Projecting Big 12 teams in the AP top 10
Note: This is not Steele's top 10, but rather a projection of how he believes the AP pollsters will vote.
Steele projects Oklahoma at No. 5. He writes:
After back-to-back upset wins over Oklahoma State and Alabama to close the 2013 season, expectations for the Sooners have skyrocketed as Bob Stoops' "Big Game" moniker has returned. The Sooners' offense, which averaged 42 points per game in the last four contests, will benefit from the return of quarterback Trevor Knight, who closed the season with a sensational Sugar Bowl performance (348 yards and four touchdowns). The defense made significant strides last year, and with the return of nine starters, the Sooners could be in store for their best season statistically on defense since 2009.
Steele goes on to say how manageable Oklahoma's schedule is, as well. The Sooners have only one other projected top-10 team on their schedule.
That team is Baylor, which Steele projects at No. 9. He writes:
After one of the best seasons in school history, which included a Big 12 title, Art Briles' program looks to continue its climb toward consistent finishes in the top 10-to-15. In 2014, the Bears return just nine starters, but one of them is quarterback Bryce Petty, who threw for 4,200 yards and accounted for 46 touchdowns. He has some dynamic skill players surrounding him, including leading receiver Antwan Goodley, who averaged nearly 19 yards per catch.
Steele goes on to write that Baylor suffers major attrition defensively, but that the Bears have still had success under Briles even when the defense has given up big points.
Steele seems to be spot-on here, as both the Sooners and Bears figure to be the preseason picks to finish first and second in the Big 12.
It will be interesting to see if any other Big 12 team opens in the preseason Top 25. Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas are all possibilities, but hardly locks.
If no other team emerges, Nov. 8 could be the weekend of the year in the Big 12. That's when Baylor travels to Norman, Okla., to face the Sooners.
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