Big 12 Football: Ranking 5 Teams with the Best Chance to Win Conference
With the emergence of the new College Football Playoff, 2014-15 may provide the Big 12 its best chance to win a national championship since 2005, when Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns electrified the nation with a thrilling victory over USC.
Baylor stands the best chance to repeat at conference champs, and they were one fateful night in Stillwater, Oklahoma, away from going to the BCS National Championship.
Oklahoma as always will be dangerous, while Bill Snyder and Kansas State could be a dark horse to emerge after an up-and-down season in 2013-14.
With that, let's rank the top five teams in the conference most likely to hoist the Big 12 trophy this upcoming season.
There are looming questions at quarterback, but Texas was quietly just one win away from a conference championship last year.
Now under new management in Charlie Strong, the Longhorns could make a resurgence into national relevancy in 2014-15.
There are looming questions at quarterback with seemingly no viable answers, but the rushing attack of Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron could be the best in the nation.
Defensively, another Malcom Brown—a junior defensive tackle—could be one of the conference's biggest threats upfront.
Texas' ceiling is high, but its basement is also low in 2014-15. The Longhorns could make a run at another title, but the Big 12 as a whole is on the rise from last season. So it'll be hard for Texas to contend. But it's certainly possible.
4. Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State was the only Big 12 squad to beat defending champion Baylor last season.
But it also lost to West Virginia, a team that even lowly Kansas was able to beat.
That makes it hard to pinpoint exactly where the Cowboys will fall in 2014-15. According to Phil Steele, Oklahoma State has just nine returning starters this year, the second fewest in the FBS.
But Mike Gundy has plenty of talent on the roster. The Cowboys return quarterback J.W. Walsh, a good dual-threat signal-caller, and Desmond Roland, the team's leading rusher.
With Gundy's high-octane offense, the Cowboys are capable of beating anybody at anytime. But they face a tough road schedule this season, with trips to Waco and Norman to face Baylor and Oklahoma, respectively.
Whoever wins the conference will likely only lose just one conference game, if that. And with Oklahoma State routinely battling inconsistency, the Cowboys may be on the outside looking in at a Big 12 trophy.
3. Kansas State
With no Collin Klein at the helm, Kansas State took a step back in 2013-14 in a season that included a loss to FCS North Dakota State.
But the Wildcats found their rhythm in the second half of the year, culminating with a Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl victory over Michigan.
Now, the Wildcats have plenty of talent coming back, including wide receiver Tyler Lockett and quarterback Jake Waters.
With Bill Snyder at the helm, K-State always has a chance to be dangerous in the conference. That's especially true in 2014-15 with the Wildcats riding into the fall on a wave of momentum.
The biggest concern for Kansas State will be whoever the answer is as to who will replace running back John Hubert. The best option right now looks like DeMarcus Robinson.
But if Waters can become the type of gunslinger he's been hyped up to be, the Little Apple could be home to one of the Big 12's best teams this year.
Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners are almost always contenders for the Big 12 title. They split the championship with Kansas State in 2012, and they finished 7-2 and in second last season, just one game behind Baylor.
Now, with nine returning starters on defense and fresh off a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, the Sooners should be on track to be one of the top two teams in the Big 12 again this year.
The biggest question mark for the Sooners is at running back, where they lost their two best backs from last year and don't have any experienced candidates to replace them.
Quarterback Trevor Knight is also a bit of a concern. He was wildly inconsistent in the regular season last year but dominated Alabama's legendary secondary in the Sugar Bowl.
Depending on which Knight shows up in 2014, the Sooners could very well be not only one of the Big 12's best teams, but one of the nation's best.
Art Briles is the mastermind of one of college football's biggest turnarounds in recent memory, and it was capped off last season by a Big 12 title.
Now Briles is looking to build a dynasty in Waco by repeating in 2014-15.
His best weapon far and away is quarterback Bryce Petty, who lays claim to being one of the best signal-callers in the nation.
However, the losses of Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin at running back are big concerns for the Bears. Baylor also returns just four starters on defense, so Briles has a lot of talent to replace on that side of the ball.
But Baylor's offense was legendary last season, and it's tough to see it skipping much of a beat just a year later. If Baylor can just come close to matching that production, it'll safely be in contention to win the program's second Big 12 Championship.