6. Colorado Buffaloes:
Not much to say about the Buffaloes. It’s do or die for Coach Dan Hawkins. Ever since his arrival in Boulder, he is yet to get it done. Colorado returns 15 starters from last year and has talent at the WR and RB positions, but they lack consistent QB play. They have the potential to be good, but I just don’t see it. Expect Hawkins to be fired at the end of this season as Colorado can look to start off fresh as they head to the Pac-12 for the 2011-2012 season.
5. Kansas Jayhawks:
It’s going to be tough season for Kansas and new head coach, Turner Gill, as they will have to replace QB Todd Reesing and WR’s Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier. These players were part of the reason the Jayhawks were even competitive in games, as they had a down year last season. The Jayhawks will be hoping for Kale Pick to lead them at the QB position but having the name “Pick” doesn’t sound to appealing to me. Expect a rebuilding season for Kansas as Coach Gill implements a new system.
4. Iowa State Cyclones:
Hats off to Paul Rhoads as the Cyclones were able to cap their 2009-2010 season off with a bowl win, not to forget that huge win against the Huskers. Iowa State returns 9 players on offense including QB Austen Arnaud and RB Alexander Robinson. The problem will be their defense. Their defense is very young and inexperienced which can lead to huge problems (nearly gave up an avg. of 22 pts a game last season). Look for the Cyclones to be back to their struggling ways. Maybe next season Cyclone fans.
3. Kansas State Wildcats:
With veteran Bill Snyder back at the helm, the Wildcats will be in good shape. They return the Big 12’s leading rusher in Daniel Thomas including four offense linemen. Even though Kansas State did not make a bowl game last season, they were two games shy of winning the Big 12 North if it weren’t for the collapses against Missouri and Nebraska. The big question mark will be there defense, but look for Snyder to do something about that. Expect many teams to see a heavy dose of Thomas and if QB Carson Coffman can show some efficiency look for the Wildcats to go bowling this season.
2. Nebraska Cornhuskers:
Everyone seems to be on the Cornhusker bandwagon this season with their name even brought up as national championship contenders, but I am not sold. Nebraska is the only team who can hold a Big 12 offense to 13 points in a Big 12 Championship game and still manage to lose the game. Don’t get me wrong, their defense is great as they return key players from last season’s defense such as DT Jared Crick and CB Prince Amukamara, but losing Suh really hurts. He is one of the best defensive line man (some can argue the best) to play college football. I have never seen a defense lineman impact the game like he did even with constant double teams. With Suh gone, I don’t expect another 44 sack season by the defense. Not to mention Nebraska will have to replace both safeties from last season’s defense. Defense can only take you so far in this conference. Nebraska struggles just to put up 20 points in a game. You can’t expect the defense to win every game for you. (Remember the Iowa State game?) Nebraska has a great running game thanks to RB Roy Helu, but they have no passing game what so ever. QB’s Zac Lee and Cody Green aren’t consistent enough to lead this team to the promise land. If it weren’t for Nebraska being in the Big 12 North, they would have had no business being in the Big 12 Championship game last season. Look for Nebraska to drop a couple games thanks to their non-existent O. (Good thing the Huskers don’t have to play Texas Tech this season.)
1. Mizzou Tigers:
The Tigers will have the best chance to dethrone Nebraska and take the Big 12 North. The offense should be clicking on all cylinders as they return QB Blaine Gabbert and RB Derrick Washington, not to mention they return 18 starters from last season’s team. If it weren’t for the injury to Gabbert in the game against Nebraska last season or those key turnovers, Mizzou would have won and perhaps even wrap up the North. I’m sure Gabbert remembers that. Mizzou also returns 9 starters from the defensive side of the ball with DE Aldon Smith looking to have another big season, as he had 11.5 sacks last season. Mizzou will have to replace LB Sean Witherspoon which is going to be really difficult. LB Will Ebner will have some huge shoes to fill. The question mark to Mizzou’s success will be on the defensive side of the ball, if they can get that to gel then look for them to be a big dark horse in the Big 12.