Big 12 Football: Power Ranking the Entire Conference Heading into 2013 Season

Sean Frye@Sean_E_FryeFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2013

Big 12 Football: Power Ranking the Entire Conference Heading into 2013 Season

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    Each Big 12 team has needs it must fulfill heading into the 2013 season, but early expectations are still being set nonetheless. 

    The Kansas State Wildcats and Oklahoma Sooners won the conference last year, but both must find a new starting quarterback and replace over half their starting defense.

    While the Baylor Bears finished near the middle of the pack in 2012, they finished as one of the hottest teams in the country and could keep up that momentum in the fall. 

    And Charlie Weis is entering his second year of the rebuilding project in Lawrence, Kan. In 2013, he'll look to finally put a decent Kansas Jayhawks team on the field. 

    Here are the power rankings for the Big 12 heading into the summer. 

10. Kansas Jayhawks

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    There wasn't much to cheer about when it came to football for the Kansas Jayhawks last season. The team only won one game, and that was against South Dakota, an FCS team. 

    The Jayhawks are also in the midst of a 21-game losing streak within the Big 12. The last time Kansas beat a team in the Big 12 was 2010 against the Colorado Buffaloes, who are now in the Pac-12. 

    October 10, 2009 marks the last time the Jayhawks beat a team that is currently in the Big 12, as they beat the Iowa State Cyclones 41-36 that day. 

    Despite losing every game against FBS teams in 2012, there were still some positive signs developing in Lawrence. The team took Texas Tech to overtime, and the Jayhawks nearly beat the Texas Longhorns before a last-minute drive by Mack Brown's squad put his team up 21-17. 

    The biggest returner for the Jayhawks is undoubtedly running back James Sims, who bypassed the NFL to come back for his senior season. Sims ran for 1,013 yards and nine scores last year and is expected to be the focal point of the offense. 

    However, the Jayhawks still have quite a mountain to climb to return to relevancy in the Big 12, which is why they're ranked as the worst team in the conference. 

9. West Virginia Mountaineers

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    Last year was a disappointing one for the Mountaineers. Despite starting the campaign 5-0, a loss to Texas Tech on October 13 started a five-game losing streak. After falling to 5-5, the Mountaineers won their last two regular-season games to finish 7-5. 

    However, the Mountaineers lost to the Syracuse Orange in the Pinstripe Bowl, which ended QB Geno Smith's career in Morgantown on a sour note. 

    Now in 2013, head coach Dana Holgorsen's bunch only has nine starters returning, with six of them on defense. And last year's defense for the Mountaineers gave up over 38 points a game, which ranked 117th in the country. 

    In addition to losing Smith, West Virginia's high-powered offense also lost WRs Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey and starting center Joe Madsen. 

    With only three starters returning on offense, 2013 is looking like a rebuilding year for West Virginia. Expect the Mountaineers to ride the bottom of the conference. 

8. Iowa State Cyclones

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    In 2012, analysts projected the Iowa State Cyclones as a possible dark horse in the Big 12 yet again. And yet again, the Cyclones failed to live up as they finished the season 6-7 overall and 3-6 in conference play. 

    And with only nine starters returning in 2013, the Cyclones are poised for another tough season. 

    Iowa State lost two of the best linebackers in nation last season in Jake Knott and A.J. Klein. 

    Also, the issue of quarterback play is still persisting in Ames. Steele Jantz graduated and Jared Barnett, the quarterback that led the Cyclones to their legendary upset of Oklahoma State two years ago, transferred. 

    The Cyclones for now are putting their marbles in QB Sam Richardson. He was decent in the spring game, but he was unimpressive in two starts over his career. 

    Running back James White is the best returner the Cyclones have. On just 99 carries last season he racked up 505 yards. He'll likely be asked to be a focal point Paul Rhoads' offensive scheme. 

    The Cyclones only have four returners on defense, which has been the staple in Ames the past few years. 

    With that said, expect the Cyclones to struggle in 2013. 

7. Texas Tech Red Raiders

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    The Kliff Kingsbury-era is underway in Lubbock, Texas after Tommy Tuberville left the Texas Tech Red Raiders for Cincinnati. 

    Kingsbury, a former standout quarterback himself for the Red Raiders, is tasked with replacing Seth Doege this offseason. 

    Doege threw for over 4,000 yards last year and has been a model of consistency for the Red Raiders during his four years in Lubbock. 

    Michael Brewer appears to be the answer for now, as he currently tops the depth chart for Texas Tech. Kingsbury is also reportedly excited about Brewer, according to David Ubben of ESPN. 

    Brewer will have a great target to throw to, as wideout Eric Ward is set to return in 2013. He caught 82 passes for 1,053 yards and 12 touchdowns last season and is one of the best receivers in the Big 12. 

    While the Red Raiders struggled on defense last year, they return eight starters and hope to improve in that area. 

    Regardless, a new coach with a new system and a new quarterback is usually a signal that the team will experience some growing pains, which could spell trouble in Lubbock. 

6. Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    While the Oklahoma State Cowboys have seven returners on each side of the ball, there is still some instability in Stillwater. 

    Some controversy erupted over the transfer of QB Wes Lunt, who was blocked by head coach Mike Gundy from transferring to a litany of schools. (h/t NewsOK.com)

    After starting three QBs last year, the Cowboys seem set on Clint Chelf to be the man in 2013. 

    However, J.W. Walsh is reportedly in the hunt for the starting job, and according to David Ubben of ESPN, Gundy will give no updates until after the season opener about the quarterback situation. So maybe Gundy isn't as confident in Chelf as he used to be. 

    The Cowboys better find a solid answer though, as they'll have to replace running back Joseph Randle, who was one of the top offensive threats in the entire conference the past two seasons. 

