The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 26, 2015

2015 AFC East Division Preview

Today, we begin our 2015 previews of each NFL division with a look at the AFC East Division. This year, we are going to concentrate mostly on stats and analytics.

You will see the following information in each preview.

  1. A current starting lineup based on multiple sources.  This will include players that are questionable for Week 1, and players suspended in the first four weeks.
  2. Team Information–Head Coach, Offensive and Defensive Coordinators, Last Year’s W-L Record and Average Offensive and Defensive Points Per Game
  3. 2015 Preseason PiRate, Mean, and Bias Ratings with an Average of the Three.
  4. Our PiRate Grades on Running Game, Passing Game, Defense Against the Run, Defense Against the Pass, Special Teams, and Coaching + Intangibles.  Note that these grades use advanced metrics and do not rely on regular statistics.  More about that in the footnote at the end of this entry.
  5. The PiRate Ratings won-loss predictions for 2015 and whether the team is picked to make the playoffs.  These predictions are based on a unique set of data and do not strictly correlate to our preseason ratings.  We actually have pre-adjustments in our ratings based on factors such as depth, age, schedule, travel, etc.


New England has won this division six consecutive seasons, and the last time they didn’t win, they lost in a tiebreaker to the Miami Dolphins.  With Tom Brady sidelined for four games, a lot of pundits are picking the Patriots to begin the season trailing one or more contenders.  We remind them that Matt Cassel took over a Patriot team in 2008 and went 10-5 as a starter.  Jimmy Garoppolo should be able to at least split those four games, which should allow the Pats to seven-peat in the AFC East.

Rex Ryan takes over at Buffalo, and the Bills have enough talent on hand to make a playoff run, something Bills’ fans have not experienced since the fateful “Music City Miracle” in 1999.  With the addition of Matt Cassel, LeSean McCoy and to a lesser extent, Percy Harvin and Richie Incognito, Ryan’s Bills could take on the persona of the Oakland Raiders of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Miami added Ndamukong Suh and Greg Jennings to a roster that was 7-5 before fading fast last year.  The Dolphins will make the Playoffs this year, or Joe Philbin will be history.

The New York Jets start over with a new coach, a new quarterback they did not expect to have, two new cornerbacks, and a commitment to open up the offense.  However, in order for the Jets to get off the ground in 2015, unexpected new starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick must find a way to avoid the interception bug for at least 4 or 5 games, or else rookie Bryce Petty will be in the Big Apple microscope.


Starting Lineup
WR Sammy Watkins
WR Percy Harvin
WR Robert Woods
TE Charles Clay
LT Gordy Glenn
LG Richie Ingonito
C Eric Wood
RG John Miller
RT Seantrel Henderson
QB Matt Cassel
HB LeSean McCoy
FB Jerome Felton
DE Mario Williams
DT Marcell Dareus
DT Kyle Williams
DE Jerry Hughes
LB Nigel Bradham
LB Preston Brown
LB Manny Lawson
CB Leodis McKelvin
S Aaron Williams
S Corey Graham
CB Stephon Gilmore
N5 Nickell Robey
Kicker Dan Carpenter
Punter Colton Schmidt
KR Percy Harvin
PR Marcus Thigpen
Buffalo Bills
Head Coach Rex Ryan
Off. Coordinator Greg Roman
Def. Coordinator Dennis Thurman
2014 W-L-T 9-7-0
Pts 21.4
Opp 18.1
PiRate 99.8
Mean 100.6
Bias 99.6
Average 100.0
Running B-
Passing C-
Vs. Run B+
Vs. Pass B-
Special Teams C
Coaching + Intangibles C+
Predicted W-L 10-6-0
Division Rank 2
Conference Rank 9
Overall Rank 17
Postseason Yes


Starting Lineup
WR Greg Jennings
WR Kenny Stills
WR Jarvis Landry
TE Jordan Cameron
LT Albert Brandon
LG Dallas Thomas
C Mike Pouncey
RG Billy Turner
RT Ja’ Wuan James
QB Ryan Tannehill
HB Lamar Miller
FB (None)
DE Cameron Wake
DT Ndamukong Suh
DT Earl Mitchell
DE Olivier Vernon
LB Chris McCain
LB Koa Misi
LB Jelani Jenkins
CB Brent Grimes
S Reshad Jones
S Michael Thomas
CB Jamar Taylor
N5 Brice McCain
Kicker Caleb Sturgis
Punter Brandon Fields
KR Jarvis Landry
PR Jarvis Landry
Miami Dolphins
Head Coach Joe Philbin
Off. Coordinator Bill Lazor
Def. Coordinator Kevin Coyle
2014 W-L-T 8-8-0
Pts 24.3
Opp 23.3
PiRate 98.7
Mean 100.3
Bias 98.0
Average 99.0
Running C-
Passing C+
Vs. Run C
Vs. Pass B
Special Teams C-
Coaching + Intangibles C
Predicted W-L 9-7-0
Division Rank 3
Conference Rank 10
Overall Rank 19
Postseason No


Starting Lineup
WR Reggie Wayne
WR Julian Edelman
WR Danny Amendola
TE Rob Gronkowski
LT Nate Solder
LG Josh Klein
C Bryan Stork
RG Ryan Wendell
RT Sebastian Vollmer
QB Tom Brady
HB LeGarrette Blount
FB James Develin
DE Rob Ninkovich
DT Alan Branch
DT Sealver Siliga
DE Chandler Jones
LB Jamie Collins
LB Jerod Mayo
LB Dont’a Hightower
CB Malcolm Butler
S Patrick Chung
S Devon McCourty
CB Logan Ryan
N5 Robert McClain
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski
Punter Ryan Allen
KR Danny Amendola
PR Julian Edelman
New England Patriots
Head Coach Bill Belichick
Off. Coordinator Josh McDaniels
Def. Coordinator Matt Patricia
2014 W-L-T 12-4-0
Pts 29.3
Opp 19.6
PiRate 107.9
Mean 107.9
Bias 107.9
Average 107.9
Running C-
Passing A+
Vs. Run C-
Vs. Pass C
Special Teams A
Coaching + Intangibles A+
Predicted W-L 12-4-0
Division Rank 1
Conference Rank 1
Overall Rank 2
Postseason No


Starting Lineups
WR Brandon Marshall
WR Eric Decker
WR Jeremy Kerley
TE Jeff Cumberland
LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson
LG James Carpenter
C Nick Mangold
RG Willie Colon
RT Breno Giacomini
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
HB Chris Ivory
FB Tommy Bohanon
DE Muhammad Wilkerson
DT Damon Harrison
DE Leonard Williams
LB Quinton Coples
LB Demario Davis
LB David Harris
LB Calvin Pace
CB Darrelle Revis
S Calvin Pryor
S Marcus Gilchrist
CB Antonio Cromartie
N5 Buster Skrine
Kicker Nick Folk
Punter Ryan Quigley
KR Chris Owusu
PR Jeremy Kerley
New York Jets
Head Coach Todd Bowles
Off. Coordinator Chan Gailey
Def. Coordinator Kacy Rodgers
2014 W-L-T 4-12-0
Pts 17.7
Opp 25.1
PiRate 97.7
Mean 98.2
Bias 97.5
Average 97.8
Running C-
Passing D
Vs. Run A-
Vs. Pass B+
Special Teams C
Coaching + Intangibles D
Predicted W-L 7-9-0
Division Rank 4
Conference Rank 12
Overall Rank 23
Postseason No

Grade Constituents & Data

Running Game: Offensive Line & Running Backs

Mere average yards per carry or total yards gained matters little here.  We grade based on how effective the running game is.  So, if a player gained 1,200 yards and averaged 4.0 yards per carry last year, there is no guarantee that he is better than a player that gains 800 yards and averaged 3.5 yards per attempt.  Gaining three yards on third and two is a lot more important than gaining four yards on third and eight.  A player that gets a lot of attempts inside the two yard line will see his average yards per carry drop but will be more effective due to getting the job done.

