2009 Big-12 Preview and Predictions: North Division
The Big-12 South could be a pile up like last season. The teams they will play from the North division could be pushovers.
The North division of the Big-12 has been the whipping boy for the South division for some time now. Not since 2003 has a team from the North has beaten a team from the South in the Big-12 championship game.
Even as Kansas and Missouri have put together good teams that have been part of the national championship talk, they have not been able to lead the North to a Big-12 Title.
I know Kansas has not had a chance to play for the title yet but they have helped carry the banner for the North division. The Jayhawks even have more BCS wins than Oklahoma the last three years.
No matter who wins the North division in the Big-12 everyone will wonder if they can beat a superpower from the South. So without further ado here are my Big-12 North predictions in alphabetical order.
Colorado Buffaloes: Prediction 7-5
Dan Hawkins was brought in after building Boise State in to a power house and was supposed to do the same for the Buffaloes. So far, he has had to rebuild the image of Colorado after scandals rocked the program in 2004.
It has been mixed reviews for Hawkins at Colorado. The program has a losing record in each of the three seasons he has been there, but there was bowl game in 2007.
The Buffaloes coach is not being shy about this season demanding ten wins. That could be a lot to ask for even if Colorado had been a top team in the division the last few years.
The offense has players returning this season. The running back position looks strong with both Darrell Scott and Rodney Stewart to carry the load.
The two biggest questions will be if the offensive line can improve for one. The next is if Colorado can settle on one quarterback.
Cody Hawkins—the son of head coach Dan Hawkins—is the starter, but at times gets replaced by more athletic Tyler Hansen. If the Buffaloes want to win more settling on one guy behind center will help.
The defense has not been bad under Hawkins and should continue to be solid. There are good athletic players all over the defense.
The non-conference schedule has two "gimme" games and two tough contests. Colorado should get wins against Toledo and Wyoming.
The other two out of conference games include in state rival Colorado State and a tough trip to Blacksburg to play Virginia Tech. Colorado should beat their in-state rival, but will lose to the Hokies.
In conference the Buffaloes should get wins on the road against Kansas State and Iowa State. Home wins should come from Texas A&M and Missouri.
In conference losses on the road could be against Texas and Oklahoma State. Home losses could come from Kansas and Nebraska.
The Buffaloes could have a breakout season in 2009. A lot depends on how good Missouri is after the players lost and how good will Nebraska be.
The worst Colorado could be this season is 4-8 and the best is 9-3. The Big-12 and the schedule does not set up for the 10 wins Hawkins wants.
I think this could be a winning season at 7-5 with a bowl bid. This season might not yield a 10 win season but the talent will be there for a big year in 2010.
Iowa State Cyclones: Prediction 3-9
This team was just plain last season. Yet some reason form head coach Gene Chizik was able parlay a two win season into the Auburn job.
So with new head coach Paul Rhoads taking over this season. One has to wonder is this team better then we thought or did Chizik have a great PR team.
Rhoads does have several returning players on both sides of the ball. There is returning quarterback Austen Arnaud and a trio of good running backs.
The defense returns a lot of players as well. Sure they were not that great last season, but no defense in the Big-12 invoked fear in any offense.
The biggest problem for Rhoads is that he does not have the talent to complete in the conference yet. The biggest positive for Iowa State is that they play in the North Division and not the South.
They will struggle, but a turnaround can be made quicker than in the North. Just do not expect that turnaround this season.
With a new coaching staff this year will be another struggle. Cyclone fans might not have much to cheer about.
The out of conference schedule is not too tough. There should be wins against North Dakota, Kent State, and Army.
The toughest non conference game will be against in-state rival Iowa on the road. The Cyclones will be hard pressed to get a win.
In conference, I do not think Iowa State will win a game. Still there are upset chances against Kansas State, Baylor, Texas A&M, and Colorado.
Do not be surprised if the Cyclones ruin someone's chance at a bowl game. Iowa State will not beat any of the conference big boys, but middle of the road teams better come to play.
Iowa State could win as few as a two games and finish 2-10. Still the Cyclones could win five games if they can upset a couple of teams to finish 5-7.
I believe Iowa State will finish 3-9 and might not be bowl ready for two to three more years.