    Defensively, cornerback Justin Gilbert should help the Cowboys be one of the better pass defenses in the league. 

    However after just a 5-4 showing in Big 12 play last year and turmoil already happening this offseason with the Lunt controversy, the Cowboys could be on a downward spiral. 

    Then again, there are plenty of signs that could indicate that the Cowboys could have a great year in 2013. 

5. Texas Longhorns

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    After two lackluster seasons that included a 5-4 record in the Big 12 last season, Mack Brown's job could seriously be on the line in 2013. 

    However, 2013 could very well be the year that the Texas Longhorns turn their recent fortunes around. The Longhorns have 19 returning starters including QB David Ash and RB Jonathan Gray. 

    The biggest losses for the Longhorns are defensive end/linebacker Alex Okafor, safety Kenny Vaccarro and wide receiver Marquis Goodwin. 

    What will make or break the Longhorns in 2013 will be the play of QB David Ash. He's been wildly inconsistent since arriving in Austin, but maybe he'll finally find his niche in his third year. 

    Texas was projected to have one of the best defenses in last year's preseason, but ended up getting burned all year and gave up nearly 30 points per game. 

    With nine starters coming back on defense though, this season could see vast improvement in that area. 

    Plenty of returning starters indicate that this could be Texas' year. However, it seems like every season could be the Longhorns' year and they haven't delivered lately. 

4. Kansas State Wildcats

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    After winning the Big 12 last season, the Kansas State Wildcats are looking to possibly repeat in 2013. 

    However to do that, Bill Snyder will have to replace 10 players on the defensive side of the ball as well as Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein. 

    Right now, the race is on between QBs Daniel Sams and Jake Waters. Sams saw playing time last year in mop-up situations, while Waters is a junior college transfer. 

    Both players looked extremely well in the spring game, while nobody seemed to have a clear edge. 

    The biggest returners for the Wildcats are on the offensive side of the ball, which include nearly all of their offensive line and running back John Hubert. 

    While it's hard to replace Collin Klein, Waters or Sams will have a lot of help with a great line and quality receivers in Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson. 

    Once again, the Wildcats seemingly have an uphill battle in 2013. They were picked sixth in last year's preseason Big 12 poll. But it's become all too common for the media to fall into the trap of ranking Kansas State too low. 

    But nobody will ever out-coach Bill Snyder, and he'll likely find a way to win again in 2013. 

3. Oklahoma Sooners

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    While the Oklahoma Sooners only have half of their starters returning from a year ago, Bob Stoops has the Sooners poised for another great year. 

    Last year's co-champions along with Kansas State lose some key players including QB Landry JOnes and wide receiver Kenny Stills. 

    Right now, it appears that Blake "Belldozer" Bell will be the man to replace Jones full-time. Bell saw the field a lot in Norman as a big quarterback used in short-yardage situations. 

    Now it appears he may be ready to take the reins. He looked good in the spring game and his top competition, Kendal Thompson, was arrested in early May. (h/t USAToday.com)

    Offensively, the Sooners have seven returners, most notably running back Damien Williams. Williams led the team in rushing last year with 946 yards and will look to build on those numbers. 

    While the Sooners lost a lot of players on defense, like cornerback Demontre Hurst and safety Tony Jefferson, there is still plenty of talent in Norman to fill the void. 

    Bob Stoops is a great coach, and were it not for one bad night against Kansas State last year in Norman, he would've swept through the Big 12. 

    Expect the Sooners to yet again be one of the best teams in the league. 

2. Baylor Bears

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    No team in the entire country finished its season as hot as the Baylor Bears did last year. 

    After starting their season 4-5, the Bears beat Kansas State, then the No. 1 team in the BCS standings, to kick off a four-game winning streak to end the year. The streak also included wins over then-No. 23 Oklahoma State and a Holiday Bowl victory over UCLA. 

    It was running back Lache Seastrunk that carried the team through its run late in the year, and he'll be back in 2013 to tear it up again. 

    The biggest question for Baylor surrounds Bryce Petty, the new quarterback who is set to replace Nick Florence and his school-record passing-yard performance. 

    Petty looked tremendous in his spring game, as the senior seems to have a good grip on head coach Art Briles' scheme. 

    Defense is where the Bears struggled mightily last season. However, with seven returners on the unit including safety Ahmad Dixon, who was named to the Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list, the Bears should see drastic improvement in this area. 

    Baylor will have one of the most prolific offenses in the country that will be hard to stop. If the Bears defense can make just enough stops to give its offense time to get ahead, then Baylor could be one of the most dangerous teams in the country next year. 

1. TCU Horned Frogs

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    Before QB Casey Pachall left the TCU Horned Frogs last season to seek treatment for drugs and alcohol, he was looking like one of the best quarterbacks in a league dominated by big-name signal-callers. 

    In just four games last year, Pachall threw for 948 yards and 10 touchdowns to just one pick. If he can find that form again as he returns to his team for his senior season, the Horned Frogs could be one of the best offenses in the league. 

    Not only will Pachall make the Horned Frogs a terrific offensive team, but head coach Gary Patterson already has one of the best defenses in the league as well. 

    The Horned Frogs have nine returners on defense, including defensive end Devonte Fields. In 2012, Fields recorded 49 tackles including 10 sacks. 

    Bad news hit Fields this offseason though, as according to Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News, TCU suspended Fields for the first two games of the season due to a violation of team rules. 

    That means he'll miss his team's big-time Week 1 matchup against LSU.

    However, Fields won't miss any Big 12 games. 

    With one of the best quarterbacks in the league returning to the team and one of the best defensive units in the entire country, the Horned Frogs are the favorite to win the Big 12 heading into the summer.