We got the staff together to vote on the Big 12 standings and here is how they shake out, starting from the bottom.
10. Kansas – Jayhawk fans are just counting down till basketball season.
9. Iowa State – Matt Campbell is coming off a 3-8 season after his first year in Ames. His first step in 2017 was deciding on a quarterback after splitting the duties between Joel Lanning and Jacob Park last year. It seems he has settled on Park in 2017. They bring back both of their running backs (Mike Warren, David Montgomery) that combined for 1,122 and 5 touchdowns.
Joel Lanning switched over to outside linebacker and the defense returns 4 of 5 of its leading tacklers from 2016.
I would not be surprised if the Cyclones finished above 9th.
8. Texas Tech – Kliff Klingsbury’s seat is hot and I don’t see him staying in Lubbock if they finished 8th in the conference. There’s no doubt they will have a high flying offense with new quarterback Nic Shimonek. They must take the pressure of the quarterback with a running game this year after finishing last in the conference in 2016. Running backs Justin Stockton and Desmond Nisby should provide some relief.
The Red Raider defense was amongst the worst in the country last year. If defensive coordinator David Gibbs can find a competitive defensive, Texas Tech could find themselves bowling this year and just may save their jobs.
7. Baylor – Under new head coach Matt Rhule, Baylor will have a different look offensively. The offense will have more of a power attack. Anu Solomon, the Arizona transfer, will get the nod at quarterback but if he cannot get the job done look for Zach Smith to come in and take over.
JaMycal Hasty is no. 1 on the depth chart but Terence Williams also returns after rushing for 1,048 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. They will lean on the running game to help out their new quarterback.
The defense could be better under new defensive coordinator Phil Snow. The defense in 2016 was one of the best in defending the pass and if they can build on that and stop the running game they could end up with one of the best defenses in the conference.
Depth may be the issue for the Bears as the season goes along. If they can stay healthy and some players step up, they could finish higher than 7th.
6. TCU – After every down year in Ft. Worth, Head Coach Gary Patterson finds a way to reach double digit wins. The question will be if quarterback Kenny Hill will be able to find consistency in 2017. Kyle Hicks will lead the way in the backfield and I expect the defense to be a lot better in 2017.
I actually expect this team to finish in the top 4 and would not be shocked to see them compete for a conference title.
T4. Texas – A lot of hype is being built around new head coach Tom Herman and understandably so. Shane Buechele will lead the Longhorn offense but he is not the dual threat quarterback Herman is accustomed to having. I expect running backs Kyle Porter and Chris Warren to take some weight off of Buechele’s shoulders with a strong running attack.
The defense was in the bottom half of just about every statistical category last year and I don’t expect too much improvement this year. If they do find a defense, however, Texas just may be back. MAYBE.
T4. Kansas State – Coach Bill Snyder does a phenomenal year in and year out in Manhattan. Expectations our high with the return of quarterback Jesse Ertz who some are comparing to 2012 quarterback Collin Klein. There are a lot of new faces on this team and there may be too much hype but if Ertz can carry this team on his shoulders, they will be competing for a Big 12 Championship.
The Wildcats arguably had the best defense in the conference in 2016. If they can replicate that, they just might find themselves in Jerry’s world.
3. West Virginia – There is a lot of buzz around quarterback Will Grier and the possibilities under new offensive coordinator Jake Spavital. With a loaded backfield led by Justin Crawford, the offense could look a lot like the 2012 team led by Geno Smith.
The defense has to replace a lot of talent from last year but this is nothing new for defensive coach Tony Gibson. The defense was in the same boat last year and had one of, if not, the best defenses in the conference in 2016.
2. Oklahoma – Baker Mayfield is back in Norman for another year, but the Sooners find themselves with out long time head coach Bob Stoops. Lincoln Riley has some big shoes to fill and Oklahoma fans expect him to continue the success.
After losing both leading rushers (Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine) to the NFL, It will be a running back by committee with Abdul Adams, Rodney Adams, and Marcelias Sutton. Adams returns with the most experience with 283 yards rushing in 2016.
It took a few games for Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook to get comfortable with each other last year but when they did, they took the country by storm. Mayfield will need to find that outside receiver to make the big play and Jeffrey Meade might be that guy. Until then he may find comfort in tight end Mark Andrews, their leading returning receiver from 2016, with 31 catches for 489 yards and 7 touchdowns.
The defense will have to improve from 2016 for this team to have the success they are used to having. I’m not sure Baker Mayfield can carry a team on his shoulders. If they do not find a running game to help him out, you could start to hear some grumblings coming out of Norman.
1. Oklahoma State – This team just might have the best offense in the country and should live up to the hype. Mason Rudolph will make his case all season that he is the best quarterback in the Big 12 and could find himself in New York in December vying for a Heisman Trophy.
The depth at receiver is arguably the best in the country. James Washington leads the way along with Jalen McClesky.
Justice Hill returns in the backfield for the Cowboys after 1,142 yards and 6 touchdowns during his freshman campaign.
If there is a weakness on this team it could be on the defensive side of the ball, but the Cowboys should be able to outscore everybody they face this season.