August 2, 2009

Who will be division champs in the Big 12?

At the College Football Roundtable, we ask each member of the coverage staff for their opinion about a topic in the sport.

Today's question: Big 12 Media Days were held last week. Texas and Oklahoma tied for the top spot in the Big 12 South preseason poll determined from a media vote. The media picked Nebraska to take the crown in the North. Which teams do you think will win the division titles and why?

Olin Buchanan's answer:
Although Oklahoma State could be a factor - but defensive issues raise doubts - the South race looks like a tossup between the Longhorns and Sooners. The questions facing Oklahoma center on the Sooners' offensive line. The questions about Texas concern the defensive line. I'll go with Texas to win the South. Why? The quarter came up heads. Nebraska was the media preseason pick in the North, but I'll go with Kansas because of quarterback Todd Reesing and big-play receiver Dezmon Briscoe. By comparison, Nebraska QB Zac Lee and the receivers are unproven. Kansas faces a tougher conference schedule, but the Jayhawks do get the Cornhuskers in Lawrence.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
I like Oklahoma in the South. Yes, I know the Sooners have to replace four starters on the offensive line, but I think most people are making too big of a deal about that. The skill-position talent is almost unmatched, beginning with QB Sam Bradford, TE Jermaine Gresham and RBs DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown. Any rough spots that the offense may experience early on will be smoothed over by a killer defense. The front seven teems with talent, paced by headliners T Gerald McCoy, LBs Travis Lewis and Ryan Reynolds and E Jeremy Beal. The schedule may be OU's biggest obstacle, with games at Miami, at Kansas, at Nebraska and at Texas Tech. In the North, I like Kansas. The reason: QB Todd Reesing, who gets swallowed in the shadows of Bradford and Texas' Colt McCoy. Reesing will have good targets in WRs Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier. It will be key for the interior of the line to jell so there's a strong ground game to keep the heat off Reesing. The defense will carry its weight. The addition of Bill Miller as a co-coordinator will help. All eyes are on a rebuilt linebacking corps in this 4-2-5 scheme that has more speed and athletic ability than you think. Another reason for optimism: KU gets Nebraska in Lawrence.

David Fox's answer:
At first I figured Kansas would deliver on its potential and win the Big 12 North. Then I looked at the schedules. I'm not going to buy Kansas as a Big 12 contender until I see the Jayhawks beat a legitimate team from the South. They'll get their chances against Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Texas. I'll take Nebraska, even with its questionable quarterback situation. Ask me about the South after the first week of the season - when Oklahoma plays BYU and Oklahoma State plays Georgia. I could play it safe and pick the Sooners or Texas, but I'm going to go out on a (shaky) limb and pick Oklahoma State. The Cowboys will have the offense to keep up with anyone to go with a favorable schedule. Bill Young should improve the defense enough to compete. I could see them finishing in a three-way tie with Oklahoma and Texas like Texas Tech did last year, only Oklahoma State has the non-conference schedule to rise above the fray. It's so crazy it just might happen.

Steve Megargee's answer:
I'll go with Texas and Nebraska, though I'm not particularly confident about either pick. The South Division looks like a tossup between Texas and Oklahoma. The two teams were virtually even last year, but I give Texas the edge this year because I'm not sure Sam Bradford will have quite as much time to throw this season as he works behind a revamped offensive line. Bradford will remain one of the nation's best quarterbacks, but I think Colt McCoy will have a slightly more productive season if only because he's likely to get better protection. The North looks like a tossup between Kansas and Nebraska. Kansas has the benefit of playing Nebraska at home, but the Jayhawks also must play both Oklahoma and Texas, while Nebraska doesn't face the Longhorns during the regular season. Kansas has the better skill-position players on offense with Todd Reesing throwing to Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier, but I think Nebraska's defense will improve quite a bit in Bo Pelini's second year on the job. I'm going to guess Nebraska's defensive superiority outweighs the advantages Kansas has on offense.



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