The ink is barely dry on the new schedule but that doesn't mean we can't start doing a little bit of prognostication as to how the league will play out in 2012.
Beyond the Bets has already put out some very early win totals for the Big 12 in 2012. These will more than likely change after spring football practice concludes and the season draws closer, but it's still a great starting point for some discussion.
Here's a glimpse at where Beyond the Bets set the number and a very preliminary guess as to whether each team will be above or below that mark this fall.
Baylor - Beyond the Bets (BTB, hereafter) set the Bears win total at 5.5. Baylor has a brutal road schedule to look forward too, plus no RGIII, Kendall Wright, or Terrance Ganaway to go along with a suspect defense that gave up 56 points to Washington in the Alamo Bowl. They hit 10 wins a season ago, but they'll face an uphill battle to approach that mark this year.
Early prediction: Over, but barely, with six wins. Let's assume a 3-0 non conference record which means they need to find three wins among the nine game conference slate. TCU, Iowa State, Kansas, Texas Tech appear to be the likeliest wins in order to get there. Of course if they do make it to six, that will make three straight years in the postseason for the Bears.
Iowa State: BTB total = 5.5. The Cyclones have five conference home games which helps, but their annual rivalry game with Iowa is at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City this season making a win there seem less likely. Pulling another huge upset as they did against Oklahoma State last year (and Nebraska and Texas before that) wouldn't hurt their cause, either.
Early prediction: Over with six wins but just like Baylor, another tough one to predict here. Underestimating Iowa State under Paul Rhoads has been an easy thing to do. That said, Rhoads' ISU teams have generally overachieved and with experience coming back at the quarterback position, they should do so again. They will need to win at least two road games to get there coming from a combination of Iowa, TCU, Oklahoma State (two years in a row?), Texas, and Kansas.
Kansas - BTB total wins = 3.5. How much impact can Charlie Weis have in one season? Having an experienced quarterback in Dayne Crist will help, but the Jayhawks have gigantic holes to fill all over the field. They won two games under Turner Gill last year. Can they find two additional wins under Weis to get over the number at four wins?
Early prediction: Under with three wins. Going 3-0 in the non conference games could change this prediction, and with those games being against S. Dakota State, Rice, and Northern Illinois, it certainly is possible. Let's predict a road loss at Northern Illinois, however, meaning they'll need to win two Big 12 games to get to four wins. Defensive coordinator Dave Campo may be coming from the NFL, but he won't have NFL talent to work with in Lawrence. Kansas will win a Big 12 game somewhere along the line, but not two.
Kansas State - BTB total wins = 8. The Wildcats won a bunch of close games in 2011, but winning 10 games wasn't a fluke. They have five conference road games which won't be easy. They also get Miami at home in the season's second week after winning on the Hurricanes home turf in 2011. Collin Klein returning at quarterback and Arthur Brown at linebacker are huge pluses for K-State.
Early prediction: Push at 8 wins. This number is right on. The swing game for Kansas State is Miami. Win there, and the Wildcats should get to nine wins. Lose, and then 8 wins seem more likely with a 6-3 mark coming in the Big 12. Games at Norman and Morgantown will be tough and then Texas finally gets a win over KSU in the final week of the season leaving the Wildcats with an 8-4 season.
Oklahoma - BTB total wins = 9.5. Having Landry Jones back certainly will help the Sooners cause and Mike Stoops returning as defensive coordinator should help breathe some life in a Sooner defense that has underachieved at times the past few seasons.
Early prediction: over with 10 wins, at least. A 3-0 non conference schedule (sorry Notre Dame) means Oklahoma needs to go 7-2 in the Big 12 to make 10 wins a reality. The toughest contests appear to be on the road at West Virginia, a home date with Kansas State, and of course the annual game at the Cotton Bowl against Texas. An Oklahoma State team that might down just a little this year has to come to Norman helping the Sooners cause, as well. Oklahoma received a lot of attention last year as national title contenders and this year shouldn't be any different.
