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Big 12 (South) Conference Preview

   by Matt Fargo - 09/01/2009

The Big XII South is once again stacked compared to its counterpart in the North. Last season, Oklahoma despite losing to Texas during the regular season, made it to the BCS Championship where it lost the title game to Florida. The Sooners, along with Texas and Texas Tech, finished the regular season at 7-1 and it looks as though three teams again will be vying for the South Division title. Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. are ranked 2nd, 3rd and 9th respectively in the AP Preseason poll, tied with the SEC for the most teams ranked within the top ten. It may be a longshot but every team in the South could make a bowl game this season.

Oklahoma Sooners 12-2 SU, 10-3 ATS, 11-2 O/U

Summary: The Sooners will be looking to make it four straight and seven of the last eight South Division championships. The road will not be easy based on the fact that the division is a bear but they look to have the inside slant. Oklahoma scored only 14 points in the BCS Championship against the Gators after piling up more than 60 points in each of its last five games leading up to that. The offense is stacked again led by reigning Heisman winner quarterback Sam Bradford and numerous playmakers around him. The big concern is the offensive line that returns only one starter from last season but experience is there. The Sooners defense was surprisingly soft last season, finishing 68th in the nation overall. Nine starters are back however so the unit should have major improvements and will likely be the deciding factor in the outcome of the season.

Schedule: The Sooners open the season with a tough game against BYU before hosting Idaho St. and Tulsa and then traveling to Miami, Florida. Oklahoma has the best Big XII schedule of the top three as it has Texas on a neutral field as always, along with three home games and just one road game within the division. Two of the three games against the weaker North are on the road.

Bottom Line: Oklahoma became just the third team in NCAA history to score over 700 points in a season. The scary thing is that it can repeat that again this year. Whether or not that happens could come down to the offensive line and how quickly it comes together. Head coach Bob Stoops has put together a powerhouse but has won only one National Championship as he has lost five straight BCS Bowls and three straight title games.

Betting Forecast: Oklahoma is 13-4-1 ATS as a home chalk the last three seasons. This run could end as the lines are going to be absolutely huge in 2009.

Texas Longhorns 12-1 SU, 9-4 ATS, 6-7 O/U

Summary: Texas felt cheated as it thought it should have had a shot at Missouri in the Big XII Championship but lost the tiebreaker to the Sooners despite beating Oklahoma. A loss at Texas Tech was the Longhorns only setback last season and they will be out for some revenge from anyone who stands in the way. The offense will be scary good after finishing 9th overall last season and returning nine starters this year. It may not be as potent as Oklahoma but it will be close as quarterback Colt McCoy leads the way once again. The defense was a bend don’t break unit last season as it was 51st in overall defense but 18th in scoring defense. Seven starters are back and overall, Texas looks to be more balanced than the Sooners but it is tough to tab the Longhorns at the top spot.

Schedule: Reason being is that the schedule is not friendly for Texas. The Longhorns will have no problem with their four out-of-conference opponents but once Big XII action starts, things are dicey. Not only do they have to take on Oklahoma at a neutral site but three South games are on the road as they travel to Missouri, Oklahoma St. and rival Texas A&M to close the season.

Bottom Line: Texas will be good enough to be able to win those tough road games but it is no guarantee it will happen. Looking at what happened at Texas Tech last season and the trip to Stillwater looks even more difficult. First and foremost, it needs to defeat Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry for a second straight season, something it did in 2005 and 2006. It is a tossup between those two.

Betting Forecast: Texas is 7-3 ATS in non-conference games the last two years. It will be favored huge in all four but expect lopsided wins to get some attention.

Oklahoma St. Cowboys 9-4 SU, 8-4 ATS, 6-6 O/U

Summary: The Cowboys look to be this year’s Texas Tech as they have a lot in place to make a run at the top of the South. Offensively, they were one of the nation’s best last season, averaging 487.7 ypg which was 6th in the country. The playmakers are back led by quarterback Zac Robinson, receiver Dez Bryant and running back Kendall Hunter. The problem last season was a defense that finished 93rd overall and 76th in scoring. New defensive coordinator Bill Young has turned around numerous defenses in the past and he looks to do the same here. The secondary looks to be the weakness and that is not a good thing in this conference. Part of the problem is an insufficient pass rush so getting to the opposing quarterback will help the defensive backfield from the start. It is a longshot but the Cowboys cannot be counted out.

Schedule: Oklahoma St. starts the season with a tough home game against Georgia but the remaining three non-conference games should be no problem at all. A win against the Bulldogs likely means a 7-0 record leading up to the Texas game in Stillwater. After that, the only thing standing in the Cowboys way is a trip to Norman to close out the season.

Bottom Line: Oklahoma St. will be able to match any team around score-for-score but there needs to have some semblance of a defense if it wants to make it to the next level. The Cowboys have not won double-digit games in a season since 1988 and this is definitely one of their best shots to do it. Put a defense on the field and Oklahoma St. could be in prime position for a sleeper national title team.

