College Football Predictions & Preview – Big 12
This is a continuation of our series on 2009 college football predictions. Today, we continue with a look at the Big 12.
Big 12 North
2008 Record: (8-5, 4-4)
Coach: Mark Mangino, 8th year (45-41)
Off. Coordinator: Ed Warinner (3rd year)
Def. Coordinator: Clint Bowen (4th year)
Returning Starters: 17, (8 offense, 7 defense, kicker, punter)
Ret. Starting Quarterback: Yes (Todd Reesing)
Offense: The Jayhawks should have one of the most explosive offenses in college football. Last year, they produced 33.4ppg and 305.6 passing yards per game. This year, they return senior QB Todd Reesing (5-11, 200) is one of the more underrated signal-callers in the nation. He threw for 3,888 yards last season with 32 TDs passes and just 13 interceptions. They also return all their top three receivers including junior Dezmon Briscoe, a second-team All-Big 12 selection, who caught 92 passes for 1,407 yards and 15 TDs. Former quarterback Kerry Meier (97 catches, 1,045 yards) is a tremendous possession receiver. At running back, senior Jake Sharp is also back, after a strong season, rushing for 880 yards and 12 TDs. They key will be finding replacements for three starting offensive linemen. Reesing’s ability to move around the pocket should help the line, but the run blocking could is a concern.
Defense: The Jayhawks gave up 45 points at Nebraska, 63 to Texas Tech, 45 at Oklahoma and 37 to Missouri last season. That’s not embarrassing because those teams were very explosive. But this season, they have to replace the entire linebacking corps (just two in the 4-2-5) and five players overall. Junior DE Jake Laptad (6-4, 258) will be joined by juco recruit Quintin Woods (6-5, 230) to provide pass rush pressure from the edge. Laptad had 8.5 TFLs and seven sacks last year. They lose all three linebackers from last year and have some speedy replacements, but that’s a concern. Senior SS Darrell Stuckey returns at safety after recording 98 tackles last year.
Outlook: Mark Mangino has done wonders with this program and it looks like they have a chance to take a step up and make a major bowl this year. Going 8-5 and to the Insight Bowl again will not be acceptable. With this explosive offense and if they can find some productive linebackers, look out.
2008 Record: (10-4, 5-3)
Coach: Gary Pinkel, 9th year (59-40)
Off. Coordinator: David Yost (1st year)
Def. Coordinator: Dave Steckel (1st year)
Returning Starters: 10 (5 offense, 4 defense, punter)
Ret. Starting Quarterback: No
Offense: The Tigers will have their work cut out for them on offense as they must replace Chase Daniel, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and tight end Chase Coffman. They also have a new coordinator in David Yost. That puts pressure on sophomore Blaine Gabbert, the new qb who is 6-5, 235-at least five inches taller than Daniel. He has a big arm and all the intangibles, but does not have Daniels’ leadership or experience. Junior RB Derrick Washington will have to have an even bigger season than last year, when he rushed for 1,036 yards and 17 TDs in a passing offense. This season, expect the Tigers to have a more balanced offense. Senior WR Jared Perry leads a trio of sophomores who emerged as playmakers in the spring. The O-line returns three starters including left tackle Elvis Fisher (6-5, 300).
Defense: The Tigers return just four starters on defense and just one on the defensive line. That one returner is senior NT Jaron Baston (6-3, 305). Junior Carl Gettis returns at corner, but struggled some last year after having an excellent freshman season. Kevin Rutland is expected to start at the other corner spot after an excellent spring. This team, inexperienced or not, has to find a way to improve against the pass. They ranked 117th last year against the pass.
Outlook: Expect a sharp decline this year, but this system is in place and they are in a weak division to make a bowl game. They’ll have to rely on Washington and the offensive line to put up points and hope they stop somebody.
2008 Record: (8-5, 4-4)
Coach: Bo Pelini 2nd year (10-4 overall)
Off. Coordinator: Shawn Watson (3rd year)
Def. Coordinator: Carl Pelini (2nd year)
Returning Starters:11 (4 offense, 6 defense, kicker)
Ret. Starting Quarterback: No
Offense: A lot will depend on the development of junior Zac Lee, who emerged from the spring as the starter. The Huskers return just four starters on offense and three of them are on the offensive line. They also lost last season’s top receivers in Nate Swift and Todd Peterson, who combined for 125 catches and 1,727 yards. Menelik Holt and Niles Pauls have great size and some experience, but the rest of the WR corps is inexperienced. The running game will have to carry the offense as junior Roy Helu (6-0, 215) returns. He rushed for 803 yards last year with seven touchdowns. At tight end, junior Mike McNeill returns and should be one of the top tight ends in the conference this year.
Defense: The Huskers return just six starters on defense. The top player is senior NT Ndamukong Suh (6-4, 300) who led the team in tackles (76) and sacks (7.5). The linebacker corps should be strong if Phillip Dillard (6-1, 240) can stay healthy. The secondary returns three of four starters. SS Lary Asante is the most experienced player, who has started 22 straight games. Corner Anthony West, who collected two interceptions last season, returns as a starter, along with Prince Amukamara, who was the top reserve in the nickel and dime packages.
Outlook: The Huskers are fortunate that they are in the Big 12 North as their losses on offense will probably mean a slow start. They open with Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State at home, which should help and also play Louisiana-Lafayette in the fourth game (with Va. Tech before that). It will take some time for the offense to get its bearings, but with a strong defense, they can make waves in the Big 12 North.
2008 Record: (5-7, 2-6)
Coach: Dan Hawkins, 4th year (13-24 at Colorado, 66-35 overall)
Off. Coordinator: Eric Kiesau (1st year)
Def. Coordinator: Ron Collins (4th year)
Returning Starters: 16 (10 offense, 4 defense, punter, kicker)
Ret. Starting Quarterback: Yes (Cody Hawkins)
Offense: Dan Hawkins had to replace his offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, who left for Oregon. Eric Kiesai takes over after having served as passing coordinator. Hawkins might have to replace his son at quarterback-Cody Hawkins-who is feeling the heat from Tyler Hansen. The offense will remain the spread, but they will huddle more instead of going no-huddle and all shotgun. The good news is that the Buffs return 10 starters on offense. Several of those starters were injured last year, so competition remains and the depth should be strong. The receiving corps is led by junior Scotty McKnight, who missed most of the spring with a partially torn biceps. The quarterbacks may be rotated and so will the running backs. The top back is sophomore Darrell Scott, one of the nation’s top recruits in 2008.
Defense: The defense returns just four starters as they lost six of their top 10 tacklers from a team that led the Big 12 in pass defense and finished fourth in total defense. On the line, the Buffs lose all three of their top guys (they play a 3-4 scheme). The two leading tackles from last season, Jeff Smart and Shaun Mohler are both listed at the weakside linebacker spot. That means they’ll have new starters at the other three positions. Fortunately they have tremendous speed and the size the team is looking for, especially on the outside. The secondary will be the strength led by senior CB Cha’pelle Brown, along with Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith, who are starting to emerge as playmakers.
Outlook: Hawkins needs to start producing this season. The spread offense worked great in the WAC, but unless you have all the tools (quarterback), you are not going to produce in the Big 12. The defense has potential, even with a new line, but if Hawkins can’t find a consistent quarterback, they will be stuck in mediocrity.
