The Big 12’s preseason poll, awards and All-Big 12 team will be unveiled ahead of next week’s media days in Dallas, but ballots were due on Friday.
We’ll look at my entire ballot today and tomorrow, but first, a note: Some see the ballot as a prediction for what will happen in December. I do not. There are no explicit instructions on the ballot itself, though.
I see it as simply an expression of the best teams as the season begins, not a prediction. The same is true of the All-Big 12 team: It’s the best players at easch position. Without further ado, here’s how I voted for the preseason awards and poll.
Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor.
He narrowly beats out Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett here. His pure production last season (though it slow significantly in conference play) is too much to argue with. He’s only going to get better this season with a year of experience and a still-strong set of receivers.
Defensive Player of the Year: Ryan Mueller, DE, Kansas State.
Once again, you can’t argue with production. Cedric Reed had a lot, but he didn’t impact games last year the way Mueller did. Devonte Fields, who won the postseason DPOY in 2012, will get some votes here, but those are obviously based on a prediction, not a preseason standing. The same is true of Baylor’s Shawn Oakman, who’ll be an impact player in Waco, but he’s never been a full-time starter. By my criteria, I don’t see how you could vote for anybody but Mueller.
Newcomer of the Year: Tyreek Hill, RB/WR, Oklahoma State.
Mike Gundy is going to find ways to get Hill the ball. Period. He might find himself as a household name by October. The juco star has unreal speed, and Gundy showed this spring he’ll use him in a variety of ways.
Nick Harwell at KU will get votes here, but I’m skeptical that Montell Cozart will be able to get him the ball consistently, and I also remember Charlie Weis talking up Jake Heaps a year ago like he has Harwell this offseason.
1. Oklahoma – The best team on paper … barely. I give Oklahoma the nod because of its wealth of defensive talent and strong potential on offense. LB Eric Striker, DE Charles Tapper and CB Zack Sanchez are all studs.
2. Baylor – Big questions on defense will be masked–at least partly–by an offense that could put up 50 a game once again. I consider Baylor something of a co-favorite with the Sooners.
3. Kansas State – Don’t be surprised if K-State looks like the Big 12’s best team by mid-October. Bill Snyder has two of the five best players in the Big 12 and he’s won all three of his Big 12 titles with a returning quarterback. Jake Waters grew up over the last half of 2013.
4. Texas Tech – The Red Raiders are my dark horse. Tech has a lot to prove up front defensively after losing Kerry Hyder, Dartwan Bush and Will Smith, but its offense is the Big 12’s second-best and will keep Tech in games.
5. Oklahoma State – I’ve soured a bit on OSU throughout this offseason. Can J.W. Walsh be efficient enough to put the Cowboys close to the title race.
6. Texas – Texas, TCU and OU will battle for the Big 12’s best defense, but Texas gets my vote. I’m a believer in Charlie Strong on that side of the ball. If QB David Ash and RB Johnathan Gray are healthy and productive this year, the Longhorns have big upside. That is, however, a big if.
7. TCU – The complete offensive overhaul this offseason surprised me, and could run into growing pains in Year 1. The Frogs’ recruiting and perception across the state can’t afford another season without a bowl trip.
8. West Virginia – The Mountaineers have talent sprinkled with a little desperation from the coaching staff. That could be powerful. Karl Joseph and Daryl Worley are solid in the secondary, but if Clint Trickett doesn’t show improvement at QB this year, WVU won’t finish anywhere close to the top half of the Big 12.
9. Iowa State – ISU’s offense hasn’t had this much firepower in a long, long time and Mark Mangino will be putting it together. However, ISU gave up more yards per play than any team in the Big 12 last season.
10. Kansas – Pro tip: Don’t break a 27-game Big 12 losing streak and follow it up with a shutout loss to Iowa State. Despite beating WVU last year, it’s hard to feel like KU is making much progress under Charlie Weis.