Nebraska Cornhuskers 10-4 (6-2)
Missouri Tigers 8-5 (4-4)
Kansas State Wildcats 6-6 (4-4)
Iowa State Cyclones 7-6 (3-5)
Colorado Buffaloes 3-9 (2-6)
Kansas Jayhawks 5-7 (1-7)
Texas Longhorns 13-1 (8-0)
Oklahoma State Cowboys 9-4 (6-2)
Texas Tech Red Raiders 9-4 (5-3)
Oklahoma Sooners 8-5 (5-3)
Texas A&M Aggies 6-7 (3-5)
Baylor Bears 4-8 (1-7)
Big 12 Championship Game: Texas 13 Nebraska 12
Returning Leaders: Passing
Blaine Gabbert, Missouri, Jr (262 of 445 for 3593, 24 TD, 9 INT)
Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M, Sr (296 of 497 for 3579, 30 TD, 8 INT)
Taylor Potts, Texas Tech, Sr (309 of 470 for 3440, 22 TD, 13 INT)
Landry Jones, Oklahoma, Soph (261 of 449 for 3198, 26 TD, 14 INT)
Zac Lee, Nebraska, Sr (177 of 302 for 2143, 14 TD, 10 INT)
Returning Leaders: Rushing
Daniel Thomas, Kansas St, Sr (247 carries for 1265 yds, 11 TD)
Alexander Robinson, Iowa St, Sr (231 carries for 1193 yds, 5 TD)
Roy Helu, Nebraska, Sr (220 carries for 1147 yds, 10 TD)
Baron Batch, Texas Tech, Sr (168 carries for 884 yds, 14 TD)
Derrick Washington, Missouri, Sr (190 carries for 865 yds, 10 TD)
Returning Leaders: Receiving
Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma, Jr (89 rec for 1120 yds, 15 TD)
Scotty McKnight, Colorado, Sr (76 rec for 893 yds, 6 TD)
Alexander Torres, Texas Tech, Sr (67 rec for 806 yds, 6 TD)
Kendall Wright, Baylor, Jr (66 rec for 740 yds, 4 TD)
Detron Lewis, Texas Tech, Sr (65 rec for 844 yds, 6 TD)
Returning Leaders: Tackles
Travis Lewis, Oklahoma, Jr, LB (108 total, 8.3 tackles/game)
Trent Hunter, Texas A&M, Jr, S (95 total, 7.3 tackles/game)
Quinton Carter, Oklahoma, Sr, S (88 total, 6.7 tackles/game)
Drew Dudley, Kansas, Sr, LB (88 total, 7.3 tackles/game)
David Sims, Iowa State, Sr, S (88 total, 6.7 tackles/game)
Returning Leaders: Sacks
Von Miller, Texas A&M, Sr, LB (16.5 sacks)
Aldon Smith, Missouri, Soph, DE (11.5)
Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma, Sr (11.0)
Jared Crick, Nebraska, Jr (9.5)
Sam Acho, Texas, Sr (7.0)
Returning Leaders: Interceptions
Blake Gideon, Texas, Jr, S (6 interceptions)
Tysyn Hartman, Kansas St, Jr, S (5)
David Sims, Iowa State, Sr, S (5)
Prince Amukamara, Nebraska, CB (5)
BREAKING DOWN THE BIG 12 WITH THE ZEALOTS
Chris (Projection: #5 in South): So much is the effect of having Robert Griffin III back in a Bears uniform after his injury, that his presence alone helps them to jump Oklahoma St. and lead the team towards a quasi-relevant state. Now just remember he's only a sophomore.
Ross (Projection: #5 in South): They're the feel good story of the Big 12, between their long bowl drought and the fact that QB Robert Griffin is one of the most exciting players in college football -- or was, anyway, before he blew out his knee last year. Time will tell if he's able to regain his breathtaking pre-injury form. To get to a bowl this year, they're going to need to put up a ton of points, given all the holes they have on defense; good thing they return a slew of players on offense and get Griffin back to run the show. Really, their season is going to rise or fall on the condition of Griffin's knee; if he's all the way back, their offense should be very good and he may be able to lead them to six wins and the promised land of a bowl game. If he's not all the way back, it's probably another disappointing season in Waco.
