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After previewing every Big 12 football team for 2018, here’s how I think the conference stacks up

Oklahoma will likely be in the Big 12 title game again. The second slot, however, is completely up for grabs.

NCAA Football: Big 12 Championship-Texas Christian vs Oklahoma Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of each conference previews run-through, I take a look at how I perceive the conference’s balance of power heading into the season. This is in no way based on schedules, so they are not predictions. This is just how I would rank the teams after writing thousands of words about each of them. We have already completed the Sun Belt, C-USA, MAC, MWC, AAC, and Pac-12.

Bill C’s Big 12 power rankings

Here’s a link to every team’s data, and each team’s name below is linked to its preview.

Tier 1

1. Oklahoma

I didn’t want to do this. I enjoy parity, and I enjoy saying things like “wide open race!” in the run-up to the season. I think the Big 12 could indeed have a pretty fun race.

The problem is that I only know one of the surefire contenders. Despite losing the best quarterback in its storied history (challenge me on that, I dare you), OU starts right where it left off last season.

The Big 12’s middle class could produce a few exciting, top-20 challengers. But they all have their own questions, and some of them don’t have as many potential answers as the Sooners do.

Tier 2

2. TCU
3. Texas
4. WVU
5. Oklahoma State
6. Iowa State

TCU, Texas, and OSU are either breaking in new QBs or trying to decide between last year’s unconvincing candidates. WVU has a QB and incredibly perilous depth. Iowa State has to fight expectations for the first time in a while and has depth questions of its own.

All of these teams have upside, and I was really close to putting TCU in the top tier, next to the Sooners. But they still have to prove they belong with the behemoth in Norman.

Tier 3

7. Kansas State
8. Texas Tech
9. Baylor

This conference might have only zero to one national title contenders, but nine of 10 teams could be top-50 good. There will be super fun games in every week of conference play, and not only because of the Big 12’s high-scoring reputation. On sheer entertainment value and competitiveness, this league will be hard to top.

Tier 4

10. Kansas


How does S&P+ see things?

Here’s how my statistical system has the Big 12 laid out for 2018, with zero equating to an average FBS team. (You can find full 2018 S&P+ projections here.)

2018 projected standings (per S&P+)

Projected conference wins, with overall wins in parentheses.

  1. Oklahoma 7.0 (9.6)
  2. Oklahoma State 5.6 (8.1)
  3. TCU 5.6 (7.5)
  4. Texas 5.2 (7.3)
  5. Iowa State 4.2 (6.3)
  6. WVU 4.2 (6.2)
  7. Baylor 4.0 (6.2)
  8. Texas Tech 4.0 (5.9)
  9. Kansas State 3.5 (5.4)
  10. Kansas 1.6 (3.4)

This coalesces pretty well with my thoughts above. OU is 1.4 projected wins ahead of the second-place team, but only 1.6 projected wins separate No. 2 from No. 8. Meanwhile, team No. 9, KSU, pretty consistently overachieves its recruiting rankings and wins more close games than it loses. So games between No. 2 through 9 could be week-to-week bloodbaths. (And it’s not like No. 1 isn’t vulnerable itself.)

How these teams looked in 2017

Three teams played defense last year, 3.5 if you include the half-season in which OU’s defense was fine.

Big 12 offenses heading into 2018

That Texas had less big-play potential than Kansas and Iowa State last year boggles the mind.

By the way, this chart illustrates how regression might come for OU. The Sooners still have the skill, athleticism, and coaching to be the most efficient offense in the country, but they were otherworldly from a big-play perspective last year. That probably won’t continue.

Without Mason Rudolph, James Washington, and Marcell Ateman, OSU will come back to earth, too.

Big 12 defenses heading into 2018

Only one team attempted anything but bend-don’t-break defense — TCU — and it paid off for the Frogs, but when they got beaten on a play, they got beaten.

Best 2018 offensive players by team (best overall in bold):

  • Baylor: WR Denzel Mims
  • Iowa State: RB David Montgomery
  • Kansas: RB Khalil Herbert
  • Kansas State: RT Dalton Risner
  • Oklahoma: WR Marquise Brown
  • Oklahoma State: LG Marcus Keyes
  • TCU: RB Darius Anderson
  • Texas: WR Collin Johnson
  • Texas Tech: WR T.J. Vasher
  • West Virginia: QB Will Grier

Among my top five teams, only one has a surefire star at QB. Grier has played in two incomplete seasons in his career; it could be super fun to see what he’s capable of over a 13- or 14-game season.

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Kansas
Will Grier
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Best 2018 defensive players by team

  • Baylor: NT Ira Lewis
  • Iowa State: LB Willie Harvey
  • Kansas: LB Joe Dineen Jr.
  • Kansas State: CB Duke Shelley
  • Oklahoma: LB Kenneth Murray
  • Oklahoma State: LB Justin Phillips
  • TCU: DE Ben Banogu
  • Texas: CB Kris Boyd
  • Texas Tech: NB Justus Parker
  • West Virginia: LB David Long Jr.

As I did with the Pac-12, I’m just going with my favorite player from probably the most proven defense in the league.

NCAA Football: Kansas at Texas Christian
Ben Banogu (15)
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports