Over or under? That was the question of the day yesterday as the Las Vegas Hilton released their win totals for 35 teams across college football. (H/T to Cover Sports and also on Kegsneggs for the info).
The Big 12 has five teams listed on the initial list, the five teams generally considered to have a chance to win the Big 12 title. These totals are only for the 12 game regular season.
(Note: These were the opening lines and likely have changed since they were released. Beyond the Bets has already noted Missouri has been adjusted to -150).
As KegsnEggs pointed out in his post, the numbers on the right are very important in placing the wagers. For example, betting the over on Missouri win total is slightly more expensive at -120 than it is at the standard -110.
But since this isn’t mean to be a wagering column (or wagering advice, for that matter), I'll put the intricacies of the wagering world aside, and just use it at a starting point for an interesting discussion.
Let’s start with the Sooners at 10 wins. If you’re one of the people who believe OU is the favorite to win the BCS title, than whether or not they’ll go over ten wins should be a foregone conclusion. A 10-2 record would likely send them to a nice bowl – maybe the Fiesta or Cotton – but it’s very doubtful they would end up playing in the championship game.
If you’re trying to figure out where the Sooners could go wrong, it’s probably wise to check out the road schedule since Oklahoma is 72-2 at home under Bob Stoops, while they’re 35-16 on the road. The pitfalls are the trips to Tallahassee and Stillwater while upsets happening at Kansas State and Baylor are possible, but seem much less likely.
If they stay healthy, it’s much more likely they get over 10 wins than stumble three or more times and finish with less than 10, in my opinion.
Mike Sherman feels very, very, good about his A&M team this season. The Aggies defense was much improved last year and could be even better this fall under second year coordinator, Tim DeRuyter. And they also happen to have a few fairly solid players coming back on offense, as well.
So what’s the schedule look like? Arkansas has been a thorn in the Aggies side the last couple seasons and will be once again as they meet in Dallas again this fall. The trip to Norman won’t be a cakewalk, either. If they win that, they should blow 8.5 wins out of the water. Just for arguments sake, let's say they lose both of those games.
The one very large positive on the Aggies schedule is that Oklahoma State, Missouri, and Texas all have to travel to College Station. It's reasonable to think they go 2-1 in those three games. That would total three losses leaving them with nine wins.
8.5 wins? You be the judge, but the over doesn’t sound like bad a deal.
Everyone knows the Cowboys can score points and that shouldn’t be any different this season. On the other side of the coin, the defense and brutal schedule are the two biggest challenges standing in the Cowboys way.
In comparing the Cowboys with the Aggies, (both who opened with an 8.5 number), you’d have to give the edge to TAMU. While Texas A&M gets Oklahoma State, Missouri, and Texas at home, Mike Gundy’s crew has to play at A&M, Texas, and Missouri before getting the Sooners at home. Big difference there.
In my opinion, if Texas A&M’s number is truly 8.5, then Oklahoma State’s should be something lower than that. I’m no odds making expert, but I would have been more likely to set the Aggies at nine, while slotting the Pokes in at eight wins. (Vegas might actually agree with this, however, as the juice on TAMU is already significantly higher on the Aggies).
Most people seem to be in agreement that the Longhorns won’t repeat last year’s 5-7 disaster. Eight wins? That sounds about right, to be honest. Over that? Well, now you may be pushing your luck. There are simply too many questions surrounding Texas entering the season.
Everyone knows about the offensive problems and shoddy quarterback play they displayed last season. Can they get significantly better in one season under a new coordinator? Not to mention, Will Muschamp was pretty good calling shots on the defensive side of the ball and he’s gone, as well.
Texas’s schedule won’t be easy with road trips to College Station and Columbia, plus their annual trip to Dallas to take on the Sooners. I’ve counted up their wins several different ways and keep coming up with eight, although I’d guess seven wins is more likely than getting to nine. How’s that for indecisive?
The Tigers came in with a projection of 7.5 wins. At first glance, that seems low. The Tigers will be one of the most experienced teams in the Big 12 this season. Of course, everything focuses on the one piece they don’t have coming back, that being quarterback Blaine Gabbert. If his replacement, James Franklin, is respectable running the Tigers' offense, Mizzou could be in for a very solid season.
Mizzou’s schedule isn’t going to be any picnic, however. Their trip to the desert to take on Arizona State won’t be easy, nor will visits to Norman or College Station (where Missouri worked over TAMU last season, 30-9). Let’s say they go 1-2 in those three road games.
The home schedule includes visits from Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech. Let’s say they go 2-1 in those three home games. By my math, that’s three losses leaving them at 9-3. If the Tigers lost to either Kansas State, Baylor, or Iowa State, they still finish at 8-4, one-half win over their season beginning total. What I’m getting at is after looking a little closer, 7.5 still seems to be on the low end for the Tigers.
