The Pi-Rate Ratings

September 17, 2013

PiRate Ratings–College Football: September 19-21, 2013

Odds and Ends

This is shaping up to be a season where multiple big-time coaching jobs could become available in the college football world.  As many as five major schools could be searching for a new head man to lead them back to where they think they should be.

 

We’ll start in Austin, Texas, where Longhorn coach Mack Brown appears to be losing control of a team that had enough talent to run the table.  The defense, which should have been vastly improved, has taken a step back.  Numerous media mentions of all the talent that did not sign with the Longhorns, including quarterbacks Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel, and Jameis Winston, make the coaching staff look incompetent, even if it isn’t totally so.  The bottom line is that at Texas, 10-2 should be the weakest acceptable won-loss record for a school with all the resources needed to be the New York Yankees of college football.   There is enough quality talent in the Lone Star State to stock an entire BCS conference.

 

Next, let’s venture to Los Angeles, where some clever person has been going around painting the word “Kiffin” on all the fire lanes in the area.  Lane Kiffin might have to beat Stanford in the regular season and Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game to save his job.  USC is not a slam dunk success like Texas, but it should be rather easy to recruit enough talent to compete for the national title three years out of five.  The defense has given up twice as many points per game in Kiffin’s tenure than it did in the last several years of the Carroll era.  The Wild Bunch they are not.

 

Next, we’ll venture to the plains and stop in Lincoln, Nebraska, where Bo Pelini has not turned the Cornhuskers’ program around.  The Cornhuskers believe that every year should be 1971, 1983, 1995, or 1997.  After Tom Osborne left, Frank Solich carried on the tradition with minor slippage.  58-19 was not good enough for the rabid NU fans, and Solich was chased off following a 10-3 season in 2003.  Ten years and two coaches later, the Cornhuskers have not equaled that 10-3 record that was not good enough for Solich to keep his job.  Under Solich, Nebraska’s scoring margin was 15.1 points per game.  In his tenure, they gave up 17.4 points per game.  Pelini’s Cornhusker teams have lost four games every year, and this year’s team looks like it could have a tough time losing just that many.  Throw in a recent audio release that displayed the coach bad-mouthing the Cornhusker fans in an expletive-filled monologue, and it looks like short of Nebraska getting to the Rose Bowl, Pelini’s job is in serious jeopardy.

 

Now, throw in the regular turnover that happens every year, and add these three big jobs that could become open.  The following is a list of schools where coaches could decide to retire or try something else.

 

Steve Spurrier—South Carolina:  Spurrier is 68 years old.  He does not seem very happy this year, as there has been dissension in Columbia.  He may decide playing golf every day is preferable to this.

 

Kirk Ferentz—Iowa: Ferentz has long been known as one of the best pure coaches in the game.  His Iowa Hawkeyes have shared to Big Ten titles, but they have never earned a trip to Pasadena in his 14 previous seasons.  Ferentz has turned down multiple offers to move to the NFL where he was a highly competent assistant under Bill Belichick with the original Cleveland Browns.  At 58, if he ever wants to be an NFL head coach, it needs to be soon.  This could be the year he finally pulls the trigger.

 

Jerry Kill—Minnesota:  This is a sad situation.  Kill is an excellent coach, and he is slowly turning the Gophers’ program around.  He revived the downtrodden program at Northern Illinois in just three seasons, and in year three in the Twin Cities, he has UM off to a 3-0 start with a nine-win season possible.  Unfortunately, Kill suffers from epilepsy, and just last week he had to leave a game for the fourth time due to seizure.  He has received the emphasis “Vote of Confidence” from the administration, but VOCs very frequently prove to be metaphorical for “PYBs” or “Pack Your Bags.”  It is not fair, but other schools are using this in recruiting, and the more events that take place, the more it will be effective.  Kill may have to step aside for another position in the university.  Life is not fair.

 

Mike Gundy—Oklahoma St.: Gundy has a fat record (70-35) in Stillwater, and he has all the pieces he needs (T. Boone Pickens and his money) to build a dynasty at OSU.  However, there is a black cloud hanging over this team as a multiple-part expose emerges detailing how the Cowboys’ climbed almost to the top of the mountain via the illicit trail.  If sanctions come down, Gundy could even receive a show-cause edict, which would basically force him out of coaching at the college level for “x” amount of years.

 

Bob Stoops—Oklahoma: This is crazy, but there are football zealots in Oklahoma that are not satisfied with a 150-37 won-loss record.  They should look closely up north where their former conference rival exiled Coach Solich to Athens, Ohio.  Stoops has not won a second national championship.  It has been 13 years.  Never mind that he brought OU to the National Championship Game twice but lost to teams that were among the 25 best of all time.

 

The Return of the Rebels?

If you are college football fan over the age of 55, you can remember a time when the Ole Miss football team was the equivalent of Oregon in modern times.  Yes, the Rebels once were the most exciting team in college football, and they competed for the national title every year.  They even won three of them back when four to seven polls’ champions were recognized as real champions.

 

Under legendary coach Johnny Vaught, Ole Miss became the first SEC team to emphasize a wide-open style of play with quarterbacks that could pass the ball on any down from any place on the field.  Prior to Vaught, all SEC teams still played caveman football.  They ran the ball 99% of the time until they passed their own 40 yard line.  If it was 3rd and 10 from their own 25 yard line, teams were more likely to punt the ball rather than attempt a pass.  Some teams had four or five passing plays in their playbook and even numbered them as “Pass Number Four.”  Teams ran the ball 90% of the time, and when they did throw, it was usually a play-action pass on first or second down in the other team’s territory.

 

Vaught changed that in Oxford.  He used the Wing-T, Slot-T, T with Flanker, and even a three-receiver set with no tight ends.  Other SEC teams still had two tight ends and no wide receivers, and Tennessee still used the Single Wing.  Under Vaught, Ole Miss made football exciting.  Quarterbacks matriculated to Oxford, because it gave them the opportunity to show off their skills to NFL scouts.  Archie Manning may have been the most widely publicized QB to play for Vaught, but top notch passers like Glynn Griffing, Jake Gibbs, and Charlie Conerly.

 

After Vaught retired at the end of the 1970 season, Ole Miss fell on hard times.  Multiple losing seasons followed with the occasional rebound to 6-5 or 8-4.  Eli Manning brought the Rebels a short-term window where they faced off against LSU in 2003 with the winner taking the conference championship, but alas, the Bengal Tigers nipped them by a field goal and went on to capture the national title as well.

 

Now, Hugh Freeze has the Rebels on track to return to the times when everything was gravy in Oxford.  Ole Miss looks like a team capable of scaring Alabama, LSU, and Texas A&M.  Freeze took a 2-10 team in 2011 and won seven games including an impressive blowout of Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl last year.  After demolishing Texas in Austin last week, Ole Miss has its first 3-0 start since 1989.  The Rebels have the benefit of an extra week to prepare for Alabama in Tuscaloosa on the 28th, and the Tide did not roll all over Ole Miss last year.  If Ole Miss can gain a split in the their next four games (at Alabama, at Auburn, Texas A&M, and LSU), they could earn a Cotton, Capital One, or Outback Bowl bid in year two of the new regime.  And, if they go 3-1, they could be looking at the Sugar Bowl or better.  Oh, and Ole Miss had its best recruiting year since the Vaught days.  Some of the true freshmen are already paying big dividends for Freeze.  Now, a school that has been recognized in modern times as a great place to enjoy a football game and watch a team wearing Harvard Crimson and Yale Blue has become a place to watch the new most exciting team of the Deep South.

 

Previews Of This Week’s Key Games

Clemson at North Carolina St.: The Tigers fortunately had a week off to come down from the high of beating Georgia.  They now have a trap game when they travel to Raleigh Thursday night.  The Wolf Pack will be waiting in ambush, and as much as the Clemson Memorial Stadium crowd helped CU in its big win, the Carter-Finley faithful will help NCSU.  State is 2-0, albeit against two pushovers, but the Pack also had a week off to prepare for this game.  Expect State to play its best game of the entire season, but will it be enough?

 

Arizona St. at Stanford: Stanford has not looked all that impressive in its first two games, while Arizona St. has looked like a team capable of winning the Pac-12 South flag.  The winner of this game will move to the top of the heap of Duck challengers.  It should be as exciting as last Saturday’s ASU-Wisconsin game.  Hopefully, a blown call will not decide this one.

 

North Carolina at Georgia Tech:  We have seen the Techsters easily dispose of Elon and Duke, but can the Yellow Jackets run all over a quality ACC team?  If the answer is yes, then the ACC race just became very interesting.  Tech still has road games against Miami, BYU, and Clemson, and of course, they end with Georgia.  If Paul Johnson is on the verge of taking the one BCS team that runs the spread option offense back toward the top of the league, then the rest of the league’s coaches will not sleep easily.  It is virtually impossible to practice against this offense when your scout team cannot learn to run it in one week.

 

Auburn at LSU: LSU has quietly started 3-0 with three impressive offensive showings.  Auburn is also 3-0 under new coach Gus Malzahn.  LSU should win this game by double digits, but it will be an excellent test to gauge where both programs stand.  Should LSU win handily, and Auburn continue to play well, it could mean that Les Miles has a possible 2011 repeat on his hands.  If Auburn pulls off the upset, then Malzahn will be crowned the new Shug Jordan.

 

Arkansas at Rutgers: This contest allows us to gauge the American Athletic Conference.  Rutgers looks like a middle of the pack team in the new AAC, while Arkansas is probably around 8th or 9th best in the SEC.  Bret Bielema has rapidly installed his style of offense in Fayetteville, and the Razorbacks have two backs topping 100 yards in the same game.  When he finds two tight ends capable of making all-conference at the same time, it will be time to seriously look at Arkansas as a player in the toughest division in college football.

 

Michigan St. at Notre Dame:  The Irish have not put it together for four quarters in their first three games, and Michigan St. may require such an effort for Notre Dame to avoid a 2-2 start.  This game basically becomes a BCS at-large bowl eliminator, as the loser will have virtually no chance to qualify for such.  Notre Dame must finish in the top eight in the BCS standings to automatically earn a bid to one of the big five bowls.  10-2 should be good enough with the schedule they play.  9-3 will be iffy.  8-4 means they will bowl in December.

 

Missouri at Indiana: This one is somewhat similar to the Arkansas and Rutgers game, but with one extra reason to watch.  Missouri underperformed last year with quarterback James Franklin injured.  Is this team capable of playing with Georgia, Florida,  and South Carolina?  If the Tigers win convincingly, we still may not know the answer, but a convincing win will definitely move MU above Tennessee and Vanderbilt as the team most likely to surprise one of the big three.  Coach Gary Pinkel could have Mizzou at 5-0 when they play at Georgia on October 12.  The Tigers will be out for blood in that game after the Bulldogs clawed them by three touchdowns in their inaugural conference game last year.

 

Here are this week’s college football ratings.

PiRate Regular

1

Oregon

133.9

2

Alabama

132.5

3

Ole Miss

124.9

4

Stanford

124.2

5

Oklahoma St.

122.6

6

Texas A&M

122.0

7

Georgia

121.5

8

L S U

121.2

9

Ohio St.

120.7

10

South Carolina

119.9

11

Arizona

119.5

12

Washington

118.9

13

U C L A

118.6

14

Florida St.

118.5

15

Louisville

117.6

16

Baylor

117.5

17

Florida

117.5

18

Arizona St.

117.0

19

Clemson

116.7

20

Texas

116.4

21

Oklahoma

115.6

22

Notre Dame

115.6

23

Michigan

115.3

24

Wisconsin

115.2

25

Oregon St.

115.1

26

Missouri

115.1

27

Michigan St.

114.8

28

Miami

114.6

29

Georgia Tech

114.6

30

Northwestern

114.5

31

T C U

113.1

32

U S C

113.0

33

B Y U

110.8

34

Virginia Tech

110.7

35

Nebraska

110.7

36

Penn St.

110.0

37

Kansas St.

109.1

38

Vanderbilt

108.9

39

Texas Tech

108.8

40

Mississippi St.

108.6

41

Auburn

107.2

42

North Carolina

106.9

43

Cincinnati

105.7

44

Washington St.

105.7

45

Tennessee

105.6

46

West Virginia

103.8

47

Indiana

103.8

48

Central Florida

103.4

49

Fresno St.

103.2

50

Utah

103.1

51

Utah St.

103.0

52

Minnesota

102.0

53

Syracuse

101.6

54

San Jose St.

101.0

55

Arkansas

100.9

56

Boise St.

100.3

57

Boston College

100.2

58

Iowa

99.9

59

Illinois

99.8

60

Toledo

99.7

61

Pittsburgh

99.4

62

Maryland

99.2

63

Bowling Green

99.2

64

Rutgers

99.0

65

Kentucky

99.0

66

East Carolina

98.2

67

Iowa St.

98.1

68

Northern Illinois

98.1

69

Rice

97.7

70

Duke

97.6

71

Navy

97.6

72

Ball St.

97.5

73

Purdue

96.8

74

Marshall

96.8

75

North Carolina St.

96.7

76

Wake Forest

96.6

77

Louisiana–Monroe

96.4

78

California

96.3

79

Louisiana–Lafayette

94.4

80

Arkansas St.

93.9

81

Virginia

93.7

82

Kansas

93.7

83

Tulsa

93.6

84

S M U

93.5

85

North Texas

92.8

86

San Diego St.

92.5

87

Colorado

92.0

88

Ohio

91.6

89

Houston

91.2

90

Wyoming

91.0

91

Colorado St.

90.0

92

Buffalo

89.7

93

Connecticut

89.6

94

Western Kentucky

89.4

95

South Florida

89.3

96

U T S A

88.7

97

Kent St.

88.1

98

Memphis

87.6

99

Nevada

87.4

100

U A B

87.3

101

Middle Tennessee

86.8

102

Troy

86.8

103

Temple

86.7

104

Hawaii

85.6

105

Florida Atlantic

85.5

106

U T E P

85.3

107

Western Michigan

84.8

108

Tulane

84.7

109

Army

84.4

110

U N L V

84.3

111

Louisiana Tech

82.9

112

South Alabama

82.9

113

Akron

82.8

114

Central Michigan

82.7

115

Southern Miss.

81.3

116

Texas St.

81.2

117

Eastern Michigan

79.3

118

New Mexico

79.3

119

Air Force

79.0

120

Miami (O)

78.4

121

New Mexico St.

73.7

122

Massachusetts

71.0

123

Idaho

69.7

124

Florida Int’l

67.8

125

Georgia St.

60.1

 

PiRate Mean

1

Oregon

129.8

2

Alabama

125.1

3

Florida St.

122.2

4

Ole Miss

120.5

5

L S U

120.4

6

Arizona St.

118.8

7

Georgia

118.6

8

Ohio St.

118.0

9

South Carolina

117.9

10

Texas A&M

116.6

11

Wisconsin

116.5

12

Clemson

115.7

13

Miami

115.7

14

Louisville

115.6

15

Michigan St.

115.3

16

Stanford

114.6

17

Washington

114.6

18

Arizona

114.6

19

Georgia Tech

114.2

20

Michigan

113.8

21

Florida

113.3

22

Penn St.

113.0

23

Oklahoma St.

112.6

24

Missouri

112.2

25

Northwestern

112.1

26

Notre Dame

111.7

27

Oklahoma

111.4

28

Virginia Tech

111.0

29

U C L A

110.9

30

U S C

110.5

31

North Carolina

109.2

32

B Y U

109.0

33

Baylor

107.8

34

Nebraska

107.7

35

Indiana

107.5

36

T C U

107.4

37

Arkansas

107.4

38

Auburn

107.0

39

Texas

106.6

40

Maryland

106.5

41

Cincinnati

106.2

42

Texas Tech

106.2

43

Vanderbilt

106.0

44

Central Florida

105.6

45

Washington St.

105.1

46

Tennessee

105.0

47

Mississippi St.

104.8

48

Oregon St.

104.0

49

Illinois

103.7

50

North Carolina St.

103.0

51

Utah

102.7

52

Fresno St.

102.6

53

Rutgers

102.4

54

Minnesota

102.2

55

Houston

102.1

56

Kansas St.

101.5

57

Marshall

101.2

58

Rice

100.6

59

Ball St.

100.4

60

East Carolina

100.3

61

Toledo

100.3

62

Utah St.

99.9

63

Navy

99.8

64

Kentucky

99.6

65

Wake Forest

99.5

66

Northern Illinois

99.3

67

Bowling Green

99.0

68

Iowa

98.9

69

S M U

98.6

70

Syracuse

98.6

71

Boston College

98.5

72

Duke

98.3

73

Colorado

97.5

74

Pittsburgh

97.3

75

Virginia

97.1

76

West Virginia

96.0

77

San Jose St.

95.9

78

Memphis

95.8

79

Louisiana–Monroe

95.2

80

Ohio

95.1

81

North Texas

95.0

82

Boise St.

94.0

83

Louisiana–Lafayette

94.0

84

Purdue

93.1

85

Middle Tennessee

92.8

86

Wyoming

92.3

87

Army

92.1

88

California

91.8

89

U T E P

91.5

90

Kent St.

91.3

91

Tulane

91.2

92

Western Kentucky

91.0

93

Kansas

90.9

94

Tulsa

90.6

95

Colorado St.

90.3

96

U T S A

90.2

97

Nevada

90.1

98

Buffalo

90.0

99

U A B

89.4

100

San Diego St.

89.4

101

Texas St.

88.6

102

Arkansas St.

88.3

103

Iowa St.

88.0

104

Troy

88.0

105

Akron

87.9

106

South Alabama

87.4

107

U N L V

86.9

108

Hawaii

86.3

109

Western Michigan

86.0

110

New Mexico

85.5

111

Temple

85.1

112

Florida Atlantic

84.9

113

Central Michigan

84.9

114

Connecticut

84.6

115

Louisiana Tech

84.5

116

Eastern Michigan

84.2

117

Air Force

83.6

118

South Florida

82.3

119

Miami (O)

82.3

120

Southern Miss.

