Welcome to the fourth edition of the 2007 College Football Preview, where I am breaking down the entire college football world by showing you how each of the "Big 6" Conferences will play out before the season even begins. I will give you an in-depth analysis of each team, and then you can leave your thoughts in the comments section and tell me the changes or corrections that you would make. Now, on with the preview.
The Big 12 is a tough one this year, as both Texas and Oklahoma look like probable candidates to wear the crown, and Nebraska is a looming team from the north who could upend one of them in the title game. With some sleepers who may not be sleeping long, this conference is just as intriguing as any.
2007 Big 12 Conference Preview
Baylor- The Bears of Baylor took a major, major hit this offseason, losing nearly all of their starters on offense, although they did manage to keep seven defensive starters. Their starting quarterback of three years, Shawn Bell, signed with the CFL in the offseason, thus leaving Baylor looking for another superstar. Senior Michael Machen appears to be the likely replacement for quarterback Shawn Bell. Machen, a former minor league baseball player, is 25 and has the leadership abilities necessary to take over the offense. Blake Szymanski threw 121 passes last season and will be an experienced player ready to step in if he needs to, but he failed to provide much of a spark as a freshman. Even if Machen is able to come in and wow the nation, Baylor's offense will still be mediocre at best. They only averaged 40 yards per game rushing the ball last season, and losing thier top runningback isn't going to help that number at all. On the contrary, Baylor might want to look at a Pass-heavy offense this season, as they have no other way of getting the ball in the endzone. With even their starting KICKER gone, this could be a rough season for the Bears. I'm thinking two, three wins?
Colorado- Colorado wasn't very good last year, and they don't look much better this season. Although I'm not ready to say that the Buffalo will go 2-10 like they did last season, they did lose some starters, and the ones that they kept didn't do much for them last year. Starting quarterback from last season Bernard Jackson, who threw for only 7 touchdowns, but also rushed for seven, will not be starting this season, so they will have to find a new guy to step in for him, which may not seem hard as far as the passing game goes, but he also had the ablity to scramble, and scramble well. He was basically the offense last season, and without him things, if possible, could get worse. Last season, Colorado averaged nearly 300 yards per game, but the defense allowed opponents 22 points, while the Buffalo were only scoring 16. We can't expect too much from Colorado this season, and I have them earning only three or four wins.
Iowa State- If this team would trade their pillow-fight defense for a stone wall, Iowa State might win the Big 12! They have maybe the best quarterback in the conference in Bret Meyer, despite what last season's stats say, when he only had 12 touchdowns, but also threw for 2.546 yards. On average last season, the Cyclones were averaging 318 yards per game, and scoring 18 points, but the defense was allowing 31 POINTS PER GAME! I don't know how close that is to a record, but that's a lot of touchdowns, four touchdowns and a safety to be exact (and four extra points) to be scoring week in and week out, and this defense couldn't stop a snail from carrying the ball to the endzone. This is the reason why ISU went 4-8 last year, with only one conference win. This team needs a defense in the worst way. Look out for Iowa State's offense this season, and if the defense learns to hit, we could be looking at six wins, and a bowl season.
Kansas- You heard it here. Kansas will go bowling this season, with 6 or 7 wins. Why? The combination of maybe the easiest schedule in the nation and a pretty good team. Kerry Meier threw for 13 touchdowns and 1,193 yards last year as a freshman. The Jayhawks's running game wasn't bad either in '06, and we should see more of the same in 2007. A team that averaged 374 yards per game with a freshman leading the offense is bound to grow. That's what I look for Kansas to do. While their defense needs to improve in the worst way, allowing 26 points per game last season, the offense had them covered, scoring 29. They can't expect to win with a defense like that, but they have made all of the necessary changes, in my opinion, to have a successful 2007 campaign.
Kansas State- Kansas State is a very young, but very talented team. They have starters at most key positions that are sophmores, who they used last year as freshmen, when they went 7-5 in the regular season. Not bad for a group of freshman, huh? Now, they have a good roster that should be able to pick up a decent number of wins, even though their starting quarterback Josh Freeman threw only six touchdown passes last season. Leon Patton, the team's starting runningback, who will also be a sophmore, ran for six touchdowns last season to go along with 609 yards. The team itself averaged 328 yards per game last season, and scored 24 points, but the defense gave up 23. As with most teams in the Big 12, where offense reigns, Kansas State needs to really work on their defense. If they get their numbers up, then Kansas State could be a legitimate contender over the next few seasons.
Missouri- Mizzou is my sleeper that has everything it takes to win the Big 12. They have a high-powered offense that averaged well over 400 yards per game last season, a quarterback who had 28 touchdowns and threw for 3,527 yards, and a runningback who had seven touchdowns while rushing for 1,063 yards last season. They also had a defense that only allowed 17 points per game, which is fine, because the offense was scoring 30. Missouri has everything it needs to be a top team this season, and I don't see why they can't. Chase Daniel will be a Heisman candidate this season, no doubt, and is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. Not only can he pass, but he can run as well. Missouri has a very good chance of finishing with an even better season, after going 8-4 last year. Nine or Ten wins may not be out of the question, but we'll see.