All told, it's tough to argue much with any of the inital win totals around the league. Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and Missouri would be my favorites to get over their number. Who do you say?
So is the Big 12 on its last leg? Depending on who you talk to, the sky is either falling or the Big 12 members are as happy as the Brady Bunch living in perfect harmony. Where does the truth lie? Probably somewhere on the Brady Bunch side of the line because five or six schools really don't have much say in the matter.
The others? Well, Texas A&M's president doesn't sound all that thrilled. “Having said that, the announcement by ESPN that the Longhorn Network might carry a conference game in addition to a nonconference game was troubling — key word troubling to us — and then following right after that was ESPN’s announcement regarding high school games would be televised as well,” R. Bowen Loftin said.
“Both of those we believe provide a great deal of uncertainty right now for us and the conference.”
Neither does A&M athletic director, Bill Byrne. " “I have continued to have concerns about the Longhorn Network since the original announcement by ESPN and Texas. Since last summer, the Big 12 member institutions have committed to work together in a spirit of unity and equality. Recent news reports concerning this network; however, have created a considerable amount of uncertainty.
Hey, you can't blame the Aggies for standing up and voicing their opinion. If you've have something to say, then say it.
At least in the near term (this season) Texas A&M, Oklahoma and the rest of the league shouldn't have much to worry about as it relates to Texas airing high school football games.
The Big 12's commish, Dan Beebe, responded by saying, "Until the members have a chance to consider all the issues and come to conclusion about how the Conference will manage the interplay between the Conference television package and institutional networks, no more than one live football game will be televised on any institutional network and no high school content will be televised on a branded member's network."
So there you have it. That is until the members actually do have a chance to consider all the issues and change their minds, then the league will be right back at the starting line. And I have to think there's a real possibility of that happening at some point down the road. Things like that have a funny way of being "figured out" when you have two powers like ESPN and Texas working together.
But let's look at this for a moment, specifically the threat of Texas A&M and possibly Oklahoma considering a move to the SEC over their concerns about Bevo's TV network. When issues like these arise, it's usually a good idea to try and apply some common sense. Would either school REALLY leave for the SEC? C'mon, really? I'm going call their bluff (note, neither school has said publicly they're considering the SEC. Actually, the opposite).
First, you have to understand some of the factors that may drive a decision such as this. In no particular order; money, money, distance to travel, money, academic fit, ability to recruit, money, possible lost rivalries, money, and the ability to win.
Obviously money is at the top of the list, and quite honestly, heading into the new Fox TV contract in 2012, the Big 12 has it. Every school in the league is going to make more than they ever have in the past having to divide the pie only 10 times. Not to mention, that pie is only to get bigger when the Big 12 renegotiates is first-tier TV contract which comes up in 2015-2016.
Yes, in the meantime, Texas is going to continue reaping the benefits of the Longhorn Network. Keep in mind though, (assuming the Big 12 stays together - key point) the other schools are also going to start monetizing their third-tier rights, as well, whether it be through a Big 12 Network or some way independently through their school. That won't close the whole gap, but may help make it just a little smaller.
Should Oklahoma and Texas A&M switch leagues, the SEC has the ability to renegotiate their TV contracts and it will more than likely fetch an astronomical number, something that we've never seen before. But looking out five years, the money in the Big 12 still will be very solid (new first-tier deal + monetizing their third-tier rights). All I'm saying is that the money will be very good in both places although the SEC would have a leg up in that scenario.
With the Big 12 likely being in the ballpark monetarily, however, would it be enough to make the move?
Now considering just football, look what each team would be jumping into. Obviously, I'm making a lot of assumptions here, but work with me just as an example. If you're Bob Stoops and Mike Sherman, are you thrilled about this? Forget the fact that OU's longstanding rivalries with Texas and Oklahoma State are out the window (same with A&M and their game with the Longhorns).
|SEC Eastern||SEC Western|
Oh yeah, and after you win your division in the new SEC, you get to play the champion of the other division in the conference championship game. All before you hopefully make it to the BCS National Championship.
Common sense, I'm telling you. Especially when you have the opportunity to make a pretty penny in the Big 12.
How about recruiting in the SEC? Good luck with that.
How about the cultural fit (academics and the rest)? I'm not well enough versed in the topic to offer a real explanation, but I feel safe in saying there would be a few things to get used to.
How about the other sports? That's a lot of late nights for your student-athletes traveling to the eastern time zone.
Yes, the Longhorn Networks presents some unique challenges, some of which will likely go the Longhorn's way. But think of the new issues created by switching leagues. It looks to me in a simple cost-benefit analysis falls largely in favor of staying in the Big 12 and dealing with whatever issues Bevo TV presents.
