The Big 12 is admittedly the one conference that I follow the least, but here goes the over/under picks for the Big 12. Should be an interesting year in the league with upstarts like Kansas and Missouri trying to stay on top of the mountain and floundering programs like Texas A&M and Nebraska trying to get back to where they belong.
On another note, I did a fantasy draft yesterday, and we were allowed to draft from four of the Big 12 teams (Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Missouri). Might as well toss in some fantasy thoughts on those teams while we're here.
On to the picks:
Nebraska - 7 wins - OVER - MARK IT DOWN RIGHT NOW!!! Nebraska is winning the Big 12 North this year. You heard it here first on weisnd.blogspot.com.
I couldn't be more fired up about the Bo Pelini era. Love everything about him. Former captain at Ohio State as a safety, best buds with Kirk Herbstreit, great career as an assistant at Nebraska and LSU, very fiery but also a players coach who played the game at the major college level, and he understands the culture of Nebraska football. Tom Osborne is back in the fold, and they are bringing back the great tradition of Nebraska football.
Nebraska is going to win under Bo Pelini. Everyone is talking up Missouri and Kansas as the premier teams in the Big 12 North, but at the end of the day, Nebraska has more talent than either of them. If they get it in gear, they can win in a hurry. Bill Callahan was a Willingham-esque figure who did major damage to Nebraska football, but I have faith that Bo P. is the right man for the job. Watching them play in that bowl game a few years ago when he was going nuts on the sideline and leading them on to a win was great stuff. I expect to see Nebraska playing with that kind of intensity and energy all the time.
Mark your calendars and your TIVOS: September 27. Virginia Tech comes to Lincoln to take on the Huskers in front of 75,000 crazy-eyed Husker maniacs looking to bring back the Husker Nation to greatness. I have goosebumps just typing it!! The word "ELECTRIC" comes to mind immediately.
Let's just say that Mr. Witt, Young Tom Witt, and Norm Witt are fired up about the state of Nebraska football. I'm hoping we get a game with Nebraska someday so that we can tailgate with the Witt family again.
Texas A&M - 7 wins - OVER - Texas A&M is another school with a new coach. Could be interesting to see how the Mike Sherman era turns out. I don't remember him being all that remarkable at Green Bay and only really remember him as a Brett Favre toadie, but I looked through a couple Texas newspapers and the locals down in College Station seem to be excited about him. Sherman is bringing an aggressive defense and a pro-style offensive attack to Aggie Country. They could be a minor sleeper this year. A&M is sort of a sleeping giant with access to some great talent down there in Texas, so they could be on the rise if Mike Sherman pans out.
Stephen McGee is back for his 15th season at Texas A&M, and they always have a solid defense. Their schedule is somewhat manageable with no Nebraska, Kansas, or Missouri on there, Miami(FL) at home, and Texas Tech at home. Honestly, I only see two lock losses on their schedule. Somewhere Bob Davie is apologizing to all things Aggie and singing the praises of the Wrecking Crew.
Speaking of College Station, Kyle Field is probably in my top five for stadiums I would like to visit someday. It just seems like a cool place to watch a game with all the military tradition, the 12th man, and all the other stuff that goes on at A&M.
Baylor - 3 wins - UNDER - Since I'm not going to pretend to know anything about Baylor football, I'll turn attention to a great ESPN The Magazine article (yes, I used the word "great" and "ESPN The Magazine in the same sentence. You know you love The Mag, and I know all you bashers out there are grinning from ear to ear when the Mag arrives in your mailbox every other Friday.) about Baylor track star Jeremy Wariner. I had no idea until reading the story that Baylor is like the USC of track and field, and that Michael Johnson is also a Baylor alum. Anyway, this Wariner guy is a freak, and he's white!! When was the last time there was ever a great white sprinter?? Looking forward to his performance in the 400 in Beijing.
Oklahoma State - 7 wins - UNDER - I don't think we could do an Oklahoma State preview without putting this clip in there.
