Respect or No Respect
Which teams in 2012 have the most respect to be a viable threat for the Big 12 title?
When looking at the new-look Big 12 Conference, it can be hard when filling out the pre-season polls on which team is going to be the best of the best.
Entering 2012, it is probably harder than ever, not to decide which teams belong at the top of the pyramid, but rather the teams that belong in the middle of the pack and especially in the bottom of the barrel.
When it comes to being respected or not respected as a viable threat in the Big 12 conference in 2012, there are a few teams in the Big 12 that will have to earn respect and there will be some that have already earned respect before the season has even started.
Looking at both teams, which finished in the upper half of the conference standings in 2011, the Sooners and Wildcats return their starting quarterbacks and a litter of other offensive and defensive standouts as well.
Baylor will have respect, of course after their 2011 season, which went down as the greatest in Baylor football history and also had the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback as well. Who now is in the NFL.
There will be respect for the Bears, just because of the season they are coming off of and some of the weapons they are returning. The biggest question will be is, can Nick Florence lead the Baylor offense, not in the same fashion as Robert Griffin III did, but in a way that will keep Baylor on the national stage.
I put Oklahoma State in the same group as Baylor because the Cowboys are almost the exact same situation. Losing their starting quarterback, star wide receiver and a few other key pieces after what could be called the most successful season for Oklahoma State football in a while. Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon are going to be suiting up in the pros, while the Cowboys are left with two sophomore gunslingers and an experienced running back in Joseph Randle.
So there will be respect for both teams, because of the results from 2011, but be cautious of them in 2012.
These teams are grouped together because of the seasons they had in 2012. Yes of course Texas and Iowa State are above Tech in the respect that they went to Bowl Games following the 2011 campaign.
The area that both the Longhorns and Cyclones do not beat out the Red Raiders in is the area of experience.
Tech is returning one of the most experienced group of players on the offensive side of the ball and have a new culture on the defensive side with Art Kaufman in and Chad Glasgow out.
Seth Doege returns in 2012 as the top passing quarterback in the country and has some returning weapons and new weapons that will come in hand.
Eric Ward, Austin Zouzalik will help at the wide receiver position, DeAndre Washington and Eric Stephens are on the road to recovery in the running back spot and the offensive line also has some experience returning.
For the Longhorns, Texas will have to earn respect for their passing attack, which was used sometimes in 2011, but not to the extent we have seen in the pass with quarterbacks like Colt McCoy and Vince Young taking snaps.
For Iowa State, it will be an interesting year there are currently seven quarterbacks on their roster, including the two guys that will be gunning for the job in Steele Jantz and Jared Barnett.
If Iowa State can come off the 6-7 season and turn in a winning season, the level of respect will go up substantially.
The Jayhawks, under new head coach Charlie Weiss will have a lot to prove in 2012 after a dismal season in 2011 where the team won no conference games and mustered up only two wins overall.
Weiss will have at least a quarterback to work with that he knows very well in Dayne Crist, who made the move from Notre Dame when Weiss was hired at Kansas.
In 2012, Kansas has a lot to prove to a lot of people, especially in their home state when they face Kansas State on October 6.
Now for the newcomers.
The reason I put them in the bottom of the barrel as needing to gain the most respect in the 2012 season is because this is all new for them.
Yes, TCU and West Virginia are very respectable athletic programs, don't get me wrong, but once they go through the grind of a Big 12 schedule where week in and week out they are facing Top 25 teams, then we will see.
Both programs are coming off very successful seasons, especially the Mountaineers, who put their program back on the map with a great season and absolute demolition of Clemson as well.
For TCU, we have seen them win on the National stage in the Rose Bowl, but now they want to go after the crystal football, and to do that they will have to do well in the Big 12, which would not be a surprise.
Both teams bring in not only good, but really good gunslingers in Geno Smith for West Virginia and Casey Pachall for TCU.
These players and more will be key to both of these teams getting off on the right foot in their new homes and not just being the door mat for the Big 12's door.
So there it is, Oklahoma and Kansas State sit atop the conference, Baylor and Oklahoma State right under them, and then the teams fall from there with Texas, Texas Tech, Iowa State, Kansas, TCU and WVU.
That is how I rank the teams in the Big 12 as to whether they are a respectable, viable team to make a run at the Big 12 title in 2012.