But seriously, folks, it’s time to preview the redneck cousins of the SEC’s po’ white trash fans and their favorite teams. Notice how I didn’t say “schools.” Let’s face it, when it comes to football, in three previews so far, I’ve only covered about four serious academic institutions. The rest are just NFL waiting rooms for prospects. They’re serious about their football down there in the Big XII. Just not quite as crazy or as good as the SEC.
The Big XII might also be better known as the “Spread Conference.” No, not because of their recruiting tactics. Basically, every team but one or two runs some type of spread offense now. Gone are the days of OU’s wishbone offense (which was invented by UT coach, and native Oklahoman, Darrell Royal), but there may be a few Dexter Manley’s floating around out there still. This IS a football conference south of the Mason-Dixon (for the most part), after all.
On with the preview:
Big XII North: Land of the Short Quarterback
Southlake, Texas product Chase Daniel is money in the spread offense. Funny how that offense tends to work better when the quarterback can actually throw, unlike his predecessor, Brad Smith. Every successful spread offense has to have a playmaker. Happily for Daniel, he’s got his “thriller” (thanks Under Armor/Nike/Adidas/Reebok commercial!) in Jeremy Maclin.
After the year they had last season, Mizzou really needs to watch out for the dreaded hangover-season. 12-2 is a wildly successful year for that program and Missouri-fan barely knew what to do with themselves, so imagine what the football team was, and is, dealing with. If the Tigers can avoid the temptation to throw on every down (an issue with spread teams if the run isn’t initially successful) and actually stop some teams on defense, I believe they are going to have a very happy 2008. If not, well hell, it’s just Missouri being Missouri.
Speaking of wildly succsessful seasons in 2007…Kansas seems to be the much more likely candidate for a hangover. They lost some key players, especially Aqib Talib on defense, and were reaching much higher, relative to their talent level, than Mizzou was. It’ll be all they can do to screw Mizzou out of an at-large BCS berth again. I personally would love it if my basketball school’s football team lucked into a BCS berth, got to play Virginia Tech and THEN win a basketball national championship. Bastards.
Uh, anyway, there’s no reason to think quarterback Todd Reesing won’t be successful like he was last season, it’s just hard to say what else there is on the offensive side of the ball this season. Sure, the spread is nice and it lets Lollipop Guild-guys like Reesing play quarterback, but it’s only a system. It still needs talent, FAST talent.
I personally am also wondering about the karmic implications of suing a guy who makes unlicensed KU shirts that say “Kansas: Keeping America Safe From Missouri Since 1854.” I feel like people need to be aware of the history, don’t you? I mean, at least he’s a fan, but all the lawsuit did was get rid of the “our coach can eat your coach” and “our coach beat anorexia” shirts. As I always say, if you’re not a little bit evil, then you’re not a college football fan.
Despite Dan Hawkins’ “frustrations” with his team’s feelings on vacations away from Boulder (it’s Division one football!), it really seems like he’s building something up there in Boulder. He’s getting talent in the recruiting classes and even managing to dip into California and Texas occasionally. I seriously doubt he’s going to steal any recruits from USC or UT, but at least he’s getting some guys. They’re one of the few teams that aren’t exclusively a spread-offense team as well. They even have a fullback (!) on the roster. The biggest question: can they not suck on a consistent enough basis to get past Kansas and Missouri? I feel like I should answer that question, this being a preview and all, but I really can’t. Colorado hasn’t been great in a while, so it’s hard to picture them being successful this quickly into the Hawkins to Hawkins Era. I wonder if that kid’s parents ever convinced him to play intra-murals, brother.
4. Kansas State
I love their quarterback. What’s his name again? Sid something? Whatever. Josh Freeman, that’s the one. Yeah, like you weren’t going to have to Google it too. The kid is money, even if his team is crap. He’s like the new Daunte Culpepper. Wait, that was supposed to be a compliment. This isn’t going well so far.
I can’t help it, but I’m still in the mindset of the Bill Snyder days when he was dragging this program to respectability by refusing to play any good teams unless absolutely forced to. I still picture them as an entirely defensive and utterly boring offensive club even though that’s not really the case under Ron Prince. It’s still really hard to describe K-State football, though. Partially because they’re never on television because they suck, but also because this is a team that lacks an identity. They haven’t won enough lately to be considered a power in the North, and seem to still feel like a bad program that’s playing up to the big boys instead of one that belongs. Maybe it’s just hard to shake the perceptions of the past, but then again, perception is reality a lot of the time.
Remember when Nebraska owned this division and it was laughable to even think another team might win it? Maybe Bo Pelini can turn things around in Lincoln, but I seriously doubt it’ll be this season. That team completely quit on Bill Callahan and, once Sam Keller went down, completely quit on each other too. That kind of mindset doesn’t go away. Neither does, you know, lack of overall speed and talent. I’d say the latter is probably the bigger problem for the Huskers. It’s still Nebraska, and they’ll always be a tough road win for other teams, but they’ve got to take their re-re-building lumps after the Callahan Disaster.
