2011 College Football Predictions: The Big 12 (10)

Michael VernonContributor IJanuary 17, 2011

2011 College Football Predictions: The Big 12 (10)

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    2010 was a down year for the Big 12.

    Traditional power Oklahoma was strong, but Texas wasn't. Oklahoma State, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M were all second-tier teams in 2010.

    Kansas was historically bad in 2010, but none of that matters now.

    Here's what the Big 12 standings will look like next January.

10. Kansas

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    Things were rough in Lawrence for Turner Gill's first season.

    Reason to be pessimistic: What changes from a historically bad 2009-2010 team?

    Reason to be optimistic: The team did improve during the final stretch of last season. The recruiting is getting...somewhat better and the Jayhawks have had a year to learn Gill's system.

    Bottom Line: The Jayhawks do have a chance to get better and surprise some people in 2011. Unfortunately it's a small chance, and I don't see the Jayhawks surpassing anybody in the league.

9. Texas Tech

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    Tommy Tubberville's first season in Lubbock was full of ups and downs as the Red Raiders went 8-5.

    Reason to be pessimistic: Tubberville lost a lot of offensive weapons from the Leach era. The QB and WR positions will have new faces, and the defense also lost some of their key pieces.

    Reason to be optimistic: The players will have had a year to adjust to Tubbervilles changes. The recruiting is good, and the secondary should be strong.

    Bottom Line: Tubberville is getting the job done on the recruiting trail. I just don't think the pieces are there for Texas Tech to have a strong year in 2011-2012.

    In time Raider fans, in time.

8. Iowa State

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    Iowa State was just a win short of being bowl-eligible last season.

    The Cyclones were competitive in Big 12 play however.

    Reason to be pessimistic: The injury to Arnaud really hurt the program last year. Integrating a new QB into the system will be tough for Iowa State.

    Reason to be optimistic: Paul Rhoades and the Cyclones have been improving, and the 'Clones do return talent to both sides of the ball.

    Bottom Line: Iowa State should be able to surprise some teams, but a tough schedule will make things tough in Ames next year.

7. Kansas State

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    The Wildcats, led by Daniel Thomas, had a decent season in 2010, going 7-6.

    Reason to be pessimistic: The Wildcats lose their best play maker in RB Daniel Thomas as well as their starting QB in Carson Coffman. It's going to be tough for K-State to win without those two on the field.

    Reason to be optimistic: Hopefully the Wildcats continue to build on some of their 2010 success. Head Coach Bill Snyder always seems to get the job done.

    Bottom Line: It is going to be tough for the Wildcats to duplicate 2010 due to a tougher non-conference and Big 12 schedule.

6. Baylor

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    Robert Griffin returned in 2010 with some success, but he was not quite the same playmaker he used to be. The Bears went 7-6 last year.

    Reason to be pessimistic: Baylor's defense was not very good in 2010, and they lost some important players on that side of the ball.

    Reason to be optimistic: Robert Griffin and Kendall Wright return for the Bears, as the Baylor offense should be explosive. Recruiting has also been improving.

    Bottom Line: If the defense can hold up, Baylor may be able to break through and seriously contend in the Big 12 in 2011-2012.

5. Oklahoma State

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    Oklahoma State is coming off of a fantastic 2009-2010 season in which they went 11-2.

    Reason to be pessimistic: \ The defense that was not particularly strong in 2010 also lost five of its front seven.

    Reason to be optimistic: Brandon Weeden comes back in an offense that they can hope will maintain some of its 2010 spark. They have good young players that Mike Gundy has been bringing in as well.

    Bottom Line: With defensive question marks, and a tougher schedule, it will be tough for the Cowboys to repeat their 2010 magic.

4. Texas

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    Texas totally collapsed in 2010, going 5-7.

    Reason to be pessimistic: The Longhorns cleaned house with their coordinators, and the transition will be tough in 2011. Garret Gilbert took a beating last year and needs to forget his 2010 season.

    Reason to be optimistic: The talent is there for the Longhorns to compete for the Big 12 title. The roster has five star players.

    Bottom Line: With the coaching staff mess still fresh in everybody's minds (including the players), it will be tough for Texas to play up to its usual standard in 2011-2012.

3. Missouri

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    Missouri went 10-3 under the guidance of Gary Pinkle and the arm of Blaine Gabbert.

    Can the Tigers still be successful without Gabbert?

    Reason to be pessimistic: Losing quarterback Blaine Gabbert hurts. Can new quarterback James Franklin (presumably) lead the offense to success?

    Reason to be optimistic: Besides quarterback, the offense is returning a lot of talent to help the new guy out.

    Bottom Line: If James Franklin can lead the offense effectively, look out for Missouri in 2011-2012.

2. Texas A&M

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    The Aggies had a strong 2009-2010 season, going 9-4 and 6-2 in Big 12 play.

    Reason to be pessimistic: The O-line is young; losing Michael Hodges and Von Miller will hurt the defense.

    Reason to be optimistic: QB Ryan Tannehill returns along with 1,000-plus-yard rusher Cyrus Gray, and 1,000-plus-yard receiver Jeff Fuller. The offense has all of the tools to put up plenty of points in 2011-2012.

    Bottom Line: The pieces are there for Mike Sherman and Texas A&M to have a breakthrough season in the Big 12.

1. Oklahoma

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    Oklahoma won the Big 12 and Fiesta Bowl last year going, 12-2.

    Reason to be pessimistic: The defense was 33rd in the country in giving up points last year. They allowed 21.8 points a game.

    Reason to be optimistic: They return players across the board, and should fill any losses nicely. Oklahoma will be deep next year and should make a run at the National Title.

    Bottom Line: The Big 12 is Oklahoma's to lose in 2011-2012.