Maize n Brew's 2007 Misguided and Misinformed Preview of the Big XII
Last year was full of all kinds of potentially great story lines for the Big XII. Oklahoma and Texas looked ready to contend for a National Championship. Colorado welcomed Dan Hawkins from Boise and showed the enthusiasm needed to revive a struggling power. Nebraska, after a few down years was finally showing signs of emerging as the Big XII North's preeminent force. Despite all the positive feelings going into the year, reality wasn't so kind.
Rhett Bomar couldn't keep his hands out of the cookie jar. Bomar got caught taking over $18,000.00 in cash from a car dealer. Oklahoma had no choice but to give him and starting offensive lineman JD Quinn, who'd been "working" there too, the boot. Nothing like replacing your starting QB and right guard a month before the season. Despite the refereeing disaster against Oregon, Oklahoma won the Big XII only to lose to Boise Effin State in the Fiesta Bowl on a trick play that You Tube will never tire of saving and playing.
Nope, still can't believe it...
And that was just Oklahoma.
Texas looked unstoppable after an early season loss to Ohio State. But an injury to Colt McCoy against Kansas State, a 900 pound tailback and up and coming QB from College Station ruined any hopes of playing for a conference or national championship. Colorado? Ugh. Not so much. Nebraska sort of lived up to expectations winning the North, but still ended up with 5 losses on the year. And unfortunately, everyone remembers the whuppin' A&M took in the Holiday Bowl from Cal. Overall, the Big XII was 3-5 in bowl games and finished the year without a single team in the top ten of either poll.
Even though last year didn't go as expected, expectations are high for his year's edition of the Conference. Texas and Oklahoma look like potential national championship caliber teams. A&M and Oklahoma State are fully capable of winning the Big XII outright and forcing themselves on the championship conversation. In the Big XII North, Kansas State, Nebraska and Missouri all are capable of winning the division and contending for the conference crown.
Questions? Why Yes, I Have A Few
Oklahoma's most prominent question is at quarterback and whether redshirt freshman Sam Bradford is ready to run the offense. Texas has a load of questions at the line where three new faces, two of them sophomores, are supposed to protect Colt McCoy and open holes for Jamaal Charles. A&M is coached by Dennis Franchione, that by itself is a question mark.
In the North, Nebraska has only 11 returning starters and has to hope the Callahan's haul of JUCO talent is sufficient to keep the motor running. Kansas State looks into its backfield and sees a pair of kids at QB and RB that got pounded last year. Josh Freeman and Leon Patton desperately need to improve for the Cat's to play in the BIG XII championship. Then there's Missouri. Chase Daniels has been dubbed the second coming, and he's got a bookend pair of top notch tight ends to go with him, but Missouri's defense only returns five starters. When they returned four defensive starters in 2005 the Tigers gave up nearly 30 a game. Unless Head Coach Gary Pinkle can manage to turn an undermanned group into a cohesive defensive unit, something he doesn't have a history of, both sides of the ball will give the Tigers' scoreboard operators a nasty case of carpal tunnel.
A Look At The Season Ahead
Overall, this promises to be a very exciting year in the Big XII. One of the more interesting possibilities is the potential for a three way tie in the Big XII South. Texas loses to Oklahoma, Oklahoma loses to A&M, A&M loses to Texas. One loss logjams can be boatloads of fun. Based on Talent alone, Oklahoma is probably tops in the Conference with Texas a close second. The two things that I think put Texas over the top are Colt McCoy and a favorable schedule. To Oklahoma's credit they're playing Miami (FL) while Texas is playing TCU. While the Horned Frogs do squirt blood out their eyes, they're not Miami. Texas Big XII schedule is fairly manageable with two road games at Baylor and Iowa State. OU gets Missouri, Iowa State and a potentially dangerous trip to Boulder.
Just outside Texas and OU's peripheral vision lurks Texas A&M. College Station is one of the greatest venues in the country to watch a football game, and they may finally have a team worthy of their fans' affection. Even with a snacky cake schedule for the first three games, the last 9 are horrific. Trips to Miami, Lubbock, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Missouri. Only Baylor provides some relief for the Aggies during that stretch. While their schedule is harsh, it may turn into an advantage for the Aggies as they will be required to play their best every game this year. Michigan was a prime example of what idle time can do to a good team. The constant focus required by this year's schedule could turn the Aggies in a MNC contender if they play the way their capable and Franchione doesn't get in the way of it. Unfortunately, they could also collapse on themselves too, a la Holiday Bowl. No matter what happens, they'll look good doing it. A&M just dumped Nike for Adidas.
