Part Two of a four-part series where we count down to Big 12 Media Days.
In Part One, I gave you my power rankings, projected standings, and bowl predictions for the Big 12. Today, I wanted to jump into each team and explain what games I have them winning or losing. I'll touch on some games, but we can always discuss more in depth in the comments about specific ones where you maybe see things differently.
I'll start with Iowa State, and then go down in my projected order of how the teams will finish. Starred games are tossups, and could go opposite of what I'm projecting
Iowa State (4-8):
Wins: Northern Illinois*, Kansas State*, UNI, Kansas*
Losses: @Iowa, Texas Tech*, Utah*, @Oklahoma, @Texas, @Colorado*, Nebraska, Missouri
In all, I believe ISU has 6 toss-up games in a very tough schedule. Of those 6, I have ISU winning 3. I think of toss-ups as coin-flip kinds of games, and a coin flip is a 50-50 shot. At this point, I'd figure I'd go with statistics here.
Another way to think of it as worst case scenario is 1 win, best case is 7, and 4 is right in the middle. I hate the idea of having a MAC team as a tossup game. I really think we win this one, but I've looked at various sites that have Northern Illinois at an equal or slightly better skill set than Iowa State. Northern Illinois is a run-first, defensive oriented team. I think it's a lower scoring game, something like 21-17, or 17-14. With the way our offense struggled last year, I doubt it will be clicking on all cylinders, despite the notable improvement they've made in the spring.
Iowa is the best shot at beating a Top 10 team in the road, but the way we played them last year was rough. I think ISU plays much closer to them this year, but it's hard to project a win at this point. That said, I love the placement of this game in the schedule. The ISU staff gets a couple of extra days to prep for this game, while Iowa is coming off a ho-hum game against Eastern Illinois and likely looking forward to their Week 3 opponent, a potential Top 25 team, and a trip to Phoenix. I don't think ISU could ask for a better time to play Iowa.
Utah is a name now in college football, and it makes sense why people doubt ISU in this one. I think 2009 would have been the year to play them as they would have had a fairly young team. This year they return almost their entire OL, a QB just entering his sophomore season, and a team with an experienced D-Line. Both this game and Texas Tech are the ones I'm the most curious about probably because it consists of a team I don't get to see play much, and another one with a different identity than we're used to seeing.
Wins: Utah State, Florida State*, Air Force, @ Cincinnati, Texas*, Iowa State, @Missouri, Colorado, @Texas A&M*, Texas Tech, @Baylor, @Oklahoma State
I think Oklahoma is going to have a great season, and I'm not alone as Phil Steele has them is his #1 team this year. Either way, I think this year is going to be much better than last for the Sooners. Some of their weaknesses from last year (offensive line, QB play, etc), turn more into strengths this year. With the O-Line you need continuity and these guys now have that. Landry Jones did struggle last year as well, but you have to remember he was a freshmen, getting thrown in when least expected. He's been under pressure, and I think he takes a big step this year. Losing McCoy has a big deal for their D-Line, but they have two Seniors in Beal and Taylor, and will be just fine. They do have to replace chunks of their secondary, and linebacking corps, but this is OU and it's college football. You gotta replace people somewhere.
The Florida State game is going to be an early test for OU without a doubt. Florida State underachieved with Bowden at the helm the last few years, and I think having him gone is going to help tremendously. Don't get me wrong, Bowden is one of the best to ever do it, but it was time for him to walk away. Florida State returns their ENTIRE offense, and 6 guys on defense, including key guys on the D-Line and at Linebacker. This is a team with Top 25 talent, and now have the leadership to get things together. This should really be a great game. I gave OU the edge here because they're playing at home, but if this was at Florida State, I may have picked the other way.
Texas and Texas A&M are the two South teams that I think will be able to hang with OU, and OU is leaps and bounds ahead of the north teams minus Nebraska (whom they do not play).
Texas A&M (10-2):
Wins: Stephen F. Austin, LA Tech, FIU, @Oklahoma State, Missouri*, @Kansas, Texas Tech, @Baylor*, Nebraska, @Texas*
Losses: Arkansas*, Oklahoma
I know A&M fans are probably telling me to put down the crackpipe. I just don't think there's any reason why this team can't have 9 or 10 wins on the year. I went more in depth on what I think of A&M in the comments of Part One, but I'm not going to bet against Jerrod Johnson and Von Miller very often. I know most of their defense was bad last year, but with guys coming back, they'll be better. College Football, unlike the NFL, guys are still developing into their bodies and are still making improvements to their skill sets. You see big jumps with guys year to year. I don't think you need to play lockdown defense anyhow, when you have the personnel to score 35 points in a game. Maybe I'm crazy, but I'm having some fun with this.
