2009 CFN Big 12 Preview

Posted Aug 6, 2009

The Big 12 is loaded with star power thanks to household names like Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford, but it's players like Baylor's Robert Griffin, Texas A&M's Jeff Fuller, and KU's Kerry Meier who'll help make this another big season for the conference. Check out the 2009 CFN Big 12 Preview, All-Big 12 team, and more.

2009 CFN Big 12 Preview

Team Previews & Predictions

- Colorado | Iowa State | Kansas | Kansas State | Missouri | Nebraska

- Baylor | Oklahoma | Oklahoma State | Texas | Texas A&M | Texas Tech

- 2009 CFN Big 12 Preview
- 2009 CFN All-Big 12 Team & Top 30 Players
- 2009 CFN Big 12 Team Capsules
- 2009 Big 12 Schedules & CFN Picks
- 2009 Big 12 Unit Rankings
- 2008 CFN Big 12 Preview 

By Pete Fiutak

The dream has finally come true for all those who were waiting for the Big 12 to reach its full potential.

Lost in all the current success was that it wasn't a forgone conclusion that the mix of plum non-Arkansas Southwest Conference teams and the Big 8 was going to form a league of superpowers. Back in 1996, Nebraska ruled the college football world and everyone else was taking up space, Kansas State was a star, Colorado was solid, and Texas A&M was trying to shoehorn its way among the elite. Oklahoma was awful, Texas was hardly special (outside of the stunning victory over the Huskers in the inaugural Big 12 Championship game), and Missouri, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech were just good enough to get to bowl games, but weren't anything to get excited about. 13 years later, the Big 12 is a serious challenger to the SEC's unquestioned spot as the nation's top conference.

Okay, okay, to dial it down a bit, the Big 12 took it on the chin in last year's bowl season, at least compared to expectations, and the SEC is probably the better league from top to bottom, there's no questioning which conference is the most entertaining on a weekly basis.

The Big 12 made Saturday nights fun in 2008. While the SEC was busy waging wars with putrid offenses and boring slugfests, the top teams in the Big 12 were shooting it out week after week with a dizzying array of offensive talent and firepower. The mediocre defenses had something to do with it, but the Big 12 attacks really were that good making it a fun season with great storylines, a whopper of a tie-breaker debate, and stars, stars, stars.

The SEC might have more prospects  in CFN's top 250 players who will be eligible for the 2010 NFL Draft, but the top stars are from the Big 12 with seven of the top ten and several more potential first rounders. The list doesn't include players like  Todd Reesing of Kansas, Baylor's superstar playmaker Robert Griffin, Oklahoma State's QB Zac Robinson and RB Kendall Hunter, all the rising stars in the Texas receiving corps, Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who could be the next big thing, and on and on and on. This will still be the must-watch league on a weekly basis, even if the league has to keep proving itself.

Oklahoma is running into an Ohio State problem when it comes to winning the big bowl games after losing in its last five trips to the BCS. Meanwhile, Texas struggling to get by the Buckeyes, Texas Tech getting its doors blown off by Ole Miss and Oklahoma State getting run over by Oregon didn't help quiet down those who spent most of last year questioning whether or not the fun football played week after week in the Big 12 was actually good football. And there will be more of the same this season.

There will be plenty of shootouts, the Oklahoma - Texas showdown could be the college football game of the year, and there are just enough decent non-conference games, at least compared to some of the other leagues, to show just how good the conference is. But it's going to take more in the post-season, it's going to take some big victories in the BCS, and it's going to take wins over the SEC to make an honest case in the discussion of which league is the best. For now, though, the Big 12 has done enough to become really, really good, and it's not going to slow down any time soon.