Kansas Jayhawks: Prediction 10-2
Will this be the year Kansas wins the North division and plays for a Big-12 Championship? The Jayhawks should be the class of the North.
Missouri should be in rebuilding mode for this season and Nebraska is about a year away from being ready. The rest of the North is not even close to being ready this season.
That leaves Mark Mangino’s football team in the driver’s seat to represent the North for the first time in the championship game. Out of the all the teams in the North, Kansas has the most pieces in place to win.
The offense will be led by the forgotten Big-12 quarterback Todd Reesing. Reesing is not the only player back. Wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe returns as well this season.
The only questions offensively are how good will the running game be, and is the offensive line improved. If the answer is yes to both, Kansas should not have to worry about anything offensively.
Defensively is where this team has struggled to get to the top of the North division. The Kansas defense will make or break the Jayhawks run to a North title.
The defense has two big questions. The first is will the secondary be better in the pass happy Big-12. The second will be how well the replacements at linebacker will be this season.
The non-conference schedule has a "gimme" game against Northern Colorado. There are also semi-tough tests against Duke and Southern Miss at home and UTEP on the road. Kansas should win all of their out of conference games.
In conference the Jayhawks have a mix of tough home and road games. While Kansas almost certain to get wins on the road versus Colorado and Kansas State, they do have to travel to Texas Tech and Texas.
The Jayhawks should win at the Buffaloes, Wildcats, and Red Raiders, all of whom will take a step back or are still rebuilding.
The home conference games have a certain win against Iowa State but a loss versus Oklahoma. They get the second best team in the North at home in the form of Nebraska. The Jayhawks will have to win that game to take the North.
The last game of the season is on a neutral field against budding rival Missouri who should be rebuilding. Both the Nebraska and Missouri games should be wins.
Kansas could be upset by either Duke or Southern Miss out of conference. Plus there are three conference games that could be lost other than the obvious losses against Texas and Oklahoma.
The three conference games that could ruin the Jayhawks season are Texas Tech, Nebraska, and Missouri. These games could mean Kansas finishes the season 6-6 at worse.
The best Kansas could be is 11-1, if they can upset either Texas or Oklahoma. Still I think a 10-2 season is more than possible with all the players back this season.
Kansas is my pick to win the North Division in the Big-12. There are landmines all over the schedule but the Jayhawks should be able to get past them for a trip to the championship game.
Kansas State Wildcats: Prediction 5-7
Welcome to Bill Snyder part two in 2009. This, after turning over the program he built to Ron Prince in 2006.
While Prince did not take over a stocked team at K-State he did have a program that could have been maintained. The program was mediocre going 17-20 during the Prince era.
So Snyder returns to Manhattan to rebuild his program once more. Is it time for Wildcat fans to start dreaming of a bowl game?
Do not start that celebration just yet. The talent level is not where it needs to be to win right away.
While Snyder was away from football other North teams got better. Colorado is on the right track, Nebraska is almost back, and Missouri and Kansas are the class of the North.
This season, the offense and defense will have to be reworked. Every position could be up for grabs on both sides of the ball.
Still you have to give hope to K-State. The program was on the decline before Snyder left but with three years off he should be recharged and ready to go.
This season might not produce a bowl. Still, there are winnable games.
Out of conference the Wildcats should beat Massachusetts, Louisiana-Lafayette, and Tennessee Tech. Kansas State has little chance on the road versus UCLA.
In conference the Wildcats should get a win at home against Texas A&M and at a natural site against Iowa State. After that wins will be hard to come by for K-State.
Road conference games against Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Nebraska should be losses. K-State does get Colorado, Kansas and Missouri at home.
While they could lose all three games, do not be surprised if Kansas State pulls off an upset. Snyder could lose as many as eight games and go 4-8.
With the home games the Wildcats could win as many as seven games. While it is possible K-State could win seven games and go to a bowl it’s not likely. There are just too many questions for this team to win the six or seven games need to go bowling.
I believe that Kansas State will finish 5-7 and maybe next year will bring the Wildcats a bowl bid.
Missouri Tigers: Prediction 7-5
No team in the country lost more talent than Missouri did this offseason. The Tigers lost a slew of players to graduation and the NFL.
