Before we dive into the rankings, I’d like to offer some transparency into the process of our selections. We won’t get into full breakdown or detailed analysis — we’re saving that for later — but, we don’t simply go off of hype and returning playmakers. Those are key factors, but the Big 12’s round-robin play is also a factor.
Since everyone plays everyone in this conference, it’s harder for teams to move up and down the standings. It’s not enough for a team to look better on paper. They need to be improved enough to be better than the team in front of them.
For better or worse, we also take trends into consideration. Especially this year, as the field looks to be very, very tight. If we could have given ties, we would have. So, if your team is two spots lower than you think they should be, it’s not because we think they are a full two spots behind, it’s simply that we eventually had to make a choice.
— LandGrant Gauntlet (@the_LGG) July 12, 2018
There’s no standout elite team in the conference this year — at least at this point — but as long as they are seen as a contender, we have to put them number one until someone knocks them off their perch.
It gets a little harder after number one as three through seven are basically a coin flip at this point.
We gave the nod to TCU as the most likely challenger to Oklahoma because top to bottom, they may be the most solid squad in the conference. We also have a bunch of faith in coach Gary Patterson. He’s done a phenomenal job of turning success into better recruiting into more success. This is their third year with a recruiting class in the 20’s, and we think that depth will show this year.
The Mountaineer’s have the best quarterback in the Big 12 in Will Grier, and the consensus thought is that you need a great quarterback to win the Big 12. However, there are some depth concerns in places, like the defensive line. And while WVU has a favorable schedule, coach Holgorsen needs to show us that they can get over the hump.
And now we are to Oklahoma State and Texas. Several rankings have the Longhorns second. A couple even have them winning the conference. And that may very well happen, but as I explained above; show us, don’t tell us.
It has been a long time since OSU finished outside the top five, so they’ve earned some good will. Gone are Mason Rudolph and James Washington to the Pittsburgh Steelers. And while Gundy is eventually going to have to pick a quarterback, but whoever he decides upon won’t be without weapons.
Like Oklahoma State, Iowa State is hard to pin down. Coach Matt Campbell has done a phenomenal job turning the Cyclones around; highlighted by wins over Oklahoma and TCU last season. They also return an experienced quarterback in Matt Kempt, and a work horse running back in David Montgomery. It wouldn’t surprise us if Iowa State finishes a few rungs up the ladder from where we have them, but we don’t feel like we should put that expectation Cyclones just yet.
In typical K-State fashion, they are quietly a decent squad. They have the potential to shake up the conference. So why are they 7th? Mostly because it wasn’t until mid-November that we really saw them realize their potential last season. So it is a question of which team is going to come out in 2018; the team that beat Oklahoma State, Iowa State and UCLA, or the team that lost four of their first seven games?
Still, the fact that we’re here saying the number seven has dark horse potential show just how tight the conference looks this year.
Baylor has something the bottom two teams are lacking, faith in their head coach. Now, that could change if the Bears struggle as they did a year ago. Still, Matt Rhule has done a fantastic job on the recruiting trail considering the hit to Baylor’s reputation, and they should have more depth than a year ago. We expect the Bears to take a big step forward in 2018.
Maybe we have the Red Raiders too low. There is some fantastic individual talent on the defensive side of the ball this year, and the Red Raiders always seem a defense away from contending for the conference. However, that just isn’t enough for us to buy into a defense that’s been, let’s face it, trash. Do they have the depth behind those star players? We’ll find out.
And that brings us to Kansas. What was that last year? This time last season we were fully bought into coach David Beaty, but last season was a big step back. This may be a make or break season for Beaty’s tenure, but Jayhawks fans are getting tired of moral victories. Not that there were many of those last season.