Olin Buchanan Rivals.com College Football Senior Writer
How they'll finish
2. Iowa State
3. Texas Tech
5. Texas A&M
6. Kansas State
6. Oklahoma State
An inside look at what to expect in the Big 12 this season:
Best offensive player:Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma: The big, fast and elusive junior is already considered by many to be the greatest running back in OU history. That's all you really need to know. Last season he missed all or half of four games with injuries and still was the most productive running back in the Big 12 with 1,108 yards. As a freshman he just missed winning the Heisman Trophy after rushing for 1,925 yards. He needs 1,086 yards to break Billy Sims' career rushing record. If Peterson remains healthy, that should take about eight games ? if that many.
Best defensive player:Rufus Alexander, LB, Oklahoma: A big hitter with good speed, Alexander posted 102 tackles last season, including 17 for losses and five sacks. The consensus All-Big 12 selection was simply spectacular in a 31-24 victory over Nebraska in which he counted 11 solo stops among a season-high 13 tackles. He also had three sacks.
Best player you don't know yet:Graham Harrell, Texas Tech, QB: Red Raiders quarterbacks have led the nation in passing in each of Mike Leach's six seasons in Lubbock. Harrell, a sophomore, should make it seven. He's the first of the Red Raiders quarterback who was actually highly recruited. In high school he played in an offensive system similar to Texas Tech's, so growing pains shouldn't be an issue. Also, he'll be throwing to one of the best groups of receivers in the nation.
Impact newcomer:Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma, DT: Even before arriving in Norman he was already drawing comparisons to former Sooners All-American Tommie Harris. As a high school senior he posted 20 sacks and recovered nine fumbles. Of course, the college competition will be better, but at 6-feet-4, 305-pounds he's ready to step into the Sooners' tackle rotation.
Sleeper recruit:David Gettis, Baylor, WR: A three-star recruit in 2004, he signed with Baylor but did not enroll. Now, he's in Waco and left teammates awestruck in summer workouts with his amazing speed and excellent hands. A big target at 6-feet-4, 205-pounds, he will cause problems for cornerbacks. Despite his size, his sprinter speed is his greatest weapon. Baylor is incorporating a spread offense similar to that run by Texas Tech, so Gettis figures to get ample passes thrown his way.
Assistant coach on the rise:Bill Bradley, Baylor, Defensive Coordinator: Last season the Bears ranked 63rd nationally in total defense. That doesn't seem too impressive until one considers the Bears ranked 105th before Bradley took over three years ago. Although frequently overmatched in personnel, Bradley puts together effective defensive schemes. They held Texas A&M to 16 points and Iowa State to 13. High-scoring Texas Tech had managed just two field goals going into the fourth quarter last season.
Assistant coach on the hot seat:Dave Christensen, Missouri, Offensive Coordinator: OK, so hot might be a little extreme here. After all, the Tigers' offensive coordinator was nominated for the Frank Broyles Assistant Coach of the Year Award in 2002 and 2003. His offense ranked fourth in the Big 12 and 24th in the nation last season. However, that was with versatile quarterback Brad Smith, who accounted for 3,605 yards of offense. He's gone now. Christensen has to put together an effective offense without its leading rusher and leading passer form a year ago. We'll see what happens.
Etc.: At least seven teams will have new starting quarterbacks this season: Colorado, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas and Texas A&M. Kansas State will make it eight if Dylan Meier, the '04 starter who sat out last season with injury, wrests the starting job away from Allan Evridge. If that happens, Nov. 18 could be an interesting day for the Meier family of Pittsburg, Kan. Redshirt freshman Kerry Meier, Dylan's younger brother, is a candidate for the starting quarterback job at Kansas. ? In the last six seasons Texas Tech has played in every bowl game affiliated with the Big 12 - with the exception of a BCS bowl. ? Coaching changes are usually made when teams struggle, but Colorado's last three coaches inherited winning teams. Dan Hawkins replaces Gary Barnett after a 7-6 finish in 2005. Barnett replaced Rick Neuheisel, whose final team at Colorado went 8-4 in 1998. Neuheisel's predecessor was Bill McCartney, whose final team was 11-1 in 1994. ? South Division teams have won three of the last four Big 12 championships, but overall South teams have won six compared to four for the North. ? Texas' current 20-game winning streak is the school's longest since the Longhorns won 30 consecutive from 1968-1970 under Darrell Royal.