- David Ubben, College Football
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Colleague Mark Schlabach uncorked his way-too-early top 25 on the morning after the national championship.
We'll have plenty more look-aheads to 2012 in the coming weeks, but here's where Schlabach slotted the Big 12 teams.
5. Oklahoma Sooners: The Sooners fell short of their lofty No. 1 preseason ranking, but a 10-3 finish wasn't bad, especially after OU lost its leading rusher and top receiver to season-ending injuries. Quarterback Landry Jones' decision to return means OU will have one of the country's most explosive offenses, even without all-time leading receiver Ryan Broyles. Four starting offensive linemen are expected back, as well as young receivers Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds. Top tailback Dominique Whaley is also coming back from a broken ankle. There are a couple of key pieces to replace on defense -- ends Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis and linebacker Travis Lewis. OU's schedule for 2012 hasn't been finalized, but it figures to be more difficult with TCU and possibly West Virginia (if the Mountaineers can leave the Big East) joining the Big 12. The only finalized game to date is an Oct. 27 home contest against Notre Dame.
7. West Virginia Mountaineers: WVU fans finally saw a glimpse of how explosive coach Dana Holgorsen's spread offense can be in the Mountaineers' 70-33 rout of Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl. Holgorsen's first season has to be considered a roaring success after a 10-3 finish, but the Mountaineers might have just scratched the surface with his high-powered offense. Quarterback Geno Smith is coming back for his senior season in 2012, along with eight other offensive starters, including leading rusher Dustin Garrison and top receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. The Mountaineers will have to replace four starters on defense and might lose coordinator Jeff Casteel, who is considering taking a job on Rich Rodriguez's staff at Arizona. West Virginia's schedule for 2012 is undetermined because it's trying to leave the Big East for the Big 12, a decision that might be finalized in court.
12. Kansas State Wildcats: Bill Snyder, 72, continued to work his magic at Kansas State, guiding the Wildcats to a surprising 10-2 finish. Even a 29-16 loss to Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl couldn't tarnish KSU's return to national prominence. With quarterback Collin Klein and linebacker Arthur Brown coming back in 2012, the Wildcats might be among the Big 12 favorites, along with Oklahoma and West Virginia (if the Mountaineers leave the Big East). Klein will enter next season as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate, after totaling more than 3,000 yards of total offense and scoring 40 touchdowns. Top tailback John Hubert and receiver Chris Harper are also coming back, but three starting offensive linemen will have to be replaced. Five starters are also leaving on defense.
15. TCU Horned Frogs: The Horned Frogs are making the jump from the Mountain West to the Big 12 in 2012. TCU has won 11 games or more in seven of the last nine seasons, after finishing 11-2 this past season. TCU will take an eight-game winning streak into the Big 12, after finishing 7-0 against MWC foes in its last season in the league. TCU brings back much of its firepower on offense, with quarterback Casey Pachall, tailbacks Waymon James and Ed Wesley, and receivers Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson coming back. Three starting offensive linemen will have to be replaced, along with star linebacker Tank Carder on defense. TCU's schedule in the Big 12 hasn't yet been finalized, but it's scheduled to play nonconference games against FCS foe Grambling State (home), Virginia (home) and SMU (road).
16. Oklahoma State Cowboys: All the Pokes did the past two seasons was win 23 games and the school's first conference title since 1976. If OSU coach Mike Gundy is going to keep his program near the top of the Big 12, he's going to have to replace record-setting quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon, who are both leaving. Rising junior Clint Chelf, redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh and incoming freshman West Lunt (who already has enrolled at OSU) will battle for the starting quarterback job this spring. The Pokes also must replace starting left tackle Levy Adcock and two other starting offensive linemen. Eight starters are expected back on defense, but safety Markelle Martin is a big loss. Most of OSU's 2012 schedule hasn't been finished, other than a road game at Arizona and home game against Louisiana-Lafayette.
21. Texas Longhorns: After a head-scratching 5-7 finish in 2010, the Longhorns made improvement this past season, finishing 8-5 and defeating California 21-10 in the Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl. While the defense made big strides under first-year coordinator Manny Diaz, the UT offense continued to sputter because of poor quarterback play. David Ash will have the edge entering spring practice, but he'll continue to be pushed by Case McCoy. The running game should be better if tailbacks Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron can stay healthy, and incoming freshman Johnathan Gray might provide immediate help. The Horns will have to replace linebackers Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho, as well as defensive tackle Kheeston Randall. Texas' Big 12 schedule isn't finalized, but it will play nonconference games against Wyoming (home), New Mexico (home) and Ole Miss (road).
Here's the link to the full top 25 for more.
What do you think? Anybody missing? Anybody too high or too low?
16hJake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson
3dESPN Stats & Information
3dJake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon