It’s that time TSHQ nation. The time where we begin looking at the CFB offseason and what better way to prepare for 2012-2013 than to look at the top 25 teams heading into next season. Some CFB “experts” like to post their top 25 immediately following the national title game, as if that somehow proves something. They come up with some catchy nickname like “The Far Too Early Top 25″ or “The Wow I’m So Smart I Can Predict The Top 25 Before I Know Who is Coming Out Top 25.” That’s cool and all. I’m not impressed. You know what I’d rather do? Wait till I know who is gone from school, what schools pulled in for recruiting classes and then base my judgement on whether a team is top 25 or not by what they are, not what they might be. “Woopdie-doo Bryan, what’s the fun in that? What do you know anyways?” You know what I knew last year? Arkansas was a top 10 team even without Ryan Mallet (placed them 8th). You know who didn’t know that? A LOT of writers didn’t know that. Being the first to post your top 25 doesn’t mean much if it’s wrong. Now I won’t pretend to be perfect. I had some terrible picks. I had some great picks outside of Arkansas. These things are never flawless. But if I’m going to be wrong, I’ll be wrong with info I can say I relied on instead of the guessing game. But enough self-promotion, there’s enough of that all the time on here….
To make it clear, this top 25 (as all top 25’s should be) is based on the teams I believe are the 25 best in America. I don’t care what their records may be. Season predictions will come in August. If a team is likely to lose 2-3 games in league play, I’m not ranking them lower than a team who may lose only once if I think the 2-3 loss team is better. This will be broken down into 3 parts continuing now with part 2, the #9-17 teams in College Football heading into 2012. Don’t agree? Let me know why. Want to tell me I’m brilliant? I’ll welcome that too. I had two guys who stood out most noticeably last season in my offseason previews. One guy was an Iowa fan who took exception to my projections for his Hawkeyes who I projected at 4th or 3rd in their division with about 7-8 wins. I hit Iowa on the head last year. The other was a BYU fan who thought at worst they were 10-2 with 11-1 potential. I said 9-3 preseason and then he persuaded me to go with 10-2 come predictions time and well, the Cougars went 9-3. Bastard…
Here you go, my personal, potentially different on purpose, bound to look good and bad at various points, top 25 for the 2012-2013 College Football Season…..Teams: #9-17
For Part one and #’s 18-25 click HERE.
Writer’s Note: ***Returning starters are based on PhilSteele.com. I’ve scoured the internet for hours and the consensus from many I’ve asked is to use his numbers. If you’re a fan and feel the numbers are wrong, take it up with him. I’ve seen 1000 different numbers for each team.
17. TCU Horned Frogs
2011 Record: 11-2 (Beat Louisiana Tech in Poinsettia Bowl)
Returning Starters: 6 offense, 5 defense *(adjusted from PhilSteele to accommodate for players kicked off)
Key Games: 11/3 at West Virginia, 11/24 at Texas, 12/1 vs TCU
Synopsis: TCU had its work cut out for it even before the whole drug bust that led to the loss of 3 key defensive players from this year’s team: Tanner Brock, D.J Yendrey and Devin Johnson. Don’t let the 32nd defense overall a year ago fool you. Sure that’s a significant drop from where the TCU defenses had been in year’s prior but even that is understating the struggles TCU had against quality opponents. Games against the likes of New Mexico and UNLV greatly helped those numbers as the TCU defense was gashed through the air by Baylor, SMU and Boise St. The secondary of TCU was an issue all year and as we’ll see with another team higher up, there simply wasn’t enough teams in the Mountain West capable of exposing it. Moving to the Big 12 TCU will find out early on how much that secondary has improved in a league where throwing is the new running. TCU was already facing the loss of stud LB Tank Carder and thought Brock would step in and be his replacement this season after injuring his ankle in the opening game loss to Baylor a year ago that sidelined him the rest of the season. Yendrey was an established starter and key contributor to TCU’s D-line while Johnson was expected to fill a big role in the secondary as a senior. Instead TCU will enter their debut season in the Big 12 on a sour note after the campus drug bust. There even was rumblings that the results from a Gary Patterson-ordered drug test on the whole team netted pretty ugly results as a whole, though it’s expected those rumblings were exaggerated. Frankly to be honest, the fact a bunch of 18-22 year old college kids hit a joint often isn’t earth-shattering news to me though the dealing of cocaine and prescription pills during the sting raises some flags. Nonetheless TCU knew with or without these defensive issues that the offense would be enormous to their chances of competing for a conference title in their first year. Casey Pachall settled in very nicely last year as Andy Dalton’s replacement and should put up some big numbers against the Big 12 secondaries he’ll face. TCU will still have a staple of RBs back with Ed Wesley leading the charge in front of Matthew Tucker and Waymon James. Josh Boyce returns as Pachall’s favorite target and will be one of the better WRs in the Big 12 entering 2012. Protecting Pachall will be priority #1 for this Horned Frogs offense as the offensive line was crippled with departures after last season. All in all TCU will be needing a strong start to the conference slate given the back heavy Big 12 schedule they were given. In a conference that should be VERY competitive in 2012, TCU finishes their final 5 league games with trips to Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Texas while getting Kansas St and Oklahoma at home. TCU will be mighty challenged to give a repeat performance of the 10+ win seasons they’ve been cranking out in recent memory with Gary Patterson. This will be his toughest coaching challenge in years.
Update: Ed Wesley has left the team for family reasons leaving Tucker and James likely to increase their load.
16. Michigan Wolverines
2011 Record: 11-2 (Beat Virginia Tech in Sugar Bowl)
Returning Starters: 7 offense, 7 defense
Key Games: 9/1 vs. Alabama (at Dallas, TX), 10/27 at Nebraska, 11/24 at Ohio St.
Synopsis: Your impressions of the 2011 Michigan Wolverines likely rely greatly on what type of person you are. Coming off a terrific 2010 season, I wasn’t overly impressed with Stanford. While I acknowledged their exceptional season and realized they were a top 10 team in 2011, I never bought the fact they would beat out Oregon when it became a point of discussion. 2011 Michigan reminded me a lot of 2010 Stanford. Simply by qualifying for the Sugar Bowl you could say Michigan had a great season and was a very good team. By beating Virginia Tech you would wonder, “How on earth could you doubt them?” But I’m a stubborn man America and I refuse to concede defeat unless completely unavoidable. The Michigan Wolverines in 2011 really only had two good wins, Nebraska and Virginia Tech. Other than that they beat up on the bottom of the Big Ten, escaped against an overrated Notre Dame team and ducked Wisconsin in cross-division play. So because of that reason, I have Michigan perhaps a little lower than you will see them in most polls heading into 2012. Brady Hoke proved instantly he was a great hire and I do believe in time he’ll have Michigan back into national championship contention but any talk of that now is premature. Offensively Michigan showed a strong running attack in 2011 and that should remain the focus of the offense next season, especially when you consider the loss of WR Junior Hemingway and TE Kevin Koger. To give you an idea of what Michigan’s philosophy was on passing last season, the Wolverines had no receiver or TE finish the season with more than 34 catches. Denard Robinson simply has never been a very good passing QB and as long as he’s under center you’ll see them stick to a ground game primarily. Defensively is where Brady Hoke vowed to turn this team around and where the biggest improvements have been made. Michigan’s defense was stout against the pass last season and 7 of their 12 recruits who ranked as a 4 or 5-star will come in on the defensive side of the ball. The entire secondary is back but the biggest concern will be on a defensive line that must replace 3 starters. The turnaround last year defensively was greatly aided by a strong D-line that squashed the run defense deficiencies of a year prior. If those same issues return, you could see a Michigan defense regress again. Lastly for Michigan in 2012 will be a difficult schedule that starts with Alabama in Jerry’s World at Dallas Cowboys Stadium and has trips to Nebraska, Ohio State and Notre Dame mixed in. I think Michigan loses 3 games at least next year just looking at their schedule.
15. Nebraska Cornhuskers
2011 Record: 9-4 (Lost to South Carolina in Capital One Bowl)
Returning Starters: 7 offense, 7 defense
Key Games: 10/6 at Ohio St, 10/27 vs. Michigan, 11/23 at Iowa
Synopsis: What type of idiot ranks a team one spot ahead of Michigan who finished two games worse than Michigan, got blown out by Michigan, got beat down in their bowl game and has the same number of returning starters as Michigan? THIS GUY. Call me foolish America, it’s just a feeling. Michigan was better than Nebraska in 2011. I was wrong for thinking otherwise. But 2012 is not 2011 and in this new season upcoming I’m riding my gut and putting Nebraska ahead of Michigan on this year’s preseason poll. For Nebraska it is relatively simple whenever they approach a football game: don’t fall behind. While that sounds challenging on the surface, that’s simplifying it. Just don’t fall behind to the point you’re forced to pass. If you thought my opinions of Denard Robinson as a quaterback were low, just stop reading now. Nebraska shouldn’t have more than 1-2 pass plays in their entire playbook as long as Taylor Martinez is their QB. Down 21 in the 4th? Just repeatedly punt until your D forces a turnover. It’s that painful to watch him throw. But on a serious note Nebraska needs more from Martinez, a LOT MORE, if they want to be the Legends division favorite I think they should be in 2012 in the Big Ten. Rex Burkhead will be one of the better backs in the league again next year and they have a few offensive line starters returning. When their run game is working they’re tough to stack up with. Defensively Nebraska had a very disappointing season by Bo Pelini standards in 2011 ranking 36th overall (yes, that’s bad for Pelini) and 59th against the run (that’s horrible for Pelini.) Nonetheless they bring back 3 D-linemen, 2 linebackers and 3 members of their secondary in 2012 so there really isn’t any area of the defense that was gutted by graduation/early entry. The Cornhuskers schedule offers some difficult road games at Ohio St, Iowa and Michigan St. but a soft non-conference schedule should let them enter Big Ten play with an inflated record. Brett Maher, Nebraska’s dual punter and kicker provides them with some of the best special teams in not only the Big Ten but perhaps the country.
14. Kansas St. Wildcats
2011 Record: 10-3 (Lost to Arkansas in Cotton Bowl)
Returning Starters: 9 offense, 7 defense
Key Games: 9/22 at Oklahoma, 10/20 at West Virginia, 11/3 vs Oklahoma St
Synopsis: The biggest blemish on most prognosticator’s lists last year was this Kansas St football team who went from a bubble bowl team in 2010 to a top 10 team at times in 2011. In reality this team is one of the few in the top 25 who I could see being completely wrong about. Despite their fantastic 2011 season, they simply don’t play a style of football in the Big 12 that leads you to believe they can be consistently great. They aren’t a great passing team and they don’t have a great defense. Even when Nebraska was in the Big 12 and didn’t fit the traditional Big 12 offense, they could always rely on their defense. First and foremost we can simply ignore their recruiting class results. The fact Kansas St. doesn’t have a great recruiting class isn’t anything worth using to judge them. They didn’t have a good recruiting class last year either. Bill Snyder rarely loads up on dominant recruiting classes to get results. What does bode well for Kansas St. is the return of the majority of their offense and specifically Collin Klein. Even as a QB last season Klein rushed for 27 TDs and over 1000 yards doing nearly everything for the Wildcats offense. He leads an experienced backfield for Bill Snyder that was 27th in the nation on the ground last year. The one issue offensively they face is the loss of a couple starting offensive linemen. For a team that essentially doesn’t pass unless it has to, they are so reliant on that front 5 to get a good push and create the running lanes for their dynamic backfield. Defensively Kansas St doesn’t put fear into a lot of opponents. If we’re honest with ourselves we’ll just say their best defense is a great offense. Kansas St. outscored most of their opponents last year as oppose to stopping them and that will likely be the case again in 2012. Despite a good amount of seniors back on defense this year, they simply can’t stop the pass and teams who could throw the ball down field last year torched the Kansas St. secondary repeatedly. Klein and the offense will likely once again be counted upon to win them games that their defense doesn’t show up in. This team is all over the place with potential. They could be top 10. They could lose 5 games. But I’m no “maybe this, maybe that” predictor. I think they’ll be closer to top ten.
