Noted college football writer and prognosticator Phil Steele has released his preseason All-Big 12 selections, and as always, it’s worth taking a look into his view of the conference. But rather than digging at each selection, let’s take a broader look at how each team stacks up in comparison to their selections.
All-Conference selections don’t necessarily equate to conference championship wins, but they provide a tent pole to live up to, which was set by the Oklahoma Sooners last season with 19 selections among his four tier roster and also ranked first according to a weighted total. Here is a breakdown of each program heading into the 2014 season:
The projection of each team’s all-conference players is a rough prognostication of each team’s value, so it’s not expected that the rankings perfectly match their final standings. His projections were a little hit and miss last season, as Oklahoma is indicative of being over-hyped heading into the season with over three quarters of their starters landing a spot between the 1st and 4th team rosters. Equally disappointing according to his projections is the Kansas Jayhawks, which ranked three spots below their weighted talent index according to their final standing in the conference, winning just three games on the season. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the West Virginia Mountaineers outplayed their perceived talent, tying for fourth with Oklahoma and the Texas Longhorns while landing only 10 players on the four rosters compared to 19 and 14 respectively.
But their is a number that seems to accurately show how well a team will finish the season: Steele’s first-team selections.
The Baylor Bears and TCU Horned Frogs ranked high in their point totals both in number of selections and weighted values, but where they stood highest was according to their top flight players, earning 6 and 5 slots respectively. Of course Baylor fans will take that as one more victory over TCU after sharing the Big 12 due to a lack of a tie-breaker. Maybe it’s a sign that top tier talent supersedes a a plethora of mid-ranking players like Oklahoma’s 8 selections on the third-team or the Longhorns’ 7 second-team selections. Of course, Baylor and TCU weren’t without their rising stars either, but their first-rate players pulled through to guide them to a conference championship. Now what is to be said of Steele’s roster analysis this season?
Even with the departure of top talents from each team, the rankings match up well with last season’s final standing with the noted exception of the Kansas State Wildcats falling with the lack of a quarterback and Tyler Lockett. There’s a lot of interesting selections regardless. Look at Baylor for instance. If you go by last season’s supposed pattern of top-ranked players making for a top-ranked team, Baylor has the conference wrapped up with a bow with over half of their team placed on the first or second-teams.
Then you have their Interstate-35 rival TCU, which has talent ranging from top to bottom, led by Heisman hopeful Trevone Boykin. It will be interesting to see how each team operates with their varying levels of talent–if TCU can buck the trend and ride to success with mid-range talent led by a playmaker in Boykin or if Baylor can keep up their tiring pace with their high flying players on both defense and offense.
The Sooners are another interesting case study as he seems to have a renewed faith in a team that mightily disappointed last season. Any way you cut it, Oklahoma looks to be a contender this season with 16 selections and the second most first-team selections, including their own Heisman hopeful, running back Samaje Perine. They’re certainly a sleeper team this season, but they’ll have to deal with in-state rival Oklahoma State who ranks in the bottom half of this rough estimator of talent but could take the conference by storm behind quarterback Mason Rudolph, who Steele placed his fourth-team.
Referring back to last season though, Steele’s postseason All-Big 12 team featured the top three teams — TCU, Baylor, and Kansas State — quarterbacks on his three listed teams. Football in the Big 12 is as quarterback-centered as any conference, and that could be the indicator of how much a team succeeds. If that’s the case, then TCU (Boykin), Baylor (Seth Russell), Texas Tech (Patrick Mahomes), and Oklahoma State (Rudolph) will be the envy of the league.
But of course, players are overvalued and undervalued alike, and it’s the errors in preseason predictions like these that make each season memorable. For instance, Baylor’s introduced their 400 pound tight end LaQuan McGowan to the world last season. Will he be as great a player as Art Briles advertises? Or can Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield push them to the top once again as a possible all-conference player? On an opposite note, are we overvaluing players like Boykin or Russell, and which teams will take advantage of that? For as many answers as we seem to have heading into the season, there are just as many questions yet to be solved.