And this isn't even taken into consideration what Texas would do. They'd probably just go independent, but that creates a entirely new set of issues for them that I'm not sure they're all that interested in tackling at the moment.
Common sense. Texas A&M's president finished his comments by adding, “The Big 12 is not a bad place to be. It’s a good place to be right now. We have a lot of good things going on here in terms of success across a number of sports, not just football. … The Big 12 has great potential to be a very successful conference in the long term if we can work through these kinds of issues.”
That's more like it.
Robert Griffin and his Baylor teammates will be sporting some new uniforms in 2011. The changes aren't dramatic, just a few slight changes, that people who don't see Baylor play every week might not even pick up on. This from Baylor's official site:
As in previous years, Baylor will have green and white jersey options. The 2011 jerseys feature a larger version of the "BAYLOR" wordmark across the front. For the first time since 2004, the new uniforms will also feature player numbers outlined in gold on the shoulders instead of the interlocking BU used in the past. The jerseys also feature an NFL style open sleeve for full mobility.
If you take a look at Kendall Wright's jersey from last year, you can see a few of the changes in comparison. I'm not sure I would have caught the change to numbers from the "BU" as they used last season..
The biggest change has to be the stripes on the pants. I can't say I'm the biggest fan, but it works. Besides, what else really matters except the helmets anyway, and those don't looked to have changed. And I have to say, the more I see those white helmets, the more I like them.
Baylor's site also says the Bears have three pant colors to choose from, one being green with gold piping fans down the side. Baylor fans, help me out here. Have they ever wore green pants in the past? (Update: and the answer to that would be yes. Just flipped open Phil Steele's 2011 preview mag to see RGIII wearing the green pants).
All-in-all, looks like a solid upgrade.
H/T to ESPN's Big 12 Blogger, David Ubben for the update on his lunch links.
For the most part, it turned out to be a fairly quiet summer for the Big 12. Amidst the NCAA poking their heads into several scandals or potential scandals at schools around the country, the Big 12 has remained largely out of the spot light. And that's a good thing considering the coverage the Big 12 received after last summer's near collapse of the entire conference.
The quiet couldn't last forever, however, as the relative calm summer gave way to a more tension regarding conference realignment and the Longhorn Network, leading many to continue speculating the Big 12 was on its last legs. This following ESPN's announcement that they would televise specific high school football games involving recruits targeted or already verbally committed to UT. As you can image, a few schools in the league started squirming in their seats, if they weren't already.
You can come at this topic from a wide array of angles, but let's start with some recent comments from Texas' athletic director, DeLoss Dodds. Dodds and a few other Texas officials talked this week with presidents and athletic directors from the respective Big 12 schools this week to help relieve their fears.
"We do not want to use it as a recruiting advantage. We don't want it tied to Texas," Dodds said. "ESPN knows we don't want to violate any NCAA rules and they don't want to." - This is a positive. They don't want to break any NCAA rules.
"We want to play by the rules," Dodds said. "We want everything to be in the open with integrity." - Again, another step in the right direction.
"The conference will be a part of how we do these things," Dodds said. - This is awesome. Whoever could have guessed the conference should be a part of things when you're an actual member of said conference.
"We're in a bold new world," Dodds said. "And we're walking through it." - Yes, it's a learning experience for everyone if that's how you choose to look at it.
"I think the conference is in great shape," Dodds said. - Cool. Hopefully nobody gets too mad, at least those that have other options.
(OK, sorry for the sarcasm at the end of those quotes. It's just in a large sense, some of those quotes should be so blatantly obvious they don't even need to be said).
First, I want to say for the most part I truly don't have a huge problem with the Longhorn Network. I get it. Money drives the bus and Texas is in a unique situation that most other schools will never, ever know, and are in a position to capitalize on it. Just don't expect to be part of a strong, stable, vibrant conference because of it.
Here is an earlier quote from Dodd last year after Texas had been given the go-ahead from regents to move forward with the network.
“We felt a Texas network would work better than people seeing a 12th of Texas on a conference network,” Dodds said in the release. “[We are] working on a deal but [we] do not have it yet.”
Yes, more Texas and less of everyone else is what's best for Texas and not the Big 12. I'm not even saying Texas wants to damage any of the other conference members, they just want to make more money and this is the way to do it. Again, I get it.
This is going to be an ongoing battle, especially over the next year or two as the network gets up and running while trying to find its legs. You will not only have Texas pushing the envelope, but ESPN as well as they try and make the network more appealing to more viewers (which is exactly why a conference network makes more sense in my mind. More money, though, more money).
Will the Longhorn Network showing high school games truly give the Longhorns an advantage in recruiting? It's doubtful, very doubtful, BUT IT COULD, which is the problem. The NCAA is so bent out of shape with its recruiting do's and don'ts that it's hard to imagine this being give any sort of OK by the governing body.
