We may still be more than 2 months away from the start of the football season but it is never too early to rank how the teams stack up especially with constantly changing roster moves from just about all the Big 12 teams. So here we go.
1. West Virginia
As much as I hate the hype that has been built up around Mountaineers "unstoppable" offense due to the fact that they did the majority of their damage against the worst BCS teams in the worst BCS conference and did the rest against a team from the second worst BCS conference, they do return a bunch of weapons and they were one of teams that put up 65+ points on other BCS teams not named Kansas. I'm also not a fan of their new defensive strategy, a 3-4 defense works in the NFL, a 3-4 defense works in the SEC, coincidence, no. To run a 3-4 successfully you have to have the right personal, something that teams like Alabama and LSU have no problem getting, West Virginia, not so much. But despite my dislike of the Mountaineers resume they are, in comparison to the rest of the league, the most solid team right now. Will that change, probably. Am I picking them to win the league, absolutely not. Would I be comfortable with K-State playing them tomorrow, hell no.
For the rest of the league keep reading after the jump.
2. Kansas State
K-State probably returns the most skill players with Big 12 experience in the league this year, but they still have several glaring holes, most of which are on the defensive and offensive lines. Fortunately there are big time play makers lining up right behind them in the form of Collin Klein on offense and Arthur Brown on defense. Losing Foketi may hurt in the short run but it also forces the coaching staff to move ahead with their plans for replacing him and gives the opportunity for several young offensive linemen to step up in the way that BJ Finney did last season. This team is a lot better than last years squad and could contend for a conference championship.
Texas' defense was dominate for most of the season last year, and a good number of their starters return this year. But their offense consistently dragged them down especially after Fozzy Whittaker was lost for the year (6-2 before, 1-3 after) and although they return their starting QB from the last part of the season in Connor Wood who also struggled while starting averaging 18 points over their last 5 games. Ultimately I think Texas' defense will be better but unfortunately for them the majority of the Big 12's offenses will also be improved this year.
The era of OU and Texas dominating the Big 12 may finally be coming to a close as neither went to a major bowl game (BCS or Cotton) for the first time in Big 12 history. The sooners return only 1 receiver with any career catches, a good but by no means great running back and a QB who's play after Ryan Broyles could be compared to that of Carson Coffman's before being replaced with Grant Gregory. This offense has the potential to be historically bad by OU standards under Bob Stoops. Stoops did prove he learned from his former boss by saving his brother from having to do color commentary for CBS college sports next season, and then he let him become the defensive coordinator. Bad offense + Mike Stoops led defense, this is gonna end just fine.
After loosing half of their defense to Texas State Penitentiary League the Frogs also lost their 2ed leading rusher. TCU's first year in the Big 12 will probably be their first down year since 2004. They do return their starting QB but compared to the rest of the Big 12 TCU is just another middle of the road team.
6. Oklahoma State
In 2004 K-State suffered their first loosing season in 11 years, Texas did the same in 2010. I predict OSU to suffer a similar fate in 2012. Mike Gundy did an excellent job of building a team to win a championship, unfortunately most of the team consisted of seniors. The defense returns many more starters but the offense was the workhorse of the team last year. Oklahoma State will not be the kind of dominating team this year that it was last year.
There are many parallels between Oklahoma State and Baylor, but there is also one huge difference, the defense. Oklahoma State was the beneficiary of many timely turnovers last year that allowed their offense to outscore almost every opponent. Baylor on the other hand had no defense and as their performance in Alamo Bowl showed they weren't capable of stopping anyone. And now that RG3 and the majority of their offensive play makers are gone you can expect the bears to have down year while Phil Bennett rebuilds the defense.
8. Iowa State
The Cyclones got a big off season addition, no word on the expected impact it will have on the team. But on the field Iowa State is the generally the same team it was last year, and towards the end it really seemed like they were starting to get things going in the right direction. The cyclones also boast one of the leagues top linebacking corps as they return the "K Squad". Overall Iowa State should be improved but they will still probably be behind most of the league.
9. Texas Tech
The red raiders are mostly the same team as last year, a bad coach, using an old coaches players and most of his system. It seemed like after beating OU things just went down hill and I just can't see next season being an improvement of any kind.
KU brought in Charlie Weis, Charlie Weis brought in 2 former 5 star QBs. What is the problem you say, well the problem is KU's offense was not that horrible for most of the year, their defense on the other hand was terrible and it seems like not much has been done to fix it. It will take a miracle for KU to make it to 6 wins.