The preseason Amway Coaches Poll is out, and the Big 12 is well represented. Five of the 10 teams in the Big 12 made the Top 25, and two more received votes. It’s a testament to the depth of the conference, and the gauntlet that is round-robin play. As the Big 12 made it clear during Big 12 Media Days, the conference has the toughest road to the College Football Playoff.
Here’s where the Big 12 ranked in the poll, along with USA Today’s outlook for each team.
The Sooner’s finished third in the Coaches Poll last season, and despite losing the Heisman Trophy winner, they didn’t fall too far in the preseason rankings. Here’s what USA Today had to say about Oklahoma.
Replacing Heisman winner Baker Mayfield isn’t the team’s biggest concern. Kyler Murray should be fine at QB with RB Rodney Anderson and a talented group of wide receivers as support. The defense, last seen being torched by Georgia in the Rose Bowl, has to improve.
The Sooner’s run threat will be scary this season. They have the best offensive line in the Big 12, with Rodney Anderson and Trey Sermon providing a serious one-two punch. Oh, and defenses will have to account for Kyler Murray’s running ability as well.
While their run game looks to be impressive, ironically, it’s their run defense that has to answer the most questions. Georgia rushed for 317 yards against Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl, and headed into the season their defensive line and linebacker corps don’t look particularly strong.
So far the Coaches Poll is following our preseason rankings. The Frogs look to have the best defense in the conference, and if they can find some offensive weapons, they will be a real threat to the Sooners. Here’s what USA Today had to say.
This should be another overachieving season for the Horned Frogs. Again, defense will be the team’s backbone. DL Ben Banogu is a dominant pass rusher, and LB Ty Summers patrols the middle. QB Shawn Robinson is young, but he will have two outstanding receivers in KaVontae Turpin and Jalen Reagor.
Is it still overachieving if Gary Patterson continues to do it time and time again? The Frogs have also raised their recruiting with their last three classes ranking in the Top 30. This should be the year we really start to see that pay off as while they have to replace some weapons, there is depth waiting in the wings. Shawn Robinson is a true sophomore, but as long as he just manages the offense without trying to do too much, the Frogs should be just fine.
20. West Virginia
Will Grier is hands down the best quarterback in the Big 12 headed into the season, and you traditionally need a great QB to win the Big 12. However, the Mountaineers have a few questions to answer before we can give them the nod over Oklahoma and TCU, and apparently, the coaches agreed with us.
The Mountaineers should be one of the more entertaining teams in the country with QB Will Grier throwing and wideouts David Sills V and Gary Jennings catching. LB David Long and DB Dravon Askew-Henry provide two leaders in the back seven of the defense.
The biggest question for us isn’t just about the Xs and Os or the lack of depth along the defensive line, but whether Dana Holgorsen can get West Virginia over the hump. The good news is it won’t take long to find out. If they are impressive against Tennessee on opening weekend, they will shoot up the rankings.
This is where we disagree with the Coaches Poll. There’s an indirect implication here that the voters believe the Longhorns are the fourth best team in the conference. And, if you scroll down a bit, Oklahoma State is the fifth. We have them flipped in our rankings, but given how tight the conference is this year, there’s going to be a lot of shuffling before it’s all said and done. Here’s what USA Today has to say about Texas.
After leading the program to its first winning season since 2013, Tom Herman is looking to make the next step toward having the Longhorns back among the elite. Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele likely will share time at quarterback. Improved play at running back and the offensive line is essential.
What’s the ol’ adage? If you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have any. That was true last season, and coach Herman isn’t shy about it. So why would it be different this season? We’ll just have to wait and see. The good news is that Ehlinger and Buechele give the Longhorns some of the most returning experience at quarterback in the conference, and the defense should be very, very good. Like the Mountaineers though, they need to show that they can win more than seven games.
25. Oklahoma State
The national story line for the Pokes is a bit misleading. Pundits see that Rudolph and Washington have taken their act to Pittsburgh, and somewhat write the Cowboys off. Don’t fall for it. There are a lot of reasons Oklahoma State fans should be looking forward to 2018.
The Cowboys mostly lived on the arm of QB Mason Rudolph last year, but with his departure RB Justice Hill should carry the load of the offense. Most of the key contributors return on defense. DL Jordan Brailford has the potential to break out after six sacks last year.
Yes Rudolph and Washington are gone, along with other top receivers Marcel Ateman and Chris Lacy. That’s a lot of production to make up for, but OSU just might be up for the challenge. Currently, Taylor Cornelius is “the man” under center for OSU. He’s a redshirt senior, and will know the playbook better than anyone. Unlike other coaches breaking in new, young quarterbacks, Gundy should have the whole playbook available to him. There’s also Justice Hill; perhaps the most dynamic back in a conference chock-full of talented backs returning in 2018. And that receiving corps still has plenty of talent, highlighted by Tyron Johnson, Jalen McCleskey and Dillon Stoner.
The offense should be okay. The question is the defense. Oklahoma State will be breaking in a brand-new 4-2-5 defense as Jim Knowles takes over as defensive coordinator, and the Poke’s season may rest on how well they perform on that side of the ball.
RV: Kansas State & Iowa State
The Wildcats received 35 votes in the poll, which is good for a theoretical 32nd ranking. The Cyclones received eight votes, and if you extend it out, that places them tied at 41st with Kentucky and Iowa. Both will get an opportunity to break into the poll early as Kansas State faces 18th-ranked Mississippi State and Iowa State faces in-state rival Iowa in week two. Can it be time for football already?!