Bold Big 12 predictions for the 2016 season

Patrick Mahomes passed for 4,653 yards and 36 touchdowns last season. Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY Sports

It's finally game week. It's also finally time for our annual bold Big 12 predictions.


1. Texas will beat Notre Dame.

No tiptoeing into this season. I’m ready start with a bang or go down in flames in Kickoff Week. Really, though, I like the Longhorns at home to prove just how far they’ve progressed since that five-touchdown loss in the opener a year ago at Notre Dame. UT is much better up front offensively and full of promising youth on defense. Its quarterback tandem will start well, while the Fighting Irish duo will only serve to disjoint Notre Dame further after a turbulent August.

2. Bill Snyder will retire again.

This time, it’s for good. In the days after his 77th birthday, the legendary Kansas State coach will announce plans to step down at the close of the 2016 season and endorse his son Sean to take over. The elder Snyder will finish his 25th season -- and it will be a good one in Manhattan as the Wildcats play inspired football in the wake of the midseason news. K-State will come close in Week 7 at Oklahoma, then beat Texas at home, Snyder’s seventh win in 11 games against the Longhorns.

3. Mason Rudolph will be the league’s best quarterback in September.

Don’t pencil him in as the All-Big 12 quarterback; Oklahoma State, as in 2015, may hit a rough patch in November. But the first month of the season will give the junior quarterback an opportunity to thrive and to stand out among a great class of league QBs. Rudolph, with a revamped running game to complement his play, will carry momentum from a big effort against Pitt into Baylor, leading OSU to a shootout win in the league opener for both teams.


1. Baylor’s next coach is Sonny Dykes.

I just think this makes too much sense. Baylor wants to remain an offensive powerhouse. Dykes can keep that going. He’s a native Texan who’s probably ready to come home. He’s no stranger to high school coaches in this state and would recruit well in Waco. New Baylor AD Mack Rhoades interviewed Dykes for both the Houston and Missouri jobs. I’m sure Baylor will also make a run at SMU’s Chad Morris, but Dykes is the right fit at the right time.

2. A Big 12 QB is a Heisman Trophy finalist.

I think five of them will be in contention at various points this season: Baker Mayfield, Patrick Mahomes, Seth Russell, Mason Rudolph and Kenny Hill. Yes, the artist formerly known as Trill will receive some Heisman buzz again. In the end, I think Mahomes might have the best shot at earning the ticket to New York, on the merit of his unreal stats and highlights, but Mayfield could easily be that guy, too. He should’ve been there in 2015.

3. TCU beats Oklahoma in the Big 12 game of the year.

I’ve declared that I do believe TCU will win the Big 12, and you can’t reach that conclusion without believing TCU will find a way to knock off the Sooners on Oct. 1. The Horned Frogs are playing this game at home, came so close to upsetting OU in Norman a year ago and will have the superior defense. The Sooners might already have a loss at this point, too. The team that wins this game takes control of the Big 12 title race, and that team will be TCU.


1. Patrick Mahomes leads the nation in passing

Last year, Tech's electric quarterback passed for 4,653 yards, the most by any Big 12 QB since 2011. Mahomes also did that in his first season as a full-time starter, playing on a bum knee for much of the year. He has since given up baseball to focus on his passing motion. He's healthy again. And he'll have a deep corps of receivers at his disposal. Oh, and the three QBs who out-passed him last year (Western Kentucky's Brandon Doughty, Bowling Green's Matt Johnson and Cal's Jared Goff) are gone.

2. Oklahoma falls in Lubbock or Ames

First of all, I'm still picking the Sooners to win the Big 12. But I have a feeling one of these road trips will get them along the way. Behind Mahomes and a manageable opening schedule, the Red Raiders could very well be 6-0 when Oklahoma comes to town. Tech historically has played Oklahoma tough in Lubbock, and the Jones will be on fire for the Baker Mayfield Bowl. Less than two weeks later, the Sooners travel to Jack Trice for a November Thursday night game in Ames. The Cyclones could be dangerous offensively. And such a setting has proved treacherous in the past (just ask 2011 Oklahoma State). Much has been made of Oklahoma's brutal September slate. The Sooners, however, will find themselves in trouble in one of these two venues.

3. Justice Hill leads Oklahoma State in rushing

There hasn't been a Big 12 true freshman generating more buzz this preseason than Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill. The Tulsa native actually began turning heads with his physical maturity during summer workouts. He's continued that into the fall with his vision and knack for exploding out of the line of scrimmage. The Cowboys have a couple of veterans in their backfield, as well as a high-profile transfer in Barry J. Sanders. But Hill will win the starting job. And go on to lead the Pokes in rushing.


The Big 12 announces expansion before November.

And adds a pair of schools for the 2017 season.