By Tony George
A new horizon for the Big 12 Conference in the 2011 season, as the mighty Huskers have ventured north into the Big 10 conference taking out a major force to be recokned with in this conference and removing a huge obstacle for many teams from the south, as well as nemisis Missouri breathing easier, and the Colorado Buffs limped into the new Pac 12 conference taking away a guaranteed win for many teams and offering the PAC 12 a temporary patsy for the short term. There are 5 teams in the USA coaches’ poll out of the Big 12 in the Top 25, and Okalhoma is ranked first in the nation.
There will be no season ending conference championship game in this conference, not until they have 12 teams and divy it up into North and South divisions again, so it is winner take all in the regular season standings this season. This is a solid conference overall, it should be noted as many as 8 Heisman Trophy candidates are in this conference and chances are that award more than likely will come out of the Big 12 this season.
Offense will be showcased all season with some big time stud quarterbacks front row and centrer, some exciting skill players also will share the limelight. But it will be the team with the best Defense that ultimatley wins this conference and perhaps a BCS Bowl Championship bid. It would not surprise me again if 2 teams out of this conference make it to a BCS Bowl game and one of them contends for a national title.
The conference lacks overall parity, but it is top heavy with very good and experienced football teams with good coaches, and high octane offenes with playmakers all over the field on both sides of the ball.
Oklahoma is the Las Vegas odds on favorite to win this conference and play for a national title, but I assure you the path is not easy, and while Texas is way down this season, Okie State and Texas A&M are way up, and Mizzou will make it a difficult win as well, especially in Columbia for all who visit. There are some landmines as well with Robert Griffen and Baylor and Texas Tech is always a hair rasing experience when playing in Lubbock. The bottom half is about even in this conference so you may see some very close games even between the also rans, but the Top 5 teams in this conference are Top 25 ranked teams overall and at least 3 of them in the top 9 in country.
3. Texas AM
Oklahoma Sooners - 1
Bob Stoops can win the whole shooting match this season on the national landscape but winning the Big 12 is a huge feat in the process. The Sooners are ranked number 1 in ther nation to open the season. OU has a stud QB in Laundry Jones, a great playmaer in Broyles at WR, an awesome defense, and of course depth and experience. They also won a BCS Bowl game last year albeit it was against U Conn in a snoozer.
Weakness: Defensive line, inexpereince at Running back
Overall OU’s biggest issue is their schedule. An early game at Florida State who wants some pay back after a 31-7 beating last year at the hands of the Sooners in Norman, and a lot of presure on Laundry Jones at QB to win a Heisman is also a distraction. They also have Missouri after FSU on the road at home, but expect Mizzou to have the Sooners full attention after beating them last year in Columbia. They have the depth overall in skill positions to compete with anyone in the nation, an offense that can play from behind, and while they may give up some yards on defense, overall they will not give up huge plays or allow teams with OUs skill at linebacker to rack up huge yards rushing the ball.
Texas A&M Aggies - 2
I never was a huge fan of Mike Sherman, but I give him credit, he has flat out recruited and coached this team into a spoiler and major contender this season. The defense of this team overall is close to being the best around and ranked 14th nationally last season and were number one in the conference at stopping the run, and with 9 starters back, look out! They also have a balanced attack with all world QB Ryan Tannehill and a solid running game that is 3 deep along with WR Fuller back as well. Texas AM CAN win this confernce, have no doubts.
I am hard pressed not to take Texas A&M as my pick to win it all, with a 1-2 punch at RB, a great QB in Tannehill, a solid 1-2 at WR and a great defensive unit with the best DBs in the Big 12 conference, and they have depth at skill positions. The only reason I am not taking them to win it is they have to play Oklahoma in Norman in early November I just do not think they can beat OU at home.
The have a balanced attack, are well coached, they are perhaps the most physical team in the Big 12,and they have a great home field advatage in big games as well, just ask Nebraska from last year.
Oklahoma State Cowboys - 3
Mike Gundy has a team folks, have no illusions. Brandon Weeden at QB is a massive stud who led the Big 12 in pass efficiency last season with 34 TD passes and almost 5000 yards through the air, and his stud WR Justin Blackmon is also back. His team also has the best OL in the Big 12. Winning the big game has always been Head Coach Mike Gundys downfall and he has a monster game against hated OU to end the season in December in Stillwater, which may in fact decide the Big 12 and the national landsscape for the championship bowl game as well.
If Okie State can win on the road, they can win the Big 12 conference, which is the bottom line. Games at Missouri, Texas A&M and Texas are brutal. The Longhorns are down this year and beatable, so if they can go 1-1 against A&M and Mizzou on the road and not slip up along the way, they could potentially get OU for all the marbles at home for the season finale.
One point of concern is the fact this offense lost All Amercian Kendall Hunter at RB, and they lost their OC to West Virginia. Those are two question marks that have to be addressed to keep OSU on the path of winning.