It'S GARBAGE! Coach Gundy is 40 and he's a man and he's DOING EVERYTHING RIGHT these days, so I think they can get to a bowl game. By the way, is T. Boone Pickens the first college sports owner?? Isn't that essentially what he did when he made that ridiculously huge donation?? He bought Oklahoma State. Every decision in their athletic department now goes through him. I wonder if it will start a trend at other schools.
Texas Tech - 9 wins - UNDER - I'm expecting an angry response from Matt as the resident Mike Leach apologist of the blog, but I'm sticking with my pick. SELL on Texas Tech this year. It's Texas Tech. Their offense is explosive, but it's still Texas Tech. They don't have the material to hang with the big boys, they don't play any defense, and they proved it again last year by getting spanked by Texas and Missouri. I know they beat Oklahoma, but I think that win was more of a product of Oklahoma not showing up to play. You can't win a conference title if you don't play any defense.
As usual, Texas Tech plays a PATHETIC nonconference schedule (they are among the worst offenders), so they should be 4-0 heading into conference play. Their schedule is not all that bad, but they do have road games at A&M, Kansas, KSU, and Oklahoma plus home games with Texas and Nebraska. I see them losing at least 4 of those games. Give me 8-4 on the Red Raiders. Fire away Lubbock. I'm prepared for your responses.
Texas Tech is one of the teams that we were able to pick from in my fantasy league, so their players are always valuable. Graham Herrell was the #1 pick overall and should put up absurd numbers again this year (as TT QBs do every year). Then there's Michael Crabtree. Good god, 134 catches, 1962 yards, and 22 TDs last year. That is INSANE. He practically doubles every other fantasy college receiver. I was all set to take him in the first round, but he went in the top 4 (deservedly so). Should put up incredible numbers again this year.
Iowa State - 3 wins - OVER - I honestly have nothing on Iowa State, so I'm not even going to pretend to know anything about them. Maybe a Cyclone fan will stumble upon this blog and rip off a 2000 word post on the state of Iowa State football and the demise of the program since Seneca Wallace graduated (I'm just assuming that he did actually graduate here.) I'd welcome it.
Why am I giving Iowa State the over and feeling good about it if I know nothing about them?? Well, they actually got better in the second half of the year and beat Kansas State and Colorado down the stretch. Their nonconference schedule is cupcake city with South Dakota State, Kent State, UNLV, and the rivalry game with Iowa. If they win even one conference game (I'll say they win 2-3), they are beating the over easily.
Missouri - 9.5 wins - UNDER - Call me a skeptic on Missouri as well, but I'm just not buying 10 wins out of them either. These one-year wonder teams rarely stay on top, and the other teams most likely studied them all offseason.
On paper, they have all the pieces in place to be a great team. Chase Daniel is back again this year, and star receiver Jeremy Maclin also returns. Should be an interesting opener on August 30 between Missouri and Illinois in St. Louis. I love all these neutral site games by the way. It's sort of fun to see good teams coming together in neutral cities. In other news, ND is trying to line up neutral games with Baylor and Army in the next few years. Good times.
I think Missouri gets beat in Lincoln and in Austin, and I'm willing to bet that they find another loss on that schedule (although it doesn't look all that imposing).
Chase Daniel is a legit 1st round pick for fantasy purposes since he is an effective run-pass guy, and Maclin is probably the #2 fantasy receiver in the country behind Crabtree. They also are loaded at tight end with Chase Coffman, and it appears that Derrick Washington is going to get the carries in a crowded backfield.
Kansas State - 6.5 wins - UNDER - Another school that I don't know much about, but I have to say that I sort of like their Mike Tice wannabe coach, Ron Prince. I've only watched KSU play a couple times in the last two years (The upset win over Texas and the game they lost at Auburn last year), but Coach Prince seems like a fiery, entertaining guy.
They've had a lot of roster turnover, and their schedule could be pretty difficult with a trip to Louisville in the nonconference and trips to A&M, Colorado, Kansas, and Missouri in conference play.
