Early 2011 Big 12 Power Rankings

I haven't had a chance to break down who has how many number of starters returning or a number of other factors, so this list could very easily (and probably will) change before we kick off spring practice in a few months, but with 2010 officially in the books, here's how the new-look Big 12 sits heading into 2011.

1. Oklahoma The Sooners look every bit the part of a national championship contender on paper. Proving it will be difficult come September.

2. Texas A&M The Aggies don't have the momentum heading into 2011 they'd like after losing the Cotton Bowl, but those six starts at the end of the year will pay off for Ryan Tannehill. Don't expect a dropoff from the defense, either, and the offensive line will continue to improve.

3. Oklahoma State If Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon both come back, I'll probably move the Cowboys up to No. 2, but for now, the wild-card Cowboys hang on to No. 3. Lots of exciting freshmen could become household names in 2011. Namely, RB Joseph Randle, CB/KR Justin Gilbert and LB Shaun Lewis.

4. Missouri Replacing Blaine Gabbert will produce growing pains, but the Tigers defense can be leaned on a bit next year with what should be a dominant defensive line. And, the truth is, the middle of the Big 12 is pretty fluid, not unlike 2010.

5. Texas. The talent is still there. New, young coaches with a lot to prove and a new purpose have made a new arrival. That could make a big difference for the Longhorns in 2011. Does Garrett Gilbert have some redemption in store for his junior year after a sophomore season that was nothing short of a disappointment (10 TD, 17 INT)? No quarterback in college football threw more picks.

6. Baylor. Look out for the Bears. The offense brings back an absolute ton of talent at the skill positions, and if new defensive coordinator Phil Bennett shores up a leaky defense, they could surprise a lot of people next year. Nine...perhaps 10 wins? Not impossible. Opening the season against TCU doesn't help, but the Bears will be fun to watch in 2011.

7. Texas Tech. The Red Raiders don't have a defensive coordinator or a quarterback...yet. That's not a recipe for success. File these guys under "Wait and see." Get ready for another year of a quarterback derby between Seth Doege, Jacob Karam, Michael Brewer and Scotty Young.

8. Kansas State. The Wildcats livelihood in 2010 was Daniel Thomas. He's gone. K-State fans have plenty of faith in the Wichita native Brown brothers, running back Bryce and linebacker Arthur, who transferred from Tennessee and Miami, respectively after being top-flight recruits. I'll wait and see. The upside is there, but right now, that's all it is: upside. Neither brother really tore it up at their previous address.

9. Iowa State. The Cyclones don't have a sure-thing quarterback, either, but Jerome Tiller should emerge from a three-man race that kicks off this spring. Linebackers Jake Knott and A.J. Klein exceeded expectations in 2010, and should be exciting to watch as juniors in 2011.

10. Kansas. Last place by default as of now. The Jayhawks found a piece to build around in running back James Sims. They need a few more. Kansas has some receivers who can get it done. But in the Big 12, you need a quarterback. KU needs Brock Berglund to be as good as advertised.