With it being exactly one month from the start of the 2021 season, I decided now would be a good time to release my preseason Big 12 power rankings. Once the season begins, I will release a new set of power rankings each week.
The Sooners are back atop the Big 12 once again and I believe they have the firepower to potentially run the table. Marvin Mims and Jadon Haselwood will be the go-to targets in the passing game for Spencer Rattler while Kennedy Brooks will see the majority of the carries out of the backfield. Alex Grinch has done a terrific job transforming the Oklahoma defense and with the talent he has returning in 2021, the Sooners could have one of the best defensive units in the Big 12 for the 2nd straight year.
2. Iowa State
I love what Matt Campbell has done at Iowa State. He has taken the program to heights it has never seen before and he's doing it the right way. He doesn't care about putting up gaudy numbers offensively and winning by 30. They are a disciplined football team that rarely beats themselves and that in and of itself will win you a lot of games.
The Cyclones have one of the best running backs in the country in Breece Hall who could be a darkhorse candidate for the Heisman Trophy. Quarterback Brock Purdy takes pride in taking care of the football and consistently makes good decisions in the passing game. I look for Iowa State to match the expectations set forth upon them and clinch a spot in the Big 12 championship game once again.
I have a hard time believing Texas will have the same success offensively without Sam Ehlinger but thankfully for the Longhorns, they have a guy like Bijan Robinson in the backfield and a good defense at all three levels. I don't have faith that Texas will finish this high in the Big 12 standings when it's all said and done but since this is a power ranking, they are deserving of the No. 3 spot. The talent on the defensive side of the ball alone gives them a chance to finish in the top four of the conference and if they can get quality quarterback play from Casey Thompson or Hudson Card, they could be in a position to reach the championship game.
4. Oklahoma State
With Chuba Hubbard now in the NFL and a very young and inexperienced receiving corps, the Cowboys are going to need the defense to carry them to some wins. DE Trace Ford, LB Malcolm Rodriguez, and S Kolby Harvell-Peel are the three veterans that will lead the Oklahoma State defense. The key for OSU is for QB Spencer Sanders to stay healthy. He's missed several games throughout his career including a high ankle sprain a year ago. He's the heart and soul of this team and if he's unable to play in all 12 games, OSU could slide down the standings quickly.
5. West Virginia
This is the most experience and depth that Neal Brown has had since taking over as the head coach of the Mountaineers. Coming into the season, I don't think they are getting the recognition that they deserve but a lot of that could be due to the uncertainty of how key players like Jarret Doege, Bryce Ford-Wheaton, and Winston Wright Jr. have progressed. Doege has been average at best while the receiving corps hasn't done him many favors either with drops being a huge issue for the Mountaineers last season. If the offense executes at a higher rate this fall, West Virginia will surprise some people. They are the team that is flying under the radar that could fight their way into the top three of the league.
Gary Patterson and the Horned Frogs are due for a big year. If TCU can go 3-1 against Texas, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and Baylor, I presume they would finish in the top half of the league. Max Duggan is arguably the best dual-threat quarterback in the Big 12 and an exciting young back in Zach Evans. Unfortunately, they play on the road against Oklahoma, Iowa State, and Oklahoma State which will present a big challenge. Look for the Horned Frogs to make their leap (no pun intended) in 2022.
7. Kansas State
QB Skylar Thompson played in just three games in 2021 before going down with an upper-body injury that would sideline him for the remainder of the season. Similar to Oklahoma State's situation, K-State isn't nearly as good without their starting QB. Some teams could handle their starter going down but Kansas State is not one of those teams. 5'5" running back Deuce Vaughn emerged as one of the most explosive playmakers in the conference a year ago averaging 5.2 yards per carry and 17.4 yards per reception. If the defense can improve on its 32.2 points allowed per game, they will have a chance to finish higher than 7th and land somewhere near the middle of the pack.
Many scoffed at Dave Aranda leaving as the defensive coordinator at LSU to become the head coach at Baylor - a school that plays in an offensive-driven league, or so they say. I actually think he fits in perfectly with the culture that Matt Rhule previously instilled in the Baylor program and I'm not sure they could have found a better replacement. That said, the Bears aren't ready to compete at a high level just yet. Quarterback Charlie Brewer transferred to Utah in the offseason leaving Gerry Bohanon and Jacob Zeno as the most likely candidates to be named QB1.
9. Texas Tech
The Red Raiders had a difficult time stopping anybody a year ago and I foresee the same issue happening this fall. Texas Tech isn't equipped to stop the run game and when you look around at the other backs in the league, Tech is going to be in a lot of trouble. Oregon transfer Tyler Shough and Henry Colombi will battle for the starting QB job and regardless as to who comes out of that battle on top, the Red Raiders should be able to put points on the board. The only problem is, they're going to have to score nearly 40 a game to win.
There have been some bad Kansas teams over the years but this year's team is on a completely different level of bad. You hate to say it but there's a good possibility the Jayhawks go winless in 2021. Sometimes talent can overcome depth or experience. Sometimes depth can overcome talent. And sometimes experience can overcome talent but when you don't have any of the three, you're not in a good position.
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