TCU coach Gary Patterson and Baylor's Art Briles know a way for their teams and the Big 12 Conference to avoid being left out of the College Football Playoff again — go 12-0.
"Our key is to control our own destiny, and the best way to do that is to try to win them all," Patterson said. "That's what we're going to try to get done. Then we'll see how everything else falls."
The Horned Frogs might pull that off with record-setting senior quarterback Trevone Boykin, an early Heisman Trophy front-runner. The Big 12's top offensive player is among 10 returning starters after the Frogs averaged 47 points and 533 total yards in their new spread-out offense last year.
Baylor, the only team to beat TCU last season, returns 1,000-yard receivers Corey Coleman and KD Cannon, along with a 410-pound tight end who caught a TD in the Cotton Bowl. But two-year starting quarterback Bryce Petty is now with the New York Jets.
"If we'd have gone 12-0, there's no doubt," Briles said about last season's playoff. "If we line up and we win 12 games this year, we're going to be in the final four. I think you can put that in ink."
A week after overcoming a 21-point deficit in the final 11 minutes for that wild 61-58 home win over TCU, the Bears lost at West Virginia.
Big 12 co-champs Baylor and TCU were the first teams in the final playoff standings behind Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State — all who won conference championship games.
Just one team could go undefeated in the Big 12, the only of the five power conferences with a round-robin schedule and no championship game.
TCU and Baylor play the Friday after Thanksgiving, not the second Saturday in October like last season. That will be the Frogs' regular season finale, while the Bears will still have left a home game against Texas.
"Some of you, I know, have Nov. 27 circled ... but I can assure you there will be a lot of great games between now and then," said Bob Bowlsby, the league's commissioner. "We don't want to just be in the playoff. I think our league has always been about aspiring to win national championships."
Texas won the league's last national title 10 seasons ago, and Oklahoma was the champion in 2000.
Some things to watch in the Big 12 this season:
SOONER SETUP?: The last of Oklahoma's eight Big 12 titles was in 2012 — making this the first time in coach Bob Stoops' 17 seasons that the Sooners have gone consecutive years without a conference championship. Three of their four league losses last year were by a combined eight points. Take care of things early this season, and the Sooners could be set up for a run at a ninth title in November, when they play Baylor and TCU in consecutive games.
CAPTAIN DANTE: Senior safety Dante Barnett is Kansas State's most experienced defender, with 28 career starts. "He has made consistent, confident growth throughout his time," coach Bill Snyder said. "With that confidence comes the leadership he has been able to provide."
COWBOYS COMEBACK: Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy feels like the momentum is carrying over from how the Cowboys ended last season. They rallied in the final 5 minutes of regulation for an overtime victory at Oklahoma just to get bowl eligible after a five-game losing streak, then won the Cactus Bowl.
SINCE GOOD STARTS: Iowa State and Texas Tech have had struggles since good starts under their coaches. The Cyclones were 2-10 without a Big 12 win last season, and their last winning record was 7-6 in 2009, coach Paul Rhoads' first season. Texas Tech is 5-13 since starting 7-0 in coach Kliff Kingsbury's debut in 2013.
EXTRA POINTS: Texas will get tested before Big 12 play in its second season under coach Charlie Strong, with non-conference tilts against Notre Dame and California. ... West Virginia junior kicker Josh Lambert broke an NCAA record last season with 16 field goals of at least 40 yards. ... The league's only new head coach is David Beaty at Kansas, where he twice previously was an assistant. The Jayhawks were 4-48 in Big 12 games the past six seasons.
Predicted order of finish: TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas, West Virginia, Texas Tech, Iowa State, Kansas.
Follow Stephen Hawkins on Twitter at http://twitter.com/hawkaptexas