And just like that, the 2020 college football season has come and gone. With just the conference championship and bowl games left we’ve decided to wrap up our football roundtable discussions with this finale. Three of us got together to share opinions on Big 12 Players of the Year, coaches on the hot seat, conference championship predictions and more. Make sure to join in on the conversation by posting your responses in the comments section below.
Topic #1: As the season winds down, give us the name of the Big 12 head coach you most suspect won’t be there next season and why.
Craig: Now that Tom Herman appears to be safe at Texas, I think you have to look at Matt Wells at Texas Tech. Nobody expected the Red Raiders to be competing for a Big 12 championship, but Wells can’t seem to even put out a team that can compete on the field. They’ve won just 8 games during his two years in Lubbock. The grass isn’t always greener, but it might be worth a try for Texas Tech.
Matt: Mike Gundy and Tom Herman are the most talked about names in terms of coaches on the hot seat. Herman has secured at least one more year in Austin and I’m pretty confident that Gundy is on mostly secure ground in Stillwater as well. I don’t believe Matt Campbell is going to leave Iowa State unless something opens up in Columbus, Ohio. So that leaves us the other Matt…the one out in west Texas.
There’s a lot of murmuring going on that boosters are extremely unhappy with Matt Wells, saying that he’s in over his head and they can tell after two seasons that it isn’t a fit. There’s even a movement among some to hire Art Briles in an effort to get the Red Raiders back to where they were when Mike Leach had them take a run at the BCS. Ahhh, Mike Leach. Remember when Texas Tech thought they could do better?
Zack: I don’t think anybody is in particular danger, at least since Tom Herman appears to be returning, according to the Texas AD. If I have to pick somebody, though, I’ll go with Texas Tech’s Matt Wells. The Red Raiders have been bad in his two years, particularly in conference play, and they could decide to go another direction in a hurry.
Topic #2: Make the argument for your Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year.
Craig: I think there are several names that you could throw into the mix here. However, no one has quite the resume as Breece Hall. He leads the Big 12 in both rushing yards and scoring. The sophomore has had a huge year and is one of the key components to the success the Cyclones have seen this season.
Matt: If it was going to be anyone other than Breece Hall then you’d have to look at his quarterback, Brock Purdy. That said, it’s no one other than Breece Hall.
Zack: Breece Hall. The sophomore running back for Iowa State is this season’s version of Chuba Hubbard from last year. Hall came into the season with solid expectations, but he’s blown everybody away, myself included.
Topic #3: Make the argument for your Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Craig: I am going with Isaiah Thomas from Oklahoma. The Sooners made some major improvements on defense this year and Isaiah Thomas was a big part of that. He leads the Big 12 in sacks and is third in fumble recoveries.
Matt: Here’s a crazy stat – With the final week awards yet to be announced, there has not been a single player repeat as Defensive Player of the Week in the Big 12 this season. Every other category (offense, special teams, newcomer) had at least one player repeat the award, including Breece Hall who won the Offensive player of the Week three different times.
So, where does that leave us in selecting the Defensive Player of the Year? Well…I think you have to look at two factors. First, who had the best defense in the conference? Second, who was the most consistent player on that defense?
Oklahoma clearly was the best defense. The Sooners held opponents to the fewest rushing yards per game (88), second fewest yards per game (322.3), tied for second in interceptions (10), and led the Big 12 in sacks (33). That’s why I have to go with Isaiah Thomas who has been an absolute monster along the Sooner defensive line, finishing the season with 8 sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss, and 7 quarterback hurries. Oh yeah, he also had two pass breakups and two fumble recoveries as well.
Zack: Call me a homer, but I’m taking Oklahoma State linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga. He’s top 4 in the conference in tackles per game and fumbles forced and recovered, and he’s an all-around playmaker.
Topic #4: Which conference team has set themselves up for a Playoff run in 2021 and which team, not named Kansas, has the most to be concerned about in 2021?
Craig: There is only one correct answer here, and it’s the Sooners. Oklahoma put out a fairly young and inexperienced team on the field this season. They had some rough patches early on, but quickly developed into one of the most dangerous teams in the country. Just about everyone will be returning next year, and I think they will have a chance to win it all.
I am most worried about Texas Tech for next season. They need improvements at just about every position. It will be very hard to get ahead on recruiting without confirming whether or not Matt Wells will be returning as the head coach. No athlete wants to commit to a school that has a question mark surrounding the coaching staff.
Matt: Alright, you got me, this was a setup question. It’s Oklahoma and it isn’t even close. Despite what some talking heads are saying, I don’t believe the Sooners are a playoff team in 2020. However, I do believe that 2021 will be a major disappointment if they don’t make a strong playoff push, based on the experience this talented but young team is gaining right now.
As for concern, there are so many options here. Charlie Brewer hit the transfer portal so things could easily remain rocky in Waco, Texas. If Tom Herman is viewed as a “lame duck” head coach then that situation could really blow up worse than it already has. Mike Gundy is losing his top running back and receiver and the Cowboys are desperate for offensive linemen. That’s just to name a few.
The team that has the most to be concerned about in 2021 though has to be Texas Tech though. If Matt Wells isn’t replaced in the offseason then he’ll enter next fall under a cloud of suspicion. If he is replaced then a new staff will be hitting the reset button on the program for the second time in three seasons and who knows what that’ll mean for the transfer portal.
Zack: As far as setting up for a playoff run next season, I have to go with Oklahoma. They were so young this season, particularly at skill positions on offense, and as the defense improved through the season, the Sooners really found their groove. Give them another year of experience next season, and that’s enough for me.
I’m the most concerned about Baylor next season. They’ve had so many issues with covid this season, and I think that’s kind of a metaphor for how they run their football program. It could be another rough one for the Bears next year.
Topic#5: Big 12 championship predictions. Who wins and why?
Craig: Earlier this week I would have picked the Sooners to win without any doubts. However, with another game canceled due to COVID, the Sooners will be heading into this matchup having only played once in the last month. The lack of in-game reps will certainly hurt Oklahoma. That being said, I believe they will pull out the victory due to their experience in Big 12 championships. This will be the first rodeo for Iowa State, and just another year for Oklahoma.
Matt: Here’s what I know, this game is going to be a ton of fun. Both teams have improved since they last met in on October 3rd, and both may have a little rust to shake off. In my opinion this game comes down to pressure. Who is under the most pressure?
There’s most likely not a College Football Playoff spot on the line here so neither squad is going to feel that weight. However, Iowa State comes in as the top seed with the task of defeating a team twice in the same season. That team, by the way, is gunning for a sixth consecutive conference title and has made playing for the conference championship an end of the season ritual. This is Iowa State’s first experience in the conference championship and despite winning the regular season matchup they are a 6-point underdog. That’s a lot of pressure so I’ll take the Sooners in a close one.
Zack: I feel like the easy answer is “The Sooners because they’re the Sooners.” This game is going to be exponentially more fun than the first matchup because Oklahoma is so much better than they were at the beginning of the season, and Iowa State has been so solid all season long.
Follow us on Twitter: @SportsHeartland