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Big 12 mailbag: How the Big 12 will shake out in 2010

10/23/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

If it's Friday, it's time for a few letters from my mailbag.

Here are some of the best from this week.

Travis Broyles from Austin, Texas, writes: Big fan of your blog Tim. I understand the outcome of this season is still foggy, but I figure it might be a little fun to look ahead from this year. I'm curious to hear about how you think the Big 12 standings would look at the end of NEXT year. Of course, assume players who you feel will enter the draft will get drafted. Do you see a stand-out in Garrett Gilbert lead Texas to a conference championnship game, or the new upcoming of Sam Bradford, or maybe if Colorado or A&M are rising to power? I heard that Oklahoma will lose quite a few of their O-line again this year, and can't imagine their line getting much worse. Not to mention a potentially large void on the D-line and linebackers' position. So how will you rank them?

Tim Griffin: That’s an interesting question. I think Texas and Oklahoma will remain as the two most solid South contenders, although the Longhorns will lose a lot with Colt McCoy, Jordan Shipley, Chris Hall and Roddrick Muckelroy all leaving. The Sooners will have Landry Jones, Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray all back, so they should have some firepower. But their linebacking corps will be diminished and Gerald McCoy is a likely defection to the NFL draft. With both Texas Tech starting quarterbacks returning, I think the Red Raiders should be better and could challenge for the division. Texas A&M will be better too after having all those freshmen playing this year. Baylor should have Robert Griffin back, but they lose both Joe Pawelek and Jordan Lake. And the biggest losses are at Oklahoma State, where Mike Gundy might have trouble keeping his team out of the cellar.

In the North, I like Nebraska, although I will be curious to watch how their quarterback plays down the stretch this year before I commit to it. But the return of key skill-position players will Roy Helu Jr. and Mike McNeill will help. Colorado returns most of their key players and should be up for a challenge along with Missouri, which will improve in its second season with Blaine Gabbert in control. I also look for improvement from Iowa State, which has played hard for Paul Rhoads in his first season and will have Austen Arnaud and Alexander Robinson back for 2010. Kansas is a question mark as they will lose Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier and Jake Sharp. The Jayhawks’ defense loses only Darrell Stuckey among its key contributors and should be better with more experience, but it will be a different kind of Kansas team than we’ve seen the last couple of years. Most importantly, they won't have to play Texas and Oklahoma next season. Kansas State will lose Grant Gregory, Brandon Banks and Jeff Fitzgerald among its key players and may be challenged to stay out of the basement.

So I would guess that Texas would be a slight favorite over Texas Tech and Oklahoma in the South. In the North, I’ll take Nebraska, followed closely by Colorado and Missouri.


Dan R. Van Dyke of Holdrege, Neb., writes: What was your point about Harrison Beck? According to the article he transferred from North Carolina State. No mention of being a Nebraska transfer.The kid got what he wanted. Starting quarterback. He did the same thing in high school, transferred until he got the quarterback job.A slow sports news day for you?? What relevance does Harrison Beck have for Nebraska or Nebraska have for Harrison Beck.I think both parties have moved on to the next day month, year. How long ago was Harrison Beck relevant to a Nebraska football program, if he ever was relevant in the first place?

Tim Griffin: The story that mentioned him as the starting quarterback for North Alabama under Terry Bowden was interesting. The fact his team is No. 1 in the nation while the Cornhuskers are sorting through a difficult quarterback situation is intriguing to me. And I’m sure that many Big 12 and Nebraska fans are interested in Beck and where he ended up, especially after all the ballyhoo of his recruitment by Bill Callahan.


John Vail from Denver writes: I have been watching OU football since I was a freshman there in '67 and I don't think your conclusions are too good. Colorado will beat Nebraska and then Oklahoma will lose to the Cornhuskers? Not likely. Keep this e-mail until the end of the season. Oklahoma will win all the rest of its games. Tech will be the only close game for the Sooners.

Tim Griffin: John, we’ve just saved it for posterity. I still think the Sooners could struggle winning all three of their road games against Texas Tech, Kansas and Nebraska without Sam Bradford. We’ll see how they play over the next few weeks. Bob Stoops has thrived in similar situations in the past. Let’s see what he can do this time.


Marty Murray of Dayton, Texas, writes: I saw your prediction of Texas 38, Missouri 24.I have just one question and a comment. I'm not trying to be confrontational or condescending, but how did you come up with that score? I can see UT only scoring 38 because I'm still not convinced they know why they are underperforming on offense, but I'm a little perplexed at the 24 you are giving Mizzou. The most this defense has given up this year is 24 to Tech and 10 of those points came directly off of turnovers giving Tech a very short field, and to be honest, Mizzou's offense is not even in the same zip code as Tech's offense. I'm really curious to know why you think they can score 24 points on UT's defense when OU could only muster 13 and that was primarily because of two big plays. Inquiring minds want to know! I appreciate your comments and your blog.

Tim Griffin: This will be Texas’ most difficult road game to date. I think their defense will be tested a little by Blaine Gabbert and Danario Alexander. And I think the Missouri defense might be energized by playing at home. So I’m expecting a competitive game. Add it together and it wouldn’t surprise me that the Tigers score more points against Texas, although I’m still looking for the Longhorns to score a lot more and keep their winning streak alive tomorrow night.


Bobby Klare from Lubbock, Texas, writes: Assume something crazy happens, and OSU picks up the upset against UT. After that, OSU loses to Texas Tech in a close game. Who do you think would go on to play for the Big 12 championship? It's hard to think that Texas would fall below Tech, but Tech will be coming off two big wins against ranked teams (presumably), and with the way last season turned out, it certainly seems possible. Can they advance past Texas into the championship game?

Tim Griffin: If as you say, the Big 12 South ends up in a three-way tie with all teams with one loss, it’s the same deal as last year where the final BCS standings would be used to determine the divisional participant in the title game as long as their losses among themselves. And with Texas with one season loss and Texas Tech and Oklahoma State both with two (one conference loss and another non-conference loss), I’d like the Longhorns chances to be ahead in the final ranking. Their loss would have conceivably come on Oct. 31, so it would presumably given them the month of November to finish the season strongly and boost their poll numbers after losing as you predict to OSU. I think the fact that Tech still hasn’t cracked the BCS poll makes it unlikely that it could soar past Texas and Oklahoma State in the final standings unless something really strange happens. And OSU would get a nice bounce from beating Texas, but would likely drop back when they would lose to Tech, as you mentioned.

In the end, I think Texas’ lack of a nonconference loss would keep them ahead of the other teams and result in a higher ranking.

Thanks again for all of the great letters. We’ll answer some more next week.