*Image courtesy of BigRedNetwork.com
6. Iowa State
It says a lot about how bad things have gotten in Iowa City (home of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes) that Ames, Iowa is home to the best college football team in the state. It kills my dad to see college football in his home state be this gawd-awful, but there’s nothing one can do about it this season. No matter what happens in a Cyclones’ game this season, remember: they’re still Iowa State. A 7-5 2008 is an insanely successful season for this program. Here are some cheerleaders to make everyone feel a little better.
Big XII South: Home of That Really Annoying Fan You Know
It’s actually a life-goal of mine to ride out onto OU’s field in the covered wagon, by far the NCAA’s best monument to cheating, so if you’re a representative of Oklahoma University, stop reading now. Skip down and watch me say Texas sucks.
I’m reticent, to say the least, to pick OU to repeat what they did in 2007. It’s not that Bob Stoops sucks or that they dumped Josh Jarboe for bringing the Derty-Derty to Norman, despite the obvious karmic consequences. It’s not even that the South is so good. I just plain don’t trust this team because too many analysts like their chances this season. Any time there’s a pick that’s this trendy, I gotta wonder. Then again, they pretty much own the South and the Big XII in general lately. It’s only on the national stage Bob Stoops’ team craps the bed. I still think they’re getting upset at least once this season, maybe even at home.
What else is there to say? They have a ton of talent all over the field and just have to play to their potential to make it back to the conference title game again. But whenever there’s a team that only has to stay out of its own way to be hugely successful, I get really scared. This is college football and these guys are still kids. Even if they aren’t selling yay in the offseason.
2. Texas Tech
Remember how I hate it when everyone loves one team despite its flaws? Yeah I’m going to totally contradict myself now. This is totally Tech’s year. Totally. Technically, it has been for the last five years, but this really is it. Why? Hard to say. They have a ridiculously productive quarterback, as always. A questionable defense, as always. And that fatal flaw of an offense that passes all the time, as always. The difference? Michael Crabtree. He’s that good. And even though pretty much everyone in the conference spread the field, their offenses aren’t great at limiting Tech’s possessions and, thus, could have a shootout on their hands in almost any game. I think they finally raised their game in Lubbock and might pull some stuff off. Like finishing ahead of Texas. Set sail for glory, mateys! Arrrrrrrrr. Get it? They’re pirates. Shit is hilarious.
They’re still Texas, but they seem to be missing some of that overwhelming talent at the playmaking, or “thriller,” positions. They’ll always have good line and linebacker, or “destroyer” positions, but that’s just not enough anymore. Who is going to run the ball for them this season? More accurately, who is going to replace Jamaal Charles? The zone-read doesn’t work too well if teams know for sure the running back can’t do anything if he gets the ball. That could mean another crap season from Colt McCoy. And THAT could mean the start of the “Bring back Jevan!” chants. Texas isn’t in trouble per se, but something definitely seems off for them right now.
4. Oklahoma State
I don’t believe a bowl win does anything for momentum the next season, no matter how badly they kicked IU’s ass in the Insight Bowl (tear). OSU’s biggest problem is being the other OSU and being the other team to wear orange and white. Oh, and being an up-and-coming team in a division and conference that don’t really have room for one. The schedule is too brutal and the Cowboys just aren’t quite good enough to truly break through yet. They could still easily upset pretty much any team they play on a given Saturday, but winning the South is basically out of the question, no matter how LeFevour-like Zac Robinson is. You stay classy, Stillwater.
5. Texas A&M
Just like UT, only without the attractive women and football success. New coach, new philosophy, same crappy Franchione-recruited talent. How does a guy bail on Alabama for College Station and then not bust his ass to prove the move was worth it? When you’re asking Jorvorskie Lane’s tubby ass to carry your team’s offense, there’s a problem.
Speaking of offense, Mike Sherman-ball should work just fine once he gets the guys used to it. They actually do have some talent on that side of the ball. Nay, it’s the defense that will completely obliterate this team’s chances of success this season. They simply are no good. Maybe they’ll find a way to get it done this season, but Mike Sherman is just one man, like Jesus. But just in case, Aggie fans should probably lower their expectations this season.
Baylor has a new coach too! The question is: will you have to google Art Briles later today? Kevin Kolb knows who he is because Briles’ offense at the University of Houston (the other UH) got him drafted in the second round by the Eagles, a team that already has a quarterback. Briles then did the smart thing and got the hell out of Houston in favor of…Waco? Is he hiding from the Feds or something? Good lord.
Maybe Briles can make Baylor into something other than an extra bye week for their opponents. He’s still recruiting in Texas, after all. And as you NCAA Football video game players know, you can take any school you want in either Florida or Texas, be it North Texas or Florida International or whatever, and win a national title in four years. Tops. It’s just that easy to find talent down there. Or so video games have told me, which makes me more of an expert than Tom Lemming. Hell I wouldn’t even pretend to not be influencing recruits to attend my alma mater. My point? F*ck Notre Dame.
Conference Champion: Missouri
Offensive Player of the Year: Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri
Defensive Player of the Year: Auston English, DE, Oklahoma
Newcomer of the Year: Darrell Scott, RB, Colorado