One of the most useful positional conference macro views is returning aggregate OL starts. The OL is the most numerous position on the football field and no positional group rewards experience, skill development, time in a major S&C program and maturation more than the big boys up front.
The Big 12 has a massive deficit of OL experience in 2016 and the teams with a surfeit of experience should realize an advantage vis a vis their peers. Particularly early in the season. Data mined from Phil Steele 2016 College Football preview.
Oklahoma St 101 10
West Virginia 84 26
Texas 49 91
Kansas 47 93
TCU 46 95
Texas Tech 33 112
Oklahoma 32 113
Baylor 27 117
Iowa State 25 120
Kansas St 17 124
I separated out Oklahoma State and West Virginia for obvious reasons. They're the only teams in the Big 12 in the top 20% nationally in aggregate returning OL starts. If you read my Useful Seniority piece, here is its logical companion.
The rest of the league has poor to terrible returning OL experience. No P-5 league is worse off. So while the Longhorns are ranked 3rd in the Big 12, they're still in the bottom quartile nationally. Anyone touting Texas "as having the conference's 3rd most experienced OL!!!" is technically correct....and needs to be kept far away from statistical analysis of any kind.
The most concerning declines in OL experience are Baylor and Oklahoma.
Last year, Baylor's skill players received undue praise. It was their OL that carried them to a ten win season despite a plague of injuries and distractions. It was their OL that saw them amass 645 rushing yards in their bowl game against North Carolina running three plays. They were run blocking savages who operated in concert more beautifully than a Viennese orchestra. They're all gone now and though the replacements are all tenured juniors led by the league's best center in senior Kyle Fuller, there will be a drop off. Given the state of their depth chart behind QB Seth Russell, that's a problem.
Oklahoma is a different story. Like the Texas OL, they're up-and-coming. While I take nothing away from Baker Mayfield's remarkable 2015, we'll see how his extended plays play out with an OL lacking skins on the wall and a year of film to ponder in the offseason. OU's OL has promise, but they'll play their best ball over the back half of the year and in 2017/2018. I expect a healthy dose of Perrine and Mixon until they find their sea legs.
Iowa State has starting skill position talent that ranks in the top half of the league. However, their OL is green and it's their first year in a new system. Early road trips in the first half of the season to Iowa, TCU, Oklahoma State and Texas do them no favors.
Finally, while I hold the Purple Wizard in absolute reverence, 17 cumulative OL starts offers plainer early prospects than a M.I.T bikini calendar shoot. I'd take a hard look at their betting lines in September - both the spread and the under.
My best guess of what this all means for 2016?
1. Injured quarterbacks on the rise
2. A significant competitive advantage for the league's best defenses
3. Rough early season offensive road performances
4. Beware of West Virginia and Oklahoma State early
5. More useful Big 12 under bets than the betting public expects