Ross (Projection: #4 in North): Dan Hawkins somehow survived to face another year as Colorado's head coach, but at least he has a lot of returning starters with him to try and get things turned around (or just send him out on a high note). They have ten back on offense (everyone but the TE) and seven back on defense (3/4 of the defensive line and secondary), so if Hawkins is ever going to get anything going at Colorado, it's probably going to be now. Too bad the schedule is such a bear: Georgia and Cal should be difficult challenges in the non-conference slate and the Big 12 road games are so challenging (Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska), it's hard to see them winning even one of those. 4-4 in the Big 12 might be a solid accomplishment for this team.
Chris (Projection: #3 in North): Dan Hawkins was supposed to revitalize Colorado Buffalo football. That was what he was brought in for. But 4 years and a 16-33 record later, it's apparent that the only reason he is still there is that he is too expensive to buy out for the Colorado Athletic Department. The real interesting this is that he finally decided to bench his son and make the dinner table at the Hawkins house a little more awkward. Although, he could be just trying to improve his son's life expectancy by getting him out of the way of charging defensive linemen that were allowed to pray on Buffalo QB's to the tune of 44 sacks last year. In all fairness, I do think this is the year Hawkins turns it around...a little. Why wouldn't it be with a team returning 15 starters and 7 in an above average D a year ago. Their schedule doesn't do them any favors in the record department, so I don't think they'll be going bowling, but it's so strong that it can prepare them for conference play.
Iowa State Cyclones
Chris (Projection: #5 in North): To be honest, this is again a case of little separation between the Cyclones and the Wildcats. Quarterback Austin Arnaud may be the difference between last and next to last for the Cyclones, as they return 7 other offensive starters around him. The real issue is that their suspect defense has a lot of new faces on it, so the offense will have to be on it's game week in and week out to keep from falling into the Big 12 North dungeon.
Ross (Projection: #6 in North): They return plenty on offense (starters at QB, RB, WR, and 3/5 of the OL), but returning just four starters on defense is going to put a lot of pressure on new faces to step up and stop the Big 12's many potent offenses. But the biggest problem is a schedule that puts Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech on the slate (not to mention challenging non-conference games against Iowa, Utah, and Northern Illinois), brings Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri to Ames and sends them to Colorado (trickier than it seems) for a road game. That schedule is just too daunting to see them amassing too many wins in 2010.
Ross (Projection: #3 in North): There's a fair amount back on offense (7 players, including the entire offensive line), but there are a few glaring holes: namely, QB Todd Reesing, a multi-year starter, and his favorite targets, WR Dez Briscoe and WR Kerry Meier; that's a lot of production for the offense to replace. The defense returns six starters, so there are even more holes to fill on that side of the ball, but the schedule should help new coach Turner Gill get off to a hot start. They draw Baylor, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma State from the Big 12 South and their only really tough road game looks like a trip to Lincoln to take on Nebraska.
Chris (Projection: #4 in North): Never in my life have I seen a college football team go from so hot to so cold like Kansas did a year ago. After winning their first 5, the Jayhawks dropped their last 7, including a puzzling couple of decisions from the Mangino-man (who should now be able to successfully launch his career as the next Jared for Subway) that showed he knew he was on the way out and truly didn't care about his job anymore. Mangino sure picked the right time to leave though (well actually, by picked I mean he was fired), as Todd Reesing and the team built around him is now Kale Pick's team. Who? Yeah, that's the successor to Reesing. No offense to Turner Gill, but I think this team, with all the bad that Mangino left behind, will be too much of a project to turn around in one year...especially when only returning 11 starters.
Kansas State Wildcats
Ross (Projection: #5 in North): A team that was already lacking in talent now has to deal with returning just five starters on offense and six on defense; that's going to be tricky. With 4/5 of the offensive line back and a talented workhorse running back in Daniel Thomas, it's pretty clear what K-State is going to do on offense: run run and then run some more. The last thing a rebuilding and inexperienced team needs is a schedule short on easy home games, but that's exactly what K-State has: just three true home games (a fourth home game is in Kansas City against Iowa State) and they're against Texas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma State. Winning either the Texas or Nebraska games is going to be very challenging, which is going to put a lot of pressure on a young team to pick up some wins on the road.
