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2011 Big 12 Preview - Team Breakdowns
Texas Tech WR Alex Torres
Texas Tech WR Alex Torres
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 1, 2011


Preview 2011 - CFN Big 12 Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finishes


Preview 2011

Big 12 Team By Team



- 2011 Baylor Preview | 2011 Iowa State Preview
- 2011 Kansas Preview | 2011 Kansas State Preview 
- 2011 Missouri Preview | 2011 Oklahoma Preview
- 2011 Oklahoma State Preview | 2011 Texas Preview 
- 2011 Texas A&M Preview | 2011 Texas Tech Preview  

- 2011 Big 12 Preview
- CFN Thoughts on the Big 12 | 2011 Big 12 Unit Rankings
- 2011 CFN All-Big 12 Team & Top 30 Players | 2011 Big 12 Schedules & Picks
- 2011 Big 12 Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish 
- 2010 Big 12 Preview

Big 12 Predicted Finish

1. Oklahoma
Predicted Overall Record: 11-1
Predicted Conference Record: 9-0

Offense: Offensive coordinators Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell have a loaded group of veterans to deal with, and it all starts with QB Landry Jones and a passing game that should finish among the five best in America. Ryan Broyles is an all-timer of a wide receiver talent who’ll be flanked by Kenny Stills and a slew of extremely talented targets. The backfield loses do-it-all runner DeMarco Murray, but there should be more of a running back-by-committee approach with several good sophomores and a top recruit in Brandon Williams who could be another Murray as a receiver as well as a runner. The line gets back four starters, but doesn’t have any sure-thing all-stars to work everything around. Consistency will be the key for an attack that should be able to blow up for 500 yards game in and game out on the passing game along. Watch out for Jones to go from very good to Heisman-worthy.
 
Defense: The defense had a nice season, but not a stellar one. The pass rush was among the best in the nation, the secondary was effective, and there were enough big plays with 36 takeaways to get by. Now the run defense has to be stronger after allowing 149 yards per game and having issues with mobile quarterbacks like Baylor’s Robert Griffin and Air Force’s Tim Jefferson. The tragic death of Austin Box will be on the minds of everyone throughout the year, and on the field the hope will be for Tom Wort to handle the workload again in the middle. Travis Lewis is a star outside linebacker, but the defense lacks sure-thing superstars who’ll get the NFL drooling. Even so, enough starters return, and there’s enough talent and athleticism across the board, to expect more overall production.

2. Missouri
Predicted Overall Record: 9-3
Predicted Conference Record: 7-2

Offense: The offense loses a first round NFL-caliber quarterback in Blaine Gabbert, and it could be even better. Even with Gabbert, it’s not like the offense was an unstoppable machine finishing sixth in the Big 12 in yards and eighth in scoring. Gabbert was a special talent, but Mizzou still finished 64th in the nation and ninth in the league in passing efficiency. As long as James Franklin is merely above-average as the new starting quarterback, and he will be, the Tigers could go ballistic. All four starters return on the line, all the targets are back in the receiving corps, including the devastating 1-2 punch of T.J. Moe and tight end Michael Egnew, and backs Kendial Lawrence and De’Vion Moore are a dangerously quick tandem. Consistency has been a problem for the attack over the last few seasons, but there’s too much experience returning to not be terrific.

Defense: The run defense got ripped to shreds way too easily and there weren’t nearly enough key stops considering the Tigers were among the best in America at getting into the backfield. Even with the concerns, the D finished first in the Big 12 and sixth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 16.08 points per game, and finished third in the nation in total defense. The key will once again be the pass rush that led the Big 12 and should be dominant, even with Aldon Smith off to the NFL. The line has at least two good pass rushing options at each corner spot, and the tackles have the athleticism to make things happen behind the line. The back seven might not have a slew of all-stars, but it’ll be fast and should fly around to clean up everything the strong line doesn’t get to. This is an aggressive, fast defense that will shut down the mediocre offenses cold.

