1. TCU — When TCU came into the conference three years ago, many wondered whether the school that made its name as a “BCS crasher” could hang with the big boys. TCU does lose quite a number of players on the defensive end, but, with senior quarterback Trevone Boykin looking for a Heisman run and head coach Gary Patterson’s knowledge of defense, the Horned Frogs should take the Big 12 title this year.
2. Baylor — The Bears showed last year that 2013 was no fluke, but there’s still one limiting factor that’s keeping Baylor from reaching its full potential — defense. If head coach Art Briles and defensive coordinator Phil Bennett can make the Bears defense good, it might be good enough to get them into the playoffs this year.
3. Oklahoma — This year could be a turnaround season in Norman. With a new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, sophomore running back Samaje Perine and a defense that should at least be respectable, the Sooners are a dark horse for the Big 12 crown.
4. Oklahoma State — After nearly taking the conference title two years ago, the Cowboys limped into a bowl last year with a win over Oklahoma. This year looks to be brighter in Stillwater thanks to a combination of a weaker conference and experience gained. With a defense that made it through a rough year last year and last year’s Big 12 defensive lineman of the year winner, the Cowboys should easily slot into right below TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma.
5. Texas — The theme for the Longhorns this year will be “If.” If either qurterbacks Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard step up at the position and puts in consistent performances. If the offensive line improved over last year. If the defense can put on a repeat performance from last year. If those happen, Texas will be a dangerous team.
6. Kansas State — The Wildcats have always been an interesting case in the Big 12. They never really have any flashy players, but they still get the job done. They’ll need that system to work this year as they have to replace quarterback Jake Waters and receiver Tyler Lockett among others.
7. West Virginia — The Mountaineers enter 2015 with the most questions in the conference. Who’s going to be the quarterback? Is that defense going to get better? Those questions might be too much for West Virginia to answer this year.
8. Texas Tech — Head coach Kliff Kingsbury started his tenure with the Red Raiders 7–0 and got a contract extension, but he now finds himself on the hot seat after a 4–8 season last year. His job might come down to the consistency of his quarterbacks.
9. Iowa State — Last year the Cyclones failed to win a game in conference, but this year looks better. If the defense can improve on its 125th ranking, the Cyclones won’t be an easy win.
10. Kansas — New head coach David Beaty said all of the right things at the Big 12 Media Days a few weeks ago, but, with the history Jayhawks football has had recently, it’s going to take more than words to turn that program around.