Since we’re talking Big 12 Conference predictions, let’s get serious and talk about the South division. In all honesty, its really unfair to have all these powerhouses in the same conference, nonetheless the same division.
Last year’s Big 12 South title was an absolute debacle, as Texas, oklahoma, and Texas Tech all ended the season with one conference loss – to each other. We all know how that story ended, to the chagrin of Longhorn fans everywhere, as oklahoma advanced to the Big 12 championship game on the division tie-breaker and then to the national championship game where “BCS Bob” blew it against the ESPN-deemed “ungodly” Tim Tebow-led Florida Gators.
One thing hasn’t changed – the Big 12 tie-breaker – as the coaches decided to maintain the current system for deciding the division champions. Unfortunately, that could hamper three South teams again this year. As scary as it is to write this, Eyes Of TX believes the same scenario could play out again this year, albeit with Texas, oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. For the namesake of this blog, and the sanity of Texas football fans everywhere, Eyes Of TX predicts the Texas Longhorns will win the Big 12 South division in 2009-2010 and will play Nebraska for the conference championship, and potentially a shot at the national title in Pasadena, Calif., at the Rose Bowl.
2009 Pre-season Rank: Not ranked; 4-8 in 2008 season.
Quick Thoughts: There is something to be excited about in Waco, and its not the Dr. Pepper museum. Head coach Art Briles has brought back a sense of optimism to the Baylor football program, led by highlight-reel and Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year quarterback Robert Griffin. For the first time in many years, the Bears are not expected to be the bottom-dwellers in the South division.
Strengths: The potential of quarterback Griffin; with a year under center, the offense is poised to make some noise and compete with Griffin leading the charge, especially with eight starters returning.
Weaknesses: Baylor plays in the South division, and while they might give some teams fits this season, Griffin can’t do it on his own; the defense returns some starters and should improve, but the secondary could continue to get torched by pass-heavy Big 12 offenses.
Depth Chart: See the 2009 Baylor Bears roster here.
Biggest Schedule Threat: 10/10 @ oklahoma; 10/24 Oklahoma State; 10/31 Nebraska; 11/14 Texas
Standout Player(s): Quarterback Robert Griffin, with another off-season under his belt, he’s poised for a big sophomore campaign.
Who You’ll Know at Season’s End: Linebacker Joe Pawelek.
Bowl Projection: Texas Bowl.
2009 Pre-season Rank: #3 (USA Today); 12-2 in 2008 season.
Quick Overview: Another loss in the BCS in 2008, and another top 5 projection the following season. The sooners remain stacked at the skill positions, and with a Heisman Trophy winner still leading the offense, and a defensive front seven as stout as ever, expect the sooners to be at the top of the Big 12 South race, and in contention for the national championship, all season long.
Strengths: It starts with quarterback Sam Bradford, the returning 2008 Heisman Trophy winner; depth at running back, with both DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown returning and healthy; tight end Jermaine Gresham will continue to be an impact and stretch the field (assuming he returns and stays healthy); linebacker Ryan Reynolds; defensive line…they are always outstanding, until January.
Weaknesses: An unknown offensive line, as they lost four starters from last year’s team – although left tackle Trent Williams returns, head coach Bob Stoops has moved a former tight end over to play center; wide receiver depth…who’s running routes other than Ryan Broyles; new safeties in the pass-happy Big 12.
Depth Chart: See the 2009 oklahoma sooners roster here.
Biggest Schedule Threat: 9/5 BYU (in Dallas); 10/17 Texas (neutral site); 10/24 @ Kansas; 11/7 @ Nebraska; 11/21 @ Texas Tech; 11/28 Oklahoma State
Standout Player: If he can keep his jersey clean this year with a new offensive line, quarterback Sam Bradford.
Who You’ll Know at Season’s End: The offensive line, due to its success or massive failure; future NFL’ers in defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and DeMarcus Granger.
Bowl Projection: Fiesta Bowl (via BCS berth).
Oklahoma State Cowboys
2009 Pre-season Rank: #11 (USA Today); 9-4 in 2008.
Quick Overview: Believe it or not, head coach Mike Gundy has made Stillwater, Okla., relevant again for the first time since he was handing off the ball to star running back Barry Sanders. The ‘Pokes are loaded with talent on offense, they just need the defense to step-up and help them win some of the big games, notably versus Texas or oklahoma, to be relevant in the BCS discussion.
Strengths: The offense – quarterback Zac Robinson, running back Kendall Hunter, and wide receiver Dez Bryant all return with potent skills at each position.
Weaknesses: New defensive coordinator, Bill Young – could be good, or could provide the team with a major learning curve this year; loss of three starting cornerbacks on an already porous secondary; loss of star linebacker Orie Lemon to injury and dynamite tight end Brandon Pettigrew to graduation.