13. Wisconsin Badgers
2011 Record: 11-3 (Lost to Oregon in Rose Bowl)
Returning Starters: 4 offense, 6 defense
Key Games: 9/29 at Nebraska, 10/27 vs Michigan State, 11/24 at Penn State
Synopsis: Wisconsin entered 2011 as my favorite to win the Big Ten despite massive turnover from their 2010 team and they’ll enter 2012 as my favorite to win the Big Ten with…that’s right…massive turnover from their 2011 team. The Badgers may not have a Russell Wilson walking in this year but they still should be a shoe-in to reach the Big Ten title game due to Ohio St.’s postseason ban (hence why I don’t have that as one of Wisconsin’s key games). With that said I can’t understate the brilliancy of Russell Wilson last year and how much less impressive their offense will likely be this year with a new QB under center. It will be a pretty wide open competition all season for the starting gig as it’s unlikely now that any one QB has earned the trust of the coaching staff for the entire season. However, the announcement from Montee Ball that he would return to school for his senior year was a huge boost to the Badgers offense. While junior James White was more than ready and capable to take the starting reigns, Montee Ball’s returns signals the return of not only the best running back in the country, but one of the nation’s best players in all of 2012. The Badgers ground game needs no introduction as it will continue to be one of the best units year to year. Chris Borland and Mike Taylor both return as all-conference linebackers from this past season and give the Badgers some experience in the middle of a defense that otherwise has some holes to plug. The Badgers defense for years has never been a shutdown, stout unit along the lines of fellow Big Ten teams Ohio St or Penn St, but they’re effective enough to let their ground game win them games and stay in contention for league titles. That recipe won’t change much in 2012. It’s relatively simple for Wisconsin in 2012 however. With Ohio St on ban from postseason play, there’s really no reason they shouldn’t be Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis again for the Big Ten title game. The Buckeyes are the only team in their division with similar talent to them and they avoid Michigan, Iowa and even pesky Northwestern in cross-division play. They would have to blow it to not make the 2012 Big Ten title game because nobody in the Leaders division is good enough to beat them out on their own.
12. Florida State Seminoles
2011 Record: 9-4 (Beat Notre Dame in Champ Sports Bowl)
Returning Starters: 6 offense, 8 defense
Key Games (Dates TBD): vs. Clemson, at Virginia Tech, vs. Florida
Synopsis: If you want to see the polar opposite of Kansas St. last year look no further than Florida State who was a trendy pick among many to be a top 10, top 15 team yet it never really came together for the Seminoles who dropped a couple games early in the season that took them out of the national title race and even the ACC Atlantic race for most of the season. Ask some fans of the program as well as ACC pundits though and they’ll tell you this team was built for 2012 all along. Before we get into the team, let me state that the number of returning starters for FSU may be the most debated of any team I’ve come across this season. Some contend they have as many as 18-19 returning starters combined while Phil Steele appears to be on the low end of the projected returning starters. Offensively E.J Manuel will be back for his senior season and if there’s ever a time for the Manuel Project to pay dividends, it’s on its last test run. They have a 3-headed monster at RB between Devonta Freeman, Chris Thompson and last year’s heralded freshman James Wilder, now a sophomore. While their passing game lacks consistency, Rashad Greene showed the country his talents and athleticism in their Champ Sports bowl game win over Notre Dame. The rising sophomore had 5 catches for 99 yards and a score and put the team on his back in the 2nd half. While the Noles dealt with issues last year on the offensive line, they should only be better this year as a boatload of freshman who got time at the position last season will become regular contributors in 2012. With that said, the faith and belief that comes with Florida State last season and this year again is the defense. The Seminoles were 2nd in the nation last year against the run and 18th against the pass for the 4th best defense in the nation. Essentially running the ball against Florida State wasn’t an option in 2011 and the Seminoles defense wasn’t to blame for their ACC struggles as they led the ACC in rush defense, pass defense and sacks. With the majority of the defense back, it should only make them an even more prolific unit in 2012. On top of all that, Jimbo Fisher followed up a great 2011 recruiting class with another elite 2012 class ranked #6 by Rivals.com. Of their thirteen 4/5 star recruits, 9 play on the defensive side of the ball including two 5-star defensive tackles and 4-star CB Ronald Darby who they beat out division rival Clemson for at the end of the recruiting process. The ACC Atlantic appears to be a two-horse race for the foreseeable future and the Noles have been doing their part in the recruiting ranks lately to keep Clemson chasing. With West Virginia dropped from their non-conference slate, Florida State will have two huge league games, home vs Clemson and at Virginia Tech that may dictate their entire season.