That is exactly the reason why the Big 12 put a halt on it for the time being. This is from the Dallas Morning News:
Commissioner Dan Beebe announced a temporary compromise Wednesday. Telecasts of high school football games on the Longhorn Network are now on hold, pending decisions by the NCAA and the Big 12 about how to handle single-school and conference networks. The Big 12 also delayed the possibility of a conference game on the Longhorn Network, announced earlier this month as part of a side deal with Fox.
Great move by the Big 12 to relieve some of the anxiety that's been created lately, but it's only a temporary measure. The only thing that will completely alleviate the fears if the NCAA and Big 12 decide it will not allow high school games televised under any circumstances. If it ever gets the OK, the conference will be right back in the same position it was two days ago.
Back to the recruiting advantage piece for a second. There are so many things that go into a college decision - parents, coaches, friends, girlfriends, facilities, academics - do you really think because TLN came to show a high schools players game he's going to pick Texas because as a result? Really? (And if he does, then he's as misguided as misguided comes). Not a chance in my book, BUT IT COULD happen, which again is the problem.
Texas already has so many built in advantages, it's hard to imagine a huge swing in it's favor because of the network. They are usually among the top three teams in recruiting anyways. Take the 2012 class for example. Of the top 25 players ranked in the state of Texas, 11 have already picked the Longhorns and 16 of the top 100 plan on coming to Austin. How they got those guys to commit without showing any of their high school games is beyond me.So for now, the Big 12 lives on. Who knew we'd be back to these conversations so quickly? It was only six weeks ago the Big 12 was as happy as could be. Yeah, I get it, things change. Afterall, we're living in bold new world.
On Tuesday, the Big 12 released the media's preseason All-Conference team. On Wednesday, it was preseason poll predicting how the conference would play out in 2011.
As expected, Oklahoma carried the top spot by a wide margin, with Texas A&M and Oklahoma State falling in line behind the Sooners. Here's how the final poll shook out.
|2||Texas A&M (1)||362|
|3||Oklahoma State (1)||360|
Heading into the season, it's honestly tough to find too many faults in the predictions. Texas is the wild card here and the one team that is the toughest to predict in my opinion. They were dead last in the Big 12 South only a season ago and only Kansas finished with a worse conference record.
The Longhorns also have the talent to make a push towards to top of the league. There's more than few issues to clear up on offense, yes, and it's hard to know exactly how long it takes everyone to get on the same page with two new coordinators calling the shots. But would anyone be completely shocked if Texas finished, say 9-3, and was second or third in the Big 12? Probably not, but sitting here on July 21, fifth place is probably right where the Longhorns belong.
Looking at the standings, I'd also like to think Texas Tech finishes higher than seventh, but if that's the case, then someone has to be moved down. Baylor and Texas are probably the most likely candidates, but you could make the case each of those schools is right where they belong, as well.
Overall, I divide the teams into three groups, 4-3, and 3. The top four teams in my opinion are OU, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Missouri. The next three are Baylor, Texas, and Tech, and then the bottom three are Kansas State, Kansas, and Iowa State. Within each grouping, arrange them however you like, each has their pluses in minuses.
How did the media do last year? Not bad with the exception of missing completely on Texas and Oklahoma State (as did pretty much every publication in America). They had Texas predicted to finish second and Oklahoma State fifth who eneded up sixth and second, respectively. They nailed both division winners, however, and the top three teams in the north.
So, what do you think? Did they get it right this year?
Kansas State Wildcats 2011 Football Preview
2010 Record: 7-6 (3-5 in the Big 12)
Returning Starters: 13 (6 on offense; 7 on defense)
Bowl Game: New Era Pinstripe Bowl; Lost to Syracuse 36-34
Two Key Returning Players on Offense:
Manase Foketi, senior left tackle; started 13 games for KSU in 2010
Tramaine Thompson, sophomore wide receiver; 19 catches for 258 yards. Missed significant time with ankle injury last season.
Two Key Returning Players on Defense:
David Garrett, senior cornerback; team's leading tackler with 92 stops, best cover corner.
Tysyn Hartman, senior safety; three year starter in secondary. Finished last season with 86 tackles.
Key Losses from 2010
Daniel Thomas, running back. Rushed for 2850 yards and 30 TD's in two seasons.
Wade Weibert, center. Starter the past two seasons.
Zach Kendall, guard. Second team All-Big 12
Kansas State returned to a bowl game in 2010 after narrowly missing the mark in Bill Snyder's first year back on the sidelines in 2009. The Wildcats fell to Syracuse in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl (lesson learned, no saluting after scoring touchdowns) but it was another step in the right direction for a program that hit the skids the final two seasons of the Ron Prince era.
