That’s why I chose Baylor 10th

The Big 12 released its preseason media poll last week and Baylor was projected to finish 12th in the 16-team conference and had no one on the preseason All-Big 12 team.

Conference newcomer Utah was selected as the conference champion and was one of five teams to receive first-place votes. Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Kansas and Arizona rounded out the top five.

Oklahoma State junior running back Ollie Gordon II, who rushed for more than 1,700 yards and 21 touchdowns last season and won the Doak Walker Award, was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year.

St. Gordon arrested in Oklahoma (copy)

Oklahoma State running back Ollie Gordon II, who was arrested last week on suspicion of driving under the influence, was recently named preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year.

Mitch Alcala, Associated Press

Colorado’s versatile junior cornerback/wide receiver Travis Hunter was named Defensive Player of the Year, while UCF senior quarterback KJ Jefferson, a transfer from Arkansas, was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.

In advance of the Big 12 Media Days this week at Allegiant Stadium, I wanted to share how and in some cases why I voted:

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Conference stand

Kansas State has proven that it can compete at the top of the Big 12.

Baylor saw how dangerous the Wildcats can be last year in a humiliating 59-25 loss in Manhattan. Will Howard – now at Ohio State – threw three touchdowns in the win, but projected starter Avery Johnson came in and threw a touchdown near the end of the blowout victory.

The Wildcats do not play Utah in the regular season and host Oklahoma State, Arizona and Kansas at home.

There’s no doubt about it, the Utes are good. Kyle Whittingham is one of the most underrated coaches in the country, and bringing back Cam Rising after he missed the entire game last year with an injury will be a huge accomplishment in their first year in the Big 12.

But there’s still something that keeps me from giving them the No. 1 seed. Maybe it’s because they have to get used to a new conference, or maybe it’s how they played again last year in Waco against a subpar Baylor team with two backup quarterbacks.

Aside from maybe Arizona State, and because I believe in Kenny Dillingham and the pool of recruits I think can flow to Tempe, the rest of my ballot is largely in line with the rest of the media covering the Big 12.

But let’s talk about Baylor.

I’m predicting the Bears will finish tenth this year.

I see them going 7-5 — losses at Utah, at Iowa State, at home to Oklahoma State, at West Virginia and at home to Kansas in the season finale — and reaching a bowl game. That would probably be enough to keep Dave Aranda around for another year.

Baylor was super young last year. Maybe it’s just me being optimistic, but I think this group of players is taking a step forward, even if it’s not as big as Baylor fans would hope.

With no clear favorite, the Big 12 will be the most exciting conference in college football this season.


Offensive Player of the Year: Ollie Gordon, Oklahoma State

Defensive Player of the Year: Nick Martin, Oklahoma State

Newcomer of the year: Travis Hunter, Colorado

Gordon is too easy a pick to match or surpass his performance from last season. With a strong offensive line, he will surely continue what he did last season.

Martin was one of the Big 12’s best defenders last season and an overall beast for the Cowboys, leading the league in total tackles (140), solo tackles (83), average tackles per game (10.0) and sacks (six).

Hunter is another easy choice. For me, he doesn’t fit the Offensive or Defensive Player of the Year category because he’s excellent on both sides of the ball, but he’s probably a better cornerback. Either way, he’ll have a great year in the Big 12.

Colorado Springs game, football

Colorado’s Travis Hunter is expected to have a fantastic year, especially at cornerback. He is a clear candidate for Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.

David Zalubowski, Associated Press

Preseason All-Big 12 Conference Team

QB – Noah Fifita, Arizona

RB – Ollie Gordon II, Oklahoma State

FB — Stevo Klotz, Iowa State

WR – Teteairoa McMillan, Arizona

WR – Brennan Presley, Oklahoma State

WR – Jayden Higgins, Iowa State

TE – Brant Kuithe, Utah

OL – Luke Kandra, Cincinnati

OL – Dalton Cooper, Oklahoma State

OL – Preston Wilson, Oklahoma State

OL — Jonah Sivainea, Arizona

OL — Wyatt Milum, West Virginia

K – Tyler Loop, Arizona

KR/PR — Jamaal Bell, Baylor

Fifita and McMillan almost single-handedly turned Arizona into a top-15 team last year. Fifita threw for over 2,800 yards and 25 touchdowns, while McMillan threw for 1,000 yards and caught 10 touchdowns.

They will be a must-see on TV as they battle against the Big 12’s traditionally weak defense.

Someone has to block for Gordon, and Cooper and Wilsonian do that perfectly for Oklahoma State. Not only have they created gaps for the best running back in the country, but they have allowed just 13 sacks all year, second fewest in the conference. More dominance is ahead.

When you think of returners for Baylor, Josh Cameron and Richard Reese are the first to come to mind, as both were named All-Conference returners by Phil Steele in the preseason.

Watch for Bell this season.

Baylor’s wide receiver roster is well-stocked, and while he will certainly play a role in the up-tempo offense, he already showed how dangerous he is on kickoffs at Nevada, setting program records for kick returns (80) and kick return yards (1,712).

Baylor UCF Football Jenkins (Copy) (Copy)

Baylor cornerback Caden Jenkins, an All-American freshman, is expected to have an even more successful year in his sophomore year.

Phelan M. Ebenhack, Associated Press

DL – Junior Tafuna, Utah

DL — Dontay Corleone, Cincinnati

DL — Malachi Lawrence, UCF

DL – Brendan Mott, Kansas State

LB – Matt Jones, Baylor

LB – Nick Martin, Oklahoma State

LB – Collin Oliver, Oklahoma State

DB — Travis Hunter, Colorado

DB — Caden Jenkins, Baylor

DB – Ra’Mello Dotson, Kansas

DB — Cobee Bryant, Kansas

DB – Tacario Davis, Arizona

P – Tyler Perkins, Iowa State

There is only one option for Baylor’s defense this season, and it starts with Jones.

The sixth-year senior had his best year in Waco last year, leading the team with 82 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss and finishing second on the team with three sacks.

With head coach Dave Aranda taking the reins of the defense – and particularly the linebackers – Jones is set for an even more successful year.

Jenkins is, too. He was a freshman All-American last season after leading the team with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries (one of which he turned into a touchdown). This spring, he has said he’s aiming for full All-American honors.

And that’s exactly what he’s well-equipped to do in the pass-happy Big 12, as he’s surrounded by a group of very experienced returning defensive backs.