Big 12 Football: Five Burning Questions — Part 1
By Steve Pipps
As the start of the college football season nears, it's time to review some of the burning questions in the Big 12.
Texas: Can David Ash Stay Healthy And Get Texas Back On Track To A National Championship?
Since Charlie Strong has been hired, people have been asking whether he can turn the program around at Texas. He has proven that he is at least bringing a tough, no-nonsense attitude back to the team and players should welcome him with open arms. They came to Texas to win football games and that hasn’t happened lately.
One main reason for the downturn in the Longhorns’ wins last season was the loss of David Ash. He dealt with concussions and missed most of the season. He was named starting quarterback in the spring before he had even been cleared to practice. He’s been cleared this fall, but we can’t be sure how he is going to perform after so much time off. If Ash stays healthy, he should be a great fit in Strong’s offense.
Texas won’t be in the national championship this year, let alone in the playoff. The offensive line is young and untested, so Ash will also have to help himself this season in avoiding danger.
Kansas State: Can Kansas State Win A Big 12 Championship In 2014?
Kansas State has a solid team led by returning quarterback Jake Waters and wide receiver Tyler Lockett. Lockett is one of the best in the country at his craft. He is poised to break almost every receiving record at Kansas State with a good year. Last season, he recorded 81 catches, 1,262 yards and 11 TDs. Waters also has a target in senior wide receiver Curry Sexton.
On defense, the Wildcats are returning star defensive end Ryan Mueller, who recorded 11.5 sacks last season. Four other starts are returning along with Mueller.
The Wildcats need everything to fall in place if they want to win the conference. They must beat Auburn early in the season and gain the confidence. They have difficult games at Oklahoma and at Baylor. If they beat these two powerhouses, they have a great shot at winning the conference.
Kansas: Can Montell Cozart And Transfer Nick Harwell Lead The Team To A 5-Plus Win Season?
Cozart was named the starter quickly after the spring game, which should be a big confidence boost for him. With the backing of the coach, Cozart should have more confidence and not be hard on himself with one bad play or mistake. Charlie Weis was brought in to revitalize the Kansas Jayhawks. So far he hasn’t been able to do that.
Cozart is only a sophomore this season and still has a lot to learn. He is labeled as a dual-threat quarterback who can help himself get out of jams by running, but he’s much more than that.
“I don’t want to rely on running,” Cozart told the Kansas City Star, “but I don’t mind running.”
When he isn’t running, Cozart has a strong target in Nick Harwell. In three seasons at Miami of Ohio, Harwell had 3,166 yards and 23 TDs. He can be a huge threat if Cozart can stay calm and get him the ball.
Weis said accuracy was never an issue in practice for Cozart, only when the pressure is on. If Cozart can relax and let things develop without trying to force them, Kansas will have a great season.
Iowa State: Can Mark Mangino Jumpstart Iowa State’s Anemic Offense?
Mark Mangino won National Coach of the Year honors in 2007 after leading the Kansas Jayhawks to a 12-1 record. He also won Big 12 Coach of the Year. Mangino was offensive coordinator at Oklahoma in 2000 when they won a national championship over Florida State. He has an impressive resume and Iowa State hopes he can bring his skills to the anemic Cyclones offense.
The Cyclones have named Sam Richardson as the starter this season. He beat out sophomore Grant Rohach. Richardson will have Quentin Bundrage out wide and Aaron Wimberly in the backfield. Bundrage had 676 yards and nine TDs last season. Wimberly carried for 567 yards. Both players need to up their stats and, hopefully, with a healthy QB, they will be able to.
Iowa State is on the upswing, and will have more wins this season. It will take a few years, but with Mangino as coordinator, it will only get better.
TCU: Will The Horned Frogs get back into a bowl game after falling short last season?
TCU missed a bowl game last season for the first time in eight years. They don’t want to repeat that feat, and Gary Patterson is making sure they don’t. TCU has always had a solid defense and that won’t change in 2014. Last season the Horned Frog’s defense allowed 25.3 points per game. That number seems high, but with nine games against offensive powers in the Big 12, it’s not as bad as it may seem. They do need to lower that number next season, as they only averaged 25.1 points on offense.
They are still looking for a starting quarterback, but they have some weapons in Trevone Boykin and Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel. Joeckel should win the spot with his experience in the newly-instituted spread offense. That can move Trevone Boykin to wide receiver. Boykin played both WR and QB last season. He could be a strong weapon if the team is confident in the starting quarterback.
TCU had an off year last season, but it will be back in 2014. The Horned Frogs won’t make the playoffs, and will end up in the middle of the Big 12, but they will make a bowl game and gain some much-needed confidence.