Big 12 North Projections

Cedrick MorrisonCorrespondent IAugust 2, 2009

Big 12 North

..or JV division of the big 12. Last year the big 12 north was about as relevant as the NBA's pacific division minus the Lakers. (Suns, Warriors, Clippers, Kings) In fact, the division winner; Missouri lost three conference games including the season finale to unranked Kansas 40-37. What followed was a 62-31 embarrassment at the hands of the Oklahoma Sooners in the big 12 championship, completing an 0-3 campaign against the big 12 south powers in 2008. [Oklahoma st.(28-23), Texas(56-21)] All hilariously to the rest of the country on national television.

Will it be more of the same for the north in 2009? In a short answer... probably. However, I do see a shift in the standings at least in their own division.

1) Colorado

In 2008 Colorado got out to a 3-0 start in non-conference play including a 17-14 win at home vs. (21)West Virginia featuring Pat White. The next 3 games the buffs hit a wall. The offense struggled to score points, and the defense wasn't much better in a 3 game losing skid that started at Florida State (39-21), vs. (5)Texas(38-14), and at (16)Kansas(30-14). CU finished the season 5-7 with only 2 of those games in the win column (Kansas st., Iowa st.) coming in conference play.

The good news for this season is the Buffs return 9 starters on offense including the bulk of their OL and perhaps one of the deepest rb pools in the conference consisting of sophomores Darrell Scott(a top recruit in 2008) and shifty Rodney "Speedy" Stewart. Both should compile huge chunks of running yards in the ground game for the buffs. At QB, Dan Hawkins and  Tyler Hansen should compete for the starting job, with Hansen pushing the incumbent Hawkins because of his added mobility and arm strength.

On Defense the buffs return only 4 starters from a lackluster squad in '08 that can't get much worse. The secondary will be the strength as they return 3 of 4 defensive backs CB Jimmy Smith has a chance to be an all conference selection.

Looking at the buffs big 12 schedule, they start the season @ Texas immediately following a week that they will have traveled to West Virginia. After losing to Texas they get a chance to prove themselves vs. an experienced savvy offense in a home game vs. Kansas. I think the buffs ability to control the clock with the ground game combined with the talent they have in the secondary will be enough to allow them to get by the Jayhawks at home. The buffs will carry the momentum from the KU game all the way to Nov. 19 in an away game @ Oklahoma st. where they will struggle to keep the score respectable. I see the buffs beating rival Nebraska at home to finish up conf. play at 6-2 giving them the big 12 north crown, their 1st. since 2005.

CU Schedule : September 6 Colorado State
September 11 at Toledo
September 19 Wyoming
October 1 at West Virginia
October 10 at Texas
October 17 Kansas
October 24 at Kansas State
October 31 Missouri
November 7 Texas A&M
November 14 at Iowa State
November 19 at Oklahoma State
November 27 Nebraska

2) Kansas

The Jayhawks were one of the most exciting teams to watch in the big 12 last year and had a plethora of exiting games including a 40-37 win in a thriller vs. Missouri to conclude the regular season. They struggled (as did the entire north division) vs. big 12 south opponents losing 45-31 @ Oklahoma (although Briscoe torched the Sooners secondary putting on a good show in the process), vs. Texas 35-7(our secondary covers just a tad bit better than our top rivals) and vs. Texas Tech 62-31 in their most embarrassing defeat of the season. They did take care of their own division however, with their only loss coming at the hands of Nebraska in Lincoln. The Hawks have plenty coming back in 2009 including SR QB Todd Reesing and his top 3 targets from last year that include potential All American Desmon Briscoe. Look for KU to improve on the 33.4 ppg they avg. last year along with Reesing doing better than his already impressive 305.6 passing yards per game. Along with Briscoe (92 catches, 1,407 yds. 15tds) former QB Kerry Meier caught 97 balls for 1,045 yds. and is a tremendous possession receiver. KU does have to replace 3 OL but Reesings ability to move around in the pocket should ease the transition of replacing the hogs up front. RB Jake Sharp is back after starting last year at tailback and should have a better year with his added experience.

On Defense the Hawks return 7 starters including their top 2 tackles. The Hawks will have to find a way to get more pressure on the QB than last year if they expect to slow down some of the pass happy offenses in the big 12. They were 114th out of 119 in the NCAA in pass defense (Some can be attributed to playing the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, Tech, and Missouri) and a stronger pass rush would be a big help. Coach Mark Mangino has said that he expects this KU defense to be the speediest defense he has had at Kansas especially at the defensive back positions which will allow them to play more nickel coverage this season to make up for the losses at linebacker.

Kansas starts out the conference schedule with two division opponents in a home game vs. Iowa st. before going to boulder to play Colorado. After destroying Iowa st. at home I the hawks getting tripped up by Colorado who will be tough to beat at home with their ability to control the clock by running the ball. After getting beat by OU the following week, I see them going to Lubbock and putting up big numbers on Tech (which could be one of the more exciting games in the conference this year), and winning in a shootout. I see them winning the remainder of their games minus the game @ Texas on the 21st to give them a respectable conf. record of 5-3.

