Oklahoma (2) – Injuries derailed Oklahoma’s 2011 campaign, but the Sooners return quarterback Landry Jones and wideout Kenny Stills for another run at the title. OU’s offense scored over 30 points in ten of thirteen games last season, but its defense gave up over 40 points in all three losses. While the Big 12 lost Texas A&M and Missouri, it replaced them with West Virginia and TCU, actually increasing the level of play in the conference. It’s very possible that an 11-1 Oklahoma team reaches the championship, provided its lone loss doesn’t come against a lower-tier member of the conference. Between the nine Big 12 games and the clash against Notre Dame, OU’s schedule is BCS-worthy.
West Virginia (3) – WVU’s Big East reign may be ending (at least a share of the title in six of the last nine years), but the Mountaineers should have a smooth transition to life in the Big 12. Geno Smith is one of the best quarterbacks in the country, while Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin are underrated wideouts that can score on any play. West Virginia opens the season with Marshall, James Madison, Maryland and an RG-III-less Baylor before travelling to Texas for its first-ever Big 12 road game. In the past, the Mountaineers would have needed to go 12-0 to have a shot at playing for the title, but in the Big 12, 11-1 could get it done.
Why No Others? – Texas, TCU and Oklahoma State are the only other realistic contenders in the conference. While Texas should boast a solid defense, the Longhorns’ major concern is that they don’t have an experienced quarterback on the roster. TCU’s biggest issue will be the shift in competition level between the Mountain West and the new-and-improved Big 12. Oklahoma State lost quarterback Brandon Weeden and has named true-freshman Wes Lunt as his replacement.