‘New and improved’ Big 12 tabs Oklahoma as preseason favorites

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The look and feel of the Big 12 conference may be different, but the name atop the preseason standings sure isn’t.

Winners of five out of the last seven Big 12 titles, the Oklahoma Sooners are once again expected to finish as conference champions at the end of this season. With a little luck, they might be able to contend for a national championship as well.

The Sooners grabbed 41 of 43 first place votes to make them the overwhelming favorite in the Big 12 this year. Texas A&M and Oklahoma State each received the other first place votes.

Here’s how the conference is projected to finish:

1. Oklahoma (41 first place votes) 428 points.
2. Texas A&M (1) 362 points.
3. Oklahoma State (1) 360 points.
4. Missouri 281 points.
5. Texas 265 points.
6. Baylor 194 points.
7. Texas Tech 191 points.
8. Kansas State 140 points.
9. Iowa State 93 points.
10. Kansas 51 points.

A few thoughts:

  • This isn’t your old Big 12 conference (aside from obvious reasons). Texas may be in a little bit of a rut, but Texas A&M and Oklahoma State are every bit as talented as the Longhorns, just with a more stable coaching staff. Could either team overthrow Oklahoma? The Sooners have national championship potential, but the Aggies and the Cowboys are catching up fast.
  • With that said, the Longhorns will be a better team than the one they dragged on to the field in 2010. I know that’s not saying much, but even with a new coaching staff, I don’t think fifth place is this team’s ceiling.
  • Usually — okay, always — nobody cares about the bottom of a conference, but like the Longhorns, I think Kansas will be a better team than they’re record might indicate in December. But they still have to go on the road to Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. Ouch

Arizona State hires Beau Baldwin as offensive coordinator

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
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TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State has hired former Cal Poly head coach Beau Baldwin as its next offensive coordinator.

The school announced Baldwin’s hiring of new coach Kenny Dillingham‘s staff a week after he resigned at Cal Poly.

The 50-year-old Baldwin spent three seasons as the Mustangs’ head coach, going 4-21.

Baldwin previously served as California’s offensive coordinator for three years after a nine-year stint as Eastern Washington’s head coach. He went 85-32 at Eastern Washington and won the 2010 national championship with three trips to the FCS semifinals.

Baldwin also served as Central Washington’s head coach in 2007.

Stanford QB Tanner McKee declares for NFL draft

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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STANFORD, Calif. – Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee is leaving school to enter the NFL draft.

McKee announced his decision on Thursday after a disappointing junior season on an overmatched Stanford team.

McKee completed 62% of his passes for 2,947 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season as Stanford went 3-9 for a second straight year.

Stanford will undergoing an overhaul with coach David Shaw stepping down after 12 seasons and several players expected to transfer.