5) Kansas State
2008 Record: (5-7, 2-6)
Coach: Bill Snyder, 17th year overall but first since 2005 (coached 1989-2005) (136-68-1)
Off. Coordinator: Andy Ludwig (1st year)
Def. Coordinator: Vic Koenning (1st year); Chris Cosh (1st year)
Returning Starters: 15 (6 offense, 8 defense, punter)
Ret. Starting Quarterback: No
Offense: He’s back! Bill Snyder returns to coach in Bill Snyder Family Stadium after retiring in 2005. The Wildcats regressed in three years under Ron Prince, who reached a bowl game in his first season and recorded just five conference victories the next two seasons. Snyder will have his work cut out for him replacing QB Josh Freeman. Junior Carson Coffman, brother of All-American Missouri tight end Chas, takes over as the starter. In this offense, the qb will have to be more elusive. At tailback, they will likely go with senior Keithren Valentin (5-8, 193), though he will get pushed for playing time by freshmen John Hubert and Timothy Flanders. At receiver, last year’s leading rusher Lamark Brown (6-3, 225), returns to his more natural position of wideout. They also return senior mighty mite Brandon Banks (5-7, 150), who led the Cats in receiving with 1,049 yards. At tight end, senior Jeron Mastrud had 38 catches for 435 yards last year. The offensive line has to revamp the right side. At left tackler, senior Nick Stringer (6-6, 271) should be solid.
Defense: The defense returns eight starters, but that’s from one of the worst in the nation. They also lose to pass rusher in Ian Campbell so getting pressure on the opposing quarterback is a huge key. At least they return soph. DE Brandon Harold (6-6, 264), who recorded three sacks and 10.5 TFLs last year and was named a Freshman All-American. At defensive tackle, they return big senior Daniel Calvin (6-3, 310) and Virginia transfer Jeffrey Fitzgerald (6-4, 280) comes in to help. Senior Ulla Pamele leads the linebackers, while junior CB Joshua Moore leads the secondary. Moore is the leading returning tackler with 76 and led the league in pass breakups, is one of the top corners in the Big 12. The problem is at the other corner spot.
Outlook: Snyder is back but don’t expect miracles this season. He is a creative offensive mind and needs to find a way to replace the production of Freeman. On defense, they are going to have to find some players who can fit a new system with two new defensive coordinators.
6) Iowa State
2008 Record: (2-10, 0-8)
Coach: Paul Rhoads, 1st year (0-0)
Off. Coordinator: Tom Herman (1st year)
Def. Coordinator: Wally Burnham (1st year)
Returning Starters: 17 (9 offense, 6 defense, punter, kicker)
Ret. Starting Quarterback: Yes (Austen Arnaud)
Offense: Iowa State moves to the spread offense, which appears to be the scheme that 70% of the nation now runs. Enter Paul Rhoads, who takes over for Gene Chizik. New coordinator Tom Herman runs the offense (Rhodes is a former def. Coordinator at Pitt). He has a lot to work with as junior QB Austen Arnaud returns after throwing for 2,792 yards last season. He’ll be in the shotgun, throwing to experience dreceivers including soph. Darius Darks. At running back, junior Alexander Robinson returns after rushing for 703 yards last season. He leads a three-man rotation in the backfield. The O-line returns three starters, but they need to solidify the left tackle spot. Junior Ben Lamaak could move over from guard or they could use huge right tackle Hayworth Hicks (6-3, 354).
Defense: The Cylcones should be improved this season, only because defense is Rhodes’ expertise. They can’t get much worse as they surrendered averages of 452.8 yards per game and 35.8 points per game last year. Opponents completed 67.4 percent of their passes and threw for nearly three touchdowns per game. They have to fill the holes on the line and at linebacker. Senior DE Christopher Lyle (6-4, 252) is the top returner on the line with five sacks. At linebacker, Jesse Smith and Fred Garrin are the team’s second- and third-leading tacklers from last year. The secondary will probably be the strength led by senior James Smith, who recorded 85 tackles last year. Like every other unit, they still need to get better.
Outlook: While Rhoads has some tools this year and a weak early schedule, this still should be a rebuilding year, especially on the defensive side. Facing Kent State, Army and North Dakota State early on can’t hurt the overall record.
