There is always going to be talk of who will be in the running to win conference championships. Time and time again, predictions are released, then updated and released again. This doesn't only extend to the conference titles though. It also bleeds into the national scene. Just look at all the preseason rankings that come way too far in advance. However, there is something to be considered with these, a hint of truth found hidden within the rankings. This season, the newcomer West Virginia Mountaineers, not the Oklahoma Sooners, are projected to be the favorites to win the Big XII.
This season, huge gaps in the offense are going to have to be filled. Who is going to step up into Ryan Broyles shoes and continue to be a very productive receiver while making the impossible catch? Sure Trey Metoyer comes to mind but he will also be a freshman playing in front of 85,000+ fans for the first time. Kenny Stills will be counted on for leadership within the receiving corp. while Jaz Reynolds will provide a solid third option. On top of that, OU has no returning tight ends with experience.
In the running game, Dominique Whaley is still in the recovery process but the Sooners may have found answers in Trey Millard and Blake Bell. Both have been dominating forces with the ball in their hands in the running game. The question still remains of when opposing teams will figure out a way to stop the "Belldozer" Formation? It happened at home against the Iowa St. Cyclones and you can bet it will happen again. Maybe not on a consistent level but it will happen. OU needs to establish a running game and downhill one at that.
While all this is going on, there is one thing that overshadows them all...the Sooners gave up a school record 376 yards per game last season. Going up against the most potent offensive units certainly won't help this number. Will Mike Stoops be able to install a simple enough system along with the mindset that "no one gets behind you" in time to shut down teams like a WVU with a Geno Smith and Dana Holgerson?
At this point in time it would seem that the Mountaineers are all but deserving of the preseason favorite title (and yes I am a die-hard Sooners fan till the end). As mentioned above, they bring a high octane offense while Geno Smith will be the new Robert Griffin III.
My Big XII preseason rankings come in as follows:
1) West Virginia Mountaineers
2) Oklahoma Sooners
3) Kansas St. Wildcats
4) TCU Horned Frogs
5) Texas Longhorns
6) Baylor Bears
7) Oklahoma St. Cowboys
8) Texas Tech Red Raiders
9) Iowa St. Cyclones
10) Kansas Jayhawks