The defensive line is a concern especially rushing the passer which is going to be key in this conference. They also have 2 linebacker spots up for grabs in fall practice and inexperience at defensive tackle. When you return an offense almost in tact that managed 570 yards and 44 ppg in 2010, you can overcome some defensive issues. They ranked 11th in the Big 12 last year in pass defense, that MUST improve.
Overall I like OSU and their offense to out score opponents, and any Cowboy backer must be hopeful that punter Quinn Sharp can replace stud kicker Dan Bailey pulling double duty this season.
Missouri Tigers – 4
One thing is missing at Missouri this year, a returning stud quarterback. Gone are the days of having the luxury of Brad Smith and Chase Daniels returning and Gabbert is gone to the NFL and his heralded brother left the team in spring camp. Gary Pinkel has a way of getting and coaching up awesome QBs, so Jeff Franklin has to have a HUGE year in order for Mizzou to win big games. One thing Mizzou does have this year, unlike years past is a rock solid defense.
Weakness: Inexperience at QB, DBs, road schedule
Hard to imagine that with 9 starters back on a solid offense from last year there is concern, but there is MAJOR concern at QB, which is new to Tiger nation. TJ Moe is a stud at WR and Egnew is an All American canidate at tight end. The OL is in tact, all the pieces are there is James Franklin can administer a revised spread attack with all 3 yard gaining rushers from last year in tact as well.
If Mizzou can rush the ball better and set up their offense not to rely on a QB making plays 80% of the time as in years past, they can nuture Franklin and balance an attack that has talent and great guys up front with experience. The offense and Mizzou goes as far as Franklin and quite frankly the play calling. They do have the best kicker in the nation in Grant Ressel which will help in close games without a doubt.
Texas Longhorns – 5
Weakness: New offensive scheme, pass defense, scoring offense
Texas has a new guru on offense as coodinator in Breyan Harsin outr of Boise State. Lots of shifts and motion may in fact confuse opposing defenses, but I doubt the execution will be stellar out of the gate. With only 4 returning starters, QB Garret Gilberts will have a load on his shoulders to put points on the board. The Longhorns averaged only 23 ppg last year which ranked 88th nationally, that has to change in order to keep pace with the Big 12 elite, I just do not see it happening with a young team and a weak OL.
Defense will have to carry Texas in many regards, and again with many 3 and outs on offense, I just do not see this defense with 6 returners being able to do it against good teams. Long time DC Will Muschamp is now Florida’s head coach, so there is a new DC in town here as well. That is a HUGE hit for the defense at Texas.
Baylor Bears – 6
Weakness: LB and secondary, new DC
I honestly feel with an offense that put up 31 ppg last year and with 8 returners and Griffen being healhty, Baylor will win some games they are not suppose to somewhere along the line, and surely cover bigger spread numbers when a dog, Griffen is that good and a huge playmaker. Covering spreads does not get you to 7 or 8 wins and a bowl game however.
Texas Tech – 7
Well it did not take long for Tommy Tubberville to learn about the Big 12. It is every bit as tough as the SEC. He had 2 veteran QBs last year and now both of them are gone and he faces an uphill climb with a tough schedule in 2011. The won 4 out of their last 5 games last year, one of them against a good Mizzou team, and won a bowl game. I do not think that happens this season. I do not see them as a contender this year, just too many holes at skill poistions to overcome.
Weakness: new QB, DL, new DC and scheme
The bottom line is that the Mike Leach leftovers are still in house in some respects and those players do not fit the offense they like to run. Seth Dodge has little experience at QB and was highly recruited out of high school, but he is in a dog fight with 3 other players for the starting QB positrion. That is not something in the high octane Big 12 that you want to have. If that is not enough, the top 2 leading WRs from last year are gone and the RB postion is iffy at best.
While I feel the offense will be able to get some points up, the Red Raiders success hinges on the defense which now goes to a 4-2-5 scheme and is brand new under new DC Chad Glascow out of TCU. That is the third DC in as many years for Tech. Enough said, 6 losses and a 4 straight losses at the end of the season is very possible and a tough year in Lubbock.
Kansas State – 8
Bill Snyder returns for another year, and he has his hands full. KSU lost a thriller of a bowl game last year and finished better than I expected. They are physical and well coached, but bottom line is they lack talent and depth to compete this season to the level of the 7-6 record they has last year. They only won 3 Big 12 games last year, and while nemisis Nebraska is gone, it is no easy road to 6 wins this year for K State.
Weakness: Depth, RB, DL
While QB Collin Klein returns at QB, the job is up for grabs. KSU also has to replace NFL RB Daniel Thomas who was a massive stud and had over 50% of the entire offense last year and they also have to replace key players on the OL. The good news is Chris Harper is back at WR and Brodrick Smith is back and healhty at WR as well. K State can stretch the field vertically. Balancing an attack might be a problem, but Klein at QB will run it and spread the field with his legs if need be. At days end I think he wins the starting job.