Big 12 South
2008 Record: (12-1, 7-1)
Coach: Mack Brown, 12th year (115-26 at Texas; 201-100-1 overall)
Off. Coordinator: Greg Davis (12th year)
Def. Coordinator: Will Muschamp (2nd year)
Returning Starters: 15 (5 offense, 9 defense, kicker)
Ret. Starting Quarterback: Yes (Colt McCoy)
Offense: The Horns have all the tools to make it to the BCS Championship game. Senior QB Colt McCoy is back after leading the Longhorns in rushing with 561 yards, setting an NCAA record for completion percentage (76.7%) and throwing for 3,859 yards. He finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting to Sam Bradford, who also returns. The talent at receiver is amazing, even with a few losses. Senior Jordan Shipley (1,060 yards) is a vertical threat that can also catch passes underneath. At running back, Vondrell McGee leads a solid group of backs, but somebody has to step up and make sure McCoy is not the leading rusher again. They have a solid blocking tight end in Greg Smith (6-4, 267), but need to find one who can go vertical. The O-line returns four starters and a fifth who started three games last year.
Defense: The big issue with the defense last year was that they finished last in the Big 12 and 113th nationally with just six interceptions. They return starting nose tackle Lamarr Houston (6-2, 290) and senior DE Sergio Kindle (6-4, 255), who was second on the team in sacks last year with 10. They will miss the other end, Brian Orakpo, who moved on to the NFL. At linebacker, senior Roddrick Muckelroy returns on the weak side after recording 112 tackles last year. The secondary is led by corners (junior) Chykie Brown and (sophomore) Aaron Williams. Both have excellent size and speed.
Outlook: The Longhorns should steamroll through this schedule. They face ULM, Wyoming and UTEP in the non-conference schedule. A tough road game against Missouri and Oklahoma State, and they face Oklahoma in Dallas. That game may determine when they go undefeated or not. This is a balanced squad with very few weakness.
2008 Record: (12-2, 7-1)
Coach: Bob Stoops, 11th year (109-24 overall)
Off. Coordinator: Kevin Wilson (8th year)
Def. Coordinator: Brent Venables (11th year)
Returning Starters: 15 (5 offense, 9 defense, kicker)
Ret. Starting Quarterback: Yes (Sam Bradford)
Offense: Sam Bradford returns to an offense that scored more than 700 points last season. Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner could have been a top five pick if not the first choice, but he’s back and looking for a championship. At running back, they Sooners return DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown, who both rushed for 1,000 yards last season. The receivers are speed though they lose two starters. Sophomore Ryan Broyles moves out of the slot after setting several freshman records. Senior TE Jeremaine Gresham (6-6, 261), who also would have been a high draft pick if he came out, caught 66 passes for 950 yards and 14 TDs last year. The key will be the performance of the offensive line. They return just one starter and that’s right tackle Trent Williams, who moves to left tackle to protect Bradford’s blindside. They have to replace the other four lineman spots.
Defense: The Sooners returns nine starters on a defense that played strong at the end of the season, but needs to improve its pass defense. They also allowed 343 points, the most in Bob Stoops’ 10 seasons They’ll be led by junior DT Gerald McCoy (6-4, 295). At end, the trio of Frank Alexander, Jeremy Beal and Auston English combined for 16 sacks last year. At linebacker, they return soph. Travis Lewis (6-2, 232), who led the team with 144 tackles last year. The secondary has some issues, especially at safety. They’ll have two new starters in Quinton Carter and Sam Proctor. At corner, they do return both starters in Domique Franks and Brian Jackson.
Outlook: If the O-line holds up, look out for Oklahoma. That’s a big if and they could be tested by BYU in the opener at Arlington, Texas and at Miami (FL). Road games at Kansas, Nebraska and Texas Tech are not gimmes either. But as usual, it will come down to the Texas game in Dallas to most likely determine the Big 12 champ.