Entering 2011, the Wildcats will be without the key piece the made the offense go the past two seasons, Daniel Thomas, who is off the Miami and the NFL. There are also major holes to fill on the offense line to go along with a defense that needs repaired after it gave up over 230 yards on the ground a season ago, worst in the Big 12.
There are reasons for optimism, however. The Brown brothers are finally eligible after sitting out their transfer seasons and should help on both sides of the ball. The defense has some key pieces returning, especially in the secondary and should make a marked improvement over last year's version.
Breaking it Down: The Offense
Entering spring practice it appeared to be a three man battle to replace Carson Coffman at quarterback between last year's back up, Collin Klein, senior Sammuel Lamur and junior college transfer Justin Tuggle. There was even were a few rumors that Klein would move back to wide receiver, a position he played in 2009.
As spring practice wore on, it became apparent Klein would be not only sticking at quarterback, but likely the starter as he appeared to put a sizeable gap between himself and the other competitors. Klein took the majority of the snaps with the first unit in the spring game and then seemingly earned the nod from Coach Snyder over the course of the summer.
Klein did play in 10 games last season and was the starter in K-State's demolition of Texas. It's been well documented in that game how K-State only called on Klein to throw four passes against the Longhorns while rushing for 127 yards, leading some to believe he didn't have the coaching staffs trust throwing the ball.
Those doubts still linger and will be something he'll have to prove don't exist and the 2011 kicks off. If you want to put any stock in the spring game, he may have eased some of those doubts by throwing for 358 yards in the spring game, although it goes without saying doing it against a first-team Big 12 defense will be a different story.
Klein will need to be up to the task for Kansas State to have a successful season. They'll no longer be able to rely and Thomas in the running game and the offensive line is replacing three starters, making Klein performance all the more important.
Daniel Thomas carried the rock 298 times last season. Excluding fullbacks Braden Wilson and Lucas Hamm's eight rushing attempts, there isn't a back on the roster that has a carried the football in a college game, at least wearing a Kansas State jersey that is.
That doesn't mean the stable is completely bare, however. The answer may be in Wichita, Kansas native and former Tennessee running back, Bryce Brown. He totaled 460 yards and three touchdowns during his freshman season in 2009 before deciding to transfer to Kansas State. After sitting out in 2010, he'll have more than an ample opportunity to live up to the hype that led to him being one of the most sought after recruits in the country in the 2009 class.
Behind Brown at the position are sophomores John Hubert and Robert Rose, both who performed admirably over the spring. It's interesting to note that of the four backs on the roster other than Brown, none are listed above 5'7" tall. Not that a small back can't or won't be successful (see Darren Sproles) but Hubert checks in a 5'7", Rose at 5'4" and DeMarcus Robinson and Ryan Smith are both 5'6".
Hubert figures to be the first called upon should Brown falter or gets injured, and will likely also be a nice complement to the more physical Brown for a change of pace back.
If you look at the stats for Kansas State's returning receivers, nothing is going to jump off the page at you. Chris Harper was the leader with 25 catches for 300 yards a season ago. But that doesn't tell the entire story to the actual talent Kansas State has coming back at the position.
Both Tramaine Thompson (7 games) and Brodrick Smith (5 games) suffered season ending leg injuries in 2010 They both should be healthy and ready for fall camp and should provide K-State with solid talent at the position in 2011. Thompson stands only 5'7" tall, but was one of Klein's favorite targets in the spring game.
Add senior Sheldon Smith to the rotation with Harper, Smith and T. Thompson to go along with tight end Travis Tannahill and the Wildcats have some solid weapons on the receiver position that could do some damage as they figure to be slightly more balanced on offense in 2011.
Here's where things get a little interesting for KSU. Over the past two seasons, the guys up front have been leading the way run blocking, helping Daniel Thomas grind out yards play after play. Now three of those interior linemen, Wade Weibert, Zach Kendall, and Kenneth Mayfield have graduated and it's time for some younger players to step up.
The center position looks like it'll be occupied by redshirt freshman, B.J. Finney or junior college transfer, Shaun Simon.
One guard position will most likely be manned by junior Colten Freeze who played in every game as a backup last season. The other guard position will come down to sophomore Keenan Taylor or redshirt freshman, Tomasi Mariner.
The Wildcats can feel a little better about the tackle where last year's starters, Clyde Aufner and Manase Foketi return.
As we all know, it starts up front and if the Kansas State offense wants to put points on the board, the young interior guys need to quickly mesh together in fall camp and the first two weeks of the season before the Wildcats head south to battle the Miami Hurricanes. Yes, there are uncertainties surrounding Klein and Brown in the backfield, but it won't matter how good they are if the line struggles in 2011.
