Today at the NFP marks the fifth of seven pre-spring conference power rankings, continuing the series with the Big 12.
Click here for the ACC pre-spring power rankings, which ran on Monday.
Click here for the SEC pre-spring power rankings, which ran on Tuesday.
Click here for the Big Ten pre-spring power rankings, which ran on Wednesday.
Click here for the Pac-12 pre-spring power rankings, which ran on Thursday.
After spring practice season, we will revisit these rankings before the dog days of summer kick in.
Here is the schedule for the rest of the week:
Saturday: Big East
Click here to see when your favorite Big 12 team begins spring practice.
ICONLandry Jones is back for one more year in Norman.
1. Oklahoma: The Sooners lost defensive coordinator Brent Venables to Clemson, but head coach Bob Stoops was able to land a familiar face: brother Mike Stoops, the former Arizona head coach who will assume the DC role in Norman. Before he coached the Wildcats, Mike Stoops served as DC at OU and helped lead the team to the 2000 national championship, and his priority now is improving a secondary that was torched in 2011. He also needs to find replacements for top defensive 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. Keep an eye on receiver Trey Metoyer.
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 offseason. Defensively, keep an eye on transfer Nigel Malone, a cornerback who will strengthen the one area of this defense that needs improvement.
3. Oklahoma State: All eyes will be on the quarterback battle as Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt attempt to replace Brandon Weeden and keep this prolific offense moving. Developing some new top receiver weapons is critical this spring, as well, with Justin Blackmon, Josh Cooper and Hubert Anyiam gone. Coordinator Bill Young’s opportunistic defense should be improved to further help an offense that may take some bumps early.
4. West Virginia: The Mountaineers will enter their new league with an offense that completely embarrassed Clemson in the Orange Bowl. And the scary thing is that quarterback Geno Smith could be even better in Year 2 of Dana Holgorsen’s offense. Defensively, the Mountaineers likely will have serious issues with Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller gone from the defensive line as well as linebacker Najee Goode.
5. Texas: All eyes will be on the quarterback race, as David Ash will try to hold off Case McCoy and early enrollee freshman Connor Brewer. No matter who lines up under center, he will have a complementary sound power rushing attack if Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron remain healthy. Defensively, coordinator Manny Diaz will need to find a couple of defensive tackles, but his line returns two potential All-Americans at end with Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat. If Mack Brown gets consistent quarterback play, we could see the Longhorns at the top of the conference once again.
6. TCU: The Horned Frogs begin preparations for play in their new league while trying to distance themselves from the drug sting that cost the team four players, including 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 deep backfield returns intact as well. 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? 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.
ICONTommy Tuberville hopes to get the Red Raiders back to the postseason.
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 installing 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, the injury bug continues to strike this team, as roughly 15 players will miss time this spring. The good news is that Texas Tech has more returning starters than any team in the Big 12.
9. Iowa State: Paul Rhoads is fresh off of a contract extension, a season after his Cyclones knocked Oklahoma State out of the BCS national title picture. At quarterback, can Jared Barnett hold off Steele Jantz? Finding a deep threat to replace Darius Reynolds and a left tackle to take over for Kelechi Osemele are top priorities this spring.
10. Kansas: Former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis takes over a team that lost six games by at least 30 points last season. Quarterback Dayne Crist will likely 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.
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