Before the season started, I wrote up a general question for the season for each team. 14 weeks worth of questions later, we can finally answer those questions. Burning Questions will return next week, with a bowl edition for Big 12 teams playing in the postseason. An offseason edition will come throughout the offseason, with the first coming right after the national championship.
10. CAN KANSAS WIN A GAME THIS SEASON?
It took some work, but the Jayhawks found a way to win not just one, but two games, including their first in the Big 12 in two years. It was a very tough season for Kansas. A revolving door of quarterbacks, struggling offensive line, and undisciplined, young defense resulted in some serious growing pains, despite a few very talented players becoming stars. Maybe next year this won’t have to be a serious question around the Kansas program.
9. HOW WILL MATT CAMPBELL DO IN HIS FIRST YEAR AT IOWA STATE?
It was a rough start, but Iowa State looked promising at the end of their season, winning 2 of their last 3 games. Joel Lanning and Jacob Park battled at quarterback all year, and Park is now ready to be the guy in Ames next year, as he seemed to win the battle late this season. Matt Campbell brought a new style, a new mindset, a new everything into the Iowa State program, and it’s reasonable to expect a couple more bowlless seasons before Iowa State reaches the upper echelon of the conference.
8. CAN BILL SNYDER WORK HIS MAGIC AGAIN?
This one is a pretty resounding yes. The defense was solid as I expected, but Snyder’s magic really came in the running game. Despite breaking in 4 brand new offensive line starters, the Wildcats’ running game evolved into one of the best in the country as the season progressed. That can be largely attributed to Jesse Ertz. Ertz developed rapidly as a runner this season, and became a serious threat with the ball as the season progressed. I had the bar set at 5 wins for Kansas State and they completely smashed that.
7. CAN TEXAS TECH’S DEFENSE STOP ANYONE THIS YEAR?
No, they could not. The Red Raiders fielded the worst defense in the country and paired it with the best passing attack in the country, which, in my professional opinion, seems counter-productive. The lack of a defense cost Texas Tech quite a few games, as they missed bowl eligibility, and heated Kliff Kingsbury seat quite a bit. The defense has been a problem at Texas Tech since the Mike Leach era, and I don’t expect it to make the improvements needed for this program to reach its potential.
6. CAN DANA HOLGORSEN PUT TOGETHER A GOOD YEAR AND KEEP HIS JOB?
Another resounding yes. I said he needed 9 wins to keep his job, he got 10, and a five-year extension. West Virginia, despite missing on a few big games, was one of the best teams in the conference this year. Skyler Howard was solid all year, and halfbacks continued to step up to fill in for injuries. The defense was solid as well, and now the Mountaineers have the chance to win their 11th game in a few weeks against Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
5. CAN TEXAS SHOW IMPROVEMENT THIS YEAR?
No, they could not. I predicted that Charlie Strong needed 8 wins to keep his job, he got 5, and now Tom Herman is the man in Austin. I like Charlie Strong as a coach, and think that the failure in Austin was less of him not being a god coach, and more of just an incompatible idea of what the team should look like. I think he should have gotten a few more years, but I’m not a wealthy, impatient booster, so it isn’t my choice.
4. CAN BAYLOR DO SOMETHING POSITIVE IN THE NEXT YEAR?
In the fallout of mass controversy and scandal, Baylor came into the year at a disadvantage. It was widely expected that Baylor would still find success this season despite their personnel losses. And that was true, for 6 games. Then the Bears started to play good teams, fell apart, and dropped their last 6. The Bears went from playoff talk to Cactus bowl in 2 months, so I don’t think I can really consider this season as being positive.
3. CAN OKLAHOMA STATE CARRY OVER THE SUCCESS THEY HAD LAST SEASON?
They had a shaky start, with losses to Central Michigan and Baylor, but Oklahoma State eventually hit their stride before losing to Oklahoma in the final week of the year. The regular season record is down one from last year, but a win over Colorado would put Oklahoma State at the same mark they hit last year. Mason Rudolph, Chris Carson, and Justice Hill all stepped up as the season progressed, and helped immensely in reaching that level of success we saw last season.
2. WILL TCU BE ABLE TO REPLACE LOST STARS?
No, they absolutely couldn’t. Kenny Hill struggled all season, Kyle Hicks was solid but never great, and no wide receivers filled the Josh Doctson role. The defense took a step back as well, and the 2016 campaign was a very disappointing one in Fort Worth. Despite these shortcomings, the Horned Frogs are still bowl bound, and they have a chance at reaching a winning record in a few weeks against Georgia.
1. CAN OKLAHOMA RETURN TO THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF THIS YEAR?
Oklahoma did exactly what I expected them to do. The only problem is that they did it twice, once to a team that turned out to not be all that good, and once to a playoff team. Of course, I’m referencing the two losses Oklahoma suffered early in the year. If they had just lost 1 of those 2, they would likely be in the playoffs today, instead of a team like Washington, assuming the win came over Houston and not Ohio State. Losses, when they happened, came because of defensive struggles, which isn’t surprising with all the departures they had. The defense improved as the year progressed, and Oklahoma has a chance to show out on a national stage in the Sugar Bowl against a pretty average Auburn team.