Wednesday Forecast: End Of The Road For Big 12 Turkeys

  • Wednesday, November 25, 2009 8:18 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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The last week of the Big 12 regular season is coming to a close, but few teams have anything worth playing for. The division championships have already been decided, and only Kansas is playing for a bowl berth. There's always rankings and prestige, but it's tough to predict what will motivate teams -- or if nothing will.

Typically, the highest entertainment value from these final games is the rivalries (of which most games this weekend are) and the potential for firings. Obscured by the media cloud hovering above Charlie Weis, there are a couple different Big 12 coaches sitting squarely on the hot seat, and at least a couple more headed that way if they repeat this season's success in 2010.

The picks:

Texas at Texas A&M: It's the last regular-season hurdle for Texas. But the Longhorns just seem too aware of themselves and the opportunity ahead of them to blow it against the Aggies. Plus, do you see coach Mike Sherman having the skill set to lead A&M in an upset of Texas? It's not that he's a bad coach -- it's that he's a bad college coach. But the ineffective pro-ball mentality will get at least one more season to reign in Aggieland, no matter how badly they lose this game.

Nebraska at Colorado: Last year, NU's Alex Henery booted a 57-yarder that gave Nebraska the lead late in the fourth quarter. It was this game that the Huskers regained the swagger they had been missing for the past half-decade -- they weren't back, but they put on a charmed performance that carries good programs to wins and bad programs to sucker-punch losses. This is always a great game and often hard to predict, but let's say Nebraska.

Oklahoma State at Oklahoma: You're telling me that if Oklahoma loses this game, it ends the season 6-6? No way. I just can't fathom that happening at the hands of its in-state rival. Plus, OSU tends to be unreliable. It seems like a trap game for the Cowboys, and besides, I pick the favorite too often. So it's Oklahoma.

Kansas at Missouri: Two years ago, both Mark Mangino and Gary Pinkel were candidates for national coach of the year. Now, KU is trying to find a way to get Mangino fired, and Pinkel has fallen out of favor in Missouri, although he won't be going anywhere this year. But I guarantee you, the Kansas athletic department is trying to find a way to can Mangino over his alleged verbal abuse of players. Why, you ask? It's all about the Benjamins: If they fire him for being awful, he gets around a $6.6 million buyout. If they have cause, he's on the street without a dollar's worth of severance. It doesn't help that he and athletic director Lew Perkins don't get along.

Baylor at Texas Tech: Overall, Tech's season has gone better than many would have expected. Its big win over Oklahoma exercised some demons, and with a win over Baylor it'll hit eight wins. You can't say it was a failed season for Baylor -- even when the quarterback position imploded, the Bears still managed four wins and proved they've got a respectable defense and solid prospects for the future. If Robert Griffin's behind center for the entire season next year, they'll make a bowl game. For now, they're limping (admirably) to the finish.

Big 12 Preview | Colorado No. 8

  • Sunday, August 16, 2009 9:48 AM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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2008 record: 5-7 overall, 2-6 Big 12 Conference

2009 projection: Coach Dan Hawkins says 10 wins. I say seven or eight. Every game in the Big 12 North is winnable, but I'd expect only one win against the top three.

Reason to get excited: New run-oriented offense will take the pressure off Cody Hawkins to move the ball in the spread offense and control the game clock.

Reason not to get worked up: They decided to implement the power run game after spring practice, so expect them to be a little wet behind the ears -- not good for an offense trying to bounce back from being the Big 12's worst a year ago.

The gist: A lot went wrong for Colorado last season, from injuries to inconsistencies to occasional hard luck. After all, they had a bowl appearance in their teeth until this happened:



Things look a little better this season. The running backs Darrell Scott and fellow sophomore Rodney Stewart, who led the Buffs in rushing last year, are one of the strongest components of the team, and have a respectable offensive line to work behind. Conversely, junior Cody Hawkins is an experienced quarterback who won't get much help from a young group of wide receivers that ranks among the worst in the Big 12. Unless the new recruits at wideout can step up, Hawkins may be in for a frustrating season.

The defense won't take any steps backwards after last season and is probably the stronger of the two units, despite Dan Hawkins' reputation as an offensive genius. There's no shortage of potential starters at linebacker, led by senior Jeff Smart, and cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Cha'pelle Brown star in a secondary that can hold its own against most of the Big 12. The D is also prepped to operate out of 3-4 as well as 4-3, which will help keep opposing offenses on their toes. A lot is riding on how much and how fast CU's freshman can contribute.

Rallying point: Scott. His coaches are expecting him to break out as a sophomore.

Cover your eyes: If that 10-win marker starts to fall out of reach. The problem with setting a goal as lofty and finite as 10 wins is this: if you place too much importance on it, and then you lose a couple early games or find out 10 wins is either unrealistic or mathematically impossible, you might be poised for a big letdown.

For what it's worth: I like the idea of using two running backs heavily, and in theory it will help the passing game. Plus, as late as they're installing it, I'd expect it to share snaps with the spread offense, particularly early in the season. The running backs and offensive line are good enough that Cody Hawkins only needs to manage games instead of win them. Finding that balance will at least get them to a bowl game and should be enough to keep Dan Hawkins out of the hot seat.

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