Landry Jones returns for his senior season to helm an Oklahoma team that will likely be among the best of the best in the new Big XII. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Friend of the blog David Ubben of ESPN.com's Big XII blog authored a post this morning handicapping the 2012 conference football title race. You can click on that link to get his exact numbers for each supposed contender, but the order he decided on puts OU first followed by KSU, WVU, TCU/UT (tied), OSU, Baylor, Tech, Iowa State, and then Kansas.
I don't have a problem with OU being ranked first; they return Landry Jones, the best and most-experienced QB in the conference, and other than in games against the Big XII's best offenses in 2011 (Oklahoma State and Baylor) their defense was actually quite good. Depending on which set of statistics you prefer, it might have even been better than the much more lauded unit at Texas. Any difference between the two was probably much less than you've been told.
My first real problem with this list is that it places Kansas State too high. There isn't much of a gap between KSU and WVU at #2, but I think they should be flipped with WVU much closer to OU and a dropoff down to a KSU/TCU/UT trio. This is a situation, I think, where KSU is getting too much credit for two things: 1) a magical 2011 season that saw them go 10-3 to finish second in the conference, and 2) Bill Snyder. Snyder's legend as an overachiever combined with an overachieving team to convince people that KSU was for real. People forget that of their 10 wins in 2011, 8 came by a touchdown or less. 8! The only teams KSU beat more handily than that were Kansas and Kent State. That's not to say those wins don't count, but luck plays a fairly big role when you are constantly coming from behind or winning close games. Overall FEI liked the Wildcats quite a bit last year, so it's entirely possible that I am wrong. And I do like Collin Klein as a player...
The rankings of Texas and TCU at four probably make sense relative to the rest of the conference; if Texas can get even average offensive production (a huge upgrade from 2011), their defense should be able to carry them into the upper echelon after two down years. TCU reeled off yet another 11-win season in 2011 after losing the opener in thrilling fashion to our Bears. I buy both of these teams there even if I think the odds are a little high. Both will have to beat WVU and OU to win the conference, and I don't see that happening for either one.
OSU fifth and Baylor sixth probably makes sense, too, relatively. Mike Gundy's offenses never fail to produce but will have to overcome starting a true freshman. No team doing so has ever won the conference. Our Bears obviously lose our best QB and WR ever and arguably our best RB. I'm getting depressed thinking just thinking about it, and that's before I see another picture on twitter of Robert Griffin III in a Redskins uniform. Placing OSU's odds at 20-1, even assuming that what Ubben says about OSU's defense being underrated in 2011 is true (and it is), seems a bit high. I'd take OU, WVU for sure over OSU and probably the other three (TCU, KSU, and UT), as well.
All that being said, reading articles like this about the 2012 season has me excited about the possibility of football again even though we're 4 months away. I'm both excited and scared about our first season in the post-RG3 world. We have a chance to either validate those that said we were a one-man program or prove them wrong.