We'll review quarterbacks on other teams based on how they might matchup on the field right now against the Oklahoma State defense. Can they avoid the Cowboys pass rush and will their offensive line hold up? Can their receivers get open against the Pokes secondary? If the answer is yes, can they spin it for success?
Before we get into the details with each team and how they might matchup with Oklahoma State, we have to set an order of how we pick the Big 12 Conference as a whole.
In preparing for this series, I had to look at the schedule because, honestly, there are some teams I think are so close in potential and expected performance that it matters where they play each other. I really see two teams at the very top of the league and that is a great example.
I would pick Baylor on top if the Bears were hosting Oklahoma like they did when they thrashed the Sooners in Waco last season. But with the game in Norman, Oklahoma is the favorite.
Here goes with our overall picks in the Big 12 between the end of spring and kickoff on Aug 30.
1. Oklahoma Sooners (11-1/8-1)
Personally, I think the Big 12 is lucky that Texas Tech did not release Baker Mayfield and that the former Red Raiders signal caller is not eligible immediately in Norman. Trevor Knight engineered the upset in the Sugar Bowl over Alabama and he played great, but there are those that believe if he had not been hurt in Bedlam in Stillwater that the Cowboys would have won. The OU offense was going nowhere with him at quarterback.
Knight will need to be more consistent. The Sooners still don't have a proven big-play running back but two strong possibilities in Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine arrive this summer. Sterling Shepard could be to Oklahoma what Josh Stewart has been to the Cowboys, a staple playmaker. The offensive line is unproven, but has solid candidates.
The defensive line appears to be solid but not spectacular. Jordan Phillips needs to come all the way back from his injury. With the uncertainty of Frank Shannon, the linebacker position is thin but the secondary appears to be pretty talented.
The schedule plays into Oklahoma's favor huge as the Sooners play the other top teams in the Big 12, in my opinion, Baylor and Kansas State, at home in Norman.
2. Baylor Bears (11-1/8-1)
You have to start with the top returning quarterback in the Big 12 in Bryce Petty. Petty has weapons in Antwan Goodley, Jay Lee, Levi Norwood and Robbie Rhodes, if there aren't any other arrests or legal situations over the summer. Petty is brilliant in knowing where to go with the ball and when to run versus when to pass. The offensive line will need some work after losing the outstanding Cyril Richardson. Shock Linwood is back at running back and there is still depth there.
If huge Shawn Oakman continues to develop and is even more of a force up front and in the pass rush than he was last fall then look out. Bryce Hager is back as a leader at middle linebacker but they will miss Eddie Lackey. The secondary is a little of an unknown, but special teams will be good.
The Bears play Kansas State at home and will be a strong favorite at home all season in their new stadium. However, they have to go to Oklahoma and there is the loss you see above.
3. Kansas State (9-3/7-2)
I'm not real excited about Kansas State losing Daniel Sams to a transfer today, but he was not on the two-deep as a receiver converted from quarterback. Jake Waters is the guy and he can play and he can take off and make plays with his feet when he needs to.
They still need to figure out who will play running back and it could be a summer arriving junior college player. I love Glenn "Big Play" Gronkowski at the fullback/H-back, and Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton are reliable receivers. I know B.J. Finney, Boston Stiverson, and Cody Whitehair are three very good offensive linemen. The o-line will be fine.
Big 12 defensive end standout Ryan Mueller makes the defensive line solid along with sturdy tackle Travis Britz. Linebacker and secondary has some new names, but there is faith in defensive coordinator Tom Hayes to have a solid unit.
Kansas State has to go to Norman and Waco, and that along with the Auburn game adds up to three losses.
4. Oklahoma State (8-4/6-3)
I believe that J.W. Walsh will be the quarterback. With last season behind him as a learning experience, he will be much better and much more at ease. I do expect to see playing time for Daxx Garman and Mason Rudolph. I think Gundy wants all three to play some with two quarterbacks incoming in the 2015 recruiting class.
