Big 12 Preseason Media Poll
All Big 12 Preseason Team
The Big 12 South still has the bulk of the strong teams in the conference. Baylor is the only team projected to finish below .500, helping the division rank 3rd
out of the nation's total of 17 conferences and divisions in terms of average team power rating. The North is ranked 8th with only Kansas and Missouri expected to finish the year with winning records.
The conference gets hurt in overall power ratings by scheduling a total of ten contest with FCS schools, the most of any conference except the ACC with 14. Nine schools play one such team while Texas Tech plays two for the second time in four years.
The computer (about the computer) says the North title will be decided in the head-to-head battle between Kansas and Missouri on November 29 in Kansas City, with the Jayhawks favored by 2.05 points.
Two weeks prior to that epic showdown, the Jayhawks must survive a November 15 home date with Texas as 5-1/2 point favorites. The toughest OOC game comes in the third week of the season when Kansas journeys to Tampa to face USF as a 1.24-point pick.
Aside from the loss to Kansas, Missouri's only other bump in the road comes at Texas on October 18 where the Longhorns are favored by 2.49 points.
In the South, the Oklahoma-Texas tussle in Dallas on October 11 will once again decide that division's crown. The Longhorns are favored by all of three one-hundredths of a point (0.03) in the 103rd renewal of the Red River Rivalry.
Ultimately, the computer takes Kansas by just over 2-1/2 points in the Big 12 Championship game in Kansas City, giving the Jayhawks two monumental wins at Arrowhead Stadium in the span of one week. It would be the first conference championship for Kansas since it captured a share of the Big 8 title in 1968. The Jayhawks only outright championship was won in 1930 as a member of the Big 6 Conference.
Interestingly, the week after Oklahoma and Texas meet, the Sooners host Kansas as a 0.41-point favorite while Texas entertains Missouri as a 2.49-point choice.
Missouri, which lost twice to Oklahoma last year in the regular season and the Big 12 title game, doesn't have a scheduled date with the Sooners in the 2008 regular season.
Texas has an intriguing non-conference slate that opens with FAU (-13.84) at home. On September 13, Arkansas (-16.66) visits Austin for the first time since 2003.
The best game on Oklahoma's weak OOC schedule is TCU (-12.22) on September 27 in Norman.
Baylor, Texas A&M and Nebraska are all entering the 2008 season with new head coaches. And all could eventually shake things up a bit.
Baylor welcomes Art Briles who took over a Houston program in 2003 that had experienced just one winning campaign in twelve years, and went 7-6 in his first campaign. Briles took the Cougars to four bowl games in his five seasons there, and won the CUSA championship in 2006. The Bears have not posted a winning record since 1995.
Nothing special is expected from Baylor this year, but if anyone can turn the Bears around, Briles can.
Former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Sherman is the new leader of the Texas A&M program. Sherman was the offensive line coach for the Aggies from 1989-1993 and 1995-1996. The school said he was the only candidate considered for the job. He replaces Dennis Franchione who resigned less than an hour after the Aggies beat rival Texas for the second consecutive season. Under Franchione, Texas A&M was a lackluster 19-21 in Big 12 games and 3-12 against rivals Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Texas.
Aggie fans should not be disappointed that the computer forecasts a 7-5 season with a 4-4 conference mark. Especially when that prognostication includes losses at New Mexico (+10.03) and Oklahoma State (+4.88) that could swing to Texas A&M's favor if the players respond quickly to Sherman's approach.
After four embarrassing years, Bill Callahan was fired from Nebraska by legendary 'Husker head coach Tom Osborne who returned to the school as interim athletic director on October 17. Osborne hired Bo Pelini, who actually has a 1-0 head coaching record with Nebraska. It was Pelini who served as interim head coach for Nebraska in its 2003 Alamo Bowl win after Frank Solich had been let go following a 9-3 campaign.
Pelini spent the past three seasons as the defensive coordinator at LSU.
