After failing to win more than 5 Big 12 games in any season since the league’s inception,
Perspective is they key to evaluating
Of course, no one watches
Oh how the mighty have fallen. In Bill Callahan’s 4-year tenure, the Huskers posted two losing seasons, an overall record of 27-22, a Big 12 record of 15-17, and suffered a handful of embarrassing defeats (at home to Southern Miss in 2004, giving up 70 to Texas Tech in 2004, and 76 to Kansas in 2006). Not surprisingly, the administration felt now was the time to relieve Callahan of his duties and go in a new direction. That new direction will be navigated by Bo Pelini, a former defensive coordinator and head coach at
So how much improvement can we expect from
On offense, the Huskers were pretty good in 2007. They finished 9th nationally in total offense, gaining 468 yards per game, and in Big 12 play they finished 6th in yards gained. Of course, a lot of those yards came well after the outcome of some games were decided (think the Southern Cal and
Prediction: Not only was
Last season the Jayhawk offense absolutely shredded overmatched defenses. They dropped 52 points on Central Michigan, 62 on SE Louisiana, 45 on
As good as the offense was, the Jayhawk defense may have been the bigger story in 2007. The defense allowed only 16.4 points per game (4th in the nation) and only one team (
Prediction: The schedule is tougher and the Jayhawks luck will probably be worse, but
After a disastrous 2006 season that saw
In 2007, the
Befitting their 6-7 record, the Buffs defense was below average as well in 2007. Their national rank in total defense (64th) is mediocre, but in Big 12 play, only 3 teams (
Prediction: The schedule is a nightmare. In conference play, the Buffs must travel to
It wasn’t as dramatic as the tailspin I witnessed in
While the defense was getting torched over the 2nd half of the season, Josh Freeman was busy maturing into a solid quarterback. After an awful freshman season during which he posted a passer rating of 103.45 (96th in the nation) and completed just a shade over half his passes (51.9%) with an awful TD/Int ratio of 6-15, Freeman upped his completion percentage to 63.3, his ratio to 18-11, and his passer rating to 127.26 (60th in the nation—one spot ahead of Matt Ryan). Freeman will surely pass Lynn Dickey as the school’s all-time leader in passing yards by late October, and could help turn the Wildcats into one of the league’s better offenses. Freeman will miss his leading receiver, Jordy Nelson (2nd in the nation with 122 catches in 2007), but his offensive line returns nearly intact (4 of 5 starters are back). The offense will miss Nelson, but if Freeman continues to improve the offense should be fine.
Now back to the defense. The good news I suppose, is that the majority of the starters from last season’s free-falling defense are gone. Only 5 starters return. Their best defensive player, defensive end Ian Campbell is back.
Prediction: At least a 3-1 record is assured before the Wildcats begin Big 12 play (North Texas,
The jury is still out on how successful Gene Chizik will be at
For the first time since 2003, the Cyclone quarterback will not be Bret Meyer. Meyer departs as the Cyclones all-time leading passer, but too often the offenses he led failed to move the ball or score points. Part of that is the fact that the team never averaged more than 3.2 yards per rush during Meyer’s tenure. So spread the blame around to the line and running backs too. The new quarterback is Austen Arnaud, a more nimble player. Arnaud’s ability to run may help the offense break the mythical 4 yards per carry barrier. The Cyclones lose not only their all-time leading passer, but also their all-time leading receiver. Todd Blythe, who hauled in 52 balls last season, is gone. However, the Cyclones bring back 4 of 5 starting offensive linemen and their other two top receivers (RJ Sumrall and Marquis Hamilton). The Cyclones were the worst offense in Big 12 play last season. They should improve marginally, but not significantly.
The Cyclone defense was actually decent last season, despite the fact that they gave up 31.8 points per game (93rd in the nation). Based on yards allowed (327 per game), they were a much more respectable 65th in the nation and in Big 12 play only they were 7th in yards allowed. The unit returns 7 starters in 2008, so more marginal improvement is likely. However, I would not expect any miracles.
Prediction: A 2-0 start is likely, with
Last season, the Longhorns lost 3 (regular season) games in Big 12 play for the first time since 1997. The Horns fell to
Last season, the Texas offense was led by running back Jamaal Charles who gained over 1600 yards and averaged 6.28 yards per rush. Unfortunately for the Horns, Charles bolted early for the NFL and must be replaced. Fortunately for his replacement, either redshirt freshman Foswhitt Whittaker or a trio of returnees, 4 of the 5 starting offensive linemen return, so there should be plenty of holes to run through. Quarterback Colt McCoy also returns for his junior season and looks to improve upon a somewhat disappointing sophomore campaign. As a freshman in 2006, McCoy posted a passer rating of 161.82 (8th in the nation) and threw only 7 interceptions. In 2007, his rating fell to 139.16 (24th in the nation) and his interception total jumped to 18. Even if he only maintains his performance from 2007, the
Prediction: The toughest task the Horns face in non-conference action is at home against
Another year, another BCS bid for
As is usually the case under Stoops, the Sooner defense was once again top-notch in 2007. The Sooners allowed 338 yards per game (26th in the nation) and in Big 12 play, they finished second to
Prediction: The Sooners open the season with sure-fire beatdown of
Another year, another bowl game for the Red Raiders. Mike Leach has turned the Texas Tech program into the best darn 3rd wheel in the Big 12 South. How has he done it? By beating those directly below him. He’s gone 6-2 in his 8 seasons against Texas A&M and 5-3 against Oklahoma State, the two teams competing against him for positioning below the two South Division juggernauts—Oklahoma and Texas. Can the Red Raiders finally break through the glass ceiling of the Big 12’s caste system and take the South title?
