Next up on our preview of the BCS conferences is the Big XII. Last week, we took a look at the Pac 10. We are slowly working our way east, with the goal of wrapping up with the ACC and a preview of the Eagles 2009 football season dropping some time in mid-to-late August.
Last season, the Big XII (specifically the Big XII South) was at the center of controversy in the college football world, with Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech locked in a three-way tie atop the division. Oklahoma was selected to go to the Big XII Championship and later the BCS National Championship game based on tiebreaker rule #413 (highest in the BCS Standings).
Texas doesn't forget.
Can a three-way tie atop the Big XII South standings happen again this season? Who will emerge from the South - Texas or Oklahoma? Anyone not excited for this year's Cotton Bowl?
First up, Over/Under - 7 1/2 regular season wins for Missouri
Brian: Missouri certainly won’t have the offensive firepower we are used to the Tigers showcasing over the past two seasons, with the departure their offensive coordinator, receiver Jeremy Maclin, tight end Chase Coffman, and (oh yeah) the school’s all-time leading passer, Chase Daniels. To be successful on offense, the Tigers will probably have to rely on running the football with junior RB Derrick Washington (177 carries, 1,036 yards, 17 TDs) carrying most of the load. While I don’t expect the Tigers to again win the Big XII North this season, I don’t think they will fall off the map entirely either. The schedule is manageable, and the Tigers should easily go 3-1 or 4-0 out of conference with games vs. Bowling Green, Furman, the opener vs. Illinois in St. Louis and a trip to Nevada. I’ll assume for a minute that Missouri will again get past Illinois and Juice Williams in the opener, and from there the Tigers would only have to go 4-4 in the Big XII to hit the over. I’ll do just that and take the over (+180), but just barely, as there are enough pushovers in the Big XII (especially the North) to get to that 4 win mark. And by the way, missing Oklahoma and Texas Tech from the other side can’t hurt either. Tigers take down Baylor and Iowa State at home, and Colorado and K-State on the road to get to 4-4 in conference, finishing the season 8-4. Then they’ll get smoked in their bowl game to finish 8-5. Not bad for a “rebuilding” year, eh?
Jeff: The chances that Missouri will be 4-4 through their first 8 games is slim. Missouri plays Illinois and at Nevada out of conference and then plays Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Texas, and Colorado in their first four conference games. A 3-5 record at that point wouldn't shock me but even if Missouri is 4-4 they would have to run the table from there in and I just don't see that happening. Side wager Brian? I'll take the under (-220).
Over/Under - 8 regular season wins for Kansas
Jeff: Compared to Missouri, Kansas has a much more managable out of conference schedule even though I will be hoping that Duke knocks them off on September 19th. But then when it comes to in conference schedule, the Jayhawks draw the toughest possible opponents from the South division in Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech. Maybe they'll knock off Texas Tech this year but the other two are certain losses. The Big XII North race is going to come down to Colorado and Nebraska this year so I am going under (-160) here even though a push would not surprise me at all.
Brian: There is a ton of offensive production coming back for the Jayhawks in 2009. Senior QB Todd Reesing (32 TD), wide outs Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier (22 TDs combined) and senior running back Jake Sharp (12 TDs) will all be back. The biggest question for Kansas going into the season will be their defensive unit, which isn’t a great think in the pass-happy Big XII North. Still, KU should be able to coast through their first 6 games going into their October 24 matchup at home vs. Oklahoma. Oklahoma at home and a trip to Austin are likely losses, but even with a questionable defense, I don’t see many other losses on the schedule. Kansas should be able to go 5-3 in the weaker Big XII North and be in contention for the Big XII North crown. Also, the Jayhawks have the benefit of hosting Nebraska and playing Missouri on a neutral field (Kansas City). Take the over (+130).
Over/Under - 8 regular season wins for Texas Tech
Brian: Mike Leach will have a very tough time repeating Tech's 11-1 regular season performance from a year ago without Harrell-to-Crabtree. Some of the pieces are still there from a season ago (namely, the running game) but there just seems to be too many questions on defense and under center for me to get the Red Raiders up over 8 wins. Texas Tech is notorious for scheduling a weak slate of out of conference games, and this season is no exception. Even without Harrell or Crabtree, Tech should coast to 4-0 out of conference with home games against North Dakota, Rice and New Mexico and a short road trip to Houston. In Big XII play, I am finding it nearly impossible to get Tech to 5-3, considering they have to travel to Texas, to Nebraska, and to Oklahoma State. Tech could get to 3-5 with wins over Kansas State, Texas A&M and Baylor in the new Cowboys Stadium, but anything more than that is a stretch. The Big XII schedule does Tech no favors this season, as the Red Raiders miss Iowa State, Colorado and Missouri. Overall, I think it is 7-5 or 8-4 at best for the Pirate Captain, so I’ll take the under here (-180).
Jeff: When I look at Texas Tech's schedule I see 8 wins and 3 losses and I'll give them a toss up for their game at Nebraska. I'm going to take the over here (+150) but not put any real money on it because I see no way where the Red Raiders can get to 10 wins. They either barely cover or push this year.
