Post-signing day Big 12 Power Rankings
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.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Kirk Herbstreit joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Bob Stoops' recent comments about the SEC and the pending college football playoff, what appears to be an unpredictable Big 12 in 2013, how the Aggies will handle expectations and more.
Play Podcast Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin talks about the improvements being made to Kyle Field, what those improvements will to for the program, the success of last year, Johnny Manziel's offseason and the expectations for the Aggies in 2013.
Play Podcast Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo talk about Texas A&M's decision to expand its stadium and say although the Aggies had a fantastic year, the school must also be careful not to overextend its resources based on a single hot stretch.
Play Podcast Baylor head coach Art Briles joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss what kind of player the Cowboys are getting in Terrance Williams.
Play Podcast Arlington and Texas A&M product Luke Joeckel, the potential No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Richard Durrett to discuss the draft, coaches and advice from his dad.
Play Podcast Florida Gulf Coast athletic director Ken Kavanagh joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss his school's Cinderella story and playing in the Sweet 16 at Cowboys Stadium.
Play Podcast Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby joins Fizsimmons & Durrett to discuss Cowboys Stadium as a venue, the state of Big 12 basketball, the new 2014 college football format, why there's no hurry to have a Big 12 football championship and much more.
Play Podcast Jay Bilas joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the remaining 16 teams in the NCAA tournament, the intrigue surrounding the Northwest Region and the excitement over FGCU, even though a similar story happens every year.