Gone are Missouri legends Chase Daniels and Jeremy Maclin to go along with a host of other stars. The losses would cause most teams that have been perennial doormats to return to the bottom of the standings not Missouri.
Head coach Gary Pinkel has recruited well and kept most of the in-state talent in Missouri. That might not mean a North title this season it could mean a run at the title next season.
The Tigers relied on Daniels way too much last season on offense. This season the offense will be much better if they run the ball more.
With running backs Derrick Washington and De'Vion Moore returning breaking in a new quarterback will be easier. Missouri will still pass the ball all over the field but using the running more could help make the team balanced.
The defense will have to be better in the secondary after finishing last in the Big-12 and 117th in the nation in pass defense. The Tigers were not bad in the front seven last season but there are holes to fill.
Missouri has players who have been waiting to get on the field and will get the chance in 2009.
Out of conference the Tigers get a test right from the start against Illinois. Missouri should lose that game but has three other winnable non conference games.
The Tigers should beat Bowling Green, Furman and Nevada out of conference. Heading in to conference play Missouri should be 3-1.
The conference schedule will test the Tigers right from the start with Nebraska and Texas at home and Oklahoma State on the Road. Missouri should lose all three games.
The rest of the schedule could be wins on the road against Kansas State and Colorado. Missouri should get home wins versus Baylor and Iowa State.
The final game of the season will give the Tigers a chance to return the favor from last season’s loss against Kansas. Just like Missouri was last year Kansas is loaded this year. The Jayhawks should win though.
The Tigers should do know worse this season than 5-7. The best Missouri can do this season is 9-3.
I think the Tigers will be down a little this year. Who would not be after all the talent but Missouri should go 7-5 and bowling once more.
Nebraska Cornhuskers: Prediction 9-3
Bo Pelni has got what he wanted which is a concrete foundation. This team might not have any huge stars but it does have solid football players.
The offense does not have to be flashy or explosive. It just has to move the ball effectively and score points. The days of running the ball 40 times a game are gone and quarterback Zac Lee is not great, but is precise and make good reads.
The real question is will the “Black Shirts” show up on defense. The major knock on the Cornhuskers the last few seasons has been the defense.
If the defense returns to dominance once more Nebraska will be ready to challenge to for the North Title. The days of winning the conference every year are gone. The goal now is winning the North or at least being competitive.
The Big-12 needs Nebraska to be good to make the top-heavy South division not the only thing people talk about. Nothing against Missouri or Kansas but neither school has the football past the Cornhuskers have.
Out of conference Nebraska plays three cream puffs in the form of Florida Atlantic, Arkansas State, and Louisiana-Lafayette. There is a big non-conference game against Virginia Tech on the road.
The Virginia Tech game will show the Cornhuskers how far they have come and how far they have to go. Nebraska should have a 3-1 non conference record.
The conference schedule does not have two straight road games. The away games are versus Missouri, Baylor, Kansas and Colorado.
The Cornhuskers should be tested well on the road. Still they get a Missouri team breaking in new players all over the place, a Baylor team not ready for prime time, a load Kansas team, and a Colorado team that is not championship caliber yet.
Nebraska should win three of the four road games with Kansas being the lone loss. The home schedule has Texas Tech, Iowa State, Oklahoma, and Kansas State all coming to Lincoln.
Once again the Cornhuskers get a Texas Tech team reloading, a bad Iowa State team, a loaded Oklahoma team, and a Kansas State team looking to rebound. Going 3-1 at home in conference is not out of the question with the loss against the Sooners.
While Nebraska could go 5-7 at the worse and the best possible record would be 11-1. Still I think the Cornhuskers can attain a 9-3 record.
The North has might have an inferiority complex to the South in the conference. There are good things going on in the North.
Colorado is on the rise, Missouri and Nebraska could be a year away from huge national pub and Kansas is loaded with talent to take a good shot at the South.
Kansas should win the North this season but they better keep their eyes on the title or it could be stolen by Nebraska. Missouri will not lie down and give its title up without a fight.
Still no matter who wins the South should be able to handle the team from the North and earn the automatic BS bid.
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