11. South Carolina Gamecocks
2011 Record: 11-2 (Beat Nebraska in Capital One Bowl)
Returning Starters: 7 offense, 6 defense
Key Games: 10/6 vs. Georgia, 10/13 at LSU, 11/10 vs Arkansas
Synopsis: South Carolina by all measures was the best team in the SEC East last season. Their biggest downfall was losing Marcus Lattimore to injury and losing 2 games (which with a tiebreaker is good enough most years) in a year Georgia had an easy, easy schedule. Coming off last season, the question now becomes can they chase down the Bulldogs from behind who return the bulk of their starters from this season. A lot of people have questions about Connor Shaw and whether he can be a starter for a BCS-caliber team but I’ve never had too many questions about his game. With the loss of Alshon Jeffrey this offseason, South Carolina’s offense wasn’t going to be a big passing offense regardless. Shaw simply has to make the throws he’s asked to make when the sitatuation dictates it, no more, no less. Think of Scott Tolzien a couple of years ago at Wisconsin. Shaw is much better with his legs and causes defenses a lot of fits when he’s able to improvise and seemingly make something out of nothing. He terrorized Clemson and Nebraska in the Gamecocks last two games on the ground. However make no mistake that the offense will again revolve around Marcus Lattimore who returns from a nasty ACL injury that cut short his 2011 season. If Lattimore is 100% healthy he is arguably the best running back in America. Without Jeffrey expect South Carolina to become even more reliant on him and for him to become an even bigger focus of defensive game plans this upcoming season. The Gamecocks again appear to have the defensive chops to create matchup problems for offensive lines all season. Even with the departure of Melvin Ingram the Gamecocks bring back 3 regular d-linemen from a year ago including heralded sophomore Jadeveon Clowney who showed immediately why he was the #1 recruit in the land a year ago. The freak DE with great pass rushing ability and athleticism was a nightmare for o-linemen last year and should be expected to spearhead a relentless Gamecock defensive line. In the back of the defense is the #2 secondary from a year ago who although it waves goodbye to Stephon Gilmore returns 2 full-time starters from last year and has and experienced group of seniors playing in front of it. The biggest hurdle for South Carolina to clear this year will be the tough cross-division schedule that has them playing LSU and Arkansas. Odds are this team won’t be a BCS game contender unless they can win the league’s automatic bid.
10. Clemson Tigers
2011 Record: 10-4 (Lost Orange Bowl to West Virginia)
Returning Starters: 6 offense, 7 defense
Key Games (Some dates TBD): at Florida State, 9/1 vs. Auburn, 11/24 vs. South Carolina
Synopsis: A lot of people are basing their opinion of Clemson’s ranking next season off the fact they got pummeled in the Orange Bowl. While I certainly take a bowl game performance into consideration, simply put it doesn’t change what a team has coming back. If I were to be completely honest I’d say anyone who has Clemson below 15 in their preseason poll for next year simply doesn’t pay much attention or is severely overvaluing some of the teams I have below them. Clemson got smoked in the Orange Bowl. It also didn’t help that they quit in that game. When one team is playing with pride and has the talent at skill positions WVU did and the other team rolls over like an abused dog…..that game will get ugly. Offensively Clemson returns one of the best offensive teams in the nation heading into 2012 and will be drastically more talented offensively than just about any team in the ACC next year. Tajh Boyd wasn’t always my favorite player last year on Clemson and I thought he got too much credit, but he fits Chad Morris’ system well and he has a plethora of offensive skill players surrounding him that make Clemson’s offensive prospects sky-high again in 2012. Andre Ellington’s return to school for his senior year instead of the draft takes care of a question mark most would have had on the team. With the uncertainty of what Mike Bellamy will ever amount to at Clemson, Ellington gives them a reliable experienced back who has the home-run ability this team fuels off. For all the jaw drops their passing game caused last year generally Clemson was near automatic when they ran the ball well. In fact the UNC game was the only win on the season for Clemson where they didn’t run well. However, as most know, Clemson’s bread and butter does lie with their up-tempo passing attack. Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins make for one of the best receiving duos in the country returning in 2012 with Watkins potentially a Heisman threat if the Tigers can avoid too many slip ups. Watkins proved to be nearly uncoverable last season and coach Swinney and Chad Morris will once again look to make him a priority by maximizing his touches as a whole. Hopkins flies under the radar playing next to Watkins but quietly had nearly 1000 yards receiving last year and should become a bigger red zone threat with Dwayne Allen’s departure to the pros. The one area of concern for Clemson offensively will be the offensive line that replaces 3 starters but in a system like Morris’ that is so reliant on rhythm and doesn’t require a ton of 5-step drops that utilize scanning the field, it isn’t as big an obstacle to overcome as it would be for a more traditional passing attack. Defensively is where the most questions lie for Clemson and deservedly so coming off the Orange Bowl and a season where they really didn’t excel at any one thing. Andre Branch and Brandon Thompson’s departures specifically hurt a front 4 that was the strength of the Tigers defense in 2012 despite what the numbers indicate. Brent Venables was brought in by Dabo Swinney from Oklahoma to tighten up a defense and bring a more aggressive mentality to a team that was poor all around last year and caused endless frustrations with their missed tackles. While some will point to the secondary deficiencies that reared their heads in the Orange Bowl and ask “What about that?”, it comes down to basic common sense. It’s only as big a weakness as the opponents ability to expose it. Simply put, the ACC doesn’t have any great passing attacks outside of Clemson and while in moments it could hurt Clemson, no team has the passing potency of West Virginia to duplicate what the Mountaineers did to Clemson that night. Clemson and FSU should be a tight battle for the top of the Atlantic, but fact is, outside FSU Clemson just out-talents the majority of the league and with another strong recruiting class this year (#12 according to rivals), that should only expand. Anyone who is too down on Clemson because of one performance (yes, that’s you Heather Dinich) needs to take a look around not only the ACC, but the country and realize few teams have a unit as talented and certain as Clemson’s offense. Ceiling for this team? 11-1 (with a break or two required for 12-0). Floor? 8-4.
