Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer 416d

Big 12 preseason power rankings: Behind Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma is No. 1

The preseason Big 12 power rankings:

1. Oklahoma Sooners: Oklahoma State might be loaded on offense, but Oklahoma still has the winningest QB in college football in Baker Mayfield, who owns 27 career victories as a starter. The Sooners also boast arguably college football's top offensive line, led by preseason All-America left tackle Orlando Brown. Given how they've dominated Bedlam, the Sooners get the edge here.

2. Oklahoma State Cowboys: This is Mike Gundy's most talented team since 2011, and maybe his most talented squad ever. Those 2011 Cowboys went 12-1, thanks to an explosive offense and a defense that led the nation in turnovers. Provided these Cowboys stay healthy, they'll put up the points. The question is whether the defense can create turnovers, get off the field on third downs and force field goals instead of allowing touchdowns. The development of its young corners will be critical if Oklahoma State is to upend the Sooners to capture a second Big 12 crown.

3. Kansas State Wildcats: The combination of Bill Snyder and a veteran QB has been formidable in the past, and that's exactly what K-State has in Jesse Ertz. The Big 12's only 1,000-yard rushing QB last year, Ertz improved as much as any player in the league down the stretch. If he can take the next step, K-State could challenge the Oklahoma schools for conference supremacy.

4. West Virginia Mountaineers: The arrival of QB Will Grier has elevated West Virginia's expectations, even though the Mountaineers lost several key pieces off last year's team. Dana Holgorsen believes Grier has the talent to be West Virginia's best QB since Geno Smith, who threw for 4,198 yards and 42 TDs in 2012. If coordinator Tony Gibson can retool the defense once again, West Virginia could be the sleeper of the conference race.

5. Texas Longhorns: The history of the Big 12 suggests that elite QB play is a requisite to winning a league title. That holds true in Austin, where Texas' only two Big 12 titles since the turn of the millennium came when Vince Young and Colt McCoy were behind center. Tom Herman has inherited a talented roster, despite last year's 5-7 record. But Texas' fate will hinge on the arm of Shane Buechele.

6. TCU Horned Frogs: What applies to Texas applies to TCU. Despite having what should be a top three Big 12 defense, along with playmaking at running back and receiver, the Horned Frogs won't contend unless Kenny Hill takes a step forward after an uneven 2016 season. Gary Patterson said he wants Hill to rediscover his swagger. Hill is still immensely talented. If he finds that swagger, TCU will be a load.

7. Baylor Bears: A new era is afoot on the field at Baylor, and that will include a different look offensively with Matt Rhule's pro set. The Bears don't have the explosive receivers they've featured in the past. So to qualify for a bowl, they'll need the dynamic running back combo of JaMycal Hasty and Terence Williams (when he returns from injury) to control the ball offensively.

8. Iowa State Cyclones: The Cyclones are optimistic about their chances of getting back to a bowl, and with good reason, too. Allen Lazard is one of the top wideouts in the country, and he should be even better with Jacob Park now the full-time starter at QB. The offensive and defensive lines, however, will have to hold up, if Iowa State is to reach bowl eligibility in Matt Campbell's second season.

9. Texas Tech Red Raiders: The Red Raiders have an uphill climb in a critical season for coach Kliff Kingsbury. Even without QB Patrick Mahomes, the offense should score in a bunches. But the only way Tech surprises in the standings is if the defense somehow turns a corner after several consecutive dismal seasons. Tech is relying on a handful of juco transfers to help in that effort.

10. Kansas Jayhawks: The Jayhawks have improved every year under David Beaty, with real strengths at wide receiver with Steven Sims Jr. and Daylon Charlot and on the defensive line with Daniel Wise and Big 12 preseason Defensive Player of the Year Dorance Armstrong. A sweep of their nonconference opponents will be a sign the Jayhawks are ready to take a step forward.

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