Last year the Big 12 North finally gained some respectability, but it was still the South that ended up on top of the heap. This year, one can expect more high-scoring games in what is likely to be the most exciting conference in college football. The big question is if Oklahoma can represent the Big 12 better this year than in years past.
1. Oklahoma (12-0, 8-0)
It looks to be another year on top of the Big 12 world for Oklahoma. Sam Bradford is back for his sophomore season at the helm as he looks to avoid the sophomore slump.
Helping him out will be great talent at the skill positions with DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown at RB and Juaquin Iglesias at WR. The offensive line is also one of the best in the country.
While the defensive line looks great, the back seven are expected to struggle, which isn’t good in a pass-happy league. The defense has a lot to prove after the bowl game last year.
The Sooners get a big break in the schedule, as their two tough trips to Oklahoma State and Texas A&M will be easier than normal with both teams in a rebuilding mode. They play Texas in Dallas and get Kansas and Texas Tech at home. There is no Mizzou on the regular season schedule.
I have the Sooners as the lone undefeated team in the country.
2. Texas Tech (10-2, 6-2)
If there is a year for the Raiders to get to a BCS Bowl, this is the year. The combination of Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree is one of the best in the nation. It also helps to have their full stable of RBs back and two other starting receivers in Eric Morris and Edward Britton.
Another thing going for Tech is the defense. While it still won’t be great, it is the best in Mike Leach’s tenure, which could bring some added success.
None of the road conference games will be easy for the Raiders as they travel to Texas A&M, Kansas State, Kansas, and Oklahoma. A split in those four, to go along with a win over Texas, will lead to a great season in Lubbock.
3. Texas (10-2, 6-2)
It has been a struggle for Texas the past couple years as it always seems to lose a game it shouldn’t (K-State both years). It will be up to QB Colt McCoy to regain some consistency as the running game may struggle without Jamaal Charles. McCoy will look to seniors Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley in the passing game.
The defense has also been inconsistent of late, and it might be that side of the ball that is the key to the Longhorns’ success.
Things start off pretty easy for Texas as it should start 4-0. Then comes a tough three-game stretch where the Horns play at Colorado, at Dallas against Oklahoma, and against Missouri. If they can take two out of three, things could be looking good in Austin. However, trips to Texas Tech and Kansas still loom.
4. Oklahoma State (7-5, 3-5)
Zac Robinson comes in as the most underrated QB in the conference, but he might have to do it all for OSU this year. The Cowboys lose running back Dantrell Savage and star wide receiver Adarius Bowman. There are plenty of other options at those positions, such as Kendall Hunter, Beau Johnson, and Keith Tolston at RB and Dez Bryant at WR. The offensive line is another plus for the Cowboys.
An average defense from last year will be average again this year and keep the Cowboys from realizing their potential.
The schedule sets up for a fast start, but the Cowboys will have to get revenge on Troy and Texas A&M at home to get the 5-0 start. They are going to need all of those wins because they travel to Mizzou, Texas, Texas Tech, and Colorado. They also host Oklahoma to end the season.
5. Texas A&M (6-6, 3-5)
It is going to be an interesting year for the Aggies with their new style of play. The running game looks to be great with QB Stephen McGee and RBs Mike Goodson and Jorvorskie Lane. The problem is that McGee isn’t a very good passer, and he doesn’t have an established receiver to throw the ball to.
It wasn’t the typical wrecking crew defense for A&M under Dennis Franchione in 2007, and it doesn’t look like there will be any change this year.
If there is a smooth transition to new coach Mike Sherman, the schedule isn’t that daunting by Big 12 South standards. While they travel to OSU and Texas, their other road games are at Iowa State and Baylor. Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Colorado all come to College Station.
6. Baylor (2-10, 1-7)
To be honest, I do not know much about this team since I rarely see them on TV and don’t like watching the blowouts they are in. All I have to do is look at the schedule and see home games against Oklahoma, Mizzou, and Texas A&M, and I know it will be another long year. The Bears do get ISU at home, which should be their lone conference win.
