College Football Reality Check: Big 12 South Is Best This Season
With all the debates and arguments floating around about college football supremacy, I've noticed that one conference is really lacking some love and respect.
The Big 12 is definitely one of the top three conferences in the land right now.
Now, I would never dare argue that the Big 12 has the SEC's history or passion, or the Pac-10's flair and talent.
But if I'm a coach right now in the NCAA this season, the last place I'd want to be is the Big 12 South.
Let's assume for argument's sake that the Big 12, Pac-10, and SEC are the best three conferences in college football right now (That's alphabetical order there, not order of best to worst. Relax people!). No disrespect to the Big 10 or ACC, but they just don't stack up right now.
There are so many polls and picks out there right now, so I'll use Lindy's Top 25 as a base (if you want to use a different one, use the stats or listings from that edition, and we can argue based on those).
Using this Top 25, the Big 12 and SEC are tied with most teams in the Top 10, with three apiece. The Pac-10 only has one. Rounding out the Top 25 are six SEC clubs, five Big 12 schools, and three Pac-10 teams.
But the real depth of my argument lies deeper in these numbers. The Big 12 South has four teams in the Top 30 and five in the Top 41, while no SEC division has more then five (the SEC East has their top five in the Top 63).
So if you're following me here, that leaves the Big 12 South and the SEC East as the two most difficult divisions to play in this year. Looking at the two straight up, the argument favors the Big 12 South.
Let's do a head-to-head matchup of each team in the conference and show what seems to slip by most fans: The Big 12 South is no joke.
No. 1: Oklahoma VS Georgia
Yes, I love the Bulldogs and the incredible run they went on last season, but the Sooners are also a legitimate powerhouse. I know that they've struggled in BCS bowl games as of late, but I don't think that's enough to throw the ball Georgia's way.
On offense, the two teams are remarkably similar. Sam Bradford was much better than Matthew Stafford last season, but Knowshon Moreno and Caleb King are a deadlier attack then DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown.
I call this a draw. You can argue either way, but the similar styles of play and almost equal talent levels render this game unpredictable.
No. 2: Texas VS Florida
What a great matchup this would be—two storied programs coming off disappointing seasons that ultimately finished well with bowl game blowouts.
While Florida has the superior offense, led by Tim Tebow, their defense simply doesn't match up against the loaded Longhorns counterpart, which is consistently one of the best in the nation.
To me, this one comes down to home field advantage, but I'll give the slight edge to Florida, because I wouldn't bet against Tebow.
No. 3: Texas Tech VS Tennessee
Both teams have a disgusting amount of returning talent. Graham Harrell will return to lead the high-flying Red Raiders attack, which returns 36 of its top 44 players from the two-deep last season. To me, that is the edge they have against the Vols, who will return 13 starters on offense and defense.
Yes, the Vols are a respectable team that will contend each year for a good bowl bid, but the Raiders have a chance to do something special this year. The Vols will lack a veteran signal-caller, while the Raiders return all but four starters from last year's nine-win roster.
My vote is for Texas Tech.
No. 4: Texas A&M VS South Carolina
Another close pairing. The Aggies underperformed last season and lost their coach, yet still managed to win seven games. This season, under new head coach Mike Sherman, they should employ a pro-style attack that will take advantage of both speedy RB Mike Goodson and huge FB Jorvorskie Lane.
The Gamecocks continue to simply tread water under Steve Spurrier. Questions still remain as to who will start at QB for them, and how long the chosen man's leash will be once he's given the job. Spurrier was short with incumbents Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher last year, so nobody has really emerged.
This is the toughest matchup for me to call. Texas A&M lost a lot of starters on D, but the core of their offense is still intact, with the potential to be really good. South Carolina has had that kind of potential for years, yet hasn't been able to execute under Spurrier.
That's why I'm choosing the Aggies. At this point, Spurrier doesn't deserve a vote of confidence until he actually produces. He's had potential too long to use that as his calling card now.
It could go either way, but I'd take the Aggies over the streaky Gamecocks.
No. 5: Oklahoma State VS Kentucky
On the heels of a tough decision, this game comes as a relief. They are teams headed in opposite directions this year. While OK State seems to have figured out the spread offense, returning QB Zac Robinson and his gaudy numbers on offense, the Wildcats are still reeling from last year's 3-5 finish.
The Cowboys replace 13 starters, just like the Wildcats, but momentum and leaders are on the Cowboys' side. Robinson gives the offense an identity, and Jeremy Broadway, Dez Bryant, and Brandon Pettigrew give him talented targets.
On the other hand, the 'Cats lose the amazing Andre Woodson at QB and might struggle to regain their touch on offense after losing a lot of skill players. The same squad that put up decent numbers in the SEC last year might struggle this time around.
Both defenses should be decent. Kentucky returns good experience and talent, while OK State will attempt to use an influx of juco talent in D-coordinator Tim Beckman's second year on the job.
Simply put, OK State is the better team this year, and the rankings reflect that. They stand at 41, while Kentucky lumbers in at 63. The specfics might change in other polls, but show me a poll where the Cowboys are behind Kentucky.
No. 6: Baylor VS Vandy
Who really cares about this game? Both teams are outside or around the top 80 in the country, and both perennially get beaten up on.
Well, Baylor brings in successful former Houston coach Art Briles to spice up the offense with his explosive gameplan, and Vandy takes some momentum into this season after beating South Carolina on the road and Ole Miss at home. Both fan bases will have hope coming into this season.
I give this game to Baylor simply based on potential. Briles should give the team a new look, and they return 13 starters on both sides of the ball, while Vandy only returns nine starters.
Neither will be good, but Baylor will be better.
So there you have it. I have the Big 12 South going 4-1-1 against the SEC East.
But here's the thing—I obviously have a Big 12 bias, and I am hardly Kirk Herbstreit. I'd love to hear what die-hard SEC fans have to say about this, and I hope I will.
I'd also like to add that I don't think that the Big 12 is better then the SEC. I think that overall, the SEC is the best conference in the nation, followed closely by the Big 12, then the Pac-10. But I do believe my statement that the Big 12 South is the hardest division to play in.
I'm Peter Fleischer. Thanks a lot for reading.
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