Depth Chart: See the 2009 Oklahoma State Cowboys roster here.
Biggest Schedule Threat: 9/5 Georgia; 10/31 Texas; 11/28 @ oklahoma
Standout Player: If last year’s Holiday Bowl loss is any indication, Okie State is nothing without wide receiver Dez Bryant.
Who You’ll Know at Season’s End: Running back Kendall Hunter will define his career in Stillwater.
Bowl Projection: Cotton Bowl.
2009 Pre-season Rank: #2 (USA Today); 12-1 in 2008.
Quick Overview: The longest 10+ wins season streak is on the line again, and there is no reason the ‘Horns can’t compete for the Big 12 or national championship this year, assuming a few key pieces comes together early in the season. Second-year defensive coordinator Will Muschamp will have the more experienced secondary, in addition to a re-tooled front seven, amped to make a statement this year. And, the offense will be lead by Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Colt McCoy in his final collegiate campaign.
Strengths: Quarterback McCoy will bring his NCAA-record season completion percentage back to a potent passing game; wide receiver Jordan Shipley will lead the re-loaded receiving core; defensive end/linebacker Sergio Kindle will be making his case for a 1st round NFL selection; experienced secondary with depth.
Weaknesses: Depth at defensive tackle; a consistent (or existent) running game beyond quarterback McCoy; playing both oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Depth Chart: See the 2009 Texas Longhorns roster here.
Biggest Schedule Threat: 10/17 oklahoma (neutral site); 10/31 @ Oklahoma State; 11/21 Kansas
Standout Player: 2008 and pre-season 2009 Heisman Trophy candidate, quarterback Colt McCoy.
Who You’ll Know at Season’s End: True freshman defensive end Alex Okafor; freshman track standout and running back/wide receiver/kick returner Marquise Goodwin.
Bowl Projection: Big 12 North division champions; Rose Bowl (national championship).
Texas A&M Aggies
2009 Pre-season Rank: Not ranked; 4-8 in 2008.
Quick Overview: Things aren’t pretty in College Station, but then again, have they ever? Since the “Wrecking Crew” departed in the mid-1990s, the Aggies have been searching for an identity that has been lost under former coach Dennis Franchione and current coach Mike Sherman. The Aggies look poised to have their second straight season as the worst team in the Big 12’s South division. Eyes Of TX believes A&M can turn it around in coming years, but Sherman needs a couple more years of recruiting under his belt, including recruiting success over other top Texas (and Oklahoma) football program contenders.
Strengths: Head coach Mike Sherman’s ongoing war-of-words feud with Texas Tech’s head coach Mike Leach. Unlike the football team, at least that will continue to be entertaining.
Weaknesses: Everything. The defense struggled to put pressure on opposing offenses last year, and that doesn’t look to be any better – including the secondary; while quarterback Jarrod Johnson has potential, the coaching staff doesn’t seem sold on him; lack of a solid running game.
Depth Chart: See the 2009 Texas A&M Aggies roster here.
Biggest Schedule Threat: 10/10 Oklahoma State; 11/14 @ oklahoma; 11/28 Texas
Standout Player: Since there has to be one, how about wide receiver Jeff Fuller, who looked strong in the spring game.
Who You’ll Know at Season’s End: Incoming freshman running back and high profile recruit, Christine Michael – he’ll likely see immediate playing time this fall.
Bowl Projection: None.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
2009 Pre-season Rank: Not ranked; 11-2 in 2008.
Quick Overview: Some things never change, and head coach Mike Leach producing an unknown 4,000-yard passer is one of them. The offense, even with a new starting quarterback, Taylor Potts, should continue to shine. A key loss will be standout wide receiver Michael Crabtree who departed for the NFL…kind of. One difference of this Tech team in recent years has been the ability to actually play defense – expect they’ll continue to incrementally improve. The Red Raiders should play spoiler to a team or two in the Big 12 South this season.
Strengths: The offense. Pure and simple, they can score and will do so practically at will; Leach’s ability to give the world the most prolific (and hilarious) sound bites.
Weaknesses: The offensive line lost three starters, and they’ll need time to gel, although the wide splits Tech is known for will cover up some of their weaknesses early in the season (they gave up 9 sacks in the spring game, after allowing only one per game last year); the experience and learning curve of quarterback Taylor Potts; new starters and depth at both safety and defensive end.
Depth Chart: See the 2009 Texas Tech Red Raiders roster here.
Biggest Schedule Threat: 9/19 @ Texas; 10/17 @ Nebraska; 10/31 Kansas; 11/14 @ Oklahoma State; 11/21 oklahoma
Standout Player: With some game-time experience, quarterback Taylor Potts.
Who You’ll Know at Season’s End: The numerous wide receivers that will be running rampant over Big 12 secondaries.
Bowl Projection: Alamo Bowl.