BIG 12 PREVIEW: The Prediction

By at August 12, 2010 | 9:58 AM | Print


We’ve laid out all the unit previews, delivered the skinny of a variety individual players and covered just about every angle of the giant mess that’s become the Big 12.

Now, I make my picks for the Big 12. Yep – with records and everything.

First the North. Then the South.

NORTH

1. Nebraska
Projected Record:
11-1 (7-1)
NU loses to…Texas A&M, a skilled team on the road whose defense, I suspect, will be improved under new defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, especially by Nov. 20, when the two teams play. The Huskers have a dream schedule, a terrific defense, arguably the nation’s best collection of special teams units…and one big question mark at quarterback. We’re betting NU answers it enough to win a lot of games and represent the North in the Big 12 Championship.

T2. Missouri
Projected Record:
9-3 (5-3)
The Tigers sweep their non-conference slate, and fall to three teams within the Big 12: Nebraska, Texas A&M and Oklahoma. No great shame there; those are three good teams, and the NU/A&M games are on the road. And yet Mizzou fans may get that nagging feeling, once again, that their team can’t quite cross over the “greatness” threshold. I suspect the pass defense will still be a little shaky and the offense, while improved, will struggle to run the ball when it counts: On the road against good defenses. I happen to like Missouri by a field goal in Lubbock, though.

T2. Colorado
Projected Record:
7-5 (5-3)
Is this enough to save Dan Hawkins job? Only time will tell. Presuming Tyler Hansen wins the job – and we think he will pull away from Cody Hawkins this fall – CU must survive a brutal non-conference to get to the league in, at the very worst, 2-2 shape. If that happens, the Buffaloes have more talented players than many of the teams on its schedule, including Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor, three of which visit Boulder. Throw in an upset win over Texas Tech at home, and Colorado is going bowling. This a better team than you think.

T5. Kansas State
Projected Record:
6-6 (2-6)
The Wildcats make it to their bowl this year with a surprise upset win over UCLA in the home opener. KSU could squeeze in one more victory should the Wildcats beat Iowa State in Kansas City or trip Baylor in Waco, but I think the Cyclones are a slightly more complete team, while Baylor can match Kansas State’s talent and speed. Bill Snyder’s crew is a year away; the passing game needs more refinement, while the defense is undersized and vulnerable against the run. Road games at Missouri and Colorado do not break the Wildcats’ way.

T5. Iowa State
Projected Record:
4-8 (2-6)
I toyed with the idea of giving the Cyclones an 0-fer in the Big 12 Conference before realizing that ISU has a stronger total package than the Jayhawks, and should steal an early win over Kansas State in Kansas City. The defense is likely to struggle – head coach Paul Rhoads needs a few more strong recruiting classes – but the Cyclones’ offense, if healthy, could easily average 400 yards per game. ISU’s biggest game is a November home date with Nebraska; win there, and the Clones could beat Colorado or Missouri for another bowl berth. The road games at Iowa, Oklahoma and Texas are brutal, but perhaps there’s some solace in that; Iowa State will not be expected to win, and does not have to exhaust itself in front of a home crowd trying to prove otherwise.

6. Kansas
Projected Record:
3-9 (1-7)
This isn’t a reflection of Turner Gill and his coaching staff, but a nod to reality in a talented Big 12. Transition is hard, especially when your predecessor left precious little talent and depth on the offensive and defensive lines. KU lacks a proven quarterback, two projected starters (tackle Jeff Spikes and linebacker Huldon Tharp) are already out for the season, and while the schedule appears manageable, ask yourself: Is Kansas really better than Baylor? Truly equipped to stop spread offenses like Oklahoma State and Missouri? In a word – no. This is not a good team. Gill is in for a long season. Here’s hoping he stored up some of the good cheer from his hiring last winter.

SOUTH

1. Oklahoma
Projected Record:
11-1 (8-0)
I think OU’s home-winning streak is snapped in an upset to Florida State, which should win the ACC. Beyond that, I like very much some of the moves the Sooners have made early in this 2010 season. Preparing talented freshmen skill players Kenny Stills, Roy Finch and Brennan Clay to play this season. Moving DeMarco Murray back to return kickoffs. I think you’ll see OU’s offense bloom again under QB Landry Jones, WR Ryan Broyles and a stable of running backs. The Sooners will beat Texas A&M in Aggieland to win the South by two games.

2. Texas A&M
Projected Record:
9-3 (6-2)
The Aggies sweep the two best teams in the North – though, let’s face, it won’t be easy – while losing to Texas and Oklahoma in the South. Throw in a loss to talented, deep Arkansas in Dallas for Mike Sherman’s best season to date. Could the season go south? Sure. Mizzou and NU are tough home games for a team that hasn’t proven its consistency. But we like A&M’s overall talent level, and DeRuyter was a good pick for a defensive coordinator. He’s a rising star in the business, and this year, you may see why.

3. Texas
Projected Record:
9-3 (5-3)
Yes, I know, sheer blasphemy, to suggest UT loses at Tech and Nebraska and drops a game to Oklahoma. Nevertheless – don’t be stunned if it happens, nor call for Mack Brown to retire. UT has enjoyed incredible success at quarterback, but Garrett Gilbert isn’t as mobile as Colt McCoy (and certainly not Vince Young), so he’ll need help from a running game that could struggle through the first part of the year. Texas’ defense will be, of course, terrific. But if it’s a little vulnerable because of increased exposure to opposing offenses, don’t blame defensive coordinator Will Muschamp too much.

4. Texas Tech
Projected Record:
7-5 (4-4)
I see the Red Raiders pulling off the big upset over Texas early in the year to start 5-0 before losing 5 of the last 7, including games at Colorado, Texas A&M and Oklahoma and home contests to Missouri and Houston. Tech will still be dangerous on offense – and perhaps improved on defense. But a trip to Boulder is a rough spot for Tommy Tuberville’s bunch – the Red Raiders have never won there – while Missouri, top-to-bottom is a better football team than Tech this year.

5. Baylor
Projected Record:
5-7 (2-6)
The Bears will have their fifth win by Oct. 23 after they beat Kansas State. From there, BU will have four chances to clinch its first bowl bid since 1994: at Texas, at Oklahoma State, vs. Texas A&M and vs. Oklahoma. If Baylor can’t win in Stillwater – which we don’t think they will – then it comes down a rival game with the Aggies. Sorry – A&M’s just too good in 2010. BU will be a dangerous team with Robert Griffin at quarterback, but he won’t sneak up on anybody this year. The defense will struggle to replace Joe Pawelek and Jordan Lake. Baylor is one year away.

6. Oklahoma State
Projected Record:
4-8 (1-7)
The Cowboys just don’t have enough material, and the “Air Raid” offense, while effective, is well-known in the Big 12 South and won’t take any of those teams by surprise. The defense lost too many high-level players, the return game takes a hit after losing Dez Bryant and Perrish Cox, and OSU never really proved, in the last two years, that it could be effective when Bryant wasn’t in the game. It’s a long, tough rebuilding year in Stillwater, and Mike Gundy goes on the hot seat.

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