We are winding down 2018 and with it another football season is almost solidly in the books for the Big 12. As we look ahead into 2019, however, what should teams in this conference be focused on improving?
Below we look at every squad in the conference, and provide some thoughts on what the New Year’s resolution should be for each of those teams.
Matt Rhule’s certainly brought the Bears a long way since last year’s 1-11 start, and there’s no question that there’s still room for improvement in Waco. Heading into 2019, Baylor’s priority will be continuing the rebuild of their program by beating some of the better teams in the Big 12.
The Bears won games where they played either similar or less talented programs, but they failed to knock off anyone in the upper tier of the conference. Do that, and it will show that Rhule’s team is on the fast track.
This season, Iowa State finished strong, but they didn’t start that way. Beginning this season 1-3 put Iowa State in a hole they had to claw themselves out of, and they were able to rebound once the offense found its footing.
Maintaining stability at the quarterback position will enable the Cyclones to continue that success into next year, and they look to have found the signal caller of the future in freshman Brock Purdy. Turning Purdy into a title-level quarterback should be the highest item on Matt Campbell’s list in 2019.
The Jayhawks need to take advantage of a Year Zero for Les Miles. It’s early in Miles’s tenure to forecast the on-the-field results, but there’s no doubt that the new Kansas head coach is laying the foundation for a well-run program in Lawrence.
Expectations should not be very high in this coaching staff’s inaugural season, so getting talented younger players immersed in the new system as soon as possible could pay dividends later on down the line.
Long term, the biggest challenge for new head coach Chris Klieman will be establishing a Wildcats football program that is able to be in the mix for a Big 12 title. In the short term, he’ll have to cement his brand of football in Manhattan.
Getting older players to buy in and take ownership of this team would be a good first step in that regard.
This one’s pretty obvious, right? It would seem so, at least. The Sooners have been to the College Football Playoff two years in a row, yet have failed to win a game in the first round on each trip. Defense has largely been to blame, and for Oklahoma improving that unit has to be the number one priority in 2019.
That project will start with whomever Lincoln Riley decides to hire as his next defensive coordinator. With Kyler Murray off to play professional baseball, getting better defensively will acquire a new urgency in Norman.
The Pokes were the most Jekyll-and-Hyde team of 2018, showing up to play high level football against Oklahoma and Texas, while looking undermanned against sub-.500 squads like Kansas State and Texas Tech.
Mike Gundy’s team will need to develop consistency in the new year, and whoever is at quarterback for the Pokes will be more likely to flourish with an improved offensive line. Getting the guys up front to play better will be a major project in 2019.
The days when Trevone Boykin was throwing passes to Josh Doctson seem almost like it was another lifetime, as TCU had trouble putting up points throughout 2018. The loss of Shawn Robinson to transfer this offseason won’t do anything to help with the Frogs’ offensive improvement, and that’ll be Gary Patterson’s biggest area of concern for next year.
The Horned Frogs need to show that the offense is on an upward trajectory after a season in which TCU almost didn’t make a bowl game because of a lackluster offense. Injuries of course contributed to that, so staying healthy next year will be a big key for TCU.
Tom Herman did well to get the Longhorns to the Sugar Bowl in his second season, but he’ll be losing a lot of seniors from his defense in the offseason. The spring and summer will be critical for Herman in getting younger players ready to compete in the Big 12 next year like they did in 2018.
Bringing along new talent on defense will be an important object in the new year.
The resolution for Texas Tech in 2019 should not so much be for the school as it should be for the new head coach and his staff. Fans are ambivalent about the new hire, but if Matt Wells can showcase his penchant for development in Year One, it’ll be easy to see that Texas Tech is on the right track.
Wells needs to establish his culture in Lubbock, and show fans and recruits alike what they can expect from the Red Raiders under first year head coach.
The Mountaineers need to build up some depth behind all the stars they’re losing from 2019. Will Grier, Gary Jennings, and David Sills were arguably the best trio in the Big 12, but each of those guys is now headed to the pro ranks.
West Virginia is also losing some talented defensive players as well, meaning that next season the Mountaineers are going to need depth on both sides of the ball.