Big 12 Preseason Media Poll
All Big 12 Preseason Team
The computer says Texas will get another crack at the BCS title after beating Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship game - again. The Longhorns get a 7.94-point advantage over division rival Oklahoma in Dallas to gain the inside track to the Big 12 South division title, and later defeat the 'Huskers by 10 to punch their ticket to the conference title contest at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. But their national title dreams will once again be dashed when the Longhorns face Boise State as a 5.95-point underdog.
A Boise State BCS title would be a history-making event as no team from a non-"Big 6" conference (ACC, Big East, Big Ten Big 12, PAC-10, SEC) has ever made it to the BCS Championship tilt, yet alone won it. But the Broncos have been working their way to the top throughout the past decade and have won two BCS bowl games in the last 4 years, dispatching Oklahoma in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl and less-spectacularly downing TCU 17-10 last year in a return visit to the Fiesta.
For Texas fans, a loss to Boise State would be eerily reminiscent of their loss to a then-upstart Virginia Tech team in the Sugar Bowl after the 1995 season. Most considered the Hokies unworthy of that opportunity, but Virginia Tech prevailed 28-10.
Ironically, the Broncos have to get past Virginia Tech in their season opener to even dream of a shot at Texas, so we will know after opening weekend if this matchup has any chance of taking place. Longhorn faithful may want to root for the Hokies as any other BCS Championship game opponent for Texas is a preseason underdog by at least 3.23 points.
The odd situation is that the next team in the BCS pecking order could be TCU out of the Mountain West. The Horned Frogs are projected to be 0.31 power points ahead of Alabama at the end of the regular season, but an Alabama win in the SEC Championship game could add enough points to the Tide's power rating to knock TCU out of the picture and give us a rematch of last year's game.
Texas' run to the Big 12 title shouldn't be considered a lock. Not only does it have to get past Oklahoma, but it also has to win a regular season game at Nebraska the very next week before it even gets a second crack at the 'Huskers in the conference championship game. The Longhorns are only a 6.98-point favorite in Lincoln.
The rest of the Texas schedule is fairly unimposing and the computer favors Texas by more than 23 points in 9 of its 12 contests. A trip to Texas Tech and new head coach Tommy Tuberville is the only other game that should cause any concern at all. The Longhorns get rival Texas A&M at home and the slate is absent of a Missouri team that is predicted to go 9-3. A home game with UCLA tops a weak nonconference schedule that includes Rice, Wyoming and FAU.
Oklahoma and Texas have combined to win the last six Big 12 Championship games, and 8-of-14 since the league formed in 1996. The last team to win the conference crown, other than Texas or Oklahoma, was Kansas State in 2003. Colorado took home the goods in 2001.
But 2010 could bring heightened expectations for their challengers as the Longhorns have said goodbye to Colt McCoy and the Sooners will be without Sam Bradford, each of whom demonstrated uncommon accuracy during their collegiate quarterbacking careers.
Of course, Bradford's absence was a big factor in Oklahoma's dismal 8-5 showing last year after being injured in the season opener against BYU. Though he later returned to start the Texas game, he was injured again on the second series of that contest and missed the rest of the season. Meanwhile, McCoy led Texas to the conference title game where it barely survived Nebraska 13-12 on a game-ending field goal. Subsequently, McCoy was knocked out of the BCS Championship game with a shoulder injury on his opening series.
Landry Jones was Bradford's replacement and, though he threw for over 3,000 yards and had 26 TD tosses, he threw 14 interceptions and quarterbacked his team to a 2-5 record in games played away from home.
Texas' Garrett Gilbert got his first big test when he replaced McCoy in the BCS title game as a true freshman. His play was spotty, but showed flashes of brilliance in the 37-21 loss.
Nebraska, which last won the Big 12 title in 1999, was 1 second away from defeating Texas in last year's championship match. That's how much time was determined to be left in the game after McCoy flung a pass out of bounds to kill the clock and set up the 46-yard game-winner for Texas. The 'Huskers will have Zac Lee back at QB and leading rusher Roy Helu, Jr. at RB, but will have to adjust to life with Ndamukong Suh, inarguably one of the best defensive linemen to ever play college football. So dominant was Suh that he finished 4th in last season's Heisman Trophy vote. He went on to become the 2nd overall pick in the NFL draft (Detroit), behind Bradford (St. Louis).
Including Bradford and Suh, 9 Big 12 players were taken in the first round of the NFL Draft - Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy, DT Trent Williams and TE Jermaine Gresham; Oklahoma State OT Russell Okung and WR Dez Bryant; Texas SS Earl Thomas; and Missouri LB Sean Weatherspoon.
McCoy was a 3rd round pick along with his favorite receiver, Jordan Shipley. Texas also saw DT Lamarr Houston and DE Sergio Kindle get drafted in the 2nd round.
The conference gains a pair of quality head coaches in Turner Gill at Kansas and the aforementioned Tuberville with the Red Raiders.
Gill replaces Mark Mangino, whose ouster after 8 seasons was the result of an investigation into his unacceptable treatment of players. It's a homecoming, of sorts, for Gill who played quarterback from 1980-1983 for Nebraska (Kansas and Nebraska were each members of the Big 8 at the time). When Gill started at QB, the 'Huskers went 20-0 in conference play and 28-2 overall.
Tuberville takes the reigns from Mike Leach, who was fired days before Texas Tech's bowl game with Michigan State amid allegations of mistreating WR Adam James, the son of ESPN analyst Craig James. Once celebrated for raising their respective football programs to new heights, Mangino and Leach each appear to have fell victim to their own egos.
Dan Hawkins is probably the lone Big 12 coach on the hot seat. His four seasons at Colorado have yet to produce a winning campaign and the computer's forecast for 2010 calls for another losing campaign of 5-7. Hawkins' overall record is just 16-29 and has declined each of the last two seasons. Under his tutelage, the Buffaloes have only won 10-of-32 Big 12 conference games.
Iowa State was the conference's biggest surprise in 2009. First-year head coach Paul Rhoads guided the Cyclones to a 7-6 season, a year after they finished 2-10, 0-8. A 14-13 Insight Bowl win over Minnesota was only the third bowl victory in school history. The computer expects the Cyclones to drop to 4-8 this year, but projected losses to Kansas, Colorado and Missouri are by less than 4-1/2 points and two of those games are in Ames.
Texas A&M showed improvement last year, but finished just 6-7 after a blowout 44-20 loss to Georgia in the Independence Bowl. The Aggies were second in the conference in total offense, but last in total defense. The 5-7 forecast includes back-to-back 1-point games in the middle of the season when A&M is an underdog at home to Missouri a week before being favored at Kansas.
To see how the Big 12 stacks up with top teams from other conferences, make sure you catch Arkansas at Texas A&M, Florida State and Air Force at Oklahoma, Georgia Tech at Kansas, and Kansas at Southern Miss.
Colorado may have the most interesting OOC schedule with road games against Colorado State and Cal, and home visits from Hawaii and Georgia.