T3. Oklahoma State
Predicted Overall Record: 9-3
Predicted Conference Record: 6-3

Offense: Can the offense continue to blow up without Dana Holgorsen? The former offensive coordinator took over the head coaching job at West Virginia, and new coordinator Todd Monken has all the pressure on his shoulders to keep the nation’s No. 3 offense, No. 3 scoring offense, and No. 2 passing attack rolling. There’s no excuse for the offense to not be unstoppable, with Justin Blackmon back to lead a devastating receiving corps that might be the best in the nation. Veteran quarterback Brandon Weeden knows what he’s doing and has the arm to keep the passing game bombing away, and he’ll get more time to work with all five starters returning up front. The only question mark is at running back where Kendall Hunter is gone, but Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith have terrific upside.

Defense: The defensive stats are always going to be a bit skewed considering the yards fly off the board from teams desperate to try to keep up with the OSU offense. That’s why the run defense wasn’t as strong as the No. 2 Big 12 ranking – no one ran the ball – and the 115th ranked pass defense wasn’t as bad as it seemed. There’s phenomenal athleticism and talented depth all across the board for defensive coordinator Bill Young, but the consistency has to finally be there. The ends should be strong with Richetti Jones and Jamie Blatnick each shining in starting spots, and Shaun Lewis is one of the best young outside linebackers in the country. The secondary gets three starters back, led by strong safety Markelle Martin and tackling machine corner Brodrick Brown.

T3. Texas
Predicted Overall Record: 9-3
Predicted Conference Record: 6-3

Offense: Major Applewhite can’t get under center again, but the hotshot offensive coordinator will combine forces with Bryan Harsin, a co-coordinator and quarterback coach from Boise State, to try to get the offense working again. A disaster last season, the Longhorns averaged just 24 points per game and failed to score more than 24 against anyone in the Big 12. The big key will be to start getting something out of the quarterbacks. Garrett Gilbert has to be a better decision maker or he’ll be replaced by one of the several decent options waiting for a shot – watch out for Case McCoy. The running backs are experienced, but mediocre. If true freshman Malcolm Brown doesn’t rock right away, there might not be much happening again on the ground behind a rebuilding line that’s athletic, but isn’t full of blasters and doesn’t have enough experience. The receiving corps has the talent and potential to be the best in the nation, but it had that last year, too, and was a disappointment. Enough pieces are there to be better in a hurry, but it’s asking a lot for a night-and-day improvement if the quarterback play isn’t better.
 
Defense: The defense might not have been a brick wall throughout the entire season, but it can’t be blamed for the problems finishing sixth in the nation in yards allowed. No, this wasn’t the nasty Texas D of previous seasons, but it was good enough to get by. This year it’ll undergo a major overhaul and it starts at the top with new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz having to replace Will Muschamp, who was starting to get antsy and was ready to take over a head coaching job last year. He inherits a whale of a linebacking twosome in Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho to work around, and the pass rush won’t be a problem with several star recruits from the last few years about to break out. Losing three NFL defensive backs in Aaron Williams, Chykie Brown, and Curtis Brown is a problem, but the safeties are experienced and can hit big, and there’s speed and upside at corner. Call this a year of transition with all the youth and inexperience across the board, but few teams can match UT’s defensive athleticism.

T3. Texas A&M
Predicted Overall Record: 8-4
Predicted Conference Record: 6-3

Offense: Only in the Big 12 could an offense averaged 442 yards and 32 points per game and still be mediocre. No, the attack wasn’t a disappointment last year, but it was inconsistent and it had to rely on some major in-season changes. There was a quarterback switch, star RB Christine Michael got hurt, and the line needed about half the season before it all came together. Now the numbers should be off the charts as Ryan Tannehill has the quarterback job all to himself and gets a loaded receiving corps to throw to. Jeff Fuller, Ryan Swope, and Uzoma Nwachukwu form a tremendous pass catching trio, while the combination of a healthy Michael and 1,133-yard rusher Cyrus Gray forms a potentially devastating tandem in the backfield. The question will be the line, which is full of veterans, size, and options, but needs the young tackles need to keep improving. The pass protection has to be night-and-day better than it was in 2010.