Passing Game: Quarterback, Receivers, Backs, Offensive Line

We use a combination of average yards per attempt, air yards per attempt, yards after catch, sacks per attempt, and avoidance of turnovers.  A team with a better quarterback may have a lower grade than a team with less talented quarterback, if he has a better pass blocking offensive line and/or better receivers.

Defense: All 11 defensive players factor into both run and pass defense.  The defensive ends and cornerbacks count more against the pass than any other position, while the front seven counts more against the run than the secondary.

Special Teams: Punt and Kick Coverage count for a little more than punt and kick return, but with a little extra given weight to returners that have a proven history of becoming game-changers.  Actual punting and kicking have gotten to the point where there is not much difference between the best and worst.  If the top punter averages 46 yards per punt, and a replacement punter averages just 40 yards per punt, that six yards is not that much of a factor.  Coverage is much more important.  Not allowing the opponent to get a long return counts more than the six yards difference in the punters.

Coaching + Intangibles: The head coach is not the only coach that matters, but he counts more than the strength and conditioning coach.  We look at the entire coaching staff, with the coordinators receiving more consideration than all but the head coach.  Intangibles include a host of factors, including things like having a player break a teammate’s jaw, penalties from deflating balls, having a team that missed out of the playoffs by a tiebreaker last year, and many other little things.

August 26, 2011

2011 Big 12 Conference Preview

2011 Big 12 Conference Preview


13 months ago, it appeared as if the Big 12 Conference was about to become the Deep-Sixed Conference.  Nebraska left for the Big Ten, and Colorado followed Horace Greeley’s advice and went west.


Before the flies could descend on the lifeless body, Commissioner Dan Beebe was able to rescue the league at the 11th hour.  It looked like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech were going to join Colorado in the Pac-16.


Then, Texas thought about exploring its options as an Independent, with the hopes of joining Notre Dame in a long-term agreement to play in a lot of sports.  Texas A&M let it be known that they wanted to become a member of the Southeastern Conference.  Missouri begged its way into the Big Ten.


None of this happened.  Texas got their wish granted with the Longhorn Network becoming the dominant financial bonanza.  ESPN threw enough revenue to keep the now 10-team league alive—for at least another year.


13 months later, the SEC is now looking like a 13-team league for 2012.  Texas A&M decided that the Longhorn Network made the Lone Star State not big enough for both.  On Thursday, August 25, they officially informed the Big 12 that they were exploring their options for leaving the conference and would “help” the league find a replacement.


This is legalese for: “Screw it, Texas.  We are going to the SEC.”  A&M will become the SEC’s 13th member.  SMU is lobbying hard to replace them, but the Mustangs still have that huge black cloud hanging over them from becoming the one team (for now) ever to suffer the football death penalty.  Some in the Southwest thing SMU should never be allowed to become a major player again, just like many in Europe are not ready to see Germany become a military power again.


Of course, the SEC cannot stay at 13 teams for long.  At the most, look for it to be a one-year experiment.  Team number 14 is assured, while teams 15 and 16 are probable.  Missouri is ripe to become one of those three teams, as it offers everything the SEC wants.  It brings in to play the St. Louis and Kansas City markets, two of the top 30.  It brings in a huge chunk of the Illinois market, including Chicago, as their flame-throwers broadcast downstate to all the cities in Central and parts of Southern Illinois.  Missouri’s football program is strong enough to compete, yet just weak enough for Alabama, Auburn, LSU, and Arkansas to not object.  Their basketball program has been consistently good for a long time, so the Tigers become a logical choice to bolt as well.


For this season, it will be interesting to see if Texas A&M becomes the recipient of a lot of questionable calls on the field.  Nebraska Athletics’ Director Tom Osborne believed the Cornhuskers were “jobbed” several times last year.





He is not quite as talented as Andrew Luck, but Landry Jones could win the Heisman Trophy over him this year, especially if the Sooners finish with a better record.


Jones threw 617 passes last year, completing 405 for 65.6%.  He accumulated 4,718 yards (average of 337 yards per game) and threw 38 touchdown passes.  Barring injury, he will shatter the all-time passing yardage record at OU; he needs only 487 yards to pass Sam Bradford, the man he replaced in Norman.  If he stays healthy for all 13 games, even if he gets pulled in the second half of multiple blowouts, Jones should top the 4,500 yard plateau once again (OU will play one less game without a conference championship game).


Behind Jones, Drew Allen and Blake Bell are battling it out for the second option.



Coach Bob Stoops welcomes back his top two receivers, and they are both superstars.  Ryan Broyles only caught 131 passes last year to lead the nation in receptions.  He amassed more than 1,600 yards and scored 14 times.  Kenny Stills was a 1st Team Freshman All-American last year after catching 61 passes for 786 yards. 


Tight end James Hanna is used more as a decoy, but when Jones throws to him, good things happen.  He averaged 16+ yards per catch last year and scored touchdowns on 39% of his receptions!  Imagine trying to stop Broyles and Stills, only to have Hanna burn you for a quick six.


DeJuan Miller is the third receiver in the three wide receiver formation.  He’s coming off an injury year in which he caught 15 passes in limited action.  If he returns to form, this becomes the best receiving corps in all of college football.  If he cannot play at his pre-injury talent level, then the Sooners will be the co-number one receiving unit—with their in-state rival.


Running Backs

DeMarco Murray is now in the NFL after finishing his OU career with a 1,200+ yard season.  Stoops and offensive coordinators Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell will probably go with a platoon here.  Brennan Clay will be the starter for the opener, but true freshman Brandon Williams and Roy Finch will see plenty of action.  Clay is nursing a pinched nerve in his neck, so he could be in danger of missing some playing time.  When he is hit in the right place, he loses feeling in half his body, including the part that holds onto the ball. 


Offensive Line

This is the only minor concern on this side of the ball, and we are using the word “concern” only in the context of being concerned that it might prevent the Sooners from averaging 45 points per game this season.