Kansas - 8 wins - OVER - I'm assuming Kevin will be ready to weigh in on the Jayhawks and fill us in with what to expect in Lawrence, but my initial thoughts on Kansas are that they might be emerging as the "White Man's All-Star Team."
Is Kansas the Moneyball college football team?? While everyone else is grabbing all the flashier athletes, KU is heading down into Texas and stealing these productive, undersized white guys who don't run a 4.4 40 but can play some serious ball. It's sort of an interesting approach to recruiting. Mangino seems like a sharp guy, and I don't see any reason why Kansas won't be good again.
Their schedule is really not all that bad with a road game at South Florida and a fairly manageable conference schedule. I am a little leery about taking Kansas to win 8+ games now that other teams have had a whole offseason to study them and take them seriously, but I think they can go at least 5-3 in the league this year.
Colorado - 5.5 wins - OVER - "IT'S DIVISION ONE FOOTBALL! IT'S THE BIG TWELVE! IT AIN'T INTERMURALS! YOU GOT TWO WEEKS AFTER FINALS, YOU GOT A WEEK OF JULY, AND YOU GOT A WEEK BEFORE CAMP STARTS. THAT'S A MONTH! AND WE'RE A LITTLE BUMMED OUT WE DON'T GET THREE WEEKS?! GO PLAY INTERMURALS, BROTHER!"
You gotta love Dan Hawkins. Colorado could be a mini-sleeper this year. They have a really tough schedule with West Virginia, Florida State (in Jacksonville), Texas, Kansas, Missouri, A&M, and Nebraska, but I think they can find a way to get to 6 wins.
They got on the map a little last year with the win over Oklahoma, and they get another crack at making a splash on the national stage with West Virginia coming to Boulder on September 18. Could be an interesting game.
Texas - 9 wins - OVER - This is the first time in a long time that Texas isn't overhyped as one of the top teams in the country, so you might be able to get them at good odds this year. I've seen them on other sites at 8 wins. For all his shortcomings, Mack Brown wins 10 games every year. They lost a lot of good skill players, but Colt McCoy is back and their whole o-line is back. If your line is back, you usually have a good foundation for a good offense. They brought in a new d-coordinator (Will Muschamp) who is widely considered to be one of the top coaching prospects in America. I don't see any reason why Texas won't be right back around 10 wins again this year. Texas has better players on their second team than Texas Tech does on their first team, so I expect the Longhorns to go into Lubbock and win that game.
From a fantasy perspective, I think Colt McCoy is a bit of a sleeper. I drafted him in my college fantasy draft, and I think he is a good value in the middle rounds. With almost 500 yards rushing and good passing stats, he is a combo guy with big upside if he continues to mature and cuts down on the interceptions. The running back situation appears to be a committee with Vondrell McGee running with the first team at the moment. Fozzy Whitaker could be a late round steal at RB if he starts taking over for McGee. Quan Cosby looks like the go-to guy at WR, but this Jordan Shipley guy has some big play potential. Someone is going to emerge at WR for Texas, so it is a good position to monitor.
Oklahoma - 10 wins - OVER - From what I'm reading about Oklahoma, they seem like a team on a mission. While people are a little down on Bob Stoops, the guy still has 5 Big 12 titles in 9 years as coach of the Sooners. They are experimenting a little with a no-huddle offense, and it sounds like their defense has something to prove. I have no reason to think that OU won't be right back in the BCS again this year.
Sam Bradford has all the makings of being a star QB after putting on some weight in the offseason, and he should be a quality fantasy starter as well (especially if your league gives extra weight to TDs). DeMarco Murray has the potential to be a stud fantasy back, but injuries derailed him last year. If you draft Murray, you might want to grab Chris Brown as a backup RB for handcuff purposes. I drafted Juaquin Iglesias as a 2nd WR, and he could emerge as a star this year as OU's top target now that Malcolm Kelly is gone. With his speed and consistency, he should put up big numbers in that system. OU's defense is rated surprisingly low in some fantasy guides even though they had seven defensive touchdowns last year, so you might want to take a peek at them late in the draft if you're still looking for a defense.