3) Oklahoma State
2008 Record: (9-4, 5-3)
Coach: Mike Gundy, 4th year (27-23)
Off. Coordinator: Gunter Brewer (2nd year)
Def. Coordinator: Bill Young (1st year)
Returning Starters: 14 (8 offense, 6 defense, kicker)
Ret. Starting Quarterback: Yes (Zac Robinson)
Offense: Mike Gundy returns eight starters to one of the most explosive offenses in the nation. They averaged 40.8ppg and 487.7 yards per game-all top ten numbers. Senior QB Zac Robinson (6-3, 218) threw for just over 3,000 yards and tossed for 25 touchdowns last year. He also rushed for 562 yards with eight scores and added 12 pounds of muscle during the offseason. At running back, junior Kendall Hunter returns after rushing for 1,555 yards. The receiving corps has a superstar in junior Dez Bryant (6-2, 215), who led the team with 87 catches for 1,480 yards and 19 TDs. He suffered a knee injury late last season but should be 100% to start the season. They could use more balance, but nobody could stop Bryant so Robinson kept throwing it to him. OSU will miss TE Brandon Pettigrew, who moved on to the NFL. Up front, LT Russell Okung (6-6, 305) is a senior All-Big 12 selection and has made 34 consecutive starters.
Defense: Here’s what separates them from the top two teams. The defense returns just six starters and only one in the secondary. Last season, the defense finished 109th against the pass and 93rd overall, as they allowed a whopping 405.5 yards per game. They have to get better and starts up front. New coordinator Bill Young will rely on a strong linebacker corps, which returns all three starters including senior Andre Sexton, who led the way with 100 tackles. They’ll need more out of senior DE Jeremiah Price (6-2, 260), who recorded three sacks last year. In the defensive backfield, senior Perrish Cox is the lone returning starter, but he’s a very good one and a future NFL player. Senior Terrance Anderson will be the key at the other corner spot after he showed some potential at nickel last year.
Outlook: Gundy has a chance to win 10 games with a team that starts out with four games at home (though one is Georgia). They do face Texas at home, but Oklahoma is on the road at the end of the season. There’s no reason why they can’t make things interesting down the stretch in the Big 12, if their defense can come together and at least be adequate.
4) Texas Tech
2008 Record: (11-2, 7-1)
Coach: Mike Leach, 10th year (76-39)
Off. Coordinator: Mike Leach (2nd year)
Def. Coordinator: Ruffin McNeill (2nd year)
Returning Starters: 13 (5 offense, 7 defense, kicker)
Ret. Starting Quarterback: No
Offense: The Red Raiders are the only team in the Big 12 South without a returning starting quarterback. They not only have to replace Graham Harrell, but also top 10 WR Michael Crabtree. Junior Taylor Potts (6-5, 215) takes over the helm and has a big arm and great size, unlike previous TT quarterbacks. Detron Lewis, who caught 76 passes for 913 yards last year, will have to step in as the number one wide receiver option with Crabtree gone. At running back, junior Barron Batch returns after a strong sophomore campaign (758 yards) and may have to carry more of a load. With three starters from last year’s offensive line gone, expect Texas Tech to have a few bumps in the road in terms of pass protection (13 sacks allowed last year).
Defense: The defense allowed 382.6 yards per game last year and has seven starters returning. The defense was solid last season, but they lose top DE Brandon Williams, the conference’s leader in sacks and outstanding free safety Darcel McBath. Brian Duncan (89 tackles) leads a group of returning linebackers, which should be their strength as all three return. Senior DE McKinner Dixon (8 sacks), who was suspended in the spring, needs to be on the field for the defense to have a chance. The secondary returns just one starter but if the defense can average 2.6 sacks per game as they did last season, they’ll be decent with inexperienced defensive backs.
Outlook: Mike Leach is an excellent coach, but he has his work cut out for him to try and repeat last year’s 11-2 record. They face North Dakota and Rice at home to start the season, but then take on Texas on the road. The schedule is not overwhelming and even if they take a step down, they should be a solid bowl team again and a very dangerous spoiler in the Big 12.
