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There's no doubt that this Big 12 season will be more awkward than any other. Mike Leach has been escorted out of Lubbock, Oklahoma-Nebraska is not on the docket and the elephant in the room is that next year the Big 12 will become the Big 10. The losses of Colorado and, moreso, Nebraska, rattled the conference during this offseason and had many ready to bury the league altogether. But how about one more for the road? We've got one last season with the Big 12.
In one of the most memorable games of the college football season last year, Texas edged Nebraska by a single point in the Big 12 championship game. Could the two be on a collision course again? The Cornhuskers are the prohibitive favorite out of the North in their final season, with many expecting Nebraska to be even better despite the loss of Ndamukong Suh. Texas has to replace quarterback Colt McCoy, but Garrett Gilbert stepped in admirably in the national championship game, but he's not the only fresh face. Oklahoma figures to give Texas its biggest run out of the South. The Sooners lost Sam Bradford to the Draft, but his injury made him a ghost in Norman last season, so a possible Huskers-Sooners Big 12 title game is possible.
Using our college football simulation engine, Whatifsports.com simulated thousands of college football games to create this Big 12 Preview. Team ratings, player ratings and depth charts are accurate as of July 31st. What you see in the WIS-Big 12 Predictions table is the most-likely outcome based on the computer simulations. The team-by-team schedules use Absolute Records, which you can learn more about below. Those same game-by-game simulations also generate average points per game for both teams.
WIS-Big 12 Predictions
For this analysis, thousands of college football games are simulated, with the sum of the winning percentages of those games being our final predicted record. As can be noted, sometimes a team is "favored" (wins more than 50% of the time) in a different number of our games than the expected record shows. We list this record as the Absolute Record. The assumption of the Absolute Record is that the more likely scenario always happens. Since we know that it does not, our expected record (in the table above) is far more accurate. Also, especially since we are rounding, it is possible for a team to win a game more often, yet score the same or fewer points on average. In those cases, for Absolute Records, we always take higher winning percentage and are not predicting a tie or a win by an underdog. This is another reason why the expected records are more accurate, as the teams are so evenly matched, the game could easily go either way.
Kyle Ringo of BuffaloSportsNews.net is our Colorado Buffaloes insider:
"The strength is in the experience and depth across the board with 34 juniors and seniors listed on the two-deep depth chart," Ringo said. "The secondary features two fifth-year seniors at cornerback and both starting safeties back. The entire starting offensive line returns and some of them might be hard-pressed to keep their jobs with other experienced players returning from injuries. Coaches believe two experienced quarterbacks and a veteran crew of receivers will allow the team to improve in the passing game, and this was an offense that finished 45th in the nation in passing offense."
"The weakness is the fragile mindset of the team. The Buffs were among the most penalized teams in the nation last year and haven't won a road game since October of 2007. They have been criticized for those shortcomings for months. Early setbacks could be tough to overcome. Colorado finished 113th in the nation in rushing and must drastically improve on their 88-yards per game average. The kicking game also has been a sore spot the past two years. This program needs a reliable place-kicker."
For more from Kyle Ringo and the Buffaloes check out BuffaloSportsNews.net.
2010 Colorado Buffaloes
|1||@Colorado State Rams||84||30-18|
|2||@California Golden Bears||14||22-37|
|8||Texas Tech Red Raiders||30||26-35|
|11||Iowa State Cyclones||81||32-22|
|12||Kansas State Wildcats||60||28-22|
"Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads is intent on building the Cyclones into a consistent winner. Last year was a step in the right direction. Iowa State won its first bowl game in five years."
"But if the Cyclones are to build off a successful 2009, the defense must step up in 2010."
"Seven starters must be replaced and while the spring went a long way to findings several replacements -- defensive tackle Jake McDonough and linebackers A.J. Klein and Jake Knott may have secured starting spots -- there is still plenty more to be done with a unit that is young and inexperienced."
"I think some lights are starting to glow a little bit," Rhoads said. "I don't know if they've turned on, but they are starting to glow."
