1. Texas: In a battle within a conference
that has no dominant teams (that would be the Big 12), it’s always a safe bet
to go with the outfit that has the best defense and the best running game (that
should be Texas). Quarterback David Ash won’t awe anybody, but with a year’s
experience under his belt, should be better than adequate.
2. Oklahoma: As long as the receivers stay
healthy the Sooners will be very difficult to stop on offense. The linebackers
will do well on defense as will the secondary, but the defensive line is a
major question mark. If Oklahoma cannot generate a pass rush, the offense will
have to outscore some people.
3. Oklahoma State: Mike Gundy’s program
has gotten to the “reload” level. And what that means is that there will never
be a huge drop off. Look for Bill Young’s defense to be superb, and it will
need to be given that OSU will start a freshman quarterback and will have a few
questions on the offensive line and at receiver.
4. Kansas State: I underestimated Bill Snyder last year. Never again. Despite all the press that Geno
Smith and Landry Jones get, Collin Klein is probably the Big 12’s best
quarterback and could be the league’s Offensive MVP. KSU’s running game will be
sound, and its pass defense improved.
5. TCU: The Frogs will actually look a bit
like Kansas State, sporting a big, strong quarterback and a solid defense.
Still, some cracks have formed in Gary Patterson’s program, and moving to the
Big 12 may cause them to widen just a bit.
6. West Virginia: The Mountaineers will
prove to be the most overrated team in the Big 12. Yes, the passing game will
be spectacular, but outside of Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, there’s precious little upon
which to hang a coonskin cap. Big 12 play will be a rude awakening.
7. Texas Tech: Until proven otherwise, the
Red Raiders are suspect. The offense should again be one of the Big 12’s best,
but the defense must climb mountains just to get to respectable.
8. Baylor: Baylor’s defense was just about
as bad as Tech’s in 2011, and without Robert Griffin, Kendall Wright and
Terrance Ganaway carrying the load on offense, Art Briles’ program could return to earth with a resounding
thud. But the Bears do have confidence coming off a monumental season, and that
is no small thing.
9. Iowa State: The Big 12 is stacked with
tremendous linebackers, and in Jake Knott and A.J. Klein, Iowa State has two of
the very best. Unfortunately, that’s the bulk of the talent. Jeremy Reeves is a
nice talent at cornerback, too, but on offense the Cyclones will be severely
10. Kansas: Putting out the grease fire
Turner Gill left in Lawrence won’t be easy. And although I like Charlie Weis,
he doesn’t have the chops to even begin turning the corner in year one.