2011 Big 12 Conference Preview and Prediction
The defection of Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the expanded PAC-12 has reduced the Big 12 to just 10 teams and in turn has eliminated the two-division setup of North and South as well as the traditional conference title game. There is no doubt that the loss of the Cornhuskers does take a bit of the competitive luster away from the Big 12, but you can rest assured that the remaining teams are geared up for the 2011 season and a run at the conference title.
Oklahoma has not only been opened by BetBSI as a prohibitive 4/9 favorite to win the Big 12 this year, it is the favorite at 9/2 to win this year’s BCS Championship. Last season, the Sooners finished with a 12-2 record including a 23-20 win over Nebraska to win the Big 12 title and a 48-20 romp over Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl. There are nine starters on offense back from that team including QB Landry Jones and WR Ryan Broyles. These two will look to pick up from the 118 receptions for 1,452 yards and 13 touchdowns they connected on in the 2010 regular season. The defense returns eight starters including All-Conference LB Travis Lewis and DT Casey Walker.
Looking at Oklahoma’s schedule, the path to this year’s national title game has a few rough patches along the way. The first is a Week 3 trip to Florida State to take on the very talented Seminoles. The three big tests in the conference are an Oct.8 tussle in the Red River Rivalry against Texas, a Nov.5 home game against Texas A&M and a Dec. 3 road game against in-state rival Oklahoma State.
Turning to Texas A&M, the Aggies are the second favorites at 5/1 to win the conference this season. This team will also be loaded on offense with 10 starters back from a squad that averaged 277 passing yards and 31.2 points a game. To key players that will be back are WR Jeff Fuller and RB Cyrus Grey. Fuller led the team with 72 receptions for 1,066 yards and 12 TD’s, while Grey rushed for 1,133 yards and 12 TD’s in 2010. QB Ryan Tannehill is expected to get the nod as the Aggies starter for 2011. He completed 65 percent of his attempts for 1,638 yards in relief of Jerrod Johnson last season.
The loss of Von Miller creates a huge hole in Texas A&M’s defense, but it does have its entire defensive secondary back led by CB Coryell Judie, who is the primary playmaker in the group. If Garrick Williams and Sean Porter can elevate their games, the drop off on this side of the ball would be minimized. The Aggies non-conference schedule features an Oct. 1 date with Arkansas. Along with an early November conference showdown with the Sooners, they will face Texas at home in their traditional regular season finale.
Texas is the third favorite to win the Big 12 at 13/2. The Longhorns biggest question mark heading into this season revolves around the quarterback position. Last year’s starter, Garrett Gilbert is currently listed as the starter, but Case McCoy, Colt’s younger brother, is garnering some support among the ranks to get the nod come opening day against Rice. Gilbert did throw for 2,744 yards last season but his touchdown (10) to interception (17) ratio has not really endeared him to Longhorn fans.
Fortunately, Texas can rely on its running game to carry the load with a number of quality backs on the roster including Fozzy Whittaker and Cody Johnson. The defense returns seven starters from last season including LB’s Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho. Besides Oklahoma and Texas A&M, the Longhorns’ schedule is fairly manageable with three winnable non-conference games and Oklahoma State and Texas Tech at home.
Oklahoma State offers some decent value at 9/1, but will most likely be relegated to the role of spoiler against the top three favorites. To round out the conference, Missouri is listed next at 14/1, followed by Baylor at 18/1, Texas Tech at 20/1, Kansas State at 35/1, Iowa State at 100/1, and Kansas at 150/1.
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