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ISU Sophomore Kassi Ginther races to beat UNI Junior Sydney Hayden to the ball at the ISU vs UNI game this Sunday. ISU lost 0-1.

The Big 12 teams have completed their non-conference slate and now it’s time for conference play this weekend. The first games between Big 12 teams begin on Friday night.

The Big 12 is one of the premiere conferences in NCAA women’s soccer and four teams are ranked in the top 25 with one team receiving to votes to be ranked.

From top to bottom the Big 12 features tough, highly-touted and battle-tested teams with something to prove on each night.

“The Big 12 is fast, physical, there’s a lot of quality players,” said Iowa State coach Tony Minatta. “It’s so close with every team that you can’t take any game off.”

Texas Longhorns

Head Coach: Angela Kelly, 7th season

Record: 8-0-1 (.944)

Nationally ranked: No. 11

Big 12 media poll prediction: Tied for 3rd

Strength of the team:

So far this season, the Longhorns have scored at least two goals in all but one of their games this season. The Longhorns average 2.71 goals per game, which also ranks in the top-20 in the country. One of the factors that has made their offensive attack so potent has been their passing. The Longhorns average 2.43 assists a game, which also ranks in the top-20 in the country. The Longhorns certainly have the offensive firepower to win the Big 12 Championship.

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Freshman Courtney Powell lines up for a shot against UNI goalkeeper Jami Reichenberger. ISU lost 0-1.

Biggest concern:

Can Texas beat quality teams on the road?

The Longhorns lone road win was their first game of the season against Rice who are 2-4 this season. The other road game Texas played this season resulted in a tie against the North Carolina Tar Heels who are currently ranked sixth in the country.

Texas will soon find out if it can beat quality opponents on the road, as four of its first five games in Big 12 play are on the road. Three of those teams were picked to finish in the top-five in the Big 12 this season.

Oklahoma State Cowgirls

Head Coach: Colin Carmichael, 14th season

Record: 8-1 (.889)

Nationally ranked: No. 15

Big 12 media poll prediction: 2nd

Strength of the team:

Excluding its 2-1 loss against Illinois, the Oklahoma State Cowgirls have looked phenomenal at times, especially on the defensive end. In their match ups this season, the Cowgirls have only allowed five goals, and have held their opponents to a 5 percent shooting percentage and 34.7 percent shot on goal percentage. The Cowgirls' defense is good enough that they may be able to win the Big 12 Championship because of it.

To go along with a strong defense, the Cowgirls possess a good offense that averages 2.22 goals per game. However, the Cowgirls’ defense remains the strength of the team.

Biggest concern:

Can the Cowgirls score enough goal against the stout defenses of the Big 12?

The Cowgirls’ defense should be able to win or at least keep itself in most of their games this season, but the difference maker for the Cowgirls is how often their offense can score against teams with great defenses like Kansas, Kansas State, TCU and Texas Tech.

Three of those teams are in the top-20 in the country in goals allowed per game. The Cowgirls have played against some good opponents like San Francisco, Illinois, Missouri-Kansas City and California. None of those teams have an elite defense like the ones in the Big 12.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

Head Coach: Tom Stone, 12th season

Record: 8-1 (.889)

Nationally ranked: No. 22

Big 12 Media Poll prediction: 6th

Strength of the team:

After finishing last season with nine wins, the Red Raiders have almost matched that total already because their defense has pitched six shutouts and haven’t allowed more than one goal in a game. This includes a shutout against Pepperdine, who was ranked 18th at the time. The Red Raiders' defense ranks in the top 25 in the country in goals against average and shutout percentage.

Biggest concern:

Can they beat great opponents?

Texas Tech did beat the nationally ranked Pepperdine Waves in the opening weekend of the season, but the Waves have fallen to 4-5 on the season. The Red Raiders have only beaten three teams this season with a winning record.

In total, those teams are combined four games above .500, and the best team the Red Raiders have beaten is Cal State Northridge who is 5-3-1 on the season. Six of the nine other teams in the Big 12 are a combined 33 games above .500.

TCU Horned Frogs

Head Coach: Eric Bell, 7th season

Record: 7-1-1 (.833)

Nationally Ranked: Not ranked (received some votes)

Big 12 Media Poll prediction: 5th

Strength of the team:

Like the Cowgirls and Red Raiders, the TCU Horned Frogs have been stout defensively this season. The Horned Frogs have only given six goals in nine games this season, three of those coming against sixth-ranked Santa Clara.

The Horned Frogs have notched quality wins this season over Pittsburgh, Missouri and Butler. TCU is in the top 10 in the country in goals-against average and shutout percentage.

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ISU Redshirt Senior Brooke Tasker, goes for the head while surrounded by UNI players at the ISU vs UNI game this Sunday. ISU lost 0-1.

Biggest concern:

Can TCU perform consistently against top teams?

TCU is 1-2 against teams that are currently in the top 25 or receiving votes to be in the top 25. This doesn’t bode well for the Horned Frogs if they want to be Big 12 champions. 

TCU will play one top 25 team at home, that team being the Texas Longhorns. The Horned Frogs will travel to face the other three Big 12 teams in the top 25.

Kansas Jayhawks

Head Coach: Mark Francis, 20th season

Record: 6-1-2 (.778)

Nationally Ranked: No. 24

Big 12 Media Poll prediction: 7th

Strength of the team:

They know how to win close games. The Jayhawks are 4-0-1 in games decided by one goal, including two wins over ranked opponents. One of the contributing factors to the Jayhawks good record is their ability to get defensive stops. So far this season the Jayhawks have only allowed seven goals in nine games.

With so many high-quality teams in the Big 12, there are going to be a lot of close games. Because of the Jayhawks ability to win a close game, they are a team to look out for in the Big 12.

