation that they are a legitimate program in the Athletic Bowl against a hungry UNC team. It’s hard to improve off of last years team with the injuries on offense, but a win over a top ten team to finish the year will give all the confidence Baylor needs heading into next season.
TCU didn’t have a bad season by any means. The injuries were just too much for the Frogs to handle. Josh Doctson is out for the year, Trevone Boykin missed games, and the entire secondary took a huge hit. Still, TCU managed to finish third in the Big 12 standings. It would have been difficult to improve off of last years performance. By years end, TCU established themselves as the best team in the Big 12 and would have competed valiantly in the College Football Playoffs. It would have been hard to pick against them as the Frogs were playing excellent football on offense, defense, and special teams. But with all the adversity TCU has overcome and their season ending win over Baylor, it would be hard to be disappointed as a TCU fan. The Horned Frogs have one last major test in the Alamo Bowl against Oregon.
3. Texas Tech
Just a year ago, Tech was battling Iowa State and Kansas for the keys to the Big 12 basement. Now the Red Raiders are going bowling once again, and are a win away from an eight win season which would double the win total from a year before. TTU was oh so close to breaking through into Big 12 contention earlier in the year. After a 3-0 start, Tech lost a heartbreaker in the waning moments to TCU. Tech notched wins over Arkansas, Texas, and K-State this year, but have their biggest game of the year coming up. TTU has a chance to earn some respect from the country and for the Big 12 in a matchup with LSU.
It’s safe to say Oklahoma was not thrilled with the way they ended the season last year. In the second half of the season, the Sooners were handed their worst home loss in school history 48-14 to Baylor. A few weeks later, Bedlam happened. Then a few short weeks after that, Clemson trounced OU in their bowl game 40-6. Fast forward a short year later and Oklahoma is on track to avenge every loss from last year. TCU, Kansas State, Baylor, and Oklahoma State all felt the wrath of the Sooners revenge, now comes Clemson in the playoffs. If OU wins it all, they have a claim to be the most improved team in the nation, but it’s doubtful that’s anywhere in the mind of OU fans right now.
1. Oklahoma State
The Sugar Bowl is a nice improvement from the Cactus Bowl, right? 2014 seems like a distant memory, but it’s not hard to remember just how bad Oklahoma State was at times. When J.W. Walsh went down with a season ending injury, the offense collapsed. Daxx Garman couldn’t live up to the hype, and OSU went on a four game skid and averaged just 10 points a game with Garman under center. Then came Mason Rudolph. After a fifth consecutive loss to Baylor in which the offense seemed to finally click, Rudolph led Oklahoma State to their first win in Norman since 2001. Rudolph later went on to win Cactus Bowl and reel of 10 straight wins to open the 2015 season. Yes the Cowboys collapsed at the most important time of the year, but 10-2 and heading to a New Year's Six bowl just leaves such a better taste in your mouth than 6-6 and heading to a bowl you’ve never heard of. Bedlam hurt, but if the Pokes knock off Ole Miss on New Year's night, the 2016 season is going to look brighter than ever before.