August 2, 2009

12 Truths About the Big 12 This Season

1. Sam Bradford's new offensive line will force him to make more plays with his feet, and that will result in him getting hit more and losing some of the sharpness he had last year.

It will be evident from Week 1, when OU faces a veteran defense from BYU. Bradford having to be more mobile and taking some big hits will be the difference in the Texas game, and the reason the Longhorns win that game in a thriller.

Bradford's numbers will come down this season, resulting in Colt McCoy being a higher NFL draft pick in 2010 (if Bradford comes out, he's only a redshirt junior). Think Vince Young surpassing Matt Leinart in NFL stock after Leinart's senior season.

2. The Texas secondary will be so much more comfortable in the second year of Will Muschamp's defense, they will at least double the number of interceptions (6) Texas had last year and maybe even triple it.

That will result in better field position for the offense and will help bail out UT in its toughest ballgames - against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

3. Oklahoma State's defense will be improved in the front seven thanks to the arrival of Bill Young as defensive coordinator as well as OSU's nasty set of linebackers (Patrick Lavine, Andre Sexton and Orie Lemon are among the best set in the league). But OSU's inexperienced secondary will be the reason the Cowboys don't knock off Texas in Stillwater.

4. Oklahoma State's offense, if it stays healthy, is going to be a nightmare for everyone. Everyone. And it will be the reason OSU will be in shootouts with Texas and Oklahoma before losing both games late in the fourth quarter.

5. Texas Tech losing its two best offensive linemen (Louis Vazquez and Rylan Reed), both safeties (Darcel McBath and Daniel Charbonnet), both defensive ends (Brandon Williams and McKinner Dixon) and the best quarterback (Graham Harrell) and best receiver (Michael Crabtree) the Red Raiders have ever had will result in Tech finishing 7-5 or 8-4 at best.

Tech's receivers aren't nearly as good this season, neither is the O-line, nor the secondary. Period.

6. Baylor will be the surprise team in the Big 12 if the Bears stay healthy. They are not deep, but they have enough talent to move ahead of Tech this season and finish fourth in the Big 12 South at 7-5 or 8-4. They will upset Nebraska in Waco. (Remember the name Phil Taylor, the Bears' DT transfer from Penn State.)

7. Nebraska will win the Big 12 North if QB Zac Lee is as good as advertised. I'm just not sure he's as good as advertised, so I'm picking Kansas to win the North.

8. Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert is the second coming of Rhett Bomar and Sam Keller. His over-inflated ego and Gary Pinkel's inability to handle it will be one big reason the Tigers suffer a losing season in 2009.

9. Kansas State coach Bill Snyder deserves a medal for coming out of retirement at 69 to try and rescue a Wildcats' program he built out of ashes. But this will not end well. It's apparent he's trying to hand off the program to his son, and that will not be the answer even if Bill Snyder pulls it off.

10. Colorado could climb into a three-way tie for the Big 12 North (with all the teams going 5-3 in the league) if CU's running game takes off and QB Cody Hawkins can get some protection on the line. But if the Buffs' transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense doesn't go well, it could completely go the other way for CU.

Dan Hawkins never had a losing season at Boise State and he's yet to have a winning season at Colorado. Good thing he has been at CU longer than 90 percent of the administration, which appears willing to stick with Hawkins no matter what happens this season.

11. Texas A&M will have a MUCH improved offense as its linemen get healthy and clear the way for QB Jerrod Johnson, RBs Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael and WR Jeff Fuller. But the Aggies' defense will be AWFUL. By far the worst in the Big 12.

For that reason, A&M suffers its second straight losing season under Mike Sherman.The hiring of Sherman by A&M chancellor Mike McKinney and Gov. Rick Perry (and not by athletic director Bill Byrne) will continue to be an issue that could ultimately divide Aggieland.

12. Colt McCoy may not have the same completion rate he had in 2008, but he keeps making the smart decisions that get Texas into the national title game against Florida. In that game, McCoy will have to be at his Vince Young best to confound a defense with its entire two-deep back from last year's national title team. But if any QB in the country can pull it off, it's McCoy.

There are so many parallels to Florida and Texas this season that are reminiscent of USC and Texas from 2005, it's insane.

But one parallel that is not similar is Florida's defense is much better than the defense USC put on the field back in 2005. So McCoy and the offense will have to be sensational to take down the Gators. The good news? Florida's offense isn't as dynamic as USC's from 2005, which gives Will Muschamp and his Lunchpail Longhorns a chance to take down Tim Tebow and Co.

For so many reasons, college football deserves that matchup in Pasadena in January. And that's why Mack Brown gets the big bucks because he has to keep his team focused on Louisiana-Monroe, when all of us are somewhere in mid-October or Halloween night or celebrating at Cowboys Stadium or ringing in the new year.

Hang on folks, this could be one for the ages.

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