Breaking it Down: The Defense
Stop the run. You hear defensive coaches say it all the time. It was something Kansas State wasn't very good at and caused them all kinds of problems throughout the 2010 season. The Wildcat's finished last in the Big 12 in rush defense, nearly 30 yards per game behind the 11th place finisher Kansas surrendering 231 yards on the ground. It's stating the obvious, but that number needs to be significantly lower if Kansas State wants to lower the 29 points they have up per game last season.
Stopping the run starts with the defensive line, but for KSU, much of the optimism surrounding the 2011 season starts with the Kansas State linebackers. Everybody has heard about Miami transfer Arthur Brown and the impact he should make in the middle. After sitting out his transfer season, he lit up the reserves in the spring game making 14 tackles. Many are already penciling him in as the newcomer of the year award in the Big 12.
Brown isn't the only talent that'll be playing the position, however. He'll be joined by Emmanuel Lamur who moves up to the weak side linebacker spot from the safety position to help get more speed on the field for a defense that lacked it at the position last season. Tre Walker will man the strong side LB spot after recording 47 tackles last season as a freshman. I saw these three on the field together this spring and came away more than impressed.
The backups to start the season will be last season's starters, Alex Hrebec and Jarell Childs helping give the Wildcats some much needed depth.
The 2010 Kansas State secondary wasn't all bad when looking at the numbers, but when teams are running it down your throat, the pass defense numbers shouldn't look bad.
The Wildcats do have some solid players returning in the back four that when combined with their new line backing crew, should make for a much improved defense overall.
David Garrett was last year's best performer. He was the team's leading tackler with 92 stops (not a great thing for a cornerback) and also led the secondary with nine pass break ups.
He'll be joined by safeties Tysyn Hartman and Ty Zimmerman. Hartman will be a senior and has started the majority of his three seasons at Kansas State. Zimmerman had a fabulous freshman season finishing with 74 tackles and 3 interceptions.
The other cornerback spot is a bit of a mystery heading into fall camp. Junior college transfer Nigel Malone should be a contender. He was on campus and participated in spring drills for the Wildcats. Another contender could be San Jose State transfer, Tanner Burns, who took snaps with the top unit in the spring game. Burns started 12 games for SJSU in 2009 and led the team with 96 tackles before sitting out last season. Redshirt freshman, Randall Evans also could get a look.
Kansas State needs to do a better job against the run and that obviously starts up front. Defensive tackle Raphael Guidry returns after recording 36 tackles and 2.5 sacks last season. He looked very impressive in the spring game and had eight tackles to show for it.
He wasn't part of the top unit during the spring game, but I'd be surprised if defensive end Brandon Harold doesn't work his way back into the mix. He was a freshman All-American in 2008, injured in 2009, and never made the huge impact many thought he would in 2010, although he still had 5.5 tackles for loss which was the second most on the team.
On the other side, the guy to watch for is junior college transfer, Meshak Williams. He saw significant action this spring and should be a much needed addition to Snyder's defense.
Overall, the Cats defense should be much better than last year's version, but they'll need to remain relatively healthy as depth will likely be a concern. The first unit looks, however, to have the pieces to be the typically aggressive, attacking, Snyder style defense that you used to see in Manhattan.
Like the other teams from the old Big 12 North, Kansas State no longer has to deal with Nebraska but the trade off is they get to play all six teams in the Big 12 South instead of just three. Throw a road trip to south Florida to take on the Hurricanes and Kansas State will have their work cut out for them trying to make it to back-to-back bowl games. Could it happen? Of course it could and here's how.
Let's go ahead and chalk up two wins against Bill Snyder specials, Eastern Kentucky and Kent State, to start the season 2-0. Then comes the trip to Miami. I think the Wildcats have a punchers chance here, but I would be surprised if the they came back to Manhattan 3-0. So let's say KSU is 2-1 heading into the conference season.
In the first year of the Big 12's nine game format, K-State will have the benefit of playing five home conference games and four on the road. With home games against Baylor, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Iowa State, can the Wildcats go 3-2? That means knocking off Baylor (which won't be easy) and Iowa State and then one of the upper echelon teams. Possible yes, but I'm guessing KSU finishes 2-3 in conference games at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
That leaves the Wildcats at 4-4 with four road games to go. Chalk up a win against Kansas for five and then next best opportunities to for their sixth win are Texas Tech and Texas with an Okie State win less likely. Let's pick Texas since K-State, for some unknown reason, has the Horns number. There would be your six wins and another bowl trip for the Wildcats.
Worst Case Scenario: 4-8. With a new quarterback, new running back, and question marks on the line going into the season, the possibility remains the season doesn't go as expected.
Best Case Scenario: 8-4. BUT, a new quarterback and questionable offensive line sound a lot like Oklahoma State from last season. If the offense gets production out of the newcomers and the defense develops a spine, eight wins could be within reach.
