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2009 Early Big 12 Lookaheads
Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh
Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 18, 2009


The Big 12 was the big deal in 2008, but took a hit in the bowl season. Will it be as strong in 2009? Sure, Oklahoma and Texas will be nasty again, while Ndamukong Suh's Nebraska should be the toast of the North. Check out CFN's early lookahead at each Big 12 team, what needs working on, and why to be excited.


North Colorado | Iowa St | Kansas | Kansas State | Missouri | Nebraska
South Baylor | Oklahoma | Oklahoma St | Texas | Texas A&M | Texas Tech
- 2008 CFN All-Big 12 Team
| 2008 CFN Preseason All-Big 12 Team
- 2007 Big 12 Lookback/Recaps | 2008 Big 12 Lookaheads


 - 2008 Big 12 Lookbacks/Recaps

Baylor

CFN Preseason Prediction: 1-11  Final Record: 4-8


Why to get excited: The four biggest pieces of the puzzle are back in Griffin, LB Joe Pawelek, FS Jordan Lake, and RB Jay Finley. There are just enough playmakers to count on against the mediocre teams, and now, with experience in several key spots, the team should be ready to pull off a few wins it wasn’t able to come up with last year. 

Why to be grouchy: Part of the reason Baylor was able to look so good at times, and why Griffin became such an instant success, was the offensive line. Left tackle might be a top ten pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, while right tackle Dan Gay was rock-solid. And then there’s the schedule. Baylor isn’t leaving the Big 12 South with Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, Zac Robinson and Jerrod Johnson still to deal with. 

The number one thing to work on is: Generating pressure into the backfield. With so many great quarterbacks to deal with, the Baylor defensive front has to be far better when it comes to making plays behind the line and coming up with sacks. The secondary could be the team’s strength, but it’s not good enough to handle all the high-octane passing games of the Big 12 without more help. Getting more out of an abysmal punt return game would also be a plus.

Biggest offensive loss: OT Jason Smith
Biggest defensive loss: DT Vincent Rhodes
Best returning offensive player: QB Robert Griffin, Soph.
Best returning defensive player: LB Joe Pawelek, Sr.

Colorado

CFN Preseason Prediction: 6-6  Final Record: 5-7


Why to get excited: The desperately young offensive line gets everyone back but the anchor, centre Daniel Sanders. Pass protection was a big problem for the group, and there wasn’t much to count on from the running game, but with experience should come more production. Sanders and WR Patrick Williams are the only two losses on offense.  

Why to be grouchy: Three-fourths of the line is gone off a defensive front that didn’t exactly dominate. While there’s a ton of experience coming back on offense, is there any firepower? QB Cody Hawkins is only a junior, but he has two years of experience and hasn’t set the world on fire. The schedule isn’t a plus with trips to Texas, Oklahoma State and West Virginia as part the six road games.

The number one thing to work on is: Scoring. You can’t win in the Big 12 if you don’t score, and Colorado’s defense isn’t good enough to carry the day against teams like Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Nebraska next year. There will have to be times when the Buffs win a firefight, and while the potential is there for a good running game, more is needed from the passing attack.

Biggest offensive loss: C Daniel Sanders
Biggest defensive loss: DT George Hypolite
Best returning offensive player: QB Cody Hawkins, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: CB Cha’Pelle Brown, Sr.

Iowa State

CFN Preseason Prediction: 6-6  Final Record: 2-10


Why to get excited
: Arnaud is a good all-around playmaker, while RB Alexander Robinson and WR Darius Darks are good prospects. Seven starters return on defense, while Leonard Johnson and Devin McDowell are two good kick returners to spark the special teams. As always, the non-conference schedule is light and breezy with North Dakota State, Kent State and Army to go along with the annual showdown against Army, while ISU missed Texas and Oklahoma from the South.  

Why to be grouchy: The overall talent level still isn’t there to challenge the big boys in the Big 12. Going on the road to play Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri will all but end any pie-in-the-sky dreams of challenging for the North title. Leading receiver, R.J. Sumrall, is gone along with key defensive backs Chris Singleton and Brandon Hunley need to be replaced. 

The number one thing to work on is: Finding one thing defensively the team can do well. The one big issue against the high-octane Big 12 offenses was the inability to take anybody out of their game plans. Rhoads will try to generate a pass rush first and hope the secondary can get a little bit of help. Too many passing games were able to throw the ball at will, and while that was a problem for everyone in the Big 12, it was a bigger issue for the Cyclones.