Defense: It worked. The Aggie defense that struggled so much and was a disaster in so many ways got a lot better in a big hurry as former Air Force defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter changed things up to a 3-4, got the D to be more aggressive, and helped the run defense make a massive improvement. Butkus winner Von Miller is gone from the outside, but there are plenty of fast, athletic pass rushers ready to take his place at the Joker position; the star spot in the linebacking corps. The front three is very big and very good against the run, the linebackers are deep and can move, and the secondary can fly and is loaded with good veterans. This won’t be the Big 12’s best defense, but it’ll be close.

6. Texas Tech
Predicted Overall Record: 7-5
Predicted Conference Record: 4-5

Offense: The offense might not have been all fireworks and nuttiness like it was in the Mike Leach era, but it still finished seventh in the nation in passing and 15th in total offense. And under the new coaching staff, there was actually some semblance of a ground game. There will be even more of a push for balance with a great recruiting class of backs to work with veterans Eric Stephens and Aaron Crawford behind a strong, veteran line, and there will be a real, live, normal tight end at times. The passing game will still rule, and now the spotlight is on Seth Doege to see if he can handle the work. The receiving corps is fine, but it needs a star to step up early on. Watch out for few tweaks with the Pistol formation being used from time to time.

Defense: Do … your … job. New defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow is a high energy, fiery coach who’s trying to get one of the nation’s worst defenses into shape. At the same time, the D that finished 114th in the country has experience with seven starters returning and is also extremely young in several key areas. The big move will be to go to a 4-2-5 alignment with the goal to get as much speed and athleticism on the field as possible. Everything will be dialed down with Glasgow’s goal to have each player do what he’s supposed to do and not worry about anything else. A relatively simplified scheme should bring more production, but it also has to start stopping more good offenses. Shockingly, the defense was great on third downs and didn’t give up a ton of big plays, but it got picked clean through the air. With five defensive backs, that should change.

7. Kansas State
Predicted Overall Record: 5-7
Predicted Conference Record: 3-6

Offense: The Kansas State offense revolved around Daniel Thomas and the running game, finishing second in the Big 12 and 22nd in the nation in rushing. The passing attack finished 92nd in the nation in passing, but was efficient. Now the balance could be even more skewed to the rushing offense with one-time super-recruit Bryce Brown looking to take over for Thomas, while the quarterbacks should add even more to the totals with Justin Tuggle and Collin Klein both runners more than passers. The receiving corps will be underutilized, but it should be terrific if everyone stays healthy, while the line will be serviceable, but nothing special.

Defense: The defense fell off a cliff under defensive coordinator Chris Cosh’s watch, and now the pressure is on to produce. The run defense was the second worst in America, the overall D finished 11th in the Big 12, and things got worse as the season went on. Now there’s no excuse to not be far better with one of the nation’s better safety tandems in Tysyn Hartman and Ty Zimmerman to work around, an improved linebacking corps helped by the addition of Miami transfer Arthur Brown, and with both starting tackles returning. There’s plenty of returning experience with seven starters coming back to work with all the JUCO transfers who know what they’re doing. Finding a pass rush would be nice, stopping the run would be better, and being more consistent is a must.

8. Baylor
Predicted Overall Record: 3-9
Predicted Conference Record: 2-7

Offense: The offense got QB Robert Griffin back and healthy, and the results showed with a phenomenal year in all phases. There were struggles against the better teams down the stretch, and the bowl loss to Illinois was a major disappointment, but the talent and experience are in place to be more consistent and even more explosive. The line loses NFL-talent Danny Watkins, but rising star Cyril Richardson will move over to left tackle and the line should turn out to be the best in the Art Briles era. Griffin should get plenty of time to make big things happen with a loaded receiving corps led by all-star Kendall Wright. There’s speed, experience, and talent to spread the ball around and make big things happen. Losing 1,218-yard back Jay Finley will hurt, but Jarred Salubi is a speedster and there’s enough depth to form a good rotation in the backfield.