Chris (Projection: #6 in North): The Wildcats were 108th in the nation in passing a year ago, a stat that is likely to even fall further without a returning starter at receiver, tight end or quarterback. They will rely on Daniel Thomas and hope that a revamped defense which was very strong from a year ago will keep them in the Big 12 chase. But that's an awful lot of if's, and it is my belief that Kansas St. will become too one dimensional on offense and opponents will be quick to catch on.
Chris (Projection: #2 in North): Anyone who thought that Mizzou was going to take a step back after Chase Daniel left was rudely awakened when they dismantled (but that word doesn't even do it justice) the fresh off a BCS bowl bid Illinois 37-9 in week 1. From that point on, Blaine Gabbert and Derrick Washington put on an offensive clinic. Guess what? They're back! Both of them. Big 12 D-coordinators will not sleep before their matchup with Missouri...or after them either. I believe in Missouri so much that if any other team not named Nebraska (okay, so not ANY other team, but the list of teams that would make me change that statement is short) was in their division, I would take them to win it.
Ross (Projection: #2 in North): Nebraska is the odds-on favorite in the B12 North, but if anyone can give them a run, it's Missouri, who returns eight starters on offense and defense, including returning stars at QB (Blaine Gabbert) and RB (Derrick Washington) and most of their offensive line and their entire defensive secondary. So the talent appears to be there. The schedule is challenging, though: they have a five-game stretch in the middle of the season (Colorado, @ Texas A&M, Oklahoma, @ Nebraska, @ Texas Tech) that could derail things.
Chris (Projection: #1 in North): The Huskers were seconds away from a BCS bowl and an upset of the national runner-up, and seconds from an upset of a Virginia Tech team that won 10 games as well. That accounted for half of their losses a year ago. Back are 9 players on offense from a struggling unit a year ago, including their leading passer, rusher, and receiver. Also back is a strong core of 6 starters on a top-10 defense only led by one of the game's top defensive minds. The Huskers are primed for success this season and to follow up on their 2009 campaign to prove that it wasn't a fluke. Newsflash: It wasn't. If the Huskers can hold off the Tigers, they'll be heading to the Big 12 ship.
Ross (Projection: #1 in North): Losing Ndamukong Suh is unquestionably a massive blow to the defense and the entire team, but they have some other NFL-ready defensive stars (Jared Crick, Pierre Allen, Prince Amukamara) ready to step up and keep the defense as one of the top defenses in the league (and nation). Nine guys are back on an offense that was utterly wretched a year ago; hopefully another year of experience will allow them to blossom into, at least, competence. The Texas game is a lynchpin to their season and a win could springboard them to big things. Regardless, it's nigh-impossible to see anyone in the Big 12 North challenging them.
Chris (Projection: #1 in South): The good news is that if Oklahoma somehow gives this race away, quarterback Landry Jones will be a shoe in for the 30th annual America's worst facial hair award. The bad news for the Big 12 South is that is unlikely to happen. Expect DeMarco Murray to absolutely DOMINATE the Big 12 this year en route to the conference's Offensive Player of the Year award. Just like Texas they don't bring a lot back, but just like Texas (or at least much like Texas) Oklahoma recruits seem to deliver in the clutch (unlike their coach Bob Stoops). The Sooners are ready to put behind them a year where their universe was turned upside down...and I think they will do it.
Ross (Projection: #2 in South): The loss of Bradford and Gresham so early last year meant that Oklahoma had to get a headstart on the post-Bradford/Gresham era, which should give them an advantage heading into this year. Landry Jones took his lumps as Bradford's replacement a year ago, but he came on strong at the end of the year and a full off-season of practice should have him ready to become the next incredibly prolific Oklahoma QB. They return a ton of other starters on offense, and while the defense needs a lot of patching up, defense tends to be Stoops' specialty. The bigger concern is the schedule, which includes some challenging non-conference games (Florida State, Air Force, and Cincinnati) and only three conference home games (since the Texas game is at the Cotton Bowl). Then again, if Oklahoma can get by Texas, there's no reason not to think that they could run the table in the Big 12.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Chris (Projection: #6 in South): Long season ahead for the Pokes...you know, full of things like Mike Gundy rants, and losing to Oklahoma, and being back at the bottom of the Big 12 totem pole. I'm sorry if nobody else sees it, but returning only 5 starters in this league lands you here. If you don't agree with me GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT! IT MAKES ME WANT TO PUKE!
