One typically safe method to handicap a team is simply by concluding that the players returning will be better than they were last year and the less experienced players replacing roster attrition won't be as good. With this methodology, I have made a few assumptions on the Big 12 teams based on how they are predicted to finish relative to their talent mean from last year. Bulls will improve from, Bears will founder, and Narwhals will score the occasional direct hit while otherwise treading water like a wounded sea mammal.
Texas: I've actually got the Longhorns handicapped as the conference favorite this year. They should be improved across the board on offense and at all positions on defense besides linebacker. They've got a lot more going for them than the Sooners and Mountaineers, who were ranked ahead of them.
Texas Tech: While the Raiders won't be contenders for hardware, the returning roster bodes well for them finishing better than the 9th place predicted finish. Most likely in the 5th or 6th spot with an outside chance at 4th. They lost Lonnie Edwards on the OL, but return a plethora of starts across the board at the position. Every other spot on both sides should get better.
Kansas State: Mysteriously picked 6th, they'll finish higher than that. Most likely in the 2 or 3 hole. They could be down on the DL ever so slightly and safety Tysyn Hartman won't be easy to replace, but experience suggests improvement everywhere else. They went 7-2 last year in a harder league. Baffling that the media believes Klein, Brown and Malone are going to start sucking. The Wildcats seem to possess toughness, resiliency and leadership at key spots.
Baylor: The Bears are certainly Bears. They'll be down at QB, RB, WR, OL and DT. Baylor will possibly be closer to competing with Kansas for the cellar than for a top 25 spot. This team lost a boatload of key personnel and Briles doesn't exactly have the program in reloading mode quite yet. I don't see a 10-spot in their future, but 8th or 9th could be a reality.
Oklahoma State: By this methodology, a program with a decent, but not great recruiting pedigree and losing critical players at QB, WR, OL, DE and Safety is destined for a significant decline. The drop from 1st to 4th sounds like appropriate attrition punishment by the media, but 5th or 6th could be a reality.
West Virginia: The offense will certainly be lethal, but they lost every good player on an average defense at DL, LB and DB. While that might lead to a 2nd place finish in the Big East, it sure doesn't sound like the formula in the Big 12. Plus, they're switching to a 3-4 with no experienced DL over 280. Seems more like losses to UT, KSU and a couple of possible upsets to me. On paper, this year's Baylor without a Heisman Trophy winner at QB.
TCU: The Frogs return Ken Kesey at QB and nice players at RB and WR. However, key attrition on the OL, LB and DB might not equate to a predicted 5th place finish. Feels like a push here with Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma: The preseason favorite and I don't see them slipping past 2nd or 3rd, but you've got to remember what this OU team looked like without Ryan Broyles. Interesting stat: Landry Jones Big 12 Home Record? 10-1. Jones Big 12 Road Record? 5-6. The Sooners will be down at WR, a suddenly depleted OL and at DE. Still enough weapons to contend, however.
Iowa State: Picked to finish 8th and that seems appropriate. They lost some key pieces on both lines and an underrated Leonard Johnson at CB.
Kansas: They'll probably finish exactly where they are picked at 10th, but should get better at QB, WR, RB and DB. Attrition mostly came on the OL and at LB. Improvement here is relative.
Possible Results Based on Attrition:
1. Texas 8-1
2. Kansas State 7-2
3. Oklahoma 7-2
4. West Virginia 5-4
5. Texas Tech 5-4
6. Oklahoma State 4-5
7. TCU 4-5
8. Iowa State 3-6
9. Baylor 2-7
10. Kansas 0-9