2010 Iowa State Cyclones
|1||Northern Illinois Huskies||32||26-31|
|3||@Kansas State Wildcats||39||24-30|
|4||Northern Iowa Panthers||95||45-7|
|5||Texas Tech Red Raiders||9||22-38|
Questions in KansasCoach Turner Gill has a challenge ahead of him
"The coaching changeover at Kansas is what will command the most attention after Turner Gill was hired out of Buffalo and promised a more positive approach. Mark Mangino was fired after allegations he mistreated players. Comments from veteran players reflected a better atmosphere in spring camp, though if Gill demands less of the Jayhawks they may continue to flounder after losing seven straight to end the 2009 season. Inexperience at key positions, including quarterback, will prompt Gill to use younger players in many spots, which will probably make it difficult to compete favorably in the Big 12. A tough nonconference schedule, which includes a home date against Georgia Tech, as well as a trip to Southern Miss, makes a fast start unlikely."
2010 Kansas Jayhawks
|1||North Dakota State Bison||95||40-8|
|2||Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets||5||22-48|
|3||@Southern Miss Golden Eagles||28||27-40|
|4||New Mexico State Aggies||93||35-12|
|7||Kansas State Wildcats||35||23-28|
|8||Texas A&M Aggies||19||27-39|
|9||@Iowa State Cyclones||47||30-31|
|12||Oklahoma State Cowboys||32||24-30|
"When Bill Snyder returned to coach Kansas State after a three-year layoff, he wanted to "smooth the waters." Turbulence that developed under overmatched coach Ron Prince was causing the program Snyder built to sink. The Wildcats responded by contending for the Big 12 North title, but a 6-6 finish with two wins over FCS teams prevented a bowl bid. Although it's obvious the Wildcats are better coached, based in part on the overwhelming improvement in their defense last season, many spots must be filled and depth is an issue. Winnable conference games in 2010 will come on the road, where Kansas State must play its final three games of the season. That could make it tough again to reach the postseason."
2010 Kansas State Wildcats
|2||Missouri State Bears||95||43-8|
|3||Iowa State Cyclones||61||30-24|
|9||Oklahoma State Cowboys||42||23-25|
|13||@North Texas Mean Green||72||28-19|
"Few probably expect Missouri to win a third Big 12 North Division title in four years, but one of the youngest rosters in the country last season should become a more seasoned, more mature team this fall. The Tigers must replace two all-conference playmakers on both sides of the ball, wideout Danario Alexander and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, but the bulk of the team that went 8-5 last season returns with hopes of surprising North favorite Nebraska. If the Tigers can challenge the defensive-minded Cornhuskers, quarterback Blaine Gabbert must be more productive in the fall, though a stifling defense will take considerable pressure off Gabbert and MU's usually prolific offense."
2010 Missouri Tigers
|1||@Illinois Fighting Illini||77||34-24|
|2||McNeese State Cowboys||95||56-7|
|3||San Diego State Aztecs||95||37-16|
|4||Miami (OH) RedHawks||95||47-8|
|7||@Texas A&M Aggies||42||33-37|
|10||@Texas Tech Red Raiders||39||30-35|
|11||Kansas State Wildcats||81||35-21|
|12||@Iowa State Cyclones||91||39-24|
Corn StarsNebraska is the favorite to win the Big 12 North
Steve Ryan from BigRedReport.com is our Nebraska Cornhuskers insider:
"Roy Helu Jr. - senior running back - ran for over 1,100 yards last year despite having one of the worst passing offenses in the country to take the pressure off him, an offensive line that was banged up most of the season and Helu himself, who battled a shoulder injury from the Missouri game up to when Oklahoma came to town," Ryan said.
"Despite losing seniors Larry Asante and Matt O'Hanlon, two of the best players in the secondary last year (O'Hanlon led the team with six interceptions), the secondary could be one of the best in the entire country, anchored by Prince Amukamara, considered to be one of the top cornerbacks in the country. As well as junior cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who might be just as talented as Amukamara, but battled a shoulder injury a good chunk of last year."
"The special teams could quite possibly be the best out there as kicker Alex Henery, practically a legend in Lincoln at this point following a game-winning 57-yarder against Colorado two years ago and the only point scorer against Texas in the Big 12 Title Game last year, will be finishing his career with the Big Red this year. Punting wasn't stellar last year, and Henery might actually have some heat on him there, but he's the field goal kicker no doubt. And on kickoffs, fellow senior Adi Kunalic ranked as one of the best kickers in the country last year in terms of touchbacks on kickoffs. He only kicked one out of bounds all season. The problem was, it came against Texas right before the Horns' last drive which would end up in them kicking the game winning field goal."