In the North there is also the potential for a three way tie, but I think it far less likely. On paper, at least, Nebraska, KState and Missouri are head and shoulders above the rest of the division. Between the three I rate Nebraska the more talented and best coached of that group. However, there is something about Kansas State I can't shake. Maybe it's the defense returning a havoc raising front line and solid group of DBs. Maybe it's because I think Josh Freeman is going to take a big leap this year. Maybe it's the hangover. But Of the top three North Division teams, Kansas State appears the most capable. Nebraska does have plenty of talent, but a lot of this year's fresh faces are Junior College kids who will need some time to adjust. My biggest concern is the lack of a seasoned QB. A you've probably picked up on, I feel a rookie QB, no matter how talented, will lose you a couple of games. However, they could easily win the division if everything comes together.
Players To Watch
Adarius Bowman, Oklahoma State - Averaged 19.7 yards per catch. That's twenty yards every time he touched the goddamn ball. Holy hell, are you kidding me? Bowman caught 60 balls for 1181 yards and 12 TDs last year on 7-6 team that went 3-5 in conference. If anyone can step up this year to take some of the pressure off him, we could be looking at Calvin Johnson type numbers, you know, assuming Reggie Ball never existed.
Ian Campbell, Kansas State - One man wrecking crew at DE for the Wildcats. Campbell tied for the conference lead with 11.5 sacks and posted an additional 6 tackles for loss. This from a former walk-on.
Jorvorskie Lane, Texas A&M - If you claim to love football and don't get excited every time this man touches the ball, you don't love football, and you're probably a communist. Six feet TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY PLUS POUNDS of ocean motion is coming at you and you are powerless to stop the tsumani of pain and yardage that follows. Anytime a man that big moves that fast, it's poetry.
The Oklahoma Secondary - Possibly the best secondary in the nation. Corners Lendy Holmes and Marcus Walker combined for 16 pass breakups and 4 INTs last year. Nick Harris and Reggie Smith locked down the safety slots and had 7 INTs between them. Every member of this group can run, hit, and is an accomplished origami artist. Last year they held opposing QB's to a 51% completion percentage, look for that number to actually drop this year.
Marlon Lucky, Nebraska - Last year Nebraska fans caught a glimpse of what Lucky was capable of. Running behind wrecking ball halfback JB Phillips, expect Lucky to break the 1,000 yard mark and finish among the top backs in the conference.
Jamaal Charles, Texas - McCoy and Sweed may get the oohs and ahhs, but Charles performance this year will dictate the Longhorns' season. Fully capable of cracking the 1,000 yard mark, it'll be up to Charles to keep the blitzers off McCoy and to keep them honest with some long runs. Don't be fooled by the fact he only cracked 100 yards once last year, Charles is a top tier back in the Big XII.
Excellent BIG XII Blogs
Baylor: Bear Meat
Colorado: Buffs TV
Iowa State: Clone Chronicles, Cyclone Sports Journal
Kansas: Rock Chalk Talk, Jayhawk Nation, Hawk Digest
Kansas State: Kansas State Football Blog, K-State Sports and Beyong
Missouri: Let me know which ones you read and I'll link to them.
Nebraska: Corn Nation, Husker Mike, Double Extra Point, NebSports
Oklahoma: Crimson and Cream Machine, Oklahoma Sooners Blog, My Opinion on Sports, Gaylord Memorial Gathering
Oklahoma State: Let me know which ones you read and I'll link to them.
Texas: Burnt Orange Nation, Longhorn Nation, Bevo Sports
Texas A&M: The 12th ManChild, Texas A&M and Baseball In No Particular Order, Off Tackle, Aggie Sports Blog
Texas Tech: Double T Nation, Tech Strong, Disco Tech
BIG XII SOUTH
|t1||A look at Texas’ schedule lets you know they’ve got a great chance to not only win the Big XII, but contend for a national title. There are some questions at the O-line, but 4 of the 5 starters have extensive starting experience and the fifth played in 7 games last year. Though the defense replaces some starters, everyone of them is a 4 or 5 star recruit who’s been in Austin a year or more. Oklahoma, A&M and a trip to Oklahoma State are the scary games for Texas. I think they’ll drop a game this year, but I can’t predict which one. 11-1 (7-1).|
|2||Looking at the lineup, you really hate to pick against this team. But breaking in a new starter QB is too big a handicap to overlook. Texas was veteran and supposedly a MNC contender last year with a freshman QB, they lost three games. I see something similar here. An early showdown with Miami could be a serious problem for the Sooners’ new QB. Oklahoma does have its toughest games at home or on a neutral site, so a conference championship is easily within their grasp. Their defense is a half a notch better than Texas, but there are some questions at linebacker. Despite the talent everywhere, unless Bradford is better than McCoy or even Henne were as freshmen, he’ll cost OU two games. 10-2 (6-2).|