1. Missouri (11-1, 7-1)
The question this year for the Tigers is if they can maintain their success with the target on their backs. Having a plethora of returners on both sides of the ball is a big help.
Heisman Trophy candidates Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin will help make the passing game one of the best in the country. It will also help to have tight end Chase Coffman around for one more year. The running game won’t be the same without Tony Temple, but Derrick Washington and Jimmy Jackson are solid replacements.
This might be the best defense that Mizzou has ever had. Sean Witherspoon and William Moore are two of the top defensive players in the country, and they will need to be if the Tigers want to win a championship.
There is no Oklahoma on the schedule, which is a big plus since the Tigers’ only losses a year ago were to the Sooners. There are tough trips to Nebraska and Texas, as well as neutral site games with Illinois and Kansas.
2. Nebraska (7-5, 4-4)
The Cornhuskers are looking to bounce back after a miserable 2007 season. Bo Pelini will look to reestablish a once-feared blackshirt defense that felt naked last year after giving up 76 points to Kansas and 65 to Colorado. The talent isn’t there yet, but they should be better thanks to Pelini.
Joe Ganz tore it up at the end of last year, and he gets RB Marlon Lucky back to help him out. This should be a solid team once again on offense.
Nebraska will find out how good it is in a three-game stretch with Virginia Tech and Mizzou at home, followed by a trip to Texas Tech. There also is a trip to Oklahoma on the schedule. The Huskers are a couple upsets from having a very solid season.
3. Kansas (7-5, 4-4)
It is official: The Cinderella season for Kansas is over. It is back to a reality of having some tough opponents. After an easy schedule a year ago, KU has to travel to South Florida, Oklahoma, and Nebraska, while it plays Texas Tech and Texas at home. There is also the neutral site game with Mizzou.
The Jayhawk offense should still be solid with Todd Reesing at the helm, but there isn’t the same talent around him. Jake Sharp and Dexton Fields are back, but there is no Brandon McAnderson or Marcus Henry.
There still are some solid defensive players left, but they will miss Aqib Talib. The Jayhawks won’t sneak up on anyone this year as they head back to mediocrity.
4. Colorado (5-7, 3-5)
This Colorado team is much improved, but it won’t matter much with the brutal schedule. There is a four-game stretch with West Virginia, FSU, Texas, and at Kansas. Wow. Then there are still trips to Mizzou, Texas A&M, and Nebraska. It looks like the Buffaloes will need to pull off some upsets if they want to go back to a bowl game.
Cody Hawkins had a very strong freshman season for a QB and like Bradford hopes to avoid the sophomore slump. Big things are expected of freshman running back Darrell Scott, and he will have to live up to the billing for the Buffs to have a good season.
The defense loses starter Jordon Dizon but still returns a solid lineup.
5. Kansas State (5-7, 2-6)
I don’t think the Wildcats are that bad, but I just don’t see where the wins will come from. QB Josh Freeman is good, but he has a tendency of trying to do too much. Last year he did that with running back James Johnson and stud receiver Jordy Nelson. Those guys are both gone, which means Freeman will put even more on his shoulders.
The defense also lost a bunch of guys from last year, which is why coach Ron Prince brought in a lot of junior college players.
I foresee a six-game losing streak in the middle of the year where the Wildcats have home games against Tech and Oklahoma, while they travel to A&M, Colorado, Kansas, and Mizzou. Ouch.
6. Iowa State (4-8, 1-7)
The Cyclones played in some pretty close games last year thanks to a surprisingly strong defense. It is hard to see where their offense will be any better, especially without four-year starting QB Bret Meyer. It will be up to the defense to keep this team in games.
Home games with A&M, Nebraska, and Kansas, as well as a trip to Baylor, give the Cyclones an outside shot at a bowl game.