80.7

121

Massachusetts

80.2

122

New Mexico St.

80.0

123

Idaho

79.1

124

Florida Int’l

70.6

125

Georgia St.

69.3

 

PiRate Bias

1

Oregon

135.5

2

Alabama

133.6

3

Ole Miss

125.2

4

Oklahoma St.

123.4

5

Stanford

122.9

6

L S U

122.2

7

Texas A&M

122.1

8

Georgia

122.0

9

Ohio St.

121.0

10

Florida St.

120.4

11

Washington

119.9

12

South Carolina

119.6

13

Louisville

119.3

14

Arizona

118.3

15

Baylor

117.9

16

U C L A

117.9

17

Clemson

117.8

18

Arizona St.

117.0

19

Oklahoma

115.6

20

Georgia Tech

115.5

21

Florida

115.5

22

Wisconsin

115.2

23

Texas

115.1

24

Miami

114.8

25

Michigan

114.6

26

Northwestern

114.0

27

Missouri

114.0

28

Notre Dame

113.6

29

Oregon St.

113.5

30

T C U

113.3

31

Michigan St.

112.9

32

U S C

112.8

33

B Y U

112.0

34

Virginia Tech

110.3

35

Penn St.

109.3

36

Texas Tech

109.1

37

Nebraska

109.0

38

Vanderbilt

108.4

39

Mississippi St.

108.0

40

Kansas St.

107.7

41

North Carolina

107.5

42

Washington St.

106.5

43

Cincinnati

106.4

44

Auburn

106.3

45

Utah St.

105.0

46

Tennessee

104.9

47

Central Florida

104.3

48

Indiana

104.1

49

Fresno St.

104.1

50

Utah

102.5

51

West Virginia

102.1

52

San Jose St.

101.6

53

Maryland

101.5

54

Boise St.

101.1

55

Minnesota

100.9

56

Syracuse

100.7

57

Boston College

100.5

58

Illinois

100.4

59

Bowling Green

100.4

60

Toledo

100.2

61

Rutgers

99.6

62

Iowa

99.6

63

East Carolina

99.5

64

Arkansas

99.4

65

Pittsburgh

99.1

66

Rice

99.0

67

Northern Illinois

98.8

68

Marshall

98.7

69

Ball St.

98.2

70

Navy

97.7

71

North Carolina St.

97.5

72

Kentucky

97.5

73

Louisiana–Monroe

97.1

74

Wake Forest

96.5

75

Duke

96.4

76

Iowa St.

96.2

77

Purdue

94.3

78

California

94.3

79

Virginia

94.0

80

Louisiana–Lafayette

93.8

81

Arkansas St.

93.4

82

Wyoming

93.2

83

North Texas

93.0

84

S M U

92.9

85

Ohio

92.9

86

Kansas

92.6

87

Tulsa

92.6

88

Houston

92.5

89

San Diego St.

92.5

90

Colorado St.

90.4

91

Colorado

90.1

92

Connecticut

90.0

93

Buffalo

89.8

94

Western Kentucky

89.8

95

Kent St.

88.7

96

U T S A

88.4

97

Troy

88.3

98

Memphis

88.2

99

South Florida

88.0

100

U A B

87.5

101

Middle Tennessee

87.0

102

Western Michigan

87.0

103

Nevada

86.8

104

Hawaii

86.7

105

U T E P

86.0

106

Florida Atlantic

85.8

107

Army

85.7

108

Temple

85.4

109

Tulane

84.9

110

U N L V

84.7

111

South Alabama

83.9

112

Akron

83.2

113

Central Michigan

82.4

114

Louisiana Tech

82.1

115

Southern Miss.

81.3

116

Texas St.

80.4

117

New Mexico

79.5

118

Eastern Michigan

79.3

119

Air Force

79.0

120

Miami (O)

76.8

121

New Mexico St.

73.2

122

Massachusetts

70.9

123

Idaho

69.3

124

Florida Int’l

67.7

125

Georgia St.

61.5

 

 

PiRate Ratings By Conference

American Athletic Conference

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Louisville

0-0

3-0

117.6

115.6

119.3

Cincinnati

0-0

2-1

105.7

106.2

106.4

Central Florida

0-0

3-0

103.4

105.6

104.3

Rutgers

0-0

2-1

99.0

102.4

99.6

S M U

0-0

1-1

93.5

98.6

92.9

Houston

1-0

2-0

91.2

102.1

92.5

Connecticut

0-0

0-2

89.6

84.6

90.0

South Florida

0-0

0-3

89.3

82.3

88.0

Memphis

0-0

0-2

87.6

95.8

88.2

Temple

0-1

0-3

86.7

85.1

85.4

 

 

 

 

 

 

League Averages

 

 

96.4

97.8

96.7

 

Atlantic Coast Conference

Atlantic Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Florida St.

1-0

2-0

118.5

122.2

120.4

Clemson

0-0

2-0

116.7

115.7

117.8

Syracuse

0-0

1-2

101.6

98.6

100.7

Boston College

1-0

2-1

100.2

98.5

100.5

Maryland

0-0

3-0

99.2

106.5

101.5

North Carolina St.

0-0

2-0

96.7

103.0

97.5

Wake Forest

0-1

1-2

96.6

99.5

96.5

     

 

 

 

Coastal Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Miami

0-0

2-0

114.6

115.7

114.8

Georgia Tech

1-0

2-0

114.6

114.2

115.5

Virginia Tech

0-0

2-1

110.7

111.0

110.3

North Carolina

0-0

1-1

106.9

109.2

107.5

Pittsburgh

0-1

1-1

99.4

97.3

99.1

Duke

0-1

2-1

97.6

98.3

96.4

Virginia

0-0

1-1

93.7

97.1

94.0

     

 

 

 

League Averages    

104.8

106.2

105.2

 

Big 12 Conference

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Oklahoma St.

0-0

3-0

122.6

112.6

123.4

Baylor

0-0

2-0

117.5

107.8

117.9

Texas

0-0

1-2

116.4

106.6

115.1

Oklahoma

1-0

3-0

115.6

111.4

115.6

T C U

0-1

1-2

113.1

107.4

113.3

Kansas St.

0-0

2-1

109.1

101.5

107.7

Texas Tech

1-0

3-0

108.8

106.2

109.1

West Virginia

0-1

2-1

103.8

96.0

102.1

Iowa St.

0-0

0-2

98.1

88.0

96.2

Kansas

0-0

1-1

93.7

90.9

92.6

     

 

 

 

League Averages    

109.9

102.8

109.3

 

Big Ten Conference

 

Leaders Division

 
Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

 
Ohio St.

0-0

3-0

120.7

118.0

121.0

 
Wisconsin

0-0

2-1

115.2

116.5

115.2

 
Penn St.

0-0

2-1

110.0

113.0

109.3

 
Indiana

0-0

2-1

103.8

107.5

104.1

 
Illinois

0-0

2-1

99.8

103.7

100.4

 
Purdue

0-0

1-2

96.8

93.1

94.3

 
     

 

 

 

 

Legends Division

 
Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

 
Michigan

0-0

3-0

115.3

113.8

114.6

 
Northwestern

0-0

3-0

114.5

112.1

114.0

 
Michigan St.

0-0

3-0

114.8

115.3

112.9

 
Nebraska

0-0

2-1

110.7

107.7

109.0

 
Minnesota

0-0

3-0

102.0

102.2

100.9

 
Iowa

0-0

2-1

99.9

98.9

99.6

 
     

 

 

 

 
League Averages    

108.6

108.5

107.9

 

Conference USA

 

East Division

 
Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

 
East Carolina

1-0

2-1

98.2

100.3

99.5

 
Marshall

0-0

2-1

96.8

101.2

98.7

 
U A B

0-0

0-2

87.3

89.4

87.5

 
Middle Tennessee

0-0

2-1

86.8

92.8

87.0

 
Florida Atlantic

0-1

1-2

85.5

84.9

85.8

 
Southern Miss.

0-0

0-3

81.3

80.7

81.3

 
Florida Int’l

0-0

0-3

67.8

70.6

67.7

 
     

 

 

 

 

West Division

 
Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

 
Rice

0-0

1-1

97.7

100.6

99.0

 
Tulsa

0-0

1-2

93.6

90.6

92.6

 
North Texas

0-0

2-1

92.8

95.0

93.0

 
U T S A

0-0

1-2

88.7

90.2

88.4

 
U T E P

0-0

1-1

85.3

91.5

86.0

 
Tulane

1-0

2-1

84.7

91.2

84.9

 
Louisiana Tech

0-1

1-2

82.9

84.5

82.1

 
     

 

 

 

 
League Averages    

87.8

90.3

88.1

 

Independents

Team

 

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Notre Dame

 

2-1

115.6

111.7

113.6

B Y U

 

1-1

110.8

109.0

112.0

Navy

 

2-0

97.6

99.8

97.7

Army

 

1-2

84.4

92.1

85.7

New Mexico St.

 

0-3

73.7

80.0

73.2

Idaho

 

0-3

69.7

79.1

69.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

Independent Avg’s.

 

 

92.0

95.3

91.9

 

Mid-American Conference

East Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Bowling Green

1-0

2-1

99.2

99.0

100.4

Ohio

0-0

2-1

91.6

95.1

92.9

Buffalo

0-0

1-2

89.7

90.0

89.8

Kent St.

0-1

1-2

88.1

91.3

88.7

Akron

0-0

1-2

82.8

87.9

83.2

Miami (O)

0-0

0-2

78.4

82.3

76.8

Massachusetts

0-0

0-3

71.0

80.2

70.9

     

 

 

 

West Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Toledo

0-0

1-2

99.7

100.3

100.2

Northern Illinois

0-0

2-0

98.1

99.3

98.8

Ball St.

0-0

2-1

97.5

100.4

98.2

Western Michigan

0-0

0-3

84.8

86.0

87.0

Central Michigan

0-0

1-2

82.7

84.9

82.4

Eastern Michigan

0-0

1-2

79.3

84.2

79.3

     

 

 

 

League Averages    

87.9

90.8

88.4

Mountain West Conference

Mountain Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Utah St.

1-0

2-1

103.0

99.9

105.0

Boise St.

1-0

2-1

100.3

94.0

101.1

Wyoming

0-0

2-1

91.0

92.3

93.2

Colorado St.

0-0

1-2

90.0

90.3

90.4

New Mexico

0-0

1-2

79.3

85.5

79.5

Air Force

0-2

1-2

79.0

83.6

79.0

     

 

 

 

West Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Fresno St.

0-0

2-0

103.2

102.6

104.1

San Jose St.

0-0

1-1

101.0

95.9

101.6

San Diego St.

0-0

0-2

92.5

89.4

92.5

Nevada

0-0

1-2

87.4

90.1

86.8

Hawaii

0-0

0-2

85.6

86.3

86.7

U N L V

0-0

1-2

84.3

86.9

84.7

     

 

 

 

League Averages    

91.4

91.4

92.1

   

 

Pacific 12 Conference

North Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Oregon

0-0

3-0

133.9

129.8

135.5

Stanford

0-0

2-0

124.2

114.6

122.9

Washington

0-0

2-0

118.9

114.6

119.9

Oregon St.

1-0

2-1

115.1

104.0

113.5

Washington St.

1-0

2-1

105.7

105.1

106.5

California

0-0

1-2

96.3

91.8

94.3

     

 

 

 

South Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Arizona

0-0

3-0

119.5

114.6

118.3

U C L A

0-0

2-0

118.6

110.9

117.9

Arizona St.

0-0

2-0

117.0

118.8

117.0

U S C

0-1

2-1

113.0

110.5

112.8

Utah

0-1

2-1

103.1

102.7

102.5

Colorado

0-0

2-0

92.0

97.5

90.1

     

 

 

 

League Averages    

113.1

109.6

112.6

 

Southeastern Conference

East Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Georgia

1-0

1-1

121.5

118.6

122.0

South Carolina

1-1

2-1

119.9

117.9

119.6

Florida

0-0

1-1

117.5

113.3

115.5

Missouri

0-0

2-0

115.1

112.2

114.0

Vanderbilt

0-2

1-2

108.9

106.0

108.4

Tennessee

0-0

2-1

105.6

105.0

104.9

Kentucky

0-0

1-2

99.0

99.6

97.5

     

 

 

 

West Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Alabama

1-0

2-0

132.5

125.1

133.6

Ole Miss

1-0

3-0

124.9

120.5

125.2

Texas A&M

0-1

2-1

122.0

116.6

122.1

L S U

0-0

3-0

121.2

120.4

122.2

Mississippi St.

0-1

1-2

108.6

104.8

108.0

Auburn

1-0

3-0

107.2

107.0

106.3

Arkansas

0-0

3-0

100.9

107.4

99.4

     

 

 

 

League Averages    

114.6

112.5

114.2

 

Sunbelt Conference

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Louisiana–Monroe

0-0

2-1

96.4

95.2

97.1

Louisiana–Lafayette

0-0

1-2

94.4

94.0

93.8

Arkansas St.

1-0

2-1

93.9

88.3

93.4

Western Kentucky

0-1

1-2

89.4

91.0

89.8

Troy

0-1

2-1

86.8

88.0

88.3

South Alabama

1-0

2-1

82.9

87.4

83.9

Texas St.

0-0

2-0

81.2

88.6

80.4

Georgia St.

0-0

0-3

60.1

69.3

61.5

     

 

 

 

League Averages    

85.6

87.7

86.0

 

Transitioning Teams *

Team

 

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Georgia Southern

 

2-1

85.9

88.3

93.0

Old Dominion

 

1-2

81.7

82.5

88.5

Appalachian St.

 

0-2

78.6

77.3

85.7

Charlotte

 

2-1

56.5

61.1

63.6

           
* Not figured in regular averages to 100      

 

Here Are This Week’s PiRate Ratings Spreads

 

Date:

September 19-21, 2013

   

 

 

 

Home Visitor

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Air Force Wyoming

-9.5

-6.2

-11.7

Akron UL-Lafayette

-8.6

-3.1

-7.6

Alabama Colorado St.

46.0

38.3

46.7

Army Wake Forest

-9.2

-4.4

-7.8

B Y U Utah

9.7

8.3

11.5

Baylor UL-Monroe

24.1

15.6

23.8

Central Michigan Toledo

-14.5

-12.9

-15.3

Connecticut Michigan

-22.7

-26.2

-21.6

Duke Pittsburgh

0.7

3.5

-0.2

Eastern Michigan Ball St.

-16.2

-14.2

-16.9

Florida Tennessee

14.9

11.3

13.6

Florida Atlantic Middle Tennessee

1.7

-4.9

1.8

Fresno St. Boise St.

5.9

11.6

6.0

Georgia North Texas

32.2

27.1

32.5

Georgia Tech North Carolina

10.7

8.0

11.0

Indiana Missouri

-8.3

-5.5

-6.9

Iowa Western Michigan

18.1

15.9

15.6

Kansas Louisiana Tech

13.8

9.4

13.5

L S U Auburn

17.0

16.4

18.9

Louisville Florida Int’l

52.8

48.0

54.6

Maryland (a) West Virginia

-3.1

12.0

0.9

Massachusetts Vanderbilt

-35.4

-23.3

-35.0

Memphis Arkansas St.

-3.8

10.0

-2.7

Miami (O) Cincinnati

-25.3

-21.9

-27.6

Minnesota San Jose St.

4.5

9.8

2.8

Mississippi St. Troy

24.8

19.8

22.7

Nevada Hawaii

4.8

6.8

3.1

North Carolina St. Clemson

-17.0

-9.7

-17.3

Notre Dame Michigan St.

3.8

-0.6

3.7

Penn St. Kent St.

24.9

24.7

23.6

Rice (b) Houston

6.5

-1.5

6.5

Rutgers Arkansas

1.1

-2.0

3.2

San Diego St. Oregon St.

-19.6

-11.6

-18.0

Stanford Arizona St.

10.2

-1.2

8.9

Syracuse Tulane

19.9

10.4

18.8

Texas Kansas St.

10.3

8.1

10.4

Texas A&M S M U

31.0

20.5

31.7

Texas Tech Texas St.

30.6

20.6

31.7

U C L A New Mexico St.

47.9

33.9

47.7

U S C Utah St.

13.0

13.6

10.8

U T E P U T S A

-0.9

3.8

0.1

Virginia Tech Marshall

16.9

12.8

14.6

Washington St. Idaho

38.0

28.0

39.2

Wisconsin Purdue

21.4

26.4

23.9

   

 

 

 

(a) Game Played in Baltimore

 

 

 

(b) Game Played at Reliant Stadium in Houston

 

 

 

 

PiRate Bowl Projections

GAME

Team

vs.

Team

New Mexico

Wyoming

vs.

Oregon St.

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas

Fresno St.

vs.

Arizona St.

Famous Idaho Potato

Boise St.

vs.

Ohio U

New Orleans

Arkansas St.

vs.

Middle Tennessee

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s

(UL-Monroe)

vs.

North Texas

Hawai’i

Air Force

vs.

Tulsa

Little Caesars Pizza

Northern Illinois

vs.

(Texas St.)

Poinsettia

San Jose St.

vs.

(Washington St.)

Military Bowl

Pittsburgh

vs.

East Carolina

Texas

Nebraska

vs.

West Virginia

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

U S C

vs.

B Y U

Pinstripe

Rutgers

vs.

(Notre Dame)

Belk

Cincinnati

vs.

North Carolina

Russell Athletic

Central Florida

vs.

Georgia Tech

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

Texas

vs.

Northwestern

Armed Forces

Utah St.

vs.

Navy

Music City

North Carolina St.

vs.

Florida

Alamo

Texas Tech

vs.

Stanford

Holiday

Kansas St.

vs.

Arizona

AdvoCare V100 Bowl

(Ball St.)

vs.

Maryland

Sun

Virginia Tech

vs.

Washington

Liberty

Arkansas

vs.

Marshall

Chick-fil-A

Miami

vs.

South Carolina

Heart Of Dallas

Rice

vs.

Minnesota

Gator

Michigan St.

vs.

Missouri

Outback

Texas A&M

vs.

Wisconsin

Capital One

Michigan

vs.