KU schedule:
September 5 Northern Colorado
September 12 at UTEP
September 19 Duke
September 26 Southern Miss
October 10 Iowa State
October 17 at Colorado
October 24 Oklahoma
October 31 at Texas Tech
November 7 at Kansas State
November 14 Nebraska
November 21 at Texas
November 28 vs. Missouri

3) Nebraska

The huskers had a solid season under 1st year head coach Bo Pellini. They lost their 1st two conf. games of the season last year vs. Missouri (52-17) and @ Tech (37-31) but started to find themselves as the season went on. they won 6 of their last 7 conf. games including 4 in a row to complete the season. The only loss in the middle coming at the hands of the Sooners. Nebraska also showed up well and represented the conference nicely in winning their bowl game vs. Clemson at the end of the year.

Junior Zac Lee will have to develop mightily this season as he loses his top 2 wideouts from last year in Nate Swift and Todd Peterson. Together they combined for 125 catches and 1,727 yards. Other than Menelik Holt and Niles Paulus (Great size btw) the WR core is inexperienced and will be searching for playmakers. The good news is the huskers have a versatile TE in Mike McNeill who has great hands and is excellent at stretching the field. Tight end can be a QB'S best friend and this is especially true for Lee this year. The OL will be solid headed by 3 returning starters and many who had valuable experience last year including Jacob Hickman a 3 yr starter and leader of the front, holding down the center position. RB Roy Helu Jr. will be up from 208 to about 220 pounds this year and Pellini thinks he has a chance to be special, along with Roy will be Quentin Castille who has dropped weight and is more of a short yardage back. The huskers had a 2 RB I formation 3 WR Look vs. Clemson and husker fans should expect more of the same this year as much of their offensive strength resides in the running game and TE positions.

The Huskers start out with 3 games they should win @ Missouri, vs. Tech, and vs. Iowa st. Missouri and Tech will be looking to replace the bulk of their offense from last year and will be vulnerable at the start of conf. play. I see them losing their next 3 games however, @ Baylor who is my surprise big 12 team this year(more on them later), vs. OU, and @ KU. they'll follow up the season with a win @ Kansas st. and in the reg. season finale vs. their rivals in Boulder, I think Colorado rises to the occasion and beats the Huskers at home, giving the huskers a 4-4 conf. record

Husker schedule:
September 5 Florida Atlantic
September 12 Arkansas State
September 19 at Virginia Tech
September 26 Louisiana-Lafayette
October 8 at Missouri
October 17 Texas Tech
October 24 Iowa State
October 31 at Baylor
November 7 Oklahoma
November 14 at Kansas
November 21 Kansas State
November 27 at Colorado

4) Missouri

Talk about overhyped..Missouri may have been the most overrated team in the country last year. A pre-season ranked top 5 team the Tigers started out the season strong including two wins against then ranked Illinois and in their first conf. game @ Nebraska (52-17). Then Missouri started to show their true colors. They lost their next two games to big 12 south opponents Oklahoma st. (28-23) and Texas (56-31). They squeaked out a win at Baylor (31-29), then ended the seasons with losses vs. Kansas (40-37) and in the big 12 championship where they had no business being vs. Oklahoma(62-21).

The Tigers will look like a completely new team in 2009. They only return 5 starters on offense and 4 on D. Those who they have to replace on O include their QB, top WR and TE, all this while breaking in a new offensive coordinator David Yost. Blaine Gabbert was highly recruited coming out of HS and has the intangibles and talent but lacks experience and leadership. Making it even more difficult will be the lack of experience in his offensive arsenal. Missouri does return the bulk of their OL and RB Derrick Washington a 1,000 yard rusher from last year who will be much more emphasized in the 2009 attack.

The Defense was one of the worst in the nation last year and most likely will not be much better this year with only 4 starters returning only one on the defensive line. The defense was 117th in pass defense last year and look for teams to once again light up the scoreboard on the tigers once again.

The start of the conference season is brutal, especially for one as young as the Tigers. They start at home vs. Nebraska, and then go on the road to OSU, followed by a home game vs. Texas. 0-3 right off the bat. Missouri will then go on the road to Colorado which will be a loss followed by another home loss to Baylor. I'm calling it right now. THE MISSOURI TIGERS WILL BEGIN CONF. PLAY WITH AN 0-5 RECORD. Mark it down. Their only two wins in the conf. will come next vs. Kansas St. and Iowa st. following will be a season finale loss vs. Kansas giving the Tigers a 2-6 mark in conference play. YIKES!!

Missouri Schedule:
September 5 vs. Illinois
September 12 Bowling Green
September 19 Furman
September 25 at Nevada
October 8 Nebraska
October 17 at Oklahoma State
October 24 Texas
October 31 at Colorado
November 7 Baylor
November 14 at Kansas State
November 21 Iowa State
November 28 vs. Kansas

5/6 Kansas st./Iowa st. – Here’s what you need to know about them. There terrible. Bill Snyder has his work cut out for him, bless his heart but don't expect either of them to beat anyone in conference but themselves this year.


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