There won't be any college football games played for quite a while but that doesn't mean we are going to stop talking about the sport we love. Each week during the off-season we will bring you the top stories and we will also be discussing a variety of topics in our weekly roundtable. Over the next seven weeks we will be touching on all of the BCS Conferences and also taking a look at the non-BCS teams. We started last week in the ACC. This week we will be talking Big 12 football. Agree, disagree or want to chime in to the conversation then let us know in the comments. If you want to pose a question for us to answer then e-mail it to us at collegefootballzealot at gmail.com or just drop it in the comments section. Joining us this week on our panel of College Football Enthusiasts is Shea Harris. Shea is the founder and editor of the Texas Longhorns based blog "Blogging Bevo". You can also follow him on Twitter @BloggingBevo or you can check out their facebook page here. Now that the introductions are out of the way...let's talk Big 12 football....
One of the most interesting storylines this year is Texas and if they can rebound from their 5-7 record from last year. Do you see Texas finishing over or under 9 wins for the season?
Shea (Blogging Bevo)- I say under with eight wins.Texas is certainly going be better, the question is how much better, something that is tough to project considering all of the changes in the off-season. There are too many question marks with the team right now, although it appears some are being answered in spring ball. There are depth issues on the defensive line, at corner, and on the offensive line. While they should be in good shape with starters, they will have serious problems if they don't stay healthy at those positions. With all of that said, the key to it all for Texas will be at quarterback. Whether it's Garrett Gilbert, Connor Wood, or Case McCoy, the quarterback play has to be much improved to have a shot at competing for the Big 12 title against the likes of OU, OSU, and A&M.
J Martin- My best guess is that they finish at 9 wins even, but if I had to go over or under, I'd take the under,but not by much. Like 8 wins. For one thing, I do expect them to be better on the field in 2011 thanks to their freshened up coaching staff and some key player additions, such as incoming freshman running back Malcolm Brown. But mostly I think the schedule sets up really well for them with 3 very winnable non-conference game and then the new 9 game conference schedule that will let them feast on 4 of the ex-North division teams, plus most of the road games are what I would consider winnable games for them, as well. They won't come close to challenging Oklahoma for the title, but they'll be respectable again.
Kevin- I think Texas will be much better than they were last year but I'm not sure I'm ready to put them over 9 wins just yet. I like their coaching hires but getting Stacy Searles as their OL Line is at least a one game deficit for them so I'm predicting them at 8-5 right now. They pretty much have the same schedule as last year but trade Wyoming for BYU and Nebraska for Missouri. I think they will be more focused when playing the teams they lost to last year (UCLA, Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas State). It wouldn't surprise me to see Texas post a 10 win season but I'm going to have to see that before I start drinking the kool aid.
The Oklahoma Sooners are the early favorite to win the Big 12 (and by many to win the National Championship). Which team will be more likely to challenge them for the Big 12 Championship: Oklahoma State or Texas A&M?
Shea (Blogging Bevo)
J Martin- I don't have much faith in either of those teams to give OU any kind of a stern challenge. Even with Weedon and Blackmon back, I think a lot of the magic in Stillwater left with Dana Holgorsen. And I just can't take Texas A&M seriously with Mike Sherman in charge. I know I'm supposed to like A&M this year, but as of today, I don't believe in them at all. So as you maybe can tell, I'm seeing this season as kind of a laydown for Oklahoma in the Big 12.
Kevin- Okie State has been within two game of winning the Big 12 South for the past two years. That's a lot more consistency than A&M has shown. I'm a sucker for going with the team that has proven they can win year in and year out over a team that has not been very good in recent memory. I like what A&M brings to the table this year but I think Okie State has a shot to be pretty special this year even without Holgerson.
Give me the most important player in the Big 12 this season (meaning if he was taken off of his team it would have the biggest effect).
Shea (Blogging Bevo)- Robert Griffin is the name that jumped out at me. He's one of the best players in the country, and with him Baylor can make some noise in the conference. Without him, no way, although I’m not sure it happens anyway. They lose a lot on defense, but that offense should be pretty good, and Griffin is the type that can carry a team to some extent.
J Martin- Justin Blackmon at Oklahoma State. OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden is an extremely productive player, but I'm not convinced that he's an extremely talented player. It's Blackmon's ability to draw coverage and take the top off the defense (and still get open) that makes Weeden so efficient in getting the ball to other receivers. I think Weeden becomes a much more average QB, and OSU's offense much more pedestrian, without Blackmon. And they don't play much defense there, so they need all the offensive production they can get. In my opinion, Blackmon is the difference between winning 10 games and winning 7 games for them.
Kevin- I'm going with Landry Jones. Oklahoma is everybody's pick as the Pre-Season darling (even ours). If Landry goes down then who knows what happens. Remember 2009 when Sam Bradford got hurt? If you are an Oklahoma fan I bet you do. Oklahoma went 8-5 with an inexperienced QB at the helm. Now that inexperienced QB is the veteran after leading the Sooners to a 12-2 record last year and losing him would destroy their National Championship hopes.
What is the one game that will have the biggest impact on the Big 12 this year?
Shea (Blogging Bevo)- Well, nothing original here, I have to go with the Red River Shootout. If Oklahoma and Oklahoma State go undefeated through conference, their match-up at the end of the year will be epic. I don't think the Cowboys make it through unscathed, however. If the Pokes and Aggies game were later in the season, that would be a candidate as well. But I'll stick with the game that is THE game every year. For Texas, if they can get past a couple of tough opponents before the RRS, a win at the Cotton Bowl could spring them to something special. An Oklahoma loss makes it tougher for them on the national scene, and opens things up for the competition to have a shot at the Big 12 title. A Sooner win sets them up for a BCS run.
J Martin- I think the game that's going to have the biggest impact on the Big 12 won't even be a Big 12 game. As I've already said, I don't anticipate Oklahoma fielding many strong challenges in conference. Not to say that they won't have some close games, but on paper, there's nothing they can't handle. The game I'm looking to is OU's early September trip to Tallahassee to take on ACC favorite Florida State. A loss in that game would take the wind out of OU's national championship aspirations and could relegate the Big 12 conference season to afterthought status from a national perspective. In it's first year without a championship game, the Big 12 really needs a strong BCS contender to carry them through conference play. And with Texas still on the mend, Oklahoma is the only team that fits the bill.
Kevin- Probably the most intriguing game for Big 12 fanatics is when the Kansas Jayhawks travel to Ames late in the season looking for revenge for their 12 point loss from last year. OK, so maybe not. Maybe, just maybe it's November 26th. Mark that one down on your calendar. It's when Oklahoma and Oklahoma State clash and all the marbles will be on the line. OU could be playing for a National Championship and Okie State could be playing for a Big 12 Championship. If it's anything like last years game we are in for a treat.
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