ABCs Of The Big 12: J-R
By Steve Pipps
The ABCs of the Big 12 continues with letters J-R.
J — J.W. Walsh
The Cowboys trust in J.W. Walsh. Oklahoma State named Walsh the starting QB on Thursday and he will have the chance to prove himself right away against Florida State. Walsh played eight games last season and finished with 1,333 passing yards, nine TDs and five INTs. He will have to step it up this season, improve his TD/INT ratio and increase his completion percentage to above 60 percent. He finished 2013 at 59 percent, completing 113 of 190 attempts. Walsh will be throwing to Marcell Ateman and Jhajuan Seales, who both need to improve from 2013 when they combined for only 82 catches, 1,287 yards and five TDs. The receiving core also has JUCO transfer Tyreek Hill, who could make an immediate impact.
K — Kliff Kingsbury
Kliff Kingsbury has been named hottest coach, coolest coach and has been compared to Ryan Gosling in looks. He’s got all of that going for him and he’s not too bad of a coach either. Last season at Texas Tech, Kingsbury coached the team to an 8-5 record and things are still looking up. Davis Webb is coming off of a great performance against Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl. The offense returns the majority of its starters, which includes wide receivers Jakeem Grant and Bradley Marquez. Kingsbury has it pretty good in Lubbock, especially if he keeps rolling out the wins.
L — Linwood, Shock
Besides Bryce Petty and Antwan Goodley, Baylor also has sophomore Shock Linwood. Linwood rushed for 881 yards and eight TDs as a freshman backup in 2013 and now finds himself at the top of the depth chart. Baylor loves to throw. Last season, the Bears set a Baylor record for passing yards with 4,668, but they also set a Baylor record for rushing yards in a single season with 3,376. Linwood is going to get his chances and as a starter we can expect a 1,000-plus yard season.
M — Michael Hunnicutt
Michael Hunnicutt is only 40 points away from being the leading scorer in OU history regardless of position. He was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award in both 2012 and 2013. Last season, Hunnicutt was 24-of-27 on field goals and 47-of-48 on extra points. In 2014, Hunnicutt needs to keep those numbers consistent and there’s no reason to think he won’t. He has never been under 80 percent for field goals and has never scored less than 100 points in a season. Along with having a solid leg, Hunnicutt also has great hands He made his impact in Bedlam last season by scoring a touchdown to keep OU in the game. He’s an asset Oklahoma can’t go without.
N — Non-Conference
With the inaugural playoff beginning this year, non-conference games are more important than ever. Strength of schedule will play a role in the selection committee’s choice when choosing four teams to be in the playoff. This season the Big 12 is rife with non-conference challenges, Florida State, Auburn, UCLA, BYU and Arkansas to name a few. The Big 12 faces off against the SEC four times in the regular season. Hopefully, this will create new rivalries and yearly match-ups.
O — Oh, The Students
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that student attendance at college games in the Big 5 Conferences was down 5.6%. The Big 12 might be bucking this trend. Texas Tech had to open another section of seats because so many students were attending. Tech saw 14,925 students attend the home opener in 2013. Iowa State has set single season attendance records in each of the past three seasons. In the final game of the 2013 season, Baylor had 9,943 students with tickets to the game. The schools population is only 13,292. Fans are still showing up in the Big 12 and making the stadiums hard places to play.
P — Playoff
So here it is, finally. The BCS has come to an end and we will get to see how the new playoff system fares. The committee will be choosing on a number of factors including strength of schedule and wins. We are still unsure as to how well the system will work and while there may be a few kinks the first year, most people believe it will be better than the BCS in almost every way. There is also the argument that the Big 12 could be impacted because the conference is smaller and there is no conference championship game. Coaches within the Big 12 don’t foresee this being an issue. They find that the conference is actually better off in the long run because teams play every team in the conference every year. There are no years where a team gets a pass on playing a powerhouse. It’s a good argument, but we won’t know for sure if it’s the case until we see it in action.
Q — Quenton Bundrage
Iowa State has a few things going for it. They had their starting quarterback named for Week 1, (see letter R), and he will be throwing to wide receiver Quenton Bundrage. The junior tied the program receiving record with 9 TDs last season while racking up 676 yards. This season, along with Jarvis West and P.J. Harris the solid receiving core will be at the disposal of QB Sam Richardson.
R — SamRicahrdson
Sam Richardson was named quarterback over Grant Rohach, who many thought would get the nod for Week 1. Richardson beat out Rohach during a competition in camp. Last season, Richardson was named starter for Week 1, but throughout the season was sidelined with injuries. He threw for 11 TDs and seven INTs. Rohach and Richardson’s combined completion percentage was only 56.3 percent. This season, under the new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, Richardson needs to up his completion percentage and lower his number of INTs. Mangino has proven himself before, winning 2007 National Coach of the Year at Kansas. Richardson and the Cyclones need some of his magic to help dig themselves out of the bottom of the Big 12.