Big 12 Football Power Rankings: Week 1

It’s officially game week. Eight months of waiting is almost over. Friday night, Texas Tech and Kansas State will get us started. The Red Raiders travel to face Garrett Gilbert and the Mustangs at SMU in Dallas and the Wildcats host two-time defending FCS national champion North Dakota State Bison on FOX Sports 1.

Here’s where each Big 12 team will start the season in the Big 12 Power Rankings.

1. Oklahoma State:
Mike Gundy says both Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh will play when the Cowboys open the season Saturday. We already knew that, but the real question is how much time Walsh will spend running the full offense and not just in a short-yardage formation that takes advantage of his running ability. Word out of Pokes’ camp is Walsh looked like a new man this fall. This week: vs. Mississippi State at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas

2. TCU: Losing starters LB Joel Hasley (left team) and OT Tayo Fabuluje (transferred back to BYU) during camp hurts a still young team that’s a little short on depth, especially on the offensive line. Still, the Frogs have what should be the Big 12’s best defense and a balanced offense that can run between the tackles and should be able to stretch the field if Casey Pachall returns to the kind of player he was in 2011 and early 2012.  This week: vs. No. 12 LSU at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

3. Texas: The Longhorns are out of excuses for not competing for Big 12 titles. Texas hasn’t been a serious factor in the race since running away with it in 2009. They’re 11-15 in Big 12 play since. Manny Diaz gets Jordan Hicks back after he missed the last 10 games of 2012 with a hip injury, but the Longhorns problems ran deeper than Hicks. Texas gave up more yards last season than any defense in school history. This week: vs. New Mexico State

4. Oklahoma: Bob Stoops naming Trevor Knight his starting quarterback gives the Sooners more of a wild-card type of feel heading into 2013, but the defense is home to the most pressing questions in Norman. Can the Sooners discover some playmakers along the defensive line? Their title hopes may depend on it. This week: vs. Louisiana-Monroe

5. Baylor: The Bears ended 2012 playing the best football in the Big 12, but a slow start for the defense last year put the Bears in an 0-4 hole in league play. Baylor couldn’t quite climb out, but Ahmad Dixon and Bryce Hager are the cornerstones of what should be the best defense Art Briles has ever had in Waco. This week: vs. Wofford

6. Kansas State: K-State’s quarterback situation is mostly a guessing game heading into the opener, but Jake Waters and Daniel Sams will have five starters on the offensive line, two starters at receiver and running back John Hubert all returning, so the transition from Collin Klein is simplified a bit. My pick to start on Friday night: Waters. This week: vs. North Dakota State

7. Texas Tech: A true freshman quarterback hasn’t started at Texas Tech since all the way back in 1984, but if Michael Brewer’s game-time decision (back) is a no, Davis Webb or walk-on Baker Mayfield will have a chance to enter Red Raider lore. New coach Kliff Kingsbury inherited a defense with eight returning starters, though Matt Wallerstedt is the unit’s fifth defensive coordinator in five seasons. This week: at SMU

8. West Virginia: Clint Trickett was taking a hefty portion of the first-team snaps during fall camp. He seems likely to win the job in Morgantown, and the starting quarterback job in a Dana Holgorsen offense has proven to be a lucrative assignment. Just ask Brandon Weeden and Geno Smith. This week: vs. William and Mary.

9. Iowa State:
Sam Richardson got a full offseason of reps as the Cyclones’ starter, but will he have enough weapons in the passing game to help Iowa State be more than a fringe bowl team? Without Jake Knott and A.J. Klein, the rebuilding Iowa State defense will give the offense a much smaller margin of error. This week: vs. Northern Iowa.

10. Kansas:
They started from the bottom and, well, they’re still here. That’s not changing until the Jayhawks snap their 21-game losing streak in Big 12 play. They’ll have to wait an extra week to suit up against South Dakota and end their 11-game losing streak, though. This week: Bye