Georgia

Rose

U C L A

vs.

L S U

Fiesta

Oklahoma St.

vs.

Louisville

Sugar

Alabama

vs.

Florida St.

Cotton

Ole Miss

vs.

Baylor

Orange

Clemson

vs.

Oklahoma

BBVA Compass Bowl

Houston

vs.

Auburn

GoDaddy.com

UL-Lafayette

vs.

Bowling Green

BCS Championship

Oregon

vs.

Ohio St.

 

(Teams In Parentheses Are At-Large Selections)

 

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August 22, 2013

2013 Big 12 Conference Preview

2013 Big 12 Conference Preview

 

Once thought a dead league, the Big 12 received a reprieve and has thrived these last two years.  The league produced a Heisman Trophy winner in 2011, and placed nine of its ten members in bowls last year.  In 2013, it could produce a National Championship Game participant.

 

This league remains stable this year after the departures of Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, and Texas A&M, and the arrivals of TCU and West Virginia in the last two seasons.  The nine-game conference schedule guarantees that all two-team ties are easily broken without having to use several tiebreakers.

 

Coach Mack Brown welcomes back to Texas the most experience squad he’s ever fielded in Austin.  The Longhorns had to rebuild for a couple of years, but they are poised to go on a big run this year with 19 starters returning to the first team offense and defense.  The Longhorns will be a juggernaut on the offensive side of the ball.  Even though their defense might give up 24 points per game, the offense should average more than 40 and outscore every opponent on the regular season schedule.

 

Three years in a row:  That’s the current streak in Stillwater, Oklahoma, for Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State Cowboys.  OSU has averaged in excess of 40 points per game three years running (and passing), and the pokes should make it four in a row with the return of quarterback Clint Chelf and most of his key receivers.  Can an offense that has improved its total yardage output per game from 520 to 546 to 547 in the last three seasons improve yet again?  Yes, it can top 550 this year, and OSU could even challenge the 50 points per game barrier.  The key game is at Texas on November 16, and it could be the big one of the season.

 

TCU may have as much talent this year as they had in 2010, when the Horned Frogs ran the table in the Mountain West Conference and won the Rose Bowl.  However, in this year’s Big 12, they are no better than third best and possibly fourth best.  The defense could lead the conference in fewest points and yards allowed, but this is a league where offense rules.  The Horned Frogs averaged 27.2 points per game in league play, and that was good enough for only eighth best in the league.  That number will have to jump by a touchdown if TCU is to challenge the two powers.  It doesn’t help that they must play Oklahoma St. and Texas in back-to-back weeks in October.  Additionally, they face Oklahoma in Norman, and TCU figures to be an underdog in all three games.  Throw in an opening game against LSU at Cowboys Stadium, and it looks like a four-loss season in Ft. Worth.

 

Oklahoma has endured back-to-back three loss seasons, and the Sooners may be looking at another one as well.  The defense must reload with the loss of four of the top five tacklers, including the top run defender and the top pass defender.  The OU offense may take a small step backward this year, as it lost its starting quarterback and top two receivers.  Fret not Sooner fans, for you rebuilding means averaging 30 points and 425 yards per game.

 

Baylor looks for its fourth consecutive winning season under Art Briles.  The Bears survived the loss of RGIII and Kendall Wright and emerged with eight victories in 2012.  Bryce Petty is the new quarterback, and he should top 4,000 yards passing in his first year as a starter.  The Bears return two backs capable of topping 1,000 yards rushing, but the offensive line needs reworking.  Baylor will score a lot of points again this season, but the defense will give up a lot of points as well.  It will be very exciting in Waco, but this unit will just scrape by with enough wins to stay above .500.

 

Kansas St. will be lucky to stay bowl eligible this year after the defense left the building.  Six of the top seven tacklers must be replaced on the defense, and the offense must replace Collin Klein at quarterback.  Coach Bill Snyder relies on a lot of junior college talent, so his teams frequently have a lot of upperclassmen.  Thanks to a schedule that gives the Wildcats three guaranteed non-conference wins to start the season, KSU should find a way to stay bowl eligible.

 

Texas Tech breaks in a new head coach, as former Red Raider quarterback Kliff Kingsbury returns to Lubbock after running the offense of Johnny Football U in College Station last year.  Kingsbury will return the Red Raiders to the Air Raid offense after former coach Tommy Tuberville tried to make TTU Auburn west.  Look for the offense to struggle a bit and fall under .500 this year, but Kingsbury will soon have the Red Raiders scoring points like they did under Mike Leach.

 

West Virginia has a bigger rebuilding job to face than Texas Tech.  The Mountaineers cannot replace Geno Smith and his 4200+ yards and TD/Int ratio of 42/6!  Add the losses of two receivers that both grabbed more than 100 passes and combined for more than 2,900 receiving yards and 37 touchdowns, and the Mountaineers will see their offense fall by more than 10 points per game this year.  This team only went 7-6 last year, so hopes for a winning season are very dim in 2013.

 

Paul Rhoads has done great work at Iowa St., leading the Cyclones to three bowls in his four seasons in Ames.  If he can squeeze six wins out of this team, then the NCAA needs to name the National Coach of the Year Award, the Rhoads Award.  ISU must rebuild on both sides of the ball, and with this conference’s offensive fireworks, it could get ugly several Saturdays this fall.  Of the bottom four teams, ISU hosts Kansas, but must play at Texas Tech and West Virginia.  Expect at least nine and possibly ten losses this year.

 

Kansas has nowhere to go but up.  Since going 12-1 with an Orange Bowl win in 2007, the Jayhawks have seen their win number drop every year since then (8, 7, 5, 3, 2, and 1).  While it is still mathematically possible that the number could drop again, we don’t see that happening.  Second year coach Charlie Weis should find a way to lead KU to a very modest improvement and put an end to the 21-game losing streak in league play.

 

 

Pre-season PiRate Ratings

Big 12 Conference

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Texas

0-0

0-0

127.3

116.2

127.8

Oklahoma St.

0-0

0-0

122.0

111.2

122.7

T C U

0-0

0-0

118.0

115.1

118.9

Oklahoma

0-0

0-0

115.8

111.6

115.2

Baylor

0-0

0-0

112.5

103.2

112.4

Kansas St.

0-0

0-0

111.9

104.5

110.8

Texas Tech

0-0

0-0

104.1

96.6

102.9

West Virginia

0-0

0-0

102.1

97.4

101.1

Iowa St.

0-0

0-0

99.7

92.8

98.3

Kansas

0-0

0-0

93.9

91.5

92.8

     

League Averages    

110.7

104.0

110.3

 

2013 Official Preseason Media Poll

 

Pos

Team

Points

1st Place

1

Oklahoma St.

365

15

2

Oklahoma

355

8

3

T C U

347

9

4

Texas

337

8

5

Baylor

282

2

6

Kansas St.

240

1

7

Texas Tech

161

0

8

West Virginia

126

0

9

Iowa St.

96

0

10

Kansas

56

0

 

2013 Preseason Media All-Conference Team

 

Offense

Pos Player School
QB Casey Pachall TCU
RB Lache Seastrunk Baylor
RB John Hubert Kansas State
WR Josh Stewart Oklahoma State
WR Eric Ward Texas Tech
TE Jace Amaro Texas Tech
OL Cyril Richardson Baylor
OL Cornelius Lucas Kansas State
OL Gabe Ikard Oklahoma
OL Trey Hopkins Texas
OL Le’Raven Clark Texas Tech
     

Defense

Pos Player School
DL Devonte Fields TCU
DL Calvin Barnett Oklahoma State
DL Jackson Jeffcoat Texas
DL Kerry Hyder Texas Tech
LB Bryce Hager Baylor
LB Jordan Hicks Texas
LB Shaun Lewis Oklahoma State
DB Ty Zimmerman Kansas State
DB Jason Verrett TCU
DB Aaron Colvin Oklahoma
DB Quandre Diggs Texas
     

Special Teams

Pos Player School
K Jaden Oberkrom TCU
P Kirby Van Der Kamp Iowa State
KR Tyler Lockett Kansas State
PR Tramaine Thompson Kansas State

 

PiRate Ratings Summary

 

About Grades

93-100         A+

86-92           A

79-85           A-

72-78           B+

65-71           B

58-64           B-

51-57           C+

44-50           C

37-43           C-

30-36           D

0-29             F

 

About Predictions

Predictions are based on the PiRate Ratings with home field advantage factored in.  The PiRate Ratings use different home field advantages for every game, since the opponent factors into the equation.

 

Team

Baylor Bears

               
Head Coach

Art Briles

               
Colors

Green and Gold

               
City

Waco, TX

               
2012 Record              
Conference

4-5

Overall

8-5

               
Grades              
Run Offense

92

Pass Offense

93

Run Defense

67

Pass Defense

59

               
Ratings              
PiRate

112.5

Mean

103.2

Bias

112.4

               
Rankings              
PiRate

32

Mean

46

Bias

32

               
Prediction              
Conference

4-5

Overall

7-5

 

 

Team

Iowa St. Cyclones

               
Head Coach

Paul Rhoads

               
Colors

Cardinal and Gold

               
City

Ames, IA

               
2012 Record              
Conference

3-6

Overall

6-7

               
Grades              
Run Offense

64

Pass Offense

67

Run Defense

58

Pass Defense

68

               
Ratings              
PiRate

99.7

Mean

92.8

Bias

98.3

               
Rankings              
PiRate

59

Mean

92

Bias

70

               
Prediction              
Conference

1-8

Overall

2-10

 

 

Team

Kansas Jayhawks

               
Head Coach

Charlie Weis

               
Colors

Crimson and Blue

               
City

Lawrence, KS

               
2012 Record              
Conference

0-9

Overall

1-11

               
Grades              
Run Offense

76

Pass Offense

62

Run Defense

60

Pass Defense

42

               
Ratings              
PiRate

93.9

Mean

91.5

Bias

92.8

               
Rankings              
PiRate

82

Mean

99

Bias

87

               
Prediction              
Conference

1-8

Overall

3-9

 

 

Team

Kansas St. Wildcats

               
Head Coach

Bill Snyder

               
Colors

Royal Purple (and Silver)

               
City

Manhattan, KS

               
2012 Record              
Conference

8-1

Overall

11-2

               
Grades              
Run Offense

90

Pass Offense

64

Run Defense

81

Pass Defense

77

               
Ratings              
PiRate

111.9

Mean

104.5

Bias

110.8

               
Rankings              
PiRate

33

Mean

42

Bias

34

               
Prediction              
Conference

5-4

Overall

8-4

 

 

Team

Oklahoma Sooners

               
Head Coach

Bob Stoops

               
Colors

Crimson and Cream

               
City

Norman, OK

               
2012 Record              
Conference

8-1

Overall

10-3

               
Grades              
Run Offense

83

Pass Offense

89

Run Defense

74

Pass Defense

76

               
Ratings              
PiRate

115.8

Mean

111.6

Bias

115.2

               
Rankings              
PiRate

22

Mean

26

Bias

24

               
Prediction              
Conference

7-2

Overall

9-3

 

 

Team

Oklahoma St. Cowboys

               
Head Coach

Mike Gundy

               
Colors

Orange and Black

               
City

Stillwater, OK

               
2012 Record              
Conference

5-4

Overall

8-5

               
Grades              
Run Offense

79

Pass Offense

99

Run Defense

87

Pass Defense

81

               
Ratings              
PiRate

122.0

Mean

111.2

Bias

122.7

               
Rankings              
PiRate

5

Mean

28

Bias

5

               
Prediction              
Conference

8-1

Overall

11-1

 

 

Team

Texas Longhorns

               
Head Coach

Mack Brown

               
Colors

Burnt Orange and White

               
City

Austin

               
2012 Record              
Conference

5-4

Overall

9-4

               
Grades              
Run Offense

93

Pass Offense

95

Run Defense

91

Pass Defense

90

               
Ratings              
PiRate

127.3

Mean

116.2

Bias

127.8

               
Rankings              
PiRate

3

Mean

8

Bias

3

               
Prediction              
Conference

9-0

Overall

12-0

 

 

Team

T C U Horned Frogs

               
Head Coach

Gary Patterson

               
Colors

Purple and White

               
City

Ft. Worth, TX

               
2012 Record              
Conference

4-5

Overall

7-6

               
Grades              
Run Offense

82

Pass Offense

76

Run Defense

92

Pass Defense

84

               
Ratings              
PiRate

118.0

Mean

115.1

Bias

118.9

               
Rankings              
PiRate

15

Mean

13

Bias

14

               
Prediction              
Conference

6-3

Overall

8-4

 

 

Team

Texas Tech Red Raiders

               
Head Coach

Kliff Kingsbury

               
Colors

Red and Black

               
City

Lubbock, TX

               
2012 Record              
Conference

4-5

Overall

8-5

               
Grades              
Run Offense

57

Pass Offense

86

Run Defense

71

Pass Defense

60

               
Ratings              
PiRate

104.1

Mean

96.6

Bias

102.9

               
Rankings              
PiRate

45

Mean

78

Bias

45

               
Prediction              
Conference

2-7

Overall

5-7

 

 

Team

West Virginia Mountaineers

               
Head Coach

Dan Holgersen

               
Colors

Old Gold and Blue

               
City

Morgantown, WV

               
2012 Record              
Conference

4-5

Overall

7-6

               
Grades              
Run Offense

63

Pass Offense

83

Run Defense

65

Pass Defense

56

               
Ratings              
PiRate

102.1

Mean

97.4

Bias

101.1

               
Rankings              
PiRate

47

Mean

72

Bias

51

               
Prediction              
Conference

2-7

Overall

4-8

 

August 27, 2012

2012 Big 12 Conference Preview

A year ago at this time, the Big 12 Conference appeared to be on life support.  Colorado and Nebraska had already left.  Missouri and Texas A&M were in their last season.  The Pac-12 was still trying to lure four Big 12 teams away.  Even the ACC was rumored to be willing to offer Texas the moon and the stars.

 

The Big 12 raided the Big East and took West Virginia and a TCU program that had already committed to the Big East.  Not only did it save this conference and keep it at 10 schools, it received two conference champions to boot. 

 

Not only is the Big 12 stronger than ever, from number one to number eight, it is the equal of the strongest conference in the nation.

 

Looking at the aggregate schedules this year, the Big 12 has a chance to do something special.  It is possible that the league could go 30-0 in non-conference games.  There are just two non-conference games where the Big 12 team will be the underdog.  Because of this, eight teams should become bowl eligible, and if Iowa State can upset Iowa, then nine teams could gain bowl eligibility.

 

Here is the pre-season media poll.

 

 

Big 12

Votes

 

Rank

Team

1st Place

Total

1

Oklahoma

32

396

2

West Virginia

7

339

3

Texas

0

291

4

Oklahoma State

0

267

5

T C U

1

260

6

Kansas State

1

257

7

Baylor

0

162

8

Iowa State

0

121

9

Texas Tech

0

116

10

Kansas

0

46

 

 

The PiRate Ratings and PiRate Vintage Ratings disagree somewhat with the media poll, but not at the top.

 

PiRate Ratings

Rank

Big 12

PiRate

1

Oklahoma

130.6

2

Oklahoma State

125.2

3

Texas

121.4

4

Kansas State

119.9

5

West Virginia

113.0

6

Texas Tech

111.8

7

Baylor

111.6

8

T C U

111.2

9

Iowa State

105.9

10

Kansas

101.7

 

   

 

Vintage Ratings

 

Rank

Big 12

Vintage

1

Oklahoma

117

2

Texas

113

3

Kansas State

110

4

Oklahoma State

109

5

West Virginia

107

6

T C U

107

7

Texas Tech

104

8

Baylor

100

9

Iowa State

96

10

Kansas

92

 

 

 

Team

Baylor Bears

               
Head Coach

Art Briles

               
Colors

Green and Gold

               
City

Waco, TX

               
2011 Record              
Conference

6-3

Overall

10-3

               
PiRate Rating

111.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

28

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Ratings

100

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

63

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

3-6

Overall

6-6

 

Can a team that has not been a semi-power in college football almost two decades produce another ranked team following the loss of the Heisman Trophy winner, a 1st round NFL pick wide receiver, and a 6th round NFL pick running back?  Consider also, that these three players led the Big 12 in passing, receiving, and rushing.  Of course, the Bears are coming back to Earth this season, but it won’t be a bear hunt like it was between 1995 and 2007.  Yes, Baylor will struggle in league play this year.  However, as we stated in the preface above, most of the Big 12 teams will enter conference play with 3-0 records and need go only 3-6 in the league to become bowl eligible.  Baylor is one of five league teams that figures to be in the 3-6/4-5 range this year.

 

Have you ever heard of a baseball player named George Selkirk?  I doubt you ever heard of Bob Fothergill.  Most of you remember Lou Brock and Carl Yastrzemski.  Besides being baseball players, these four gentlemen share something in common.  Selkirk replaced Babe Ruth in right field.  Fothergill replaced Ty Cobb in the batting order.  Brock replaced Stan Musial, and Yaz replaced Ted Williams.  Selkirk hit over .300 with 20-HR power.  Fothergill hit over .360 for the immediate seasons after he replaced Cobb.  Brock led the Cardinals to an amazing pennant and World Series Championship.  Yaz became a big star with the Red Sox, eventually becoming baseball’s last Triple Crown winner.

 

Will Nick Florence become another Selkirk and company?  He only has one year to replace Robert Griffin III.  In three years as the understudy, he passed for 1,992 yards with eight touchdowns and nine picks.  He could top the 3,000-yard mark this season, but remember RG3 passed for almost 4,300 yards last year.  Obviously Baylor’s offense will retreat by at least two touchdowns if not more this season.

 

Replacing Kendall Wright and his 108 receptions, 1,663 yards, and 14 touchdowns will also be impossible.  BU has a potential all-American on its roster here, but Terrance Williams will see defenses concentrate their efforts on stopping him.  Last year, Williams was the “other guy,” and defenses played him looser than they will this year.  Williams caught 59 passes and averaged more than 16 yards per catch with 11 touchdowns.  His reception total will swell this year, but his average per catch will likely go down some.

