Big 12 North Preview

Yesterday I started our brief college football previews with the Big 12 South.  Today, we’ll preview the much weaker North. The Missouri Tigers have won the last two North Titles only be trounced by Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game.  So who gets to be the sacrificial lamb this year?

I think it’s going to be the Kansas Jayhawks.  Of the three real contenders in the North, only Kansas returns their starting QB.  Todd Reesing set all kinds of school records last year while leading the way to 7-5 record and an Insight Bowl victory over Minnesota.  As good as Reesing is, wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe is better.  Briscoe caught 92 balls for 1,407 and 15 touchdowns.  He may be the second best receiver in the Big 12, behind OSU’s Dez Bryant.  The running game is okay with senior RB Jake Sharp returning after two straight 800 yard campaigns.  The passing game will obviously be the feature, however.

On defense, KU will be led by Senior safety Darrell Stuckey.  The Jayhawks graduated all of their starting linebackers, so this year’s new starters will probably be picked on early and often.  The D-Line is also fairly inexperienced, so teams may try to run on them more than in years past.  As always, KU’s cream puff schedule will help them early on.  I do think Kansas had better win the North this year, because Reesing, Briscoe, Stuckey, and Kerry Meier will all be gone and while the cupboard may not be bare behind them, it’s certainly not brimming with talent.  (I’m assuming Briscoe will declare for the Draft as he’s had some grade and discipline issues in the past.)

I’m going to put the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Missouri Tigers tied for second.  Either could conceivably win the North if Kansas stumbles, but in terms of returning talent, both teams are firmly behind the Jayhawks.  The Cornhuskers will be breaking in a JUCO QB, Zac Lee.  Their running game won’t suffer with the loss of Marlon Lucky as Roy Helu Jr. will get the full season to start.  Junior running back and second leading rusher, Quentin Castille, was recently dismissed from the team.  On D, the Huskers sport one of the best players in the country, Ndamukong Suh, but not really a whole lot else.  Teams won’t mistake the 2009 Cornhuskers with the vaunted defenses of the mid 90s.

The Missouri Tigers could finish anywhere from 10-2 to 6-6.  That’s why I’ll peg them for 8-4.  Gone are Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman, and Jeremy Maclin.  In are Blaine Gabbert, Andrew Jones, and Rolandis Woodland.  I’m not willing to write off the Tigers because of a young QB; remember what happened the last time an untested sophomore took over as the starter?  30 wins in a three year stretch.  I truly don’t believe the offense will experience the drop off that some are predicting.  Expect Derrick Washington to be featured more, however.  Washington put up one of the quietest 1000 yard seasons in recent memory while also scoring 17 TDs.  Once again, the defense will be tested.  The much maligned secondary has got to get better in the Tigers hope to contend.  Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon might be the best at his position in the entire country. The Tigers may not be the favorites for a 3-peat, but don’t count them out.  The Thursday night tilt against Nebraska on October 8th might be one of the best games of the year.

The Colorado Buffaloes had better finish the season bowl eligible or it might be Dan Hawkins’ last as head coach.  Once Weller writes his SEC preview, it might be fun to compare the offenses of Colorado and Tennessee.  Both have running backs who were the top recruit in his respective class, both have quarterbacks who are completely inept, and both have some question marks on the offensive line.  The difference between the two would be the receiving corps…I’m not sure Colorado has any receivers on their roster.  If running back Darrell Scott is healthy, look for them to hand the ball off as much as they can.  The Buffs can certainly play the role of the spoiler if they can pull off an upset over one of the Mizzou, KU, or Nebraska; they get all three of them at home this year.

The Kansas State Wildcats will welcome the return of their fossil-like heroic coach, Bill Snyder.  After the Ron Prince debacle, Snyder decided to come out of retirement and resurrect the flailing program.  Good luck, Bill.  Gone is QB Josh Freeman and third stringer Joseph Kassanavoid.  In fact, the only player I can name off the K-State squad is 5-7 wide receiver Brandon Banks.  The Wildcats would finish last on this list if it weren’t for the football black hole that is Ames, Iowa.

Speaking of Iowa State…they’re going to end up 0-8 in the Big 12.  Last year’s head coach, Gene Chizik, was hired away from the Cyclones by the Auburn Tigers.  This is actually a good thing for ISU.  Auburn gave $2 million to a coach who is 5-19 in an easier conference.  Enjoy that.  Anyway, Junior QB Austen Arnaud is actually quite a good player.  He’s a dual-threat QB who has game changing ability, but he has zero talent around him.  He’ll be the one player to watch for as the Cyclones will be the doormat of the Big 12 North.

So there you have it.  Agree?  Disagree?  Think I’m selling Iowa State short?  Let me know in the comments.

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