Center Ben Habern and guard Gabe Ikard are legitimate all-conference players.  Guard Tyler Evans and tackle Donald Stephenson are returning starters.  Daryl Williams at 6-6 and 313 pounds has the potential to be a star, but as a redshirt freshman, he has a lot of learning to do.



Defensive Line

This was going to be a major strength this year, but one of its top stars may not be eligible to play.  End Ronnell Lewis is waiting to learn if he has met the academic requirements from his summer classes to regain his eligibility.  The junior, a former linebacker, is one of the top defensive ends in the conference, and his loss would cost Oklahoma a point or more in the PiRate Ratings.  David King is bigger than but not as mobile as Lewis, and he will replace Lewis if he cannot go.


Frank Alexander is set at the other end position.  He finished 2010 with seven sacks and 13 tackles for loss.  Jamarkus McFarland and Casey Walker will open the season at the tackle positions, with former starter Stacy McGee rotating in.


This is not a championship-quality defensive front four without Lewis.  It is also not as deep as it could have been, as backup Daniel Noble had to give up football.  The Sooners may be strong enough to make it through the regular season with a sub-spectacular defensive line, but they will not beat the likes of Stanford or Alabama without some improvement here.



Coming out of Spring Practice, OU had one of the top three linebacker units in the nation.  Since then, they have lost their middle linebacker through tragedy and their Will linebacker through injury.


Austin Box died from an overdose of pain medication.  He would have contended for all-conference honors.  In his place, Tom Wort will perform admirably and could lead the team in tackles.  He started nine times last year and made 66 tackles with 7 ½ for losses.


Travis Lewis was the leading tackler last year with 109, and he was the best pass defender among Big 12 linebackers.  He intercepted three passes and batted away five others.  Unfortunately, he is lost for at least three weeks with a broken toe.  He probably will be held out until the Texas game.  In his place, Corey Nelson will see a lot of action.  Nelson made 21 tackles in 2010.


Tony Jefferson returns to the Sam linebacker spot.  He registered 65 tackles with seven going for losses.  He got his paws on seven passes and picked off two more.



There is one small question with the OU secondary this year.  His name is Jamell Fleming, and he led the league in passes defended last year with 19, while interception five passes.  He earned 1st Team All-Big 12 honors and was set to compete for All-American merit this year.  That is until Stoops booted him from the team in the spring for what appeared to be academic issues.  He is back on the team and listed as a reserve, while Gabe Lynn is listed as the replacement at cornerback.  Lynn is a good defender, but Yankees’ skipper Joe Girardi would not bench Curtis Granderson for Andruw Jones and expect to be the same team.


Demonte Hurst starts at the other cornerback position.  He intercepted just one pass last year, but he broke up 11 others.  The Sooners will start two new safeties this year.  Aaron Colvin and Janvon Harris saw extensive playing time as reserves, but they will not be as effective as last year’s safeties.



The last six years have not been as successful as the previous five for Stoops.  After going 60-7 between 2000 and 2004, they have fallen all the way to 62-19 since.


The Sooners gave up 362 yards per game last year, which represents the second time in three years that OU has surrendered more than 360 yards per game.  Two years ago, they gave up just 273 yards and 14.5 points per game.



The schedule is not a perfect one for a team hoping to go undefeated and advance to the National Championship Game.  Tulsa will not be an easy win in the opening game.  The Sooners get a week off to prepare for Florida State but must play the Seminoles in Tallahassee.  A home game with Missouri the following week is setting up as a trap game.  After a breather with Ball State, OU has the annual Red River Shootout with Texas in Dallas.  In the second half of the season, a home game with Texas A&M and the finale on the road at Oklahoma State presents two other tough games.  Oklahoma is capable of running the table this year, but with the defensive losses, we do not believe they can pull it off.  They could even find themselves having to split the conference title if one of the top contenders can knock them off.


Texas A&M



Ryan Tannehill took over as the starting quarterback midway through the season and guided the Aggies to a 6-0 finish after a 3-3 start.  He completed 65% of his passes for 1,638 yards and 13 touchdowns.  He should top the 3,200 yard mark this year and could approach 3,500.  If he goes down with an injury, there are only true freshmen and redshirt freshmen to back him up. 



All four starters return from 2010, so A&M should be even better through the air this season.  Coach Mike Sherman knows how to put together great passing plans.  Jeff Fuller led the Aggies with 1,066 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns.  His 72 receptions tied him for the team lead with Ryan Swope, who gained 825 yards through the air.  Swope also proved to be valuable on reverse plays.  Uzoma Nwachukwu caught 44 passes, and tight end Nehemiah Hicks added 11 receptions. 


Running Backs

Cyrus Gray led the Aggies with 1,133 yards and 12 touchdowns last year, and he returns for his senior season.  He also contributed 34 receptions.  Backup Christine Michael gained 631 yards and caught 13 passes.  The Aggies are in very good shape here.


Offensive Line

Four starters return to what could be one of the top lines in the country.  Center Patrick Lewis was an honorable mention all-conference player last year.  Tackles Jake Matthews and Luke Joeckel were two of the best freshmen linemen in the nation.  Guard Brian Thomas also made the honorable mention all-conference team.  The vacant guard spot will go to either Shep Klinke or Evan Elke.  Elke has past starting experience.



Defensive Line

The Aggies switched to a 3-4 defense last year, and the defensive line was more of a blocking and containing trio.  It allowed the linebackers to flow without much interference, and A&M gave up just 130 rushing yards per game while dumping quarterbacks 30 times.


The Aggies will start Jonathan Mathis and Tony Jerod-Eddie at the ends.  The two combined for 90 tackles with six going for losses.  A two-way race at the nose tackle has yet to be decided.  Kirby Ennis and Eddie Brown will probably platoon at the position.



It will be tough to replace the two linebackers that left the Aggies.  Michael Hodges led the team with 115 tackles, earning 2nd Team All-Big 12 honors.  Von Miller departed as a 1st Team All-American, the Butkus Award, and a first round pick of the Broncos.


Caleb Russell will get first crack at Miller’s Joker (rush) linebacker position.  Damontre Moore, Brandon Alexander, and Tyrell Taylor are also in the mix there.  The other outside linebacker position belongs to Sean Porter, who performed well both against the run and pass last year.  He recorded seven tackles for loss and six passes defended.


Garrick Williams is firmly entrenched at one inside spot after finishing with 112 tackles last year.  Jonathan Stewart will split time with true freshman Donnie Baggs at the vacant inside spot.


The Aggies are deep here, but they are not as talented as they were last year.



All four starters return here, and the Aggies will have a top-notch pass defense this season.  Cornerbacks Coryell Judie and Terrence Frederick teamed for 18 passes defended.  Safeties Steven Campbell and Trent Hunter teamed for 95 tackles.



Barring some unforeseen event, Texas A&M will become the 13th member of the Southeastern Conference in the summer of 2012.  You should take note of their games this year to see if they are getting hosed by Big 12 officials during conference games. 


Judie is an excellent kick returner.  He returned two kicks for touchdowns last year and averaged more than 30 yards per return.