So what's it going to be:
The Final Prediction for 2011: 6-6
I'm sticking with the script outlined above the best and worst case scenarios. I love Kansas State's toughness and the Brown brothers should make a solid impact this season, but this team is still a few more playmakers and a couple more solid lineman away taking that next step up the Big 12 ladder. That being said, Kansas State should find themselves in a bowl game for the second straight season which is another step in the right direction for Snyder's crew.
Will he make it or not? Wait, who are we talking about here? That would be one of the best high school wide receivers in the country, Oklahoma recruit Trey Metoyer. It's been a hot button issue among Sooner faithful over the course of the summer about whether or not the five-start commit would ever make it to Norman.
Yesterday in an interview with The Oklahoman, the answer became a little more clear, but it hardly gives OU fans reason to stop sweating the arrival of Metoyer.
“If I get them, I am on my way up there,” Metoyer said. “Everything is going well. I'm going to class every day and passing my tests and passing my daily grades, so it is looking good.”
The "them" he's referring to is an A and a B in two classes he's currently taking at a junior college to become eligible to play in Norman this fall.
The other issues as noted in the article is the fact the summer session he's attending ends August 11th. The Sooners open practice on August 4th and have 10 practices scheduled over that period.
Missing 10 practices will no doubt put him behind the eight ball slightly. There's enough going on for a freshman making the transition to college the way it is, let alone having a playbook thrown in your face while most of your freshman teammates have been on campus most of the summer.
First problems first for Oklahoma, however. Just get him on campus and worry about the rest later. In my eyes, the 2011 for OU doesn't hinge on getting Metoyer on campus. The 2012, '13, and '14 seasons though? That may be a different story.
The Sooners are set for the time being with Ryan Broyles, Kenny Still, Dejuan Miller, and a fairy solid tight end in James Hannah for this season. That's not to say Metoyer couldn't help them this year. At the least he could add depth and at the most he becomes a significant target for Landry Jones in his true freshman season.
His biggest impact will likely come in season number two, however, when neither Broyles or Miller will be part of the program. The future looks much brighter having a guy with the potential of Metoyer already on campus ready to step in and fill their shoes. But first things, first.
The media has spoken. Today the Big 12 released the media's preseason All-Big 12 team for the 2011 season.
But first, the offensive and defensive player of the year predictions:
Can't say there's any real big surprises there. Both Blackmon and Lewis are coming off big seasons (for Lewis, three big seasons). As for Brown, well, newcomer of the year is a crapshoot and he's as good a guess as any. Last year's newcomer of the year was Toney Clemons, a wide receiver for Colorado who finished with a respectable 43 catches and three touchdowns on the season.
As for the All-Big 12 teams, Oklahoma led the way with nine selections (including Broyles twice as WR and PR), followed by Oklahoma State and Texas A&M with four each. Kansas and Baylor were the only two teams shut out.
|RB||Cyrus Gray||Texas A&M|
|RB||Bryce Brown||Kansas State|
|WR||Justin Blackmon||Oklahoma State|
|OL||Kelechi Osemele||Iowa State|
|OL||Levy Adcock||Oklahoma State|
|OL||Luke Joeckel||Texas A&M|
|OL||Lonnie Edwards||Texas Tech|
|KR||Coryell Judie||Texas A&M|
|LB||Jake Knott||Iowa State|
|DB||Markelle Martin||Oklahoma State|
|DB||Coryell Judie||Texas A&M|
|P||Quinn Sharp||Oklahoma State|
Here are a couple quick observationsand thoughts:
**It was surprising to see Bryce Brown and Roy Finch as first team running backs. I guess that goes to show that at least going into the season, the Big 12 is a little thin at the position. Brown has yet to see a carry wearing a Wildcat jersey after an OK season in 2009 at Tennessee. Finch isn't even listed on the Sooner preseason depth chart (although be careful reading too much into that) and he figures to share carries with a whole stable of talented Sooner backs.
At least going into the year, I'd say Texas Tech's Eric Stephens or James Sims of Kansas were as deserving as anyone and should be set for very good seasons in 2011.
**Tough to argue about Landry Jones at quarterback although choosing any of the Big 12's top four is like splitting hairs. My favorite is Robert Griffin, not taking anything away from Ryan Tannehill or Brandon Weeden, all of whom could have monster years. (And don't forget Seth Doege. Texas Tech's quarterbacks have just a little history of putting up some big numbers).
**Not to necessarily fault the defensive line selections, but I think the postseason All-Big 12 team is going to look significantly different than the names on the preseason list.
**Love the linebackers, although keep an eye on Sean Porter and Garrick Williams at A&M, Arthur Brown at K-State, and Zavier Gooden at Missouri.