Defense: The defense couldn’t stop anyone with an offense, allowing a whopping 150 points over the final three games to Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma, and allowed 278 points in the six losses and 118 points in the seven wins. Former SMU head coach and Pitt defensive coordinator Phil Bennett was hired to run the defense, and he’s going to try to do the impossible and generate a pass rush from the front line that did next to nothing last year. A switch to a 4-2-5 alignment will get more athletes on the field to help a beleaguered secondary that got bombed on, and the results should be better. Speed isn’t a problem, especially at the corners, and there are plenty of promising young talents, but there are concerns at safety, defensive tackle, and linebacker depth for a D that finished 104th in the nation.

9. Iowa State
Predicted Overall Record: 4-8
Predicted Conference Record: 2-7

Offense: The offense was supposed to hit its stride last year with all the pieces supposedly in place, but instead the attack fizzled and was way too inconsistent. The attack was way too reliant on QB Austen Arnaud and RB Alexander Robinson, but they’re gone now and the offense has to start using more options. Justin Tiller is a veteran quarterback, but he’s a runner; JUCO transfer Steele Jantz could be an interesting option to get the nation’s 104th most efficient passing game going. There’s plenty of speed and quickness in the backfield, and despite losing the top two pass catchers from last year, the receiving corps is full of veterans and should be fine, not great, if the quarterback play is a bit better. The line is big and should know what it’s doing in the zone-blocking scheme, but it needs to be far better in pass protection.

Defense: Iowa State has had some excellent defensive coaches, but none of them have been able to generate a strong brick wall of a D. Last year the Cyclones weren’t awful finishing seventh in the Big 12 in yards allowed, but they were inconsistent. There’s no pass rush, not enough big plays from the secondary, and the overall athleticism isn’t quite up to snuff, but there are positives. The corners are experienced and lightning quick, the defensive tackles are promising, and the linebacking corps has the potential to be fantastic with A.J. Klein and Jake Knott big, tough, and active. They should combine for well over 200 tackles.

10. Kansas
Predicted Overall Record: 1-11
Predicted Conference Record: 0-9

Offense: Offensive coordinator Chuck Long wanted a more balanced attack, and he got it. Unfortunately, both the passing game and the rushing attack were equally inept. The improvement has to start with a line that wasn’t remotely close to stopping anyone from hitting the quarterback, but five veterans are back, helped by the return of Jeff Spikes and Trevor Marrongelli after missing a big chunk of last year hurt. The running backs are young and talented, and now they need holes to run through and a passing game to take the heat off. There are interesting options in a receiving corps that needs to hit more home runs and has to get more plays out of top target Daymond Patterson, but the production will only come if the quarterbacks are better and if the situation is settled after three players saw significant action under center. Jordan Webb and Quinn Mecham will fight for the top spot this summer, but a few untested but promising freshmen will get their chances.

Defense: Defensive coordinator Carl Torbush was going to scrap the 4-2-5 alignment going into last season, but for the most part, didn’t. This year the defense really will be more of a conventional 4-3 mainly because the linebackers could be the team’s biggest strength. Buffalo’s star recruit of a few years ago, Darius Willis, transferred over to KU to follow Turner Gill, and he should be tremendous in the middle, while the return of Huldon Tharp from an injury will be a big help on the other side of 2010’s leading tackler, Steven Johnson. The starting foursome in the defensive backfield should be fine as the season goes on, especially if former wide receiver Bradley McDougald continues to improve at free safety after getting his feet wet late last year, but some semblance of a pass rush is needed to help the cause. Former running back Toben Opurum leads a promising crop of ends, and the top tackles are back, but the line can’t be the disaster it was last year.

- 2011 Baylor Preview | 2011 Iowa State Preview
- 2011 Kansas Preview | 2011 Kansas State Preview 
- 2011 Missouri Preview | 2011 Oklahoma Preview
- 2011 Oklahoma State Preview | 2011 Texas Preview 
- 2011 Texas A&M Preview | 2011 Texas Tech Preview  

- 2011 Big 12 Preview
- CFN Thoughts on the Big 12 | 2011 Big 12 Unit Rankings
- 2011 CFN All-Big 12 Team & Top 30 Players | 2011 Big 12 Schedules & Picks
- 2011 Big 12 Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish 
- 2010 Big 12 Preview