Texas A&M plays one SEC team this year, and it should be a must watch game.  The Aggies will face Arkansas at Cowboys’ Stadium in Arlington on October 1.  Their other non-conference games are SMU and Idaho, both hosted at Kyle Field.


In conference play, they have five home and four road games, but the big one is on enemy turf.  A&M plays Oklahoma in Norman on November 5.  Of course, there is the matter of ending their tenure in the Big 12 with that team with the big TV network. The Aggies face the Longhorns on Thanksgiving Day, and it should be one for the history books.


Sherman guided the Packers to four NFL playoff berths, and he has guided A&M to consecutive bowl games after a 4-8 first season in 2008.  Look for the Aggies to contend for the conference title, but only if they face honest officiating.  They should win at least 10 games.


Oklahoma State



Coach Mike Gundy has been there before.  As quarterback of OSU in the late 1980’s, he began the 1988 season without the school’s all-time leading runner, Thurman Thomas.  It was thought he would be forced to pass much more with the loss of such a superstar.  All he had behind him was some the team’s return specialist from the previous two years.  His name was Barry Sanders.


You know the rest.  Gundy did pass the ball a lot, mostly to Hart Lee Dykes.  Defenses had to play honest and could not creep up to the line.  Sanders simply rushed for an all-time record with 2,628 yards rushing.  The Cowboys’ offense was unstoppable, averaging 48.7 points per game.  They finished 10-2, losing to Nebraska 63-42 and to Oklahoma 31-28.


There are a lot of similarities to the 1988 offense and this year’s offense.  The Cowboys must replace a top running back but have one waiting in the wings that could shine—okay, not like Sanders, but he could easily go over 1,000 yards rushing.


That brings us to the quarterback position.  Brandon Weeden will challenge Landry Jones for the passing yard leadership in the Big 12 and maybe in the nation if Case Keenum cannot return to form at Houston.


Weedon completed 67% of his passes for 4,277 yards and 34 touchdowns last year.  His yards per attempt was 8.4; anything above eight is considered excellent, and to post a number this high while averaging about 40 passes a game is almost unheard.


The only fly in the ointment is the loss of offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen to West Virginia.  Todd Monken takes over after serving as an assistant with the Jacksonville Jaguars.  He may not be as pass happy as Holgorsen was.



It is debatable whether the Cowboys have a better receiving corps than their rivals up the road in Norman.  We can tell you one thing for sure:  the two schools’ top receiver is the co-best receiver in the nation.


OSU’s co-best is Justin Blackmon.  Blackmon caught 111 passes and averaged more than 16 yards per reception last year.  He scored 20 touchdowns and earned a spot on the 1st Team All-American squad.


Josh Cooper caught 68 passes and returns to his slot receiver position.  Hubert Anyiam missed a good portion of the season, and in limited action, he grabbed 11 passes, scoring three touchdowns.  Tracy Moore started six times and caught 17 passes.  This supporting cast will make it very tough for opponents to concentrate on Blackmon.


Running Backs

The aforementioned back that could take over for departed 1,500+-yard rusher Kendall Hunter is Joseph Randle.  Randle rushed for 452 yards in five starts last year.  He should top the 1,000-yard mark and could approach the 1,500 yards gained by Hunter.  If he cannot rush 25 times per game, look for Jeremy Smith to split time with him.  Smith is more of a power back and should get a lot of carries in short yardage situations.


Offensive Line

Last year, the Cowboys had the top offensive line in the league.  They opened holes in the running game, allowing backs to rush for 174 yards per game at an average of five yards (5.3 when factoring out the meager 10 sacks allowed). 


How can they possibly match those stats this year?  Easy: they return all five starters to what could be the best offensive line in college football (fans in Tuscaloosa may have an argument).


This quintessential quintet features two reigning 1st Team All-Big 12 selections—guard Lane Taylor and tackle Levy Adcock.  Grant Garner returns at center, and Jonathan Rush returns at guard.  Nick Martinez is the other returning starter but he will lose his spot to Juco transfer Michael Bowie.



Defensive Line

It is not gloom and doom on this side of the ball, but OSU will give up a lot of points and yards to teams with good offenses.  The defensive line returns just one full-time starter from 2010, and this quartet will give up more rushing yards than last year’s team (134/game).


End Richetti Jones is the lone returnee here.  He made 34 tackles with seven for losses last year.  Senior Jamie Blatnick was a part-time starter at the other end spot, and he recorded 27 tackles with 5 ½ sacks.


Christian Littlehead and Nigel Nicholas are set to start at the tackle positions.  Nicholas made four stops for loss in limited action.



Only one starter returns here as well.  Shaun Lewis made the Freshman All-American team last year after making 58 tackles with eight going for losses.  Caleb Lavey made 10 tackles in limited action and will start in the middle, while Juco transfer Alex Elkins will man the other spot.



OSU gave up 276 passing yards per game and allowed 62.5% of enemy passes to be completed last year, so there is a lot of room for improvement here.  Three starters return, but unless the Cowboys get a better pass rush, not much improvement will be made.


Safeties Markelle Martin and Johnny Thomas teamed up for 118 tackles.  They both intercepted three passes and teamed for 15 other passes broken up.  Martin is the star of this unit.  Cornerback Broderick Brown finished with 77 tackles and 10 passes defended.  Justin Gilbert will start at the vacant cornerback spot after making 18 tackles in limited action.



Yes, this does remind us a lot of the 1988 Oklahoma State team.  The Cowboys’ offense could average more than 45 points per game and even approach the 1988 numbers of 48.6.  And like that team, they are liable to give up 28 points per game.


Quinn Sharp finished in the top 5 with a 40.7 net punting average and 46.2 punting average.  He also proved to be very valuable on kickoffs, as most of them went for touchbacks. 


Josh Cooper and Justin Gilbert are two more special teams’ weapons.  Cooper returned a punt for a score, while Gilbert returned two kickoffs for scores.



Oklahoma State should start 3-0 with wins over Louisiana, Arizona, and Tulsa.  Game four finds them playing at Texas A&M in what will make or break their season.  Upset the Aggies, and OSU could possibly run the table until the finale.  They host the Sooners on December 3, on what would have been the date for the Big 12 Championship Game.  Wouldn’t it be something if it still were and both teams were 11-0 entering the game?  We don’t see it as a legitimate possibility, but it is not impossible either.





The Tigers must start from scratch here.  Blaine Gabbert did not prove to be another Chase Daniel or Brad Smith, but he may prove to be a better NFL quarterback one day.  Gabbert departed Mizzou after throwing for 3,186 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior. 


James Franklin takes over after serving as the quarterback in the Wildcat formation as a true freshman last year.  Franklin rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns, while passing for 106 yards and another touchdown.


Coach Gary Pinkel will rely as much on Franklin’s legs as his arm, as the Tigers probably revert back to the philosophy used during the Smith era.



Franklin will have an experienced and talented corps of receivers on hand, as MU returns its starting tight end as well as the three starting receivers.  T. J. Moe led the team in receptions last year with 92, followed closely by tight end Michael Egnew with 90.  The tandem combined for more than 1,800 receiving yards and 11 scores.  Moe also proved valuable as a reverse runner.


Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp combined for 89 receptions, 1,076 yards, and six touchdowns.  Backups Brandon Gerau and Rolandis Woodland should see more action this season.  Woodland has breakaway potential.


Running Backs

Missouri utilized a three running back approach last year, and all three return this season.  Kendial Lawrence will serve as the starter, with De’Vion Moore and Henry Josey seeing about the same amount of snaps.  The trio combined for 1,376 yards and 17 touchdowns.  All three averaged more than five yards per attempt.


Offensive Line

Three starters return to an offensive line that can be classified as about average for this conference.  Tackle Dan Hoch is the big man at 6-07 and 315 pounds.  He earned a spot on the All-Big 12 2nd Team.  Unfortunately, Elvis has left the building.  Elvis Fisher suffered a season-ending knee injury and will be replaced by Justin Britt.


Center Travis Ruth has a strained Achilles’ tendon and could miss the opener against Miami of Ohio, while guard Austin Wuebbels could join him on the sidelines due to a strained neck.  Guard Jayson Palmgren is healthy and will start.


If Ruth is not ready to go in game one, then Palmgren will slide over to center, and Jack Meiners will start at guard.



Defensive Line

This is the strongest unit on this side of the ball, and three starters return from a line that performed adequately last year.  MU gave up 153 rushing yards and forced 38 sacks.


The Tigers should have an upgrade at tackle with the arrival of top Juco transfer Sheldon Richardson.  He will split time with last year’s starter Dominique Hamilton, though Hamilton will start the opener.  Terrell Resonno will join him in the middle.


Jacquies Smith returns to his end position after recording 5 ½ sacks and 10 tackles for loss.  Brad Madison will be the new starter on the opposite flank.  As a third end last year, he actually earned 2nd Team All-Big 12 honors with a team-high 7 ½ sacks and 11 stops for loss.



This unit will improve within a month, but it will suffer until middle linebacker Will Ebner is back to 100% following a concussion.  Zaviar Gooden will have to take up the slack from his weak side position.  Gooden led Mizzou with 85 tackles in 2010.  Sophomore Andrew Wilson inherits the vacant strong side spot after coming up with 42 tackles as a reserve last year.  



A suspect secondary will get you beat in this pass-happy league.  Missouri’s defensive backfield is teetering on the brink of becoming suspect.  Only one starter returns from last year.  Safety Kenji Jackson finished fourth on the team with 66 tackles and had five passed defended.


Matt White will get first crack at the vacant safety spot, while the new starting cornerbacks are Kip Edwards and E. J. Gaines.  This trio saw decent playing time last year, teaming up for 80 tackles and 10 passes defended.



Pinkel has fielded six consecutive winning seasons, the first time that has happened in Columbia since 1978-1983.


The Tigers are an excellent option to become the SEC’s 14th, 15th, or 16th team.  See the introduction of this feature for the reasons.



Missouri is not as strong this year as it was last year.  Don’t expect another 10-2 regular season and victory over Oklahoma.  However, don’t expect the Tigers to be home for the holidays either.  There is still enough talent left to produce a seventh consecutive bowl team.


The non-conference schedule has one tough road game at Arizona State and two easy wins at home with Miami of Ohio and Western Illinois.  MU must face both Texas A&M and Oklahoma on the road, but they can compete in the remaining seven conference games.  Look for eight wins this season.





Coach Mack Brown does not give out much information to the media, and thus it is always tough to know for sure how their depth chart looks.  One place where we can make a very educated guess is at quarterback,  Garrett Gilbert will hold off Case McCoy and David Ash to return as a starter.  Gilbert completed 59% of his passes for 2,744 yards, but his TD/int ratio was a poor 10/17.  He rushed for more than 500 yards (factoring out his sacks).  His tendency to throw to the wrong colored jersey led to the Longhorns posting a -12 turnover margin.



Mike Davis is the only sure starter here.  He finished 2010 with 47 receptions and two touchdowns.  Four receivers, including two that figured to start have left the program, leaving this position in limbo.


Among the others that should see playing time are Darius White, Miles Onyegbule, John Harris, and true freshman Jaxon Shipley.  There is talent here, but it will take time for new co-offensive coordinators develop Bryan Harsin and Major Applewhite to mold it into a cohesive unit.


Tight ends Blaine Irby and D. J. Grant have virtually no game experience between them.  Barrett Matthews has been move to H-back where he will see his receptions jump from 10.


Running Backs

There will probably be co-number ones here this year with two others seeing action.  Joe Bergeron should be the starter with top freshman recruit Malcolm Brown seeing the field almost as much as Bergeron.  Cody Johnson will be the short yardage conversion back, while Fozzy Whitaker will get some carries.  Johnson rushed for a team-leading 592 yards and six touchdowns, while Whitaker added 351 yards.


Offensive Line

This is a so-so unit for Texas.  Brown has not been pleased with its progress in practice and has done a lot of switching around.  Here is how we believe they will line up for the season-opener on September 3:

LT: Tray Allen

LG: Trey Hopkins

C: Dominic Espinosa

RG: David Snow, who started some at center last year

RT: Mason Walters, who started at guard last year



Defensive Line

The Longhorns were actually rather good on this side of the ball last year, but they found themselves defending short fields due to the offense’s inability to hold onto the ball.  The biggest loss on this side of the field this year is the loss of coordinator Will Muschamp to Florida.  Muschamp was the coach in waiting, but he decided he could wait no more.


New coordinator Manny Diaz comes from Mississippi State, where he molded a decent Bulldog defense in his one year in Starkville.  Diaz welcomes the return of two starters up front.  End Alex Okafor only recorded 2 ½ sacks, but he did force 13 QB hurries.  New starting end Jackson Jeffcoat had 2 ½ sacks and seven hurries.


At the tackle spot, Kheeston Randall returns to the nose alignment after earning 2nd Team All-Big 12 honors last year.  Randall led the team with 13 tackles for loss.  At the other tackle, Calvin Howell is the new starter, after making just two tackles last year.


Sam Acho and his nine sacks and 17 tackles for loss will be missed.



This unit is still talented and deep.  In fact the two-deep could be the best in the conference.  Keenan Robinson led UT with 113 tackles last year.  He posted eight tackles for loss and had four passes defended.  Middle man Emmanuel Acho finished second with 87 tackles.  He recorded 12 stops behind the line, and he added seven passes defended.  Jordan Hicks made 23 tackles as a key reserve.



The Longhorns were tough to pass on last year, but they will be a little easier to exploit this season, especially in September.  That’s because safety Christian Scott will miss an indefinite amount of time with a suspension.


Once again, Brown and company remain tight-lipped about their depth chart, but we believe from following events that the ‘Horns will open with Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom at cornerback. Adrian Phillips could be moving from corner to safety to replace Scott, while Nolan Brewster starts at the other safety position and Kenny Vaccaro handles the nickel back spot.


Texas gave up 162 passing yards in 2010, but they will give up more this year.



