Summer is about to begin and that means yet another three or four month span of postulation and speculation on the 2010-2011 season.
A new decade is dawning for Big 12 nation, rumors of splits to the Big 10 are running a muck and open criticism of the Big 12's inability to garner even a decent television contract is at an all time high.
For a second though, forget about the Big 10 hullabaloo and about the ineptitude of the Big 12 commissions ability to increase exposure, it's time to wonder about closer more tangible things.
Like who will be who when the dust settles in 2010 for the Big 12. I can't remember a time when the race was more wide open. Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, Zac Robinson, Dez Bryant, Mike Leach, Mark Mangino and Ndamukong Suh are all gone from the scene next season leaving a power vacuum in their wake.
Who will seize the opportunity? What follows is my opinion on the final positions for the Big 12 next season, first for the North then for the South. The start of a new era is dawning for the Big 12, who knows how long it will last but one thing is for certain, the start should be dang entertaining.
Looking for a clear cut winner in the Big 12 North might be harder than we think next season. With teams like Missouri and Kansas State trying to take some national recognition away from the likes of Nebraska we could be seeing a tighter race than any body thinks.
Of course, then again, things could go as planned.
For Colorado fans the decision has been made, The Dan Hawkins experiment was a failure. Hawkins has been proven too often to be in over his head and while foot-in-the-mouth statements are fun for outsiders, for fans they are an embarrassment that needs to be dealt with.
Sorry to say for those in Boulder though, that mostly because of money issues, Colorado had to keep Hawkins on staff. His tenure is one of the worst in recent history for the Buffs program.
Hawkins has never had a winning season at Colorado and has made only one bowl game in four years. That game was a loss at the hands of the 6-6 Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2007 Independence Bowl 30-24. Nick Saban's first year ended in success, and a national title a few years later.
The red flag should have flown for Colorado fans when Hawkins suffered a loss to Division I-AA foe Montana State 19-10 in his first season, but foolish optimism prevailed and after a 6-7 season in 2007 the Buffs extended Hawkins contract.
Since his most successful season Hawkins has led the Buffs to a 5-7 and 3-9 season respectively. Both the 2008 and 2009 years Hawkins' Buffs went only 2-6 in Big 12 play. In three of his four years at Colorado that is the record his team has had in Big 12 play. A record of 4-4 in 2007 was his best output.
Hawkins demise may have come at the hands of his own son Cody Hawkins. While Cody did lead them to a bowl game his freshman year sense then he has proven that he is not an adequate FBS quarterback.
Even with a myriad of players returning from last season the stigma is bad surrounding this program. If athletic Junior quarterback Tyler Hanson can somehow pull them up they might be able to ascend out of the depths. However, look for this season to be Hawkins final demise and further proof that Peterson not Hawkins was the mastermind behind Boise State football.
With games against California and Georgia early on and at Nebraska and at Oklahoma later in the year Hawkins crew will be lucky to garner that second win they have been able to come by at least all four years of his Tenure.
My prediction for the Buffaloes of 2010: 2-10 (1-7).
Paul Rhodes did the unthinkable at Iowa State in his first year. He took one of the historically worst Big 12 schools and made them into a bowl winning team.
While the bowl win was far from pretty (there were more turnovers in that game than at my Grandmothers house for Easter breakfast) they still won and managed to accomplish a winning season at 7-6 for the first time in four years.
That team though, was loaded with seniority and junior college athletes. Next season if they want to make any headway they must reload on a defense that was already bad and Austin Arnaud must not be allowed to throw the football.
Look for Jerome Tiller to come out victorious as the starter and for Paul Rhodes to try to use Arnaud in the passing game as a receiver or even as a run threat. A repeat of last season is unlikely, but not unattainable with their schedule.
Games against Utah, Iowa, and at Texas and at Oklahoma are all losses for this younger team. Nebraska will be seeking revenge on the debacle that was the 9-7 upset last year and teams like Texas Tech and Missouri have just too much talent for the rebuilding defense to stop.
My thoughts on the Iowa State Cyclones for 2010? 4-9 (3-5)
Watch for them in 2011 though.
The firing of Mangino came as a shock to the Big 12 and to the nation. The most successful coach in Jayhawks history was suddenly gone.
Enter Turner Gill.
The Nebraska alum had basically built a Buffalo Bulls program from nothing into MAC champions over night and now he will try his hands with Kansas.
The problem is that Mangino didn't leave all that much talent in his wake (and a rather large wake at that), at least that we know of. The loss of Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier, Dezmon Briscoe, Jake Sharp and half of the offensive line will make it hard for a new system in a good conference to set in right away.
The schedule breaks all wrong for Gill as well. With games against Georgia Tech and Southern Miss to start off the season and tough away games at Nebraska and at Baylor the Jawhawks will most likely be looking at another losing season in 2010, albeit this one would be more expected.
