Where West Virginia football ranks in the preseason Big 12 Conference polls

On July 19, the Big 12 Conference released the preseason Big 12 rankings, a poll voted on by the media representatives of the conference.

Of course, the preseason Big 12 poll features two new additions and two subtractions from last season as West Virginia and TCU will replace Missouri and Texas A&M.

First I'll show you the official Big 12 preseason rankings, then I'll present you with my ballot and analysis of the official poll.

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Here is how the rankings shook down (first-place votes in parentheses):

1. Oklahoma (32) 396

2.West Virginia (7) 339

3. Texas 291

4. Oklahoma State 267

5. TCU (1) 260

6. Kansas State (1) 257

7. Baylor 162

8. Iowa State 121

9. Texas Tech 116

10. Kansas 46

It's no surprise to see the Sooners at the top of this list, as they have been heralded as the favorite to take the Big 12 crown.

However, there are some surprises from this list, along with a good amount of respect for the two newcomers.

Here is the official ChatWVU preseason Big-12 rankings:

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1. Oklahoma

2. West Virginia

3. Texas

4. Kansas State

5. Oklahoma State

6. TCU

7. Texas Tech

8. Baylor

9. Iowa State

10. Kansas

ChatWVU ranking in parentheses.

No. 1: Oklahoma (No. 1)

At the top, there is not too much argument between myself and the rest of the Big 12 media.

Oklahoma is looking like the most complete team in the Big 12 with the No. 1 scoring defense in the conference in 2011 and a Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback.

No. 2: West Virginia (No. 2)

One of the conference newbies, West Virginia, garnered seven first-place votes in its inaugural Big 12 season.

This shows that there is a lot of respect out there, particularly for the WVU offense, but a lot of people still aren't sold on the Mountaineers as a whole—especially since its their first year in the conference.

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My big question for WVU right now is about whether or not they will be able to play well on a consistent basis, and through the brunt of the Big 12 slate in particular.

We know the kids from Morgantown are capable of greatness, as shown by their record-shattering Orange Bowl crushing of Clemson.

At the same time, we also know they are prone to being embarrassed as well, as shown by their disappointing losses to Syracuse and Louisville last year.

If West Virginia can increase the consistency and avoid complacency, it could finish the season No. 1 in the Big 12 rankings.

No. 3: Texas (No. 3)

Not much argument here, either.  Texas should be much improved from its disappointing sixth-place finish last season.  The Longhorns simply have too much talent not to.  They will have the best pass rush in the Big 12, which should wear on teams like Oklahoma State and Baylor, who will be working with new quarterbacks.

Add on arguably the most talented secondary in the Big 12 led by Thorpe watch-lister Kenny Vaccaro and Quandre Diggs.

To go with that, they may have the best rushing offense in the conference, led by three strong running backs Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and true freshman Johnathan Gray.

The big question with UT will be at quarterback where the Horns are still looking for either David Ash or Case McCoy to take control of the starting job and provide some balance to the offense.

No. 4 Oklahoma State (No. 5)

There was quite a bit of love for the defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma State Cowboys in the official poll.  I personally had Kansas State ranked at No. 4 primarily because they have one key component that OSU is lacking: a proven veteran at quarterback.

The Cowboys will be looking to replace first round NFL draft pick and 4,700 yard passer Brandon Weeden.  Junior Clint Chelf, redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh, and true freshman Wes Lunt will all be competing for starting time.

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Whoever wins the job will at least have Joseph Randle, who may prove to be the best running back in the Big 12.  However, for me, the loss of Weeden and star receiver Justin Blackmon will just be too much for OSU to seriously compete for the Big 12 title.

No. 5 TCU (No. 6)

The other newcomer to the conference comes in at No. 5 with one first-place vote, which is a pretty accurate prediction for TCU.  Nobody doubts that TCU has the talent to compete in the conference, as they have been one of the premier programs in the country in recent years.

The Horned Frogs boasted one of the top defenses in the nation in each of the past few years under Gary Patterson, but will lose the heart and soul of that D, linebacker Tank Carder.

They'll also have an efficient and experienced quarterback in Casey Pachall.  On top of that, the Frogs can claim the best defensive tackle in the conference (and one of the premier DTs in the nation) Stansly Maponga.

There is no doubt TCU will compete, but the Horned Frogs won't quite have enough talent or depth to set them apart in this deep conference.

No. 6 Kansas State (No. 4)

In the official poll, Kansas State, TCU, and Oklahoma State all finished within ten points of each other.  It is clear that there are some mixed feelings about these teams and rightfully so, as they appear to be pretty close in potential.  However, the one factor that sets KSU apart is senior quarterback Collin Klein.

The dual-threat star earned all-Big 12 honors last year after accounting for more than 3,000 yards of total offense while leading the Wildcats in both rushing and passing.  Klein has the ability to carry KSU to another ten-win season.

No. 7 Baylor (No.8)

Baylor will have to deal with heavier losses than any other team in the Big 12.  Gone is Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, 1,500-yard rusher Terrance Ganaway, and 1,600-yard receiver and first round NFL draft pick Kendall Wright—not to mention a couple of key pieces of the offensive line.

Baylor made its name by scoring points in bunches last year, but lost an immense amount of firepower.  The RGIII Era is over in Waco and the next era likely won't be off to a great start.  Baylor quickly took a turn from being one of the walkover teams of the Big 12 to fielding some highly respected and talented squads.  However, it will take some time to rebuild after those losses.

No. 8 Iowa State (No. 9)

Iowa State pulled off a season-defining upset over then-No. 2 Oklahoma State which earned the Cyclones just their second bowl berth in the last six seasons.  Led by one of the most charismatic coaches in the Big 12, they certainly have what it takes to go back to a bowl.

Jake Knott and A.J. Klein may be the best linebacker duo in the conference and will allow Iowa State to be successful on defense.  However, without a true leader at quarterback, ISU (the second-worst scoring offense in the conference last year) doesn't stand a chance to make the rise up in the increasingly competitive Big 12.

No. 9 Texas Tech (No. 7)

Last year, Texas Tech finished second to last in the conference and at 5-7 overall despite some crippling injuries.  The Red Raiders appeared to have a dynamite runner in Eric Stephens before he went down, halting the TTU ground game.  Quarterback Seth Doege did what he could to salvage the offense in Lubbock, throwing for more than 4,000 yards.

Now, with the return of Stephens, the Red Raiders should have one of the best offenses in the Big 12.  Not only that, but they should be one of the most-improved teams in all of college football this year.  Head coach Tommy Tuberville may be coaching for his job this year, as another losing season may result in his exile from Lubbock.  However, Tuberville won't let that happen, as it will be back to the bowls for TTU in 2012.

No. 10 Kansas (No. 10)

The unanimous choice for the No. 10 team in the Big 12 is Kansas.  The Jayhawks finished last in the conference a season ago at 0-9 and 2-10 overall.  Technically, Kansas runs sort of a hybrid 4-3/3-4 defense, but last season it resembled something closer to swiss cheese, as it ended up dead last in the nation in scoring defense.  Also, the Jayhawks finished No. 95 in scoring offense—add that up and its needless to say that KU will begin with some rebuilding efforts this year.

Those efforts have actually already begun with the hiring of head coach Charlie Weis.  Weis brought in Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist, who should be an improvement at quarterback.  He was also very impressed with that talent of running back James Sims (via KUSports.com), who will be heavily leaned on once he returns from his three-game suspension.

The defense should be improved, as it looks like it may start all juniors and seniors.  The only way to go is up, but its a long way up.  Kansas should be better than last year, but will it be enough to climb out of the cellar of a tough conference?

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