2011 Big 12 Preview - CFN Thoughts
Texas LB Keenan Robinson
Texas LB Keenan Robinson
Posted Aug 1, 2011

Preview 2011 - Thoughts from the CFNers on the 2011 Big 12 season

Preview 2011

Thoughts on the Big 12

- 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

E-mail Pete Fiutak
Follow Us ... http://twitter.com/ColFootballNews

- Oklahoma and Texas have owned the league for over a decade; why is anything going to change now? I don't think enough fans are getting this; it's far easier to win a six-team division than to come out on top of a ten team league. Win the division, get a puncher's chance at the title, and hope to hit like Colorado of 2001 or Kansas State in 2003. Now, the former North teams have to face Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M every year. There's no ducking the big boys.

- If it's possible, it seems like Oklahoma doesn't get nearly enough credit for all the success under Bob Stoops. Fine, so he and the program haven't won a national title since 2000, and the championship losses to the SEC and USC have taken their toll from a reputation standpoint, but considering the love and attention Texas gets, OU deserves more.

- Don't just assume Texas is going to stink again. It's hard to get into the mindset of the powerhouse programs, but when you're in the Big 12 and national title chases year-in-and-year-out, it's not exactly easy to fight for a Texas Bowl appearance. This still might be the most talented team in the conference.

- It was time for Will Muschamp to move on. His defense was tremendous last year, and word is that he wasn't a distraction for Texas, but Mack Brown isn't going anywhere and Muschamp was ready to lead his own program.

- I've said this several times in several ways; I still don't understand how Texas doesn't have five NFL starting-caliber offensive linemen each and every year. It's not like the state doesn't come up with  gobs of pro talent. It's also inexcusable to not have a top 15-overall pick of a running back doing the work behind that line.

- Malcolm Brown, your table is ready.

- Remember, Garrett Gilbert was a high school player of the year and was the No. 1 guy on several recruiting lists. If a player with that much NFL talent and Gilbert's make-up doesn't pan out, 93 times out of 100 it's the fault of the coaches. Texas had no clue what to do with Gilbert last year.

- Yeah, Texas has its own network. In a way, though, so does Notre Dame. All the big teams are on TV all the time; the Longhorn Network seems like it should be a big problem, but it's not possible for Texas to get any bigger.

- Missouri is going to fly under the preseason radar, but if you want a sleeper team, here it is. Everything is in place for a monster season.

- Arkansas is in the national mix, but you can't have a top five ranking of wide receiving units this year without Texas A&M, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State.

- Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon and Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles quickly made everyone forget about Michael Crabtree.

- Art Briles certainly thinks differently, but Baylor hit its ceiling. Beating Sam Houston State, Buffalo, Rice, Kansas, Colorado, Kansas State, and a Texas team that was weak and sad by late October is no reason to do jumping jacks. When it became game time down the stretch and in the bowl, the Bears folded.

- How can this loaded Texas A&M not do really big things? It's Texas A&M. And the last time the Aggies lived up to championship-level expectations was ... ?

- I'm not sure where it'll come, but watch out for Kansas State to pull off a sneaky-big shocker at some point. This could be a sleeper team that rolls once it figures out what it can consistently do well on offense.

- Pretentious-but-true thought of the day: If you like linebackers, you have to go out of your way to watch the Iowa State tandem of A.J. Klein and Jake Knott.

- The most important stat of the Big 12 season: sacks allowed. Oklahoma State led the league and was seventh in the nation in the fewest sacks allowed. If Brandon Weeden gets the same time, former offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen won't be missed and the Cowboy offense will be unstoppable.

- It doesn't seem like the Big 12 cares too much about losing Nebraska and Colorado. The angst and focus is more on the Longhorn Network.

- NO ONE is talking about Texas Tech. Say what you will about Mike Leach, but he made the program relevant. However, that's not to say Tommy Tuberville won't come up with decent results.

- This is going to be fun. The everyone-plays-everyone conference race is far, far better than the two division format. It's not fair that some SEC West teams get Kentucky and/or Vanderbilt and some get Florida and/or South Carolina. It's not fair for some Pac-12 South teams to miss Oregon while someone else misses Washington State. The Big 12 has a true conference race.

- Big 12, you're not the Big Ten. Your brand name isn't so great that it has to be kept at the expense of a common sense name.

- With TCU going to the Big East, where does the league potentially expand? Houston? There's no reason to bring aboard more Texas programs. Southern Miss? Maybe. My suggestion - grab a piece of Florida and make a push to bring in UCF and South Florida.

- Big 12, learn your lessons from the past and be proactive. You're going to lose Missouri the second anyone else extends an invite, and Oklahoma might be ripe for the picking if the perception is there that Texas is getting even more preferential treatment.

By Richard Cirminiello

Since just about everyone can score in the Big 12, the league crown will go to the team that can make the most stops. That said, it's highly possible that not one of the 10 members will finish the year ranked in the Top 25 nationally in scoring D.

In a conference light on nasty defenses, Missouri have a genuine advantage on that side of the ball. The front seven, in particular, will be stout, with veterans everywhere and NT Dominique Hamilton returning from a season-ending injury. Heck, if JUCO star Sheldon Richardson is a go, the D-line will be among the best in America.