During Callahan's four-year tenure, Nebraska was a pedestrian 15-18 against Big 12 opponents and 27-22 over-all, while the program set numerous school records for futility. In Callahan's first season, the 'Huskers finished 5-6 and missed a bowl game for the first time since 1968. In 2004, Nebraska was bombed 70-10 by Texas Tech and the program endured its first losing season since 1961 while failing to win a single conference road game for the first time since 1959.
Last season, Kansas scored the most points ever in a game against Nebraska when they beat the 'Huskers 76-39. At the time, that defeat gave the Cornhuskers their first five-game losing streak since 1958. In 2007, Nebraska allowed 455 points in a 12-game season to easily surpass the previous low-water mark of 335 points in a 14-game season in 2002.
The computer projects a 6-6 season for the Cornhuskers, 3-5 in the Big 12. That forecast includes narrow wins over Western Michigan (-0.58), Iowa State (-6.62) and Colorado (-1.59). It also gives Nebraska a toss-up loss at Kansas State (+0.17), and a home setback to Virginia Tech (+9.91). Given Pelini's expertise at defense, it isn't out of the realm of possibility that Nebraska could go 5-0 in those games instead of the projected 3-2. If that happens, Nebraska goes 8-4 and serves notice that it's on the way back to the top.
However, the Cornhuskers begin the season over 19 power points behind Missouri, and almost 22 points behind Kansas. In fact, Nebraska is bunched up in a three-team pack in the middle of the North division with Colorado and Kansas State, and it faces both of those teams back-to-back at the end of the season.
Ron Prince (Kansas State) and Dan Hawkins (Colorado) are each entering their third season as head coach at their respective schools.
The Wildcats went 7-6 and lost to Rutgers in the Texas Bowl in Prince's first season, but slipped to 5-7 last year. The computer believes another 5-7 campaign is in the cards for 2008, and the only anticipated swing game is the aforementioned close home win (-0.17) over Nebraska.
The Buffaloes were a dismal 2-10 in Hawkins' inaugural season, but improved to 6-6 last year before a 30-24 loss to Alabama in the Independence Bowl. The 2008 forecast shows lots of opportunities for improvement with four swing games that currently project as losses by less than 6 points - Florida State (+5.76) in Jacksonville, at Texas A&M (+4.34), at Nebraska (+1.59), and at home to Oklahoma State (+0.22).
In Gene Chizik's second year at Iowa State, the Cyclones are predicted to drop down one win to 2-10 while suffering through a winless conference campaign and a 10-game losing streak to end the season. The only victories in the forecast are in the opening home games over FCS member South Dakota State (-12.54), and Kent State (-1.63). Three expected losses are by close margins - at UNLV (+3.70), at Baylor (+2.46), and at home versus Nebraska (+6.62).
In the South, Texas Tech is projected to go 9-3 and pose a serious threat for the division title. The Red Raiders start the year just 3-1/2 power points behind Texas and Oklahoma, and more than 11 points ahead of Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. Mike Leach's team is only a half-point home underdog to Texas, and a 6.48-point road dog at Oklahoma. Texas Tech has beaten Oklahoma in two of the last three seasons, but is riding a 5-game losing streak to the Longhorns. The only other forecasted loss is at Kansas (+9.07), whom they haven't played since 2005.
Oklahoma State is another story. While the Cowboys are expected to post a winning record (7-5, 4-4), they are rated 11 points or more behind Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, Kansas and Missouri. The only team on that list that Oklahoma State isn't scheduled to play is Kansas.
Projected Cowboy wins over Washington State, Houston, Texas A&M and Colorado are by margins of less than 6-1/2 points. Oklahoma State is also a slight underdog to fail in their opportunity to gain revenge on Troy (+0.28), which defeated the Cowboys 41-23 in Alabama last season.
In all, this should be a fun and exciting year in the Big 12 for two solid reasons. First, we can observe six teams that have changed head coaches since the end of the 2005 season which adds uncertainty to any predictions. Second, we can view a wealth of quarterback talent that includes Colt McCoy (Texas), Todd Reesing (Kansas), Sam Bradford (Oklahoma), Chase Daniel (Missouri), and Graham Harrell (Texas Tech).