It's game week, finally.
For the second straight season, the Big 12 looks a heck of a lot different than it did from the season prior.
It's hard to imagine, but for a conference that has lost four teams over the past two seasons, the Big 12 could be as good as its been competitively in quite some time. We are all aware of what the SEC has done the past few seasons (six is it?) but from top to bottom, the Big 12 doesn't take a back seat to anyone.
With the Big 12's nonconference schedule being nothing short of a bad joke, these rankings might not change much through the first several weeks.
Once they start beating up on each other heading into October, things are going to get interesting. Parity I think is the word here which is actually what the Big 12 needs to avoid if wants to be considered in the same breath as their friends to the east.
Here's a look at how the conference rankings shake out with the schedule set to kickoff on Saturday when West Virginia plays host to Marshall.
On paper, the Sooners are the best team in the conference and that's what these preseason rankings are really all about. As we all know though, reality can be an entirely different thing.
That being said, I'm thinking maybe, just maybe, OU will find themselves on the top of the heap when the season is said and done. Experienced quarterback, strong running game, and a defense that has the potential to be much improved. Once again, the Sooners are the team to beat.
Don't laugh, but Texas has a serious chance to get back not only to the top of the Big 12, but they have the potential to once again make some noise nationally. The Longhorns have a defense that can hang with any team in the country. If the offense cooperates just a little bit, Texas should find their way back to double digit wins once again. Hey David Ash, remember your team wears Burnt Orange.
3. Kansas State
Bill Snyder. I can probably stop right there. Here's one of the best coaches in the country working with an experienced and very good quarterback among 17 returning starters. They have a defense led by Arthur Brown that isn't getting the respect it deserves heading into this season. It doesn't matter how many close games they won a year ago, they won them and will probably win them again in 2012.
4. West Virginia
They very well may end up higher than this, but until they prove they can handle the grind in their new conference, this is where they start. Having Dana Holgorsen and his offense back in the Big 12 ratchets up the competition level more than a few notches.
5. Oklahoma State
Some people are down on the Cowboys minus the star-studded power they lost from last season but I like this team.
Joseph Randle is the best back in the league and their defense is athletic as it has ever been under Mike Gundy. The Pokes might stumble a time or two with a freshmen quarterback, but they are also going to win a couple big games. Oklahoma State has won at least nine games the past four seasons and I don't see any reason they can't make it five straight.
Welcome to the Big 12, TCU. The Horned Frogs are no doubt a great football addition to the league but the combination of a very young team and a much tougher schedule will likely make for a rather bumpy ride in their inaugural season.
That being said, Casey Pachall is a very reliable quarterback to be leading the charge to go along with what could be the best rushing offense in the Big 12. That in itself makes TCU a tough out for any team on their schedule.
7. Texas Tech
Yes, I'm higher on Texas Tech than some and considering we haven't seen any team in the country play yet, this is where the Red Raiders start (and I almost started them another spot or two higher). Seth Doege is a very underrated quarterback, Eric Stephens is back at running back and Eric Ward should put up huge numbers at wide receiver.
Now, can they play any defense? I suspect the change to Art Kaufman as defensive coordinator and a talent infusion led by Will Smith will pay immediate dividends.
Baylor's offense should still be really, really, good even without Robert Griffin. Their defense? I'll believe it when I see it.
9. Iowa State
I'm not a fan of having Iowa State this low because I like what Paul Rhoads has going in Ames. But with the strength of the Big 12 this season, it's tough to put the Cyclones much higher. ISU will once again be scratching and clawing to find six wins.
Kansas will be better this year, that much I'm sure of. Their record, however, won't be. Having Charlie Weis in Lawrence will at least have people talking about the Jayhawks if nothing else.