I have A&M losing to Arkansas, because Arkansas has basically 2 weeks to prepare for this one, and playing between two conference games for A&M would seem to be a potential spot to slip up. Baylor seems like a trap game coming right between home games against Oklahoma and Nebraska, so I put it as a toss-up. If this team can't get 8 wins this year during the regular season, they should fire Sherman. I have A&M picking off Texas, because sometimes things happen with rivarly games, and I don't think Texas is going to be as good as they were last year. More on Texas below:
Wins: @Rice, Wyoming, @Texas Tech, UCLA, @Nebraska*, Iowa State, Baylor,@K-State*, Okie State, FAU,
Losses: Oklahoma*, Texas A&M*
I think Texas is more vunerable than they've been in a few years. They are switching to a pro-style QB, and they lost a lot of talent with McCoy, Kindle, etc. That said, they're still going to be very good. I have the game @ Nebraska as a toss-up, but with having 2 weeks to prepare for it, I don't think it's as much of an issue. I have K-State as a tossup because it seems like if Texas is going to lose to a team from the North, its K-State for whatever reason. Oklahoma and A&M are rivalries, so naturally it's going to be a tossup from year to year.
I don't have a ton to say on Texas as they get covered from all angles by all the media, and information about their team is easy to find. What I will say is transition to a new QB is big deal, especially if they have to change elements of their offense to better fit his skills. When Vince Young took over as full time QB, although they went 11-1, they had 3 of those wins were near losses; it could have been an 8 or 9 win season. When Colt McCoy took over, they went 9-3 in each of his first two years before going 11-1 and 12-0 the next two. They also have to replace 3 starters on the O-Line, so that could be a weak spot (in relative terms) for Texas.
When your down years are 9 win seasons, it's all good. I just think people only remember Vince Young vs. USC, and Colt McCoy last year and think 2010 is going to be exactly like that. It could be, but Garrett Gilbert is going to have something to prove and do some learning as they go. Either way, I don't think they easily waltz into the Fiesta Bowl, and I could see them getting picked off a couple of times during the year.
Wins: WKU, Idaho, South Dakota State, @K-State, @Oklahoma State, Missouri*, @Iowa State, Kansas, Colorado*
Losses: @Washington*, Texas*, @Texas A&M*
I think Nebraska is overrated. Losing Suh on the line is going to be a bigger deal than their fans think. It's just that Husker fans always hype up their players to new levels. "Oh you think Suh was good, he wasn't even as good as the guy that's coming in for him this year". They've been doing this for years, and it's the way their fanbase is.
I think Nebraska will be able to run the ball. Helu is decent, and their O-Line is very good. They have no QB. Zac Lee and Cody Green both suck. I think their offense will continue to sputter like it did last year, and I think their defense takes a bit of a step back with Suh gone. They are still going to be a defensive oriented team, wanting to score 14-17 points and holding you to under 10. The games I have them losing feature teams with the athletic ability to stretch the defense. With Texas, we will see, but I think having 2 weeks prep for that game helps them out. I wouldn't underestimate Washington with a great offensive minded coach, and 20 of their starters coming back. Should be a good game.
Wins: Illinois, McNeese State, San Diego State, Miami (OH), Colorado, @Texas Tech*, K-State, @Iowa State, Kansas
Losses: @Texas A&M*, Oklahoma, @Nebraska*
Missouri takes a couple of hits losing Sean Weatherspoon, Danario Alexander, and Jared Perry, but such is life. I think their offense will be clicking, and will have a real chance at beating Nebraska and winning the Big 12 North. In fact, if that game was in Columbia this year, I'd pick Mizzou to take that game down. Gabbert is a stud, and will probably take another step up.
Wins: Colorado State*, @Cal*, Hawaii, Georgia*, Baylor, @Kansas, Iowa State*, Kansas State*
Losses: @Missouri, Texas Tech*, @Oklahoma, @Nebraska*
I have to put CSU as a tossup since CU did lose to them last year at home, and this is going to be played in Denver, a neutral site. I don't think Cal will be that good this year, Hawaii is going to stink, and Georgia is overrated this year. Now, as ISU fans we know what it's like to be CU football fans these days. Greg McDermott was the college basketball version of Dan Hawkins. Hawkins said 10 wins last year and they sucked. McDermott said NCAA tournament last year, and we sucked. These two guys should be golf buddies!
