DALLAS – There aren’t too many places where you can find a horned frog, a bear, a mountaineer and a wildcat with human arms.
All of these creatures and several more were on hand Monday morning at the Omni Hotel in downtown Dallas for the first day of Big 12 Football Media Days.
The league’s 10 members: TCU, Texas Tech, Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, West Virginia and Iowa State, are taking over one of the biggest hotels in Dallas this week as they prepare for the 2013 football season.
TCU, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Kansas and Texas Tech were on hand Monday’s first day. The other five schools’ media sessions will be Tuesday.
The media members voted Oklahoma State as this year’s favorite to win the conference. It is the first time the Cowboys have been picked to win the conference and it’s also the first time in 15 years that Oklahoma nor Texas were picked to win.
“I think it’s a tribute to the players that have been before this group, the young men that are on our team now, and the ones in the future. They’ve got a lot to look forward to,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said about his team’s predicted first place finish. “I know that it won’t have any effect on our season, but I do think it means a lot to Oklahoma State that people feel comfortable in saying that we’re good enough to have the opportunity to win a conference championship.”
Kansas State won the Big 12 last season, but is only picked to finish sixth this season after graduating its quarterback and seven defensive starters. But this is a familiar position because the Wildcats were picked to be sixth last year before winning 11 games.
I think I said last year that, if I were given the opportunity, I would have picked us 99th,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. “As I look at it this year right now where we stand, I’d probably echo the same thought. Our program is no different than any other in that the dynamics of the program change year in and year out regardless of how many you do or do not have returning.”
TCU is preparing for its second season in the Big 12 and is picked to finish third in the conference. The Horned Frogs did receive the second-most number of first place votes, nine.
The Horned Frogs were successful in 2012 despite playing 16 true freshmen and TCU had the best defense in the typically-offensive dominated Big 12.
“Whether it’s at TCU or anywhere else, you can score points, but you’ve got to be able to play defense,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “So all of us as a league, we’ve got to learn how we keep making ourselves better to do that. There’s a couple of ways, scheme-wise, and keep recruiting better players. The better players we have, the better we’ll be able to do that.”
Texas Tech turned heads this offseason by hiring alum Kliff Kingsbury as its new head coach. Kingsbury was the starting quarterback for the Red Raiders from 2000-2002.
“The heights coach (Mike) Leach took that program when I played there, is hard to repeat. That’s something that had never been done out there,” Kingsbury said. “But we’re excited about our group. Last year they were 8-5 and definitely have lots of room for improvement. It’s not like we’re coming to a program that’s broken. We’re just coming in trying to put our spin on it.”
Tech is picked to finish seventh in the 10-team conference.
Kansas didn’t win a conference game last year and is picked to finish last in the Big 12 again this year.
Texas Tech and TCU face off Sept. 12 in Lubbock at 6 p.m. on ESPN.