- David Ubben, College Football
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We're only 100 days away from the college football season, but today we're looking at what each conference needs to do, team by team, between now and then. Here's the Big 12's checklist.
1. Sort out and develop those quarterbacks. I've written about it plenty, but there's no doubt that the quarterbacks are the story of the Big 12 this offseason. There won't be lots of experience next fall, but there will be a lot of talent. To tally the Big 12 quarterbacks: Four teams (Kansas State, Oklahoma State, TCU, West Virginia) still possibly don't know who their Week 1 starter will be, and another (Oklahoma) hasn't officially announced one, though Blake Bell appears to have earned the job. Two more Big 12 teams (Baylor, Texas Tech) will have quarterbacks making their first career starts in Week 1. Iowa State quarterback Sam Richardson will be making just his third career start and Kansas' Jake Heaps will be making his Jayhawks debut after starting almost two seasons at BYU. Texas' David Ash is the league leader with 18 career starts, and though TCU's Casey Pachall has 17, he hasn't officially won the job and hasn't played since October.
2. Try to find a national title contender. The Big 12 won't have much preseason hype, but consider this: Oklahoma State was picked third in the Big 12 preseason poll in 2011, with just one vote to win the league. Kansas State was picked sixth last season. By November, those squads had made it very, very clear that they were the Big 12's best teams in those respective years, and were right in the thick of the national title race.
3. Get to politicking with pollsters. That said, the preseason hype will be at an all-time low this year in the Big 12. The conference has never started a season without a team in the top 10, but that looks likely to happen this year. It's going to take a lot to change that, but here's guessing most coaches across the Big 12 aren't real excited to have their teams earn a bull's-eye on their backs. Oklahoma being preseason No. 1 in 2011 offered another reminder that preseason polls don't mean a whole lot.
4. Mix in the new faces. Everybody's dealing with freshmen in fall camp, but teams like Kansas State, Kansas and West Virginia are mixing in tons of new contributors who were nonfactors on last year's teams or not even on the roster this time last year. Oklahoma is doing it on defense, too.
5. Keep bringing up the rear. The Big 12 coaches have been trumpeting the bottom half of the league, an argument for the top half's road to the national title game being college football's most difficult. Having nine teams crack bowls after the 2012 regular season helped that case, but the league will need it to continue. Kansas is moving in the right direction while trying to end its 21-game losing streak, but it's not going to be easy for Iowa State to make another bowl game after this season.