|3||Jorvorskie Lane. I would rather use my face two stop a locomotive than try to stop Lane, well, anywhere. He and Mike Goodson will probably be the best tailback combo in the Big XII. A&M’s O-line is as good as any in the conference and they’re loaded at WR/TE. However, a trip to Miami and a brutal Big XII schedule will keep the Aggies from reaching the promise land. I’ve got them at two conference losses and a loss at Miami. I will say this, if A&M puts it all together, with this schedule, BCS potential. And man is this offense going to be fun to watch. 9-3 (6-2).|
|4||It sucks having to place Oklahoma State 4th because they are an excellent excellent team. Four tough road games (out of six) will make it difficult for them to come out ahead in the division. Adarius Bowman and Bobby Reid are tied as the best QB/WR combo in the Big XII with McCoy and Sweed. This team has all the tools to surprise, but their schedule and division plot against them. Like A&M, the Cowboys are close to the prime time, and you want them to succeed. With 15 starters back and Dantrell Savage breaking the 1,000 yard mark this year, Oklahoma State can surprise. Unfortunately, in this division, someone has to be picked not to win the big games. Based on talent and past success, I rate them at fourth in the division. 8-4 (5-3).|
|5||Ahhhh… the fun and gun. Mike Leech’s insane offense, tennis ball machines, evil robot receivers, and tissue paper defenses. I still can’t believe they came back to beat Minnesota. Tech will be it’s usual problem causing self. However, with 10 returning starters and brand new lines on both sides of the ball, Tech won’t be as potent as it was last year. I don’t see 8 wins, but I do see a bowl. 7-5 (3-5).|
|6||When is a rebuilding year more than a write off and more like a death sentence? When you’re Baylor and it’s 2007. 11 starters return in total. Baylor loses a stunning 32 lettermen. It’s not going to be pretty. One thing worth noting is Baylor’s defense should be above average. They’ll get plenty of opportunity to prove it. The offense returns only four starters so the defense will be on the field a lot. 3-9 (1-7).|
|1||If you’re gonna pick conferences, sometimes you’ve gotta go out on a limb to differentiate yourself. Even so, I can’t understand why Kansas State is being overlooked. On offense the line is solid and now sophomore QB Josh Freeman grew by leaps and bounds as the season went on last year. Patton and James Johnson will best 1500 yards combined and the offense could be one of the better units in the conference. And then on defense there is Ian Campbell. After watching him fly around the Texas game I was sold on this guy. One of the better D-Lines and secondaries will cover for a weaker LB corps. I think they take the BIG XII North. 9-3 (6-2).|
|2||Bill Callahan may not have been much of a pro coach, but damn, the man can recruit at the college level. One of the Big XII’s dirty little secrets is the talent he’s amassed in Lincoln. It’s really pretty staggering. However, returning only 11 starters and breaking in a new QB won’t make it easy for Nebraska. Callahan went the JUCO route with a vengeance and picked up a load of talent that way. I think it’ll take some time to gel. Nebraska can certainly win the Big XII North, especially with their potent running game in Marlon Lucky, but I’ve got enough questions to keep them out of the title game. 8-4 (5-3).|
|3||Everyone loves this team. Offense, offense, offense. Great QB and TE set. It’s Missouri’s time! I’m not buying it. Yes, Chase Daniel is awesome and his twin tight ends both caught 50+ passes. I know the offense will run like a pinball machine, the defense isn’t exactly stocked with talent, and just lost 5 of its top seven tacklers. The Defensive line is undersized and the linebackers are seriously depleted and may start two freshmen. Not a recipe for success. I think the Tigers go bowling, just not to the Big XII championship game. 7-5 (4-4).|
|4||Most of the offense is back (save two new guards) but a red shirt freshman is penciled in to lead them. One thing the Buffs do have is good tailback in Hugh Charles. The defense is a bit of a question with only 6 returning starters, but the linebacking corps and secondary look fairly strong. The big issue is the transition. Most of the starters this year weren’t Dan Hawkins recruits, and year two of "BIG XII FOOTBALL!" promises to have its share of bumps. However, a very manageable schedule with Colorado’s toughest games at home could lift the Buffs into a bowl. 6-6 (4-4)|
|5||Replacing three fifths of the line and their running back will make it tough going for the Jayhawks this year. The Defense, however, should be solid and could limit their opponents to less than 20 a game. If that happens the Jayhawks could surprise a team or two. I still think the talent differential is just too much for them to compete for the Big XII title. 6-6 (2-6).|
|6||New Coach! Sure. That was the problem. It’ll be another rough year in Ames. Despite returning a talented and capable senior QB in Bret Meyer, Iowa State replaces basically its whole offensive line. JUCO transfers will help the running game, but there are just too many fresh faces on the field and calling the plays for this to be a successful year. On the positive side, the defense returns 7 starters and should improve upon a 30 point per game average from last year. 3-9 (1-7).|
In the Big XII title game I’ll take Texas over Kansas State in a surprisingly close game.