Big 12 South Order of Finish
I'm going with Texas Tech to win the Big 12 South. Sounds like madness? Maybe, maybe not. I have my reasons and I explain them below.
Photo: MICHAEL MULVEY/DMN
Texas is obviously the favored team in the South. They're coming off a national title run and they return a load of talent sans Vince Young. They're still media darlings. Even their enormous scoreboard gets press.
Every year Texas has tons of talent, but until Vince Young came along, they were good for at least one loss in a big game they needed to win. Mack Brown has been a great recruiter for years, but can he win a title without someone like Young? Their defense, especially the defensive front, is awesome, but Texas has two weaknesses that are just enough to cost them the Big 12 South - a young quarterback and questionable kicking.
Oklahoma's problems start with the dismissal of Bhomar and Quinn. Bhomar is replaceable. Quinn - not so much, and this is where Oklahoma has serious problems - offensive line. I don't understand how so many others can pick Oklahoma so high with the problems they have at offensive line because they're starting the season with little depth and they will suffer injuries. Great defense will keep them in every game, but you know that teams will load the line to stop them and since Peterson is the best back in the Big 12 you know that other teams are going to hit him as hard and as often as they can. , but don't expect Adrian Peterson to be healthy late in the season, i.e., when it counts.
Texas Tech has a new starting quarterback too. The difference is that Mike Leach's offense won't change because of it, and that means returning starters won't have to adjust much to the new guy. They have eight starters returning on offense, including four lineman, and an excellent group of receivers. While Tech's defense isn't as great as Oklahoma or Texas, they do have an offense that can score very quickly given the circumstance. If Tech's defense is adequate, they'll be fine.
Texas A&M is the most disappointing team in the South. Coach Fran has been a disappointment since his arrival. The once proud "Wrecking Crew" defense finished 107th in total defense last year, dead last in pass defense. 14 returning starters, no Reggie McNeal, but a decent set of running backs.
Oklahoma State And Baylor:
Oklahoma State will finish in the basement solely because Baylor is doing better under Guy Morris. They haven't had a winning season since the Big 12 was formed. They may upset someone, but they're still Baylor.
OSU is a very young team and will take a couple years yet to get anything going with Gundy (if that's even possible in the South). Eight starters return on offense, five on defense. Their last four games are Nebraska, at Texas, at Texas Tech and Oklahoma. Not a good sign to finish the season, although they've been a thorn in OU's side in the past few years.
How Texas Tech wins the South:
Texas will beat Oklahoma early in the Red River Shootout with a score resembling something like 12-10, 17-10. Not much offense because of good defense. That'll give Texas a leg up on Oklahoma early in conference play and begin Oklahoma's downward slide for the season.
Texas has scored 103 points on Tech the last two seasons, but Texas will lose to Texas Tech in Lubbock. Reason - the big game that Texas needs to win that they cannot. Most teams in the Big 12 have a strong dislike for Texas, but Tech will be looking at this game as a way to hit the big time. Add up all that emotion, and you see a Tech upset.
Due to losing depth in the offensive line and mounting injuries, Oklahoma's Peterson will be banged up and therefore half-speed or not playing at all later in the season. That's when Oklahoma will play Texas Tech . Without Peterson, it's doubtful Oklahoma will score a lot - instead, they have an offense that can't stay on the field and will allow their defense to get worn out late in games. Give Tech a few big plays -something they're certainly capable of - and they've got a win. A finish up at Oklahoma State and they clinch the South.
Is this scenario likely? Perhaps, perhaps not, but it's just as likely as much of the people out there expecting Texas to win the South by merely showing up for the season.