Brown has been a head coach for 26 seasons.  At Tulane, he took a program on the decline and guided it to a bowl game in his third season, before leaving for North Carolina.  After two 1-10 seasons in Chapel Hill, he guided the Tar Heels to eight consecutive winning seasons.  He took over a Texas program that was coming off a 4-7 season and went 9-3 in his first year in Austin.  Until last season, he had won at least nine games every year here. 



The unexpected loss to UCLA due to a rash of turnovers ambushed the season for the Longhorns last year.  Look for Texas to get their revenge at the Rose Bowl on September 17.  They might lose the week before to BYU, but they could easily start 4-0 with an opening win over Rice and a conference opening win at Iowa State.


At 4-0, or 3-1, they would then face Oklahoma, and be sky-high in hopes of revenge in that game.  UT outgained the Sooners last year, and they will be confident that they can pull off the upset.  The next week, Texas hosts Oklahoma State and may be ripe for a letdown against a team that can make them pay.


The second half of the schedule presents some tough games with Texas Tech and Kansas State at home and Missouri, Texas A&M, and Baylor on the road.  The Baylor game comes after the A&M game.


Texas will have a hard time getting back to the top of the conference standings, but it would not surprise us to see them finish near the top this year.  They should win at least eight games and could win 10.


Texas Tech



When Tommy Tuberville took over the head coaching reins here, you just knew the passing yardage would decline in favor of power running.  Still, the Red Raiders gained more than 300 yards through the air last year. 


Now, Tuberville must break in a new quarterback, as Taylor Potts has graduated.  Seth Doege will begin the year as the starter, and he will not be called on to throw the ball 47 times a game like TT did last year.  Expect a dramatic decrease in passing yards down to a very un-Leach-like 30-35 passes per game, as the Raiders move to the Pistol Offense.  Tech will run the zone read option play and try to find a happy medium between running and passing.


Sophomore Jacob Karam will contend with redshirt freshman Scotty Young for the backup spot. 



Tech will miss the services of their top two receivers.  Lyle Leong and Detron Lewis had 161 receptions between them and 1,778 yards. 


Alex Torres is the leading returning receiver.  He caught 39 passes for 481 yards and three touchdowns last year.  Tramain Swindall caught 33 passes and Austin Zouzalik added 31.  Jacoby Franks caught 25.  Added to this mix are Darrin Moore and Bradley Marquez.  It is a talented and deep group, but it is not on par with the Oklahoma teams or Missouri.


Running Backs

Eric Stephens may not be the next Byron Hanspard, but he may be the first Texas Tech back to crack the 1,000-yard rushing mark since Ricky Williams in 1998.  Stephens gained 668 yards on the ground supplementing starter Baron Batch last year.  He averaged better than five yards per carry and figures to exceed 200 attempts this year.


Offensive Line

Tech has four starters returning, but center Justin Keown will miss all of September and possibly some of October after sustaining a knee injury.  Guard Deveric Gallington will move over to center, while tackle Terry McDaniel fills in at guard.


Mickey Okafor and LaAdrian Waddle return to their tackle positions, while Lonnie Edwards does the same at guard.  Edwards and Okafor are all-conference quality blockers, and this line should open holes for the new offense.



Defensive Line

Former TCU assistant Chad Glasgow is the new defensive coordinator here, and he brings the 4-2-5 defense with him.  The Raiders return two of front line players that started multiple games last year, and both are tackles.  Donald Langley and Kerry Hyder combined for just 27 tackles.


Scott Smith will start at one end position but not until the fifth game, as he is serving a four-game suspension.  In his place, Juco transfer Leon Mackey will start at least those four games and maybe more.  Aundrey Barr will man the other end spot.  It will be an average front four this year.



There has been some shuffling around with this unit, as the second line of defense drops in numbers by one.  Tech returns one starter here in Sam Fehoko, but he may not even make the two-deep this year.


As of this writing,  Blake Dees and Cqulin Hubert are getting the first team reps, while Tyrone Sonier and Sam Eguavoen are running with the second team.  Dees and Eguavoen are true freshmen.



This unit returns four players with extensive starting experience.  At the cornerback spots, Jarvis Phillips intercepted four passes in his first three games as a freshman last year, and then he could not live up to his hype.  Glasgow has moved him to the second team and moved Tre’ Porter here from safety.  Derrick Mays will start opposite Porter.


D. J. Johnson, Cody Davis, and Terrance Bullitt will start at safety.  Davis made 87 tackles last year, while Johnson and Bullitt combined for 66.  The trio successfully defended 13 passes



Tuberville has now taken three different schools to bowl games, just like his counterpart over in Austin. 



Tech has an excellent shot to start 3-0 with a non-conference schedule that includes Texas State at home, New Mexico in Albuquerque, and Nevada at home (the only tough game of the three).  They play four home games, four road games, and one neutral game in the conference.  The Red Raiders have a decent chance at getting to seven wins and making it to another bowl game.





Outside the state of Oklahoma, Baylor has the next best quarterback in the league.  Robert Griffin guided the Bears to their first bowl game since the breakup of the old Southwest Conference.  Griffin completed 67% of his passes for 3,501 yards and 22 touchdowns, while running for almost 800 yards (sacks removed) and eight touchdowns.


Backup Nick Florence returns as well.  He has a lot of prior starting experience, taking over for Griffin two years ago when he was lost for the season.



Baylor appeared to have one of the top receiving corps in the conference, but the Bears lost one of their better options.  Josh Gordon was suspended and then quit the team, leaving Kendall Wright, Terrance Williams, and Tevin Reese to pick up the slack.


Wright led BU with 78 receptions and 952 yards.  Williams and Reese split 88 receptions, but none of the three have the explosiveness of Gordon, who averaged 17 yards per catch.


Jordan Najnar takes over at tight end after transferring from Stanford and sitting out a year.


Running Backs

Baylor loses a 1,000-yard rusher in Jay Finley.  Jared Salubi will replace him, but he is not going to top 1,000 yards on the ground.  Salubi has the ability to break off some long gains, but he is not the type of back to rush 20 times per game.  Look for Terrance Ganaway to split the load with him.


Offensive Line

Coach Art Briles can smile here as four experienced starters return to the fold.  Center Philip Blake, guards Robert T. Griffin and Cameron Kaufhold, and tackle Ivory Wade plus four from the second team make this an experienced unit with enough depth to play in 100-degree weather.



Defensive Line

Baylor has no real strengths on this side of the ball, and the front line is mediocre at best.  However, it is the best unit on the defense.  BU gave up 435 total yards per game and 30.5 points per game last year, and the Bears will probably regress some this season.


Tevin Elliott starts at one end position.  He led the Bears with five sacks and nine stops for loss last year.  Gary Mason returns to the other end position after starting 11 times.  Nicolas Jean-Baptiste starts at the nose, and at 315 pounds, he can cover both gaps.  Tracy Robertson will be the new starter at the other tackle position.



