(or is it 11, or is it 10?)
The Big 12, well, Texas and Oklahoma, have been involved in 5 of the last 7 BCS championship games. Other than Texas in the ‘05-’06 season, they have played the part of the Buffalo Bills. That could all change this year. After seasons of score-at-will offenses in the conference, the defenses will catch up this season. No more Texas Tech wide open Mike Leach offense, no more Oklahoma with 6 games of 58+ points, no more 40 points at half so the starters can rest. The defenses will require 60 minutes to beat them this year. Thus, preparing the top team for a run at the Crystal Football in January, again. But this year could just be the year for the lucky winner.
Gone are Sam Bradford, Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Trent Williams Russell Okung, (allin the first 6 picks in the draft) Brandon Banks, Dez Bryant, Colt McCoy, Earl Thomas, Sergio Kindle, etc… In comes Jerrod Johnson, Robert Griffin, Kendall Hunter, Ryan Broyles, DeMarco Murray, Alexander Robinson, Travis Lewis, Sam Acho, Keenan Robinson, Jeremy Beal. Jerrod Johnson will put up Texas Tech-like numbers passing this year to go along with a handful of rushing touchdowns.
What it seems this year is the Haves have more, and the Nots not so much. Texas has reloaded, and Gilbert got some you-can’t-buy-that experience in the National title game last year that will carry over to this year. Anything lost of Defense will be replace by All-Big 12 talent. Oklahoma seems to be stout on Defense, again. Landry Jones received some OJT last year during Bradford’s shoulder issues. Broyles will make a run for the Heisman with unbelievable returns this year and outstanding catches. A&M could rattle some cages, especially with Jerrod Johnson passing for 4,000 yards and 30 tds this year. The only problem is that all of these teams are in the south. It could very well be another 2009 with 3 teams tied for first in the south, with all deserving to play for the conference title.
Which turns things to the north. Everyone loves Nebraska this year. Everyone, but me. I just don’t see it. Personally I see more upside and potential in Mizzou, even though Blaine Gabbert will have to make chicken salad out of chicken, well, he lost his top two receivers from last year. The Tiger Defense will be stronger than ever, helping them to the title in the north. With Colorado and Nebraska bolting for conferences that seem to want them more, now, they will have all hopes and thoughts dashed of leaving with the trophy. The north will be fought for tooth and nail, but congratulations, you have to play the winner of the south for the title. Better put on your big boy pads for that one.
Now to the south. First, I would like to thank the Red Raiders for some enjoyable football for the past few seasons. That will be missed with Tuberville at the helm. Talk about vanilla. Him coaching that team will be like making hot dogs in a 4 star kitchen. Taylor Potts will be so frustrated by mid-October, he may find Mike Leach’s pirate ship and go looking for Jack Sparrow himself. There will be ups and downs, inconsistency, lack of coverage, fumbles, all the fun things that make school supporters ask Why and How. At least you had fun at the top while you were there. Mike Sherman will remove his name from the Hot, and even Warm, seat this year. I see big things this year for the Aggies and the 12th man. But, not as much as for Stoops and the Sooners. With a healthy DeMarco Murray, experienced Jones and Heisman finalist Broyles, Boomer Sooner will be playing for the Crystal Football once again after taking care of whomever wins the duck-duck-goose game in the north.
Onto the predicted order of finish, with records:
1. Oklahoma, 12-0, 8-0. Stoops has another well-oiled machine, wining by an average of 3 touchdowns this year. They won’t light up the board like 2008 when they scored over 700 points, but the defense will carry the Sooners to the promise land this year. The speed bump on the Red River? No problem. In-state rivalry? Thanks for being a kind host and allowing us to win. Championship game in Texas? Those boos are fuel for the Sooners. (Brantley is the real deal. The wide out corps is amazing, and can return kicks. The defense will be stout. Urban will be able to breath, for a little bit, especially after beating Bama on Oct 2, but will have nightmares on Halloween after losing to UGA while being ranked #1. They will still be in the BCS hunt until the SEC championship game.
2. Texas A&M, 9-3, 7-1. They will score points (19th in the country last year,) but give up a few less points with a tighter defense (105th last year, ugh). As long as Johnson stays healthy, November could matter for the Aggies.
3. Texas, 11-1, 7-1. Another double digit win season. But, no national or conference title this year. They will be fun to watch, and steady for the majority of the season, but in this division, that gets you a slap on the back with “Next year…” attached to it.
4. Oklahoma State, 9-3, 5-3. As long as Dez Bryant doesn’t place the Cowboys on sanctions, they might be alright once they escape from this division when the conference losses some weight. Kendall Hunter will put up 1,500 yards on the ground, but turnovers will be the ultimate downfall.
5. Texas Tech, 7-5, 3-5. Tuberville will require more than a year to un-Tech Tech. He has some talent, but the upheaval won’t provide enough continuity to win consistently, especially this year in the Big 12. The up-tempo offense will make Taylor Potts head to spin, saying something coming out of Leach’s offense. Too much control for the coaches, not enough play on the field.
6. Baylor, 4-8, 1-7. In another conference, Robert Griffin would be a star. Give him some time, he’s only a SOPHOMORE. He’ll be worth tuning in for a few plays in games not against the big 3.
1.Missouri, 9-3, 5-3. Not pretty. Not consistent. Not even explainable. Enjoy the first week in December in Texas, I hear the weather’s nice. Gabbert will surprise some and disappoint others along the way.
2. Nebraska, 9-3, 5-3. And you thought this was going to be a victory lap?! Everyone will thank you for throwing TNT into the conference headquarters this year, even getting you parting gifts along the way in the form of butt-kickings all over the middle of the country. Yes, your rushing attack will be strong, but the final numbers on the scoreboard will disagree with the level of play on the field sometimes. It doesn’t get any easier in your new home. Simply replacing Texas, Oklahoma, OSU, A&M, Colorado with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Iowa, Wisconsin is about a wash.
3. Colorado, 7-5, 4-4. You thought Nebraska was getting killed this year, you get two years of “farewells” from your conference foes. Bet you wish the Neuheisel was still around now, don’t ya? Yeah, none of us do. Don’t worry, in 2 years, you can beat up on Arizona State and Wazu, and see ‘ol Ricky again.
4. Iowa State, 5-7, 2-6. The cyclones will be downgraded to a dust devil this year, given the depth of this conference. Robinson and Austen Arnaud will provide a highlight reel for the season, but won’t put X’s in the W column.
5. Kansas, 5-7, 2-6. Seems like a long time ago to the 2008 Orange Bowl win over the Hokies, doesn’t it… Don’t worry, basketball is almost here, and you can underachieve then, too.
6. Kansas State, 3-9, 0-8. Not this year, boys. Not this year.