Assessing the post-spring top 25
May, 4, 2011
By ESPN.com staff | ESPN.com
Colleague Mark Schlabach revised his top 25 after the spring, and here's where he slotted the Big 12's teams.
No. 1: Oklahoma. (same ranking pre- and post-spring)
The Sooners probably have fewer areas of concern than any other team in the country, which is a big reason why they might be poised to appear in their fifth BCS Championship Game since 2000.
No. 6: Oklahoma State (up four spots from No. 10)
Even without former offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, who left to become West Virginia's coach-in-waiting, the Pokes figure to have one of the country's most explosive attacks in 2011. Record-setting quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon are back, and running backs Jeremy Smith and Joseph Randle will share carries while replacing departed star Kendall Hunter.
No. 9: Texas A&M (up three spots from No. 12)
If quarterback Ryan Tannehill picks up where he left off last season, the Aggies might end up being Oklahoma's biggest threat in the Big 12. Texas A&M brings back two productive running backs (Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael) and two big-play receivers (Jeff Fuller and Ryan Swope).
No. 18: Missouri (up three spots from No. 21)
Gary Pinkel guided Missouri to 40 victories over the past four seasons with high-octane offenses built around quarterbacks like Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert. If Missouri is going to be a legitimate contender in 2011, its defense might have to carry the load. The Tigers are going to have one of the league's best defensive lines, even after losing NFL first-rounder Aldon Smith.
No. 20: Texas (down one from No. 19)
The Longhorns have five new coaches, including both coordinators, and still haven't settled on a starting quarterback after spring practice. But it's just hard to imagine Texas limping through another losing season in 2011. ... More than anything, the Longhorns need an every-down running back, which is why incoming freshman Malcolm Brown will get a long look during preseason camp.
- First things first, here's my top 25 poll for comparison, and the top 25 poll made up of a group of voters for College Football Live, myself included.
- Texas is going to be a polarizing team throughout the summer and through fall camps, that much is clear. I'm firmly against voting them in a preseason top 25, but Schlabach clearly doesn't share my thoughts. Analyst Craig James, however, seems to be one of the few who does. In another league, Texas could do well this year. But in the Big 12, which demands you put points on the board to win big, unless you have an all-world defense? I predict the Longhorns struggle and win 7-8 games. They certainly don't have enough quality talents offensively to put much confidence in them going into the season. But to each his own.
- We share similar thoughts on the two teams I had way higher than most in the College Football Live poll: Missouri and West Virginia. I'm not sold on the Tigers as a Big 12 contender, but I'm sold on them as a top 20 team who could, with the few good bounces, win 10 games again in 2011. I ranked them 16th. My faith in West Virginia is little more than a combination of confidence in Geno Smith and Dana Holgorsen, combined with the pillowy-soft conference schedule in the friendly Big East.
- Texas A&M and Oklahoma State are solid, solid teams, but can they get over the hump? Oklahoma State never seems to be able to bag the big ones, and Texas A&M would positively shock me if it becomes the second Big 12 team to ever beat Bob Stoops at Owen Field. Oklahoma at home, especially in big games, seems to shift into what the kids are calling beast mode these days. I don't see that changing this year, so Texas A&M better take care of business everywhere else and hope Oklahoma State gets the job done to close the season against the Sooners in Stillwater. Otherwise, Oklahoma can go ahead and celebrate an eighth Big 12 title.