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Musing on the Big 12 Pre-Season Awards and Rankings

NCAA Football: Texas Bowl-Baylor vs Vandebilt Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Big 12 recently released its pre-season media polls, including the predicted conference rankings, the All Big 12 team, and the offensive & defensive players of the year. I’ll provide an overview along with my thoughts, and I’d love to hear what y’all think.

Conference Ranking

My ranking would be:

  1. Oklahoma
  2. Texas
  3. Iowa State
  4. Baylor
  5. Oklahoma State
  6. TCU
  7. Kansas State
  8. Texas Tech
  9. West Virginia
  10. Kansas

So as for my discrepancies:

As one can see in the real poll results, the 4th, 5th, and 6th place TCU, OSU, and Baylor more or less finished with the same number of votes. So I wouldn’t be up in arms about much.

I think the top 3 are largely set in stone. For the past few years, I’ve noted how I see Iowa State as a team much like Baylor, except their coach got there one year sooner and didn’t have to rebuild a post-scandal roster, and Baylor has access to better talent. They continue to build on their identity and look to be a really good team in year 4 under Matt Campbell. I think Iowa State is much where Baylor will be next year, knocking on the door of a conference championship after an 8 win season.

Then there is the next tier, which includes Baylor, Oklahoma State, and TCU. All have serious questions. Baylor has looked lackluster on defense for the past two years as Rhule and Snow try to make their system work in the Big 12; OSU has its own new DC trying to make a go of things in the Big 12 and is replacing a QB; TCU will again have a great defense, but questions abound at QB. I have Baylor ahead of TCU and OSU in large part because Baylor brings back by far the most production in the league, and when you combine that with expected incremental improvement under year 3 of Rhule, The 4th place Big 12 team generally finishes with 5 or 6 Big 12 wins, which I think is a good prediction for Baylor this year.

The next tier is K-State and Tech, IMO. Those two along with West Virginia are all replacing coaches, but the difference lies in WVU losing way more talent both to graduation and transfers. I think K-State is primed to have a decent year under Klieman, as his philosophy meshes well with their existing talent, and Tech gets to work with Alan Bowman.

All Big 12 Team

All in all, this is fine. I’m not someone who pretends to have an understanding of how good other teams’ individual OL are; that is something that takes extra and specific attention.

Ehlinger at QB is the right call. His baby-faced UT-loving bravado is certainly annoying, but he had a stellar year last year. I don’t think you can consider Hurts since he hasn’t played in the league yet, and neither Brewer or Purdy were quite as good as Ehlinger last year.

3 RBs and 3 WRs? Whatever, I suppose. Per my eyes, Hubbard is the best RB in the conference this year. And the WRs are insane. Some might consider it a snub that Mims didn’t make the list, but he wasn’t as good as Lamb, Wallace, or Reagor last year. The Big 12 is stupid loaded at WR once again.

On defense we have two Baylor Bears, which is somewhat amusing in that the Baylor D is far behind the offense right now. But both James Lynch and Clay Johnston are absolutely deserving. Baylor is going to place a lot on Lynch’s shoulders this year in the 3 DL look. In prognostication news, look for the other Baylor Lynch, Blake, to possibly be on this list by the end of the year. He has the talent and things really started to click for him late in the year.

Garrett Wallow is a big miss here. He was fantastic for TCU last year and certainly better than OU’s Kenneth Murray (more on that later).

Both pre and post season awards always overrate interceptions for defensive backs, and Adrian Frye gets the “Oh, he had 5 picks last year, put him on the team” selection. The Texas Tech CB is not one of the best CBs in the league. UT safety Brandon Jones would have been better here.

Greg Eisworth, the Iowa State middle of the field safety, is a sneaky good player. He really impressed me last year and was a first-year starter; look for him to have a huge junior year.

Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year

UT quarterback Sam Ehlinger won the offensive award, and I’m alright with it. Personally I would have gone with Jalen Reagor or Tylan Wallace, but Ehlinger is the best QB coming back in a conference where the QB always wins this award, so this is a safe bet.

As for defense.... OU linebacker Kenneth Murray. How about no. Your average Big 12 fan can tell you how putrid OU’s defense has been over the past few years. Yes, a bad defense can have a great player on it (see Baylor for example) but Murray just isn’t up to snuff compared to other options.

Personally, I would have gone with TCU safety Innis Gaines, who was absolutely tearing it up before suffering a season ending injury last year. Or his teammate, LB Garrett Wallow. You have freshman standout safety Caden Stearns at Texas, star Iowa State safety Greg Eisworth, or even my wildcard Baylor’s Blake Lynch.

Let me know what y’all think in the comments.