Everyone has that image in their head of the gold prospector/cowboy firing his six-shooters in the air and dancing around like a crazy person. That, to me, is what comes to mind when I think of the Big XII this year in football. I expect to see a lot of offense, long scoring plays, and lots of coaches on the sideline throwing their headsets to the ground. There are four legitimate contenders to the conference title this year, and five if you count Texas Tech which I guess I will, for now. The spots in the Championship Game at Arrowhead in Kansas City could very well come down to the last few weeks. This year I’m banking on the Gary Pinkel train to keep rolling, and the Missouri Tigers to reach the summit and take the Big XII title and BCS bid this year.
The Tigers had been seen as a team of also-rans in years past. Always coming up short in conference, and even having victory kicked away from them one year. Last year proved to be the turnaround. Chase Daniel led the Tigers offense to the North Title and a spot in the Championship game. Their white whale proved to be the OU Sooners as they lost to them both in the regular season and title game. They did rebound to thump Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl however. This year I expect more of the same from Mizzou. Daniel and standout wide-receiver Jeremy Maclin will prove to be one of the top passing combos in the country. The 17 returning starters have lead some to even place Mizzou in the national championship category. They face a test right off the bat with their border rival Illinois but they are the prohibitive favorite. They have some tests at Nebraska, and at Texas, but Kansas also faces Texas and it all comes to a head November 29th just as last year when the Jayhawks face off with Mizzou. No I will not insert a fat joke here at the behest of the Kansas haters, but I will say that KU’s schedule was favorable, even though they defeated Va Tech in the Orange Bowl in an impressive showing. Losing their number one Cornerback, Aqib Talib hurts them a lot if the newcomers can’t step up. It means they can’t just leave the best opposing WR out on an island like they often did with Talib. I still expect the Jayhawks to do well, but not as well as last season.
In the South, Texas Tech as become the darkhorse trendy pick. I expect the Red Raiders to do what they always have under Mike Leach: Score a ton of points, play little defense, and make a mid-upper level bowl. Graham Harrell behind center in Lubbock should toss many a TD throw to WR Michael Crabtree as he did last year, but the fun and gun style will also allow a slew of points for the opponents. I expect the Red Raiders to have another successful year like the 9-4 record of last year, but no division title, yet. Texas and Oklahoma will again vie for the South division and again the Red River shoot-out on October 11th, and this one honestly I see going either way. Stoops until recently had the Longhorns number, and I think they will triumph again as Sam Bradford figures to only improve on his strong year last year. Without Oklahoma facing a tough pre-Conference schedule (no Washington does not count as strong) they very well could be a team that waits in the wings for the BCS title bid if one of the favorites falters. With that being said, I do think the Sooners ride into Arrowhead only to get dusted by the Tigers looking for revenge.
Big XII picks
Big XII North: Missouri
Big XII South: Oklahoma
Below Expectations: Texas Tech, Oklahoma State
Above Expectations: Nebraska, Colorado
Player to Watch: Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech (could top his 22 TDs of last year)
Game to Watch: Kansas @ Missouri, November 29th