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Football

STANZ: Five thoughts on the Big 12’s preseason football poll

Sep 23, 2017; Waco, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley before the game against the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium. The Sooners defeat the Bears 49-41. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

When the Big 12 released its annual preseason poll last week, there were only a few differences from the ballot I submitted in late-June.

I had the top-four exactly as they ended in the final poll and the only discrepancies were in the middle of the ranking as I had the bottom three set the same way, as well.

Here’s the official poll:

1 – Oklahoma

2 – Oklahoma State

3 – Texas

4 – Iowa State

5 – Baylor

6 – TCU

7 – Kansas State

8 – West Virginia

9 – Texas Tech

10 – Kansas

And here is my ballot I submitted:

1 – Oklahoma

2 – Oklahoma State

3 – Texas

4 – Iowa State

5 – TCU

6 – Kansas State

7 – Baylor

8 – West Virginia

9 – Texas Tech

10 – Kansas

Here are five thoughts I have on the final poll and explanations for why I voted the way I did:

Kings stay kings

Until someone unseats Oklahoma, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to be at the top of the poll besides the five-time defending Big 12 champions. Absolutely no reason.

I don’t care that Lincoln Riley’s squad will be inserting a new quarterback for the third-straight season or that the new quarterback won’t be some hotshot transfer. I don’t care that they have to replace the best wide receiver in college football or that their defense still might not be the most disciplined group in the league.

Could this be the year something changes with a fresh quarterback who hasn’t seen much playing time previously? Maybe.

But, until someone knocks the king off the throne, there’s no reason to try and put somebody on it.

A tiered top-four

In my mind, there are clear gaps between each of the top-four teams on the ballot.

Oklahoma is well in front of everyone until I see a reason to believe differently.

Oklahoma State brings back as much star power offensively as anybody in the country with All-American running back Chuba Hubbard, quarterback Spencer Sanders and All-American wide receiver Tylan Wallace. Mike Gundy’s crew has a ton of talent returning defensively, as well.

The Cowboys are the clear No. 2 team.

Texas is Texas. Will this be the year they finally make the jump to fulfill the talent and potential on their roster and compete for the Big 12 and national titles? I don’t know, at this point I would say probably not, but they’re always going to be one of the most on-paper talented teams in the league and they’re always going to have the talent it takes to compete for a title.

Whether that talent comes together is what keeps them from being in one of the top-two spots, but there is still too much talent to justify them being any lower, so they’re a clear No. 3.

As for Iowa State, I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this could be the most talented Cyclone team in the last, I don’t know, 20 years (at least)? The sheer amount of returning experience, and productive experience at that, makes them a team capable of beating literally every team in the league on any given week.

But, the reality is Iowa State is still Iowa State until proven otherwise. This is still a program that has not won a conference championship on the gridiron in 108-years.

2020 very well could be the year Matt Campbell’s program makes that jump and earns a spot in the Big 12 title game, but until I see it play out on the field, I can’t rank them any higher in the preseason.

They are the clear No. 4 with a wide margin between four and five.

Leaping Frogs

If I had to pick a team picked in the middle of the league to jump into the top group, it would be Gary Patterson’s — and that is largely due to one player potentially making a jump.

Council Bluffs native quarterback Max Duggan.

The former four-star recruit struggled at times as a true freshman in 2019, but showed flashes of the potential that made him a star at Lewis Central High School. If he can turn those into more than flashes, TCU’s offense could be really, really good with a bunch of talented skill players around him.

The big question mark there is the offensive line, which lost star left tackle Lucas Niang.

As for the defense, I would go as far to say the Frogs could have the best back-seven in the league after Iowa State. Patterson’s program has always been built on defense, but it seems like they have underachieved there the last few years.

This could be a year when TCU overachieves, and I was banking on that happening when I placed them fifth.

Kansas State vs. Baylor

If Kansas State proved anything in year one of the Chris Klieman era, it’s that none of what the Wildcats were able to do during the long-reign of “The Vampire” Bill Snyder is going away. They’re still going to be out-manned talent-wise, but they’ll never be afraid to come out and punch you in the mouth with their tough-nosed schemes that can keep any game on any given week close.

I would not pick them to win the league for that reason. Someone below them will jump up and beat them in a game that stays too close too long.

That said, they will upset one or two teams above them in a game that stays too close too long.

As for Baylor, few teams in the recent memory of college football were as good in close games as the Bears were in 2019.

While Iowa State was only a few points away from being 10-2 or 11-1, Baylor was only a few points away from being 8-4 or 7-5. The difference is in who won the close games. The Bears did, the Cyclones didn’t.

Baylor lost a lot of talent from Matt Rhule’s defense that was among the best in the country last season, including Big 12 defensive player of the year James Lynch. Charlie Brewer returns under center, but I see a bit of a regression to the mean this year for Dave Aranda’s program in year-one of his tenure.

The bottom three

It is tough for me to see any of the three programs rated at the bottom of the poll climbing their way out of those spots. If I had to pick one, I would say West Virginia, simply due to the number of injuries they faced last season.

But, even that would be a bit of a stretch considering the program Neal Brown inherited from Dana Holgersen. The Mountaineers still have a long way to go.

Despite it just being year-two of his tenure, this feels like a really important season for Matt Wells in Lubbock. His style produced more close outcomes with an added emphasis on defense and less of a reliance on the Air Raid compared to Kliff Kingsbury, but the wins still did not come.

I just don’t see enough returning talent at this point to put them anywhere besides the second-to-last spot in the poll.

As for Kansas, well, they’re still Kansas. Les Miles brought the flash and some attention to the Jayhawks with his arrival before last season, but the substance still isn’t quite there.

Pooka Williams is one of the two best running backs in the league, but there still isn’t enough around him to make serious noise the league.

Much like you can’t take Oklahoma off the throne until someone takes out the king, you can’t let Kansas out of the dungeon until they bust down the door and push their way into any other position.

Jared Stansbury

administrator

Jared a native of Clarinda, Iowa, started as the Cyclone Fanatic intern in August 2013, primarily working as a videographer until starting on the women’s basketball beat prior to the 2014-15 season. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State in May 2016, Jared was hired as the site’s full-time staff writer, taking over as the primary day-to-day reporter on football and men’s basketball. He was elevated to the position of managing editor in January 2020. He is a regular contributor on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines and makes regular guest appearances on radio stations across the Midwest. Jared resides in Ankeny with his four-year-old puggle, Lolo.

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