Baylor gets a little weaker the farther back you go.  Their tandem linebacker unit returns Elliot Coffey to the middle.  Coffey finished with 61 tackles and 4 ½ for losses.  Brody Trahan will start at the outside backer spot.   



The five-man secondary is the weakest part of the defense, as it returns just one starter.  Cornerback Chance Casey made 48 tackles and had just four passes defended.  Tyler Stephenson will start at the opposite cornerback slot.  The three safeties will be Ahmad Dixon, Sam Holl, and Mike Hicks, who combined for 46 tackles.


The Bears do have one defensive back that has played on a conference championship team.  He is Demetri Goodson.  He was a guard on another team—The GONZAGA BASKETBALL team.



Baylor lost its top five tacklers from its defense, and that portends some bad results.  With seven or maybe eight opponents capable of lighting up the scoreboard, BU will give up as many as 35 points per game this season.



An opening game with TCU will determine just how far BU will slide this season.  If they lose by 14 or less, they could be good enough to win six games again.  If TCU beats them by more than two touchdowns, it could be a return to three or four wins.


The Bears face S F Austin and Rice prior to beginning conference play.  Unfortunately, two of the three games against teams figured to be ranked below the Bears must be played on the road, so it will be tough to get those six wins.  Four or five wins seems about right for this team.


Kansas State



Collin Klein appears to have beaten out Justin Tuggle for the starting job here.  Klein completed 11 of 18 passes last year for 138 yards and a score.  Those stats would be just fine for one half of a game, but obviously the former wide receiver lacks the experience to equal the production of graduating signal caller Carson Coffman.


Tuggle started his career at Boston College, and he comes to the Little Apple from a Juco.



The top man from a year ago has departed, and that leaves KSU in a little bit of a rebuilding mode here.  Coach Bill Snyder will rebuild around Chris Harper, Tramaine Thompson, and Brodrick Smith.  This trio combined for 58 receptions and 779 yards; all three can get open in possession situations and pick up a few extra yards after the catch.


Tight end Travis Tannahill caught only seven passes last year, and he should get into double digits this year.


Running Backs

Snyder’s teams have been able to run the ball through the years, and he always seems to find a couple of good backs.  He has one here, and KS may forget they lost Daniel Thomas and his 1,585 rushing yards.


Bryce Brown was the top running back in the nation as a high school senior.  He enrolled at Tennessee and rushed for 460 yards as a true freshman.  He chose not to stay at Tennessee when Lane Kiffin went to USC, and he ended up here.  He sat out last year, and he figures to immediately be a force in the Big 12.  Look for Brown to top 1,000 yards in his first year in Manhattan.


Braden Wilson will become a very important blocker.  The 244-pound rock will clear the way for Brown.


Offensive Line

The Wildcats are in good shape at the tackle positions, but they are suspect at the inside slots.  Clyde Aufner and Manase Foketi are capable tackles, but KS will be exploited inside with center B. J. Finney and guards Keenan Taylor and Colten Freeze.  Freeze has three career starts under his belt, while the others have none.  Finney was a walk-on.



Defensive Line

The K-State D-line took a hit when end Brandon Harold did not show up to fall camp.  His loss will be felt here.  Ray Kibble is now the only experienced starter returning to the trenches.  He had all of a half sack last year.


End Meshak Williams is a promising Juco transfer, and Ralph Guidry has some starting experience, but neither player is going to wind up on an all-conference list.


Harold’s replacement figures to be Jordan Voelker, who saw limited action last year.


Kansas State gave up 231 yards per game on the ground last year (5.9/rush) and only tallied 20 sacks.  Those stats could look good compared to this year’s numbers.



Two starters return to this unit, making it better than average.  Blake Slaughter started at middle linebacker, but Miami transfer Arthur Brown has surpassed him on the depth chart.  Tre Walker starts at one outside spot, while former regular Emmanuel Lamur takes back his old spot. 


Jarrell Childs, Alex Hrebec, and Slaughter will form a talented second unit, and Snyder will rotate freely here this season.



This unit is talented enough to compete against the good passing teams, but a weak front four will cause the quartet to defend a second or two more than they should. 


The fact that the top two tacklers last year played in the secondary was not a good sign.  Cornerback David Garrett and safety Tysyn Hartman finished one-two with 92 and 86 tackles respectively.  Garrett proved to be a real stud against the run, coming up with 15 tackles for loss (5th in the league).  He also pulled off 10 passes defended.


Ty Zimmerman finished fourth on the team with 74 tackles from his strong safety location, and he led the Wildcats with three interceptions.  The new cornerback figures to be Nigel Malone, another Juco transfer.



Kansas State plays their home games in Bill Snyder Family Stadium.  It is the only college or professional stadium named for an entire family.



The Wildcats used to play four weak sisters out of conference to guarantee four easy wins.  Now, with the new format, they can only play three non-conference games, and one of those three comes against the Miami Hurricanes.  Of course, by the time they go to Miami, “The U” could be a weak sister.  K-State faces Eastern Kentucky and Kent State in their other non-conference tilts, so they will be no worse than 2-1 and possibly 3-0 by the time conference play begins.


The schedule is perhaps the most favorable in the league.  If the Wildcats can get any pass defense going, they could be the surprise team in the league.  Look at how the schedule helps the Wildcats.


They play five home games in the league, and two of their road games are winnable.  Having Baylor and Iowa State at home will give them an excellent chance for two conference wins, and Kansas should be beatable for the third year in a row.


Although our initial rating for this team places them down in the bottom three, the schedule and the experience of Snyder tell us this team could be headed back to another bowl game.


Iowa State



Jerome Tiller and Steele Jantz fought a tough battle in fall camp, but Tiller has emerged as the leader at this position.  He completed just 47.6% of his passes last year and averaged a miniscule 4.4 yards per attempt.


Jantz put up some nice numbers in junior college, but Coach Paul Rhoads did not think he was ready.  The Cyclones are tied for last place in the league at this position.



Making matters worse for the passing game is the loss of last year’s two best receivers, as well as a third part-time starter.  Darius Darks and Darius Reynolds combined for 54 receptions and 638 yards, while Josh Lenz added 14 catches.  This is a weak unit, and when combined with the quarterback, it makes for an almost nonexistent passing attack.  ISU averaged only 174 passing yards per game last year, and we expect them to be hard-pressed to match that paltry number.  True freshman Aaron Horne could become the leading receiver.


Running Backs

When it rains, it pours.  ISU lost their top running back from last year, and their quarterback was their next best runner.  What’s left is a two-man tandem that combined for 409 rushing yards in reserve.  Shontrelle Johnson averaged 6.2 yards per rush in limited action as a true freshman, but defenses will move eight into the box to stop the running game.


Offensive Line

This is not a spectacular line, but it is the only bright spot on the offense.  That bright spot is like the light at the end of a tunnel that is still a quarter mile away. 


Three starters return to the blocking corps this year.  Tackles Brayden Burris and Kelechi Osemele will give Tiller some protection, but ISU gave up 33 sacks last year with a mobile quarterback under center.  Tiller is almost as mobile as Austen Arnaud, so maybe he can benefit from having two experienced tackles.


