Though respected national pundits like SB Nation's own Bill Connelly don't know what to make of the Texas Longhorns heading into the 2014 season, the media was asked to pick their order of finish in the Big 12 and placed the Horns 4th.
Here are the full results from the poll:
1. Oklahoma (47) - 548 points
2. Baylor (9) - 508 points
3. Kansas State - 377 points
4. Texas - 376 points
5. Oklahoma State - 312 points
6. Texas Tech - 308 points
7. TCU - 297 points
8. West Virginia - 170 points
9. Iowa State - 121 points
10. Kansas - 63 points
In reality, there's probably not a lot to quibble with here -- the Sooners have felt like the clear favorite heading into the season with the momentum generated from the resounding Sugar Bowl win over the Crimson Tide.
Meanwhile, the Bears will suffer some from the losses of running back Lache Seastrunk, wide receiver Tevin Reese, offensive guard Cyril Richardson, linebacker Eddie Lackey, and several key members of the secondary. Now, those losses shouldn't be enough to knock Baylor out of contention in the conference because of the returning talent, which is significant, but it may keep them from winning two Big 12 titles in a row.
After that, it makes sense that Texas and Kansas State would jockey for position -- head coach Bill Snyder also seems to have his team reloading quickly and competing with the best in the conference and it should help to have stability heading into this season at quarterback with Jake Waters targeting perhaps the conference's best receiver in Tyler Lockett.
With the Horns forced to travel to Manhattan this season, where they haven't won a game since 2002, if it comes down to the head-to-head battle to determine order of finish, the Purple Wizard probably has the advantage.
After that, the teams become significantly flawed. Oklahoma State lost most of its squad from last year, TCU still has to prove that the offense isn't a complete wreck, while Texas Tech is still trying to field some semblance of a defense while replacing key pass catchers like Eric Ward and Jace Amaro.
And then there are the conference dregs -- West Virginia, where head coach Dana Holgorsen could be sitting on an increasingly how seat if the 'Eers can't surprise some people, Iowa State, which struggles to field much talent at all, and Kansas, which still remains a pile of crap.*
*Pending head coach Charlie Weis' official assessment at Big 12 Media Days this year.
Could Texas be better than fourth this year considering that the margin between the Horns and Wildcats is considered to be razor thing? Sure, there's enough talent for compete for a Big 12 title with good health and some luck.
Could Texas be worse than fourth in the conference this year? Well, it could take a signifiant surge from a team like TCU or Texas Tech, which is not exactly likely, but with a small margin for error at quarterback and along the offensive line, it's not hard to conceive of a lower-tier finish in the Big 12 in head coach Charlie Strong's first season.