 

Tevin Reese was another receiver that benefitted from being the secondary option and the defenses’ third priority last year.  He should top the 51 receptions he made in 2011, but like Williams, his yards per catch average will not be as high as last year’s 17.2.

 

Tight ends Jordan Najvar and Jerod Monk will see more balls thrown their way this year.  As reserves last year, they combined for 24 receptions and 246 yards. 

 

Jarred Salubi takes over at running back for Terrance Ganaway, and former Oregon back Lache Seastrunk will get a lot of action here is as well.  This duo could approach the yardage gained by Ganaway last year (1,547), but they will not team for 21 rushing touchdowns.

 

The offensive line returns three starters, but guard Cameron Kaufhold has lost his spot to Jake Jackson.  Center Ivory Wade and guard Cyril Richardson give the Bears a solid inside blocking wall.

 

Most schools would be happy with 28-32 points and 375-400 total yards, which is where we think this offense will be in 2012.  Of course, BU scored more than 45 points per game and gained almost 600 yards per game last year.  The Babe has left the building.

 

If Baylor is to get to six wins in 2012, the defense will need to show marked improvement over last year.  No BCS school surrendered 37+ points and close to 500 yards per game and won 10 games until this team did it last year.

 

Eight starters return to this side of the ball.  The secondary is the best unit of the three, as all four starters return from 2011.  But, these four were chiefly responsible for BU giving up 291 passing yards per game.  Nickel back Ahmad Dixon and cornerbacks Joe Williams and K. J. Morton gave up some big plays, but the trio teamed up for 27 defended passes.  Morton picked off four balls.

 

The rest of the defense is rather mediocre.  Ends Terrance Lloyd and Gary Mason teamed up for just five sacks, and neither proved to be a force against the run.  Middle linebacker Rodney Chadwick was not the answer at the key spot of the 4-2-5 defense, and sophomore Bryce Hager replaced him.

 

The opening game this Sunday afternoon against SMU may be similar to Baylor’s opening game against TCU last year.  BU won that one 50-48.  The Bears get 13 days to prepare for might Sam Houston State.  We are not being facetious here; the Bearkats could make this game close.  Baylor faces UL-Monroe in Monroe on the following Friday, and if the Bears are 3-0 on September 22, they will be in the hunt for a bowl game.  

 

 

Team

Iowa State Cyclones

               
Head Coach

Paul Rhoads

               
Colors

Cardinal and Gold

               
City

Ames, IA

               
2011 Record              
Conference

3-6

Overall

6-7

               
PiRate Rating

105.9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

45

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Ratings

96

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

80

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

3-6

Overall

5-7

 

Paul Rhodes has taken a page from former ISU coach Dan McCarney.  He has surprise league experts every year and produced better results than expected.  The Cyclones have now played in bowls in two of his three seasons in Ames.  His other year, they finished 5-7 and lost an overtime thriller to Nebraska that would have given them a sixth win.

 

Iowa State should continue to surf on the edge of bowl eligibility this year, as the Cyclones return enough talent to continue to hang around.

 

On the offensive side of the ball, ISU returns both of their co-starting quarterbacks this year, and both will play regularly this season.  Steele Jantz would have been the clear-cut number one had he not been injured early in the year.  Jared Barnett kept the offense going when Jantz was unable to play.  The duo teamed for better than 2,700 passing yards, but their TD/Int ratio was 16/17. 

 

The receiving corps has experience, but none of the players will play in the NFL one day.  Tight end Kurt Hammerschmidt should more than double his receptions this year after catching just 13 passes a year ago.  Aaron Horne has the potential to break out with a big season, after he caught 38 passes in a reserve role last year.

 

James White and Jeff Woody both return to the backfield after teaming for more than 1,100 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.  White is the speed back, and Woody is the power back.

 

The offensive line is not going to generate many headlines, but it actually is the best unit on the offense.  Three starters return, most notably center Tom Farniok.

 

ISU averaged 23 points and 390 yards per game last year.  We believe those numbers are approachable and possibly beatable this season.

 

The defense is more of a question as the season starts.  For starters, the defensive line has to be rebuilt, as three starters must be replaced.  Nose tackle Jake McDonough was pushed around a bit last year, but he made 35 tackles with 4 ½ going for losses.  Willie Scott and Roosevelt Maggitt are the new starting ends, while Cleyon Laing gets the vacant tackle spot.  Former Wyoming starter Ben Durbin will see action here as the fifth lineman.  He can rotate at three of the four line spots.

 

ISU’s top two tacklers return at linebacker.  A. J. Klein (116 tackles) and Jake Knott (115 tackles) need to improve on their 11 ½ TFL.

 

Iowa State had trouble stopping the pass, but then again, the Cyclones had to face seven premier quarterbacks last year.  Jacques Washington picked up 90 tackles at the free safety spot.  He only caught one enemy pass, but he broke up eight others.  Cornerback Jeremy Reeves tied with Knott for second on the team with two interceptions.

 

Iowa State is one of two teams that will be an underdog in at least one non-conference game.  They are a slight underdog at home against Tulsa, and they will more than likely be an underdog against Iowa.  Their third non-league game comes against Western Illinois.  Coach Paul Rhoads has outperformed expectations every year since he came from Auburn to Ames to replace Gene Chizik, who left Ames for Auburn.  This looks like a year where his Cyclones will fail to qualify for a bowl.  If there are any surprises with this team, we expect it to be on the wrong side of the norm.

 

 

Team

Kansas Jayhawks

               
Head Coach

Charlie Weis

               
Colors

Dark Blue and Red

               
City

Lawrence, KS

               
2011 Record              
Conference

0-9

Overall

2-10

               
PiRate Rating

101.7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

56

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Ratings

92

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

95

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

1-8

Overall

3-9

 

Charlie Weis was well-liked by his players at Notre Dame.  That’s why some of them left South Bend and ended up on the roster in Lawrence.  In fact two starters on offense began their careers playing for Weis in South Bend.

 

Dayne Crist is one of those players.  He will start under center this year.  At Notre Dame, he was the starter in 2010, but he was benched last year.  Expect Crist to top 2,500 passing yards this year, but he will have to run for his life more than he ever did with the Irish.  If he cannot make it through a full season, redshirt freshman Mike Cummings will take over.  KU fans need to pray for Crist’s safety.

 

The cupboard isn’t necessarily bare at receiver.  Expect last year’s top two receivers, D. J. Beshears and Kale Pick, teamed for 74 receptions and 781 yards.  We expect those two to team for more than 100 catches this year.  Another transfer from ND is tight end Mike Ragone.  Ragone is a sixth-year player after missing two seasons with injuries.  When he was healthy, he was considered one of the top recruits at his position, and he started for the Irish.

 

Kansas will have to get by without its best running back for the first three games following a DUI arrest.  James Sims might have challenged for 1,000 rushing yards this year, but he won’t come close to that number now.  Tony Pierson may actually have better skills, and he may not relinquish his newfound status.

 

KU’s offensive line is a liability.  Weis is a good teacher, and he will mold this unit into a competent quintet, but there will be games where enemy defensive lines get the better of them.  Guard Duane Zlatnik and tackle Tanner Hawkinson will protect Crist’s blind side.

 

The defense was on the defensive too much last year.  The Jayhawks gave up more points against Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and Texas A&M (64.0 ppg) than their basketball team gave up in many games.  All of KU’s defensive units have a long way to go to become competitive in the Big 12.

 

Up front, end Toben Opurum is one player that belongs in this league.  He led the ‘Hawks with four sacks and 10 ½ stops for loss.  Those four sacks represented 40% of the team total.  His counterpart, Keba Agostinho, recorded just one sack and two TFL.

 

In the second line of defense, middle linebacker Darius Willis made 81 tackles with eight for loss, but he will be unseated by another former Notre Dame player.  Anthony McDonald is a graduate student, and he will play one year in Lawrence (like Crist and Ragone).

 

The back line returns three starters, but this is clearly the weakest secondary in the Big 12.  KU allowed QBs to complete 70% of their passes.  These were not cheap passes thrown two yards downfield either.  Cornerbacks Tyler Patmon and Greg Brown teamed up for 10 defended passes.  Safety Bradley McDougald made 89 tackles, picked off two passes, and broke up five others.

 

Games against South Dakota State and Rice give KU a shot at a 2-0 start.  After that any win would be an upset.  We figure Weis is good for one upset, so we’ll go with 3-9 as the ceiling this year.

 

 

Team

Kansas State Wildcats

               
Head Coach

Bill Snyder

               
Colors

Royal Purple and White

               
City

Manhattan, KS

               
2011 Record              
Conference

7-2

Overall

10-3

               
PiRate Rating

119.9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Ratings

110

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

24

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

4-5

Overall

7-5

 

Coach Bill Snyder has used the same formula for his previous 20 seasons in “The Little Apple.”  He schedules winnable non-conference games to increase his team’s confidence.  He relies on a ball-controlling power running game mixed with longer than average passing routes to spread the field vertically.  Defensively, his teams play a bend, but don’t break style that forces opponents to make sustained drives.

 

Last year, Snyder guided the Wildcats to a surprising 10-win season, when they looked to be in rebuilding mode.  This year, he has considerably more talent returning than he had at the beginning of last season.  However, this league is much tougher in 2012, and his conference schedule is really difficult with road games against Oklahoma, West Virginia, and TCU.

 

If any team could go back to the Single Wing offense and succeed with it, KSU would be the one.  Quarterback Collin Klein is really more like a single wing tailback.  He ran the ball about 25 times per game last year, gaining 1,141 yards and scoring 27 touchdowns!  He is a modern day Bronko Nagurski.  As a passer, Klein completed 57% of his tosses for 1,918 yards and 13 touchdowns.

 

Klein’s top three receivers return this year (top four when you add the running back).  Tramaine Thompson is the breakaway threat.  He caught just 21 passes, but he averaged better than 16 yards per catch.  If he can remain healthy and play a full season, he could improve to 40-50 receptions.  Chris Harper has similar traits, but he is more durable.  Harper led KSU with 40 receptions last year.

 

John Hubert narrowly missed joining Klein in the 4-digit club last year, as he rushed for 970 yards.  He also caught 24 passes.  Angelo Pease gained 144 yards in a limited role, but he can pick up a tough couple of yards when the situation warrants it.

 

The offensive line is the only liability here, and if it cannot get the job done, K-State will suffer on this side of the ball.  Center B. J. Finney and guard Nick Puetz are the only starters returning.  Two redshirt freshmen will start against Missouri State this weekend.

 

The defense is about as talented this year as it has been for the last three seasons since Snyder returned to the sidelines.  It is around the middle of the pack with all three units.  Up front, Adam Davis proved to be a nice addition last year at the end position.  He dumped enemy passers four times and threw runner for losses four more.  His counterpart, Meshak Williams, was more of a third down end, and he led the Wildcats with seven sacks and 10 TFL.

 

Mike linebacker Arthur Brown is the star of the defense.  He led the Wildcats with 101 tackles, 9 ½ going for negative yardage.  Tre Walker returns to the Will linebacker spot.  He was a better pass defender than run stopper, which may be more important in this league any way.

 

One of the top pass defenders in the league is cornerback Nigel Malone.  Malone led the Big 12 with seven interceptions last year and earned 1st Team All-Big 12 honors.  Safeties Ty Zimmerman and Thomas Ferguson and cornerback Allen Chapman round out this group.

 

Kansas State has one of the better field goal kickers around.  Anthony Cantele connected on 17 of 23 field goal attempts, and was 4 of 7 from beyond 40 yards with a high of 54.

 

After a 3-0 start against rather easy competition, the Wildcats will be able to test their confidence at Oklahoma on September 22.  We think they will leave Norman with much less confidence.  Still, this team should rebound from that loss and win enough games to return to a bowl.

 

 

Team

Oklahoma Sooners

               
Head Coach

Bob Stoops

               
Colors

Cream and Crimson

               
City

Norman, OK

               
2011 Record              
Conference

6-3

Overall

10-3

               
PiRate Rating

130.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Ratings

117

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

4

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

8-1

Overall

11-1

 

On July 15, when we first began to run the numbers through our computer programs, Oklahoma emerged as the top-ranked team before personnel losses began to chip away at their rating.  When you lose two starting offensive linemen who both were expected to be all-conference performers, it costs you on the scoreboard.  Of course, OU picked up a couple points when they received wideout Justin Brown in the Penn State fire sale.

 

Such is life trying to be a 21st Century ratings compiler for college football.  The Sooners will still contend for the national title, but if their two studs had been able to play, this team would have been number one in the PiRate Ratings and number two in the PiRate Vintage Ratings.

 

Landry Jones should still have a stellar senior season.  Already the school’s number one passer, Jones should add another 4,500 yards onto that record this season.  He needs to cut down on his interceptions, as he threw 15 to the wrong team last year.

 

Jones loses his go-to guy this year (he actually lost him in the final weeks last year and OU dropped two games).  Ryan Broyles is now Matt Stafford’s new best friend in Detroit.  Jones will have to make do without three of his expected key receivers this year.  Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks, and Kameel Jackson were all suspended indefinitely for violations.  The trio combined for 75 receptions last year.  Brown will immediately need to become a star.  At Penn State last year, he caught 35 passes.  Kenny Stills will need to step up as well and top 1,000 receiving yards after gaining nearly 850 last year.  Juco transfer LaColtan Bester will need to contribute immediately as well.  He will back up Brown.

 

OU’s top two running backs return after teaming for more than 1,200 yards last year.  Dominique Whaley and Roy Finch both averaged 5.5 yards per carry.

 

The offensive line is an even bigger question than the receiving corps, because the Sooners did not have the luxury of picking someone from Penn State’s roster.  Expected starting guar Gabe Ikard has made the switch to center to replace Ben Habern.  With guard Tyler Evans out, Coach Bob Stoops had to find two new guards.  Bronson Irwin and Adam Shead are capable blockers, but they are not 1st Team All-Big 12 linemen at this point of their careers.  Tackles Daryl Williams and Lane Johnson would have been the least talented of the projected starters, but now they are second and third best.

 

There is much more stability on the defensive side, but the stop troops are far from perfect.  OU gave up 44 points to Oklahoma State, 45 to Baylor, and 41 to Texas Tech.

 

The strength of this side is at linebacker, where two potential future pros return.  Corey Nelson and Tom Wort teamed for 130 tackles with 13 going for losses.  They added eight passes defended.

 

Two of the Sooners’ top three tacklers were defensive backs, and that is something that cannot happen this year if OU is to contend for the national title.  Cornerback Aaron Colvin and safety Tony Jefferson were responsible for 158 tackles.  Jefferson picked off four passes.  Cornerback Demontre Hurst finished among the conference leaders with 12 passes defended.

 

The Sooners have a rebuilding job to do up front.  They lost two NFL Draft picks (Ronnell Lewis and Frank Alexander), who teamed up for 14 sacks and 32 TFL.  David King and R. J. Washington replace the two stars on the terminals after combining for seven sacks as reserves.

 

Oklahoma only plays two non-conference games before starting league play, and they will win both by large margins (UTEP and FAMU).  They host Notre Dame in the middle of league play.  We tend to believe that they will fall at least one time, and it will come in the final three weeks against either West Virginia, Oklahoma State, or TCU.  Of course, they cannot overlook Texas.  A loss in November may be very difficult to overcome in the now lame duck BCS standings.  This league does not have a championship game, so the league champion needs to go undefeated in November to make it to the National Championship Game.  The odds are now stacked against Oklahoma.

 

 

Team

Oklahoma State Cowboys

               
Head Coach

Mike Gundy

               
Colors

Orange and Black

               
City

Stillwater, OK

               
2011 Record              
Conference

8-1

Overall

12-1

               
PiRate Rating

125.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Ratings

109

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

25

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

7-2

Overall

10-2

 

Coach Mike Gundy has gone from “A Man” who “could take it” at 40 to “The Man” who can dish it at 45.  Last year, Gundy’s Cowboys had the school’s best season since 1945.  That 1945 undefeated team beat Oklahoma 45-0; last year’s team won 44-10.

 

The best pass-catch combo in the nation will be impossible to replace.  Brandon Weeden is now the starting QB for the Cleveland Browns, and Justin Blackmon is now a future star for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

 

Wes Lunt is a true freshman, replacing a quarterback that was 28 years old last year.  The number two man is redshirt freshman J. W. Walsh.  Expect a drop in pass yardage by maybe 150 yards per game.

 

Besides losing Blackmon (122 receptions), the Cowboys must find a replacement for number two receiver Josh Cooper, who made 71 catches last year.  Tracy Moore becomes the new leader after finishing third with 45 receptions.  Josh Stewart should emerge as a dependable slot receiver.  He should at least triple his number of catches this year (19 in 2011).

 

OSU will need to rely more on its running game this year.  Gundy knows a thing or two about the running game at his alma mater.  As QB in Stillwater in the late 1980’s, he handed the ball off to backs named Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas.  We’re not saying that Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith can be mentioned in the same breath as Sanders and Thomas, but we would not be surprised if the two backs combined for 2,000 rushing yards this year.

 

A quality offensive line from last year gave up just 12 sacks in 13 games.  Only guards Lane Taylor and Jonathan Rush return from that starting unit.  New center Evan Epstein is serviceable, and he saw action at Air Force before coming here.  Parker Graham and Daniel Koenig have limited playing experience.  Expect the sack total to at least double this year.

 

In this league, giving up 27 points and 450 yards is cause for celebration.  In fact, in conference games only, OSU finished first in scoring defense.  Eight starters return from last year, but one is no longer listed as a starter on the depth chart.  End Cooper Bassett has moved ahead of Nigel Nicholas.  Bassett’s 17 tackles last year included four for losses. 

 

All three starting linebackers return this season.  Alex Elkins, Caleb Lavey, and Shaun Lewis should improve upon their joint effort of 225 tackles, 3 ½ sacks, and 19 ½ TFL.

