Getting back into the swing of things, Iâ€™m laying out my thoughts on the Big 12 conference race this season, and a little bit team by team.
1. West Virginia Mountaineers (10-3 Big East Champions, Orange Bowl Champions)
The Big 12 is a wide open offensive league, and its been proven time again (see Oklahoma State last year for example) you can win this league with marginal defense if youâ€™re offense is exceptional.Â The Mountaineers have a coach familiar with the league, talent at all the skill spots, and a quarterback in the mix for the Heisman trophy.Â Everyone else at the top has offensive questions, and for now, West Virginia is the safe pick to win the title.
2. Oklahoma Sooners (10-3, Insight Bowl Champions)
To say its been a turbulent off season at Oklahoma would be putting it mildly. The Sooners have lost four offensive lineman, seen a receiver dressed in drag go viral, suffered suspensions galore, and will likely rely on a true freshman at the WR1 spot.Â That said the Sooners bring back Landry Jones and welcome back defensive boss Mike Stoops. The big thing to me is the Sooners have to go to Morgantown late in the year, and I think that will be the difference in the conference race.Â If the WR’s donâ€™t pan out, Landry Jones has proven he wont be able to get the job done.
3. Texas Longhorns (8-5, Holiday Bowl Champions)
The Longhorns came along way last year with new coordinators and an infusion of young talent, overcoming the play of their QB’s to win the Holiday Bowl.Â 2012 has seen the QB controversy only increase, with the likelihood of Texas playing 3 different QB’s this season coming to light in recent days. On the other side of the ball, Texas has a top 5 defense, maybe the best in the nation, and will trot in an improved offensive line and a stable of RB’s some NFL teams would covet.Â If…and its a big if, the QB play ironed out Texas can easily win this conference, but until thatâ€™s proven, Texas comes up just short against two stellar senior QB’s
4. TCU Horned Frogs (11-2 Mountain West Champions, Poinsettia Bowl Champions)
No other way to say it, it has been a HORRIBLE off-season headed into the Big 12 for TCU.Â The team lost key contributors to arrests for selling drugs, lost lead RB Ed Wesley to off the field concerns, and now has to deal with the revelation of drug abuse by QB Casey Pachall. Gary Patterson is a hell of a coach, and he will have his defense ready to play, but this team isnâ€™t going to beat the conference heavyweights this year.Â Given all the issues, TCU should consider a 4th place finish, 8 wins and a bowl game a very successful entry into the big time.
5. Kansas State Wildcats (10-3, lost Cotton Bowl)
Kansas State slides just under TCU because of a brutal schedule that takes them on the road to Oklahoma, West Virginia, TCU, Baylor, and Iowa State. Collin Klein is a beast who is going to win them a couple of those games on his own, but he lacks the passing ability to truly hang in game in and game out.Â Kansas State won 8 games last year by a TD or less, and thatâ€™s luck that just wont hold up two years in a row.
6. Oklahoma State Cowboys (12-1 Big 12 Champions, Fiesta Bowl Champions)
Everything came together for the Cowboys in 2011, with â€œseniorâ€ QB Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon leading a talented offensive team to a league title and BCS bowl win. Mike Gundy took the unusual step back in the spring and anointed true freshman Wes Lunt as the starter.Â Overall, the Cowboys will still be a team that wins its fair share, but facing defenses like Kansas State, Oklahoma, and Texas bring will prove a bit much for Lunt in year one. The Cowboys are a team who could shock you and win 9 games, but most likely will drop to 7 wins and a bowl game.
7. Baylor Bears (10-3, Alamo Bowl Champions)
Baylor loses a ton of talent, including its â€œBig 3â€ of QB Robert Griffin III, RB Terrence Ganaway, and WR Kendall Wright.Â Baylor has a capable but unproven starter this year in Nic Florence, but has a ton of issues to overcome at the skill spots and with an already weak defense.Â Phil Bennett needs to either pay off or Art Briles has to get a DC in there to do more with less. Baylor will be a difficult out every week, but they wont set records like last season.
8. Iowa State (6-7, lost Pinstripe Bowl)
In case you havenâ€™t noticed, Paul Rhoads has quietly assembled a team in Ames that no longer is the conference doormat. New facilities, new attitude, and a signature win over Oklahoma State last year have the Cyclones on the map.Â The Cyclones have two potential All-Americans in Jake Knott and AJ Klein, but have to settle the QB issue and continue to stock talent.Â ISU is a borderline bowl team, something you couldnâ€™t say with a straight face before.Â Id be shocked if someone like Arkansas didnâ€™t snap up Rhoads, but until that day comes he is building a fine football squad.
9. Texas Tech Red Raiders (5-7 team)
I’ll freely admit I have no respect for Texas Tech.Â The defense sucks, the offense loses something every year away from Mike Leach, and honestly most of the conferences teams just arenâ€™t going to take any crap off the Red Raiders.Â Most of the conference has the running QB or rushing attack to wear out Tech like Texas did last year.Â If Tuberville wants to keep his job in the dust bowl, he better get this team headed in the right direction.
10. Kansas Jayhawks (2-10 team)
Here is what you need to know.Â They hired Charlie Weis, who had a ton of other offers (he cant remember who of course but they were there) and chose Kansas, where he promptly brought in Dayne Crist, a guy who cant hold on to a job.Â They have a defense even Texas Tech could run on, a limited offense, and a guy who thinks a hell of a lot more of himself than he should pulling the puppet strings. Take heart fans, KU hoops starts up soon.Â As for this disaster on the field, they could easily set all time futility records. If Geno Smith doesnâ€™t rack up 500 yards on this team it was a wasted day.
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