Over/Under - 8 1/2 regular season wins for Nebraska
Jeff: Nebraska plays 3 out of conference gimmes this season, leaving them having to win 6 of their remaining conference games and one game at Virginia Tech. Nebraska catches a huge schedule break by not playing Texas and Oklahoma State, two of the top three teams in the conference this year. Oklahoma is the best team on their schedule and is a sure loss. Virginia Tech is also likely to beat them. In their remaining conference games, I can't see them going any better than 6-2 which would be good enough to head to the Big XII championship game but still only barely cover the over. This is a best case scenario though so I am going to go with the under (-120) without much confidence.
Brian: A cursory glance over the offensive and defensive units leaves a lot to be desired for Cornhusker fans. The first thing Pelini will have to do is find a successor for Joe Ganz under center. The favorite to take over the job - junior Zac Lee - has thrown exactly two passes in his collegiate career. Lee will be throwing to a new set of wide receivers and handing off to the junior Roy Helu Jr., who returns with 510 yards and 5 TDs in the last four regular-season games. The defense is a mix of young, inexperienced guys (the LB corp) and experienced, more senior units (the line anchored by NT Ndamukong Suh and the secondary). Still, the swagger seems to be back at Nebraska under Pelini, and hey, they're Nebraska. Their Big XII schedule sets up nicely with the Huskers avoiding both Oklahoma State and Texas, and with the exception of their return trip to Blacksburg and hosting Oklahoma, there isn't another sure loss on the schedule. Not to mention Nebraska plays in the weaker of the two divisions. I will optimistically predict that Nebraska wins 9 games this year (losses to Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, and either at Missouri or at Kansas). 6-2 is good enough to get Nebraska to the Big XII Championship Game in Arlington on December 5. Over (-110).
Over/Under - 9 regular season wins for Oklahoma State
Brian: Oklahoma State returns almost everyone on offense next season with a unit that finished Top 10 nationally in total yards and points. If any year is to be the Cowboys breakout season, this be the year. OSU actually went out and, you know, scheduled a decent BCS opponent out of conference in Georgia, but they should be able to catch Georgia in a bit of a down year. After the Bulldogs, the Cowboys should get to 4-0 in September with out of conference wins over Houston, Rice and Grambling (the 'Boys got all of their out of conference games at home this year. Weird.). Last season, the Cowboys played well in conference, finishing with a 5-3 record. Those 3 losses came against the three teams that tied for first atop the Big XII South standings, with OSU traveling to both Texas and Texas Tech. This season, they get both Texas and Texas Tech at home, and if they can convert one of those two losses from a year ago to a W, that gets them to 6-2 in Big XII play. I’ll take the over here (+105), but again just barely. It’s 10-2 (6-2 Big XII) for the Cowboys in 2009 and a Cotton Bowl win gets them to 11-2.
Jeff: Speaking of Georgia, I applaud them for scheduling three BCS conference opponents this season - Georgia Tech, Arizona State, and Oklahoma State. But I digress. Back to the Cowboys, it's hard to imagine that the line is set at 9 and they have Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Texas Tech on their schedule and we're both going to take the over here. Oklahoma State will easily get to 8 wins and probably easily a ninth when they start the season with a inexperienced Georgia team at home. After eight wins a ninth is highly likely as is a tenth, but figure an upset in there somewhere and it might take a win against either Texas or Oklahoma for them to get there but that is a possibility as I see it. OK St is the only team in the Big 12 this year that will be able to compete with Texas and Oklahoma. Over (+105).
Over/Under - 10 regular season wins for Oklahoma
Jeff: Why would you take the under here? You really think Stoops will only win 9 games with a Heisman trophy winner? Over (+125).
Brian: It is tempting to take the under here. The season opener vs. BYU in the new Cowboys Stadium will be a test (there is some precedence for a Mountain West team to take down OU early in the season, see: TCU), as well as their end of September road trip to Miami (but likely a win), the Cotton Bowl and their trip to Lincoln on November 7. However, there is simply way too much talent on both sides of the ball for me to think that Oklahoma will lose any more than 1 regular season game. I’ll reluctantly take the over here (+125), but it wouldn't surprise me if the Sooners push or even drop more than two games for the under.
Over/Under - 10 regular season wins for Texas
Brian: Smart money is on the over here, with expectations higher than ever for Texas to challenge for a spot in the BCS National Championship Game. On this one, I’m going to go with the people and take the over (-155) with Texas. Their out of conference schedule is a snoozer (UL Monroe, at Wyoming, UTEP and UCF) and from there I then need the Longhorns to go 7-1 or 8-0 in the Big XII for the over. Their toughest matchups early appear to be the Red River Shootout vs. Oklahoma on October 17, and their trip to Oklahoma State on Halloween. Hard to imagine Texas dropping both games to Sooner State foe, so I’ll predict a split or 2-0 against OU and OSU. Besides, Texas has never lost to Oklahoma State under Mack Brown (11-0) and Texas beat Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl a season ago. I fully expect Texas to be in contention for a BCSNCG berth and I would be foolish to think they will get there with anything less than a 12-0 or 11-1 record. Over (-155)!
Jeff: Less than 11 wins for Texas this year would be a huge disappointment. As big of a disappointment as them playing Central Florida during BC's bye week so that potential trip to Austin for a game would be to see a blowout. Over (-155).
Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas State, Colorado and Texas A&M sit this one out. Jeff and I largely agree on most of the Big XII South lines and disagree on nearly every team in the Big XII North.
Your thoughts, southwest Eagles?