Although I like to play pretty much every conference in the country, the Big 12 is my region and what I specialize in. I try to get info from as many sources on the net as I can when evaluating these teams. And I know my informantion is usually pretty solid when several different sources from different areas tend to be in agreement about possible strengths or problem areas of a team. As opposed to independent sources that might be giving the wrong info about a team. I like to backup my info from several outlets who are seeing the same things with a team. I also do this during the season. And I save my info for reference on each team. Anyway, this is the way that I'm seeing the Big 12 as it stands now. Of course, injuries, suspensions or other problems can derail these predictions. But this is the way I see it after the Spring practices.:
Big 12 North
1.Colorado-From everything that I'm hearing the Buffs aren't hurting nearly as much on defense as people think. The back 7 has made some solid progress in the spring. And they've got some real horses on the D-Line, although it is a little thin. I think sophomore nosetackle Eugeen Goree could be a breakout player for the Buffs if they choose to go to a 3-4 and use him at that position. CU has by far the best offensive line in the Big 12 North. And will have a great running game behind it. Right now, the QB is still a little unsettled. Mainly because Tyler Hansen broke his thumb this spring. But in my opinion Hawkins really doesn't have a problem here. I think both of these QB's can perform behind this line. From everything that I'm hearing, Hawkins is very confident of what he has this year. This offense is going to be really good. And the Buffs get Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri at home this season. A HUGE advantage to have in the North Division. I heard Hawkins say in an interview this Spring that he thinks his team can go 10-2 this season. And knowing Hawkins like I do in interviews, he doesn't usually say off the cuff stuff like that. I think he knows he has something this year. And he's past due after the season he had last year where the Buffs had more starts lost to injury than any team in the country. I think they surprise this year.
2. Kansas-I think it's going to be close between Kansas and Colorado. But I like CU's schedule a bit more. And I'm afraid the Jayhawks loss of those outstanding linebackers are really going to hurt that defense this year. especially when they hit the road against some of those good offense like Texas Tech, Colorado, and Texas is capable of overpowering them like they did last season in Lawrence. Plus I'm hearing that their hurting a little more on the offensive line than what they anticipated. I really like Reesing, but he could have some problems with his blindside this season if they don't get their tackle issue ironed out. Plus, I really question whether this team can perform as well when the expectations are higher like they are this season.
3.Nebraska-This is nothing against the Huskers. Outside of OU, I personally like this team more than any other in the Big 12. But almost every year for the last 10 years or so this team has been overrated and overhyped by the media. And with just 11 starters back, this reminds me a lot of the 2007 team that was way overhyped with the same amount of starters coming back. Nebraska simply has too many holes to fill at WR, LB,the right side of the offensive line, And most importantly QB. Plus road games at Va Tech, Baylor, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado...Plus, I may be the first one to say this, but I'm not sold on Pelini just yet. He still seems like the little bit of the volatile type to me. And I'm not sure how well he can coach if should get in some head games against some of the better coaches out there. Hey, I could be wrong. But I'm just not 100% sure either way about this guy after only one year on the job..
4.Missouri-This team is obviously going to take a fall. But I don't think they fall any worse than 4th. They look like they are going to put more emphasis on the running game this year. Which if successful could take a little pressure off of rookie QB Blaine Gabbert. The defense lost alot. But they will have a pretty decent defensive line. Especially at defensive end, where they have alot of depth. This team still has much more team speed than the two teams below them. And with all but 4 of their games played in Missouri this season they have a chance to get back to a bowl despite the huge losses to graduations.
5.Kansas St.-KSU is in kind of the same situation as Missouri is. They lost a longtime QB. And they have questions on defense. They'll have to make a big move from their 117th ranking in total defense last season if they want to be competetive this year. They get Snyder back as head coach this year. But they were on the decline when he left the first time. So I don't know if he can raise this team from the ashes or not. Whatever the case, it may take him a couple years to sort out the mess that Prince made of the team. The Mildcats go to yet another defensive scheme this year. So there will more than likely be an adjustment period. But despite 15 starters returning, this will actually be a rebuilding year for Snyder, who inherits a team who has fallen even farther since he left.
6.Iowa St-The local cellar dweller of the North. This team should be improved on offense despite a new coach and new system. But the Clones have some real problems with their defense in almost every area. Plus the defense simply aren't athletic enough or has enough speed to be competetive.. So they have a lot of conditioning to do to get up to speed. The secondary got blistered in game after game last season. Because of their offense, the Cyclones could be a little bit of a dangerous team at home against the North Dvision teams. But I see another winless season on the road. This team has a long ways to go. Seems like I've been saying that for the last 20 years.
I'll be back later with my South predictions.