2008 Record: (4-8, 2-6)
Coach: Art Briles (4-8 at Baylor, 38-36 overall)
Off. Coordinator: Randy Clements (2nd year) and Phillip Montgomery (2nd year)
Def. Coordinator: Brian Norwood (2nd year)
Returning Starters: 18 (8 offense, 8 defense, kicker, punter)
Ret. Starting Quarterback: Yes (Robert Griffin)
Offense: Art Briles’ spread option attack needed a quarterback to perfect it and they found one in Robert Griffin. The true freshman passed for 2,091 yards and 15 TDs, while running for 843 yards and 13 scores in 2008. Griffin is a track star with blazing speed and an accurate arm. That’s perfect for this offense. Griffin also has supporting talent returning in junior Jay Finley, who ran for 965 yards and seven scores in 2008. Sophomore WR Kendall Wright caught 50 passes for 649 yards and five TDs as a freshman and leads a strong group of three returning wideouts. The offensive line returns a great one in senior center J.D. Walton (6-3, 305), but the key will be replacing All-American LT Jason Smith, who moves on to the NFL.
Defense: The Bears return eight starters from a defense that allowed 29.3ppg and 393.2 yards per game overall. They do feature two top players in the conference in senior LB Joe Pawelek (6-2, 240) and senior FS Jordan Lake (6-2, 210). Pawelek led the Bears with 128 tackles and also intercepted six passes from the middle linebacker spot. Up front, they feature two sophomore defensive ends in Tracy Robertson (6-4, 260) and Zac Sutton (6-7, 260) who are talented but raw. Lake averaged 8.1 tackles per game and intercepted three passes. The rest of the secondary is somewhat suspect as they lose both starting corners and this is what separates them from the rest of the Big 12.
Outlook: The Bears have made some major strides on offense, but their defense is still an issue, especially against such a tough league. They open at Wake Forest and face Uconn, Northwetern State and Kent State at home. After that, it’s the likes of Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Texas. If they can win two on the road, they have a shot at earning a minor bowl bid.
6) Texas A&M
2008 Record: (4-8, 2-6)
Coach: Mike Sherman (4-8 at Texas A&M, 4-8 overall)
Off. Coordinator: Nolan Cromwell (2nd year)
Def. Coordinator: Joe Kines (2nd year)
Returning Starters: 17 (9 offense, 7 defense, kicker)
Ret. Starting Quarterback: Yes (Jerrod Johnson)
Offense: Head coach Mike Sherman enters his second season as he tries to get the Aggies out of major mess. Last season, the Aggies struggled through injuries and bad line play as they finished last or next-to-last in the Big 12 last season in scoring, rushing and total offense (340.9ypg). Junior QB Jerrod Johnson (6-5, 229( returns after throwing for a school-record 21 TDs, but Johnson will be pushed by sophomore Ryan Tannehill, who was very impressive in the spring. Tannehill (6-4, 204) or Johnson could move to receiver if they don’t win the job. Tannehill set a school-record for freshmen with 844 yards receiving in 2008. Sophomore Jeff Fuller (6-4, 209) returns at receiver after catching 50 passes and hauling in a team-best nine TDs. At running back, the Aggies need to find consistency as sophomores Cyrus Gray and Bradley Stephens will battle it out for time. True freshman Christine Michael, who has great power and speed, could also be a factor. The key will be the improvement of the offensive line, which could start a true fershman or two, but will also moved Lucas Patterson (6-4, 297) from the defensive line to left tackle.
Defense: The defense was atrocious last season, allowing 461.9 yards per game (114th in the nation). That’s a far cry from the old Wrecking Crew days of the early nineties. They do return seven players including senior Matt Featherston (6-2, 235), who recorded 94 tackles year. However, Featherston may be replaced by freshman Kyle Mangan (6-2, 220) who is faster as the Aggies try to get more speed into the defense. On the defensive line, sophomore Tony Jerrod-Eddie (6-5, 256) is undersized as is sophomore Eddie Brown (6-0, 265). Junior DE Von Miller (6-3, 213) will play a new “jack” position in terms of linebacker and end. The secondary should improve from last season with the maturation of sophomore safety Trent Hunter and sophomore corner Terrence Frederick. Juco transfer Coryell Judie should push for a starting job.
Outlook: Sherman has a long ways to go with this program and fans will have to be patient. They face New Mexico, Utah State and UAB at home to start the season, along with Arkansas in Arlington. If they could start out 3-1, that would be a great boost to a conference schedule that features Oklahoma and Texas Tech on the road, along with Texas and OK State at home.
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