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College Football preview: Longhorns and Sooners Battle in Big 12

Posted on September 03, 2009 by Dean Hybl

Sam Bradford will be looking to become the second player in college football history to win back-to-back Heisman Trophies.

Sam Bradford could become the second player in college football history to win back-to-back Heisman Trophies.

Overview: Recognized as a league of great offenses, the Big 12 was exposed a bit during the bowl season a year ago as none of the high powered offenses in the league scored close to their season averages when facing defenses from other conferences. Lack of strong defenses could hurt the conference again this season when playing non-conference opponents. Despite the weakness on defense, last season the Big 12 finished with five teams ranked in the final Top 25 poll, including two teams (Texas and Oklahoma) in the top five. Those two teams are again in the preseason top five and seem to be heads and shoulders above the rest of the conference this time around.

Who’s Hot?: As was the case a year ago, Texas and Oklahoma are great teams and whoever emerges from their battle on October 17 would seem to have a good chance at making an appearance in the BCS Championship Game. In addition to the two teams competing for a title, the Sooners and Longhorns also have an amazing battle between their two great quarterbacks. Sam Bradford edged Colt McCoy for the Heisman Trophy a year ago, but both players (along with Tim Tebow from Florida) will be vying for the award again this year.

Who Will Struggle?: After winning their first 10 games and earning their highest ranking in school history, the wheels came off the bus for the Texas Tech Red Raiders at the end of the 2008 season. They were drubbed by Oklahoma (65-21) and then lost to Mississippi 47-34 in the Cotton Bowl. That was followed by a bizarre episode where head coach Mike Leach was nearly fired before finally agreeing to a new contract. The loss of quarterback Graham Harrell and wide receiver Michael Crabtree could hamper a high-powered offense that averaged 43.8 points per game a year ago. The Red Raiders allowed 27.8 points per game a year ago and must make improvements in that area if they hope to compete in the Big 12 in 2009.

Todd Reesing will look to get the Kansas Jayhawks back to a BCS Bowl in 2009.

Todd Reesing will look to get the Kansas Jayhawks back to a BCS Bowl in 2009.

Team To Watch: After finishing 12-1 and defeating Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl during the 2007 season, the Kansas Jayhawks struggled to an 8-5 record in 2008. However, with senior quarterback Todd Reesing leading the way, the Jayhawks could again be a contender for the North Division title in 2009. Like most of the teams in the conference, Kansas is not strong defensively, but they do have some solid defensive players, including All-Big 12 selection Darrell Stuckey at strong safety.

Offensive Players To Watch: Obviously when the conference returns the top two vote getters from the previous years Heisman Trophy race those players top the list of offensive players to watch. However, there are other great quarterbacks in the league including Reesing and Zac Robinson from Oklahoma State. Sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin from Baylor had an outstanding freshman year and could be the league’s next great quarterback. Running back Kendall Hunter from Oklahoma State led the conference with 1,555 rushing yards a year ago and takes the pressure off Robinson in the OSU offense.

Ndamukong Suh is a dominant defensive player who towers over offenses.

Ndamukong Suh is a dominant defensive player who towers over offenses.

Defensive Players To Watch: Though the conference is not strong overall, there are some solid players across the league. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh from Nebraska has showed the potential to be a dominant performer. Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and Oklahoma linebacker Travis Lewis are also outstanding players and capable of making game-changing plays.

Key Games: Obviously the Red River Shootout on October 17 between Oklahoma and Texas is the marquee matchup of the Big 12 season, but last season proved that teams must be prepared to play every night in this conference. The Oklahoma-BYU game on September 5 is a big early season test for the Sooners. Oklahoma State also has a big early season test as they host Georgia on September 5.

Predictions: It will be tough for any team in the Big 12 to go through the season undefeated, but Texas seems to have the best chance with a relatively easy schedule. Oklahoma has a bit tougher schedule and you can also expect that the Longhorns are going to be looking for a decisive victory over the Sooners since their win last season still did not guarantee them a spot in the conference championship game. With Oklahoma State also in the South Division, that division has arguably the three strongest teams in the league. Kansas and Nebraska will battle it out in the North Division, but look for Reesing and the Jayhawks to earn the spot against texas in the Big 12 title game.

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