Oklahoma State - BTB total wins = 7.5. The Cowboys are going to be the hardest team to predict in 2012 in my opinion. They are coming off four straight nine win seasons so it would be easy to assume they'd be right back where they've been, but there are big question marks this year. Will their offense be as explosive without Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon? It's hard to imagine it would be, which means the pressure is on their defense to show continued improvement.
Early prediction: Over with eight wins. A good gauge to what the Cowboys will have in 2012 should come early with a road game against a Rich Rodriguez coached Arizona team in week two. Let's predict a win in the desert, then a 5-4 Big 12 mark leaving them at eight wins on the year, although I wouldn't say another nine win season is out of the question by any stretch.
TCU - BTB total wins = 9.5. Well, these win totals came out before the announcement of four TCU players being arrested this morning, including their best linebacker. It's too early to say how all this shakes out, but it's not hard to see how it could affect the season and not in a good way. As for the schedule, it's going to be more than a little interesting to see how they hold up against the Big 12 schedule week-in-and-week out.
Early prediction: Under with 8 wins, although with the dismals on the team this morning, it's nearly impossible to know what to make of the Horned Frogs. They should go undefeated in their nonconference games meaning they should expect something in the five or six win category in the Big 12. Road games at Stillwater, Morgantown, and Austin won't be easy and then there's the season finale with OU in Fort Worth. So for the time being, let's say under, although taking a flyer on the Horned Frogs at the moment is probably the way to go.
Texas - BTB total wins = 8.5. For Texas, it all starts at the quarterback position. If they get more consistent results from the position, they'll be tough to beat. If not, another up-and-down season is on the horizon. I will say I'm a believer in Texas this year, however. It's no small task replacing both coordinators and they performed reasonably well in year one of running new systems. Year two should be even better.
Early prediction: Over at nine wins. How the Texas season goes is largely going to be decided during the first three weeks of their Big 12 schedule; at Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and the annual showdown with OU in Dallas. If they can get through that stretch at 2-1 - combined with a 3-0 record in the non conference - the Longhorns could be 5-1 after six weeks. Then there are still very winnable games remaining against Baylor, Kansas, Texas Tech, and Iowa State for a nine win Longhorn regular season. How about a Big 12 championship? Maybe not this year, but they won't be far from it. Again, it all comes back to the QB...David Ash, what do you say?
Texas Tech - BTB total wins = 7. The Red Raiders will be on their third defensive coordinator in as many years under Tommy Tuberville. How that transition shakes out along with what type of contributions they get from their junior college signees will define what is ahead for the Red Raiders in 2012. Texas Tech's schedule sets up nicely except for the fact they'll play all year without a break in the schedule once they start Big 12 play. Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Texas all have to make trips to Lubbock this season.
Early prediction: push at seven wins. Texas Tech should start the year with three easy wins heading into Big 12 play. Can they find four more wins in the Big 12? Here's guessing yes, although they'll most likely have to pull an upset or two to get there. The swing games that could go either way in my mind will be TCU, Oklahoma State and Baylor. If they can win two of those three, things should be looking up once again in Lubbock. Of course, it comes back to staying healthy and playing just a little bit of defense.
West Virginia, BTB total wins = 8. It's hard to predict exactly how West Virginia will fare playing an entirely new schedule, but the positive is Dana Holgorsen knows the Big 12. He has seen these teams many times before and will know what to expect, something that shouldn't be understated. Plus, he happens to have a pretty good quarterback in Geno Smith running his system. West Virginia will have a revamped defensive staff this year trying to stop some pretty good Big 12 offenses. If they're up for the challenge, their first season in the Big should be a success.
Early prediction: push at 8 wins. The key to the Mountaineers season will come in protecting their home field advantage. Baylor, Kansas State, TCU, and Oklahoma all have to travel to Morgantown. I'll say if they can win three of those four, they'll have to feel pretty good about their position. Back-to-back trips to Texas against Texas and Texas Tech will also be huge. It's early, but let's predict an 8-4 first season in the Big 12 with a lot of potential upside to go above that mark.