With the 2009-2010 college football season only days away, let’s take a look at the the Big 12 Conference’s North division and break-down some of the key aspects of each of the six teams and how they’ll fare come January.
As in recent years, Eyes Of TX expects the North division to be the weaker of the two Big 12 Conference divisions. In 2009-2010, Eyes Of TX predicts the Nebraska Cornhuskers as the Big 12 North conference champion, and they will advance to the Big 12 Championship game in December in Dallas, Texas.
2009 Pre-season Rank: Not ranked; 5-7 in 2008 season.
Quick Thoughts: Something tells me the Buffs won’t meet Coach Hawkins’ December expectation of “Ten wins and no excuses.” In addition, the team is employing a new offensive coordinator, Eric Klesau. Eyes Of TX believes the Buffs will continue to under-achieve in the weaker Big 12 North division.
Strengths: The team has talent and depth, but no one that continuously steps up the plate; the starting linebackers.
Weaknesses: Quarterback consistency (Hawkins completed 57% of passes in 2008, throwing 17 touchdowns to 10 interceptions); lack of a running game; head coach Dan Hawkins, who is on the hot seat in this his fourth year with the program after posting a 13-24 record during his tenure in Boulder.
Depth Chart: See 2009 Colorado Buffaloes roster here.
Biggest Schedule Threat: 10/10 @ Texas; 10/17 Kansas; 11/19 @ Oklahoma State
Standout Player(s): The linebacker core, they looked good in spring practice – or, maybe the offense continued to just look that bad.
Who You’ll Know at Season’s End: The hope is for a consistent quarterback, potentially Cody Hawkins.
Bowl Projection: None.
Iowa State Cyclones
2009 Pre-season Rank: Not ranked; 2-10 in 2008 season.
Quick Overview: New coach, new system. More wins? Unlikely. Expect the Cyclones to have a season that is consistent with year’s past. Unsure whether or not Ames will better with or without former head coach Gene Chizik who departed for Auburn.
Strengths: None. Honestly, none.
Weaknesses: A new head coach, Paul Rhoads; a new offensive and defensive scheme; Eyes Of TX assumes the Iowa State players will be able to understand the playbook well enough in one off-season to be somewhat competitive for a game this season.
Depth Chart: See 2009 Iowa State Cyclones roster here.
Biggest Schedule Threat: 10/24 @ Nebraska; 11/7 Oklahoma State
Standout Player: With some experience under his belt, quarterback Austen Arnaud
Who You’ll Know at Season’s End: If Eyes Of TX can name anyone other than Arnaud on the Iowa State roster by season’s end, that must mean they did something right. Or rather, they ended up on Sportscenter’s Top Plays for something ridiculous. I’ll take Vegas odds for the “over” on something ridiculous or embarrassing.
Bowl Projection: Absolutely none.
2009 Pre-season Rank: Not ranked; 8-5 in 2008.
Quick Overview: Choosing the top North division school was a toss-up between Nebraska and Kansas, and despite Eyes Of TX’s pick, the Fighting Maginos definitely have the offensive weapons to shape their season. They get oklahoma and Nebraska at home in Lawrence, but play Texas on the road.
Strengths: Returning starters at quarterback, with Todd Reesing, and wide receiver, with Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe.
Weaknesses: Pass defense, it remains to be seen whether or not the Jayhawks can get past last year’s 114th national ranking; replacing the linebacker core to keep up their stout rush defense from 2008.
Depth Chart: See 2009 Kansas Jayhawks roster here.
Biggest Schedule Threat: 10/24 Oklahoma; 11/14 Nebraska; 11/21 @ Texas
Standout Player: Quarterback Todd Reesing, with a strong season and some protection up front, he could be a long-shot to make it to New York for the Heisman ceremony.
Who You’ll Know at Season’s End: The offensive line, because they’re giving Reesing time to pick defenses apart, or because they’re giving up sacks like they did in 2008 (97th nationally).
Bowl Projection: Sun Bowl.
Kansas State Wildcats
2009 Pre-season Rank: Not ranked; 5-7 in 2008.
Quick Overview: With strong-armed quarterback Josh Freeman and defensive end Ian Campbell departing Manhattan, the Wildcats have to fill the void with playmakers on both offense and defense. It will take time for Snyder to get his junior college recruits in the program to make a difference, although with a weak non-conference schedule and a couple wins in Big 12 play, and they could be bowl-eligible.
Strengths: Former head coach Bill Snyder is back.
Weaknesses: Where was the running game in the spring? For that matter, where was the defense? New starting quarterback Carson Coffman threw 36 times for 334 yards and 3 scores.
Depth Chart: See 2009 Kansas State Wildcats roster here.
Biggest Schedule Threat: 10/31 @ oklahoma; 11/7 Kansas; 11/21 @ Nebraska
Standout Player: Based on the spring game, let’s say quarterback Carson Coffman.
Who You’ll Know at Season’s End: Wide receiver Attrail Snipe.
Bowl Projection: With a bit of luck in Big 12 play, the Insight Bowl.
2009 Pre-season Rank: Not ranked; 10-4 in 2008.
Quick Overview: The Tigers have a lot of re-building to do, on both offense and defense. Standouts Chase Daniel (QB), Chase Coffman (TE), and Jeremy Maclin (WR) are all gone, in addition to offensive coordinator Dave Christensen (to Wyoming), as are their credible defensive tackle and defensive back. Upsets are possible, especially with three of four key games at home, and if those happen, Miz-zou are a long-shot to win the North division.
Strengths: A fresh start, as there was disappointment in last year’s team; the underclassman have an opportunity to put last season behind them and step up to define their year.
Weaknesses: Replacing the offensive firepower, as the offense was completely dominated by the defense in the spring game.
Depth Chart: See 2009 Missouri Tigers roster here.
Biggest Schedule Threat: 10/8 Nebraska; 10/17 @ Oklahoma State; 10/24 Texas; 11/28 Kansas
Standout Player: Linebacker Sean Witherspoon, perhaps the best LB in the Big 12 Conference.
Who You’ll Know at Season’s End: If the passing game doesn’t come together, running back Derrick Washington will be seen in heavy doses come October.
Bowl Projection: None.
2009 Pre-season Rank: #22 (USA Today); 9-4 in 2008.
Quick Overview: The Bo Pelini era in Lincoln enters its second year, and Eyes Of TX likes where its heading. The defense should be much improved with seven starters returning, and the offense looks solid under new quarterback Zac Lee.
Strengths: The defense; this is Pelini’s strength and the players seem bought in to the system; the offense has some serious potential, especially with a relatively easy Big 12 schedule (meaning, they’re light on the South division powerhouse teams).
Weaknesses: Wide receiver – someone needs to step-up to be the go-to guy; quarterback Zac Lee looked good in the spring, its up in the air how he’ll do come game time.
Depth Chart: See 2009 Nebraska Cornhuskers roster here.
Biggest Schedule Threat: 9/19 @ Virginia Tech; 11/7 oklahoma; 11/14 @ Kansas
Standout Player: Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh
Who You’ll Know at Season’s End: Quarterback Zac Lee
Bowl Projection: Big 12 North division title; Holiday Bowl.