Nebraska- Zac Taylor, one of the best quarterbacks from last season, is gone, and replacing him will be a hard task. The good news is that Nebraska had an offense last season that gained 428 yards per game, and you don't just drop off that kind of yardage in one offseason. The Cornhuskers have a junior runningback duo in Brandon Jackson and Marlon Lucky that combined for 14 touchdowns last season, and they will be expected to do much of the same this year, with Missouri breathing down their necks. It will be interesting to see if Nebraska can win the Big 12 North this season, as they are expected to do. They will need all the help that they can get from their defense this season, as they probably won't be able to put up the same kind of numbers that they put up with Zac Taylor with any new quarterback that they get to replace him. Nebraska will be looking at 8-10 wins, but only time will tell how many they will get.
Oklahoma- I can't really use any of last year's stats to predict how Oklahoma will do this season, because they lost not only Adrian Peterson, their star runningback, but also Paul Thompson, their starting quarterback who led them to a BCS bid last season, where they lost to undefeated and in my opinion national champion Boise State. Now, with Peterson gone, believe it or not, Oklahoma's running game may be just as good. They had some guys behind Peterson last year that are great backs, but never got their chance to shine. Oklahoma will need to rely on these guys and their new quarterback to bring them through this season, as they are expected year in and year out to be Big 12 and national title contenders. I think that they will be a contender for the Big 12 title this season, but I'm not sure that they can get by Texas to enter the title game. Nevertheless, the Sooners could get anywhere from 9 to 11 wins.
Oklahoma State- Starting quarterback Bobby Reid, who threw for 2,266 yards and 24 touchdowns last season is back and should be better than ever, being just a junior this season. The Cowboys will have to rely on him heavily as they try for another bowl season. Last year, they went 6-6 while gaining 409 yards per game and scoring an average of 35 points. The defense, however, allowed 25 points, which is much too many to be able to win a lot of games. OSU will be a good team this season, and will probably pull some upsets by the time the season ends, but they probably won't be title contenders just yet, especially in a division (The Big 12 South) where they are probably the third or fourth best team. I'm going to give them six or seven wins for the moment.
Texas- The Texas team that was sort of a disappointment last year should live up to expectations this year. Colt McCoy is a sophmore, and has already proven that he is a top quarterback, throwing for 29 touchdowns and 2,570 yards as a freshman. This year's Texas team should be ranked in the Top 10, if not the Top 5, of everyone's preseason poll, and they are the favorite to win the Big 12 by most. They bring the best of their running game back, and should be able to keep the defense up to par, like they did last season. The defense allowed 18 points in 2006, while the offense scored 37, en route to gaining 393 yards per game. The Longhorns bring a lot to the field this year, and they will be competing with Oklahoma to go to the Big 12 title game, which makes the Red River Shootou on October 6 one of the biggest games of the entire season.
Texas A&M- The Aggies are a nice little sleeper in the Big 12. They have a starting quarterback who will be a junior this season by the name of Stephen McGee, and you better keep that name in your head. You will probably be hearing a lot of it. Last season, as a sophmore, he threw for 2,295 yards and 12 touchdowns, but that's not even half of where Texas A&M's success will come from this season. Jorvorski Lane, the Aggies's junior runningback, had 19 touchdowns last season, easily making him one of the best runningbacks in the nation, although his yardage doesn't amaze you. Anyone who can get that many touchdowns over one season is something special. Watch out for A&M, who should go bowling this season.
Texas Tech- Here is a national title team if not for one thing. You guessed it: defense. Starting quarterback Graham Harrell threw for 38 touchdowns and 4,555 yards (no, that's not a typo) last season, yet they still found time to give the ball to runningback Shannon Woods, who took it into the endzone 10 times and gained 926 yards. The team as a whole gained 441 yards per game last season, scoring 32 points per game. Unfortunately for them, the defense gave up 24 points per game, which sort of diminishes what the offense did by a bit. If the defense improves, look out. You know what? Just look out anyway. Texas Tech is one of the best teams in the Big 12 on paper, but that's not where games are played. We'll have to see if they turn their talent into wins.
2007 Big 12 Standings
Team W/L (conf.)
- Nebraska 9-3 (6-2)
- Missouri 9-3 (5-3)
- Kansas State 7-5 (4-4)
- Kansas 7-5 (3-5)
- Iowa State 6-6 (3-5)
- Colorado 4-8 (2-6)
Team W/L (conf.)
- Texas 10-2 (7-1)
- Oklahoma 10-2 (6-2)
- Texas Tech 9-3 (5-3)
- Texas A&M 8-4 (5-3)
- Oklahoma State 5-7 (2-6)
- Baylor 2-10 (0-8)
That wasn't an easy conference to figure out. There are so many teams that have a chance to win in there, making it one of the best in the nation. I have 9 teams being bowl eligible. I know that there won't be that many, but I'm just trying to give you an idea of how well I think that each team will do. I hope you enjoyed it.
Next week, I will explore the Pac-10. Will the #1 team in the nation, USC, win the title? Or will rival UCLA upend them? Or, will there be a new king of the west in Cal? Find out all of this in my complete breakdown of the Pac-10 next week.