BIG XII North
Some people might think the up and coming Kansas Jayhawks, but let's not start the Rock Chalk Jayhawk chant quite yet. The North winners last year were the Missouri Tigers, and with arguably the best quarterback in the nation, Chase Daniel, leading the Tiger attack on offense, and a deep HB platoon on the ground, and a talented WR corps, they will likely field the best offense in the Big XII. While there are some questions on defense, they can still rely on top tackler Sean Witherspoon returning, and leading interception artist, S William Moore, also coming back. The key will be how healthy they can stay all season, as the depth on the O-line, and the front seven on defense, isn't what it ought to be right now. Still, Chase Daniels' mastery of the spread option attack employed by Coach Gary Pinkel, along with an older, wiser, defense, and even more fired up fanbase, should punch the Tigers' ticket to the Big XII title game.
The Buffs have had a long road back to prominence, due to many of their own problems and recruiting scandals. Finally, however, with the father-son tandem of Coach Dan Hawkins finding his QB in his own son Cody Hawkins, finding a solid O-line to protect him, and Scotty McKnight returning as leading receiver. Their defense may miss Jordan Dizon as leading tackler, but leading sack master, George Kypolite, returns, looking to improve on his 6.5 sack performance last season. Any questions about the running game should be put to bed now, however, as they are set at HB, with returning leading rusher Hugh Charles coming back, along with top HB recruit Darrell Scott looking to make an impact. To be sure, they will fly under the radar, and to be sure, they will make sure that that won't happen long. The Buffs are looking to make some noise, and rest assured, they won't be ignored.
THE BEST OF THE REST:
Without OT Anthony Collins there to protect, QB Todd Reesing could be exposed as a system QB, and as undersized. He's a gifted player, but he's not necessarily the most fleet of foot, and if he's going to be 5'9'', he ought to be as fast as Eric Crouch--unfortunately, he isn't. Reesing is still an extremely talented QB, however, and he'll win some games on his own, and put up some fine numbers in the process. This may not be the magical BCS season of a year ago, but the Jayhawks will have to find some answers on defense to get back to that form. They can start by finding answers for their pass rush. The good news is they return leading pass rusher Max Onyegbule. The bad news is he only posted 3.5 sacks last season, and with some of those being coverage sacks, the loss of NFL first rounder Aqib Talib, among others, will be felt all the more.
THE BIGGEST LOSERS:
Nebraska Cornhuskers, Kansas State Wildcats, Iowa State Cyclones
Bo Pellini, fresh off a national title win as defensive coordinator with LSU, takes over a Husker defense that is a far cry from the Blackshirt defense that many remember. Pellini takes over a team in transition, but they will always compete. Sadly, only a break-even season for Pellini, but they should be on the rise. The Wildcats are a bit of a wild card, with a less than impressive offense, and a defense that plays at times, lights out, and at others, like a pushover. It will be incumbent upon Coach Ron Prince to get their ground attack in gear, and producing the results they have needed to avoid late season collapses like last season. The Cyclones of Iowa State are always good for an upset or two, but won't make it out of the cellar, as the Ugly Sister of the Big XII North, as they look for another Seneca Wallace. Brett Meyer won't be walking through that door again, so answers will be few and far between.
THE BIG XII South
The Sooners will be Booming, rest assured. Returning many of the offensive playmakers, save WR Malcolm Kelly, the Sooner offense looks to be as dangerous as any in the conference, and with another year under their belt, they ought to be able to allay any concerns about their ability in the clutch or in comeback situations--at least as an offense. The defense may be another story. They will struggle early on, and with Texas always being a thorn in their side, they may find themselves on the loosing end of a Texas team that will always run well. Their defense returns only 5 starters, and the losses will affect their ability to stop the run and prevent big play passes early in the year. That said, they can put up points with nearly anyone in the nation, and certainly better than any offense in the conference, with the possible exception of Texas Tech. QB Sam Bradford and T Phillip Loadholt are shoo-ins for preseason All-Big XII, and maybe they'll play that way all season this year, and not just when they feel like it. Despite his sparkling record and ability to recruit, Bob Stoops is on the hot seat to win a BCS bowl this year, and maybe even a national title. The Sooners have the look of preseason favorite, but the need to avoid the bowl game swoons that have plagued them of late.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
The Red Raiders vaunted offense has them the sexy pick to take the Big XII South this year, but we all need to slow down a little before we crown them just yet. The Run & Shoot offenses of the world have hardly impressed, come bowl season, and though few doubt the abilities of QB Graham Harrell, or last year's Super Frosh WR Michael Crabtree, they still need to prove that they can run the ball effectively (which they didn't in spring ball), and that their secondary isn't merely adequate at best. Nevertheless, this is a team that has a boat load of potential, but as the old saying goes, Potential is the most dangerous word in sports. The Red Raiders will have to score their way to a Big XII title game. The good news is they're good enough to do it.
THE BEST OF THE REST:
Texas QB Colt McCoy is a known commodity, and very much a stud QB. However, we know 3 things about Colt McCoy. He'll throw a lot of touchdowns, he'll throw more picks than you'd like, and he'll get hit a lot. McCoy is in a tough spot, as he's a fantastic QB, but he hardly fits Coach Mack Brown's spread option read offense. In what could be be the most unfair scenario, if Texas stumbles in their schedule (which is the toughest of the Big XII south contenders), then McCoy may get benched for highly touted back up (and Vince Young wannabe) Josh Chiles. Still, Texas will run the ball on everyone, run up the score on the cupcakes they have on the schedule early on (save Arkansas, and no offense to FAU, UTEP, and Rice), and will be able to stop the run. That said, they aren't the fastest defense in the country, or even the conference, and they could get burnt by Texas Tech later in the year in a road game. Mack Brown is in a bind as to whether or not he should feature more of Chiles, and risk his team's season on the sophomore dual threat QB, or go with the girl that brought him so to speak, in McCoy. A QB Controversy? Maybe. Rotating QBs a la Urban Meyer's title run? Likely. A Big XII title game appearance? Only as long as Mack can reign in Colt.
THE BIGGEST LOSERS:
Texas A&M brought in Mike Sherman to whip the Aggies into shape, and this wasn't a bad team per se, but they hardly fit his zone blocking scheme, and will have some growing pains. Still, the 12th man will alway will them to a handful of victories, and they could spell trouble for any team who takes them lightly, as they have a great QB in McGee, and as stout a defense as you'll see in the conference. Still, without many receivers to catch balls from McGee, and an O-line in transition, the Aggies will be happy to make it to a January 1 bowl game, if nothing else. The Cowboys of OK State have seen a ton of money come in lately from billionaire alumnus T. Boone Pickens, but it has yet to produce the steady stream of Five Star Rivals.com recruits that you'd like, so Coach Mike Gundy's team may struggle at times with teams they really ought to be beating, and they have a difficult schedule late in the year. Still, if you have criticisms of Gundy's squad, make sure you direct them not at the kids on the team but at the coach. Afterall, he's a man, and he's 40! (NOTE: If you haven't gotten the joke, make sure to search YouTube for the priceless meltdown from last year) As always, Baylor will be the red headed step child of the Big XII, and receive their yearly dose of 9 losses and humiliating beatdowns. New coach Art Briles can recruit, and has a handful of returning playmakers on both sides of the ball, but, as evidenced by their poor record last season, this is still a team marred by a poor football tradition, a murder scandal in the not so distant past, and a lot of ground to make up before they can contend.
BIG XII Title Game Prediction:
Oklahoma vs. Colorado
This preview is taken from LifeEpicurean.com Be sure to check out the previews for all the other college conferences on the site. Thanks for reading!