Running back will be a puzzle that comes together with the use of Tyreek Hill some and offset that with a healthy Desmond Roland and Rennie Childs. Don't forget Sione Palelei because, if healthy and ready to go, he could be an answer.
The wide receiver position is loaded and you could get some Hill at the slot to work with the likes of Seales, Hays, Ateman, Webb, Sheperd, Curry, and more. The offensive line will be interesting as Bob Connelly tries to work a bunch of youngsters and injured from last season with veteran Daniel Koenig to be what the Cowboys need.
The defensive line with James Castleman, Ofa Hautau, Emmanuel Ogbah, Jimmy Bean, Sam Wren, and some young and talented players eager to get out there might be as good as OSU has had since the early to mid-1980s. Linebacker is shallow in depth and will rely on the experience of Ryan Simmons.
The secondary should be interesting with really good corners including shut down Kevin Peterson. The safeties are extremely young, but there is talent. The kicking situation should be improved.
The Cowboys have defending national champion Florida State and then Baylor, OU, and K-State all on the road. They'll beat Texas again in Stillwater.
5. TCU (8-4/5-4)
I'm not sure who will start at quarterback but it doesn't matter as Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie will pick the right one and they will have an explosive offense to guide. It could be Matt Joeckel or Trevone Boykin. B.J. Catalon is an explosive back and he has competition. The receivers are green and that is a concern. The offensive line set up well with four juniors and a redshirt freshman starting.
The word is Devonte Fields is back physically and emotionally, and so are Chucky Hunter and Davion Pierson at the defensive tackles. The 4-2-5 is keyed by the secondary and Jason Verrett is gone but safety Sam Carter is a great leader and I like the talent of Ranthony Texada.
TCU is a threat and the Horned Frogs play Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State at home. I know that TCU head coach Gary Patterson can't wait to get the Cowboys to Fort Worth after two straight trips to Stillwater.
6. Texas Tech (7-5/4-5)
It is kind of obvious that many media members want Kliff Kingsbury to do well. Maybe it is his demeanor or cool charm, but Tech came out of spring the "hot" team rising up in preseason selections. I saw it and I'm not buying it.
Tech lost a lot of talent and I'm not sure what they have to replace it. Davis Webb is back and improved at quarterback but he had better stay healthy because freshman Patrick Mahomes arriving this summer is the backup. All of the others left. DeAndre Washington is the running back and a good one. Jakeem Grant is the top receiver. The offensive line is almost intact.
Defense is mostly new with linebacker Pete Robertson the most veteran and proven of the bunch.
7. Texas (5-7/3-6)
Don't pass out! I know it is sacrilegious to pick the Longhorns to fail, but I'm not buying the "Texas Strong" or "Put the T Back in Texas" campaigns just yet.
I watched the Texas spring game and it revealed some serious trouble unless they were sandbagging down in Austin. They have no quarterback. The problem that existed under Mack Brown continues. They have a stable of running backs, some decent receivers, but the offensive line looks like they need some Wick coaching 24/7.
Defensively, some of the best plays are made by walk-ons that the broadcasters down play. I wouldn't down play them, I'd play them up. It will take some time as the other programs in the Big 12, Baylor, Oklahoma State, TCU, and Texas Tech, have passed or pulled even with the Longhorns meaning they always have a chance where in the past they did not most of the time.
8. (tie) Iowa State (4-9/2-7), Kansas (4-9/2-7)
Iowa State and Kansas really will be about even. Kansas has improved some and it appears to me that Iowa State has dropped off some. I know Iowa State is smart enough to leave Paul Rhoads in place, and I hope Kansas will do the same with Charlie Weis. I think Weis is making strides and may be within a season of jumping up and getting the Jayhawks to a bowl game.
10. West Virginia (3-9/1-8)
It's hard to think that West Virginia could wind up with this record, but I think a lack of talent and a dominate quarterback that is so badly needed to kick this offense into a higher gear. The Mountaineers lack speed. They had it with Steadman Bailey and especially Tavon Austin but I don't see the speed on offense and I'm afraid it is missing on defense too.