1. Oklahoma State Cowboys (8-1, 11-1)
2. Oklahoma Sooners (7-2, 10-2)
3. Texas Longhorns (7-2, 10-2)
4. Baylor Bears (6-3, 9-3)
5. Kansas State Wildcats (6-3, 9-3)
6. TCU Horned Frogs (5-4, 7-5)
7. Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-6, 6-6)
8. West Virginia Mountaineers (2-7, 5-7)
9. Iowa State Cyclones (1-8, 3-9)
10. Kansas Jayhawks (0-9, 1-11)
NOTE: Two projected defensive starters for TCU have recently left the program. Combined with the suspension of Devonte Fields requires an adjustment to the final projection for the Horned Frogs.
Big 12 Non-Conference Success - By my calculations, I am projecting the Big 12 to go 26-4 in their non-conference slate, including 23-1 by the top 8 teams. Before we start crowning the Big 12 the best conference in College Football, we have to look into this a little further. 8 of those wins are projected against FCS schools. Only 6 of those games are against BCS conference foes + Notre Dame and BYU. In the Big 12's favor is the potential of an SEC sweep if TCU can upset LSU, Texas beats Ole Miss and Oklahoma State handles Mississippi State.
Cowboys back on top - Just two years ago, Oklahoma State arguably should have played for a National Championship. After struggling in big games a year ago, I expect the Cowboys to be back and return to the top in 2013. The main reason for this optimism is the talent at the quarterback position where Clint Chelf looks to become the conference's next great quarterback and J.W. Walsh provides quality depth. The defense must improve and/or revert to the ball-hawking ways of the 2011 team. Expect a lot of points once again when Oklahoma State takes the field.
Don't sleep on Texas - The Longhorns return the most experience in the Big 12 and arguably are the most talented team, so it would be no shock if it all came together for a Conference Title in 2013. This collection of players has not tasted that success and one would slant toward saying they have underachieved. With their top 3 running backs returning and Mike Davis and Jaxson Shipley at WR, it will be up to David Ash to lead this team to the next step. The defense must also regain a little bit of its bite, as the talented Big 12 spread offenses have given it trouble in recent years. With many of these teams now inexperienced, especially at quarterback, it is time for an experienced Texas defense to take advantage.
- Big 12 defenses will not be sad to see Geno Smith, Collin Klein, Landry Jones, Seth Doege and Nick Florence gone. Those 5 combined for over 20,000 total yards and 180 TD's a season ago. Meet Paul Millard, Daniel Sams, Blake Bell, Michael Brewer and Bryce Petty, the 5 replacements for the quarterbacks mentioned above.
- Speaking of Blake Bell, it would appear Oklahoma's fortunes are partially tied to his development as a complete quarterback. He has already made a name as the "Belldozer", but can he pass the ball well enough to keep the Sooner offense at an elite level. Talent is never a problem for Oklahoma, but quarterback play could be what separates them from Oklahoma State and Texas above them.
- Bill Snyder has seemingly worked a miracle in re-resurrecting the Kansas State football program. Now with Collin Klein gone, it is time to witness the next miracle. The Wildcats have to come back to the pack a little bit this year, don't they?
- Iowa State is always an enigma to me. When I stack them up against the other Big 12 teams, it never looks good, but the past two years they have been a solid, bowl-eligible team. Once again I am projecting doom and gloom, now that the heart of their defense has graduated. I wouldn't be shocked if they proved me wrong once again.
- Kliff Kingsbury takes over at Texas Tech. He was Johnny Manziel's quarterback coach last season and coached Case Keenum prior to that. I would expect the Red Raiders to put up plenty of points this season and who knows, Michael Brewer might be the next big star.
Worst Non-Conference Schedule: West Virginia. William & Mary and Georgia State lead it off, with a neutral site game against Maryland being the biggest challenge.
Thank You Big 12 Schedule: Oklahoma State. It is a 5 home game year for the Cowboys and Texas is the only Top 6 predicted team they play on the road.
Curse You Big 12 Schedule: Oklahoma. TCU is the only contender the Sooners draw at home.
Best Player: Devonte Fields, TCU. Fields earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman. He hopes to wreak more havoc as a sophomore. Unfortunately, he must sit out the LSU game.
Best Newcomer: Jake Waters, Kansas State. Waters has to beat out Daniel Sams to be the starting QB, but watch out if he does.
Weekly Games to Watch
Aug 31 - LSU vs TCU (Arlington, TX)...The Horned Frogs go just down the road to play the mighty Tigers out of the SEC. LSU has issues to resolve and TCU looks in prime position for an upset.
Sept 7- Texas at BYU...Provo is not the easiest place to play for a team with big-time aspirations.
Sept 12 - TCU at Texas Tech...A good early season battle, TCU last won in Lubbock 22 years ago.
Sept 21 - Kansas State at Texas...The Longhorns are not sad to see Collin Klein go.
Sept 28 - Oklahoma at Notre Dame...The Irish defense is still going to be very good and this will be Blake Bell's first big test.
Oct 5 - TCU at Oklahoma...The Horned Frogs hope to get an Oklahoma team beat up from the week before and looking ahead to the Red River Rivalry.
Oct 12 - Oklahoma vs Texas (Dallas, TX)...Did someone say Red River? The Longhorns look to avenge last season's embarrassment against the Sooners.
Oct 19 - TCU at Oklahoma State...The Horned Frogs are featured prominently with their early season schedule, so we will know a lot about them after this one.
Oct 26 - Texas at TCU...The Horned Frogs could also be well out of the race after this one.
Nov 2 - Oklahoma State at Texas Tech...If the Cowboys are going to win the Big 12, they must go through treacherous Lubbock.
Nov 9 - Oklahoma at Baylor...Two teams that hope their Title aspirations remain for this showdown in Waco.
Nov 16 - Oklahoma State at Texas...There is an outside chance this could be a battle of unbeaten teams.
Nov 23 - Oklahoma at Kansas State...The Sooners try to avenge last season's loss that derailed their season.
Nov 30 - Baylor at TCU...If not in the Title hunt, these two will likely be battling for bowl positioning.
Dec 7 - Oklahoma at Oklahoma State...Big 12 Title Game? National Title implications? Or simply "Bedlam"!
BCS Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State Cowboys
BCS Sugar Bowl: Texas Longhorns
Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma Sooners
Alamo Bowl: Baylor Bears
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Kansas State Wildcats
Holiday Bowl: TCU Horned Frogs
Meineke Car Care Bowl: Texas Tech Red Raiders