Iowa State – 9
Weakness: QB, RB, lack of depth at skill poistions on offense
Kansas – 10
Hate to say this about my friend Turner Gill, but keep your head down or the fans may chop it off this year. Kansas was litterally a train wreck last season as they lost all skill players the year before and ex Nebraska superstar and coach Turner Gill was handed a losing hand on the deal and it showed. More of the same with some improvements this year, but with the entire athletic program a wreck and in scandal at KU, it simply does not look good for Kansas this year in football.
Weakness: everything else including QB
With 13 rerturners you might think the Jayhawks could play some spoiler role, but a true freshman is beating out last years starer Jordan Webb at QB. High hopes for incoming frosh Brock Burgland at QB, a Colorado commit that came to KU after the dust settled, but I do not feel a true frosh at QB in the Big 12 will prosper. James Sims is back at RB and 2 new frosh with 4.3 speed back him up so they can muster up a running game somewhat. Look for Gill to make some changes, try some trick plays and expose his speed on offense. KU was ranked 111th in scoring nationally last year, so anything is an improvement.
The defense was a mess, and while they have 7 players back, they will be a mess again this year. Giving up 34 ppg and not being able to stop anyone running the ball needs to improve. The days of Mark Magino are gone and Carl Torbush at DC has a work in progress on defense. Kansas has huge special team’s issues and talent and depth issues on defense. KU will be the whipping boy again in 2012. At least there is always basketball at KU.
FUTURES: Okie State and Texas AM OVER 8.5 wins Each
Laundry Jones to win Heisman 15 to 1
Hi Tony- I'm happy to be back, at Pregame, in the forums, with a "new perspective." The first TV Podcast I viewed two days ago, was of you and Vegas Runner. I sure enjoyed seeing and hearing you, re: Big 12, and I just read your entire profile, something I should have done long ago. I'm hoping to keep my eyes and ears open and focused on gentlemen like yourself, and start using myself as a supplement. Sometimes we have to fall and get up, before we learn, regardless of our age, and for me, thats what I hope to do. So all the best to you, and I just want you to know, I'm well aware of you being a integral part of Pregame, as well as someone with great credentials. Take care and thank you for all your input, that you simply are kind enough to "give away."
Harry T. Begg, III
YOU JUST ANSWERED MY A&M OVER QUESTION...
My wheels are turnin' - just not all that fast
"Big-12 Tony" Pays to pay close attn to Camp Injuries,,,wish I wasn't quite as in tune to these here in Cornvalley, that's for DAMN sure, Hearing news that SS Harden is out 4-6 weeks today after leaving practice is maddening
Sliced up some BIG-XII Schedules & Over-Unders;
Love to hear your thoughts:
TX TCH UNDER 7 WINS
BAYLOR UNDER RADAR Team,
OUTSCORING Opponents w/such underrated QB-ing & that awesome WR Corps.
Baylor's Season seems destined to be determined by that weak D - as you've pointed out.
ALSO, Getting very close to an A&M Over 8.5 Wager
& Liking Texas OVER 8 a little also
IF NOTHING ELSE W/BAYLOR, THEY GAIN TEXAS & OU IN WACO,,,,Should lite up the lamps
Missouri lost their BEST Offensive lineman and left tackle for the SEASON on Tuesday...blown ACL in practice...OUCH!!!
Dumb Oklahoma Laws:
Dumb Oklahoma Laws
Violators can be fined, arrested or jailed for making ugly faces at a dog.
Females are forbidden from doing their own hair without being licensed by the state.
Dogs must have a permit signed by the mayor in order to congregate in groups of three or more on private property.
Oklahoma will not tolerate anyone taking a bite out of another's hamburger.
It is against the law to read a comic book while operating a motor vehicle.
Whaling is illegal.
It is illegal to have the hind legs of farm animals in your boots.
Residents are taxed for the furniture in their homes, and any other personal belongings. (Repealed 1998)
People who make "ugly faces" at dogs may be fined and/or jailed.
Cars must be tethered outside of public buildings. (Repealed)
Anyone arrested for soliciting a hooker must have their name and picture shown on television.
Tattoos are banned.
No one may spit on a sidewalk.
It is illegal to wear your boots to bed.
Fish may not be contained in fishbowls while on a public bus.
Tissues are not to be found in the back of one's car.
If you wear New York Jets clothing, you may be put in jail.
Molesting an automobile is illegal.
It is unlawful to put any hypnotized person in a display window.
No one may walk backwards downtown while eating a hamburger.
Women may not gamble in the nude, in lingerie, or while wearing a towel.
You may not open a soda bottle without the supervision of a licensed engineer.
Elephants are not to be taken into the downtown area.
One's mode of transportation must be tied up while not attended.
Mules may not drink out of bird baths.
Clothes may not be washed in bird baths.
It is illegal to tie a horse in front of city hall.
While passing another vehicle, you must honk your horn.
Lot's of good information here Tony. thx