* Tony Jefferson, OU, S: A big hitter with good instincts, Jefferson sometimes is compared to former OU star Roy Williams. In the Sooners simplified scheme, Jefferson has vowed to be a leader on a defense that gave up too many big plays.
* Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas, DE: Two Longhorn defensive players on the list is why some believe Texas' defense might own a huge edge in an offense oriented league. ESPN's Todd McShay has Jeffcoat going No. 3 overall in the draft.
* Arthur Brown, Kansas State, LB: If the Wildcats stay in the Big 12 race, Brown probably has soared past his 101-tackle total from last season. A sideline-to-sideline monster will help offset a few speed disadvantages.
5 DATES THAT WILL SHAPE THE SEASON
* Oct. 6: We'll know more about the Mountaineers and Longhorns after West Virginia plays in Austin. Oklahoma will also be trying to end a three-game Lubbock losing streak. OU hasn't won in Lubbock since 2003.
* Oct. 13: In addition to the Red River rivalry in the Cotton Bowl, West Virginia visits Lubbock. TCU also travels to Waco, which might be a slightly more intimidating road game than in the past.
* Nov. 10: West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen returns to Stillwater for a telltale showdown. Kansas State plays in Fort Worth. Baylor also travels to Norman a year after ending their 0-for drought against the Sooners.
* Nov. 17: The Sooners' trip to Morgantown could decide the Big 12 race. But with two games remaining for each, it might be a stave-off-elimination game for one or both.
* Nov. 24: Bedlam tops the list. This one is in Norman after back-to-back games at Boone Pickens Stadium. TCU plays in Austin on Thanksgiving. West Virginia makes the trip to Ames when the weather can be a factor.
5 BOLD PREDICTIONS
* West Virginia and TCU will both lose at least three conference games: The Mountaineers' offense will keep them in a lot of games and win some shootouts. But they'll face teams that can also light up scoreboards. TCU has a lot of holes to fill on defense.
* Texas will win its final six games: The Longhorns face a brutal start: at OSU, West Virginia, OU in the Cotton Bowl. It will be interesting to see how Texas navigates those first three games because they could go 6-0 down the stretch.
* Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville will be fired after the Red Raiders get off to an 0-6 start in conference, their best shot being the opener against Iowa State in Ames.
* The Big 12 will produce only seven bowl teams: Iowa State, Texas Tech and Kansas won't play past the first Saturday in December. The Cyclones and Red Raiders have a shot but their margin for error is extremely small.
* The conference will go the entire year with zero defections or zero additions: First it was Colorado and Nebraska heading to the Pac 10. Then Texas A&M and Missouri bolted for the SEC. With TCU and West Virginia firmly in place and conference presidents pledging unity, the league will finally stand pat.