 

Free safety Dattawion Lowe led the team with 97 tackles.  He intercepted just one pass.  Cornerbacks Brodrick Brown and Justin Gilbert both picked off five passes and combined to break up 25 more.

 

Quinn Sharp handles both punting and kicking duties, and he is exceptional at both jobs.  He was a 1st team All-American, making 22 of 25 field goals and averaging better than 46 yards per punt.

 

The Schedule is a big ally for the Pokes this year.  They should start 3-0 with a non-league slate of Savannah State, Arizona (which could be tough in Tucson), and UL-Lafayette.  They get an extra week to prepare for Texas when the Longhorns come to at Boone Pickens Stadium, and then they get another week off before travelling to Kansas, hosting Iowa State and hosting TCU.  By this time, it would not be much of a surprise if OSU was 7-0.  We believe another double-digit win season is coming to Stillwater.

 

 

Team

Texas Longhorns

               
Head Coach

Mack Brown

               
Colors

Burnt Orange and White

               
City

Austin, TX

               
2011 Record              
Conference

4-5

Overall

8-5

               
PiRate Rating

121.4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Ratings

113

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

12

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

6-3

Overall

9-3

 

After a rare losing season in 2010, Coach Mack Brown’s Longhorns rebounded with a respectable 8-5season last year.  Of course in Austin, going 5-7 and 8-5 better be followed up with a double-digit win season, or else the coach may be thrown on the grill with a couple of sirloins. 

 

The pieces are in place for Texas to win 10 or 11 games this year, but the league is really strong at the top this season.  We feel the Longhorns will have to win their bowl game to get that tenth win.

 

After scoring around 35-50 points per game during the times of dominance, the Longhorns averaged just 24 points per game in 2010 and 28 last year.  The offense figures to return to an average in the 30’s this year.  Both of last year’s co-regular quarterbacks return this season.  David Ash will begin the year as the starter.  As a true freshman, Ash completed 56.6% of his passes with four touchdowns but eight interceptions in 173 attempts.  Case McCoy (Colt’s little brother) completed 61.4% of his passes with seven touchdowns and four interceptions in 145 attempts.  Ash is the better runner, while McCoy has the better arm.  Both need to cut down on their interceptions.

 

Last year’s three starting wide receivers are back again this year, so the passing game should see improvement.  Mike Davis, Jaxon Shipley, and Marquise Goodwin split the receptions rather democratically, teaming for 122 catches and 1,637 yards.  All three showed the ability to run after the catch.  The ‘Horns have three quality tight ends in D. J. Grant, Greg Daniels, and Barrett Matthews.

 

The one-two running punch of Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron is not the most talented tandem in the league, but they get the job done.  Last year, the teammates combined for 1,205 rushing yards and 10 TDs.

 

With all the turmoil up in Norman, UT now has the top offensive line in the Big 12.  Guards Mason Walters and Trey Hopkins have no peers in the league, and they will team up with center Dominic Espinosa to open nice holes inside.  Tackle Josh Cochran started as a true freshman last year and could sneak onto the second or third All-Big 12 team.

 

There was little slippage on the defensive side the last two seasons.  Yes, the Longhorns gave up 55 points to Oklahoma, and they gave up 48 to Baylor.  They also “held” Oklahoma State to 38, which was more than 10 below their average.

 

This year, Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz has a top-flight defensive line and secondary.  If the linebackers can develop quickly, Texas could return to allowing less than 21 points per game.

 

Almost every college team would take ends Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat as their starters.  Okafor, a 1st Team All-American, Should be a first round pick in the next NFL Draft.  He comes off a season in which he made seven sacks, 14 tackles for loss, and 17 QB hurries.  Jeffcoat led UT with eight sacks and 21 TFL.

 

Jordan Hicks is the only returning starting linebacker.  He was a fairly good pass defender but average run stopper.  Middle linebacker Steve Edmond has the potential to become a star.  As a freshman reserve last year, he made 16 tackles.

 

The secondary will shine once again this season.  Cornerbacks Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom teamed up for six interceptions and 36 passes defended.

 

Coach Brown has signed a kicker and a punter that graduated from other colleges.  It makes this team much stronger to have former Penn State kicker Anthony Fera over a true freshman.  Fera was perfect on his PATs and hit on 14 of 17 field goal tries for the Nittany Lions.  Alex King comes to Austin from Duke, where he averaged better than 42 yards per punt.

 

UT opens with three easy wins (Wyoming, New Mexico, and Ole Miss).  They get a week off to prepare for Oklahoma State, but they have to play that one on the road.  They follow that game with a home tilt against West Virginia and then the Red River rivalry game in Dallas against Oklahoma.  They could be 3-3 or 5-1 after this game, but they will more likely be 4-2.  After these three tough games, the Longhorns should run the table through November and be no worse than 8-3 when they head to Kansas State.  We think Texas improves their won-loss record again this year, but the Longhorns will not win the Big 12 title.

 

 

Team

T C U Horned Frogs

               
Head Coach

Gary Patterson

               
Colors

Purple and White

               
City

Ft. Worth, TX

               
2011 Record              
Conference

7-0

Overall

11-2

               
PiRate Rating

111.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

31

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Ratings

107

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

34

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

4-5

Overall

7-5

 

TCU is in a similar situation that is facing Temple.  The Horned Frogs were members of the old Southwest Conference through the 1995 season.  They were perennial fodder for Texas, Texas A&M, Houston, and before they left for the SEC, Arkansas.  Yearly, they fought with Rice to avoid the basement.  When the Big 12 was created, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor joined the former Big Eight teams to create the membership.  TCU was not invited, and the Horned Frogs joined the WAC for five years.  In that time, the Frogs rode the legs of some fantastic runners, including LaDainian Tomlinson, and became relevant in football for the first time since the mid-1950’s.  In 2001, the moved to CUSA for four years.  Current coach Gary Patterson became the coach and began to make defense the staple in Ft. Worth.  TCU joined the Mountain West in 2005 and dominated the league for the next seven seasons, moving as high as number three in the final polls after going 13-0 and winning the Rose Bowl in 2010-11. 

 

The Horned Frogs were supposed to become Big East members this year, but when a spot opened up in the league they always wanted to be a part of, they jumped at the chance.  Too bad, this comes in 2012 and not two years ago, because this could be the weakest TCU team in eight years.

 

At least, the Horned Frogs return their quarterback from the 2011 MWC champion team.  Casey Pachall was second only to Kellen Moore in the MWC.  He is third, fourth, or fifth best in this league.  In 2011, he completed 66.5% of his passes for more than 2,900 yards and with a TD/Int ratio of 25/7.  Redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin backs him up, and it will be quite a drop if Pachall were to be injured.

 

Pachall has a nice team of receivers with talent and experience.  Josh Boyce led the team with 61 receptions, 998 yards, and nine touchdowns last year.  Skye Dawson gained an even 500 yards on 45 grabs.  Brandon Carter showed some breakaway speed when he caught 23 passes and averaged better than 15 yards per catch. 

 

The running game took a small blow this summer.  TCU would have returned a trio of quality backs that all topped 700 yards rushing last year.  However, one of those backs, Ed Wesley has already graduated, and at the 11th hour, he decided to turn pro.  After placing his name in the supplemental draft, he went unselected and then signed a free-agent contract with Dallas and was released.

 

That leaves Waymon James and Matthew Tucker to possibly both top 1,000 rushing yards this season.  Tucker has the punch to crack through the inside of the line and burst to the outside, running to daylight.  James is more of a speedster that gets to the outside quickly.

 

The big problem on offense is the offensive line, where just two starters return.   Blaize Foltz is a quality guard, and center James Fry is more than adequate.  There are a host of options to fill out the other three spots.  Tayo Fabuluje, a BYU transfer, figures to be one of the new regulars.

 

The great TCU defense will take a step backwards this season.  Joining this league will inflate the numbers without any changes in the talent level.  Unfortunately, there has also been a change in the talent level.  10 talented contributors out of the Horned Frogs’ top 15 defensive players are no longer on campus.  One of those five returning players, end Ross Forrest, has missed practice time nursing an injury.  Forrest joins holdovers Stansly Maponga and tackle David Johnson to make the D-line the only defensive area that is not a concern to Patterson.  Chuck Hunter rounds out the front four.

 

The Horned Frogs have dealt with some adversity in their two-man linebacking crew.  Kenny Cain returns as the Frogs’ leading 2011 tackler, but two of the players expected to spend time in the lineup with Cain have missed practice time with injuries.  When fully healthy, look for Joel Hasley to emerge as the other LB starter.

 

The secondary has to almost start over from scratch.  Cornerback Jason Verrett returns after intercepting just one pass last year.  However, there are four positions that will be manned by inexperienced or mildly experienced players, and that spell trouble in the wide open Big 12.

 

TCU has a major weapon at kicker.  Jaden Oberkrom may have the strongest kicking leg in the Lone Star State since Tony Franklin and Russell Erxleben kicked in the 1970’s.  Oberkrom nailed a 60-yard field goal in high school, and he has hit two 61-yard field goals in scrimmages this year. 

 

TCU’s non-league slate should be worth three wins.  Beginning conference play with Kansas and Iowa State should allow them to start 5-0.  Their first big test comes at Baylor on October 13, and the Frogs can win that game.  A home game against Texas Tech follows, and there is a chance TCU will be 7-0 when they venture to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State.  A trip to West Virginia follows, and the Horned Frogs could be hit with back-to-back losses for the first time since September 2007.  With their confidence reeling, the final three games against Kansas State, Texas, and Oklahoma could give this team their first five-game losing streak in 15 years.

 

 

Team

Texas Tech Red Raiders

               
Head Coach

Tommy Tuberville

               
Colors

Red and Black

               
City

Lubbock, TX

               
2011 Record              
Conference

2-7

Overall

5-7

               
PiRate Rating

111.8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

27

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Ratings

104

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

50

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

3-6

Overall

6-6

 

Tommy Tuberville is quickly finding out how hard it can be to follow a legend.  Tubs replaced Terry Bowden at Auburn, but Bowden was not in the same legend league with Mike Leach.  The Texas Tech fans wanted their team to continue throwing the ball all over the field on any play in any down and distance.  Tuberville came from the old school, where you won games by establishing a strong ground game that kept your defense off the field.  What he inherited in Lubbock was like trying to put Charlie Sheen in charge of a dairy.

 

TTU suffered through its first losing season since 1992, and the fans in Lubbock want an instant turnaround in 2012.  It isn’t going to happen this year, as the Red Raiders at best will win one additional conference game, which should make them bowl eligible.

 

Tuberville welcomes back eight offensive starters, led by quarterback Seth Doege.  Doege quietly passed for more than 4,000 yards with 28 touchdowns, but he underperformed down the stretch, and TTU lost its final four games.  Redshirt freshman Michael Brewer could cut into Doege’s playing time, as he is a prototypical Tuberville quarterback.

 

There are no Michael Crabtree’s on this roster.  Eric Ward is a fine possession receiver. He will catch six to 10 passes per game and pick up at least a half dozen first downs or score a touchdown when TTU is deep in the red zone, but he will not catch a five yard pass and turn it into a 75-yard touchdown.

 

We can feel it in our bones; Tubs wants to get more production out of his running game.  He wants a Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown banging through the line and running for big gains.  Eric Stephens, Kenny Williams, and DeAndre Washington won’t pull a Williams and Brown act and make Tech unstoppable on the ground.  In fact, as of this writing, Stephens and Washington aren’t 100% healthy.  When all three are healthy again, expect Tech to rush for more than they have rushed in many years—maybe even 150 yards per game.

 

The offensive line needs two new starters, but there is some talent here.  Center Deveric Gallington and tackles (former guard) Terry McDaniel and LaDrian Waddle make up three-fifths of a fine blocking corps.  Le’Raven Clark and Alfredo Morales should keep this unit up to its usual standards.

 

Tuberville has suffered through the tribulations of coaching in a wide-open passing league, and he has not figured out how to get his troops to stop enemy movement.  Tech gave up close to 40 points and 500 yards per game last year.  At Auburn, his defense were usually good for about 16 points and 300 yards allowed.

 

Nine starters return on this side of the ball, but two will not begin the season on the first team.  End Dartwan Bush gives way to Jackson Richards.  Richards is quicker off the ball, and Tech needs to find someone that can rush the quarterback.  16 sacks won’t cut it in the Big 12.

 

The back seven starters by the end of the year returned intact this season until a week and a half ago.  Linebackers Terrance Bullitt, Sam Eguavoen, and Daniel Cobb teamed up for 156 tackles and 18 tackles for loss.  Junior college transfer Will Smith will take over for Cobb following his dismissal from school due to an felony arrest.

 

As we preach here many times, your defense cannot be outstanding if your secondary is making all the tackles.  Tech’s top two 2011 tacklers were safeties Cody Davis and D. J. Johnson (176 total).  Davis had no interceptions, and Johnson had two.

 

The Red Raiders have three easy non-conference games and will start 3-0.  They could outscore Northwestern State (La), Texas State, and New Mexico by 100 points or more.  Tech will continue to struggle against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Kansas State, and they will not like facing West Virginia even on homecoming.  It adds up to a probable 6-6 season.

 

Team

West Virginia Mountaineers

               
Head Coach

Dana Holgorsen

               
Colors

Blue and Gold

               
City

Morgantown, WV

               
2011 Record              
Conference

5-2 (Big East)

Overall

10-3

               
PiRate Rating

113.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

25

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Ratings

107

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

35

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

5-4

Overall

8-4

 

The knock against Geno Smith was that he produced fat stats playing the weak Big East defenses.  Smith will get the chance to prove his critics wrong this year.  Of course, if anybody still holds that belief after watching what he did to Clemson in the Orange Bowl, they probably aren’t intelligent enough to waste the time needed to explain.

 

Smith thrived in Coach Dana Holgorsen’s offense.  His passing yardage ballooned up to 4,385 with 31 touchdowns against just seven picks. 

 

It helps that the top three targets from last year return to give Smith an excellent opportunity to top 4,500 yards this season.  Tavon Austin led finished second in the Big East with 101 receptions and third with 1,186 receiving yards.  He was not even the best receiver on his team!  Stedman Bailey led the Big East with 1,279 yards on 72 receptions, scoring 12 times.  It’s hard to believe that number three receiver Ivan McCartney (49-585) might lose his spot in the starting lineup to a true freshman, but it appears that Jordan Thompson might be that freshman.  If this is the case, this receiving corps might be impossible to stop.  It could become this year’s Oklahoma State (where Holgorsen was offensive coordinator until last year).

 

A knee injury to starting running back Dustin Garrison has thrust Shawne Alston into the starting lineup.  Alston is more of a three yards and cloud of dust bulldozer, whereas Garrison was a quick as lightning mighty mite. 

 

The offensive line returns four players that have been full-time starters at one point in their career.  The three inside players (center Joe Madsen and guards Jeff Braun and Josh Jenkins) could be the top three inside trio in the league.

 

Holgorsen’s wide open approach forced the Mountaineer defenders to defend more plays and stay on the field for more minutes per game, because the offense scored quickly and gave the ball back to the other team.  If WVU can replicate the same defensive numbers of last year, it will be a successful Big 12 debut.

 

The defense gets more talented the farther back you go.  In the secondary, six of the top eight players return, but the two lost may have been the best two.  Still, this group has some fine players.  Darwin Cook made 85 tackles from his safety position, and he picked off a couple of passes.  Corners Pat Miller and Brodrick Jenkins teamed for 15 defended passes. 

 

WVU will switch from a 3-3-5 to a 3-4 alignment this year, but there will be little change in the personnel.  Terrence Garvin simple becomes a full-time linebacker rather than a hybrid linebacker/safety.  Garvin contributed to the defensive effort with 72 tackles, 3 ½ sacks, two interceptions, and five passes defended.  Jewone Snow returns at the buck linebacker position, but he needs to do better than 1 ½ sacks if he is to remain a pass rusher.

 

Up front, end Will Clarke returns after posting five tackles for loss.  Nose tackle Jorge Wright might need to add some meat to his bones to avoid getting pushed back by all the quality centers and guards in this league. 

 

WVU should be an exciting team to watch in their first year in the Big 12.  They perfectly fit the mold of a Big 12 team even though they are the farthest outpost in the league.  Look for the Mountaineers to win eight or maybe nine regular season games.

 

Coming Tuesday evening, August 28: A look at the Southeastern Conference, where the Western Division is more like the ninth division of the NFL.  Will LSU and Alabama do it again?  How will Arkansas be affected by a coaching change?  Who is going to win a wide open SEC East race?  How will the two new members affect the way the game is played in the perennial top conference?

 

Note: Our initial PiRate Ratings and PiRate Vintage Ratings will be posted Wednesday, August 29.  We will take our initial stab at selecting some pointspread winners Thursday morning.  Our NFL ratings will be released Tuesday, September 4.  Our first Presidential election ratings will be released following the end of the second convention in Charlotte.

August 19, 2010

2010 Big 12 Conference Preview

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2010 Big 12 Conference Preview

The Big 12 Conference almost ceased to exist this summer.  It looked like eight of the 12 teams would leave and end up in the Big Ten, Pac-10, and even SEC.  After the dust cleared, the conference was left with 10 teams.  Colorado was the only member of six possible teams to accept the Pac-10 bid.  Nebraska, tired of seeing Texas control the league, gladly accepted a bid to the Big Ten.  The rest of the league will hold a grudge in this final season before divorce becomes official.  Speaking of officials, this league will need close scrutiny this year.  After Nebraska felt they had been robbed in the Big 12 Championship Game, can they expect any better treatment this year? 

Note: The PiRate Ratings are not meant to be used to predict the outcome of future games.  They are usable only as a basis for the current week’s games.  We do not use these ratings to make our selections.  They are only a starting point.  The predictions given below, as for every college conference and NFL division, are not taken from the ratings themselves.