Biggest offensive loss: WR R.J. Sumrall
Biggest defensive loss: DE Kurtis Taylor
Best returning offensive player: OG Reggie Stephens, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: FS James Smith, Sr.

Kansas

CFN Preseason Prediction: 9-3   Final Record: 8-5

Why to get excited: Eight starters, depending on the formation, are back on an offense that finished eighth in passing. With Todd Reesing back at the helm, and with most of his key targets returning, the attack should be even crisper. The entire secondary returns.

Why to be grouchy: The fantastic linebacking corps is gone. The strength of the team, the linebackers were rocks against the run and did a great job even though the overall stats and points allowed might not show it. And then there’s the schedule. KU shouldn’t have a problem for the first five weeks, and then come five games away from Lawrence in the final seven. The two home games? Oklahoma, likely the best team in the South, and Nebraska, likely the best team in the North. Yeesh. 

The number one thing to work on is: Kickoff returns. The offense can move the ball from everywhere, but for a team that did everything right in 2007, and for a coaching staff that emphasized being able to do all the little things right, getting more out of the kickoff return team would be a start. KU was second-to-last in 2008 averaging 17.54 yards per return.

Biggest offensive loss: OG Adrian Mayes
Biggest defensive loss: LBs Joe Mortensen, Mike Rivera & James Holt
Best returning offensive player: QB Todd Reesing, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: SS Darrell Stuckey, Sr.

Kansas State

CFN Preseason Prediction: 7-5  Final Record: 5-7


Why to get excited
: Outside of the loss of QB Josh Freeman, and a few starters on the line, the offense doesn’t take a huge hit. Most of the key skill players are back, there’s speed to burn at receiver, and there are several interesting options at running back. If the coaching staff is willing to get creative, there’s a lot to work with. Yeah, Oklahoma is on the schedule, but it’s in Norman as one of three true Big 12 road games. There are enough home dates to demand at least six wins.

Why to be grouchy: Freeman was everything to the offense and he won’t be instantly replaced. The defense has to find someone to step up and replace Ian Campbell at the end, while the secondary could use more help to go along with corner Joshua Moore. The four true road games (the fifth is in Kansas City against Iowa State) are against UCLA, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Nebraska. There will be little margin for error with the rest of the slate considering the road trips are all likely losses.

The number one thing to work on is: The defensive line. Not only did the defensive front struggle to get into the backfield, but it also did next to nothing against the run. Kansas State allowed a whopping 218 rushing yards per game, which is worse than it appears considering the lack of top-end running games in the Big 12. It was a trickle down effect. There wasn’t much pressure into the backfield, the secondary struggled, and the linebackers had to work to pick up the slack.

Biggest offensive loss: QB Josh Freeman
Biggest defensive loss: DE Ian Campbell
Best returning offensive player: WR Brandon Banks, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: CB Joshua Moore, Sr.

Missouri

CFN Preseason Prediction: 11-1   Final Record: 9-4


Why to get excited
: Most of the big boys have to come to Columbia, or to a neutral site. Oklahoma State should be a power, so the trip to Stillwater should be tough, but the other three road games, Nevada, Colorado and Kansas State, are more than manageable. Illinois and Kansas are neutral site games, while Nebraska and Texas are at home. Three good starters return to the offensive line to pave the way for junior-to-be RB Derrick Washington.

Why to be grouchy: Everyone’s gone … almost. The defensive front will undergo a facelift, the secondary loses three starters including all-star FS William Moore, all the skill stars, outside of RB Derrick Washington, have to be replaced, and ultra-accurate PK Jeff Wolfert is also gone. 2008 was supposed to be the big year when the team exploded, and now it’s time to rebuild. 

The number one thing to work on is: Pass defense, pass defense, pass defense. That’ll be hard to do with so many new players, but there’s no way the 2009 Tigers can compete for the North title without major improvements in the secondary. When Iowa State is throwing for 326 yards on you, and when teams like Northwestern (304 yards, three scores), and Illinois (451 yards and five touchdowns) are lighting you up like a Christmas tree, there are issues.

Biggest offensive loss: QB Chase Daniel
Biggest defensive loss: FS William Moore
Best returning offensive player: RB Derrick Washington, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: LB Sean Weatherspoon, Sr.

