In this week's Big 12 roundtable, we delve deeper into Charlie Strong's second year at Texas, Samaje Perine's second season at Oklahoma, and what unit is flying too far under the radar this preseason:
What offense or defense is being overlooked right now?
Brandon Chatmon: Texas Tech’s offense isn’t getting the attention it should get. Largely because that unit spent a lot of time shooting itself in the foot with 61 turnovers during Kliff Kingsbury’s first two seasons, tied with West Virginia for last in the Big 12. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the Red Raiders field the best offense in the Big 12. With Patrick Mahomes (or Davis Webb), a backfield full of talented running backs and plenty of speed and playmaking at receiver, Kingsbury’s offense could be balanced, explosive and consistent if it learns to value the ball. Few people bring up the Red Raiders when talking about the conference’s top offense in 2015 but that might change very quickly once September arrives.
Olson: The offenses at Texas Tech and West Virginia stand out to me. If the Red Raiders get steady play at quarterback they'll have all the weapons needed to light people up. And I think the Mountaineers are easy to underestimate, but Skyler Howard can sling it, he has two great backs and a quality line. As soon as Ka'Raun White, Jovon Durante and Gary Jennings get it all figured out at receiver, they're going to be a real threat in this league.
Trotter: How about the K-State defense? With the trio of Morgan Burns, Danzel McDaniel and Dante Barnett, the Wildcats should feature one of the best secondaries in the league. They have a rising star at linebacker in Elijah Lee. And they quietly could be very strong up front. I have questions about a completely revamped offense. But I think Bill Snyder's bunch will be for real again on the defensive side.
With the change of offense in Norman, will Perine surpass his freshman numbers?
Chatmon: I fully expect Perine to be a better player as a sophomore. I also fully expect his 2015 numbers to fall short of the 1,713 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns he put up during his debut season. Perine will continue to be one of the conference’s top running backs and a centerpiece in the offense, but the addition of Joe Mixon and search for a balanced offensive attack will prove too much to overcome.
Olson: Well said, Brandon. Perine will be more consistent as a sophomore, as will his role, but I can't see him topping 1,700 rushing yards again without a bunch of 200-yard performances. I don't worry about Lincoln Riley underutilizing Perine, but I do think this offense will be diverse enough that Perine won't have to have many 30-carry days this fall.
Trotter: The combination of Mixon and the new offense suggests he'll fall short of 1,700 yards. Perine is one of the best running backs in the country. But the Sooners will have several options offensively, unlike the end of last year, when Perine was all they had. With Sterling Shepard, Dede Westbrook and Mixon, OU should be more balanced offensively, which figures to mean fewer touches per game for Perine.
Will Strong’s Texas squad win at least eight games in his second season?
Chatmon: I think the Longhorns will be improved in Strong’s second year in Austin but will come up a win short in a 7-5 regular season campaign. A much-improved Tyrone Swoopes could change the equation, but I’ll believe it when I see it. The Longhorns may be better and more explosive offensively and the young defense will be better than people think, but the overall depth of the Big 12 will be too much to get to eight victories.
Olson: I've been on the record this summer as saying 7-5 and I'll stand by that, so the Horns would need to win their bowl game to hit eight. If they can find a way to upset Notre Dame on the road, then eight seems more than fair. I think it's going to come down to whether Texas can split its games against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Trotter: Texas fans are mad at me right now, but I've said and written many times that, in my opinion, Strong has the Longhorns on the right track. That said, until the Longhorns prove they are markedly better at quarterback, I don't see eight wins in the equation. Especially not with a brutal schedule that begins in South Bend.