Offensively, the Red Raiders should once again light up the scoreboard. It should come as a surprise to no one that the Red Raiders finished 2nd in the nation in total offense, averaging a robust 530 yards per game. That unit returns every starter save one in 2008. The lone missing piece is wide receiver Danny Amendola. Amendola caught 109 passes for over 1200 yards last season, but that wasn’t even close to leading the team. Freshman Michael Crabtree exploded onto the scene grabbing 134 balls for 1962 yards and 22 touchdowns. With so much returning talent and experience, the Red Raiders should not miss a beat on offense.
The Tech defense was decent last season, ranking 45th in the nation in total defense, allowing 365 yards per game. In Big 12 play, they were the 5th best defense in terms of yards allowed, behind the usual suspects in the South (
Prediction: The non-conference slate includes two games against IAA foes (Eastern Washington and Massachusetts), though to be fair both squads made the playoffs last season, a home game against what should be an improved SMU squad, and a game that could see over 100 combined points at Nevada. A 4-0 start should be in the cards. In conference play, the Red Raiders have a brutal road schedule (
Consecutive 7-6 seasons fueled by spectacular offensive performances and moribund defensive showings have certainly been entertaining, but the Cowboys should have their sights set on achieving a Texas Tech-like perch in the Big 12 South pecking order. Can the defense show a little improvement in 2008, and give the Cowboys more than 7 wins for the first time since 2003?
Ah defense, the bane of Mike Gundy’s existence. If we don’t consider the Cowboys wins over Florida Atlantic and Sam Houston State, where they allowed a combined 9 points, the Cowboys points allowed totals in their wins were as follows: 45 in a win over Texas Tech, 14 in a whitewashing of Nebraska in Lincoln, 39 in a win over Kansas State, 14 in a win over Baylor, and 33 in the bowl win over Indiana. That’s 29 points per game in their wins! In the losses it was much worse. 35 to Georgia, 41 in an embarrassing loss to Troy on national television, 24 in a 1-point defeat to Texas A&M, 38 in a game they led by 21 in the 4th quarter to Texas, 43 in a loss to Kansas, and 49 in a drubbing by Oklahoma. 34.7 per game in the losses. The Cowboys were 101st in the nation in total defense, allowing 443 yards per game. That wasn’t entirely a product of playing in the Big 12 either. Only 2 teams (Baylor and
Offensively, the Cowboys were the epitome of balance in 2007. They averaged 243 yards per game on the ground and 243 yards per game through the air. Overall, they ranked 7th in the nation in total offense and were 2nd in yards gained in Big 12 play. The Cowboys return 7 starters in 2008, but do suffer one significant loss in running back Dantrell Savage. Savage gained over 1200 yards and averaged 5.70 yards per rush in 2007. Whoever replaces Savage will have an offensive line that returns 4 of 5 starters, so the running attack should not suffer a great dip in production. As far as throwing the ball, the Cowboys may suffer a little decline as well, with the loss of leading receiver Adarius Bowman. However, with quarterback Zac Robinson (passer rating of 148.58—14th in the nation) returning and 80% of an offensive line that allowed only 11 sacks (3rd in the nation) in 2007 back, the passing should still be very prolific.
Prediction: The defense will get a little better and the offense will get a little worse. Sounds like the makings of another 4-4 season in Big 12 play. However, with no
Was their a more unsexy coaching hire in the offseason than Texas A&M’s acquisition Mike Sherman to lead their program? I can’t think of one.
The Aggies stats befit a team that finished the 2007 season 7-6 and 4-4 in Big 12 play. Overall they ranked 58th in total offense (397 yards per game) and 83rd in total defense (416 yards per game). In Big 12 play, they ranked 8th in yards gained and 6th in yards allowed—below average offensively and defensively. In 2008, the Aggie offense returns most of the skill position players, but must replace 4 starting offensive linemen. While the skill guys get the glory, it’s often the linemen who make the offense go. Quarterback Stephen McGee and running backs Mike Goodson and the portly
Defensively, the Aggies also bring back only 5 starters. All 4 starters return in the secondary meaning the front 7 brings back only one starter, defensive end Cyril Obiozor. Obiozor led the team with 3.5 sacks last season. That’s not a misprint, as the Aggies managed only 18 as a team. On a per game basis, that comes to about 1.39 (104th in the nation). Don’t expect the Aggies to resemble their ‘Wrecking Crew’ units from the 1990s.
Prediction: Not only should the Aggies be a little worse on both sides of the ball in 2008, their luck should also be shoddier. The Aggies turned the ball over only 17 times in 2007 (14th in the nation). They did this by falling on over 65% of their own fumbles (recovered 17 of 26). Fumbles are a totally random aspect of football, and tend to hover around 50%. I guarantee that the Aggies will lose more than 9 fumbles in 2008. Now let’s examine the schedule.
3 seasons ago, Baylor came oh so close to qualifying for a bowl game, finishing 5-6 overall. Even as recently as 2006, the Bears were a respectable 3-5 in Big 12 play. The bottom fell out on Guy Morriss and the Bears in 2007, as they failed to win a single Big 12 game. Morriss is gone and his replacement, Art Briles (formerly of the Houston Cougars) will look to do what no one has been able to accomplish in the history of the Big 12—get Baylor to a bowl game.
The Bears ranked 85th in the nation in total offense in 2007, gaining only 351 yards per game. In Big 12 play, only one team (
Defensively, the Bears were atrocious in 2007. They allowed 462 yards per game (110th in the nation) and in Big 12 play, only
Prediction: The Bears have some positive indicators heading into 2008. Their turnover margin of -18 was the worst in the nation in 2007. It will likely improve at least a tad in 2008. The Bears also had the good fortune of acquiring a very good offensive-minded head coach in Art Briles. However, after looking at the schedule, predicting a break out season for Baylor is not prudent. Outside of their South division foes, the Bears draw