Team That Will Surprise
Missouri. Most will dismiss the Tigers after losing key players like QB Chase Daniel, WR Jeremy Maclin, safety William Moore, and TE Chase Coffman, but there's a good change the team will be better in a big hurry. Head coach Gary Pinkel has recruited just well enough to improve the overall athleticism on both sides of the ball, new starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert has better pro skills than Daniel, Derrick Washington is the best running back you probably haven't heard of, and Sean Weatherspoon might be the nation's best linebacker, even if Florida's Brandon Spikes will end up winning all the awards. The lines are better, the receiving corps is big and fast, and there's no reason to not expect a run to a third straight Big 12 title game.

Team That Will Disappoint
Texas. Considering this is a national title-or-bust year after all the issues of last season, the potential is there for there to be a major letdown if things don't go perfectly. Oklahoma is better, Oklahoma State has the firepower and maturity to pull off a win over the Longhorns, unlike last year, and going to Missouri could be a beartrap if the Red River Rivalry doesn't go well. Oh sure, Texas will blow away at least seven teams on the slate, but when anything less than winning a Big 12 title and ending up in Pasadena in early January will be accepted, the pressure will be immense.

Game of the Year
Oklahoma vs. Texas, Oct. 17. The game is always among the biggest of the college football season, but it will take on yet another level of intensity after all the nuttiness of last year's tie-breaker that sent the Sooners to the Big 12 title game, and the national championship, even through the Longhorns won the Red River Rivalry 45-35. Watch out for Texas at Oklahoma State on Halloween and Oklahoma State at Oklahoma on November 28 in games that could turn out to mean just as much as OU vs. Texas in the Big 12 title chase.

5 Big-Time Players Who Deserve A Bigger Spotlight
1. LB Joe Pawelek, Sr. Baylor
2. RB Derrick Washington, Jr. Missouri
3. LB Ryan Reynolds, Sr. Oklahoma
4. WR Dezmon Briscoe, Jr. Kansas
5. RB Kendall Hunter, Jr. Oklahoma State

Coach On The Hot Seat
Dan Hawkins, Colorado - Insiders suggest that there's no thought whatsoever of Hawkins not being around in 2010 unless the Buffs go into the tank this year, but there needs to be a major positive step forward to show the fan base that there's hope for a return to glory. The Gary Barnett era might have been marred by scandal and embarrassment, but the Buffs were in the Big 12 title mix every year. The program hasn't been close under Hawkins, but to be fair, he had to rebuild. Now there needs to be a payoff.

5 Non-Conference Games The Big 12 Had Better Take Very, Very, Seriously
1. Missouri at Nevada, Sept. 25
2. Texas Tech at Houston, Sept. 26
3. Houston at Oklahoma State, Sept. 12
4. Southern Miss at Kansas, Sept. 26
5. Colorado at Toledo, Sept. 11

Bold Prediction
At least ten Big 12 players will go in the top 20 of the 2010 NFL Draft. Assuming they stay healthy, DT  Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska, TE Jermaine Gresham of Oklahoma, OT Trent Williams of Oklahoma, OT Russell Okung of Oklahoma State, LB Sean Weatherspoon of Missouri, safety Darrell Stuckey of Kansas, and Colt McCoy are all almost certain to go in the first round, or at least among the top 50 picks. They're seniors, while it'll be a stunner if Sam Bradford, Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy, and Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant don't leave early are aren't taken in the top ten.

5 Best Pro Prospects
1. DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma, Jr.
2. WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State, Jr.
3. TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma, Sr.
4. DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska, Sr.
5. QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma, Jr.

5 Biggest Shoes To Fill
1, QB Blaine Gabbert for Chase Daniel, Missouri
2. QB Taylor Potts for Graham Harrell, Texas Tech
3. WR Detron Lewis for Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
4. DE Sergio Kindle for Bryan Orakpo, Texas
5. OT Cory Brandon for Trent Williams (who'll move to Phil Loadholt's spot at left tackle), Oklahoma

- 2009 CFN Big 12 Preview
- 2009 CFN All-Big 12 Team & Top 30 Players
- 2009 CFN Big 12 Team Capsules
- 2009 Big 12 Schedules & CFN Picks
- 2009 Big 12 Unit Rankings
- 2008 CFN Big 12 Preview