Texas Longhorns: Matthew Tucker

Big 12 Power Rankings: Postseason

January, 8, 2013
The season has come and gone, and brought with it lots of change in the Big 12 Power Rankings. Still, with all the games officially over, here's how I ranked the Big 12 to close the season:

1. Kansas State (11-2, 8-1 Big 12, last week: 1) K-State's year met an unsatisfying end in the desert with another ugly bowl loss. Like last season, the loss was to a team not very far outside of the BCS title picture. Oregon knocked off K-State, but the loss didn't mar all the fantastic things K-State accomplished this year.

2. Oklahoma (10-3, 8-1, last week: 2) Oklahoma suffered a bad bowl loss too, but it mostly exposed defensive deficiencies that may get worse next year. Oklahoma shared a Big 12 title this season, but lacked a big, impressive win. It did have two home losses, but the gap between K-State and OU and the rest of the Big 12 is wide in the standings.

3. Baylor (8-5, 4-5, last week: 4) No team was hotter than the Bears, who closed the season with four consecutive victories, including a home win against then-BCS No. 1 Kansas State to kick off the finish. The streak that featured three wins against ranked teams and the blowout bowl victory over UCLA has Baylor thinking big in 2013.

4. Oklahoma State (8-5, 5-4, last week: 3) The Pokes were better than their record this year, with blowout wins over decent teams such as Texas Tech, West Virginia and TCU. OSU wishes it had those Arizona and Texas games to do over again, but winning eight games with the injuries at quarterback is no small feat. The Pokes will be loaded for 2013, especially if Joseph Randle returns.

5. Texas (9-4, 5-4, last week: 5) Texas rescued a bowl win against a top-15 team, but David Ash still must be better if the Longhorns are going to return to Big 12 prominence. The tenor of spring practice will be heavily influenced by how an ongoing sexual assault investigation plays out. Regardless, until it's over, it's a possible distraction that could substantially affect personnel.

6. TCU (7-6, 4-5, last week: 6) With a bowl win, TCU might have slid inside the league's top five, but coughing up a late lead put a really frustrating end to a gutsy season from the Frogs. Trevone Boykin and Matthew Tucker did their best filling in for injured players, but the Frogs didn't have enough offense without Casey Pachall and Waymon James to win big in 2012.

7. Texas Tech (8-5, 4-5, last week: 8) Tech's finish was ugly, and narrowly surviving against a barely mediocre Minnesota team didn't really impress many folks. The Red Raiders' losing four of five in Big 12 play didn't inspire much confidence, but the future will be really, really intriguing in Lubbock.

8. West Virginia (7-6, 4-5, last week: 7) West Virginia's ugly bowl loss to Syracuse removed any question about the conference's biggest disappointment in 2012. The defense is nowhere near good enough to be competitive in the Big 12, and the offense didn't have enough juice to outscore very many good teams.

9. Iowa State (6-7, 3-6, last week: 9) Beating teams twice is never easy, but Iowa State had an opportunity to move up in these rankings with a win over the Golden Hurricane. Instead, Tulsa dominated the final three quarters, and did so on the line of scrimmage. A second lopsided bowl loss in as many years is not the finish Paul Rhoads wanted.

10. Kansas (1-11, 0-9, last week: 10) No bowl, and not much to report, but the recruiting class is loaded up with about 70 percent junior college commits. We'll see how that looks in the fall, but this spring should be interesting, too.
We're moving on with our rankings of the top 10 players at each position in the Big 12. Today, we tackle the running backs, a position with a lot of potential but not very much returning talent. My only rule for this list: No freshmen or newcomers. You don't know until you know.

Let's get started.

1. Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State: Randle is the Big 12's only returning 1,000-yard running back, and even the league's best back has something to prove in 2012. Quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon took a ton of pressure off him and opened up a lot of space. Can he help carry the offense early this season with a true freshman at quarterback and unproven receivers in the passing game?

[+] EnlargeMalcolm Brown
Ray Carlin/Icon SMIMalcolm Brown has the talent to emerge as the top rusher in a crowded Texas backfield.
2. Malcolm Brown, Texas: Brown's nose for tiny creases in the line is unparalleled in this league, even though he doesn't have breakaway speed. He's tough to bring down and loves to fall forward. In short, he's a perfect fit for Texas' offense, and the likeliest member of Texas' talented backfield trio to top 1,000 yards in 2012.

3. John Hubert, Kansas State: Life is good for Hubert when defenses focus heavily on quarterback Collin Klein, but you can't argue with his production. He averaged nearly five yards a carry and racked up 970 rushing yards last season.

4. Waymon James, TCU: James averaged a silly 7.23 yards per carry last season, leading TCU's trio of backs in rushing, though all three had between 120 and 123 carries (seriously). Ed Wesley is gone, and James' yards per carry average will drop as he faces tougher defenses this season, but he's still a big talent.

5. Jeremy Smith, Oklahoma State: Smith is the forgotten man in Oklahoma State's backfield until he keeps his legs churning and converts third downs, and chips a blitzing nickel back in the backfield to give Wes Lunt a couple more seconds to get rid of the ball. He's faster than he gets credit for, and averaged better than seven yards a carry in the Big 12 last season, the league's second-highest average.

6. Eric Stephens, Texas Tech: Stephens' season was cut way short last year by an awful knee injury. There's no telling how he'll look when the season starts back up, but not many guys were better than him over the first half of last season.

7. Dominique Whaley, Oklahoma: Whaley's season was cut short, too. He suffered a broken ankle, but the former walk-on is back and will try and make a run at a 1,000-yard season for the Sooners' pass-heavy offense. If he plays like he did last season before the injury, expect it to happen, and expect him to hog the carries in a crowded backfield.

8. Matthew Tucker, TCU: Tucker joins James in TCU's backfield. He scored 12 touchdowns last season, which ranks second among returning Big 12 running backs. Without Wesley, Tucker is due for more touches. The trio combined for more than 2,300 yards on the ground last season. Watching Tucker and James race for 1,000-yard seasons will be fun.

9. Roy Finch, Oklahoma: Finch loves to put defenders in the spin cycle, but could hardly get on the field last season until Whaley was injured. Once he did, though, he made a big impact. He topped 83 yards four times in five weeks late last season, but he has to be more consistent. He also had four yards on six carries against Iowa. We'll see if he showcases his explosiveness as a junior in 2012.

10. James White, Iowa State: Iowa State badly needed White to step up when Shontrelle Johnson went down with a neck injury, and White did. He topped 135 yards twice after Johnson's injury and scored eight times, including two in a triple-overtime win against Iowa early in the season.

Honorable mention: Dustin Garrison, West Virginia; Joe Bergeron, Texas; James Sims, Kansas; Shontrelle Johnson, Iowa State; Tony Pierson, Kansas


Texas Longhorns Show Out On Pro Day
The Texas Longhorns produced several eligible NFL Draft athletes who participated in Pro Day Tuesday afternoon in Austin, Texas.