The BCS title game kicks off in a few hours, and you're welcome to talk about it here, but what about next year?
The Big 12 has now gone three years without sending a team to the national title game. Oklahoma State came up short in Ames a year ago, and Kansas State's rough night in Waco kept the Wildcats from representing the league tonight in the season finale.
The Big 12 almost certainly won't have a team in the preseason top five next year, and it's possible the league will lack a team in the top 10, but who's your bet as the Big 12 team most likely to play for the title a year from tonight? Vote in our poll. Here are my top five candidates, in no particular order.
The Sooners have been the Big 12's most consistent team over the last 10 years or so, and will have to overcome big defensive losses and replace quarterback Landry Jones to reach the national title game. First-year starters at quarterback don't fare well in Big 12 title races, but next year may be the exception with very little returning talent across the league.
Can David Ash be the true impact player Texas needs him to be? If he's not, there's zero chance Texas makes it back to the BCS title game. The running game matured a bit this year, but health issues continue to be a problem. The defense under Manny Diaz has a lot of work to do this offseason.
TCU is loaded with freshmen and sophomores, but the big question is whether Casey Pachall will successfully make it back on the team and re-win his job back. He'll have to do it in the spring, but if he's in a good state of mind, healthy and in good shape, he'll win it easily. The defense will head toward 2013 with what looks like the best unit easily, headlined by Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Devonte Fields, who will be a rising sophomore.
Oklahoma State will have a lot of experience and lots of options at quarterback. The Pokes must replace OC Todd Monken and might lose RB Joseph Randle, but the Cowboys lost a ton of talent from the 2011 team and were a few plays away from being a serious contender for a Big 12 title this year.
The Bears look like a dark horse to me. They need Bryce Petty or Seth Russell to be great, but I believe in Art Briles' ability to develop quarterbacks. Lache Seastrunk may be a star and a 1,500-yard rusher next season, but the Bears will go as far as the defense will take them. Terrance Williams is gone, but if the defense improves, you better watch out for the Bears.