1. Baylor Bears– I don’t think many people thought these guys would be relevant after Robert Griffin III. Despite losing some key pieces to the NFL, Baylor will be in the run for the conference title yet again. It does go through them. Art Briles will be back on the sideline that’s one important piece. Head coaches are just as important as any player to a team and Bryce Petty decided to come back for his senior year when he was going to be considered a top five pick in the NFL draft. One of the biggest losses for Baylor is the departure of Cyril Richardson on that offensive line. This offense put up video game like numbers last season. I think they will still score their points but they won’t be as explosive as last season because teams have had a full season to watch tape and study them.
2. Oklahoma Sooners– After what was considered a rebuilding year in Norman, they won eleven games including an upset victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. A win like that will definitely give you confidence heading into the next season. They’ve got Trevor Knight coming back and with another solid season, he could become one of the conference’s top quarterbacks. They may have lost some key guys on offense but Trevor will still have a pretty nice supporting cast around him. Defensively, they have so much depth all around. They will be considered as the biggest threat to Baylor this year.
3. Texas Longhorns– It’s the beginning of a new era in Austin. Mack Brown who was there for so long is now out and Charlie Strong is in as the new head coach. They have a lot of talent but there are some questions surrounding that offense. Since the Colt McCoy days at Texas, they have had many inconsistencies under center. Who will be the guy starting for coach Strong come week one? Will it be David Ash or Tyrone Swoopes? The offense will need some toning up but the defense with the defensive minded guy that Charlie is will rank among the top in the Big 12. Jordan Hicks will be back from injury and most of the unit from last season remains in tact. We will see if Texas can get back to its winning ways this season.
4. Kansas State Wildcats- They started slowly with a 2-4 start after the first six games. They would quietly win six of their final seven games. Kansas State is poised to improve and make a statement after last season. They have a nice duo at quarterback in Waters and Sams and they also have one of the premiere wide receivers in the country in Tyler Lockett. The offense will need to replace some guys but the defense despite bringing back only three starters will still be one of the best units in this conference.
5. Oklahoma State Cowboys– They were a good team last season. They won 10 games. That will be hard to repeat again this upcoming season. They’ve lost a majority of their team from last year. They have questions all across the board in Stillwater. The offense lost its star quarterback in Clint Chelf and the offensive line lost their line coach which is a big blow. Despite the questions on offense, the defense has just as many if not more questions. Oklahoma State will be without Justin Gilbert who was their best cover corner. This will definitely be a rebuilding year in Stillwater.
6. TCU Horned Frogs– They are coming off their worst season under Gary Patterson. In the last two seasons, TCU is a measly 6-12 in Big 12 play. Injuries will take a toll on a team. They were without star defensive end Devonte Fields but he will be back this year and that will give the defense a boost of confidence moving forward in 2014. The offense is in need of a huge improvement. Doug Meachem will be the teams new offensive coordinator but they still have questions under center at quarterback.
7. Texas Tech Red Raiders– They had a softer schedule than most teams did in the country last season. They got off to a hot 7-0 start before cooling down considerably and losing their final five games of the season. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury has this program headed in a good direction. This offense will need a new target to get the ball too since Jace Amaro has decided to go pro. The biggest goal for Texas Tech this year is to force more turnovers and capitalize on those. An opportunistic defense is a great defense.
8. Iowa State Cyclones– They are always a team that silences people and they always seem to outperform the predictions people set for them. Iowa State feels they can contend with anybody in the country and they have the talent to contend for a bowl game. Watch out for running back Aaron Wimberly and wide receiver Quenton Bundrage. They both could have potential breakout seasons. If the Cyclones could fix some things, I could see them easily winning seven games at the most.
9. West Virginia Mountaineers- There will always be a head coach who’ll be on the hot seat entering the year. Dana Holgorsen is one of those guys. After a 10-3 season in his first year, West Virginia is 11-14 over the last two seasons which is extremely disappointing. The offense is still looking to replace Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey and speedster Tavon Austin who were all vital pieces on offense. The defense was terrible in 2012 but they made some improvements in 2013 and will look to get better in 2014. They have a very tough task to open the season. A match-up with Saban and the Roll Tide of Alabama.
10. Kansas Jayhawks– Some progress is being made in Lawrence. Kansas was able to snap a 27 game Big 12 losing streak last season but they still have a lot of work to do all around from the offense to the defense to the special teams. Their offense will look to bring new talent to the team after losing key pieces to the professional rankings. Weis is an offensive minded head coach so he will figure something out.
Prediction: I like Baylor to win this conference for the second straight season. Bryce is Heisman candidate and will put together another solid season under Briles on the sideline. This teas has what it takes to be one of the final four standing for the new College