"In the return game will be Niles Paul again, who will no doubt go down as one of the top all-purpose players in the league, looked at as a Jeremy Maclin type, but about 20 pounds bigger."
"The schedule isn't overly friendly to the Huskers as they have road games at an expectedly improved Washington team in the non-conference, but the tests come when they head to College Station to play the absolutely loaded Texas A&M Aggies, and then to Stillwater to play the Cowboys, and it's never a walk in the park down in the house T. Boone Pickens built. They do get Texas at home as well as Missouri, and providing Nebraska takes care of business everywhere else, the games between the Horns and the Tigers should decide who plays in the Big 12 title game, provided Texas takes care of business against the Sooners the week before."
"The Huskers' biggest test could come against the Aggies. That top five offense is almost completely intact from last year, and with a defensive line that will have to create an identity without number 93, we don't know what teams will be able to do in establishing the run against the Big Red. If Crick holds up and his cohort in the middle is just good, this team could run the table or finish with two losses at the most, and both to south division teams. But we think Nebraska holds serve against the Horns in Lincoln in a game that might be one of the most interesting of the entire college football season. As for the Aggies, only time will tell, but Nebraska wins the north and maybe, just maybe has to play Texas twice in the same season."
For more from Steve Ryan and the Huskers check out BigRedReport.com .
2010 Nebraska Cornhuskers
|1||Western Kentucky Hilltoppers||95||49-8|
|4||South Dakota State Jackrabbits||95||56-5|
|6||@Kansas State Wildcats||84||29-14|
|8||@Oklahoma State Cowboys||84||28-18|
|10||@Iowa State Cyclones||95||34-16|
|12||@Texas A&M Aggies||53||28-27|
Joey Helmer of SoonersIllustrated.com is our Oklahoma Sooners insider:
The biggest strengths for the Oklahoma Sooners have to be the defense, which features veteran and Preseason All-Big 12 talents at every level, including defensive end Jeremy Beal, linebacker Travis Lewis and safety Quinton Carter, and big time playmaking wide receiver Ryan Broyles at the slot position.
A potential weakness is the kicking portion of the special teams unit, where neither Patrick O'Hara nor Jimmy Stevens have stepped up and been real consistent in the field goal game.
Not necessarily a weakness but more-so a concern this year because they figure to be so much better is the offensive line, which mightily struggled with injuries and mental mistakes in 2009.
With that said, I predict the Sooners will be able to win the Big 12 South, as they will defeat Texas for only the second time in the past six years after dominating the first part of the 2000s decade, and ultimately they'll beat Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship.
For more from Joey Helmer and the Sooners check out SoonersIllustrated.com.
2010 Oklahoma Sooners
|1||Utah State Aggies||93||42-21|
|2||Florida State Seminoles||47||39-41|
|3||Air Force Falcons||82||37-25|
|7||Iowa State Cyclones||95||44-16|
|10||@Texas A&M Aggies||72||36-31|
|11||Texas Tech Red Raiders||70||37-30|
|13||@Oklahoma State Cowboys||88||34-22|
"Enough talent exists on both sides of the ball for Oklahoma State to flourish, but much of it is unproven and could take time to develop. What the Cowboys achieve in three September nonconference games (against Washington State, Troy and Tulsa) will be critical, though all are at home and could create a false read. QB Brandon Weeden certainly seems capable of stepping in and delivering, with pressure relieved somewhat by the presence of talented RB Kendall Hunter. Several promising players are stepping into spots on defense, though it will take time for that unit to mesh. The Cowboys must remain hungry and unsatisfied. Stumbling in the last two games a year ago, when a listless 27-0 loss at Oklahoma preceded the Cotton Bowl defeat, indicates that OSU's climb is far from over."
