A preview of the final Big 12 football standings
Time to fill out my ballot predicting the order of finish in the Big 12 football standings in advance of Big 12 Media Days (July 16 and 17 in Frisco, Texas):
1 - Oklahoma: Picking anyone else would require having a compelling reason to do so. The Sooners survived the retirement of coach Bob Stoops with a great 2017 season and there is no reason to believe they won’t do the same in the first season without Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. Oakland A’s first-round draft choice Kyler Murray replaces Mayfield and is among the fastest players in college football.
2 - West Virginia: The Mountaineers have a lot of experience on both sides of the line of scrimmage and a superstar at the most important position. Quarterback Will Grier led West Virginia to a 7-3 record and the team went winless in the final three games without him.
3 - TCU: The Horned Frogs should be tough on defense, but they’re breaking in a new staring quarterback in Shawn Robinson, who will be protected by an offensive line that lost four starters.
4 - Kansas State: Cornerback D.J. Reed and receiver Byron Pringle left early for the NFL draft and depth took a hit with a number of transfers, but the Wildcats tend to be better on the field than on paper most years, so don’t overlook them. The offensive tackle tandem of Scott Frantz and Dalton Risner is as good as any in the nation and coach Bill Snyder will know how to make the most of the talented quarterback tandem of Skylar Thompson and Alex Delton.
5 - Texas: I suspect many are getting too excited too quickly about the Longhorns under second-year head coach Tom Herman. He’s upgrading recruiting. Rivals ranked Texas No. 3 in the Class of 2018, but in football it takes a few years for recruiting classes to make a major impact. Herman has two good quarterbacks from which to choose in junior Shane Buechele and sophomore Sam Ehlinger. But wouldn’t you rather have one great quarterback, as does West Virginia, than two good ones?
6 - Oklahoma State: Mason Rudolph and favorite target James Washington shredded Big 12 defenses for what seemed like decades. They’re both with the Pittsburgh Steelers now. Fifth-year senior Taylor Cornelius was the most impressive in the spring, but Hawaii transfer Dru Brown will push him for the starting job. The Cowboys could be vulnerable early in the season.
7 - Texas Tech: The Red Raiders return 10 of 11 starters on defense and the entire starting offensive line, so whichever of three competitors (a freshman, sophomore and junior) for the quarterback job wins it, he should be able to keep his uniform clean running Kliff Kingsbury’s version of the Air Raid.
8 - Iowa State: The surprise team of the Big 12 a year ago, the Cyclones will have to replace key talents on offense and defense and won’t have nearly as much experience on the field. They still will be a well-coached, disciplined team.
9 - Baylor: Matt Rhule had the wisdom to know that the Bears’ 2017 record (1-11) wasn’t going to determine the success of his tenure, so he played a bunch of freshman, got them valuable experience and stayed true to his plan of recruiting high school players from the state of Texas. It will be another year of slow progress, but he’s not about to rob the future simply to have a slightly better losing football team today. He has the discipline to avoid the quick-fix approach.
10 - Kansas: The defense loaded up on talented junior-college players and the secondary has a chance to be much, much better, but the gap the team had to close from being by far the worst team in the conference a year ago makes it tough to find any conference victories on the schedule. Baylor won in Lawrence, 38-9, and Texas Tech came away from its visit with a 65-19 rout. The Iowa State game is in Lawrence and the Cyclones aren't quite as talented as the team that slammed Kansas, 45-0, but that's a lot of points to make up in one year. Again, where is the conference win on the schedule? Maybe vs. Oklahoma State on Sept. 29?