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Big 12 post-spring power rankings

Are the Sooners primed to return to a BCS bowl game? Dave Miller

Print This May 29, 2012, 04:00 PM EST

Today at the NFP marks the sixth of seven post-spring conference power rankings, continuing with the Big 12.

Click here for the ACC post-spring power rankings, which ran last Monday.
Click here for the Pac-12 post-spring power rankings, which ran last Tuesday.
Click here for the SEC post-spring power rankings, which ran last Wednesday.
Click here for the Big Ten post-spring power rankings, which ran last Thursday.
Click here for the Big East post-spring power rankings, which ran on Saturday.

Around the time preseason practice begins in the fall, we will revisit these rankings before 2012's opening kickoff.

Here is the schedule for the rest of the series:

Wednesday: Non-AQs/Independents

1. Oklahoma: The Sooners lost defensive coordinator Brent Venables to Clemson, but head coach Bob Stoops was able to land brother Mike Stoops, the former Arizona head coach who will assume the DC role in Norman. Before he coached the Wildcats, Stoops served as DC at OU and helped lead the team to the 2000 national championship. His priority now is improving a secondary that was torched in 2011 as well as getting production from a defensive line that lost ends Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis. Meanwhile, quarterback Landry Jones returns, but he’ll need to lean on some younger receivers with clutch top performer Ryan Broyles gone as well as the suspensions of Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson. But freshman Trey Metoyer had a breakout spring, and a crop of true freshmen will try to make their mark this fall. In addition, JUCO transfer Courtney Gardner should be able to step in right away.

Collin KleinICONKansas State's Collin Klein is perhaps the most unheralded dual-threat talent in the nation.

2. Kansas State: Head coach Bill Snyder did an incredible job coaxing 10 wins out of his Wildcats last fall behind a sound rush defense and the play of quarterback Collin Klein, perhaps the most unheralded dual-threat talent in the nation. He improved as a passer as the season progressed and will need to continue to do so this fall if the Wildcats want to have a shot at a BCS game. Defensively, keep an eye on transfer Nigel Malone, a cornerback who will strengthen the one area of this defense that needs improvement.

3. West Virginia: The Mountaineers enter their new league with an offense that embarrassed Clemson in the Orange Bowl. And quarterback Geno Smith should be even more comfortable in Year 2 of Dana Holgorsen’s offense, which features top skill-position players Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Dustin Garrison, meanwhile, will pace the rushing attack. Defensively, the Mountaineers lost Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller from the defensive line as well as linebacker Najee Goode. But this unit stole the show in the team's spring game, recording three interceptions and recovering a fumble.

4. Oklahoma State: All eyes will be on the starting quarterback this fall, as true freshman Wes Lunt beat out Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh for the right to replace Brandon Weeden and keep this prolific offense moving. With Justin Blackmon, Josh Cooper and Hubert Anyiam gone, Charlie Moore stepped up in a big way at receiver for the Pokes this spring. Coordinator Bill Young’s opportunistic defense should be improved to further help an offense that may take some bumps early. His unit was 107th in total defense in 2011, but the Pokes were able to thrive because they forced turnovers. It should be a more consistent defense this fall.

5. Texas: David Ash will try to hold off Case McCoy and be the full-time starting quarterback, but is either player up to the task of helping the Longhorns get back to the top of the Big 12 standings? No matter who lines up under center, though, he will have a complementary sound power rushing attack if Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron remain healthy. Defensively, coordinator Manny Diaz has two potential All-Americans on his line in ends Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat. If head coach Mack Brown gets consistent quarterback play, we could see the Longhorns at the top of the conference once again because the defense should be that strong.

6. TCU: The Horned Frogs begin play in their new league while trying to distance themselves from the drug sting that cost the team star All-American linebacker Tanner Brock and all-conference defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey. Offensively, quarterback Casey Pachall returns along with receivers Josh Boyce, Skye Dawson and Brandon Carter. The backfield is still deep, but losing Ed Wesley hurts. Can Gary Patterson’s squad adjust to the rigors of Big 12 play after coming over from the Mountain West?

7. Baylor: Baylor football was put on the national map last season with Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. The follow-up act will obviously be very difficult. However, new quarterback Nick Florence started in 2009 when RGIII was hurt, and he played well this past season in the win over Texas Tech. But can he play well for 12 weeks? He’ll have a good receiving corps and a deep backfield to help him out. Defensively, Phil Bennett’s defense was atrocious in his first season. He needs to at least be able to take advantage of some of the athletes on that side of the ball.

8. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders once again have a new defensive coordinator, as Art Kaufman became the team’s fourth DC in as many seasons. He’ll be running a 4-3, and it’s important that this unit complements the offense at least a little bit if the Red Raiders want to return to the postseason. Meanwhile, no new major injuries occurred, which is something that Tommy Tuberville had to deal with all throughout last season. Tech has more returning starters than any team in the Big 12, but can the defense stop the run? That’s a major question mark.

9. Iowa State: Paul Rhoads had his contract extended a season after his Cyclones knocked Oklahoma State out of the BCS national title picture. At quarterback, neither Jared Barnett nor Steele Jantz separated himself as the starter, so that battle will last into fall as both look to impress new offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham. Finding a deep threat to replace Darius Reynolds will be crucial this fall.

10. Kansas: Former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis has taken over a team that lost six games by at least 30 points last season. Quarterback Dayne Crist will get his chance to be a full-time starter once again, but the defense needs to drastically improve for the Jayhawks to even be able to stay competitive. Weis worked the JUCO route to get some quick fixes, but will it be enough to keep the team out of the Big 12 cellar?

Email dave.miller@nationalfootballpost.com or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

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