TULSA - Here is my top prediction of the year: Kansas will not win the Big 12.
Hey it's a lot easier to pick the team to finish last than the team that will win it all!
OSU got the nod over OU and TCU, but six teams got first place votes in the pre-season poll.
Last year's champ, Kansas St., got one first place vote, but finished 6th in the poll. Go figure.
If you're looking for an upset, go with Baylor. More on that later.
Team with the best defense? TCU.
Excuse me if I refer to Texas A&M, Missouri and Nebraska as members of the Big 12. Can't get over the moves. Colorado, not so much.
Time to break it down.
After calling his Kansas team "crap last year," Charlie Weis has 26 new players on the team, after 29 were ousted. Give Charlie some credit, that "crap" team almost beat Texas and OSU a year ago.
One of those new players is a transfer QB. Kansas may have more juco players than NEO A&M. But look for the Jayhawks to win a conference game or two, but that's it.
Kliff Kingsbury sold a few more season tickets in Lubbock, and folks are raving about his enthusiasm and a new quarterback. Kingsbury will have a nice honeymoon with Texas Tech, but I still do not see more than three conference victories.
I love Paul Rhoads. Class guy, gets the most out of his players, but Iowa State has gone about as far as they can go. Two years ago they ruined OSU's chances of a national championship, and maybe another upset in 2013, but they appear to be an also-ran. May even have trouble getting to a bowl this year, and most every team gets to go bowling.
West Virginia. It could be really ugly in Morgantown. Picked to win the Big 12 in the Mountaineers first year in the conference, they could finish last this time around. Last year turned into a total mess when it was all said and done. Losing two first round draft choices on offense, never had a defense, and still don't. Bottom of the rung for these guys.
Texas. Is this Mack Brown's last hurrah? Another 500 or less conference record, you can book it. Texas has changed systems more in the last three years than the frequency of a cheap ham radio (that line was borrowed from an old Saturday Night Live skit). Texas is under 500 in the Big 12 over the last three years. A loss to OU, and the slide could get ugly. A win and it might make Texas viable again.That is just how fragile the Longhorns have become. They are also nervous that Texas A&M is taking away the headlines. But, A&M is getting headlines for the wrong reasons these days.
Kansas State. Earlier in the off-season I thought folks were crazy for once again overlooking the Wildcats in the pre-season poll, but the more I study the situation, they may be right. Word out of Manhattan is even the brilliance of Bill Snyder will have a hard time making this outfit a champion for a second straight year.
Baylor. Look out for these guys. Art Briles is a really good coach, and could have been elsewhere by now. For some reason he stuck with Waco, and he has some great inside info from the Texas high school coaches. He is a force to be reckoned with. They may be a year away, but with a new stadium coming, and players heading his way, I think they have a chance.
TCU. They have the defense, and when it is all said and done may have two QB's that could work as a tandem. Casey Pachall returns after his suspension last year, which gave backup Trevone Boykin plenty of playing time. This is what works against the Horned Frogs: three road games. At OU. At OSU. At Kansas St. However, the TCU-OU game is sandwiched between the Sooners at Notre Dame, and OU vs Texas.
OU. The offense will be just fine without Landry Jones. They have too many weapons to not score a bunch. But Sooner fans should not worry who the starting QB will be (likely Blake Bell), or how many touches for Trey Millard or Roy Finch.
RELATED STORY: OU undecided on starting QB (http://bit.ly/17pdFTd)
OU fans should concentrate on the defense, because on paper these guys are not looking very good.
And on tape they don't look very good either . If you saw the Twitter video of freshman running back Keith Ford running over a 325-pound starting defensive tackle (I leave that name out to protect the innocent), you should be worried. Mike Stoops must have been seething after that one. They are still searching for answers, and the first game is just eight practices away.
RELATED STORY: Expectations high for OU defense in '13 (http://bit.ly/18uHLWr)
The defensive line got even thinner with the news freshman D.J. Ward had to have his spleen removed, will be recuperating for at least six weeks, with a Red Shirt 50-50. The position was thin to begin with. Now it is as thin as Olive Oil.
And when was the last time OU had a really good and healthy inside linebacker? Ryan Reynolds? He's hurt. Tom Wort? Hurt. The front seven has plenty of work to do. Corner Aaron Colvin can only make so many plays. With no pass rush, the good defensive backfield will be compromised.
If OU can score its 63rd point in a game to take the lead, hopefully it will come with just 15 seconds left on the game clock. With OU defensive prospects, hopefully 15 seconds is not enough time for the opposing offense.
OSU picked to win it. I see that. The Pokes will have another really good offense. I have a tendency to lean towards J.W. Walsh over Clint Chelf to get most of the minutes. I think he has more to offer, although Chelf really had a surprisingly good 2012.
RELATED STORY: Pokes atop pre-season Big 12 media poll (http://bit.ly/19ilTyt)
OSU has a little bit of a depth problem at running back, OSU will need the QB running option. Jeremy Smith looks physically terrific, but 25 carries a game will wear on him.
I was floored two weeks ago when Mike Gundy mentioned he had 11 to 12 pass catchers at his disposal. I knew they had really good depth at that spot, by 12! Wonder if some of those scholarships should be spent on some defense.
RELATED STORY: 5 things to watch as OSU tries to live up to expectations (http://bit.ly/15F2LWz)
Speaking of defense, the reason I pick OSU over OU in the 2013 race is just that. Defense. Although OSU doesn't have all the answers on "D" it has more than the Sooners. Gundy says this is the best defensive front 7 he has ever had as head coach, and I believe him this time.
Bedlam will decide the Big 12 Championship, with TCU a chance to get a tie.
PHOTO GALLERY: Sooners take 2012 Bedlam matchup 51-48 in overtime (http://bit.ly/bedlampix)