The Big 12 was perhaps one of the conferences most affected by the whirlwind of realignment that has taken place recently, with Missouri and Texas A&M bolting for the SEC. That’s nothing to say of the discussions of the conference falling apart completely, with rumors saying the Texas and Oklahoma schools would go to the Pac-12. Despite the losses, they added two premier programs in TCU and West Virginia.

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1) Oklahoma
The Sooners didn’t quite live up to expectations last season, but the good news is they get The Lesser Stoops back to help with the defense. QB Landry Jones held off on the NFL for a shot at national title glory and he has a top notch O-line to help him out. He’ll have to deal with a lack of depth at receiver, but has some talented backs for hand offs. The defense is stocked with veterans that must replace some key losses. LB Tom Wort is the leader of the defense and one of many talents at the position. The secondary has talent, but must turn that into results. Finding a consistent pass rush will be what makes this a great defense.

2) Texas
The success of the Longhorns this season rests squarely with David Ash or Case McCoy, whoever becomes the starting QB with neither having shown much in the past, but having plenty of weapons will help. Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis lead a deep receiving core and Malcolm Brown is an elite running back. While the QB position is uncertain, the defense should be no worry at all. It will be the best in the conference, if not the country. DEs Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor are big pass rushers, the LBs should be fine despite some losses and the secondary has big time athleticism.

3) West Virginia
The Mountaineers will have an interesting first year in the Big 12. The offense will be firing on all cylinders with QB Geno Smith throwing to WRs Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Ivan McCartney. The running game should be decent with a few options for load carriers. The problem will be the defense adjusting to the high octane offense of the conference. There is a ton of experience in the secondary and with the linebackers, but the pass rush might struggle a bit. It all comes down to how well they can stop a different level of offense.

4) TCU
The Horned Frogs have a potent offense that should help in their transition. QB Casey Paschall could be one of the best in the conference and he’ll have Josh Boyce and a very deep group of receivers as throwing options. The team had running backs last season each rush for over 700 yards apiece and a combined 24 TDs. Even backup QB Matt Brown had 6 rush TDs. Like West Virginia, the TCU defense will be tested in a far better offensive conference the the MWC. The unit fell back from its usual dominance last season, but has the pieces in place to hold up in the Big 12.

5) Oklahoma State
Losing players the caliber of Blackmon and Weeden will be difficult, but his season might be more so as heralded true freshman Wed Lunt takes over at QB and no go-to WR has emerged. The rushing duo of Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith should carry the offense while Lunt adjusts. The defense was underrated last season and had a great turnover margin. DE Cooper Bassett, LB Alex Elkins and CB Brodrick Brown lead an underrated defense. While they weren’t terrible against the run, improving that aspect will go a long way towards determining the team’s success, but the team will find it hard to duplicate last season’s results.

6) Kansas State
It will be tough for the Wildcats to win as many close games as they did last year. The offense is predicated on the run with QB Collin Klein having 27 of the team’s 33 rushing TD and over 1100 yards. RB John Hubert got close to 1000 yards rushing, but the key to success will be mixing in more passing plays to keep defenses guessing. The defense was helped by the offense, but needs to pick up the slack. Teams were able to throw downfield bombs against it and the run defense was no better. Still LB Arthur Brown, CB Nigel Malone and S Ty Zimmerman have all-Big 12 potential.

7) Baylor
Nick Florence has the incredibly hard task of following after RG3 as Baylor QB, but he’s smart and knows how to run the offense. Terrence Williams and Tevin Reese form a potent wideout tandem for Florence to work with and the Jarred Salubi-Lache Seastrunk combo at RB might be the key to the whole thing. The pass defense was torched constantly as teams tried to keep pace with the Baylor offense. No single player jumps out on squad that does have experience.

8) Iowa State
The Cyclones won’t compete with the likes of Texas and Oklahoma, but they won’t exactly be an easy game either. Jared Barnett and Steele Jantz will battle it out for the QB job and RBs James White and Shontrelle Johnson will lead an underrated rushing attack. The receiving corps has promise but must translate that into production. LBs AJ Klein and Jake Knott are the only bright spots on a defense that struggles at times to stop the potent offenses of the Big 12, with no real pass rush and a run defense that ranked at the bottom in the country.

9) Texas Tech
The Red Raiders seem stuck in the rut of not-quite contender status in the Big 12 and that doesn’t look like it’ll change soon. Offense has always been their calling card and QB Seth Doege should have a big season, pretty much anyone can in that system. Darrin Moore leads a group of receivers that should give opposing secondaries headaches, but their RBs must stay healthy. It seemed like anyone could make big play after big play on the defense, so it can’t get much worse for them. If Tech wants to take that next step, the defense must play well enough so that the offense doesn’t have to score tons of points all the time.

10) Kansas
Charlie ‘I can has cheezburger?’ Weis is the new coach and he brought Dayne Crist with him from Notre Dame to be the QB. However, Crist was terrible for the Irish and even with talent at WR at Kansas, he might not be much better. He’ll also need the line to stay together. The defense was absolutely atrocious last season and it will take a major miracle for it to improve in any shape or form. There are flickers of hope with the new regime, but Kansas will the doormat for the Big 12 this season.