August 14, 2005

Third on the list...The Big XII

Moving right along with the conference evaluations and rankings, we move to the Big 12. The conference is to say, unbalanced. The South division carries the hammer with Oklahoma and Texas being national contenders and Texas A&M and Texas Tech being New Years Day threats. The North division is a pick'em. I can argue for and against any team in the North to win the division.

The Big 12 is South-heavy, but Iowa State sneaks in to grab my #5 position:
1. Texas
2. Oklahoma
3. Texas A&M
4. Texas Tech
5. Iowa State

The aforementioned along with Kansas State, Nebraska, Missouri, Colorado, and Oklahoma State could all go bowling if its ever possible that 10 teams from a conference could qualify. Talking depth, the conference is strong with all those teams having hopes, but it lacks in star quality after the OU-Texas two-step.

Quarterbacks in the Big XII begin with Vince Young of Texas. Young's arm isn't the reason to worry. He had nice numbers (1,849 yards, 12 touchdowns) but his legs (1,079 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns) were the bread and butter for the Longhorns. Reggie McNeal of A&M is next and is a better passer than Young with the wheels. McNeal threw for 2,791 yards, 14 touchdowns, running for 718 yards and 8 scores. Continuing the dual-threat theme is Donovan Woods at Oklahoma State. Woods threw for 1,628 yards, 13 touchdowns and rushed for 436 yards and 10 scores. The final dual guy is Brad Smith of Missouri. Smith has suffered from overhype, but is a solid QB for the Tigers, passing for 2,185 yards and 17 touchdowns while running for 553 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Texas Tech quarterback Cody Hodges will put up assinine numbers, especially with Tech's amazingly weak early schedule. Three different quarterbacks (Sonny Cumbie, B.J. Symons, and Kliff Kingsbury) have produced 40+ touchdown seasons. There is no reason to think the same result will not occur.

The rest of the conference is a mixed bag of competitions and inconsistency. Oklahoma will decide between Paul Thompson and Rhett Bomar. Colorado's Joel Klatt threw for more interceptions than touchdowns in 2004. Erstwhile, no one has confused Dylan Meier and Alan Webb at K-State with Ell Roberson. Bret Meyer hopes to duplicate a solid freshman season at Iowa State and Nebraska is pinning its hopes on Zac Taylor, a junior college transfer, or Harrison Beck to learn the system faster than the departed Joe Dailey.

Running Backs
The Big XII returns three starters with 1,000 yard seasons in 2004. Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma is another Heisman candidate for the conference after his runner-up finish last year, posting 1,925 yards and 15 touchdowns. Nebraska's Cory Ross gained 1,102 yards with six touchdowns and Stevie Hicks at Iowa State went for 1,062 and five scores.

Taurean Henderson would be a 1,000 yard back at any other campus than Texas Tech. Henderson averaged 5.2 yards per carry, going for 840 total yards and 15 touchdowns. He also pulled down 60 receptions for only 286 yards, usually a safety valve in the system. A&M's Courtney Lewis gained 742 yards with 9 touchdowns.

Texas and Kansas State will need to fill the most gaping holes. Vince Young was by far the leading rusher for the Longhorns and Darren Sproles will be a tough guy to replace in Manhattan.

Wide Receivers
The conference is usually not noticed for its passing, but Mike Leach at Texas Tech is changing the view. Tech's Jarrett Hicks returns after a 1,177-yard, 13-touchdown performance. Hicks' average of 15.5 yards per catch might indicate he is not just a product of the system. Todd Blythe at Iowa State put up 833 yards and 9 touchdowns as a freshman. Oklahoma State's D'Juan Woods needs to add steak to his sizzle, going for 20.9 yards per catch, but only 33 receptions. Travis Wilson at Oklahoma put up double-digit touchdowns (11) as did Missouri's Sean Coffey (10)

The Aggies and Longhorns return four apiece on their lines, whereas Kansas State will have questions with only Jeromey Clary returning at RT. Solidifying line play in the conference will determine the fortunes of many teams.

Front Seven
Dragging down the conference is the mediocre return of depth in the front seven on all teams. No one team in the conference returns everyone, usually teams are bringing back three to five of the starters from 2004.

When I read reports of teams and see words like solid, steady, dont give up the big plays or help wanted, it makes me wonder about the strength of the conference. Granted, names on defense in college football tend to develop during the year. Its the reason why you read any publication and you hear about the offenses. Big 12 teams usually dont get torched long, and have safeties that play the run well due to the depth of running backs in the conference. I will trust my instincts and say another solid group will be known by season's end.

Scheduling and momentum will determine the Big 12 North. That side of the conference will be won by a team that pulls off a road win and holds serve at home against the North. The South will be decided at the Red River Shootout. Its hard to predict Texas to win, given the mentality of the Longhorns. The Sooners are still a contender, regardless of what you read.

Tingle's Takes:
- Nebraska and Colorado close the Big 12 North season in Boulder. That game will in some way determine who goes to the Big 12 Championship Game.
- At the Big 12 Championship Game, the North team will again be fodder for the South entrant.
- Has there ever been a more disappointing 12-1 season to some fans?
- Texas Tech has a great schedule for contending for the South with only a road game at Texas being stiff, everything else is winnable.
- Nebraska's experiment with the West Coast offense isn't their demise. Lack of talent and improved programs in places where Nebraska used to dominate recruiting have led to the Cornhuskers fall since the Rose Bowl in 2002.
- It's Brad Smith's last shot to take Missouri somewhere memorable...
- If Texas doesn't win at the Shootout this year...hang it up.
- Colorado's scheduling habits are Miami, FL this year, at Georgia in 2006, at Arizona State in '07, and at Florida State in '08. Wow.

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Heavenly time period: College football season until the championship game of March Madness.