Landry Jones is back. So is Mike Stoops.
The return of Oklahoma’s record-setting quarterback for his senior year, and the return of the Sooners’ former defensive coordinator from 7 1/2 years as head coach at Arizona, makes OU the favorite to win Bob Stoops’ eighth Big 12 championship.
Mike Stoops replaces Brent Venables, but now someone must replace two-time All-American receiver Ryan Broyles. The Sooners’ receiver corps is wildly talented, the offensive line is virtually intact, the backfield is intriguing, and the defense — so vulnerable to the big play in a disappointing 10-3 season — has seven starters back.
The two Big 12 newcomers — West Virginia and TCU — hope to challenge Oklahoma.
The Mountaineers won the Big East last season in their first year under Dana Holgorsen, then throttled Clemson 70-33 in the Orange Bowl as quarterback Geno Smith passed for 407 yards and six touchdowns.
Smith, his top three receivers, top runner and most of his offensive line are back. So are seven starters on defense, which is now coordinated by long-time Oklahoma State assistant Joe DeForest.
The Horned Frogs, after winning a third consecutive Mountain West crown, finally feel at home. Gary Patterson, 109-30 in 11 seasons, is confident his team can challenge for a Big 12 crown. Cagey quarterback Casey Pachall, who broke many of Andy Dalton’s season records, returns with a loaded backfield, both starting wideouts and the usual cast of overachievers on defense, including sack-master Stansly Maponga.
Oklahoma State is coming off its best season ever — its first 12-win season, its first Big 12 championship and its first BCS bowl. The Cowboys also produced two first-round draft picks in wide receiver Justin Blackmon and quarterback Brandon Weeden.
Mike Gundy begins rebuilding with a true freshman (Wes Lunt) at quarterback and a posse of unknown receivers, but there is hope for continued success as 16 starters are back for a team that has 41 victories in the past four seasons (seventh nationally).
Texas has its usually fearsome defense, with playmakers (end Alex Okafor, cornerback Carrington Byndom and safety Kenny Vaccaro) inside and out. The offense, however, remains problematic.
If the Longhorns are going to continue their bounce-back (from 5-7 in 2010 to 8-5 last year), Mack Brown’s 15th season will have to have better quarterback play from either David Ash, Case McCoy or both. Last year that duo combined for 11 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Kansas State’s 10-3 resurgence in 2011 under Bill Snyder was surprising — but not really.
Snyder wins with junior college transfers, and of the bunch he had last season, 12 are back. Foremost is dual-threat quarterback Collin Klein, who rushed for 27 touchdowns and threw for 13. All-Big 12 linebacker Arthur Brown leads an underrated defense that includes all-star defensive backs Nigel Malone and Ty Zimmerman.
Texas Tech had been bowl eligible 18 years in a row and had played in 11 consecutive bowls before last year’s inexplicable 5-7 meltdown. After stopping Oklahoma’s 39-game home winning streak, the Red Raiders weren’t competitive in their last five games, losing by an average score of 50-20.
Quarterback Seth Doege is back to lead the offense, and coach Tommy Tuberville added lots of junior college help to a defense he wants to see get tougher and smarter.
Baylor football kicked off the Year of the Bear with its best season in decades — a 10-3 record, its first victory over Oklahoma and the Heisman Trophy for quarterback Robert Griffin III. But Griffin and his top two playmakers — receiver Kendall Wright and running back Terrance Ganaway — are off to the NFL.
Art Briles will try senior quarterback Nick Florence, who has an experienced offensive line and receiver corps at his disposal. BU’s defense, which held opponents to less than 30 points just twice all season, returns seven starters.
Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads has made the Cyclones competitive. Last season they played in their second bowl in three years and knocked Oklahoma State from the No. 2 spot in the polls. But consistency is a problem, starting at quarterback.
Senior Steele Jantz and sophomore Jared Barnett competed all spring and their 2011 totals (16 touchdowns, 17 interceptions) must improve. The defense returns just five starters, but that includes star linebacker tandem Jake Knott and A.J. Klein, last year’s Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year.
Kansas, four years removed from a 12-win Orange Bowl season, lost 10 straight after beating two FCS opponents. So Turner Gill was fired and Charlie Weis was hired. Weis landed senior transfer Dayne Crist, who played for Weis at Notre Dame. Six starters are back for a defense that ranked last (516 yards per game) among FBS programs.
— John E. Hoover
Lindy’s 2012 ALL-BIG 12 Team
OFFENSE – FIRST TEAM
|RB||Joseph Randle||Jr.||Oklahoma State|
|WR||Tavon Austin||Sr.||West Virginia|
|OL||Lane Taylor||Sr.||Oklahoma State|
|OL||LaAdrian Waddle||Sr.||Texas Tech|
|AP||Justin Gilbert||Jr.||Oklahoma State|
|K||Quinn Sharp||Sr.||Oklahoma State|
DEFENSE – FIRST TEAM
|LB||A.J. Klein||Sr.||Iowa State|
|LB||Arthur Brown||Sr.||Kansas State|
|LB||Jake Knott||Sr.||Iowa State|
|DB||Nigel Malone||Sr.||Kansas State|
|DB||Brodrick Brown||Sr.||Oklahoma State|
|P||Quinn Sharp||Sr.||Oklahoma State|
OFFENSE – SECOND TEAM
|QB||Geno Smith||Sr.||West Virginia|
|RB||John Hubert||Jr.||Kansas State|
|WR||Stedman Bailey||Jr.||West Virginia|
|C||Joe Madsen||Sr.||West Virginia|
|AP||Tyler Lockett||So.||Kansas State|
DEFENSE – SECOND TEAM
|DL||Nigel Nicholas||Sr.||Oklahoma State|
|DL||Meshak Williams||Sr.||Kansas State|
|DL||Adam Davis||Sr.||Kansas State|
|LB||Shaun Lewis||Jr.||Oklahoma State|