Big 12 has 10 teams, and rumors of the conference's demise keep heating up, with the latest speculation being that Texas A&M is jumping to the SEC. Talking about conference realignment is about as interesting to me as reading a phone book, so I will keep this discussion to football. The Big 12 had a bad year for a major conference, but expect a bounce back year for the major money maker in the conference (Texas) and the conference as the whole.
They start off as #1 in most polls, which is tremendous pressure for any team. They did finally stop their BCS woes last year by crushing an inferior Connecticut team. I have watched this team a lot in the past couple of years, and I really do believe that quarterback Landry Jones is overrated. However, even though they lost Demarco Murray, they have loads of talent all around him. He is going to look really good because this offense is really good. They actually have 18 starters returning this season, and the only real question mark is the linebacker position, as one good linebacker tragically died in the off-season, and another tore up his knee just the other day.
Final Prediction: Texas and Florida State are going to be the most likely candidates to knock Oklahoma off, but you never know whats going to happen in college football, and a Kansas State or a Oklahoma State could surprise everyone. However, they are still far and away the favorite to win the conference.
Despite losing their offensive coordinator to West Virginia, Weeden to Blackmon will be a combination that you will hear a lot about this season. Expect tons of yards to be put up by this offense in the air. Mike Gundy has proved to be a great coach for the Cowboys. The big question is how the defense will do, even though they did pretty well last year.
Final Prediction: Arizona is the only decent opponent in the first 3 games. Oklahoma at the end of the season will be tough to say the least. A&M, Missouri, and Kansas State are some of the more interesting games on the schedule. They are a really good team I think, and they could make a run at beating Oklahoma for the conference victory, but I would still be very surprised if they did. A BCS bowl game is not too crazy of an expectation though.
They were polled at #8 to start the year this year, and that certainly sounds really high. 10 months ago, Mike Sherman looked like he was going to be out of a job, but the Aggies made a switch at quarterback, and turned the whole thing around. Ryan Tannehill proved to be a legitimate college quarterback, but is it enough to carry them to a Big 12 title? Their defense will be really good it appears, as their whole secondary returns, and their line is very good. They did lose key pieces to the line-backing corp, but the running-back corp will be good, and the offensive line will be improved.
Final Prediction: Idaho and SMU are a nice start, but it soon gets tough with Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma State all on the schedule. They are somewhat of a sexy pick, and they will be good. They aren't going to challenge for a conference title though, 8-9 wins sounds about right.
Their disappointing 5 win season last year led to Mack Brown shaking up his coaching staff, and one has to wonder whether this will be for the better or worse. The big question is at quarterback, will Garrett Gilbert retain the starting job or will the handful of backups prove to be better than him. They lose some key defensive guys, but no one has been better at plugging in replacements in the past decade than the Texas Longhorns.
Final Prediction: An easy first 4 weeks for Texas with BYU, Rice, Iowa State, and UCLA (who beat them last year), before playing Oklahoma. A&M will be an interesting game, as will Oklahoma State. Texas is coming back, they aren't back to Colt McCoy or Vince Young days yet, but they are probably back to Chris Simms days. Those weren't bad days, expect 7-8 wins.
They finally made a bowl game last year, and star quarterback Robert Griffin will return. Coach Art Briles has had success everywhere he has been and Baylor is proving to be no exception. However, they lost first round picks on both lines, a good starting safety, and their leading rusher. That is a lot to replace. The offensive line is reportedly still going to be good and their receiving corp is very solid.
Final Prediction: TCU will be an extremely tough start, and its hard to see them winning that game. But Stephen F. Austin and Rice will be games 2 and 3 and should be wins. They may be able to beat Kansas State and Iowa State but they are ending the year against Texas, a game they can never seem to win (other than last year). Still, 7-8 wins wouldn't be that shocking.
This team started off really hot last year, won their first 7 games, beat Oklahoma, and promptly fell apart. They have to replace Blaine Gabbert, and that won't be easy. They also have big questions in their secondary coming into the season. Those are two key positions, and to have serious question marks there will not be good.
Final Prediction: Not a real easy start with Miami (OH) and Arizona State, but those games are winnable. Western Illinois will be an easy win in game 3, but Oklahoma will be a rude awaking in week 4. One thinks they should be able to beat Kansas, Baylor, and Iowa State. I think this team will have some problems, but will still win 6 or 7.
Tommy Tuberville was not a hire I could really get excited about, and in his second year, he continues to try to transform this team into something it hasn't been. Throw in a new defensive scheme, and it seems like another rebuilding year. They also have to redo their quarterback situation, their receiving corp, and their running backs.
Final Prediction: Texas State and New Mexico are the definition are powderpuff teams. However, they better watch out for Nevada in week 3. They also have to go through the normal Big 12 schedule. They are right on the bubble as far as qualifying for a bowl. I tend to think they will make one, but its hard to find the 6 games they will win.
14 returning starters off a 7 win team with a very good coach is a good combination. Good running backs will give them an opportunity to run the ball very well, but they were questionable at best at quarterback last season. For them to take the next step, this will be essential. They were not very good on defense last year, and they were honestly an ugly 7 win season. The defensive line has to be better.
Final Prediction: 2 easy games to start the season, but beating Miami would be a major upset. Throw in A&M, Oklahoma, and Texas, and you have some real problems. It is really hard to imagine that they will win 6 games, but they could surprise me.
Just missed a bowl game last year with a 5 win season. They really had problems putting up points last year and didn't pass or run well. Their defense was mediocre at best. They will have to now use a different quarterback, a different running back, and different receivers. Paul Rhoads is entering his key third year at head coach, and we will see what his recruiting classes look like. They have a couple of really good offensive lineman that they should be able to run behind. They also have a Jim Thorpe candidate at corner, so they have the 2 most important positions on the field, offensive line and corner, covered, which is good news.
Final Prediction: Northern Iowa is a nice start, but Iowa, Connecticut, Texas, Baylor, and Missouri will not be an easy stretch. A&M, Tech, and Oklahoma are tough games as well. I just don't see how they can get through this schedule with 6 wins.
This team was really bad last year. It appears they have slumped back down to the basement after being able to put a few good seasons together. However, there was the controversy with Mangino and a mediocre season in 09, and the coaching change hasn't worked out so far. But this is just Gil's second year, and he is an accomplished coach, so he deserves a chance.
Final Prediction: A couple easy games to start with, but then Georgia Tech will be a very tough match-up for the Jayhawks. Tech, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma follows, with Texas coming a couple weeks later. Not a real easy schedule for Kansas. Its going to be a long year for these guys.