Big 12 spring preview
Plenty of schools are set to start their spring practice this coming Monday, with the latest being April 3. Spring games usually take place in the latter end of April, but there will be some played in March.
That said, I will be releasing pre-spring power rankings for every major conference, while giving a short explanation for my decision.
Here is a spring preview of the Big 12 Conference.
1. Texas Longhorns (9-4, 5-4 Big 12 in 2012)
The Longhorns return 19 starters to the field, including the entire offensive line. The offense should be one of the best in the country under Mack Brown’s new fast-paced scheme, in which he adopted off the look of Oregon. Texas needs its linebackers to live up to expectations this year in order to compete for the Big 12 title – and the return of Jordan Hicks should help.
2. Oklahoma Sooners (10-3, 8-1)
It’s never a good thing when you lose your four-year starter at QB, but Blake Bell provides a different element to Sooner Nation – the ability to run the football. While he doesn’t have the gun-slinger mentality of Landry Jones, Oklahoma shouldn’t take too much of a step back in terms of offensive production with Bell under center.
3. TCU Horned Frogs (7-6, 4-5)
QB Casey Pachall is back from rehab, which is a win-win situation for TCU. If he proves that he can lead the team again and become the starter, Trevone Boykin – who took over for Pachall mid-season and showed sparks of explosiveness – will have another year to develop and learn. If Pachall can’t win back his job, then Boykin will have a veteran teammate he can look to for support and guidance.
4. Kansas State Wildcats (11-2, 8-1)
The biggest storyline surrounding Kansas State this spring is obvious: Who will replace Collin Klein under center? Will it be the inexperienced, yet talented sophomore Daniel Sims? What about upperclassmen Jake Waters or Sam Johnson? Right now, it’s all up in the air. However, the biggest reason the Wildcats will drop in the polls is the fact that they lose their entire defensive line, and two huge linebackers. That’s six members of what was a fierce front seven.
5. Oklahoma State Cowboys (8-5, 5-4)
Like most Oklahoma State teams, this year will feature a dynamic offensive attack and a mediocre defensive unit. There will be a QB battle this spring between Clint Chelf and Wes Lunt, but the Cowboys can’t go wrong either way. Unfortunately, neither can play defense, and neither will be able to keep OSU in contention for the conference title.
6. Baylor Bears (8-5, 4-5)
The good news: Art Briles would rather stay in Waco than coach in the SEC. The bad news: Baylor has to replace yet another stat-studded QB, with Nick Florence graduating. The Bears won their final five of six games – including four ranked opponents – but still gave up over 30 points per game in that span. They’ll need to find someone that can give the team 40-plus a game, or the postseason may not be an option.
7. Texas Tech Red Raiders (8-5, 4-5)
Not only are the Red Raiders going through a major coaching transition and scheme change, but they lose their gunslinger Seth Doege in the process. This could be a very different-looking Texas Tech team from what we’re used to, with the defense being its strength.
8. West Virginia Mountaineers (7-5, 4-5)
And so the post-Geno Smith era begins. Dana Holgorsen has a lot of work to do this spring and summer, finding his replacement for the potential top QB taken in the 2013 NFL Draft. The defense can only get better after finishing 117th overall in points allowed (38.1 per game).
9. Iowa State Cyclones (6-7, 3-6)
To stay competitive in the Big 12, you must own a high-tempo, thriving offense; a solid defense will only get you so far. Iowa State’s defense kept it in games, but couldn’t do all of the work. In order for the Cyclones to finish with a winning record in 2013, QB Jared Barnett is going to have to take over the team and become the playmaker everyone has hoped he’d become.
10. Kansas Jayhawks (1-11, 0-9)
Can Charlie Weis fix the Kansas football program? Short answer: no. It’s not that he isn’t capable of managing a team to success – it’s that the campus is in the middle of nowhere and just isn’t a prime location for big-time recruits. If you give them the option, top prospects will choose surrounding schools – such as Oklahoma and Texas – over Kansas any day of the week.