Nebraska

CFN Preseason Prediction: 7-5   Final Record: 9-4


Why to get excited
: Most of the key parts of the defensive back seven return, led by SS Larry Asante, while the schedule is as decent as could be asked for. There might be a road trip to Virginia Tech, but the rest of the non-conference slate is relatively breezy with home dates against three Sun Belt teams, Florida Atlantic, Arkansas State and UL Lafayette. In Big 12 play, there are dates at Missouri and Kansas, but the Tigers are rebuilding. Getting Baylor from the South is a break, while Oklahoma and Texas Tech have to come to Lincoln.

Why to be grouchy: Joe Ganz was better than you think. The former Husker quarterback never got any respect in a league full of superstar quarterbacks, but he more than held his own game after game even though he never had the star receiver that players like Chase Daniel, Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, or Graham Harrell might have enjoyed. He’s gone, along receivers Nate Swift and Todd Peterson, who might not have been stars, but they weren’t bad. Key defensive linemen Zach Potter and Ty Steinkuhler are also gone.

The number one thing to work on is: Turnover margin. The Huskers were 107th in the nation, and last in the Big 12, in turnover margin. While the 28 giveaways weren’t all that bad, while the 17 takeaways weren’t nearly enough for a Bo Pelini defense that lives on its aggressiveness and swarming. Once the forced mistakes start coming, the results overall should be even better.

Biggest offensive loss: QB Joe Ganz
Biggest defensive loss: DE Zach Potter
Best returning offensive player: RB Roy Helu, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: DT Ndamukong Suh, Sr.

Oklahoma

CFN Preseason Prediction: 10-2    Final Record: 12-2


Why to get excited
: QB Sam Bradford, DT Gerald McCoy, OT Trent Williams and TE Jermaine Gresham should all be getting paid to play football (feel free to insert your own snarky comment here) instead of back at OU. Bradford, McCoy and Gresham might have been the first players taken in the 2009 NFL Draft at their respective positions. Nine starters return to a defense that was far better than it ever got credit for.

Why to be grouchy: The offensive line is all but starting from scratch. Trent Williams will be on everyone’s All-America list, and Oklahoma always reloads, but you don’t get better by losing Phil Loadholt, Duke Robinson, Jon Cooper and Brandon Walker. The schedule isn’t awful, but OU has to go on the road to face an athletic Miami team that should have a great defense, to Lincoln to face Nebraska, who should be the best team in the North, with Kansas and Texas Tech the other two road games. 

The number one thing to work on is: The psyche. With three national title losses and two Fiesta Bowl defeats in the last six years, it’s hard not to think that the program doesn’t have it when it comes to figuring out the bowl season. Throw into the mix that a good segment of the population that still thinks Texas was wronged after winning the Red River showdown, and OU has to prove it can finish the drill. The talent is there, the confidence hasn’t been a problem, but now the team just has to do it.

Biggest offensive loss: OT Phil Loadholt
Biggest defensive loss: SS Nic Harris
Best returning offensive player: QB Sam Bradford, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: DT Gerald McCoy, Jr.

Oklahoma State

CFN Preseason Prediction: 7-5   Final Record: 9-4


Why to get excited
: Want to talk about firepower? OSU finished sixth in the nation in total offense, ninth in scoring, eighth in rushing and fifth in passing efficiency and it’ll get all the key parts back except for TE Brandon Pettigrew. QB Zac Robinson, WR Dez Bryant, RB Kendall Hunter, RB Keith Toston, and WRs Damian Davis and DeMarcus Conner all return, while even more help comes from the stunning return of first-round talent Russell Okung at tackle.

Why to be grouchy: The secondary loses three starters from a group that wasn’t exactly a brick wall to begin with. Center David Washington was an excellent quarterback up front and guard Steve Denning was a good one. Punter Matt Fodge was one of the best in America and will be sorely missed. For good or bad, depending on what kind of a statement the team is looking to make, the season starts out against Georgia.

The number one thing to work on is: A pass rush. There was just enough pressure generated throughout the season to take quarterbacks out of their comfort zones, but the team was last in the Big 12 in sacks and the rest of the defense suffered. With Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, and the Texas Tech passing game to deal with, getting to the quarterback will be vital.

