The Big XII lost a key member this season, Nebraska. They had been to the Big XII championship game the last two seasons. The conference also lost Colorado to the Pac-12 as well.
Now, the Big XII is left with ten teams. Three are in the top ten in the preseason rankings, and five total in the top 25. Oklahoma is number one, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M are 8 and 9 respectively, Missouri is no. 21 and Texas is no. 24. However, outside of Oklahoma, all have questions. Oklahoma is the most experienced team in the Big XII by far.
Let’s take a look at the Big XII competition this season and why outside of Oklahoma, everyone is overrated.
Oklahoma State is ranked no. 8 to start the season and return quarterback Brandon Weeden, and wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Last season, Weeden put up 4,277 yards, 34 touchdowns to 13 interceptions, and had a 66.9 competition percentage. Blackmon 111 receptions for 1,782 yards, and 20 touchdowns. The Cowboys are a threat to the Sooners in the Big 12, but lost some key offensive playmakers. Running Kendall Hunter moved on to the NFL, and offensive coordinator Dana Holgerson moved onto West Virginia.
The Cowboys were sixth overall in total offense, with 520 yards a game, and 355 passing yards to 174 rushing yards. Their running game countered their passing game last season. Teams had to prepare both for their passing and running games. Sophomores Joseph Randle, and Jeremy Smith will be the men receiving handoffs from Weeden. Randle saw some playing time last year, as he had 452 rushing yards, and 437 receiving yards.
In 2011, with a new offensive coordinator, how will Weeden and Blackmon’s chemistry be, and how will running game compliment the passing game? Teams will focus more on shutting down and doubling Blackmon, and the Cowboys will have to figure out how to work around that to be a real competition to the Sooners.
Next up, the Texas A&M Aggies come into 2011 highly ranked and with high expectations. The Aggies didn’t finish out the 2010 season, like they had hoped losing 41-24 to LSU in the Cotton Bowl.
This season, the Aggies have had to deal with negotiations that might send them to the SEC, might this make the Aggies lose some focus on there Big 12 opponents in 2011?
The Aggies also have a lot of questions on offense, and lost big time linebacker Von Miller to the NFL as well. Ryan Tannehill had a huge second half in 2010, having 1,638 passing yards, and 13 touchdowns to six interceptions. The Aggies return running back Cyrus Gray, and wide receiver Jeff Fuller, but their biggest question is their offensive line. The offensive line gave up 35 sacks last year, that number will have to go down for the Aggies to have a successful season in 2010?
So why might this team be overrated? The Aggies have big expectations to live up to, could fall to the pressure. There defense won’t be the same without Miller, and the offensive line will be telling point to protect Tannehill in pocket for the Aggies to be successful.
The Missouri Tigers are no. 21 and lost big time quarterback Blaine Gabbert. You might ask, why might the Tigers be ranked?
The reason the Tigers are overrated? New quarterback James Franklin, their secondary has questions, and their schedule is hard. Franklin has a good receiving core to throw to, but doesn’t have any game experience. Yes, the Tigers secondary was a key in upsetting Oklahoma last year, but are relatively young with exception of a few juniors and seniors. The schedule doesn’t get easy either. The Aggies travel to Oklahoma, to Arizona State, and to Texas A&M
Lastly, Texas is the last ranked Big XII team. They are no. 24, but have some serious questions, and begins with the quarterback. Garrett Gilbert is likely starter, but struggled last season, throwing 17 interceptions to 10 touchdowns. Gilbert is competing with Connor Wood and Case McCoy for starting job. Defense will also be a huge for the Longhorns. They lost to Iowa State last year, and got drubbed by UCLA, 34-12.
For the rest of the conference, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Baylor, and Texas Tech, work still needs to be done to be top notch competitors for the conference title.
So, Oklahoma are the favorites in the Big XII, then anything can happen. As for Oklahoma, they are the favorite because of quarterback Landry Jones, a star studded receiving core, and a defense that is older and improved. The Sooners also return 18 starters. There biggest question may be replacing running back DeMarco Murray.
In the Big XII, there’s no longer a championship game so whoever wins the season standings will represent the conference in the BCS. It’s all or nothing for Oklahoma.