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Big 12 predictions favor Tigers, Sooners

8/25/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The Big 12 has received more notoriety this summer than in any recent memory for its collection of talent at the top. It should result in one of the most intriguing seasons in history.

Without further ado, here are my picks for the conference this season. I purposely waited until this late to check on the developments from training camp across the Big 12.

North Division winner -- Missouri. A deep collection of offensive players and nearly every major defensive player is back, making Tigers the clear team to beat in the North. And they still have that guy named Daniel around, too.

South Division winner -- Oklahoma. The Sooners look loaded again, too. The best collection of offensive talent should enable them to outscore most opponents. And while several key players are gone from last season's championship team on defense, Bob Stoops will figure out a way to win with these guys. He always seems to -- except in bowl games.

Big 12 championship game winner -- Missouri. I know that Oklahoma is a back-to-back Big 12 champion and beat Missouri twice last season. But Curtis Lofton, Reggie Smith and Malcolm Kelly all are gone. Missouri won't meet Oklahoma until the end of the season. The game will be played at Arrowhead Stadium -- a virtual homefield advantage for the Tigers. And I'm giving them a slim edge -- maybe a Jeff Wolfert field goal -- because of better special teams.

Offensive Player of the Year -- Missouri QB Chase Daniel. After leading the Tigers to the Cotton Bowl last season, Daniel is hungry for much more. Look for him to take them to the Bowl Championship Series if he can stay healthy.

Defensive Player of the Year -- Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy. He won't pile up the impressive statistics of teammate Auston English, but know that every offensive coordinator in the Big 12 knows he has to account for McCoy's presence on every play.

Newcomer of the Year -- Colorado TB Darrell Scott. Sure, he's listed as a third-stringer heading into the Buffaloes' regular-season opener. But look for him to emerge as their most consistent offensive weapon, particularly as he runs behind what should be an improved offensive line.

Coach of the Year -- Missouri's Gary Pinkel. Why not give him the award if the Tigers win their first Big 12 title? It's amazing how far he's come in the last 18 months. His job was in question before then, but he's mellowed over time and has his team positioned for another history-making run.