|COLLEGE FOOTBALL '07: Texas has question marks, but still the favorite in Big 12|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 08 August 2007 05:30|
M. The Longhorns settled for a trip in the Alamo Bowl after botching a golden chance to win the Big 12 South.
Not good enough. Not after Vince Young took them to the national championship the previous year.
``There's been a real high standard set at our place now,'' coach Mack Brown said.
The Longhorns have enough talent this season to bull their way into the national-title discussion and again be the favorites to win the Big 12 - though they have some holes to fill.
Texas lost 10 starters from last season, most of them on the offensive line and in the secondary. Brown also needs a backup quarterback and has to break in a new defensive coordinator after Gene Chizik left for Iowa State.
``We have a lot of question marks with our team,'' Brown said.
One big certainty is quarterback Colt McCoy, who returns after an impressive freshman season. The offense should be one of the nation's most explosive, with Limas Sweed and Quan Cosby heading a veteran pack of receivers and 2006 leading rusher Jamaal Charles spearheading the ground attack.
The Longhorns had the third-best rushing defense in the country last season (61 yards per game) and massive tackles Frank Okam, Derek Lokey and Roy Miller return, along with all the linebackers. Texas ranked 99th in pass defense (236 yards per game) and - for better or worse - only one starter is back in the secondary.
The list of capable challengers to Texas is long.
M and Missouri are positioned for breakout seasons, Nebraska is strong again and Oklahoma State and Texas Tech still have the offenses to spring an upset or two.
And as usual, Oklahoma is the most formidable contender of all. Like the Longhorns, the Sooners have some preseason questions, most notably at quarterback.
The situation is not nearly as dire as it was last August, when Rhett Bomar was kicked off the team and converted receiver Paul Thompson was thrown in as a last-minute replacement. This year, Sooners coach Bob Stoops has more time to evaluate three contenders for the job.
Junior Joey Halzle is the most experienced of the trio, but he only appeared in two games in 2006. Redshirt freshman Sam Bradford and true freshman Keith Nichol are also in the mix.
The Sooners also have gaps to fill at linebacker, but they should again have one of the nation's top secondaries. Oklahoma led the Big 12 in scoring defense last year, giving up only 17 points per game.
A capsule look at the teams in predicted order of finish:
M. ... Duane Akina and Larry Mac Duff will share defensive coordinator duties. ... Redshirt freshman Sherrod Harris and true freshman John Chiles will compete for the backup quarterback job.
OKLAHOMA - The starting quarterback, whoever he is, will have a loaded offense around him. Most of the line is back, as are the top five receivers from last year, including all-Big 12 pick Malcolm Kelly. ... The Sooners may not miss Adrian Peterson all that much. Senior Allen Patrick (761 yards, four TDs) and sophomore Chris Brown (343 yards, six TDs) shared the load when Peterson broke his collarbone last year, and Stoops thinks redshirt freshman DeMarco Murray may be the most explosive back of the three.
M has one of the league's most varied running back tandems with 265-pound battering ram Jorvorskie Lane (725 yards, 19 TDs) and speedster Michael Goodson (847 yards, four TDs). ... The defense allowed more than 330 yards in five of last seven games, including 476 in the Holiday Bowl loss to Cal.
OKLAHOMA STATE - WR Adarius Bowman (60 receptions, 1,181 yards, 12 TDs) might be a Heisman Trophy contender. Bowman averaged 19.7 yards per catch and had five TD catches of 50 yards or longer in 2006. ... Dual-threat quarterback Bobby Reid threw for 24 touchdowns and ran for five more. ... The Cowboys gave up 26 points per game last season and ranked ninth in the league in total defense (364 yards per game).
TEXAS TECH - QB Graham Harrell threw for 4,555 yards in 2006, more than 1,000 yards more than the next closest quarterback in the Big 12 (Chase Daniel). He led the league in total offense (345 yards), completions (412) and TD passes (38), though he also threw 11 interceptions. ... Texas Tech had the nation's third-best passing offense in 2006 (370 yards per game), though they led the nation in the previous four seasons.
BAYLOR - Like the Sooners, the Bears are looking for a starting quarterback. Kent State transfer Michael Machen is the front-runner, though Coach Guy Morriss says junior-college transfer John David Weed ``has closed the gap.'' ... Baylor had the worst rushing defense in the Big 12 (191 yards per game) in 2006.
MISSOURI - The Tigers may never get a better shot at tiptoeing to the top of the league. QB Chase Daniel (3,527 yards, 28 TDs) is one of nine starters returning for an offense that averaged 426 yards and 30 points per game in 2006. ... Missouri started 6-0 last year, then lost five of its last seven when the defense allowed an average of 26 points. ... The same day Texas plays Oklahoma, Missouri hosts Nebraska in an equally pivotal game in the Big 12 North.
NEBRASKA - A killer schedule could mask how good the Cornhuskers will be. The nonconference slate includes a road trip to defending ACC champ Wake Forest and a showdown with Southern California in Lincoln a week later. ... Arizona transfer Sam Keller steps in to replace QB Zac Taylor (3,197 yards, 26 TDs) who was the league's top offensive player in 2006.
KANSAS STATE - QB Josh Freeman (1,780 yards, six TDs) threw 15 interceptions last season as a freshman and must cut down that total and gain more consistency. ... The road schedule is brutal - the Wildcats open at Auburn and finish the season at Fresno State. In between are games at Texas, Oklahoma State and Nebraska. ... Junior LB Ian Campbell led the Big 12 in solo tackles for loss (15).
COLORADO - The Buffaloes are also auditioning quarterbacks and the candidates are junior-college transfer Nick Nelson and Cody Hawkins, the son of Coach Dan Hawkins. Colorado had the Big 12's worst offense in 2006, averaging 16 points and 291 yards. ... The Buffs lost five defensive starters, including Big 12 sacks leader Abe Wright.
KANSAS - The Jayhawks went 6-6 in 2006, but blew four second-half leads. Kansas was outscored five times in the fourth quarter. ... Eight starters return for a defense that ranked third in the league against the rush (109 yards per game). ... Kansas must replace RB Jon Cornish, the league's leading rusher.
IOWA STATE - Chizik was hired to shore up a defense that gave up 31 points and 392 yards per game last season. Seven defensive starters return, including linebacker Alvin Bowen, the league's top tackler in 2006. ... WR Todd Blythe (34 catches, 484 yards) has 124 career receptions for 2,317 yards and 26 touchdowns.