Biggest offensive loss: TE Brandon Pettigrew
Biggest defensive loss: CB Jacob Lacey
Best returning offensive player: WR Dez Bryant, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: LB Andre Sexton, Sr.

Texas

CFN Preseason Prediction: 8-4   Final Record: 12-1


Why to get excited
: Four starters are back on the offensive line, WR Jordan Shipley got a sixth year of eligibility, Fozzy Whittaker, Cody Johnson and Vondrell McGee are returning in the backfield, and five players in the defensive back seven, led by LB Sergio Kindle, are back. Oh yeah, and the guy who finished second in the Heisman voting returns, too. The non-conference schedule is nice and cushy.

Why to be grouchy: The defensive line has to find four new starters, and a new Brian Orakpo has to emerge to be the pass rusher to build the front around. There are always going to be tough road games in the Big 12, but Texas has a brutal stretch of the Oklahoma game in Dallas followed up by a road trip to Missouri followed up by a trip to Oklahoma State. And then Texas Tech comes to town. Even if the Longhorns can get through all that unscathed, they’ll still have to deal with the regular-season ending date with Texas A&M in College Station.

The number one thing to work on is: Getting the running backs even more involved. Colt McCoy being mobile is one thing, but he’s not supposed to lead the team in rushing. For good and bad he takes a big beating, and while no one questions his toughness, getting 136 carries, 48 more than the No. 2 back, isn’t a positive. The running back by committee approach worked, with four backs combining for close to 1,300 yards and 20 scores, and now they have to do even more.

Biggest offensive loss: OG Cedric Dockery
Biggest defensive loss: DE Brian Orakpo
Best returning offensive player: QB Colt McCoy, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: LB Sergio Kindle, Sr.

Texas A&M

CFN Preseason Prediction: 6-6   Final Record: 4-8


Why to get excited
: The experience is there. Nine starters return to the offense and six are back on defense. The offense should be more potent with Jerrod Johnson getting his trial by fire last year. The receivers should be solid and the running game can’t be any worse even with Mike Goodson taking off early for the NFL. The lines certainly can’t be worse.

Why to be grouchy: The schedule is potentially painful. October kicks off with a neutral site date against an improved Arkansas, while the Big 12 schedule gives A&M four road games in five weeks including dates at Texas Tech and Oklahoma. On the plus side, two of the league’s best teams, Oklahoma State and Texas, have to go to College Station, but it’s asking a lot of a team trying to improve to win both of those games. If the Aggies don’t sweep at home, they might not be going bowling.

The number one thing to work on is: The offensive line. The defensive line didn’t generate any pressure last year and didn’t do anything against the run. Obviously, that’s an issue, but the offensive line was an even bigger problem giving nothing for the running backs to work with while getting the quarterbacks killed. A&M needs to be more physical on both sides.

Biggest offensive loss: OT Travis Schneider
Biggest defensive loss: SS Alton Dixon
Best returning offensive player: QB Jerrod Johnson, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: FS Trent Hunter, Soph

Texas Tech

CFN Preseason Prediction: 11-1   Final Record: 11-2


Why to get excited
: Despite the loss of star pass rusher Brandon Williams to the NFL a year early, the defense comes back relatively intact. It’s not going to be a strong enough D to carry the team through the South if the offense isn’t humming, but it’ll come up with some big games and will be a plus. It’s Texas Tech, so the non-conference schedule is relatively easy outside of the trip to Houston.

Why to be grouchy: Not only do the Red Raiders have to go to Nebraska, the likely top team in the North, but they have to travel to Texas and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weeks before hosting Oklahoma. Tech might be a factory for great college passers and strong receivers, but Graham Harrell was special and Michael Crabtree was the greatest receiver the program has ever had by far. They’re not going to be easily replaced.

The number one thing to work on is: Finding the new starting quarterback. While Taylor Potts appears to be the next man up in the progression, Seth Doege, who has had knee problems and hasn’t played since his sophomore year of high school, is an interesting option who’ll be in the mix along with Stefan Loucks. It usually takes a year for a Texas Tech quarterback to figure things out, but Mike Leach is going to demand Graham Harrell-like production right away..

Biggest offensive loss: QB Graham Harrell
Biggest defensive loss: DE Brandon Williams
Best returning offensive player: OT Marlon Winn, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: CB Jamar Wall, Sr.

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