Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Big 12 post-spring power rankings
By David Ubben
1. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys don't know (or at least, won't say on the record) who their Week 1 starting quarterback will be, but Mike Gundy's team boasts the Big 12's top returning receiver and should have a great shot to win their second Big 12 title in three seasons. Adjusting to new defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer's more aggressive style shouldn't be too difficult, and new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich sounds like a quick study in picking up the offense.
2. TCU: The Frogs should have the Big 12's best defense on paper after returning nine starters from the league leader in total defense last season, but Casey Pachall returning to his old form is key to the Frogs scoring enough points to win the Big 12 title in their second season in the league.
3. Texas: The Longhorns have the league's most experienced quarterback in David Ash and a deep, talented stable of running backs who complement each other well. But the defense has a lot to prove after being one of the biggest disappointments in the Big 12 last season. It's a crucial season for coach Mack Brown, too. This season feels like a BCS-or-bust type of year for the Longhorns, who have been vocal this offseason about nine wins not being enough.
4. Oklahoma: The Sooners' defense was embarrassed by some great offenses late in 2013 and lost most of its top talents to the NFL draft. Blake Bell looks to have secured the quarterback spot despite no official announcement, but the Sooners need young talents like Frank Shannon, Cortez Johnson and Julian Wilson to have breakout seasons.
5. Baylor: The Bears closed 2012 as the hottest team in the Big 12 and had the league's best performance of the bowl season. Bryce Petty looks ready to take the reins on offense, and a strong finish to 2012 by a defense that returns seven starters should carry over to 2013. The D is deeper, faster and will ultimately decide how far up the Big 12 ladder Baylor can climb.
6. Kansas State: K-State's returning fewer starters -- eight -- than any team in the Big 12, but nobody does more with less than Bill Snyder. The talent level will take a hit, mostly on defense, but underrated back John Hubert can make the transition from quarterback Collin Klein simpler for whoever wins the battle between Jake Waters and Daniel Sams. Linebacker Tre Walker's return from a knee injury will be a huge help for a defense that needs experience and talent.
7. Texas Tech: New coach Kliff Kingsbury inherits an experienced team with a lot of upside, but Texas Tech still has to prove it can do more than win eight games. It hasn't topped that total since 2008, when it reached No. 2 in the BCS and started 10-0. Tech boasts one of the Big 12's best defensive lines, and quarterback Michael Brewer has a lot of promise and a pair of great targets in receiver Eric Ward and tight end Jace Amaro.
8. West Virginia: The first season in the Big 12 was a learning experience for WVU, but it won't get any easier this fall. The Mountaineers return just three starters from a dangerous offense in 2012 and have to count on improvement from a defense that showed little flash or reason for optimism in 2013. Safeties Karl Joseph and Darwin Cook need to lead and push that defense along.
9. Iowa State: ISU is moving past the losses of linebackers A.J. Klein and Jake Knott and is hoping Sam Richardson provides the quarterback play that's been missing under Paul Rhoads. He's got a solid group of running backs and an offensive line that should be great, but the receivers leave a bit to be desired and have to improve.
10. Kansas: Charlie Weis turned tons of heads by bringing in almost 20 junior college transfers for 2013, but KU will go as far as new quarterback Jake Heaps, a BYU transfer, can take them. With a 21-game losing streak in Big 12 hanging over their heads entering the season, up is the only way to go. For now, though, they've got to start at the bottom.