The good news for the Jayhawks is only three away games in conference play, with one being a winnable game in Ames, IA. All six other Big 12 games would be at home and the absence of Oklahoma and Texas on the schedule is important to notice as well.
Kansas could squeak out six wins next year if they maximize their home field advantage, but with a new system, new offense and new defense it will be tough for Jayhawk fans not to look forward to the 2010 basketball season instead.
My take on the 2010 Jayhawks? 5-7 (3-5)
The hope of Wildcat nation comes in one name: Daniel Thomas.
Daniel Thomas is the I-Back to watch out for in the Big 12 in 2010. He's big, strong, and very fast. He will run away from and through tackles and that means long drawn out drives that will extend games and keep them close.
With a winnable game against UCLA to start off the season the Wildcats could get off to a 4-0 start by the beginning of their Big 12 conference schedule. A home game against Nebraska and then away to Kansas and Baylor is a favorable start for the Wildcats.
They just missed a bowl last year and because they scheduled Missouri State instead of a team like Akron, this season they mightl miss out on a bowl game again for the same reason, but a final out of conference game against North Texas might be all they need to get over the hump.
A win against UCLA and KSU has at least six more winnable games on the schedule behind the strong legs of Daniel Thomas if he stays healthy.
My take on the Wildcats for 2010? 7-5 (3-5)
The loss of Danario Alexander and Sean Weatherspoon hurts for sure, but Gary Pinkel has been able to keep his team bowl worthy for quite some time now, and even though defensively they look to have been passed up by Nebraska they will remain a very potent offensive team for the rest of his tenure there.
Gabbert has one year of experience under his belt and despite an awful showing against Oklahoma State and Navy in the final few games of the season the up side is big with this Junior from Missouri.
Returning nine starters on offense and eight on defense will help the now seasoned quarterback in his endeavor to challenge for the North crown. The problem is Derrick Washington will have to become visible once again somehow next season and the loss of Perry and Alexander, at least for now completely diminishes the deep threats the Tigers had last season.
With a good mix of defenders coming back this year Missouri needs to keep their eyes on Lincoln. The winner between Missouri and Nebraska for the past three years has won the North and it would seem that 2010 would be no exception.
The schedule breaks fairly well for the Tigers with only four away games all season long, two of which are almost locked wins. The Tigers will be good next season and probably get to nine wins, but games at Nebraska, Texas A&M, and at home against Oklahoma might be the undoing for any Big 12 North hopes.
My take on the Tigers for 2010? 9-3 (5-3)
The loss of Ndamukong Suh hurts for the Huskers, but the fact that they get 10 starters back on offense and 7 on the number one defense from a year ago is why they top the rankings going into 2010.
Nebraska's offense is now seasoned and knows what it takes to win, the quarterback position is still in question but the offensive line is better and deeper as is the running back position and the wide receiving corps.
The defense might take a baby step back next season without Suh, but with the nations two best lock down corners in Amukumara and Dennard Nebraska is looking to be a top 10 defense once again.
The schedule also breaks well for the Huskers, with the toughest road test coming to the Huskers in Aggie country near the end of the season. Nebraska takes on Washington early on the road and should be able to test the defense against Jake Locker and company.
The Huskers have vengeance on their mind for 2010 and Bo Pelini claims that the defense is even going to be better. If the offense can step up and make plays Nebraska could make a run at a national title instead of just the Big 12 title.
My take on the Huskers for 2010: 11-1 (7-1)
The Big 12 south is as wide open as ever, and if Mike Leach had stayed it could be even deeper.
The issue in the Big 12 South actually isn't depth, it's lack of knowledge about the talent. Only two quarterbacks in the South have been known as starters from previous seasons: Robert Griffen III from Baylor and Jerrod Johnson from Texas A&M. The problem is that both of those teams aren't known to be contenders in the south of late.
So do we take experience or longevity into account when it comes to rankings? I think you'll find the answer in the following presentation.
With the Mad Scientist gone and an old traditionalist taking the reins the transition from fantastic to methodical will be a big one for Texas Tech fans.
The first thing Tuberville will work on is Texas Tech's defense, something that has always been a problem in Lubbock. That being said the defense should be okay, but the offense, that's where the worries come in.
Gone are the days when people said, "Who cares who their quarterback is? They'll still win eight to ten games." Now the question goes from "who will be the next gun slinger" to "which of the incumbent quarterbacks can handle a pro system?" Because regardless of what Tuberville says, that's what they are moving towards.
I promise that you will see Texas Tech work from under center more this year than any time in Leach's tenure as Head Coach. Texas Tech will be back, and they will be better under Tuberville, just don't expect it to be this year.
