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Big 12 Football Preview
by Ben Burns - 07/22/2009
The Big 12 is spewing confidence.
Texas coach Mack Brown and Nebraska AD Tom Osborne claim their conference is top to bottom as competitive as the mighty SEC.
Head-to-head, the Big 12 is not better than the SEC. In both bowl meetings last year, the SEC came out on top, with Ole Miss handling Texas Tech and Florida pushing past Oklahoma. The SEC is deeper and has overall better coaching, with four coaches owning national championship rings
However, when it comes to what really matters-â€”ATS recordsâ€”the Big 12 is vastly superior to the SEC.
Last season, the Big 12 went 27-18 ATS in non-conference games, compared to the SECâ€™s rather pedestrian 25-22 mark against the number.
Will the Big 12 be able to continue that trend? It wonâ€™t be easy.
Oklahoma and Texas combined to go 19-5 against the spread in 2008.
Both are expected to be powerful again, but another 80 percent ATS winning percentage seems unlikely, especially with the big numbers the Sooners and Longhorns will be laying.
Oklahoma State moves ahead of Texas Tech and Missouri as the Big 12â€™s third wheel. Kansas and Nebraska should battle it out for the North Division. But, after those teams, the bottom of the Big 12 could struggle.
(ATS records are for last three years.)
ATS: 20-17-1 (Home: 11-8, Away: 5-7-1)
Thing to remember: Look for Mack Brown to attempt to establish the running game early in the season. Last yearâ€™s leading rusher was quarterback Colt McCoy, the one player the Longhorns absolutely cannot afford to lose to injury.
Bonus: The Longhorns own the best in-conference ATS record since 2000 at 41-31-2.
ATS: 25-14-2 (Home: 13-4-1; Away: 7-4-1)
Thing to remember: The Sooners must replace four starters on the offensive line. Two reserve linemen also left during the offseason, making depth a concern. This could cause Bob Stoops to pull back on the reigns of his super-fast, no-huddle attack that was so potent last season. An improved defense also could lead to slightly slower offensive scheme.
ATS: 21-13-2 (Home: 10-4-2; Away: 9-8)
Thing to remember: Under coach Mike Gundy, the Cowboys are 1-7 straight up against teams ranked in the Top 10. Their regular-season losses last year were to teams ranked No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3.
ATS: 16-19 (Home: 8-7; Away: 8-10)
Thing to remember: Mike Leach knows how to get his team to rebound. Under Leach, the Red Raiders are 21-11 ATS after a straight up loss.
ATS: 17-18-1 (Home: 7-4-1; Away: 8-6)
Thing to remember: Texas A&M is going to a no-huddle, high-tempo offense, similar to what Oklahoma used to set numerous NCAA records last season. The Aggies donâ€™t have the personnel of the Sooners, but the offenseâ€™s tempo will at least result in more plays. Whether or not it equals more points is up for debate.
ATS: 15-18 (Home: 7-10; Away: 7-8)
Thing to remember: Donâ€™t be surprised if the Bearsâ€™ offense takes a step back this season. In Art Brilesâ€™ second season at Houston, the Cougars averaged 14 points less than they did in his first season and finished 3-8 ATS.
ATS: 24-11 (Home: 12-6; Away: 9-4)
Thing to remember: The Jayhawks return the divisionâ€™s top quarterback in Todd Reesing and the conferenceâ€™s top receiving corps, led by Dezmon Briscoe. But their offensive line is extremely shaky. Two redshirt freshmen and two sophomores could possibly start.
ATS: 17-20-1 (Home: 10-11; Away: 6-7-1)
Thing to remember: The Cornhuskers have covered in only four of their last 12 games as road underdogs. Theyâ€™re at Virginia Tech, Sept 19.
ATS: 14-21 (Home: 7-9; Away: 5-9)
Thing to remember: With nine returning starters on offense, this should be the year coach Dan Hawkins finally gets the Buffalo offense rolling.
Hawkinsâ€™ Boise State teams averaged more than 40 points a game. The Buffalos, under Hawkins, have averaged just over 21 a game.
ATS: 21-17 (Home: 9-7; Away: 7-6)
Thing to remember: New quarterback Blaine Gabbert is a highly-touted pro-style quarterback, who has the potential to make Tiger fans forget about Chase Daniel. Unfortunately, Gabbert doesnâ€™t have Danielâ€™s weapons. Missouri must replace its top four receivers from last year.
With the fewest returning starters in the conference, including only four on defense, Missouri should take a step back this season.
ATS: 16-18 (Home: 9-9; Away: 6-8)
Thing to remember: At least a dozen players have left Kansas State since 70-year-old coach Bill Snyder came out retirement to return as Wildcats coach.
ATS: 14-19 (Home: 7-10; Away: 7-9)
Thing to remember: The Cyclones have lost 17 consecutive road games. Thatâ€™s particularly bad news, seeing as Iowa State has only three conference home games.
Play the over on â€¦
Iowa State: Offensive coordinator Tom Herman, who directed Riceâ€™s prolific attacks the past two years, inherits nine returning starters, including dual-threat quarterback Austen Arnaud.
Last season, Rice averaged over 41 points a game. Nine of the Owlsâ€™ 12 games went over the total.
This offense will be much more wide-open and tailored to Arnaudâ€™s skills this season than last yearâ€™s under Gene Chizik.
The defense is another story, where first-year coach Paul Rhoads has some major questions marks throughout the unit.
Kansas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas also will put up points in bunches, but that foursome isnâ€™t going to sneak up on anyone; The Cyclones might.
Play the under on â€¦
Nebraska: In a high-scoring, defense-lacking conference, letâ€™s tread lightly here. But Nebraska could develop into a dominant defense.
Bo Pelini is an elite defensive coach, with an elite defensive tackle in Ndamukong Suh. Some project the 6-4, 300-pound Suh as the No. 1 pick in next yearâ€™s NFL draft.
Behind Suh is a secondary with all four returning starters.
In Peliniâ€™s first year, the Huskers held opponents to nearly 10 points less than the previous season.
On the offensive side of the ball, theyâ€™re breaking in a new quarterback in Zac Lee, a junior with two career pass attempts. Lee didnâ€™t win the starting job outright until redshirt freshman Kody Spano was injured in the spring.
There are not a lot of stars on this offense.
The coaching staff readily admits ball control will be a big part of their offense.
The Huskers were among the nationâ€™s leaders in time of possession last season.
Talent-gauging Early Games
(Check out these September tests to see how the Big 12 stacks up.)
Oklahoma vs. BYU, Sept. 5, at Arlington, Texas
Missouri vs. Illinois, Sept. 5, at St. Louis
Georgia at Oklahoma State, Sept. 5
Baylor at Wake Forest, Sept. 5
Iowa at Iowa State, Sept. 12
Nebraska at Virginia Tech, Sept. 19
Kansas State at UCLA, Sept. 19
Southern Miss at Kansas, Sept. 26