Football season is back folks. This season will be an interesting one in the Big 12 conference, as there are a number of teams who could surprise people by how good – or bad – they are. Before the season starts tomorrow, let’s break down the preseason hierarchy in the Big 12. There are several teams that have the potential to compete for a CFB Playoff spot in January. We’ll get to them in a minute, but first, let’s eat our vegetables.

The Cellar Dwellers

10. Kansas

Yup, they’re still going to be terrible. The only game they have a legitimate shot to win is this Saturday against Rhode Island, who posted an impressive 1-10 record last season. That one should be a real barn burner. The only good news for Jayhawk fans is that basketball season is just 60 days away.

9. Iowa State

Jack Trice Stadium is one of the few college stadiums in the country that sells beer, and Cyclone Nation is certainly going to need it to get through this season. Iowa State has a new starting quarterback and a new head coach. That’s a lot of turnover (pun intended) for a team that finished 9th in the Big 12 last season. They’ll beat Kansas, but don’t count on them for much else this year.

8. Kansas State

Get ready for another year where K-State’s offense consists entirely of three different variations of the QB draw. Bill Snyder decided to ditch “Don’t Throw” Joe Hubener in favor of Jesse Ertz, who made it all of two plays into last season before a knee injury sidelined him for the entire season. The Wildcats also lost All-American kick returner Morgan Burns, who had five return touchdowns last season. It could take K-State three games to score five touchdowns as a team this year.

The Middle Tier

7. Texas

There’s quite a bit of hype here in Texas about this team, and I have absolutely no idea why. The Longhorns are 48 hours away from kickoff against Notre Dame, and Charlie Strong has yet to name a starting quarterback. For now, it looks like Strong is taking a page out of Kevin Sumlin’s book and will rotate between Tyrone Swoopes and true freshman Shane Buechele in Saturday’s opener. What could possibly go wrong?

6. Texas Tech

This would be Baker Mayfield’s senior year at Tech if Kliff Kingsbury hadn’t made the dumbest head coaching move of my lifetime by spurning Mayfield in favor of Davis Webb, who has since transferred to California. I don’t care how suave Kingsbury looks patrolling the sidelines, that move was absolutely indefensible. What is not indefensible, however, is Tech’s offense which will consist of Patrick Mahomes running for his life trying to make something happen. After losing their leading rusher in DeAndre Washington and their leading receiver in Jakeem Grant, I really don’t see how this team will have enough firepower to hang with the big dogs in the conference.

5. West Virginia

The Mountaineers have what the lower tier teams don’t have, a solid starting quarterback. Skyler Howard threw for over 3,000 yards last season as he carried a below average roster to an 8-5 record including a bowl win.

West Virginia has one of the best home-field advantages in the Big 12 primarily because every team has to travel at least 800 miles to get to Morgantown. The conference schedule is favorable to the Mountaineers this season as they draw Oklahoma, Baylor, and TCU at home. Write this down, they will win one of those three games.

4. Oklahoma State

If there is any truth to the saying “look good, play good,” then the Cowboys are in trouble. I guess 12 years of living in Stillwater finally got to Mike Gundy, who showed up to Big 12 media day sporting an atrocious mullet. One of my roommates got a mullet recently. Why is anybody in 2016 still rocking a mullet? Honestly, is there one girl in the entire country who goes out on a Friday night hoping to go home with some dude with a mullet? If you are that girl and you are reading this, please seek help. But I digress.

Junior Mason Rudolph will be the full-time starting quarterback this year after splitting time with J.W. Walsh last season. The biggest struggle the Cowboys will face on offense is their lack of a running game. Remember when they put up EIGHT TOTAL RUSHING YARDS against Baylor last year? I do. They added Barry Sanders Jr. to their backfield, which will be good for the nostalgia factor, but probably not much else. They also have to play Oklahoma, Baylor, and TCU all on the road.

The Contenders

3. TCU

Expect TCU to take a step back from where they have been the past two seasons. The Frogs were fortunate enough to land one of the three quarterbacks that Kevin Sumlin ran off from A&M in the past two years. Here’s everything we know about Kenny Hill:

  1. He had one incredible game his sophomore year for A&M against South Carolina, followed by several underwhelming performances and some off-the-field issues that eventually caused him to lose his starting job to Kyle Allen.
  2. He wants people to call him Kenny “Trill.”

Neither of those things gives me confidence that he has what it takes to lead this TCU team to glory. There will inevitably be one game that TCU has a chance to win late that they will lose because of a Gary Patterson coaching gaffe. They lost to Baylor in 2014 because he went for it on fourth down late and gave Baylor the ball back at mid-field. In addition, they lost to Oklahoma last year because Patterson decided to go for two in the final minute instead of kicking the extra point and daring Trevor Knight to beat them in overtime. They also have to play Baylor in Waco this year, which will be a tough game for the Frogs unless of course, Baylor has to play a wide receiver at quarterback like they did last year.

2. Baylor

Despite the dismissal of Art Briles this off-season, this Baylor team is still loaded with talent. I mean did you SEE Seth Russell’s workout video? Unbelievable. The only thing I want this year is to see a full season of healthy Seth Russell and my life will be complete. Look for junior wide receiver K.D. Cannon to have a breakout year as he slides into the number one slot on the depth chart following Corey Coleman’s early departure for the NFL. Before Cannon ever played a snap in college he declared, “Imma be here for three years then I’m going to the league.” Take that with a grain of salt because in that same speech he also claimed that Baylor would win the national championship and Bryce Petty would win the Heisman in 2014. K.D. Cannon is the reason I have trust issues.

Defense will be a question mark for the Bears, but when is it not? They lost cornerback Xavien Howard to the NFL, but they also lost Terrell Burt, so I guess it about evens out. If Baylor can avoid key injuries, this team could surprise some people. I don’t think you will see the full impact of the Briles firing played out on the field until at least next season when the recruiting losses begin to take their toll. As for this year, I have faith in Jim Grobe and you should too.

1. Oklahoma

This is a no-brainer. The Sooners have the best quarterback in the country in Baker Mayfield and the best one-two backfield tandem in Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. In what could be a down year for much of the conference, this Sooner team is going to be unbelievable. They have early non-conference tests at Houston this Saturday and Ohio State in Norman two weeks later, so it won’t take long for us to see just how good this team truly is.

The only real question mark for the Sooners will be their defensive front seven. They have struggled there in the past and losing Eric Striker certainly doesn’t help their cause. Losing cornerback Zack Sanchez will also hurt, but this offense is so loaded that they won’t need lights out defense to win games.

Make no mistake about it, Baker Mayfield and his dad-bod will be among the Heisman finalists in New York come December, and this Oklahoma team will be among the four teams fighting for the National Championship in January.