Immediately following the national championship game, our Mark Schlabach released his Way-Too-Early Top 25 for the 2017 season. In concert, below is our Way-Too-Early Big 12 power rankings for 2017:
1. Oklahoma Sooners: With Dede Westbrook, Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon all moving on, the Sooners will have major holes to address offensively. But Baker Mayfield will be back, boasting a 17-1 career record in Big 12 play as Oklahoma's starting quarterback. The offensive line, led by the left-side duo of Orlando Brown and Ben Powers, will be a load to handle. The defense, with up-and-coming talents such as outside linebacker Caleb Kelly, figures to keep improving. Oklahoma will have to find a primary running back and a go-to receiver for Mayfield. But the rest of the pieces are in place for the Sooners to make a run at a Big 12 three-peat and challenge for a spot in the playoff.
2. Oklahoma State Cowboys: With quarterback Mason Rudolph and wideout James Washington opting to come back for their senior seasons, the Cowboys are going to be absolutely loaded offensively. Rudolph was one of only eight 4,000-yard passers this past season; meanwhile, Washington will headline a receiving corps that could be as deep and talented as any in the country. The Cowboys also finally turned a corner on the ground with the emergence of Justice Hill, who rushed for more than 1,100 yards on his way to becoming the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year. The Pokes will have to overcome the loss of defensive difference-makers Vincent Taylor and Jordan Sterns. But this will be Mike Gundy's most complete team since 2011, when Oklahoma State won the Big 12.
3. Kansas State Wildcats: All-Big 12 linebacker Elijah Lee unexpectedly declaring for the draft hurts, but Bill Snyder will still have back the bulk of a team that won nine games. Quarterback Jesse Ertz improved dramatically down the stretch this season, culminating with his MVP performance in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl. Alex Barnes has the look of a 1,000-yard rusher, provided he can stay healthy. The defense, spearheaded by end Reggie Walker and cornerback D.J. Reed, should be among the best in the league, even without Lee. Snyder might have one big run left before retiring. This could be the team that gives it to him.
4. West Virginia Mountaineers: All eyes will be on quarterback transfer Will Grier, who was sensational as a freshman at Florida before a PED suspension ended his 2015 season after six games. If Grier returns to his Florida form, the Mountaineers will be in business. The offensive line will have to be retooled. The same with the defense. But coordinator Tony Gibson has proved he can rebuild a defense on the fly. And this time, he'll be able to do it around safety Dravon Askew-Henry, who missed the entire 2016 season with a knee injury.
5. Texas Longhorns: Tom Herman inherits a boatload of talent from predecessor Charlie Strong, whose struggles on the field did not carry over to the recruiting trail. Behind Malcolm Roach, Poona Ford, Chris Nelson and Breckyn Hager, the defensive front has the capacity to be unblockable. But for the defense to realize its full potential, the Longhorns need linebacker Malik Jefferson to bounce back from a disappointing sophomore campaign. Offensively, quarterback Shane Buechele faded down the stretch as a true freshman following a hot start. He'll need to rekindle that early magic for Texas to challenge.
6. TCU Horned Frogs: A more consistent showing from quarterback Kenny Hill will be paramount if the Horned Frogs are to rebound in 2017. Hill topped the Big 12 with 13 interceptions, and he also took 28 sacks. A full, healthy season from electric slot receiver KaVontae Turpin would do the offense wonders. On the other side of the ball, the outstanding linebacking duo of Travin Howard and Ty Summers will give Gary Patterson an anchor from which to revamp his defense.
7. Baylor Bears: Baylor turned the page with the hiring of Matt Rhule, whose first job will be to restock the depth the program lost over the past year. The development of quarterback Zach Smith is going to be critical to Baylor's rebuild as well. Smith should have plenty of confidence following his breakout performance in the bowl win over Boise State, though now he'll have to fend off Arizona graduate transfer Anu Solomon.
8. Iowa State Cyclones: The Cyclones played several competitive games in Matt Campbell's first season before finally turning a corner in a 56-point rout of Texas Tech. Allen Lazard will be one of the top receivers in college football, and Jacob Park showed he can be an above-average Big 12 quarterback. Getting to a bowl has been the goal in Ames, and that seems attainable for Iowa State in 2017.
9. Texas Tech Red Raiders: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes II amounted to a one-man show for Tech this past season. With Mahomes having declared for the draft, the Red Raiders won't have him in 2017. That leaves Nic Shimonek in line to take over. In his only meaningful appearance, Shimonek was impressive, albeit in a game against Kansas. The team's defensive outlook continues to look rather dire, though young linebacker Jordyn Brooks has promise. Getting 2015 second-leading tackler Dakota Allen back could help, too.
10. Kansas Jayhawks: Though the process has been unsurprisingly gradual and incremental, David Beaty continues to make progress in Lawrence, underscored by the landmark win over Texas. The next step in Beaty's rebuild blueprint will be settling on a quarterback, whether that's Carter Stanley or Washington State transfer Peyton Bender.