That said, Colorado has the talent to be bowl bound this year. It all depends on whether Hawkins realizes his son isn't that good of a QB or not (in that regard, they are similar to Iowa Basketball).
With CU, they could be anywhere from 10 wins down to 4 wins. 8 felt right, but 6 or 7 is probably a safer pick. If Dan Hawkins believe little Hawkins should be the QB, then it's probably more like a 3 or 4 win season.
Texas Tech (7-5):
Wins: SMU, @New Mexico, @Iowa State*, Baylor, Oklahoma State*, @Colorado*, Weber State
Losses: Texas, @Texas A&M, Missouri*, @Oklahoma, Houston*
I talked about it quite a bit on Part One's comments, but Tech is a mystery. It's tough to see how they do with a new regime. I split their toss-up games down the middle, and having a non-conference slate of teams like SMU, New Mexico, and Weber State definitley helps pad the win total. Houston is tough though, so it's not a complete joke.
If things go roughly, this team could end up with only 4 wins or so. Tuberville + Air Raid = interesting season. Remember, this is the coach who had a team lose to LSU 3-2. Offense is not exactly his strong suit.
Kansas State (6-6):
Wins: Missouri State, UCF, @Kansas*, @Baylor*, Oklahoma State*, @ North Texas
Losses: UCLA*, Iowa State*, Nebraska, Texas*, @Missouri, @Colorado*
The postive for K-State this year is if they reach 6 wins again, they would actually make a bowl game as opposed to the genius scheduling they had last year. I don't have a lot to say about K-State, I can't stand these guys. I wil say that I think they are middle of the pack in a mediocre Big 12 North, hence most of the Big 12 North games are toss-ups. I think anywhere from 4 to 9 wins can happen, but I think 6 is a good baseline because it puts them in a bowl game.
Oklahoma State (5-7):
Wins: Washington State, Troy, @ LA-Lafayette, Baylor*, @Kansas*
Losses: Tulsa*, Texas A&M, @Texas Tech*, Nebraska, @K-State*, @Texas, Oklahoma
It's going to be a down year in Stillwater for the Cowboys. After losing almost everyone you've heard of on Oklahoma State, it's a rebuilding year. They return only 4 starters on each side of the ball, and a majority of their games are toss-ups. Getting bowl eligible would be a great goal for this team, and it's definitley possible. They could also finish in the Big 12 cellar too.
Wins: Sam Houston State, Buffalo, @Rice, Kansas*,
Losses: @TCU, Texas Tech, @Colorado, K-State*, @Texas, @Oklahoma State*, Texas A&M, Oklahoma
Baylor is a chic pick to go bowling and I don't see it happening. In fact, last year when people were picking them to go, I didn't see it then either. I'm a Baylor-hater I suppose. This year, they come back with only 6 starters on each side of the ball, and lost a big presence on defense with Jordan Lake. Robert Griffin is back, and is a fun player to watch, but can he single-handedly win 6 games for the Bears? I fully expect Baylor and Oklahoma State to battle it out for last place in the South.
Wins: North Dakota State, New Mexico State
Losses: Georgia Tech, @Southern Miss, @Baylor*, K-State*, Texas A&M, @Iowa State*, Colorado, @Nebraska, Oklahoma State*, Missouri
After losing Reesing, Meier, Briscoe, and Stuckey, we are supposed to believe that Kansas is going to be better than last year? Things at KU were a mess last year, but that was because they were losing and things spiraled downward. This year, I think they will do a lot of losing, but that's due to the talent they will be putting on the field.
They have a tougher non-con as Georgia Tech is going to contend in the ACC, and Southern Miss is very very solid CUSA team. I expect there to be some close games in conference play, but utlimatley they get shut out. Very similar to Iowa State in 2008, when they were a 2 win team going on 6 wins.
Jayhawks fans have a lot to be excited about for the future with a coach like Gill. They just need to reailze that the media is smoking crack if they really think this is the 3rd best team in the North (even though teams 3-6 in the North are fairly interchangable).
I know some on here will think I'm crazy, and will defend your team to the end. I welcome that, and would love talking about this more. Who knows? Maybe you can point something out to me I'm overlooking. I'm definitley not Phil Steele or any other prognosticators. I'm just a guy who likes making predictions and does the best I can, and has fun doing stuff like this.
Tomorrow I'll post Part Three, where I'll unveil the "Official" Clone Chronicles All-Big 12 Team!