**Great choices on the offensive line. I know this isn't a "team" award but Missouri will be right there for best O-Line in the conference and there isn't a Tiger on the first team. Of course, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Baylor, and OU will have something to say about that.
It's now less than a week away, that is the unofficial start to the 2011 football season otherwise known as the Big 12 media days. The fun begins in Dallas on July 25th and will only be two days this year versus three as it has been in the past.
Here's the schedule and the list of players who will be joining their head coaches for a fun day full of pictures and interviews.
|July 25th||July 26th|
|Baylor||Robert Griffin - QB||Iowa State||Darius Darks - WR|
|Kendall Wright - WR||Jake Knott - LB|
|Elliot Coffey - LB||Kelechi Osemel - LT|
|Oklahoma St.||Brandon Weeden - QB||Kansas||Steven Johnson - LB|
|Justin Blackmon - WR||Jermiah Hatch - C|
|Markelle Martin||Tim Biere - TE|
|Texas||Emmanuel Acho - LB||Kansas State||Collin Klein - QB|
|Keenan Robinson - LB||Arthur Brown - LB|
|Blake Gideon - S||Tysyn Hartman - S|
|Fozzy Whittaker - RB|
|Missouri||Jacquies Smith - DE||Oklahoma||Landry Jones - QB|
|T.J. Moe - WR||Ryan Broyles - WR|
|Kenji Jackson - S||Travis Lewis - LB|
|Elvis Fisher - OL|
|Texas A&M||Cyrus Gray - RB||Texas Tech||Seth Doege - QB|
|Ryan Tannehill - QB||Mickey Okafor - OL|
|Jeff Fuller - WR||Cody Davis - S|
|Trent Hunter - S|
It's hard to pick out any huge surprises as far as players that will be attending. Most everyone on the list is fairly well entrenched with their respective teams. Collin Klein from Kansas State and Seth Doege from Texas Tech have been involved in quarterback battles throughout spring practice so you can probably read between the lines they are indeed going to be starters. That being said, both of their coaches have made if fairly clear over the summer they would be the guys so it's no real surprise they'll be in Dallas.
Now if you want to take the a different angle, Garrett Gilbert isn't attending from Texas. Can you ready anything into that? Probably not, although Mack Brown has been fairly adament in his public comments that their quarterback battle will continue into fall practice and I guess you can assume that's the case since he'll be absent from the Texas contingent.
And in keeping with the quarterback theme, the only other teams besides Texas not bringing their quarterback are Missouri, Iowa State, and Kansas. At least two of those three are still looking for a starting quarterback, that being Kansas and Iowa State. Missouri looks to be set with James Franklin after Tyler Gabbert's transfer following spring practice.
After the party is over, it means fall camp opens for almost every team in just over a week and that is by far the best part of the two days. It's getting close.
In what should be the final preseason watch lists to be announced, the Walter Camp Foundation announced this afternoon its watch list for their player of the year award, on the heels of the Doak Walker list being announced on Friday. The Big 12 has seven players up for the Walter Camp Award tp start the season. They are:
|Justin Blackmon||WR||Oklahoma State|
|Jeff Fuller||WR||Texas A&M|
|Brandon Weeden||QB||Oklahoma State|
No huge surprises there, although it's worth noting that Missouri's Michael Egnew as the only tight end in the country that made the initial cut. The Walter Camp, much like the Heisman trophy, is usually reserved for quarterbacks and running backs with a few wide receivers working their way into the conversation from time-to-time.
Is anyone missing? It's hard to say but you could probably make a case for Ryan Tannehill at Texas A&M or one of the Aggies running backs whose name you'll see below. It wouldn't be shocking to see any one of them play their way onto the list at some point this season.
As for the Doak Walker Award given annually to the country's top running back, not exactly a strong showing by the Big 12 ini the early going. Yes, the league's become known for its passing, but it still had five running drafted last year by the NFL. Of course, that also means that it's time to restock the running back pool with some talented, but inexperienced players. The only two Big 12 players to make this list both call College Station, TX home.
|Cyrus Gray||RB||Texas A&M|
|Christine Michael||RB||Texas A&M|
If you're wondering who else could play their way into consideration, it wouldn't be shocking to see Eric Stephens of Texas Texas, maybe Joseph Randle for Okie State, or maybe even Shontrelle Johnson from Iowa State or James Sims from Kansas. And you probably can't count out whoever emerges as the Sooners back in Norman, although at this point it appears it may be a running back-by-committee to start the season.
So that should wrap up the watch lists for the time being. If you missed any of the others, no worries, they're all summarized in the links below.
General College Football
Saturday Down South (SEC)
Holy Turf (Big 12 and SEC)
Pacific Takes (Pac-12)
Big 12 team sites are on the team specific pages