Biggest concern:

Can the offense score enough goals?

Six of the Jayhawks' 14 goals came against the South Dakota Jackrabbits and the Oregon State. Although the Jayhawks played a very tough non-conference schedule, their offensive output wasn’t all that impressive. Some critical games for Jayhawks are whey they face the Texas and Baylor, as both of those teams are the most consistent Big 12 teams offensively thus far. Both of those games are on the road and in late October.

Baylor Bears

Head Coach: Paul Jobson, 6th season

Record: 7-3 (.700)

Nationally ranked: Not ranked

Big 12 Media Poll prediction: tied for 3rd

Strength of the team:

The Bears' offense can be very dangerous at times as they have scored six goals in two match ups this season and have scored a total 24 goals this season. They have knocked off quality opponents such as Butler, Nebraska and Arizona State. The Bears defense is good, but their offense is excellent as they have put 55.6 percent of their shots on goal this season and average 8.40 shots on goal per game, putting them in top 30 in that statistic.

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ISU Midfielder Megan Etrheim and UNI Midfielder Claire Netten race towards a loose ball at the ISU vs UNI game Sunday. ISU lost 0-1.

Biggest concern:

Can Baylor re-capture the late-season magic they had last season?

Coming into the Big 12 tournament last fall, the Bears won their last three of five games and won the Big 12 tournament as a five seed and would go on to reach the NCAA tournament quarterfinals. In all but two of their final five regular-season games and the three Big 12 tournament games, the Bears won by only one goal. The Bears are going to need their offense to dominate the Big 12 tournament once again if they want to repeat as Big 12 champions.

West Virginia Mountaineers

Head Coach: Nikki Izzo-Brown, 23rd season

Record: 4-2-3 (.611)

Nationally ranked: Not ranked

Big 12 Media Poll prediction: 1st

Strength of the team:

West Virginia is a tough team that has already faced some adversity this season. The Mountaineers started off the season 0-1-3 and struggled to get a rhythm going. However, in its last four out of five games, West Virginia has held their opponents to one goal or less and have outscored their opponents 11-3 in that span. The Mountaineers have faced tough opponents including Northwestern, Georgetown and Penn State.

Biggest concern:

Can the offense be consistent?

In the five games that the Mountaineers didn’t win, they were held to a total of three goals. In their four wins, the Mountaineers averaged 2.75 goals per game. Now we know that the Mountaineers will be good defensively as they have three Preseason All-Big 12 team players, but the offense will need to be more consistent for the Mountaineers to stay contenders in the Big 12.

Kansas State Wildcats

Head Coach: Mike Dibbini, 3rd season

Record: 4-3-2 (.556)

Nationally Ranked: Not Ranked

Big 12 Media Poll prediction: 9th

Strength of the team:

After finishing in last place in Big 12 last season, the Kansas State Wildcats look poised for improvement in the Big 12 standings. The Wildcats have consistently shut out their opponents so far as they have held their opponents scoreless six times this season. The Wildcats are 25th in saves percentage at 87.2 percent.

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ISU Freshman Kara Privitera tries to steal the ball away from UNI Senior Morgan Teel at the ISU vs UNI game Sunday. ISU lost 0-1.

Biggest concern:

How much can the offense contribute?

If Kansas State wants to improve their standing in the Big 12 from last season, its offense must step up. So far this season, the Wildcats have only scored 11 goals and were held scoreless for a half game stretch. Despite not being able to convert their scoring opportunities, the Wildcats are putting nearly half of their shots on goal, which is a good sign for them going forward.

Oklahoma Sooners

Head Coach: Matt Potter, 7th season

Record: 4-4-1 (.500)

Nationally Ranked: Not Ranked

Big 12 Media Poll prediction: 8th

Strength of the team:

The offense can be explosive at times. The Sooners have had two games where they have scored more than four goals in a game, one being a four-goal against San Francisco and a seven-goal game against Illinois State. The Sooners have knocked off some good opponents like San Francisco and Utah.

Biggest concern:

Can the defense continue to make key stops?

Oklahoma’s shot on goal percentage is 51.9 percent while its opponents' shot on goal percentage is 50.8 percent. However, when it comes to goals scored per game, the Sooners' average almost one goal more than their opponents. That’s because the Sooners' defense has been able to make critical stops when they needed them the most. With so many great defenses in the Big 12, the Sooners number of goals per game has a chance of dropping, which means that it’ll be on the Sooners' defense to keep Oklahoma in games.

Iowa State Cyclones

Head Coach: Tony Minatta, 5th season

Record: 2-7-1 (.250)

Nationally Ranked: Not Ranked

Big 12 Media Poll prediction: 10th

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Sophomore Kassi Ginther kicks the ball down the field during the game against UNI on Sept. 16. ISU lost 0-1.

Strength of the team:

Don’t let the poor record fool you; Iowa State can give any Big 12 team a run for its money. Last season, the Cyclones played five overtime games in Big 12 play and have already played two overtime games in non-conference play. The Cyclones had a tough non-conference schedule as they have faced five teams who either made the NCAA Tournament last year or won their conference in the regular season. All but one of the opponents the Cyclones have faced this season currently has a record above .500 and the Cyclones have lost four games by only one goal.

Biggest Concern:

Where can Iowa State finish in the Big 12 if they don’t start games off slow?

Slow starts have plagued the Cyclones all season, as they have often had to play from behind. The offense has shown the ability to come back, but for the most part, either the Cyclones haven’t been able to keep that momentum going, or it’s been too little too late. The Cyclones have some great senior leadership. If the Cyclones can get off to good starts and start finding more consistently, then they can surprise some teams in the Big 12.

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