If you believe that the balance of the Big 12 is being forced to genuflect to Texas and its controversial Longhorn Network, you're right. The cold reality is that the ‘Horns are the glue that kept the conference from completely falling apart a year ago.

Landry Jones or Brandon Weeden? Does it really matter? Both quarterbacks figure to deliver monster, draft-stock-raising seasons for Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, respectively.

Weeden and Justin Blackmon will continue to get top billing, but RB Joseph Randle will enjoy the biggest growth spurt among the Oklahoma State playmakers. The sophomore is a dynamite all-around weapon, who'll just happen to be navigating behind one of the country's best offensive lines.

Sure, DeMarco Murray will be missed in Norman, but Oklahoma will make due just fine in the backfield. Out of slippery sophomore Roy Finch, mega-recruit Brandon Williams and physical Brennan Clay, Bob Stoops biggest concern might be maximizing the skills of young backs.

The evolution of the rebuilt secondary could dictate the Sooners' potential as a BCS National Championship contender in 2011. Last month's reinstatement of senior CB Jamell Fleming, though, was an enormous boost to the defensive backfield. He's an anchor-type player who's capable of elevating those around him.

If Mike Sherman can't win big with the returning talent he has at Texas A&M, he may never do it. The fourth-year head coach is the pilot of the most talented Aggie team in over a decade, but elevated expectations have vexed this program many times in the past.

Although there's no easy way to replace Von Miller at Texas A&M, new Joker Damontre Moore is certainly eager to try. Provided Miller isn't the measuring stick, the sophomore will have a great future in College Station.

Mizzou QB James Franklin might be the most important individual in the Big 12 this season. If he can adequately overcome the loss of not one, but two Gabberts, the Tigers are capable of being this season's big surprise in the Big 12.

While Texas has the defense and the fresh energy on the sidelines to return to the postseason, the offense remains a liability. How does a program of such means struggle to solidify an offensive line and develop playmakers? QB Garrett Gilbert will endure a similar fate as last year if he doesn't get significantly more support.

Tommy Tuberville is looking for a feature back, as he attempts to inject a more physical approach to the Texas Tech offense. Rookie Ronnie Daniels has the body and the head start to be that guy for the second-year head coach.

The secret weapon in Waco is the offensive line that protects franchise QB Robert Griffin. Even without first-round draft choice Danny Watkins, this group of four returning starters and rising star Cyril Richardson is capable of dominating with both power and precision.

I'm getting a sneaking suspicion that Kansas State's high-profile signings of the Brown brothers—LB Arthur from Miami and RB Bryce—will go half-well. While both players are enormously gifted, Arthur has shown more of a willingness

Patience is highly recommended when it comes to Kansas coach Turner Gill. He's a capable coach who inherited a very difficult situation in Lawrence. Sort of like Gene Chizik, when he took over

By Matt Zemek

Losing Dana Holgorsen will hurt Oklahoma State. Then again, the pain won't be too substantial. Not with Justin Blackmon back. Not with Mike Gundy – a solid play-caller and an offense-first guy – in charge of the program. The persistent issue in Stillwater is, has been, and will continue to be the defensive side of the ball. Consider that OSU has scored 41 points each of the last two times it has hosted Oklahoma in the Bedlam Series… and lost. The Cowboys will score this year; will they stop anybody?

Okay, Ryan Tannehill – you played brilliantly and wisely in relief of a talented but wildly erratic Jerrod Johnson, rescuing a Texas A&M football season partly because there was no pressure on your shoulders, and partly because you weren't asked to do too much. Let's see you answer the bell this season under appreciably different circumstances.

Ready to play defense this season, Texas Tech? You got a "transition mulligan" last year as the Tommy Tuberville era began. This year, a credible (not dominant) defense is expected in Lubbock. This program isn't ready to compete for championships, but it does need to show that it can add some flintiness to the aerial excellence that has become a staple of the Red Raider profile in the 21st century. This team shouldn't finish in the top three of the Big 12; making undeniable progress is the main mandate this fall.

No Nebraska, Missouri. You wanted out of the Big 12, but since you're still around, the landscape isn't that bad. You won't get any love from other conference schools, but you might be able to beat them (sans Oklahoma). Here's a tip, Tigers: In a downscaled 10-team conference without a championship game, the ability to avoid a bad loss (Texas Tech last season) will carry that much more mileage. Can you avoid slipping on the banana peel? That would be an un-Missouri-like thing to do.

Baylor made the program's first bowl game since 1994 last year, but in a larger context, one could say that the Bears have played only one game since October 30, 2010. (That was a 42-30 loss to Texas A&M.) This year, the Bears – for all that they have achieved under head coach Art Briles – will be forced to show that they can hang with the big boys. Another autumn in which BU gets whacked by upper-tier programs will take the shine off 2010, especially if Texas makes a return to the top of the conference. Baylor was opportunistic and resourceful against all of the Big 12's particularly beatable teams, but it couldn't stand in the ring against loaded opponents. Knocking down one modest barrier is certainly something to celebrate in Waco; now comes a set of challenges that will reveal so much more about the health and staying power of Baylor football.