Betting Forecast: Oklahoma St. has had three straight winning ATS seasons but with all of the hype that could change as it will be overvalued in a lot of spots.

Texas Tech Red Raiders 11-2 SU, 5-5-1 ATS, 7-4 O/U

Summary: Texas Tech made a lot of noise last season as it started the season 10-0 and moved up to #2 in the polls before bowing out against Oklahoma in the second to last game of the year. It was the best season in Red Raiders history and a follow up to that is very unlikely. Quarterback Graham Harrell who threw for 5,111 yards and 45 touchdowns is gone as is his go to receiver Michael Crabtree, a first round NFL selection. Junior Taylor Potts is the new signal caller and he should fit in well as he has been around for three years and has the size and the arm to succeed in this offense. While the offense should be potent once again, the defense will take a step in the wrong direction as both ends and the entire secondary need to be replaced. That is not a good sign given the competition it will be facing.

Schedule: Four of the first five games are against non-conference teams but right in the middle of those is a date at Texas on September 19th and the Longhorns will be out for some payback. Two of the final four games against the rest of the South are at home with Oklahoma St. being the lone road game while a game against Baylor takes place on a neutral field in Arlington.

Bottom Line: Texas Tech will not have the same season as last year but this is still gong to be a very good team. The Red Raiders will be gunning for their 17th consecutive winning season and that will happen without a problem. Capturing a share of the Big XII South like it did last season is not likely however unless they can stun Texas for a second straight year. That just isn’t happing though.

Betting Forecast: Texas Tech is only 26-31 ATS over the last five seasons with no winning ATS years in there. It is no longer a secret so that run should continue.

Baylor Bears 4-8 SU, 8-3 ATS, 6-5 O/U

Summary: Last season was supposed to be a lot better for Baylor and things just did not work out as the Bears had a losing season for the 14th straight season. They started the season 3-3 but failed to close the deal although three losses by an average of 4.3 ppg did not help matters. The one major positive was the emergence of freshman quarterback Robert Griffin who threw for over 2,000 yards while tossing 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He also ran for 843 yards and he seems to be the perfect fit in the offense that head coach Art Briles brought over from Houston. Winning this division is just a dream right now but with a very good offense and a defense that returns eight starters, the Bears could be going bowling for the first time since 1994. It may take an upset or two along the way but it is feasible.

Schedule: The Bears open with a tough game at Wake Forest opening weekend before three straight non-conference games all at home against Connecticut, Northwestern St. and Kent St. Big XII action gets under way at Oklahoma but the remaining schedule is not bad. Oklahoma St. and Texas are at home while Texas Tech is on a neutral field to close the season.

Bottom Line: Baylor will need to shore up its defense that has allowed 30 or more ppg in eight of the last 10 seasons. The good news is that one of those seasons it did not was last year although that average came in at 29.3 ppg so there is work to be done. If there is some improvement there and if the newly revamped offensive line can stand up to the challenge, the bowl drought could be over.

Betting Forecast: The Bears are just 3-11 ATS as home dogs since 2005 and they will be in that spot at least twice this season. We could see the good side shine through.

Texas A&M Aggies 4-8 SU, 4-8 ATS, 8-4 O/U

Summary: Texas A&M had 20 straight winning seasons from 1983 through 2002. From 2003 through 2008, it has had only three winning seasons which shows how far this program has fallen. There is light at the end of the tunnel however as the Aggies feel that head coach Mike Sherman is the man to bring them back to prominence. There is a lot that needs to be fixed with this team, namely a defense that has gone from the ‘Wrecking Crew’ to the ‘Reeking Crew’. The Aggies finished an embarrassing 114th in total defense, rushing defense and scoring defense last season but if there is any encouraging aspect of that, there is no where to go but up. The rushing offense also finished 114th in the country so it is fairly obvious that the Aggies need to shore up the line of scrimmage before any thought of a division crown takes place.

Schedule: Any team that plays in the Big XII South is going to have a tough schedule but the Texas A&M slate isn’t that bad all-around. The Aggies do not play a true road game until October 17th as their first six weeks consist of four home games, a neutral site game and a bye week. The problem is that four of the next five games are on the road including Texas Tech and Oklahoma. A home game against Texas ends the year.

Bottom Line: Realistically, Texas A&M could be 5-1 when it heads into Texas Tech. At the same time, it could be 2-4 so this is a very unpredictable team right now. The Aggies are getting more athletic and quicker on defense which is a move in the right direction. There are playmakers on offense so the pieces of the puzzle are getting put into place. The missing elements are those in the trenches.

Betting Forecast: The Aggies have had only one season where they profited as a road dog since 2000, going 8-21 ATS over that span. Based on their road games, that will continue.

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