The Longhorns are poised to take back the top of the conference again

Big 12 preview: Time for Texas

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I will be writing about the Big 12 this season on SportsMap. I welcome all your comments and takes about the conference and college football. I will have my big college football bold predictions article and Heisman trophy preview next week.

Texas is back...on the right track

The Longhorns are poised for success this season. The most success they've had in a long time, in fact. I believe they are the team to beat in the Big 12. Not the Oklahoma Sooners.

Sam Ehlinger is the best quarterback to play for the Longhorns since Colt McCoy. Let that sink in. It has been ten years since Texas entered a season with this much talent and ability at the quarterback spot. Ehlinger is legit. He has a little more Baker Mayfield in him than he'd like to admit. The attitude and mentality, he's tough as nails and not afraid, is something the signal callers of the last decade have lacked. Sure, I could spout off how he was one of the most impressive quarterbacks in the nation statistically, but what you need to know is he can be better and if he is, watch out for the Horns.

The rest of their offense has potential in some areas and plenty of question marks too. A few new starters on the offensive line will be a hurdle Texas has to get over fast with LSU coming up quick on the schedule. I believe in this group of offensive linemen more than previous incarnations. They feel tougher even if they were an average pass blocking group when it comes to sacks and poor when it comes to the rushing game. They need some help and good luck with the running backs. Keaontay Ingram hurt his knee recently leaving Daniel Young and Jordan Whittington as the backs next up. If Ingram gets all the way healthy soon, he has a chance to be special. Collin Johnson is a huge target and could be one of the best college wideouts this season.

On defense, they're one of the deepest teams in the nation in the secondary. Stud safety Caden Sterns hurt his knee recently but should be back in time for to help lead the defense with Brandon Jones. They have to be solid there with so many starters to replace. The front seven is a mix of young talent and players with some experience. Defensive coordinators Todd Orlando and Craig Naivar have a tall task but if they can pull it off Texans should roll through a lot of teams.

Players to watch

​Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb

Oklahoma TE Grant Calcaterra

Lamb will be a first round pick next year. Calaterra made a ton of catches in big moments. They're a freaky duo for Sooners quarterback Jalen Hurts to reach his full passing potential.

TCU WR Jalen Reagor

Impressive stats last year with quarterback play leaving plenty to be desired. If the Frogs get some consistency at quarterback this is potentially a Biletnikoff Award winner.

Texas Tech Safety Adrian Frye

A defensive player from Texas Tech? You're damn right. Five interceptions as a freshman last year and this year with a different defense, hopefully better, and some experience under his belt he will try to repeat his freshman all-american season.

Baylor QB Charlie Brewer

Brewer isn't getting a ton of love ahead of the season, likely considered the fourth or fifth best quarterback in the Big 12, but he might end the season as the most statistically impressive passer. This could be a very top heavy Big 12 group of quarterbacks and Brewer has a chance to stand out among them.

Bold Predictions

The winner of the Red River Rivalry game loses the Big 12 Championship rematch

Baylor is the third best team in the conference

Matt Campbell is coaching his last season with Iowa State

Matt Rhule is coaching his last season with the Baylor Bears

Oklahoma State is the fourth best team in the conference and knocks off multiple ranked opponents

Texas Tech's Alan Bowman throws for the second most yards in the conference, behind Baylor's Charlie Brewer

The state of Kansas only wins two Big 12 games and Les Miles and his Jayhawks win neither of those

The Big 12 produces eight bowl teams

Key Games

Sept. 7 LSU at Texas

This is a game that will determine if the Longhorns will have enough juice to get into the college football playoff. I believe a win here would allow the Longhorns a loss on their schedule and still keep them in the hunt for the national title.

Oct. 12 Red River Rivalry

This is a huge game for both schools. It will matchup likely two top ten teams and would be one of the best wins on anyone's schedule hoping to be in the college football playoff.

Nov. 9 Iowa State at Oklahoma

The Cyclones play in Norman and then host Texas the following week. Splitting those could drastically affect the Big 12 race. Winning both and suddenly the Cyclones have one of the best resumes in the nation. They could very well be a speed bump of the Big 12 elite.

Nov. 29 Texas Tech at Texas

This will be the last game on the Texas schedule before I believe they will play in the Big 12 Championship game. This potentially will be the game that decides if Texas Tech plays in a bowl game or not. The bowl game for the Red Raiders if you will. Not the easiest finish to the schedule.

Nov. 30 Oklahoma at Oklahoma State

Bedlam will always be one of the most important games on the Big 12 schedule. Oklahoma's tough task before a potential Big 12 Championship game. It could be a really nice win for Oklahoma's playoff resume, or a great spoiler victory for the Cowboys.

Projected finish

Texas (Big 12 Championship game winner and best record)

Oklahoma

Baylor

Oklahoma State

Iowa State

Texas Tech

TCU

West Virginia

Kansas State

Kansas

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TEXAS LONGHORNS (9-2)

Last week (0-1): L - Providence 70-48

This week: Monday vs High Point Panthers

The Texas Longhorns' five game-winning came to an unexpected end in a 70-48 defeat to the Providence Friars on Saturday. The Longhorns failed to score 50 points in the loss, as Providence held Texas to 31.7% shooting from the field, and an unpleasant 14.3 % from behind the arc — UT's lowest shooting percentages of the season.

Sophomore guard Courtney Ramey led the way for the Longhorns with 12 points, as Jase Febres added six points in 33 minutes. Following the loss, the Longhorns will return to action on Monday for a home showdown against the High Point Panthers.

