Monday, February 6, 2012
Post-signing day Big 12 Power Rankings
By David Ubben
Signing day has come and gone.
NFL decisions have been made.
Coaching staffs -- the major moves, at least -- have been settled.
The league membership looks close to being settled.
With all that stuff behind us, it's time to update our Big 12 Power Rankings with spring football quickly approaching.
I mentioned this in our last update, but I'll reiterate just how wide open the Big 12 is going to be in 2012. That won't change for awhile. In 2011, the league only had three teams that could realistically win the Big 12: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.
This year, I could see each of the top six teams winning the league. Oklahoma's the favorite, but nowhere near as heavy a favorite as it was in 2011. The preseason voting should be interesting.
Here's how I slate it:
1. Oklahoma: The Sooners brought in old defensive coordinator Mike Stoops but lost Brent Venables to Clemson. Stoops' biggest task will be fixing a secondary susceptible to big plays by big offenses in 2011, but Oklahoma will need its strong recruiting class of receivers to contribute immediately.
2. Kansas State: K-State, in accordance with the founding principle of Bill Snyder's coaching method, should be a much-improved team by the fall. Snyder will keep his squad close to the vest this spring, but there won't be nearly as many new faces on the field in 2012. This 10-game winner will be a Big 12 title contender in 2012.
3. West Virginia: The Mountaineers are still fighting the Big East to leave for the Big 12 in 2012 instead of 2014, and it may cost them more than the $5 million exit fee they originally planned to pay. On the field, though, the Mountaineers have tons of returning offensive talent, a play-making QB and an innovative mind running it. Even if your defense is awful, Baylor proved that offense will get you a long way in this league.
4. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys' program has stabilized, and even while breaking in a new quarterback and new top receivers, the defense should be improved and the running backs are capable of carrying the offense. The Cowboys won't throw the ball 595 times this year like they did in 2011, but this is probably an eight- or nine-win team that has some upside.
5. TCU: TCU's definitely a Big 12 title contender, but in a deep league, there's no telling how it'll handle the jump from the Mountain West to the Big 12. The offense is loaded. The defense should be better. But the transition will be a bit easier for West Virginia. We'll see how TCU handles the week-to-week grind.
6. Texas: The Longhorns must develop some offensive consistency, but I'm banking on UT having the best defense in the Big 12 once again. Texas' D was dominant at times in 2011, which is difficult in a league with the kind of offenses the Big 12 has. The running game will be great, but the QB spot must be settled and excellent for UT to have any chance to actually win the league.
7. Baylor: Baylor has the athletes on defense, and it should be better in Year 2 under defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, but without Robert Griffin III elevating the team and making plays, it'll be tough for the Bears to win more than 10 games like they did in 2011. Nick Florence has experience and should be a good replacement, but he's no Heisman winner.
8. Texas Tech: Tech has a lot of upside, and should get back to a bowl game in 2012, but it'll have to prove it for now. Injuries have hounded this team for two years, but the Red Raiders have more returning starters than any team in the Big 12 and all but one team in college football. They'll be missing 15 players in the spring, but Tech's time at the bottom of the Big 12 would seem to be ending.
9. Iowa State: Iowa State's trying to build, and it slid in another good building block in 2011 with six wins, a bowl berth and two benchmark wins over Iowa and Oklahoma State. The Cyclones will return a solid team, but in a deep Big 12, its athletes will be tested.
10. Kansas: The Jayhawks' road back up begins now. Is Charlie Weis the man to make it happen? Plenty of folks don't think so, but that doesn't matter all that much. For now, he's already provided an instant talent upgrade at important positions like QB and receiver. KU needs a lot more after losing six games by more than 30 points in 2011's 2-10 campaign.