Hayworth Hicks returns to one guard spot, while Ethan Tuftee will take over at the other guard position.  Tom Farniok takes over at center.



Defensive Line

Let’s not throw salt on an open wound, but the defensive side of the ball is not much better if at all than the offense.  The Cyclones gave up more than 400 yards per game and almost 29 points per game, and they may not improve any this year.  Their talent level should be a little better, but the offense may not give them any breaks.  Look for this unit to be on the field for as many as 75 plays per game.


The defensive line returns nose tackle Stephen Ruempolhamer and end Jacob Lattimer.  These two teamed for 72 tackles and 12 ½ stops for loss.  Jake McDonough  and Roosevelt Maggitt will become the two new starters.  These two combined for 47 tackles and five tackles for loss in reserve roles.



If there can be a strength to any unit on this team, here is where it is.  Jake Knott and A. J. Klein finished one-two in tackles, combining for 241 with 14 of them for lost yardage.  They also combined for 13 passes defended and seven interceptions.  Knott could contend for 1st Team All-Big 12 honors if he gets any help from a front line.  Matt Tau’fo’ou will be the new starter in the second tier.  He made 20 tackles in a reserve role last year.



Iowa State gave up 222 passing yards per game and a 64% completion percentage last year, which was not awful for this league.  Three starters return this year, and if the front seven can improve on a lousy 11 sacks, then maybe Iowa State could surprise an opponent or two.


Cornerbacks Leonard Johnson and Jeremy Reeves both defended eight passes, while teaming for 126 stops.  Safety Ter’ran Benton needs to improve on just one pass defended.  Jacques Washington will start at the vacant safety position.  As a freshman, he made 12 tackles.



Iowa State has seen their passing yardage decline from 248 to 185 to 174 yards per game the last three years.  Look for that slide to continue in 2011.



Iowa State has a difficult non-conference schedule.  They open the season with Northern Iowa, and the Panthers have beaten them before.  Northern Iowa almost knocked off Iowa two years ago.  After the UNI game, the CyHawk Trophy game brings Iowa to Ames.  ISU then must face Connecticut on the road with one fewer preparation day.  The Cyclones could be 0-3 and realistically 1-2 when they begin conference play with Texas.  That is followed by road games against Baylor and Missouri and a home game with Texas A&M.  By then, the Cyclones could be 1-6 or even 0-7.  It is going to be a long year in Ames, and the next exciting game will be the 2012 Iowa Caucus.





Coach Turner Gill thought he had the answer here in freshman Brock Berglund, who figured to start from day one in Lawrence.  However, Berglund is going to miss the season following an assault arrest in Colorado.  As a result, Jordan Webb will regain his starting spot.


Webb threw for 1,195 yards and seven touchdowns, but he also threw eight interceptions.  The other passers also had more interceptions than touchdowns.


Webb has a strong arm, and he can stretch a defense.  The only trouble is he needs receivers with quicker legs and better pass blocking.  KU averaged just 9.6 yards per reception and 5.5 yards per attempt.



Two starters return to this unit, but there is nothing to be excited about with this group.  Daymond Patterson almost averaged as much running reverses as he did catching passes.  He led the Jayhawks with 60 receptions but averaged just 8.1 yards per catch.


Tight end Tim Biere caught 19 passes, but no other receiver on this year’s offense had more than 10.  Christian Matthews and Chris Omigie will be the new starters here.  They combined for eight receptions last year.


Running Backs

James Sims returns after leading KU with 742 yards last year.  He will get help from three freshmen who all have potential to become the go-to guy.  Look for Brandon Bourbon, Darrian Miller, and Anthony Pierson to all get their chance, and it would not surprise us to see all three play this year.


Offensive Line

Three starters return to the blocking corps, but this group is about as weak as the five at Iowa State.  Center Jeremiah Hatch, guard Duane Zlatnick, and tackle Tanner Hawkinson bring experience to the mix, and Hatch is the leader of this unit.


The new starters will be Trevor Marrongelli at guard and Jeff Spikes at tackle.  Both players are upperclassmen, so this unit will have experience if not a lot of talent.



Defensive Line

The Jayhawks had an unexpected change in coordinators.  Carl Torbush had to retire after contracting cancer.  He appears to be okay, but he will not coach.  Vic Shealy is the new defensive coordinator, and he is a student of the 3-4 defense.


Shealy quickly moved to switch KU to a 3-4.  He immediately identified John Williams as the anchor at nose tackle.  Williams was a reserve last year and moves ahead of some former starters at this position.  Former starter Richard Johnson will back him up.


Keba Agostinho will start at one end, and Kevin Young and Pat Lewandowski will platoon at the other end in the revamped defense.  Look for some growing pains, as the players will need time to learn the new defense.



What figured to be a rather weak three-man unit now must add another linebacker to the fold.  We are on the fence here; will the dilution make the problem worse, or will an extra backer make this unit stronger?  We tend to believe the latter is true, but until the players learn the new techniques, there are going to be some rough times.


Former end Toben Opurum moves to one outside linebacker position, while Juco transfer Tunde Bakare inherits the opposite outside position.  Look for Opurum’s tackles to more than double from his 2010 output of 21.


Darius Willis and Steven Johnson will man the inside positions.  Johnson led the Jayhawks with 95 tackles.  Willis followed Gill from Buffalo, where he played sparingly as a freshman.



Four full-time or part-time starters return to a unit that did not succeed last year.  KU allowed enemy passes to be completed almost 66% of the time and gave up 223 yards.  Isiah Barfield and Greg Brown are the cornerbacks; they teamed for 14 passes defended.  Bradley McDougald played both safety and wide receiver last year, something we do not expect him to repeat.  He made 16 tackles.  Lubbock Smith started half the games at safety, but Keeston Terry will replace him there this year.  Tyler Patmon will see his share of playing time, mostly as a nickel back.



The downward trend in wins has gone from 12 to 8 to 5 to 3.  Unless a lot of the young players play above their heads, that string could continue.  At best, it may only stop due to an equaling of last year.



Kansas could be looking at a 1-2 start prior to conference play.  The Jayhawks open with McNeese State, which is the only sure win on the schedule.  A week two game with Northern Illinois is a trap game for sure, and Georgia Tech will be waiting to put a major sting on KU in Atlanta in week three, following last year’s big upset.


The Iowa State game is on the road, while the Kansas State and Baylor games are at Memorial Stadium.  Those are the three chances for conference wins, and we would be more surprised at a 3-6 conference record than an 0-9 record.


2011 Big 12 Conference Media Poll


1st Place Votes





Texas A&M



Oklahoma St.












Texas Tech



Kansas St.



Iowa St.








2011 Big 12 Conference PiRate Ratings


PiRate #





Texas A&M



Oklahoma St.









Texas Tech






Kansas St.



Iowa State








Coming Monday, August 29, a preview of the Southeastern Conference.

August 19, 2010

2010 Big 12 Conference Preview

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Go to where we beat the spread 60.4% in 2009!


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.


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.

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