Everyone seems to be doing a "Big 12 Predicted Finish" type of poll… so KU Grad 08 is totally hopping on that bandwagon. With the football season right around the corner, I figure this can get some irrational debate going on the Big 12 conference. We’ll go from bottom to top:
10. West Virginia Mountaineers Last season, many felt that the Mountaineers had a legitimate shot to win the Big 12 in their first season as a member. While the team had some question marks on defense, the prolific offense led by Geno Smith was expected to help WVU sniff a league championship. After a 5-0 start, West Virginia crashed. An upset loss to Texas Tech as well as getting humiliated by K-State got things rolling, and the Mountaineers wound up finishing 7-5. WVU still has a suspect defense, yet also has lost all its star offensive firepower from last season (Smith, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey). Plus, for some reason, WVU just rubs me the wrong way. Maybe because they are new?
9. Iowa State Cyclones The Cyclones have been pretty consistent over the past couple of seasons, breaking a few hearts and sneaking into a bowl game year after year. ISU has some major question marks coming into this season, suggesting that last year’s six-win total may be hard to reach this season. State has a major question mark at quarterback. Will Sam Richardson be serviceable? His name certainly isn’t nearly as cool as "Steele Jantz" so I’m not holding my breath. ISU will likely rely on pounding the rock with James White, but us Kansas fans have seen how a poor passing game can hinder an offense, even if the ground game is solid. ISU also has to replace its star linebackers and has only four returners on defense.
8. Kansas Jayhawks Year one under Chuck Weis ultimately was a disaster on paper, as KU finished 1-11. After a "let’s see how much we can make KU Grad 08 drink" first two games in which KU struggled to beat an FCS school and then lost at home to Rice, the Jayhawks did start to show signs of life. KU blew fourth quarter leads against future Orange Bowl participant (WTF) Northern Illinois and Texas, while taking Texas Tech to overtime and losing to Oklahoma State by one score. Still, 1-11 is 1-11. Weis has brought in a cavalry of JUCOs to immediately upgrade the talent level, and the Jayhawks also upgraded the QB position with BYU transfer Jake Heaps. If Heaps and some new faces at WR can get a respectable passing attack established to pair with the Jayhawks’ lethal running game, the offense could take a major step forward. KU has nowhere to go but up, and they should be capable of stealing a league win or two this season. Plus, I AM ON THAT KOOL AID BABY! MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM. Feel it.
7. Texas Tech Red Bros Bros across the country will have their eyes on Tech this season, as Kliff Kingsbury ushers in a new regime focused on cheap canned beer, long-sleeved dress shirts tucked into khaki shorts and sunglass straps. Kingsbury will have some major issues to deal with, such as how to replace QB Seth Doege and how to get approval to loop "Wagon Wheel" over the stadium’s loudspeakers for the entire duration of halftime. Tech returns eight starters on defense, and new QB Michael Brewer will have the talented Eric Ward to throw the ball to. I feel like Tech will knock off a team or two it shouldn’t this season, but that’ll be about it.
6. Baylor Bears Call me nostalgic, but I miss the old, crappy Baylor. Alas, the Bears have something rolling now in Waco. After experiencing some "OMG we lost RGIII" growing pains last year, Baylor caught fire and ended the season on a four game winning streak. Baylor also returns running back Lache Seastrunk, one of the most terrorizing offensive players in the league. However, the Bears have some issues heading into this season. Replacing RGIII wasn’t easy, but Nick Florence had a big year last year. Can new QB Bryce Petty follow suit? How will a defense that was borderline terrible last year hold up? BU does return eight starters on that side of the ball, but the unit will have to make some major strides if the Bears want to finish near the top of the league.
5. Kansas State Wildcats Good ol’ reliable K-State. You can count on the Wildcats to do the same things every season – scare the crap out of their fans in a non-con game, beat Texas and exceed expectations. There isn’t a better coach around than Bill Snyder, but he will have his work cut out for him this season. KSU will have to replace Collin Klein, who was more to the Wildcats than just a very good QB. KSU will likely pound the ball as usual with RB John Hubert, who is one of the best backs in the league. Whoever wins the QB battle (which looks like Jake Waters) will have Tyler Lockett and Tramiaine Thompson to throw to, and both are quality receivers who can make plays. The big question mark is defense, where K-State lost star LB Arthur Brown and is replacing most of its starters from last season. The old wizard will work his usual magic, but it is hard to see the Wildcats getting a second-consecutive Big 12 title.
4. Texas Longhorns Texas has underachieved over the past few seasons, and many in Longhorn country think a coaching change could be in order if the Horns struggle again. Texas appears primed to improve, with a whooping 19 returning starters heading into 2013. The big questions for Texas are QB and defense. Will David Ash finally get it together and have a big year? Will a defense that struggled all of last season improve? If Ash plays well, Texas could easily challenge for the league title.
3. Oklahoma Look I’m going to be honest – I have no idea what the hell is going on in Norman. OU has neared KU Basketball status where I’m just going to assume they are going to be good until they aren’t.
2. Oklahoma State Cowboys Mike Gundy is a man, he’s 40, and he’s one of the best coaches in the league. The Cowboys have slowly become a year-in-year-out contender in the league, and next year will be no different. OSU returns 7 starters on offense and defense, and the later could be one of the better units in the league next season. However, OSU has a few question marks on offense. Will they be able to replace the production of the explosive Joe Randle at RB? Who will be playing QB? Neither Clint Chelf or J.W. Walsh have nabbed the starting spot in camp, and the Pokes’ musical chair rotation at QB could continue.
1. Texas Christian University Horned Frogs A few weeks ago, I picked TCU to finish third in the league in a comment on this wonderful site, but I’m changing my tune. Why? I’m not sure. The more I look at the Horned Frogs on paper, the better they look. TCU has nine returners on a defense that should be the best in the league. The big question mark is QB. Casey Pachall is back after going to rehab for substance abuse problems. Before he left, Pachall looked like one of the best signal-callers in the league. If he is fully recovered and can play at the level he is capable of, TCU is the favorite to win the league. However, if he struggles and the Frogs get bit by the injury bug again on offense, TCU may drop a few league contests.