2010 Oklahoma State Cowboys
|1||Washington State Cougars||89||34-14|
|3||Tulsa Golden Hurricane||95||39-17|
|5||Texas A&M Aggies||26||28-32|
|6||@Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns||88||28-15|
|7||@Texas Tech Red Raiders||23||23-35|
|9||@Kansas State Wildcats||58||25-23|
Hook 'EmThe computers like Texas to the Big 12 South
"This could be a season when observers dismiss Texas somewhat because of all the key contributors -- QB Colt McCoy, WR Jordan Shipley, C Chris Hall, DT Lamarr Houston, LB Sergio Kindle, LB Roddrick Muckelroy and S Earl Thomas just to name some -- the Longhorns lost off a 2009 team that sailed undefeated through the Big 12 and eventually lost to Alabama for the national championship. QB Garrett Gilbert has shown incredible promise, though the pressure placed on him to emerge as a leader must be minimized with the development of a consistent rushing attack. The line must materialize on defense to both limit rushers and pressure quarterbacks. This rebuilding, err, reloading, process will be a nice test for coach Mack Brown and his staff."
2010 Texas Longhorns
|3||@Texas Tech Red Raiders||75||28-22|
|8||Iowa State Cyclones||95||43-8|
|10||@Kansas State Wildcats||95||34-13|
|11||Oklahoma State Cowboys||95||34-8|
|12||Florida Atlantic Owls||95||45-12|
|13||Texas A&M Aggies||79||32-19|
"Progress within the rugged South Division of the Big 12 can be tricky. Sometimes teams look ahead thinking they're on the right path, only to take a step back. That's what Texas A&M hopes to avoid after going 3-5 in the league last season with some crazy outcomes, including a blowout win at Texas Tech and a humbling defeat at Kansas State. The eventual result was an Independence Bowl bid, but a loss to Georgia left the Aggies 6-7, the fifth time in eight years they failed to exceed .500. A potent offense led by QB Jerrod Johnson returns virtually intact. The Aggies also will be experienced on defense, though the youth movement third-year Mike Sherman engaged in still leaves much room for improvement on that side of the ball."
2010 Texas A&M Aggies
|1||Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks||95||62-8|
|2||Louisiana Tech Bulldogs||89||38-24|
|3||Florida International Golden Panthers||95||50-8|
|5||@Oklahoma State Cowboys||74||32-28|
|9||Texas Tech Red Raiders||51||35-33|
Irritable Bowl DroughtThe Bears haven't been to a bowl in 16 years
"Contending in the mighty Big 12 South won't be easy. Wading through games against Texas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Texas A&M will be a difficult task. And then there will be the crossover games against Kansas, Kansas State and Colorado. Not to mention the non-conference road game at TCU, which went to a BCS bowl last season."
"The Bears will need to avoid injuries to key players, something that didn't happen last season when Baylor finished 1-7 in the league and 4-8 overall. The Bears are shooting for their first bowl bid since 1994."
2010 Baylor Bears
|1||Sam Houston State Bearkats||95||48-7|
|3||@TCU Horned Frogs||5||19-47|
|6||@Texas Tech Red Raiders||23||25-38|
|8||Kansas State Wildcats||51||29-26|
|10||@Oklahoma State Cowboys||42||26-29|
|11||Texas A&M Aggies||21||29-37|
"The transition to new coach Tommy Tuberville is the story that will continue to receive the most headlines after Texas Tech went to 10 bowl games in as many years under Mike Leach, who went 84-43. Leach was fired just prior to the Alamo Bowl last season for his alleged mistreatment of a player. The firing prompted Leach to file a wrongful termination lawsuit and will be something his former players, including the player in the eye of the storm, WR Adam James, can keep tracking as the season approaches. Will it be a distraction? Will the Red Raiders embrace Tuberville and his staff? Only time will tell. The new coach stepped in and immediately began predicting championships, one thing Leach failed to deliver as coach."
2010 Texas Tech Red Raiders
|1||Southern Methodist Mustangs||79||37-27|
|2||@New Mexico Lobos||95||40-15|
|5||@Iowa State Cyclones||91||38-22|
|7||Oklahoma State Cowboys||77||35-23|
|9||@Texas A&M Aggies||49||33-35|
|12||Weber State Wildcats||95||56-8|
Ryan Fowler is the Content Manager for Whatifsports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.