Football must be right around the corner, because it's already power poll time! Every Wednesday during football season we'll break down the results of each week, analyze what teams have momentum and which appear to be on the downswing. These aren't your conference ratings, as teams that are winless in the conference could well be playing better than a team that's undefeated in the conference (Think of TCU in the very early polls last year- losing to LSU and in that clusterfuck in Lubbock didn't drop the Frogs too much in the polls).
However, the inaugural Big 12 Power Rankings is my favorite one of the year, because- like any preseason poll- we're working off of hunches, guesses and theories and there's simply no wrong answer to ranking the teams in any order that you choose. So while most of these rankings are going to be based on where I actually think teams will end up, you'll have to permit me just a bit of leeway on a couple of picks. Let's get to it.
1. TCU Horned Frogs (0-0)
Continuing a Frogs O' War tradition of putting the Frogs on top of the inaugural power poll despite an offseason of calamity (which seems to be a TCU tradition at this point). There's no justifying this ranking, and the Frogs will almost certainly drop after this week, as the Frogs will have a weaker quality win than any team other than Texas Tech or Kansas State (Iowa State is at least playing the defending FCS champs). Still, the Frogs are on top because we're in that happy lull where I've convinced myself that an offseason of coaching change and practice will have fixed all of TCU's problems.
2. Oklahoma Sooners (0-0)
Okay, more seriously here- Oklahoma returns a pretty monstrous team returning this year. Four starters on the OL including three seniors, and just about all of their defensive front 7 return, and I'm a man that loves returning starters on the lines as a means of predicting success. Throw in the fact that they get K-State, Baylor and OSU at home and the schedule is pretty decent for the Sooners as well, though trips to TCU and Tech will do a lot in saying about whether this team is good on a playoff qualifying level though.
3. Kansas State Wildcats (0-0)
Bill Snyder is pretty much exactly what I want Coach Patterson to be when he grows up (old)- still head coach of the university that offered him his first head coaching position with a stadium named after him and an unrelenting hunger for success. Our brothers in purple don't have the wealth of returning O-line starters that Oklahoma has, but they have a nice schedule with most of the toss-up type games at home- I see Kansas State as a lock for top half of the conference, and a likely top 3 finisher when this season is over.
4. Oklahoma State Cowboys (0-0)
I don't doubt Oklahoma State anymore. Clint Chelf? J.W. Walsh? Sure, send them in. The Cowboys are tied for the fewest returning starters in the conference, and open the season against the top ranked and defending national champion Florida State Seminoles, and you know what? They're going to be in that game to the end, no matter what logic would have you believe. Mike Gundy is a man who is approaching 50 and he knows what he's doing.
5. Texas Longhorns (0-0)
I honestly kind of wish they'd gotten Saban instead. The hire of Charlie strong is a very solid one for the Longhorns, and it would be really nice for the Frogs if they could put together a big season this year and try and seize as much momentum as possible before the Horns really get rolling under Strong- and happily that should happen. As it is, the Longhorns return a lot of inexperienced talent and will be trying to learn new systems on offense and defense and have a pretty monstrous non-conference schedule- A Mean Green team that I quite like this year, a BYU team that beat the tar out of the horns last year in Provo and top 10 ranked UCLA. The Horns will be 8-4-ish, they simply have too much talent not to, but teams need to get their shots in now to keep the Texas machine from starting up again.
6. Texas Tech Red Raiders (0-0)
The Raiders are in an interesting position, and I think they may be the second hardest to predict team in the conference (after TCU). They return a lot of offensive talent, including a ton of experience on the O-line, but their defense was gutted by graduation and if Davis Webb misses any time at all there's nothing but air behind him on the depth chart. Tech will be a bowl team, but how good of a bowl may end up determined by their game against TCU. If the Raiders win, they take a lot of momentum into home games with Texas and Oklahoma coming up- and they could even make a run to a top two finish in the conference. If the Raiders lose, it wouldn't surprise me too much if they dropped both of them and struggled with the Cyclones in Ames. As I expect the Big 12 to have 7 bowl teams, a chaotic Texas Tech squad is a good choice for sixth.
7. Iowa State Cyclones (0-0)
The Cyclones return a ton of starters, but that schedule is a bear- NDSU is no picnic, but if the Cyclones can't establish FBS dominance and pull out a win it's hard to figure out where six wins could come from. Generally the 'clones are good for one out-of-nowhere rabbit-out-of-the-hat game a year , but that's still only 5 by my count unless the Cyclones can knock off the Iowa Hawkeyes on the road. Still, hiring Mark Mangino as an offensive coordinator was as wise a move as Kansas hiring Charlie Weis as head coach was a poor one, and I think the Cyclones will be in a lot of games this year- it's just whether or not they'll find a way to win them.
8. West Virginia Mountaineers (0-0)
If the TCU Air Raid offense is spectacular this year and either Sonny Cumbie or Doug Meacham ends up as a head coach somewhere in the 2015 season, I have a sneaking suspicion Dana Holgorsen may be available as a replacement. West Virginia returns 7 starters on offense and defense, but were pretty bad at both of those things last year, and Holgorsen's quarterback shuffling last year didn't come anywhere near finding the heir for September Heisman winner Geno Smith. The schedule is an absolute bear, starting with Alabama and a Maryland team that beat the Mountaineers 37-0 last year, before a date with Oklahoma, bye and Kansas. After that is an absolute meat grinder, as the Mountaineers will play @ Tech, Baylor, @ OSU, TCU and @ Texas in a row. Not only is that a monster stretch from a football standpoint, that's also a ton of travel back and forth.
9. Kansas Jayhawks (0-0)
Kansas' lone bright spot last year was a strong running game, and it was expected to be pretty good again. Then the Jayhawks top two running backs went out with season ending injuries. There is literally nothing for the Kansas offense to say that it does even moderately well, and they're coached by Charlie Weis. I think Kansas is a 2-10 disaster waiting to happen, and that may be the best case scenario for the Jayhawks. Still, they're happy to have someone to look down on for at least a week.
10. Baylor Bears (0-0)
Baylor Delenda Est.
Agree? Disagree? Flying down to Australia to put a flaming bag of poop on my porch? Let me know in the comments.