College Football: Preseason Big 12 Power Rankings
We are nearing the start of college football summer camp, meaning it's time to start ranking each major division in the game.
My expertise is the Big XII, so let's take a look at each team in this dying conference one by one.
Will Texas repeat as conference champions? Or will someone like Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas A&M or Nebraska surprise and make a BCS Bowl themselves?
12. Colorado Buffaloes
It's amazing to me that Dan Hawkins kept his job after last year's disappointing season at the helm. He is back for another season and it isn't looking any better than his first three years in Boulder.
He returns to a similar situation as last season, a year the team finished 3-9 (2-6) overall.
The quarterback tandem of Cody Hawkins and Tyler Hanson isn't anything special, especially when you look at their combined stats last year (50 percent completion rate, 18 touchdowns and 18 interceptions).
Overall, this team didn't get much help from its recruiting class and I don't see too much room for internal improvement on either side of the ball. Buff fans should be waiting for a new coach.
11. Iowa State Cyclones
It's tough for me to rank the Cyclones this low after they earned a bowl bid last season, but I just don't see it this year.
Quarterback Austen Arnaud should be fun to watch and running back Alexander Robinson is coming off an 1,100+ rushing season, so the offense should be enjoyable to watch.
Defensively though, I don't see enough talent to compete with the big boys in the Big 12. They gave up over 420 yards per game last year (which is pretty bad even for the Big 12) and they only lose experience this year.
Better times are ahead, but don't count on six wins from the Cyclones this year.
10. Baylor Bears
Baylor is a potential sleeper team in the Big 12 if Robert Griffin III stays healthy and produces. Even if that happens, it's not a guarantee they will make a bowl game.
You saw how much they needed Griffin last year when he went down with an injury and the team was left without an offense for the rest of the season. The Bears finished 4-8 and only scored 20 points per game.
Even with improvement on offense, the team needs to step it up on defense this season if they want a chance to go bowling. They lost their defensive leader, Joe Pawelek, so they need to fill that void and more this season.
If the Bears want to be bowl-eligible this season, they probably aren't going to do it by winning a lot of games in the tough Big 12 South. Look for a fast start to the year for this team before they "fall off" when the reach their tough conference schedule.
9. Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas was a team in turmoil late last season and it showed as they lost their last seven games in the Mark Mangino era.
Enter Turner Gill, who built a winning program at Buffalo of all places and now takes over the challenge of a Kansas team without Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier, or Dezmon Briscoe. It is the end of an era in KU football and it will show on the field this year.
This is definitely a transition year for the Jayhawks with a quarterback battle sure to come in summer camp and new faces popping up all over the field.
While the team might not be successful this season, I see Turner Gill laying a nice foundation for a winning atmosphere at KU.
8. Oklahoma State Cowboys
This seems like a down year for Oklahoma State, mainly because it lost their quarterback, Zac Robinson.
The loss of Robinson will hurt the Cowboys offense, but don't forget that they still have the impressive Kendall Hunter (hurt some of last year) to go to on the ground game.
On defense, OK State lost a lot of starters and looks to rebuild there after some tough seasons trying to defend the likes of Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy in the Big 12 South.
It may be a 5-7 or 6-6 year for the Cowboys this season, but don't expect them to be down for too long because they have a very good coaching staff.
7. Kansas State Wildcats
This team is hard to peg in the Big 12, so I decided to put them right on the edge of bowl eligibility.
The Wildcats were pretty average in Dan Snyder's return last year, posting a 6-6 record, so maybe we will see some improvement in year two.
On the other side of the argument, Snyder's team only returns 10 starters and could take a step back because of lack of experience.
But, I wouldn't bet against Snyder.
The key to this team is running back Daniel Thomas, who rushed for 1,200 yards last season and will certainly see more of the workload this year. If he can be one of the top backs in the Big 12, maybe this team will go bowling this season.
6. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Texas Tech could be a surprise team in the Big 12 again this year, especially with new head coach Tommy Tuberville.
The decision at quarterback between Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield will be interesting to watch, but either way they go will work out fine for the offense.
Defensively, we could see some improvement with a lot of players coming back and a new mindset with Tuberville leading the way, but it's a pretty big guessing game on this side of the ball.
This team returns a lot of starters and could be ready to take the next step into BCS territory with their high powered offense, but I can't see it happening in Tuberville's first year at the helm.
5. Texas A&M Aggies
Another potential sleeper team is the Texas A&M Aggies, led by the electric Jerrod Johnson at quarterback.
The schedule looks good as they get Nebraska, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma all at home (UT on the road), so maybe this team can take advantage and surprise a lot of people.
The only reason the Aggies aren't getting more play nationally is their very suspect defense. A&M can hang with the big boys on offense, but if they can't get any stops, we'll likely see a repeat of the 2009 season (which really wouldn't be a bad thing for Aggies fans, would it?).
3B. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Nebraska is a very good football team, but I'm not buying into the national championship contender hype this year. They will be in a dogfight in the North with Missouri.
Their defense looks to be solid again, even though they only return six starters (and a huge loss of Ndomukong Suh). Bo Pelini knows how to coach a defense and this group will still be fearsome this year.
When you look at the Huskers passing attack (very important, especially in Big 12 play), you don't see much talent at all.
Whether it will be Zac Lee or Cody Green at quarterback, neither one has proven that they can lead a successful offense in the Big 12.
Nebraka's best chance to take the the Big 12 title is if their running attack can be anything like it was last season. With Roy Helu Jr. returning, the offense could rely on pounding it out on the ground, so maybe my doubts in this team will be unjustified.
3A. Missouri Tigers
This team is flying under the radar in the Big 12 after a mixed bag 8-4 season last year.
Blaine Gabbert comes back strong this year after struggling through an ankle sprain during most of the Big 12 schedule last year and it looks like he will be one of the top quarterbacks in the conference.
The team returns an impressive 15 starters, including most of their offensive line, so expect improvement in Gabbert's second full year calling the shots.
The only question on offense this year is wide receiver. That position is in the same kind of situation as it was last year and it turned out pretty good with Danario Alexander stepping up, so I don't see much to be worried about.
Defensively, the Tigers have improved in recent years and second year coordinator Dave Steckel will grab hold of this unit and produce a solid defense for the first time in a while at Mizzou.
2. Oklahoma Sooners
Bob Stoops will look to bounce back from an 8-5 season last year by getting good play from a talented offense.
After losing a lot of very talented players to the NFL, it seems like the Sooners should be in a rebuilding year, but because of how the injury bug played out last year, OU looks ready to rumble in the Big 12 South this year.
DeMarco Murray and Ryan Broyles will be two of the most explosive offensive players in the Big 12 and should lead the Sooners to another 10-win season.
Oklahoma didn't have a bad team at all last year, they just were overtaken with injuries and lost a ton of close games. Look for a bounce back year in 2010 with the experienced Landry Jones at the helm.
1. Texas Longhorns
Even with the loss of Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley, I see the Longhorns as top dogs in the Big 12 in 2010.
Garrett Gilbert's experience in the National Championship Game will be invaluable this season and is the main reason I'm not worried about how the Texas offense will preform this year.
Another reason I'm not worried about the Longhorns offense is because of how stout their defense is. They only allowed 17 points per game last season, and that included games against top offenses like Texas Tech, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas A&M.
With a top recruiting class every year, the Horns should be able to plug the holes that were created by departures to the NFL and return to the Big 12 Championship Game for the second straight season.