The third installment of our preseason look at the college football landscape will encompass the entire spectrum of 1-A football. We will first look at the Big 12 which has my pick for No.1, Oklahoma. In addition the Big 12 is home of two other teams in my Top 10. After that we will switch gears completely and preview what is undoubtedly the WORST conference in Division 1-A ( oops, I mean Bowl Subdivision). That , of course, is the Sun Belt Conference.
First up is the incredibly tough, but unbalanced Big 12…………….
PROJECTED BIG TWELVE FINAL STANDINGS
3. Oklahoma St.
5. Texas Tech
6. Texas A&M
5. Kansas St.
6. Iowa St.
BIG 12 Championship Game: Oklahoma over Kansas
Bradford, Murray, Brown, Gresham, McCoy, Beal, Reynolds, Franks; the Sooners are stacked. Oklahoma returns just about everything on defense. They have an embarrassment of riches at the offensive skill positions. Their only possible weakness is in the offensive line. I just can’t believe that Bob Stoops will be unable to fill those positions with big time athletes. The one O-lineman that returns, Trent Williams ,is a first team All-American. This division is razor close, but my pick is still the Sooners. Texas is a very close second and that game in Dallas on October 17th is as big as they come. Colt McCoy and company will be ready. Waiting in the wings is Oklahoma State. In most conferences they could be a favorite, but I don’t feel that defensively they will be able to stop OU or Texas. Baylor’s coach Art Briles has won in high school and at Houston, now he is threatening to turn around one of the toughest jobs in the country. He has talent , like Sophomore QB Robert Griffin, who will compete for all-conference honors once the Heisman hopefuls are gone. Texas Tech loses alot offensively, now we see if Mike Leach’s gimmicky offense can reload again. Coach Mike Sherman at Texas A&M will feel some massive heat if things don’t get turned around in College Station. Kansas is definitely only the fourth best team in the Big 12, but it sure works out for them to be in the North. Todd Reesing returns with all his wideouts to put up big numbers again. Coach Dan Hawkins built Boise St. I believe the guy can coach, but this is the year to prove it. The Buffaloes return everyone of importance on offense and Hawkins is supposed to be an offensive guy. If his son has a good year at QB, expect big things. Bo Pelini is beginning to turn things around at Nebraska, just not yet. Mizzou has huge holes to fill and that includes losing their crack offensive coordinator Dave Christensen. Bill Snyder may be able to get Kansas St going again, but it took 3 years last time and probably will again. Iowa State does what it does best….start over. we’ll see if Paul Rhoads has any better luck than his predecessors.
Bowl Teams: Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma St., Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Baylor, Missouri, Texas Tech.
Offensive MVP: Sam Bradford, QB Oklahoma
I know Colt McCoy and Zac Robinson are good, but I’m sticking with the reigning Heisman winner. And with his 328 completions, 4720 yards passing, 50 TD’s, and 51 points produced a game from last season.
Defensive MVP: Gerald McCoy, DT Oklahoma
McCoy occupies a lot of space in the middle. His 6’4″ 300 lb frame may go number two behind his teammate Bradford in next years NFL draft.
Team most likely to be way better or worse than I predicted:
Colorado. I like Colorado’s chances this year. They get Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri at home and return nine starters on offense. Last years offense was bad, I’m assuming that with experience guys like QB Cody Hawkins and RB Darrell Scott begin to flourish. If I am mistaken, Colorado will finish nowhere close to second place in the North division and miss a bowl yet again.
Best TE in the league: Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma
I know, clearly I am biased toward Oklahoma; but Gresham is light years better than any other TE in the Big 12.
Best Coordinator: Ed Warinner, OC Kansas
I was tempted to go with Mike Leach , but head coaches who moonlight as coordinators are not eligible. Ed Warriner has turned Todd Reesing into a superstar in Lawrence and keeps the Jayhawks offense humming. He does all this and competes in the Big 12 with , lets admit it, inferior talent to Oklahoma and Texas. I would love to see what he could do with top recruits.
PROJECTED SUN BELT FINAL STANDINGS
2. Florida Atlantic
3. Arkansas St.
4. Louisiana- Lafayette
5. Middle Tennessee St.
6. Florida International
7. Louisiana- Monroe
8. Western Kentucky
9. North Texas
Death, Taxes and Troy as the favorite in the Sun Belt. It all is as it should be. Now that QB Levi Brown has cemented the job, expect big things this season. Coach Howard Schnellenberger will have his Florida Atlantic Owls in contention again. This is the last go round with QB Rusty Smith, but the defense has to be totally rebuilt. Arkansas St is trying to push into the top of the league, and QB Corey Leonard is an all-conference level player, but the Red Wolves always seem a play or two short. Louisiana-Lafayette almost went to a bowl last season, and will try to overcome the loss of their top tailback and quarterback. Middle Tennessee St. returns almost everybody, the only question is how good are Rick Stockstill’s returnees. Florida International always seems on the brink of better things, could this be the year. It doesn’t take much in this conference. Even a little improvement is probably out of reach for former Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie at Louisiana-Monroe. Western Kentucky begins their first season as a full Division 1-A member and it will probably be rough. Texas high school legend coach Todd Dodge has had zero success at the collegiate ranks so far. I’m not looking for North Texas to improve his luck this year.
Bowl Teams: Troy, Florida Atlantic
Offensive MVP: Reggie Arnold, RB Arkansas St.
The senior will try to become just the eighth D1 back in history to run for four consecutive thousand yard seasons.
Defensive MVP: Brandon Lang, DE Troy
The lightning fast pass rusher had 10.5 sacks for the Trojans last season.
Team most likely to be way better or worse than I predicted:
Florida International. I predicted Florida International sixth because I haven’t seen the production yet from their heralded recruiting. But ever since Miami(FL) assistant Mario Cristobal took over 3 years ago, the Golden Panthers have been attracting a different level of athlete. If the coaching staff can actually get the Sophomores and Juniors to play up to their clippings, they could challenge for the league crown.
Best TE in the league: Jason Harmon, Florida Atlantic
The versatile senior returns from serious knee injury after catching 63 passes in 2007.
Best Coordinator: Jeremy Rowell, DC Troy
Each year Troy is in contention for the league title. They do this with stellar defense. Rowell doesn’t just put out a good gameplan, he makes players better and has put several Troy defenders into the NFL.
Up next is the Big Ten and the MAC.