The end of the college football season in FBS is closing in as we get nearer to the CFP National Championship game this evening.
That makes now a good time to look back and evaluate how each team in the Big 12 fared this season given their expectations going in.
Below are the grades for each Big 12 squad.
What Lincoln Riley has managed to do in his second year at the helm in Norman is easy to undervalue. The Sooners lost probably the best quarterback in school history only to follow up with a second Heisman winner in Kyler Murray and a better offense.
The Sooners weren’t spotless in 2018, of course. The defense was historically bad, and the Sooners were more or less dominated by Alabama. They also lost to rival Texas in a game where they trailed by three scores going into the fourth quarter.
Nonetheless, not many expected Oklahoma to sustain on-the-field success like they did, and for that they deservedly get a high grade on this list.
There was certainly a lot of hype for the Longhorns coming into this season, as they made the Top 25 despite only being a 7-6 team the year previous. Texas would eventually end the regular season ranked higher than when they started, but that campaign had its head-scratching moments.
Losing to Maryland – again – in the opener was one of those, as were inexplicably close games against Tulsa and Kansas. Texas lost two games in a row to Oklahoma State and West Virginia that seemed to have them on the wrong trajectory, but Herman’s team finished well enough to make the Big 12 Championship.
Overall, this was the best season for the Longhorns in a decade, one that ended on an especially high note with a win over No. 5 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Texas met the baseline of expectations for a blue blood in 2018, despite a few blemishes.
Iowa State: A-
The things Matt Campbell continues to do in Ames are flat out amazing. This is a program on an upward trajectory that doesn’t seem like it’s overly dependent on one player, but founded on a solid base of talent.
The Cyclones don’t get a higher grade here, of course, because as good as they were, they really struggled to get going in 2018. They looked like one of the best in the conference when they got things rolling on offense, but Iowa State also just narrowly missed out on a championship berth. Losing a close one to Washington State in the Alamo Bowl was a tough one, too.
But the Cylcones had maybe one of the most emphatic wins of 2018 when they beat West Virginia 38-14 at home. Few predicted that the Cyclones would finish third in the Big 12 standings, but this year they ended up having one of the best season in school history.
There were modest expectations for Matt Rhule in his second year at Baylor, after there was a bit of reset in his first season in Waco. The ceiling for the Bears was thought to be six wins, and it ended up being a feat they managed to achieve the last week of the season by taking out Texas Tech in Arlington.
Baylor won most of their games against opponents who hovered around bowl eligibility this season. The opponents of their four conference wins went 19-29, and they mostly took care of business in their non-conference.
It would be easy to point out that one reason why the Bears should be considered such a success is because the bar was set so low in 2017. Still, under Rhule the program appears to be headed in a positive direction, and improving by six wins on the previous year is impressive nonetheless.
West Virginia: B-
There were high hopes for West Virginia going into September, as many publications thought the Mountaineers might end up in the Big 12 Championship.
And indeed, West Virginia seemed to have the pieces for a championship run at one time, with an offense that was one of the best in the Big 12, and a defense that was above average as well. When the Mountaineers beat Texas in Austin to go to 7-1 on the season, it appeared that they’d punched their ticket.
As good as they were, the Mountaineers ended up producing a less than stellar season. Back-to-back losses to both Big 12 teams from Oklahoma left West Virginia out of the championship, and they finished fourth in the final standings.
Once it was announced that Will Grier wouldn’t play in the Camping World Bowl, moreover, it was going to be difficult for the Mountaineers avoid ending the season on a game three game skid.
Oklahoma State: C+
Despite starting the season as a Top 25 sqaud, the Pokes had difficulties replacing many of the big time stars they lost from 2017.
Oklahoma State proved to be one of the most unpredictable teams in the entire Big 12. They lost to two teams that didn’t make a bowl this year by multiple touchdowns, but beat four Top 25 teams and nearly topped Oklahoma in a 48-47 thriller in Norman.
There was doubt about whether the Pokes would qualify for the postseason, but they were able to get to six wins and have a strong performance in the Liberty Bowl.
This was thought to be a year where the Horned Frogs were in contention for the Big 12 championship once again, but they found themselves fighting to get to .500 at the end of November.
Injuries and experience played a big part in why TCU wasn’t able to meet many of the lofty expectations placed upon them, but this season was a decided disappointment. Losing to Kansas was a low point, but as was losing 47-10 in Morgantown.
Still, the defense was elite once again in spite of the offense’s shortcomings. And the Horned Frogs’ 10-7 Cheez-It Bowl served to end the season on a positive note.
Texas Tech: D+
This ended up being quite an up-and-down season for the Red Raiders, whose preseason questions at quarterback lingered until they appeared to be answered by freshman Alan Bowman.
He helped the Red Raiders upset Houston and Oklahoma State on the road, but the wheels began to come off as injuries piled up at the position. Bowl eligibility seemed to be in the bag for Texas Tech at 5-2 at midseason, but they went winless the rest of the way out.
This season was an undeniable letdown in Lubbock, where a new head coach now resides.
There was a feeling going into last season that 2018 could be David Beaty’s last in Lawrence, but there was a hopeful start to the year: the Jayhawks beat a Power Five team on the road in convincing fashion. They upset TCU to get their first Big 12 win in two years, and were technically still in the hunt for a bowl game in mid-November.
Still, it’s difficult to give a team that went 3-9 a very high grade here. There were actually signs of improvement on a defense that averaged 1.33 turnovers per game, but that was offset by an offense that couldn’t capitalize.
Despite any bright spots, this was still a Kansas team whose coach got fired during the season.
Kansas State: D
Neither of the teams from the Sunflower State were too impressive this season, which turned out to be especially rough in Manhattan.
The Wildcats had moderate expectations for their 2018 campaign, even garnering two first place votes in the Big 12 Preseason Poll. Yet, the team underperformed from the start, edging out FCS South Dakota State 27-24 at home.
When the losses began to pile up, some of them were very not competitive – a 31-10 loss to Mississippi State, a 35-6 drubbing against West Virginia, and a 51-14 rout by Oklahoma. Kansas State did show signs of life by beating Oklahoma State and Texas Tech by a combined score of 52-18.
But the Wildcats just didn’t have it in 2018, and nothing showed that more than losing to Iowa State after being up 38-21 in the fourth quarter. That was the last game Bill Snyder will likely ever coach at Kansas State, and it punctuated a season that was far from impressive.