Predictions

Pos North B12 W-L
1 Nebraska 8-0 12-1
2 Missouri 4-4 8-4
3 Colorado 4-4 6-6
4 Kansas 3-5 5-7
5 Kansas State 2-6 6-6
6 Iowa State 1-7 3-9
       
Pos South B12 W-L
1 Oklahoma 7-1 12-1
2 Texas 6-2 10-2
3 Texas Tech 5-3 8-4
4 Texas A&M 4-4 7-5
5 Baylor 3-5 6-6
6 Oklahoma State 1-7 5-7

 

Big 12 Championship Game: Oklahoma over Nebraska

 

BCS Bowl (Fiesta): Oklahoma

BCS Bowl: Nebraska

Cotton Bowl: Texas

Alamo Bowl: Missouri

Insight Bowl: Texas Tech

Holiday Bowl: Texas A&M

Texas Bowl: Baylor

Pinstripe Bowl: Colorado

Dallas Football Classic: Kansas State

 

 

Team By Team Breakdown

North Division

Team Colorado Buffaloes
               
Head Coach Dan Hawkins
               
Colors Black and Gold
               
City Boulder, CO
               
2009 Record              
Conference 2-6
Overall 3-9
               
PiRate Rating 105.5
               
National Rating 45
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 4-4
Overall 6-6

 

Strengths: Offensive Line, Receivers, Defensive Line

Weaknesses: Quarterback, Running Back, Special Teams

Expected Offense: 24-27 points / 320-340 yards

Expected Defense: 24-27 points / 340-360 yards

Schedule: Out of Conference: Colorado State (n), @ California, Hawaii, and Georgia

Interdivision: Baylor, Texas Tech, @ Oklahoma

Outlook: The Buffaloes need to settle on one quarterback, and Tyler Hansen is that man.  Hansen should get more time to pass and pass for 2,500 or more yards, and we don’t expect CU QBs to be sacked 44 times again.  Rodney Stewart could top 1,000 yards rushing.  Transfers from Michigan, USC and UCLA should bolster the receiving corps.  The offensive line returns the entire two-deep from last year, including nine players with starting experience.

A better pass rush should help the defense improve a little, but we don’t expect the Buffs to challenge for a top four position in the league.  Coach Dan Hawkins must win this year, or he will be out of a job.  We don’t know if 6-6 and a minor bowl will be enough, but that is what we think will happen.

Team Iowa State Cyclones
               
Head Coach Paul Rhoads
               
Colors Cardinal and Gold
               
City Ames, IA
               
2009 Record              
Conference 3-5
Overall 7-6
               
PiRate Rating 94.4
               
National Rating 77
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 1-7
Overall 3-9

 

Strengths: Quarterback, Offensive Line, Special Teams

Weaknesses: Receiver, Defensive Line, Linebacker

Expected Offense: 22-26 point / 375-400 yards

Expected Defense: 24-28 points / 425-450 yards

Schedule: Non-conference: Northern Illinois, @ Iowa, Northern Iowa, and Utah

Interdivision: Texas Tech, @ Oklahoma, @ Texas

Outlook: Coach Paul Rhoads placed the Cyclones in a bowl in his first year in Ames, but ISU will revert back to their losing ways this year.  The offense will be somewhat improved, but it was ranked last in the Big 12 last year.  Quarterback Austin Arnaud will hand the ball to Alexander Robinson a lot this year, and if Robinson stays healthy, he could top 1,250 yards on the ground.  Arnaud can run and pass with equal competency, so he should take some of the pressure off Robinson.  Other than Jake Williams, ISU will have to rely on several average receivers.  None of his teammates will allow Williams to avoid double coverage.  The offensive line features tackle Kelechi Osemele, a 2nd Team All-Big 12 selection last year.

Seven key defensive performers graduated, so the Cyclones will take a large step backwards.  The front seven will be much weaker, and opponents will run the ball for more yards and pass against less pass rushing pressure.  Even with a decent secondary, the weaker pass rush will force them to cover a half-second to a second longer.  Expect the pass yardage allowed to go up as well.

ISU should win two of their four non-conference games, but we can only see them winning one Big 12 contest.  Call it a 3-9 rebuilding season.

Team Kansas Jayhawks
               
Head Coach Turner Gill
               
Colors Dark Blue and Red
               
City Lawrence, KS
               
2009 Record              
Conference 1-7
Overall 5-7
               
PiRate Rating 102.0
               
National Rating 53
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 3-5
Overall 5-7

 

Strengths: Not many, but the Offensive Line and Defensive Line are small positives

Weaknesses: Quarterback, Running Back, Receiver, Linebacker, Special Teams

Expected Offense: 22-26 points / 330-350 yards

Expected Defense: 24-28 points / 360-380 yards

Schedule: Out of conference: North Dakota State, Georgia Tech, @ Southern Mississippi, New Mexico State

Interdivision: @ Baylor, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State

Outlook: Turner Gill takes over after bringing Buffalo from also-ran to MAC Champion in short time.  It will take time here for his system to bear fruit, but we are confident that he can recruit the Midwest and Southwest and return the Jayhawks to prominence.

KU will debut a new quarterback this year, as Kale Pick and Jordan Webb are locked in a competitive battle.  Pick threw five passes, while Webb has yet to take a college snap.  An interesting battle brews at running back, where last year’s leading rusher Toben Opurum and 6th year player and former linebacker Angus Quigley could form a decent tandem.  KU lost two star receivers who combined for 186 receptions and more than 2,300 yards, so this will be a liability.  Four starters return to the line, and they will undergo some restructuring to fit Gill’s change of offense.

In a pass happy league, a weak secondary is bad news.  KU has some bad news.  The returning defensive backs combined for just two interceptions.  This side of the ball will have to learn a new system as well, and the defensive line is the only average unit using Big 12 standards.  A real plus for the Jayhawks is not having to play Oklahoma or Texas from the South.

Gill has enough talent to repeat last year’s 5-7 record.  The offense will not be as potent, but it will eat more clock.  That will help the defense hold opponents under 30 points per game.

Team Kansas State Wildcats
               
Head Coach Bill Snyder
               
Colors Royal Purple and White
               
City Manhattan, KS
               
2009 Record              
Conference 4-4
Overall 6-6
               
PiRate Rating 96.5
               
National Rating 67
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 2-6
Overall 6-6

 

Strengths: Running Back, Defensive Line

Weaknesses: Quarterback, Receiver

Expected Offense: 22-25 points / 325-350 yards

Expected Defense: 21-24 points / 325-350 yards

Schedule: Non-conference: UCLA, Missouri State, Central Florida, @ North Texas

Interdivision: @ Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas

Outlook: Kansas State’s offense will move on the legs of running back Daniel Thomas.  He raced for 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, and he could top 1,400 this season.  An experienced offensive line returns, and they are better run blockers than pass blockers.

Quarterback Carson Coffman started four games last year, but he was unspectacular.  With a below average receiving corps, expect KSU to struggle when they get behind in games.

On defense, the line is talented, and there is depth.  They should clear out enough space for the new linebackers to have decent first years as starters.  However, there is not a great pass rusher on the roster.

Look for Kansas State to sweep their four non-conference opponents, which means they only will need two league wins to earn a bowl bid.  That’s what they will get.

Team Missouri Tigers
               
Head Coach Gary Pinkel
               
Colors Black and Gold
               
City Columbia, MO
               
2009 Record              
Conference 4-4
Overall 8-5
               
PiRate Rating 111.6
               
National Rating 32
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 4-4
Overall 8-4

 

Strengths: Quarterback, Offensive Line, Defensive Line, Linebacker, Defensive Back

Weaknesses: Receiver (not that much of a weakness)

Expected Offense: 31-35 points / 425-450 yards

Expected Defense: 20-24 points / 350-375 yards

Schedule: Non-conference: Illinois (n), McNeese State, San Diego State, Miami (O)

Interdivision: @ Texas A&M, Oklahoma, @ Texas Tech

Outlook: Blaine Gabbert returns at QB where he passed for almost 3,600 yards and 24 touchdowns to just nine picks.  Not the runner Chase Daniel was, he can still pull the ball down and cross the sticks for a first down.  Running back Derrick Washington saw his production drop from over 1,000 yards in 2008 to 865 last year; with an improved offensive line, look for that number to climb back over 1,000.  The only question on offense is at receiver.  Mizzou lost two great pass catchers that combined for 159 receptions and 20 touchdowns.  To make matters worse, Jerrell Jackson, who was expected to be the leading receiver this year, will miss the first three games with a fractured wrist.  Don’t expect him to return and catch half a dozen passes in September.

The Tigers gave up a couple of big plays at the wrong time last year, and it cost them two conference wins and the North Division title.  Expect improved play on this side of the ball as all three units will be improved thanks to the return of eight of the top nine tacklers.  Missouri only picked off eight passes last year.  The entire secondary returns, and the Tigers will intercept double digit passes this season.  The pass rush can only get better with the return of end Aldon Smith.  He recorded 11 ½ sacks last year.  Led by Andrew Gachkar and Will Ebner, the linebacking unit will be tough against the run.

The pre-conference schedule should allow Missouri to start 4-0.  They could be 6-0 by the time they face Oklahoma on homecoming.  We are being as pessimistic as we can when we call for the Tigers to go 4-4 in league play.  They could be 6-2 if they stay healthy and prevent the big plays on defense.

Team Nebraska Cornhuskers
               
Head Coach Bo Pelini
               
Colors Scarlet and Cream
               
City Lincoln, NE
               
2009 Record              
Conference 6-2
Overall 10-4
               
PiRate Rating 120.7
               
National Rating 13
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 8-0
Overall 12-1

 

Strengths: Running Back, Receiver, Offensive Line, Defensive Line, Linebacker, Defensive Back, Special Teams

Weaknesses: Quarterback

Expected Offense: 28-32 points / 350-375 yards

Expected Defense: 14-18 points / 275-300 yards

Schedule: Non-conference: Western Kentucky, Idaho, @ Washington, South Dakota State

Interdivision: Texas, @ Oklahoma State, @ Texas A&M

Outlook: If Nebraska had just an average quarterback, they would be our pick for one of the two BCS Championship Game teams.  Zac Lee, Cody Green, and Taylor Martinez are still locked in a battle to determine the starter, but we would be surprised if anybody other than Lee line up under center for the first game.  Roy Helu will have a tough time carrying the offense if no passing game develops.  Helu rushed for 1,147 yards and 10 scores last year.  The ‘Huskers return some talented receivers, and they should help the quarterbacks improve their passing numbers.  Niles Paul might be a 1,000 yard receiver at eight other Big 12 schools, but he’ll have to settle for 40-50 receptions and 800-900 yards here.  The offensive line took a major hit when center Mike Smith broke his leg, but Coach Bo Pelini will field another excellent interior.

Nebraska’s defense will take a step back, because it is impossible to replace Ndamukong Suh, Phillip Dillard, Larry Asante, Matt O’Hanlon, and Barry Turner all in one season.  A weaker defense means that NU will give up more than 14 points per game.  The defensive line still has star talent with end Pierre Allen and tackle Jared Crick.  Crick made 15 total tackles for loss including 9 ½ sacks.  Allen added five sacks and 12 total tackles for loss.  They also combined for nine batted away passes.  There’s royalty in the secondary with the return of Prince Amukamara.  He led the ‘Huskers with 16 passes defended (5 Int/11 PBU). 

Alex Henery is one of the best dual punter/kickers in college football, and Niles Paul is a gem as a kick and punt returner.

We believe that Nebraska has a decent shot at running the table in the regular season.  The October 16 game at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln with Texas is going to be unbelievable, and the Longhorns are going to be treated like Sarah Palin with a chainsaw outside Memorial Stadium in Berkeley.  We think the Cornhuskers will enter the Big 12 Championship game ranked number one and suffer defeat at the hand of their oldest rival.  Still, they should get a bid to a BCS bowl.

South Division

Team Baylor Bears
               
Head Coach Art Briles
               
Colors Green and Gold
               
City Waco, TX
               
2009 Record              
Conference 1-7
Overall 4-8
               
PiRate Rating 103.7
               
National Rating 48
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 3-5
Overall 6-6

 

Strengths: Quarterback, Defensive Back (small strength)

Weaknesses: Running Back (other than QB), Offensive Line, Defensive Line, Linebacker

Expected Offense: 26-30 points / 375-400 yards

Expected Defense: 26-30 points / 375-400 yards

Schedule: Non-conference: Sam Houston, Buffalo, @ TCU, @ Rice

Interdivision: Kansas, @ Colorado, Kansas State

Outlook: It starts and ends with quarterback Robert Griffin.  In just over two games, Griffin had passed for 481 yards with four TDs and no interceptions before he went down with a season-ending ACL injury.  If he stays healthy for 12 games, he should pass for close to 3,500 yards and lead Baylor to its first bowl game in 16 years.  The running backs suffered with the loss of Griffin, because defenses had to respect Griffin’s ability to take off and run.  Expect improvement in the rushing attack, but don’t expect the Bears to top 150 yards per game on the ground Jay Finley did rush for 1,072 yards in 2008, but he will not get enough touches to repeat that.  Griffin has a couple of good target to pass to in Kendall Wright and Lanear Sampson, but another receiver needs to emerge.  Three starters return to the offensive line, and Griffin will make their job much easier.

The defense lost six starters, including four of their top five tacklers.  A weaker than Big 12 average defensive line will cause BU some trouble as opponents run the ball to eat the clock and keep Griffin off the field.  The Bear pass rush won’t scare many enemy quarterbacks either.  BU has one talented linebacker in Antonio Johnson.  Johnson’s 77 tackles and two sacks are the most of any returnee.  The defensive backfield would have been a bigger strength had Ahmad Dixon actually showed up.  He was the highest recruit the Bears have had in years and would have started immediately at free safety.  Baylor still has some talent here with cornerbacks Clifton Odom and Chance Casey returning.

Baylor has three winnable non-conference games and three or four more in the Big 12.  We believe they will go 3-5 in the Big 12 and 6-6 overall, which will earn a bid to one of the lower Lone Star state bowl games.

Team Oklahoma Sooners
               
Head Coach Bob Stoops
               
Colors Cream and Crimson
               
City Norman, OK
               
2009 Record              
Conference 5-3
Overall 8-5
               
PiRate Rating 125.6
               
National Rating 3
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 7-1
Overall 12-1

 

Strengths: Quarterback, Running Back, Receiver, Offensive Line, Defensive Line, Linebacker, Defensive Back, Special Teams

Weaknesses: None really.  If you had to get picky, maybe in the seams of the middle zones on pass defense.

Expected Offense: 35-40 points / 450-475 yards

Expected Defense: 18-22 points / 300-325 yards

Schedule: Non-conference: Utah State, Florida State, Air Force, @ Cincinnati

Interdivision: Iowa State, @ Missouri, @ Texas A&M

Outlook: Can a team that lost the first pick in the draft, three other 1st Round picks, three other draft picks, and three more players that are still in NFL training camps be better than they were a year ago?  It sounds crazy, but OU could not only be better, they could be the best!  Losing Sam Bradford will hardly be noticed, as he only threw 69 passes last year.  Landry Jones returns at quarterback after passing for just under 3,200 yards and 26 touchdowns.  He needs to cut down on his 14 interceptions.  At running back, DeMarco Murray and Jermie Calhoun will team for 1,500 yards, and the Sooners will be a much more balanced team this year.  Murray will not be asked to carry the ball 20 times any more, and he should stay healthy.  The most lethal unit on this team is pass catchers.  Ryan Broyles and Dejuan Miller could both earn all-conference recognition; throw in super freshman Kenny Stills with tight ends Trent Ratteree and James Hanna, and you have one of the nation’s top receiving corps.  The offensive line is the weakest unit of the attack side, and yet it is still one of the four best in the Big 12.

On Defense, the Sooners lost five star players.  Don’t pity them; the players they have coming back are just as good or will soon be.  In the trenches, end Jeremy Beal is the best at his position in the Big 12.  He dumped quarterbacks 11 times last year and stopped runners for losses eight times.  He can drop back in pass coverage on zone blitzes and play pass defense like a linebacker.  Speaking of linebacker, Travis Lewis returns to the second line of defense after earning 1st Team All-Big 12 accolades.  He will have two new partners, and both are stars of the future.  The Sooners have two starters returning to the secondary, led by safety Quinton Carter, who grabbed four enemy quarterback passes while batting away five others.

Oklahoma has the talent to run the table and be 13-0 following a win in the Big 12 Championship Game.  If so, we know where they will be playing in January.  We are going to go out on a small limb and pick one Big 12 team to knock them off in an upset, just like Colorado did to them in 2007.  Call it a 12-1 regular season plus Fiesta Bowl bid.

Team Oklahoma State Cowboys
               
Head Coach Mike Gundy
               
Colors Orange and Black
               
City Stillwater, OK
               
2009 Record              
Conference 6-2
Overall 9-4
               
PiRate Rating 99.8
               
National Rating 59
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 1-7
Overall 5-7

 

Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker

Weaknesses: Quarterback, Offensive Line

Expected Offense: 20-24 points / 325-350 yards

Expected Defense: 23-27 points / 350-375 yards

Schedule: Non-conference: Washington State, Troy, Tulsa, @ Louisiana-Lafayette

Interdivision: Nebraska, @ Kansas State, @ Texas

Outlook: It will be a long season in Stillwater, as the Cowboys must rebuild on both sides of the ball.  OSU returns just four offensive and three defensive starters to a team that many felt underachieved last year.  The rabid fans, in their desire not to play second fiddle in the Sooner State, may chase Coach Mike Gundy out of town if the ‘Pokes fail to make it back to a bowl.

Gundy brought Dana Holgorsen in from Houston to take over as offensive coordinator.  Holgorsen will institute the spread passing game used by the Cougars (which gained 512 yards and 45 points against OSU last year).  His first order of business was to pick a quarterback, and Brandon Weeden will not be confused for Casey Keenum.  Weeden spent five years pitching in the Minor Leagues and has seen a lot more action on the mound than under center.  Having running back Kendall Hunter 100% healthy once again could be the saving grace for this side of the ball.  When healthy in 2008, he rushed for 1,555 yards and earned All-American honors.  He played in just three games last year.  The loss of Dez Bryant to the NFL Cowboys won’t hurt too much, since Bryant hardly played last year.  Holgorsen will use as many as 10 receivers in his pass-happy offense.  Hubert Anyiam should be the star of the group.  The offensive line will be a major liability, as just two starters return.

