Six teams ranked in preseason polls as conference begins new era

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West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen will bring his high-tempo offense to the Big 12 in hopes of capturing West Virginia’s first Big 12 conference title after winning the Big East title in 2011.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

With the Big 12 approaching near collapse this time a year ago, the conference has not only rebounded, but is thriving. With the addition of Texas Christian University and West Virginia, the Big 12 has arguably become a stronger football conference and will have a lot of input into how the national standings shape up at the end of the season. Here are some conference notes heading into Saturday:

Six teams are ranked in the media and coaches poll: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Texas, Kansas State, and TCU. Baylor also received votes.

Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones and West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith are conference frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy.

Three new coaches enter the conference: Kansas’s Charlie Weis, TCU’s Gary Patterson and West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen. Holgorsen has been offensive coordinator at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State and has a grasp on the conference landscape already. Five new starting quarterbacks: Oklahoma State’s freshman Wes Lunt, Kansas’s Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist, Baylor’s Nick Florence, TCU’s Casey Pachall and West Virginia’s Smith.

The conference has a new commissioner in Bob Bowlsby who has had stints as Athletic Director at Northern Iowa, Iowa and most recently Stanford.

Oklahoma has maybe the easiest path to the BCS Title game with the only true road test coming in Morgantown, West Virginia on November 17th. Notre Dame, Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State all visit Norman this season.

Kansas State backup quarterback Tavarius Bender has withdrawn from the football program, which could prove extremely problematic if do-it-all quarterback Collin Klein goes down with an injury. Bender was the No. 20 dual-threat quarterback in the 2012 recruiting class and the top recruit coming out of Nebraska.

With the new kicking rules in place that bring touchbacks to the 25-yard line, Oklahoma State kicker and 2011 Big 12 Special Team Player of the Year Quinn Sharp is working on his “Sky Kick,” a lofting kickoff that lands just outside the goal line allowing the Cowboys to pin opposing teams deep in their own territory. With OSU trying to break in a freshman quarterback, small details like this could prove extremely beneficial.

TCU renovated Amon G. Carter Stadium this offseason, upping its capacity to 45,000 seats. The ultimate goal was to turn the stadium into the “Camden Yards” (the cozy Baltimore Orioles ballpark noted for positive fan experience) of college football.

Iowa State is set to make a lot more noise in 2012 than most are expecting. With quarterback Steele Jantz returning to the huddle surrounded by as many as nine receivers that will see significant playing time, the Cyclones could very well pull off another big upset this fall. Oklahoma, Kansas State and West Virginia all visit Ames.