My take on the Red Raiders for 2010? 5-7 (2-6)
The last two seasons take away Zac Robinson, Dez Bryant and Kendall Hunter. What do you have?
We're about to find out this season. Robinson is gone. Dez has been for a while, and Hunter no longer has a great back behind him to spell him when he gets injured. Not to mention the loss of punt returner and defensive threat Perrish Cox.
Gundy has his work cut out for him this season, will it be Brandon Weedon taking the reins or true freshman, highly touted recruit Johnny Deaton?
Because of all this I see no reason to put the Cowboys any higher than fifth in the south.
My take on the Cowboys in 2010? 6-6 (2-6)
First, even if people don't understand this let me tell you that the loss of Jordan Lake will hurt, almost cripple this defense.
However, the addition of Robert Griffin might be enough to thrust this team into bowl eligibility for the first time in 15 years.
The only doubt about Griffin his freshman year was in his passing ability, that was quickly put to rest as he threw only three interceptions all season compared to 15 touchdowns.
Unfortunately early in the 2009 season Griffin injured his leg and was out for the remainder of the year. It's going to be tough to navigate through the south next season even with its doubts, but if there is a year for the Bears to make their move in the conference it is in 2010.
My take on the Bears in 2010? 8-4 (5-3)
Texas A&M is on its way back to prominence and Jerrod Johnson is the reason why.
Amidst all the Jacory Harris hype and Terrelle Pryor love affair Jerrod Johnson gets lost in the shuffle. The problem is, he shouldn't be.
Johnson is quietly becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the nation and with the absence of Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford he has a chance to shine in the South. Uzoma Nwachukwu could be one of the best Wide Receivers in the Big 12 as well next season.
So why third and not second or first? One word: defense.
After the 2009 season coach Mike Sherman overhauled his defensive staff in an effort to make the Aggie defense something to be feared again, not something to laugh at.
If the defense can resemble an actual FBS defense in 2010 we could be seeing the resurgence of the 12th man and the Aggies back onto the national scene. With a favorable early schedule Texas A&M might be in control of the south by the time they play Nebraska on November 20th.
My take on the Aggies for 2010? 8-4 (5-3)
The question for Texas fans is which is the real Garrett Gilbert: first half or second half of the national title game?
The answer remains to be seen, but the reason they are behind Oklahoma in this list despite having a better year last year is simple: the running game.
Texas' offense consisted of two people last season: Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley. Sure, James Kirkendoll made splashes here and there but ultimately it was up to McCoy and Shipley to provide the points and the defense to shut the opposition down, which they did until they faced a real offensive line in Alabama.
Gilbert doesn't have the legs of McCoy and Kirkendoll doesn't have the play making ability of Shipley. This Texas team is going to look a lot different this season and it starts with the running game. As always, look for the Red River Rivalry to be the watershed game of this season.
My take on the Longhorns for 2010? 10-2 (6-2)
Sure last year the Sooners had a disappointing season and it might be pure idiocy to put them ahead of Texas for 2010. But hear me out for a bit.
Landry Jones comes back much better and more experienced, although he probably still has that disgusting mustache, Ryan Broyles, a soon to be NFL talent is back and so is Demarco Murray. The offensive line is almost as deep as it was in the 2008 season because of all the injuries last year.
All that being said makes Oklahoma look to be a great offense for the fall of 2010.
Now onto the defense.
Sure they lost six starters from a year ago, but they also retain key leaders at every major level of the defense. Jeremy Beal on the defensive line, Travis Lewis at Linebacker and Quinton Carter at free safety. With these leaders in place they should be able to grow up pretty quickly in the season and look similar to the defense they have had the past two season.
Unless injuries hamper the fighting Sooners again this season I think we are looking at a Nebraska-Oklahoma Big 12 title game.
My take on the Sooners for 2010? 12-0 (8-0)
In a rematch of 10-3 win for the Huskers a season ago the Big 12 Championship of 2010 (should it go how I predict) should be a great game.
Oklahoma and Landry Jones will know doubt recall the five interceptions thrown in that game, and no doubt they will recall being held without a touchdown since the first year of Bob Stoops' tenure.
And Nebraska, well they will be wanting to show the world that they are back, and believe it or not they too have a score to settle. After coming within a controversial second of winning the Big 12 championship last season the Huskers and Bo Pelini will want to prove they belong among the nations elite for good this time.
I see Nebraska's slightly more veteran offense and better coached defense able to take this one home in a close one.
Nebraska: Big 12 Champs 12-1 (8-1)
Oklahoma: Big 12 Runners-up 12-1 (8-1)
I'm sure I will get an immeasurable amount of flack for picking the team I write for to win it all (at least in the Big 12) but the edge is so close I have to go with my gut on this one.
I hope you enjoyed the prediction feel free to leave comments or suggestions!