The long wait is almost at an end, as the most anticipated season in TCU history will kick off in just one more day- but it's been so long since football was last had it's easy to forget just how good the teams in this conference of ours are supposed to be this year. Fret not, loyal readers, as your good friend Hawk has awoken from his summer slumber to let you know who's doing what in the Big 12- these aren't conference rankings, they're an attempt to measure the momentum of teams and see who's up and who's on the downswing- so a losing team may be ranked above a winning team if the winning team is particularly unimpressive. As always, the inaugural power ranking is my favorite of the year, as, for all the words we write about our teams, nobody knows just how anyone will perform until the teams start running out onto the field, which allows me a smidge more creativity when ranking teams- there's no wrong answer, after all!
1.) TCU Horned Frogs (0-0)
The defending Big 12 champions ended the season on a tremendous roll, dominating their last 3 opponents by a score of 145-16, including a 42-3 romp over #9 Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl, which secured a top 5 finish for the Frogs in the polls and lofty expectations for the team heading into this season. The schedule gets tougher seemingly every week, so it will be a very interesting run. Starting the season with a win on the road against a solid Big Ten team would definitely help solidify the Frog's position at the top of the rankings.
First game: @ Minnesota (0-0)
2.) Oklahoma Sooners (0-0)
The Sooners made some much needed changes this offseason after stalling out in the second half of 2014, and I expect that they will benefit from moving to the air raid- though the defense is still a matter of some concern to me. That said, Oklahoma is always in contention for the Big 12 championship, and it would be foolish to count them out due to quarterbacking issues last year- they have a new QB, a new offense and those same scary RBs.
First game: Vs. Akron (0-0)
3.) Oklahoma State Cowboys (0-0)
I'm buying into the hype for the Cowboys, as they're coming off a bowl win over a fairly solid Washington team and finally seemed to find a quarterback by the end of the year (he will doubtlessly be beaten out and transfer to... let's say Nevada by midseason) which made them many times more dangerous. What will be interesting is if Cowboy coach Mike Gundy can keep stability on the sideline when there seem to always be rumors flying about that he's leaving the OSU job- either from Boone Pickens wanting him fired, or from him doing great work and being offered bigger jobs.
First game: @ Central Michigan (0-0). No, but seriously, why in the world is OSU playing at Central Michigan?
4.) Texas Longhorns (0-0)
This is more due to belief in Charlie Strong than any particular belief in the Longhorns, who lose scads of defensive talent, but I think UT finally starts its road to recovery this year with a solid season. They Horns are solid on the O-line and there have at least been reports that they could be less than abysmal on offense this year, so I'm buying Texas early over some of the teams that had more success last year. The nice thing is we'll have a good idea of just how improved the horns are after this weekend, as they hit the road to take on what should be a good Irish team.
First game: @ Notre Dame.
5.) Kansas State Wildcats (0-0)
The Wildcats have traditionally struggled without a returning starter at QB, but this year so much of the Big 12 is uncertain that it's easy to overlook KSU- but the cats return 4 starters on the o-line and have a schedule that shouldn't be too bad- there's a rough spot in the middle, but it's conducive to starting strong and finishing on a strong note- and frankly at this point if you're doubting Bill Snyder too much it's ridiculous.
First game: Vs South Dakoka (FCS)
6.) West Virginia Mountaineers (0-0)
This will be a very fascinating year for the men of Morgantown, as first round talent Kevin White graduated, taking away the key to West Virginia's offensive success last year, but surprisingly the defense may be enough to keep Dana Holgorsen employed for the forseeable future. West Virginia returns 8 starters from an improved defense, and they may be enough to keep the Mountaineers undefeated until the offense finds its way. They might've been top 3 if they'd just beaten those darn aggies in the bowl, though.
First game: Georgia Southern (0-0)
7.) Texas Tech Red Raiders (0-0)
It's time for good news/bad news. The good news is that Texas Tech should be improved on offense, Seth Mahomes came on in a big way late in the season, and it made the Raiders look dangerous- and they return plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, so if any of the Big 12's 2014 bowl-less teams is in line to make a jump, it's Tech. The bad news- the Raiders are on their sixth defensive coordinator since 2009, and it's likely that they'll struggle yet again on that side of the ball, which makes the early schedule seem very dangerous. I expect a lot of up and down movement in the rankings from the Raiders this year as they attempt to find themselves.
First game: Vs. Sam Houston State (FCS)
8.) Iowa State Cyclones (0-0)
As much as I like Paul Rhoads, I think the only way he keeps his job after this season is if ISU wins the CyHawk trophy and at least three other games, and frankly, the four easiest games on ISUs schedule are all to start the season- meaning that if ISU doesn't start 4-0, it's likely going to be a very bad year for our friends in Ames. If they do start 4-0, they may at least make some moves in the power rankings!
First game: Vs. Northern Iowa (FCS, but a good one.)
9.) Kansas Jayhawks (0-0)
There's no sugarcoating it, Kansas is not going to be a good team this year. It's not just that Kansas wasn't a good team last year, and I actually think they made a decent coaching hire, but Charlie Weis absolutely decimated the depth chart at Kansas by focusing on Juco transfers for instant impact- most of which were total washouts. As a result, the Jayhawks were a bad team last year, and there's every reason to expect they'll be worse. They return the fewest starters of any P5 team, they've had miserable injury luck and they're thin at virtually every position. This is a team that could challenge some early 00's Baylor teams for the title of worst Big 12 team of all time.
First game: Vs. South Dakota State (FCS)
10.) Baylor Bears (0-0)
Despite the best season in school history, the Bears continue to be one of only two former SWC teams to have never won the Cotton Bowl after another embarrassing posteason performance. The motto of the Bears this season should be "Small servings only, please, we choke in big bowls.", and, despite the returning talent on both sides of the ball, Baylor has earned the last place on these power rankings thanks to Coach Briles' unconscionable screaming at an injured player in the Cotton Bowl, as well as an offseason scandal that will provide a persistent distraction this year. Baylor Delenda Est.
First game: @ SMU (0-0)
Agree? Disagree? So ready for football you're ready to head to Australia because you hear it's already Thursday here? Let me know in the comments- and everything will be different next week.