Update: Mike Bellamy has left the Tigers program.
9. West Virginia Mountaineers
2011 Record: 10-3 (Beat Clemson in Orange Bowl)
Returning Starters: 8 offense, 6 defense
Key Games: 10/6 at Texas, 11/3 vs. TCU, 11/17 vs. Oklahoma
Synopsis: On the opposite end of the spectrum from the Clemson overreaction is the West Virginia overreaction. Some want to put West Virginia inside their top 5 and while the Mountaineers should prove to take a leap forward in 2012 with another offseason to tweak Dana Holgorsen’s prolific passing offense, they have too many flaws to be considered a top 5 team entering 2012. The same team that beat Clemson to a pulp in the Orange Bowl (see what I did there?) also dropped games to Louisville and Syracuse, the latter of which they were dragged up and down the field by a bowl-less Orangemen team. Their departure to the Big 12 this season also makes it tougher. They don’t have the talent advantage they had in the Big East on the rest of the Big 12. They will fit right in as an offensive passing juggernaut that struggles to defend the pass and that means the potential to lose games to teams they shouldn’t lose to. Like Clemson, West Virginia can count on the almost certainty of a great passing attack. Geno Smith enters his senior year for the Mountaineers on the brink of most of the school’s passing records and even moreso this year with the move to the defense optional Big 12 should be near or atop the passing charts at season’s end for FBS quarterbacks. Dana Holgorsen will be familiar with the league from his time at Oklahoma State and they have to be licking their lips looking at secondaries across the league. Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin will leave the nightmares of Clemson fans and move to those of all Big 12 fans that watch this duo pick up where they left off in Miami in the Big 12 while Ivan McCartney also poses a challenge. The run game may not be lethal but again, like most pass-first offenses, it does more than enough to compliment what they’re looking to do. Like we covered already, West Virginia is one miserable defensive performance from a loss any week, as such is the case with a lot of Big 12 defenses. West Virginia’s defense wasn’t that great last year despite their decent rankings. They simply played in a league with very few good offenses. Just about every credible offense they played in 2011 put up points on them. Even a Zach Collaros-less Cincy team put 21 on them. They lose 5 key members of their defense last year to graduation and now face the uphill challenge we’ve mentioned multiple times of going to a league that is notorious for its shootout style of football. Geno Smith and company will need to bring their A game most weekends this fall. Schedule-wise things worked out good or bad for WVU depending on you choose to view it. The Mountaineers lost a non-conference game with Florida State that frankly I think is a positive given the lack of help non-league games give to teams. In Big 12 play they have a manageable front end and back end to their schedule with the meat coming in the middle. In a month’s period the Mountaineers will play Kansas St., TCU, Oklahoma St and Oklahoma with one bye week coming between Kansas St and TCU. The bright spot to that is 3 of those will come at home. However, it will be quite the challenge to get through those 4 games without a blemish. I wouldn’t put West Virginia at the top of the Big 12 power polls, but they should be able to contend. Anywhere from 1st-6th is probably possible in this league in 2012. It’s that deep and open.
Check back in a week or two as I wrap up the preseason top 25 with my top 8 heading into 2012. Again, if you missed the link at the top you can check out the first part of this preview with teams ranked 18-25 HERE.