Big 12 Football: Way Too Early Big 12 Power Rankings for 2013
2012 was a great season for Big 12 football with the league sending nine teams to various bowls. The bowl results were disappointing but not unexpected. Kansas State couldn't keep up with Oregon's speed in the Fiesta Bowl, and Oklahoma got spanked by Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
Still, for a conference that at one point two years ago was given its last rites, the conference has exceeded most football fans' expectations.
We've had some some coaching changes (Texas Tech coach head Tommy Tuberville to Cincinnati and Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury to Texas Tech) and some traditional powerhouses take some tumbles.
So how does 2013 look?
For many teams, it's not looking very good, but for others, it's time for some shock and awe.
No. 10: Kansas
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Kansas head coach Charlie Weis actually lost more games than his predecessor Turner Gill did in his final season—the Jayhawks went 1-11 last season while Gill's 2011 team went 2-10. That's not a great start.
But if you watched Jayhawks football last year, you noticed some positive changes—they weren't routed in every game and their defense, at times, completely overachieved.
This season we will see more wins but the Jayhawks won't be bowling.
No. 9: Iowa State
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Every year Iowa State seems to pull off a few upsets and 2012 was no different: the Cyclones beat TCU 37-23.
Paul Rhoads is one of the most underrated coaches in the country, but this season will test his patience because his defense, the third-best scoring defense in the conference, will lose some fantastic athletes.
Linebackers A.J. Klein and Jake Knott, both All-Big-12 first teamers, will be leaving.
I'm sure Rhoads will reload like he always does, and I'm sure he'll surprise a few teams in the fall—I'm not so sure he'll go bowling but as usual, don't count his Cyclones out.
No. 8 Baylor
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Remember when we thought Baylor would have a disappointing season after Robert Griffin III was drafted by the Washington Redskins? The Baylor Bears beat the UCLA Bruins in the 2012 Holiday Bowl.
Of course, now we won't ever doubt head coach Art Briles again, but the talent he loses, just like the previous year's losses, cannot be ignored.
Quarterback Nick Florence, receivers Lanear Sampson and Terrance Williams, guard Cameron Kaufhold, and center Ivory Wade, are all gone from the offense.
What if Cyril Richardson leaves for the NFL draft? That's still officially unknown, but one report indicates that he is returning for his senior year.
If that's the case, then we'll give Baylor a decent shot at bowling in the post season so we don't look foolish for dismissing that reload button of which Briles has master control.
No. 7 Texas Tech
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Texas Tech was a nice surprise this year—especially on the defensive side—but the biggest surprise was then-head coach Tommy Tuberville bailing for Cincinnati. But that won't be the only loss by the Red Raiders.
The list is too long to mention every name, but some notable losses are quarterback Seth Doege and offensive lineman La'Adrian Waddle.
The Red Raiders' offense will be fun under Kingsbury—it was a blast to watch at Texas A&M—but he is a young coach with no experience in this capacity.
We'll call for a slightly down season, although—and this is a big although—Texas Tech only leaves the state of Texas three times (Kansas, West Virginia and Oklahoma) in the 2013 regular season.
No. 6: West Virginia
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Among the more notable losses: quarterback Geno Smith, receivers Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and J.D. Woods, kicker Tyler Bitancurt and center Joe Madsen.
Breathe deep, Mountaineer fans, because 2013 is not going to be very magical. Respect for Dana Holgorsen aside, West Virginia went 7-6 with all of that talent.
The problem was its defense, and while it will get eventually fixed, the offense has to be totally rebuilt.
Six or seven wins seems like a big stretch but we'll give Holgorsen's genius an extra win just because.
No. 5: Oklahoma State
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Oklahoma State looks like a monster on offense if running back Joseph Randle* decides to stay for his senior season. If Randle returns, then the Cowboys have a legitimate shot at strongly contending for the Big 12 crown.
The defense—specifically the front seven—gets a major hit on the line and at linebacker, but surprisingly, head coach Mike Gundy has reloaded every year without much fanfare so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, this year he only returned a handful of starters on the offense but still ended up with an 8-5 record.
Losing kicker/punter Quinn Sharp is bigger than some experts will admit.
*If Randle doesn't declare for the NFL draft then Oklahoma State moves to No. 2 in these Big 12 power rankings.
No. 4: Oklahoma
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Well, this didn't turn out the way we originally thought it would. The Oklahoma Sooners finished the 2012 season going 10-3 and losing to the three best teams they faced: Kansas State, Notre Dame, and Texas A&M.
The losses on both sides of the ball are staggering, and that's why 2012 is a disappointment for so many reasons—it should have been Oklahoma's year.
Obviously, losing quarterback Landry Jones hurts, but so does losing Ben Habern, Demontre Hurst, Lane Johnson, Tony Jefferson, David King, and Kenny Stills. There are so many more losses yet 2013 won't be a bad season—it'll just be full of new faces.
Can Stoops work his magic and reload? Logic says no, but experience says yes. Nine wins seems like a challenging, yet not insurmountable goal.
No. 3: Kansas State
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Quarterback and Heisman finalist Collin Klein is off to the NFL, and that alone is reason to downgrade this Kansas State team.
But only to No. 3? Yes, because Kansas State does all those Kansas State things that...well...you know...make Bill Snyder a legend.
OK, so beside Klein, the Wildcats lose linebacker Arthur Brown, all four defensive line starters, kicker Anthony Cantele, and receiver Chris Harper. There are more losses but you get the drift here.
Normally, that would be grounds for hitting the panic button but Snyder hand selects talent at junior colleges—talent that usually has at least one or two years of experience—and then starts them right away. For a lot of his incoming players, there aren't a lot of bench-warming activities on their agenda.
This season will be tough, but we know better than to dismiss Kansas State as a Big 12 challenger.
No. 2: TCU
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Texas Christian is my surprise Big 12 team. What really solidified the Horned Frogs at No. 2 was cornerback Jason Verrett's decision to return for his senior year.
TCU could have the best defense in the Big 12 and Verrett is a big reason why. Defensive end Stansly Maponga is still a question mark on whether or not he'll return, but receiver Josh Boyce will not return. The loss of Boyce and senior Skye Dawson hurts on the offense but the defense looks great.
And defense wins championships. Look for TCU to take advantage of some other big boys' offensive losses and pull some upsets in challenging for the Big 12.
No. 1: Texas
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Longhorn coach Mack Brown looked mighty angry at the end of the regular season, but he made it up to some down Texas fans when he and his team went to the Alamo Bowl and beat Oregon State 31-27.
The defense loses defensive end Alex Okafor and safety Kenny Vaccaro, but with some offseason tackling drills to get the rest of the defense back up to Texas standards, this team could challenge for the 2013 BCS Championship.
The offense loses receiver Marquise Goodwin. Other than that, Texas looks ready to roll and return to its rightful place at the top of the Big 12.
It's been awhile but welcome back.