Oklahoma State allowed just 96 yards rushing last year, but with five (and maybe six pending the outcome of an arrest) of the front seven gone, that number could increase by over 50% this season.  Ugo Chinasa spearheads a respectable pass rush.  In the secondary, amazingly Andrew McGee returns to play after suffering a broken neck last season.  He will team with safety Markelle Martin to provide experience in the back line of defense.

Okie State has a good shot at winning all non-conference games, so they will only need two Big 12 wins to become bowl eligible.  We actually believe they will have a difficult time winning any league game and will call for the Cowboys to go 1-7 in the conference. 

Team Texas Longhorns
               
Head Coach Mack Brown
               
Colors Burnt Orange and White
               
City Austin, TX
               
2009 Record              
Conference 8-0
Overall 13-1
               
PiRate Rating 119.3
               
National Rating 16
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 6-2
Overall 10-2

 

Strengths: Receiver, Defensive Line, Linebacker, Defensive Back, Special Teams

Weaknesses: Quarterback (small weakness)

Expected Offense: 31-34 points / 375-400 yards

Expected Defense: 15-19 points / 275-300 yards

Schedule: Non-conference: @ Rice (Reliant Stad.), Wyoming, UCLA, Florida Atlantic

Interdivision: @ Nebraska, Iowa State, @ Kansas State

Outlook: When any other team loses as much talent as the Longhorns, you can expect a long season.  In Texas, they just insert the next star at each position.  The ‘Horns lost their all-time leading passer, a receiver that caught 116 passes for 1,485 yards, and four starting offensive linemen, and yet UT will still have a lethal offense.  Quarterback Garrett Gilbert got his Baptism under fire last year in the National Championship Game when Colt McCoy was knocked out of the game in the first half.  Gilbert brought the Longhorns back in the second half and gave them a chance.  If he could do that against Alabama, what do you think he will do against Iowa State?  Expect more contribution from the running game with Tre’ Newton and Fozzy Whittaker carrying the load this year.  Texas has a stable of fine receivers as well, led by James Kirkendoll, Malcolm Williams, and John Chiles.  Chiles is an ex-quarterback, and he could be used in some trick plays.

Coach Mack Brown can sleep easier at night with Will Muschamp at his side.  The head coach-in-waiting has made the Longhorn defense the envy of the nation.  His 2010 team will do just fine once he finds a way to plug some holes in the defensive line.  Sam Acho and Kheeston Randall form the conference’s best pair of tackles.  Acho made 10 sacks last year.  Emmanuel Acho heads the second line of defense.  He is a tough run-stopper.  In the secondary, cornerbacks Curtis Brown and Aaron Williams form the best tandem of cover men in the league, but the loss of All-American Earl Thomas will make this a little weaker pass defense.

Texas must play at Nebraska, and if the officiating is honest, we do not believe the Longhorns can win this grudge match-to-be.  The Longhorns have a 50-50 shot with Oklahoma, and they have about a 20% chance of losing to Texas Tech, Texas A&M, or Kansas State.  We’ll call it a 6-2 league mark and 10-2 overall.

Team Texas A&M Aggies
               
Head Coach Mike Sherman
               
Colors Maroon and White
               
City College Station, TX
               
2009 Record              
Conference 3-5
Overall 6-7
               
PiRate Rating 113.5
               
National Rating 26
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 4-4
Overall 7-5

 

Strengths: Quarterback, Running Back, Receiver, Linebacker

Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Defensive Line, Special Teams

Expected Offense: 34-38 points / 475-500 yards

Expected Defense: 26-30 points / 375-400 yards

Schedule: Non-conference: Stephen F Austin, Louisiana Tech, Florida International, Arkansas (n)

Interdivision: Missouri, @ Kansas, Nebraska

Outlook: The Aggies have one of the best offenses in a BCS conference.  With Quarterback Jerrod Johnson running the team, if the offensive line can give him adequate protection, A&M could top 40 points per game.  Johnson passes for 3,579 yards and 30 touchdowns last year, while running for 506 and eight more scores.  Johnson’s ability to take off with the ball really helped the running game to click.  The Aggies return two running backs capable of topping 1,000 yards.  Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray combined for 1,601 yards and 15 touchdowns last year.  At receiver, Johnson has his big three pass catchers returning this year.  Uzoma Nwachukwu, Ryan Tannehill, and Jeff Fuller teamed for 127 receptions (each had at least 40) and 17 touchdowns.  Tannehill is a converted QB, so he could be used on a trick play as a passer.

The defense switches to a 3-4 alignment this year, and there isn’t a star in the trenches.  Last year’s star defensive lineman has been moved to rush linebacker.  Von Miller led the league with 17 sacks, and Coach Mike Sherman hopes he can continue to get into the backfield as a linebacker.  In the secondary, last year’s leading tackler, Trent Hunter, returns after making 95 tackles.

With a powerful offense and an improving defense, there is only one way to go for the Aggies.  Expect Texas A&M to be in almost every game this year and win at least half of their Big 12 contests.  Toss in at least three non-conference wins, and the Aggies will have a winning season.

Team Texas Tech Red Raiders
               
Head Coach Tommy Tuberville
               
Colors Red and Black
               
City Lubbock, TX
               
2009 Record              
Conference 5-3
Overall 9-4
               
PiRate Rating 112.6
               
National Rating 30
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 5-3
Overall 8-4

 

Strengths: Quarterback, Running Back, Receiver, Defensive Back, Special Teams

Weaknesses: Offensive Line

Expected Offense: 26-30 points / 350-375 yards

Expected Defense: 21-24 points / 325-350 yards

Schedule: Non-conference: S M U, @ New Mexico, Weber State, Houston

Outlook: What a change of philosophies!  The only thing we can compare it to is the change that the University of Cincinnati’s basketball team made when Oscar Robertson graduated in 1960 after taking the Bearcats to three consecutive top five finishes and back-to-back Final Fours.  Coach George Smith left, and UC replaced him with Ed Jucker, who instituted a power offense and pressure defense that produced scores like 70-55 rather than 105-90.

Enter Coach Tommy Tuberville to replace Mike Leach.  Say goodbye to 50 passes a game and hello to 20 runs between the tackles.  Say goodbye to 150 scrimmage plays per game.  Tuberville will not change Tech into a 75% running team, but he will run the ball hard when it is 3rd and two, or 2nd and five.

The Red Raiders return enough quality pieces to continue their winning ways.  Quarterback Taylor Potts has apparently beaten out Steven Sheffield for the starting position.  The two combined for 4,659 passing yards and 36 touchdowns last year.  Whoever starts at quarterback will have nearly every receiver from last season back for more.  Detron Lewis and Alexander Torres lead the way.  Running backs should get more carries in the new system, and Baron Batch has the ability to top 1,000 yards.  He scored 14 touchdowns on just 168 carries last year, and he caught 57 passes out of the backfield.  The offensive line is the only worry.  Tuberville likes quicker, less bulky blockers, but he inherits a couple of 350-pound stationary blockers.

Like many other teams, Tech is switching to the 3-4 defense.  With just one returning defensive line starter, that is a good thing.  Nose tackle Coby Whitlock has the skills to cause havoc in the trenches.  Linebackers Brian Duncan and Bront Bird are strong run-stoppers and very good pass defenders.  The one weakness with the front seven is in pass rushing.  There doesn’t look like there is a competent sack machine in the lot.  That could hurt the secondary, which is the strength of this side.  Free Safety Cody Davis was a 1st Team Freshman All-American last year.

Tuberville is used to winning, and he should guide the Red Raiders back to a bowl.  They could pick up an upset along the way and play spoiler.  By the way, that Cincinnati basketball team fared okay with the change to Ed Jucker.  The Bearcats won the next two National Championships and came within a minute of winning a third in a row.

Coming Tomorrow: The Big Ten started all the conference shuffling and only added one team—to this point.  Find out if there will be any shuffling at the top of the conference standings and whether Rich Rodriguez can keep his job.

September 1, 2009

2009 Big 12 Conference Preview

2009 Big 12 Conference Preview

A PiRate Look

If Rip Van Winkle had awakened in a wheat field in Kansas from his 20-year slumber last year, he might have been able to understand all the big changes throughout the world in his score-long slumber.  He might have been able to predict the coming of the Internet, the election of an African-American as President, even another Major League baseball team in Washington, D.C. occupying the cellar once again.  However, he would have never recognized the Big 12 Conference state of affairs on the gridiron.

He might have been confused and believed that when he saw Oklahoma’s football passing stats and read 349 yards passing and 25 completions that he was looking at their yardage from the entire season.  He’d see that Texas passed for 308 yards on 26 completions and say to himself that the Longhorns must really be running that wishbone to such perfection that they only needed to throw the ball 34 times all year.  Then, when he discovered these yardages were the average per game for these two teams, he would have sworn he was no longer in Kansas.  Then, just to fool around with him, you could tell him that Kansas State had been one of the most successful programs in college football while he slept, but they had fallen back on hard times and hired their 70-year old former head coach.  It’s hard for us who have been awake the entire time to believe the complete 180 degree turnaround in this conference.

Here are the preseason PiRate ratings for the league.  The ratings have been rounded to the nearest whole number even though we calculate them to two decimal places.  Thus, when you see multiple teams with the same rating, they are not actually exactly even.  To understand what the rating means, it is set so that 100 is average.  Thus, a rating of 90 means the team is 10 points weaker than the average team in the FBS.  The average of all 120 FBS teams should round to 100 if the math has been successfully calculated.

For those who have not followed the PiRate Ratings before and wonder about the home field advantage, we do not assign set in stone advantages.  These are assigned on a game-by-game basis.  For instance, if Nebraska hosts Oklahoma a week before taking on Kansas for what could be the North Division title, the Cornhuskers’ home field advantage might be as little as two points.  However, if that same Nebraska team takes on Louisiana-Lafayette a week after scoring a huge upset over a top 10 team, they could enjoy a seven to 10 point home field advantage.  The PiRates think it’s ridiculous to issue a blank home field advantage for all teams or even assign a range of set home field advantages.

 

Big 12 Conference Preseason PiRate Ratings

   
   

 

Prediction *

   
  Team

PiRate

Big 12

Overall

 
  North

 

 

 

 
  Kansas

110

5-3

9-4

#
  Nebraska

109

5-3

8-4

 
  Missouri

105

2-6

4-8

 
  Colorado

102

4-4

7-5

 
  Kansas State

97

4-4

7-5

 
  Iowa State

92

0-8

3-9

 
   

 

 

 

 
  South

 

 

 

 
  Oklahoma

136

8-0

13-0

#
  Texas

135

7-1

11-1

 
  Oklahoma State

118

6-2

10-2

 
  Texas Tech

112

3-5

7-5

 
  Baylor

109

4-4

6-6

 
  Texas A&M

94

1-7

4-8

 
               

 

Big 12 North

Kansas: This actually came as a surprise to us at first.  Three of us actually originally believed KU was headed to a lower division finish.  The other two figured third or possibly second at best for the Jayhawks.  When the PiRate formula kicked out the data showing Kansas a point better than Nebraska, we began to look more closely at their roster.

The Jayhawks have excellent offensive skill position players.  Quarterback Todd Reesing returns for his final season after completing 66.5% of his passes for 3,888 yards and 32 touchdowns.  In a league with four or maybe five sure future NFL draft picks, it’s debatable whether Reesing will hear his name called on the second day in 2010.  At 5-11, the NFL evaluators discount all his other abilities.  At the collegiate level, he’s as dangerous as any conference peer.

KU returns two receivers who topped 1,000 yards in receptions in 2008.  Former quarterback Kerry Meier (97 receptions in ’08) may be the only player ever to pass for more than 1,000 yards in a season and catch more than 1,000 yards in passes.  Dezmon Briscoe (92-1,407/15 TD) is the stud and future starter on an NFL roster. 

The ‘Hawks use a running back by committee approach, and all the key components from last year return.  Jake Sharp led the way with 860 yards and 12 touchdowns.  He’s a threat coming out of the bullpen on passing plays as well.

KU’s offense average 33.4 points and 432 total yards per game last year, and those numbers could be surpassed, but only if the offensive line comes through.  For Kansas to realize their division winning potential, they have to open more running lanes.  They won’t win the division with a rushing average under four yards per carry.

The Jayhawk defense must also improve for the record to improve by the two extra games needed to be moved from the loss column to the win column.  It’s a mystery how the linebackers will perform.  All three starters have graduated.  Arist Wright has a little starting experience in three years in Lawrence, and he will anchor the unit from the middle.

The defensive line is in better shape with three starters returning from a year ago.  Jake Laptad had seven sacks, and Caleb Blakesely and Jamal Greene took up a lot of space in the middle allowing the linebackers to be heroes.

The secondary is the strength of this side of the ball.  Kansas used 5 defensive backs a lot last year, and all five return!  Darrell Stuckey intercepted five passes and knocked down seven more.  Justin Thornton knocked down 11 balls.  There’s some fine depth behind this group. 

Kansas gave up 28.8 points and 397 yards per game, with 274 of those yards coming through the air.  If they can lower the pass defense to 250 yards and get 30 sacks, it just might be enough to get to the Big 12 Championship Game.  If not, the Jayhawks are still going bowling for the fifth time in seven seasons.  As an impartial quintet of observers, we must admit we tend to pull for Coach Mark Mangino and the terrific bunch of KU fans.  Two of us have tailgated with them in the past and loved hearing stories about Pepper Rodgers, Bobby Douglass, and John Riggins.

Nebraska: Coach Bo Pelini turned the Cornhuskers around in one year, and now he’s ready to begin the transformation back to dominance in Lincoln.  After a season in which the average score of their games was 35-29, expect to see a drop on both sides of the scoreboard.  Yes, the black shirts are on their way back.

The defensive line will be a strength, second in the league to the Sooners.  We expect the ‘Huskers to dump enemy quarterbacks more than 35 times and hold opposing running backs to about 3.2 yards per rush.  Maybe the most exciting defensive tackle in years plays in this line.  Ndamukong Suh became the first defensive lineman to lead the Cornhuskers in tackles since 1973.  He made 76 tackles, 7 ½ sacks, 11 ½ additional tackles for loss, batted down three passes, and picked off two more.  You want more?  He hauled both of those interceptions back for touchdowns, and then he auditioned for “Dancing With The Network Stars” by doing his “Ducky Dance.”  Who needs Emmitt Smith?  Hey Ndamukong: Do you have Kelly Pickler for a Twitter follower?

The defensive backfield will be much improved this season.  They gave up 233 yards per game and 57.7% completions, which in this league is well above average.  Safeties Larry Asante and Matt O’Hanlon teamed for 119 tackles and nine deflected passes.  Third safety Rickey Thenarse gives this unit great depth.  The same can be said for nickel back Mathew May.  He backs up two great cornerbacks in Prince Amukamara and Anthony West.

The one weak spot on the defense is the second line.  The linebackers are not as talented as the other two units.  This unit will have to grow up quickly, because NU must win by holding down the great offenses in the league.

The Cornhusker offense is going to be more like the dinosaur offenses of the old Big Eight.  Nebraska will rely on a power running game to eat up the clock and wear down opposing defenses.  Running back Roy Helu rushed for 803 yards last year, and he will need to add about 400 yards to that total this year.  The depth behind him is questionable, and true freshman Rex Burkhead will be the principle backup.  Helu rushed for more than 150 yards against Oklahoma, so he’s capable of challenging for the league rushing title.

Joe Ganz used up his eligibility last year, and NU will be breaking in a new set of quarterbacks.  Projected starter Zac Lee has one completed pass for five yards for experience.

The wide receivers are not up to the standards of the big hitters in this league after losing the top two receivers from 2008.  Tight end Mike McNeill is the best player on this unit; he comes off a season where he caught 32 passes for 442 yards and six scores.

The offensive line has had some shuffling since practice began in August, and there has been a question of health with one projected starter, but we think this unit will be just fine.  Center Jacob Hickman will contend for all-conference honors. 

An added offensive weapon is kicker Alex Henery.  He connected on 18 of 21 field goal attempts including a 57 yarder.  Two of those three misses were from beyond 50 yards.

It may be the schedule that prevents NU from winning the North Division.  They play Kansas in Lawrence and Colorado in Boulder in their division and must host Oklahoma from the South.  We expect NU and KU to finish tied in the standings, but the Jayhawks will win the key game against the Cornhuskers.

Missouri: That whistling sound you hear is the Missouri Tiger football team coming down like a bomb released over London during WWII.  The team was wiped out by graduation.  Included in the decimation were quarterback Chase Daniel, tight end Chase Coffman, wide out Jeremy Maclin, tackle Colin Brown, linebacker Michael Keck, safety William Moore, and defensive tackles Ziggy Hood and Stryker Sulak, all of whom were taken in the NFL Draft.  A Tiger squad that averaged 42.2 points and 484 yards per game will see a major drop in those numbers.

Sophomore Blaine Gabbert is the new quarterback. He completed five of 13 passes for 43 yards and no touchdowns, and he is being asked to replace the overwhelming all-time passing leader in Columbia, who threw for 4,335 yards and 39 scores last year.  Gabbert will be at a further disadvantage because Mizzou’s top three receivers, who accounted for 264 catches for 3,080 yards and 30 scores are no longer around.  Jared Perry will be the top man after finishing fourth last year with 41 receptions.

The one big holdover weapon is running back Derrick Washington.  He rushed for 1,036 yards and 17 touchdowns in ’08.  Depth here is a concern, and true freshman Kendial Lawrence could see significant action.

The offensive line welcomes back three starters, led by all-league candidate Kurtis Gregory at guard.  The OL should provide enough blocking for the Tiger backs to top four yards per carry and enough protection to give Gabbert a fair shot to find the open receiver.

On the defensive side, MU was mediocre last year, giving up 27.2 points and 412 yards per game.  We’ll give them some credit because they faced Juice Williams, Colin Kaepernick, Joe Ganz, Zac Robinson, Colt McCoy, Josh Freeman, Todd Reesing, Sam Bradford, and C. J. Bacher—Whew! The numbers could improve simply because the offense runs more clock when they have the ball.