Ross (Projection: #6 in South): This year we'll find out how well Mike Gundy has recruited since turning 40. They lost a ton of proven talent on offense and defense; until they show us how well they can replace guys like Zac Robinson, Dez Bryant, and Russell Okung, it's reasonable to be skeptical of their prospects in 2010.
Chris (Projection: #2 in South): I was SO close to giving this spot to Texas A&M, but just couldn't bring myself to it. That defense is horrid, no matter how many starters they return. Still if Texas' young squad should leave the door open for Jerrod Johnson to work his magic, you could see the Aggies overtaking the Horns in the standings. But, instead I'll go with conventional wisdom and say that the A&M defense will still be bad (you can't make THAT drastic of an improvement in one year), and I'll trust Mack Brown's recruits on getting the job done. What reason do we not have to trust this guy? He delivers!
Ross (Projection: #1 in South): The offense needs to be totally rebuilt and they lost some key performers on defense, too -- so why pick them to win the South? Like all the other elite teams, they reload and with Muschamp running the defense, it's pretty likely that he'll have another very good unit on the field. The offense is more of a question mark, but Garrett Gilbert is plenty talented (as he showed in the second half of the BCS title game last year). The best thing Texas has going for them is their schedule, which is paper-thin: they play only three true road games all year (@ Texas Tech, @ Nebraska, @ Kansas State) and it's really a two-game schedule (vs. Nebraska and Oklahoma). A split in those games and 11-1, 7-1 in the Big 12 looks very possible.
Texas A&M Aggies
Chris (Projection: #3 in South): Jerodd Johnson is one of the nation's best players, and he'll get to show his skills with a lot of skill position talent around him. However, there are two concerns at A&M. One, the new offensive tackles are both freshmen! Yikes! Johnson will have to use his athletic ability to evade pressure early on. Also, a defense that was just absolutely pathetic a year ago returns 10 starters but just like Callahan Brake Pads, won't offer you any guarantee. To me that spells Texas A&M in third...but one of the best 3rd teams in their division in the nation, rest assured.
Ross (Projection: #4 in South): It's a do or die year for Mike Sherman; the good news is that he finally has a talented and experienced team in place. The core of the offense is back, including QB Jerrod Johnson, who should be the best QB in the league. If they can fill a few holes along the offensive line, they should have an incredibly explosive offense. The defense also brings back nine starters, which would be really good news if they hadn't spent the better part of the last few years getting utterly torched and disgracing the unit's former "Wrecking Crew" moniker. The schedule is troubling, too, as they get all three of what could be the best teams in the Big 12 North (Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas).
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Chris (Projection: #4 in South): I like Texas Tech (or well what they did under Leach. It was a brilliant gameplan to beat teams). I like Tommy Tubberville. But as American Idol's Simon Cowell once said of a performer "You and Latin music go together about as well as Garlic and Ice Cream." That is the case here. Tubberville likes to run (evidenced by the Cadillac Williams/Ronnie Brown tandem). Texas Tech's pedigree is passing, and they were groomed over the last decade to do nothing else. So once again, I like both parties, but who doesn't see a fall with the system change and Tubberville at the helm? I just don't know if Tommy is the guy for the Red Raiders...but have faith in a more conventional job (a la not Mike Leach tries to throw a pass between every breath).
Ross (Projection: #3 in South): There's a lot of talent back on offense and a decent amount back on defense; if Mike Leach was still around, this might be a dark horse team to win the South, given the holes that Texas and Oklahoma have to fill. But with Leach gone and Tommy Tuberville in charge, this team is a total wildcard. While Tuberville claims he wants to keep the air raid passing game, given his past, it's hard not to see him dramatically increasing the importance of the running game -- and it's anyone's guess as to how that will go. On the plus side, they draw Iowa State and Colorado from the Big 12 North, which may be just enough to let them slide ahead of Texas A&M.
CFBZ Predicted Big 12 Finish
1. Nebraska Cornhuskers
2. Missouri Tigers
3. Colorado Buffaloes
4. Kansas Jayhawks
5. Kansas State Wildcats
6. Iowa State Cyclones
1. Oklahoma Sooners
2. Texas Longhorns
3. Texas A&M Aggies
4. Texas Tech Red Raiders
5. (tie) Baylor Bears
5. (tie) Oklahoma State Cowboys
Big 12 Championship Game: Nebraska Cornhuskers over Oklahoma Sooners