The biggest reason why Texas could once again be TEXAS in 2011: Bryan Harsin. The biggest reason why Texas might not be TEXAS in 2011: The offensive personnel on hand, particularly along the offensive line. Here are other sets of competing tension points in Austin: Will the addition of Manny Diaz offset the loss of Will Muschamp at defensive coordinator? Will the chaotic nature of the coaching situation be cancelled out by the fact that a "coach-in-waiting" drama no longer looms over the program? Was Garrett Gilbert destined for failure in 2010 no matter what (he was replacing a legend, after all), or was last season a perfect storm of misery that just happened to sabotage Gilbert's confidence? It's hard to find a more fascinating team in all of college football this season.

The biggest key to the 2011 Big 12 season and – legitimately – the whole college football season? Landry Jones's cranium.

Oklahoma won't win at Florida State, but it will take the Big 12 with Oklahoma State finishing second and Missouri third.

Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee

- Yes, Oklahoma is the odds on favorite, and it's not necessarily because they are one of the top teams in the country. The new look Big 12 is a joke, and if the Sooners don't win the title and run the table, it'd be a let down. In fact, the biggest game of Oklahoma's season isn't even a Big 12 game at all. It's September 17 at Florida State.

- Oklahoma State is a legitimate national title contender as well. There's a decent chance that the Cowboys will be undefeated when they host Oklahoma for Bedlam on December 3. Even without former offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, quarterback Brandon Weeden will again put up xBox numbers, and will be in New York in mid-December for the Heisman Trophy presentation.

- Texas is not back. The Longhorns haven't had a steady running back in a while. While freshman Malcolm Brown has a lot of hype, he'll undoubtedly be the guy from the jump. That's a lot of pressure for a guy that's never carried the ball in college football. Back-to-back games vs. Oklahoma (in Arlington, Texas) and at home against Oklahoma State will knock the Longhorns out of conference title contention, but are really the only tough tests of the season.

- On paper, Texas A&M will look like a powerhouse, but games aren't played on paper. A very forgiving road schedule with games at Texas Tech, Iowa State and Kansas State will inflate the stature of the Aggies.

-Will this be the last year of the Big 12? Probably not, but the conference again appears to be on shaky ground. Whether it's A&M and Oklahoma (and perhaps others) bolting to the SEC, or Texas deciding that it wants go independent, the existence of the Longhorn Network certainly appears to have stirred up that hornet's nest again.

Russ Mitchell
Follow me on Twitter: @russmitchellcfb

- Enjoy it, because this is very likely the last year of the Big 12. Giving Texas "Most Favored Nation" status was difficult enough to swallow. But the Longhorn Network is the kiss of death. The Longhorn Network will do to the Big 12 what the NCAA did to SMU.

- Recognizing that the era of the "superconference" is upon us, and to protect their financial interests, the universities of the Big 12 should be proactive and disband to ensure the maximum number of institutions land in profitable conferences. Or they can wait until the music stops and there are no more chairs - in which case a good number will be the proud, anchor tenants of that future Mountain West.

- Like most, we're admirers of Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, and the Bears story certainly is a nice one. But stop. This is a team that finished the year .500 in conference and 7-6 overall, that gave up 46 point per game in those six losses, whose best win was Kansas State (3-5 in conference; 7-6), that surrendered 725 yards of offense to the OSU Cowboys, and went winless after October (including a poor showing against a suspect Illinois team in a Texas Bowl blowout).

- Oklahoma/Texas isn't just a rivalry anymore - it's the Big 12. Past the Red River hoedown, 60% of the conference is now comprised of teams from these border states. Raise your hand if you think that sounds enduring.

- All eyes will be on Austin, TX on September 10th when the Longhorns host the BYU Cougars. Both programs have done well during the past five years, with each team having lost just 15 times over that span. However, both programs are coming off seasons they'd sooner forget and have a lot riding on 2011. If it wants to preserve its perception of invincibility, Texas simply cannot afford a second poor showing after what was a horrific 2010. Meanwhile, BYU is entering its first season of independence and is promoting a new TV partnership with ESPN - to say the Cougars have a lot on the line is an understatement.

- For those Big 12 fans that think there's no way little 'ol BYU can drive into Austin and leave victorious, they did just that the last time the two teams played there - a 22-17 Cougar victory in 1987. BYU won the following year too, in Provo, 47-6. Buckle up!

- Hey Coach Brown - ask LSU coach Les Miles how much the rest of the talent on his roster counted without steady play from the quarterback position.

- Oklahoma may be the team to beat, but we're more interested in watching the Texas A&M Aggies. With the conference's best running back duo, improved quarterback play, a good offensive line, and All-Big 12 talent dotting the roster, this could be a big year for coach Mike Sherman and Co. Circle them now on your calendar: Sep. 24 @ home against OSU, Oct. 1 against Arkansas in Arlington, and Nov. 5 in Norman against those Sooners. Those last two will likely be the Aggies' demise.

- 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