Actual talent improvement is evident at linebacker.  Sean Weatherspoon is the best player on the team and the best linebacker in college football; he should take home the Butkus Award this year.  Last year, he registered an unbelievable 155 tackles with five QB sacks, 13 ½ additional tackles for loss, seven passes knocked away, and three interceptions.  He’ll make his two partners better players, because opponents will go to great lengths to try to eliminate him from the play.

The defensive line and the secondary have issues.  Three starters are gone from both units.  It’s for this reason that we cannot see Missouri competing in the North Division.  In fact, we don’t see how they can forge a winning record.  Not enough pass rush and too many big plays allowed by a green secondary cannot be hidden in this league.

Colorado: Coach Dan Hawkins begins his fourth season in the People’s Republic of Boulder, and he could be exiled if the Buffs fail to make it to a bowl this year.  It’s going to be a touch and go situation.  CU has some real talent in places and big holes in other places.  Only four starters return on defense, and it was defense that allowed the Buffs to win five games last year.

When CU won big under former coach Gary Barnett, they did so with a bruising running game.  This Buffalo team will try to revert back to those days, because every running back who contributed in 2008 is back this year.  Rodney Stewart has sneaky speed and quickness and can hit a small hole quickly.  His small frame makes him vulnerable to injury, and he missed time last year.  Darrell Scott is more of a north-south runner, but he too missed time due to injury. 

After the first couple of weeks of August practice, Hawkins had yet to name a starting quarterback.  His son Cody was the starter for most of the last two seasons, but he may be on the verge of losing his spot to Tyler Hansen, a better runner.  If Hansen wins the job, that is a sign that CU will rely more on the run than the pass.

The rebuilding defense is strongest at linebacker.  Shaun Mohler and Jeff Smart return after finishing one-two in tackles (215 combined).  The secondary has one star-in-the-making in cornerback Cha’Pelle Brown, who knocked away 10 passes.

Up front, the defensive line will be the reason CU doesn’t compete in the North Division title race.  No full-time starters return, and three untested sophomores will be pressed into action.

Colorado had troubles with their kicking game last year, and that’s an anomaly kicking in the 5,400 feet elevation of Folsom Field.

An improved offense that can control the ball against average defenses combined with a schedule that includes eight or nine winnable games gives CU a decent shot of getting to seven wins and a bowl game.

Kansas State: Old with the new, and in with the old.  Soon to be 70-year old Bill Snyder returns to the Little Apple after a three-year retirement.  Combining his final two years, where the Wildcats bounced under .500, with the three forgettable seasons of Ron Prince, K-State has gone 26-33 the last five years.  Snyder picked a great time to return, because the ‘Cats have the chance to win a couple extra games this year and return to a bowl.

The defense should be one of the most improved units in the nation.  Yes, you can say it cannot get worse.  Last year, KSU gave up 35.8 points and 479 total yards per game.  Nebraska and Texas Tech topped 600 total yards against them.  Kansas State returns its top six tacklers.  Three starting defensive linemen return, but Brandon Harold is going to miss some games with a leg injury.

State will go almost exclusively with a 4-2-5 defense, and it’s a smart move.  They have much more depth in the secondary than they do at linebacker.  Linebackers Alex Hrebec and John Houlik may not make even Honorable Mention All-Big 12, but their 2009 performance will be much better than 2008.

The secondary will benefit from having all the depth, but without a better pass rush up front, enemy QBs will pick them apart.

The offense will struggle early, as it has to break in a new quarterback.  Carson Coffman and Grant Gregory were still competing for the starting job at the time of this writing.  Whoever wins the job will benefit from having star receiver Brandon Banks return after grabbing 67 passes for 1,049 yards and nine touchdowns.  Tight end Jeron Mastrud ranks only behind Oklahoma’s Jermaine Gresham for best in the league.

2008 Leading running back Lamark Brown has been moved back to receiver, but he didn’t have much success carrying the ball and can easily be replaced.  Keithen Valentine should surpass Brown’s season total by the sixth or seventh game.

The offensive line suffered a blow when senior guard Brock Unruh was lost for the season due to injury.  That leaves two starting holdovers in the trenches.  Tackle Nick Stringer will land a spot somewhere on the All-Big 12 team.

With non-conference contests with Massachusetts, Louisiana-Lafayette, and Tennessee Tech, the worst KSU can do in the pre-conference is 3-1.  If they upset UCLA and enter conference play at 4-0, they have it made in the shade in the bowl picture.  Even at 3-1, the Wildcats have an excellent shot at getting to 6-6.  They get Texas A&M and Missouri at home and play Iowa State in Kansas City.  

Iowa State: In what looked like a trade, Auburn sent defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads to Ames for Coach Gene Chizik.  Rhoads got the short end of the stick in that one, but at least he inherits a nice bunch of holdovers from last year.  Iowa State will more than likely remain in the basement of the North Division, but the gap to the other teams will shorten this year.

He won’t be confused for a Bradford, McCoy, Robinson, Griffin, or Reesing, but quarterback Austen Arnaud is a poor man’s Seneca Wallace.  He passed for 2,792 yards and 15 touchdowns (61.6% completions) last year.  His top receiver from last year, R. J. Sumrall has picked up his sheepskin, but all the other key contributors from last year are back.  Junior college transfer Darius Reynolds has earned a spot in the starting lineup.

Alexander Robinson rushed for 703 yards (4.6 avg) and scored six times, and he has help this year.  Former Florida Gator Bo Williams was supposed to come in and assume the starter’s job, but he won’t even be second team when the season begins.  Redshirt freshman Jeremiah Schwartz’s stock is on the rise, and he is a great fit in the new spread offense.

The offensive line may have a few tough times in the early part of the schedule, but they should be okay once the players get uses to multiple shifts in positions.  ISU averaged 25.3 points and 387 yards per game last year, and we can see those numbers climbing to 28 points and 400 yards in 2009.

A porous 2008 defense gave up almost 36 points and 453 yards per game, and the numbers could be just as weak or even weaker this year.  The defensive line and secondary may take a step back, while the linebackers move forward a tad.  Safety James Smith has the best shot of earning post-season accolades.  He led ISU with 85 tackles last year.

Middle linebacker Jesse Smith leads the one not-so-weak area.  He registered five tackles for loss and six deflected passes last year.

The Cyclones have a decent chance to open 3-1 with a non-conference schedule that includes North Dakota State, Iowa, Kent State, and Army.  For the second year in a row, ISU may not win a conference game, but they will lose them by fewer points per game.

Big 12 South

Oklahoma:  The Big 12 will be a two-team race this year.  Oklahoma and Texas should combine for either 22 or 23 regular season wins.  The two could play each other 12 times and split them six to six.  The PiRate formula says OU begins the season one point better than Texas.  By the seventh week of the season, who know?

Let’s start with the supposed weakness this year.  Everybody is saying the offensive line is going to cause the offense to fall backward just enough to finish second.  We say, hogwash!  We’ve studied the OL in depth, and we’re here to tell you this line is more underrated than former NBA coach Bill Sharman.  Trent Williams is a top-rate tackle.  He could have been a first day draft pick in the NFL this spring.  When center Ben Habern recovers from his lower back injury, he will be one of the top snappers in the league.  Brian Simmons will team with Williams on the left side to provide exceptional leadership.  This unit will dedicate themselves to top performance much in the way Florida did so after the loss to Ole Miss.  Expect total effort and attention to details.

The receivers may not be as talented this year, but if that’s OU’s only real weakness, Coach Bob Stoops will be smiling as his team takes the field in Pasadena in the second week in January.  Tight end Jermaine Gresham is the favorite for the Mackey Award this year after catching 66 passes for 950 yards and 14 touchdowns.  He should top 1,000 yards and 15 scores this year.

We’ve saved the best parts of the offense for last.  The Sooners return two 1,000 yard rushers who combined for 34 touchdowns.  Chris Brown (217-1,220) and DeMarco Murray (179-1,002) have an excellent chance to repeat the feat and even increase those numbers.

So, what can Mr. Heisman Trophy do for an encore?  He can copy Tim Tebow and follow it up with the National Championship.  It doesn’t seem possible that Bradford could improve on 4,720 passing yards, 50 touchdowns, 67.9% completions, and just eight interceptions.  He doesn’t need to have a season equal to last.  In fact, it might be to OU’s advantage to hold onto the ball a little longer this year and allow the defense to star.  Sooner games lasted an average of 151 plays per game, while Florida games lasted an average of only 127 plays per game.

The defense was not up to championship standards last year, but it should be this year.  After giving up 24.5 points and 368 yards per game, an improvement to 20 points and 340 yards should be enough to put Oklahoma in Pasadena.

The one slightly vulnerable area on this side of the ball is the secondary, where two new safeties will start.  Cornerback Dominique Franks picked off four passes and batted away 10 passes.  He could be a 1st Team All-Big 12 this year.

The top linebacker this year is Travis Lewis, who led the team in tackles in 2008 with 144, 12 total tackles for loss.  He intercepted four passes.  Keenan Clayton and Ryan Reynolds make it the best linebacker unit in the conference.

Up front, OU will be downright stingy against the run and a nightmare to opposing quarterbacks.  End Jeremy Beal had 8 ½ sacks and another seven tackles for loss.  Gerald McCoy, Auston English, and Adrian Taylor were nearly as tough.

It all comes down to the Red River Shootout on October 17.  Yes, Oklahoma State could give the Sooners a good game, and Texas Tech will be out for revenge, but we just don’t see any team other than Texas competing with them.  They will either go 13-0 and qualify for the National Championship Game, or go 11-1 and end up in a BCS Bowl.

Texas:  This isn’t the number two team in the division, so don’t take that impression from them being here.  No, we aren’t saying Texas will disappoint.  We are saying that OU is 1A and UT is 1B.

Texas is a decent running back from being unstoppable.  If Fozzy Whittaker or Vondrell McGee can supply a little more relief for McCoy, defenses will not be able to slow this offense down.

Colt McCoy is due to win the Heisman Trophy.  He completed an insane 76.7% of his passes last year.  These were not glorified handoffs.  He averaged 11.6 yards per completion and almost nine yards per attempt.  McCoy’s TD/INT ratio was 34/8.

Quan Cosby and his 92 receptions, 1,123 yards and 10 touchdowns has moved on, but the Longhorns still have Jordan Shipley, who hauled in 89 passes for 1,060 yards and 11 touchdowns.  Keep an eye on flex tight end Dan Buckner.  He has big play potential and will not command the tough coverage given to Shipley.

The offensive line has three all-stars.  Center Chris Hall, guard Charlie Tanner, and tackle Adam Ulatoski will play for pay next year.

The defense was better than Oklahoma’s last year, and it was the difference in their game.  The Longhorns have a little bit of housekeeping to do up front, where only tackle Lamarr Houston returns from last season.  Kheeston Randall is big and agile, and it’s only a matter of time before he becomes a star.

Texas is set at linebacker, where Sergio Kindle dumped enemy quarterbacks 10 times last year.  In the secondary, safeties Earl Thomas and Blake Gideon broke up 24 passes last year. 

The kicking game is so strong, there are two potential star placekickers and two punters who contribute.  John Gold is the regular punter, and Justin Tucker is the rugby-style punter.

Texas Tech will bear the brunt of Texas’s wrath when the Red Raiders visit September 19.  The Longhorns must face Oklahoma State in Stillwater, but this year looks like a two-team race.

Oklahoma State:  We’re not saying it will happen, but can you remember back to 1971?  Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Colorado, all of the Big Eight Conference, finished one-two-three in the final poll.  Oklahoma State could easily finish 10-2 this year with a scoring margin of 20 points per game.

The Cowboys’ offense is every bit as good as the two titans ahead of them in the league.  Quarterback Zac Robinson passed for 3,064 yards and 25 touchdowns and ran for 562 yards and eight more scores.  Running back Kendall Hunter rushed for 1,555 yards and 16 touchdowns, and backup Keith Toston added another 686 yards (6.7 avg).  Receiver Dez Bryant caught 87 passes for 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns.  All these skill players return this year.  To make matters worse, for opponents that is, the Cowboy offensive line returns three very competent starters and adds two very highly-rated newcomers in reserve.  OSU gained 5.5 yards per rush in 2008, and there’s no reason to think they won’t continue with that success.

Defensively, the ‘Pokes are just an average team looking to improve to respectability.  Their front four and back four have a lot of gaping holes.  OSU surrendered 28.1 points and 406 yards per game last year, and those numbers will only marginally improve in 2009.  The Cowboys use a variation of the 4-3, and Star linebacker Andre Sexton returns after leading the team with 100 tackles.  Middle linebacker Orie Lemon added 90 and batted away eight passes.  Third linebacker Patrick Lavine recorded 70 tackles. 

Oklahoma State has excellent kick and punt returners.  Bryant scored twice on punt returns last year, and Perrish Cox took two kickoffs back for touchdowns.

If the Cowboys can win the opener at home with Georgia, they will possibly move into the Top Five.  We can see them competing and even winning the Georgia game, but we don’t see them beating Texas or Oklahoma.

Texas Tech: Red Raider coach Mike Leach keeps plugging in new pieces to his intricate offense in Lubbock.  Graham Harrell has left the building after ending his senior season with 5,111 passing yards and 45 touchdowns.  Top receiver Michael Crabtree is busy not accepting contract offers with the San Francisco 49ers these days.  Back Shannon Woods is no longer around, as are three offensive line starters.  Yet, Texas Tech should score 35-40 points per game and gain 450-500 yards.

New quarterback Taylor Potts has already received accolades from Leach who called him the best quarterback he’s ever coached.  Potts saw limited action last year and passed for 260 yards on 63.9% completions.

Baron Batch split time with Woods and returns to the backfield after rushing for a team leading 758 yards and seven scores last year.

The offensive line has its strengths and its weaknesses.  Guard Brandon Carter and tackle Marlon Winn are seasoned vets, while center Shawn Byrnes and guard Mickey Ofafor have limited experience. 

The defense returns enough starters to keep improving.  It will be strongest up front with nose tackle Colby Whitlock returning.  Linebacker isn’t a strong area, but it’s no great liability.  Brian Duncan led the team from his middle ‘backer spot with 94 stops.

The secondary features cornerback Jamar Wall, who batted away 11 passes and took away two more.

Tech should win all four out-of-conference games (North Dakota, Rice, Houston, and New Mexico), but games at Texas, at Nebraska, at Oklahoma State and at home with Oklahoma should be losses.  The season ender against Baylor at the Mistake on the Turnpike, AKA Cowboys Stadium, could be a tossup, and the Bears could be playing for bowl eligibility.  Call it an eight or nine win season in Lubbock.  

Baylor: This is the year if the Bears are ever going to get over the hump and pick up that elusive sixth win.  Coach Art Briles has 16 starters returning.

Quarterback Robert Griffin is in the next wave of signal callers after the big three.  He comes off a season in which he passed for 2,091 yards with 15 touchdowns versus just three interceptions and ran the ball for 843 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Griffin has a wealth of returning talent at the receiver positions.  Kendall Wright and David Gettis combined for 79 catches and 1,040 yards.  Tight end Justin Akers isn’t an every down player because Baylor frequently spreads the field and goes four wide, but when he’s in the game, he is hard to bring down after the catch.

Jay Finley led the Bears with 865 rushing yards and could possibly top 1,000 if the offense moves to the next level.  He may be used more as a receiver this year, because he’s tough to stop in the open field.

The one fly in the ointment is the offensive line.  There will be three new starters up front.  If they don’t continue the success that last year’s line enjoyed when they opened holes that led to 4.9 yards per rush, then BU won’t be playing in December or January.

 

On the defensive side, the top four tacklers and six of the top seven return.  The question mark is on the defensive line where two new starters will need to step up and keep blockers away from the linebackers.

Those linebackers are the best trio in years.  Antonio Jones, Joe Pawelek, and Antonio Johnson teamed up to make 271 stops intercept six passes (all Pawelek), and break up 10 more.

The back line features three returning starters who did not perform up to Big 12 standards last year.  BU allowed 67.4% of enemy passes to be caught for 255 yards per game. 

Baylor opens at Wake Forest, and it should be a great game.  We’ll call that a Demon Deacon win.  Connecticut comes to Waco, and that won’t be an easy win.  Northwestern State and Kent State should be cinch wins.  If they win three of these first four games, they will still need three conference wins to gain bowl eligibility.  They will have to pull of one upset.  It’s a 50-50 chance.

Texas A&M: Since R. C. Slocum was shown the door after winning consistently for two decades, this program has fallen off the map, going 36-37 since then.  Second year coach Mike Sherman may not be given much time to turn things around in College Station, and the alumni could demand action this year if A&M finishes 5th or 6th in the division.  We say the Aggies will do just that.

10 starters return to the offense, led by quarterback Jerrod Johnson.  Johnson has talent, but in this division, he’s a distant 6th among the QBs.  The once proud running game here disappeared as the Aggies rushed for just 89 yards per game.  Cyrus Gray averaged 4.8 yards per carry last year, but he only carried the ball 94 times. 

A&M returns their top three and five of their top six receivers.  Ryan Tannehill may not start after leading the team in receptions with 55.  Jeff Fuller and tight end Jamie McCoy should see more touches after bringing in 50 and 43 passes respectively.

The offensive line is the best part of this side of the ball.  The addition of LSU transfer Matt Allen, and the emergence of tackle Danny Baker means there will be much more depth here this year.  Look for the Aggies to improve their rushing numbers back into the low triple digits and pass for 260-285 yards.

The defense will be weaker overall this year with very little pass rush and very little ability to stop the passing attacks of the other five South Division rivals.  The Aggies lost too much on this side of the ball to contend for any wins inside the division.  They better defeat Iowa State at Kyle Field, or else they could go 0-8 in Big 12 play.

Next up: The Southeastern Conference where football definitely is a religion, and The Gators, led by the great leader Tebowses, are the chosen people.

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