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (5-5)

Last week (1-0): W - Oregon State 64-49

This week: Monday vs. Texas Southern

The Texas A&M Aggies won their second consecutive game in a 64-49 victory over the Oregon State Beavers on Saturday. It was Deja VA for the Aggies as it was their second come from behind win after trailing at the half by 11. A&M outscored Oregon State 42-19 in the final 20 minutes while shooting 13-for-27 (48.1%) from the field.

Senior forward Josh Nebo led the Aggies in scoring with 15 points and seven rebounds in the win. With one game on the schedule, the Aggies will look to make it three straight wins on Monday when they take on the Texas Southern Tigers.

Houston Cougars (9-3)

Last week (3-0): W - UTEP 77-57, W - Portland 81-56, W - George Tech 70-59

This week: Wednesday vs. Washington

Following a loss against the OSU Cowboys, the Houston Cougars are currently riding a three-game win streak after a perfect 3-0 week. The Cougars picked up a 20 point victory over the UTEP Miners, a game in which Houston recorded a season-high 11 blocks — with big man Brison Gresham leading the way with a career-best six rejections.

Following the win, the Cougars hit the road to participate in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, where UH opened the tournament with back-to-back wins against Portland (81-56) and George Tech (70-59).

After going scoreless in the win against the Miners, Quentin Grimes has been on fire in Hawaii averaging 22.0 points on 64% shooting from the field. The Cougars will face off against the Washington Huskies for the tournament championship in a Christmas Day showdown.

RICE OWLS (8-4)

Last week (1-0): W - St. Thomas 103-70

This week: Sunday vs. Sam Houston

The Rice Owls took a wire-to-wire 33-point victory over the St. Thomas Celts on Thursday inside the Tudor Fieldhouse in Houston. The Celts allowed 12 of the Owls 15 man roster to score, with Trey Murphy III leading the way with 21 points (8-14 FG, 5-10 3PT), 10 rebounds and a block.

Following the win, the Owls will return to Tudor Fieldhouse for a Sunday showdown against Sam Houston State.

BAYLOR BEARS (9-1)

Last week (1-0): W - Tennessee-Martin 91-63

This week: Monday vs. Jackson State

Following a one-point victory against the Butler Bulldogs, the Baylor Bears won a convincing 91-63 victory over the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks Wednesday night. While leading the Bears to a win, Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell each scored 19 points apiece, while sophomore guard Flo Thamba added 11 off the bench.

Win the win, Baylor has extended their winning streak to eight ahead of their home match against the Jackson State Jaguars on Monday.

TCU HORNED FROGS (8-3)

Last week (0-1): L - Xavier 67-59

This week: Monday vs George Mason

This game was the first meeting between TCU and Xavier since December of 1980, and it took the Musketeers nearly 40 years to seek their revenge.

After winning two games in a row, the Horned Frogs suffered a 67-59 loss to Xavier on Sunday. An enormous portion of TCU's defeat came due to the lack of production off their bench, as the Musketeers' second until outscored TCU 20-5 in bench points.

In addition to the lack of bench production, TCU gave up nine offensive rebounds that converted into 17 second-half points for Xavier. Following the loss, the Horned Frogs will return to action on Monday to face off against the George Mason Patriots.

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (8-3)

Last week: (1-0) W - UTRGV 68-58

This week: Sunday vs. CSU Bakersfield

After a slow start to the game, the Texas Tech Red Raiders capitalized on a 42-point second-half performance to take a 68-58 victory over Texas–Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros on Saturday. With the win, the Red Raiders moved up one spot to No. 23 in the Associated Press Top 25 College Basketball rankings.

Freshman guard Jahmi'us Ramsey led the Red Raiders in scoring with 15 points (6-12 FG, 2-7 3PT), while his backcourt mate Terrence Shannon, Jr added in 14 points (5-9 FG, 4-4 FT) in the win. Following their third straight win in a row, Texas Tech will return to the court on Sunday for a showdown against the CSU Bakersfield.

SMU MUSTANGS (9-2)

Last week (1-1): L - Georgia 87-85, W - Georgia State 85-76

This week: No game schedule

The SMU Mustangs dropped their second consecutive game in an 87-85 double-overtime loss to the Georgia Bulldogs. SMU put up a good fight but was not enough to overcome Georgia's Sahvir Wheeler layup in the final two seconds of the game.

After the loss, the Mustangs bounced back with an 85-76 victory over Georgia State. Feron Hunt and Kendric Davis scored 18 points apiece, as SMU shot 52% from the floor.
With no games on the schedule, the Mustangs will return to the court on Wednesday, Jan. 1st in a conference showdown against USF.

LSU TIGERS (7-4)

Last week (0-2): L - East Tennessee 74-63, L- USC 70-68

This week: Sunday vs Liberty

After heading into their break on a four-game win streak, the LSU Tigers' winning ways came to a halt with a 74-63 loss to the East Tennessee State Buccaneers Wednesday night. In the loss, the Buccaneers won the battle of the board as they outrebounded the Tigers 40-29 and recorded 15 second-chance points.

Following the loss against East Tennessee State, The Tigers suffered a heartbreak 70-68 defeat to the USC Trojans on Saturday. Senior guard, Skylar Mays nearly carried LSU to a victory with a game-high 21 points (6-14 FG, 8-10 FT), to go along with six rebounds, three steals and a block in the loss.

In the midst of a two-game skid, the Tigers will return to the court on Sunday for a match against the Liberty Flames.

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