2005 Big 12 South Preview ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>
|The 2005 Big 12 South Report |
By Tony George www.sportsaudioshows.com
In part II of my Big 12 report, I concentrate on the South thisweek, where all the power is in this conference in 2005. Thereare two clear cut teams here that are the creme of the crop, andthat is Texas and Oklahoma without question. My dark horse andpossible contender here, who could emerge is Texas Tech, theyare loaded provided their quarterback can perform. This divisionof the conference also has some of the more high octane type teamson offense, and the better talent overall in the conference asa whole. I will tell you that Texas is poised to make a run thisyear at the national title, and if Mac Brown can win a few biggames, the stage will be set. Here are my predictions, and yes,the eventual Big 12 Champion will be from the South this seasonagain.
Remember this date, October 8, because that isthe game that determines the path the Longhorns take this season,the Red River War in Dallas at the Cotton Bowl against hated rivalOklahoma during the Texas State Fair. Head Coach Mac Brown, longknown for his lack of big game wins, dating back to his days atNorth Carolina, needs to beat OU, something he has never doneat Texas. He also needs to win a conference title, something hehas never done either in the ACC or the Big 12. The Longhornshave the best offensive and defensive lines in the Big 12 andperhaps in all of college football, the best secondary, one ofthe best QB’s in Vince Young, and a senior laden team hell benton destruction in 2005. Consider it a 3 games season with a roadopener at Ohio State early, which will be a war, then Oklahomain Dallas and the season ending finale against in-state rivalTexas AM in College Station, and that one may be for all the marblesfolks.
On offense Cedrick Benson is gone, and QB VinceYoung will be given a long leash to make big plays this year (17-2as a starter), and he has worked hard in the offseason to honehis passing skills. Expect RB Selvin Young to step in and replaceBenson this year, he is as big and faster, but has some huge shoesto fill. If he proves to be sluggish, the Longhorns can rely onRamonce Taylor, a solid backup with 4.3 speed and can get to thecorner and is a great slasher. The receivers are above averagebut unproven so they need a player or two out of this group, andI expect Jordan Shipley and Limas Sweed to both step up, and theyhave a ton of depth here with speed that will burn weak secondary’sthis season. The tight end position is rock solid with David Thomas,who is one of the best hands guys at his position in the Big 12and is a favorite weapon of QB Young. I mentioned the line andit may be the best in the USA this season, so with Young’s runningability, and 2 solid RB’s, and a balanced attack, look for Texasto move the chains.
On defense the front 4 is the best in the USA,and they have all the tools and experience to wreak havoc in 2004,including rush end Tim Crowder. The linebackers are average, butwith a front 4 as dominant as this one will be, they will be betterthan advertised. The secondary is very fast and all are big hitters,and the cover corners are good and they are very deep at thisposition. This defense was ranked 16th against the run in theUSA in 2004 and I look for that to improve, and their overall23rd ranking should be in the Top 10 this season. All in all,with solid special teams, an excellent coaching staff, and a favorableschedule other than 3 big games, the Longhorns may be one of thebest teams in the nation in 2005, and they are the best team inthe Big 12 this season, and are my odds on favorite to win itall in 2005, and make a BCS Bowl, and a possible national titleshot.
The Sooners dumped another national shot lastyear, in ugly fashion to Southern Cal. Give them credit with BobStoops at the helm, they are always in the hunt, and this yearthey will not go quietly into the night either. The Big 12 Southhas better teams than Oklahoma on paper, since they have to revampthe offensive line, Wide receivers unit, QB and a depleted secondary,but this is Bob Stoops, and this guy gets more out of his coachingstaff and players as any coach in college ball.
On offense their is some work to do and somechanges as well, after getting pounded 55-19 in the national championshiplast year. Gone is Jason White at quarterback and his experience,and Rhett Bomar a redshirt freshman will battle it out with juniorPaul Thompson, who I figure to start the season from my sourcesin Norman. Thompson is more the style of Vince Young out of Texasand has great speed and agility. Rhett Bomar is from the samemold, but I do not see Stoops or his staff starting a player thanhas never taken a varsity snap against TCU in their opener. Hewill however see playing time, and this will be a source of speculationall through fall camp and beyond. Adrian Peterson at running backneeds no introduction, and in my opinion, is one of the best inall of college football, and he will carry the load this yearon offense for OU. He is NFL caliber talent right now, and a seriousHeisman candidate again in 2005. The line is a work in progress,but I think they’ll reload just fine, and have plenty of size.The WR’s are a different story, losing 4 seniors to graduation,2 to the NFL draft, and that will take some time to gel a youngunit, but look for Travis Wilson to step up big, and he has experienceand is very quick. The question mark are the other 3 in rotation,but some young talent is there, and look for Jejuan Rankins tomake a mark in 2005. With Peterson at running back to take theheat off of the QB and keep defense’s honest, OU will put pointsup and have more of a ball control attack in 2005.
The strength of the team is defense this season,with a strong front four being the featured asset, including LarryBirdine who is a solid rush end, and they have some young talentand JUCO depth here, and they will be tough against the run. Theyare deep and extremely fast at linebacker and can cover sidelineto sideline about as well as most teams DB’s, and they will betough to get around the ends on. The weakness is the secondary,and hopefully all those top recruiting classes will pay off, becauseall 4 starters are gone, and the top nickel back as well. Thiswill hurt early, and any good team with a throwing QB will havesuccess here, at least till they get their feet wet. They arereally in trouble here, and the roster is yet to be determinedbut some players have dropped redshirts and others have been convertedfrom other positions to fill in the blanks. Running teams willstruggle, while passing teams like Texas Tech may thrive againstthem. All in all, Bob Stoops will somehow pull 9 wins out of theseguys, and with a great running back to eat up the clock, theycan mask a few weak spots until this team gels. Trips to Nebraska,Texas in Dallas, Texas Tech, and UCLA loom large this year forOU, but at the end of the day, this team has enough talent andspeed, with solid coaching to give anyone a game.
3. TEXAS TECH
Mike Leach has his hands full of talent in 2005.All the stars are lining up for the Red Raiders in 2005, includinga very favorable schedule. Off an impressive 45-31 win againstCalifornia in the bowl game last year, this team enters the 2005campaign full of steam and ready to roll, and they did plentyof that in 2004 including hanging 70 points on Nebraska and TCUlast year. This team is no fluke and are my DARK HORSE in 2005in the Big 12 South.
On offense they have no equal, they simply gofor broke every play and run a spread attack that ranked #1 inpassing in the nation last year. This team is sneaky good, witha better than perceived defense, a solid running back and a risktaking approach that inspires the players to play over their heads.
The QB position goes to 5th year senior ChrisHodges, and while his experience as a starter is not good, theschedule is so soft early he can experience some growing pains.He looked solid tin the spring, and unlike some of his previouspeers, he is mobile and is a risk taker and sources say his iscapable of making big plays. The reliance on the passing gameovershadows one of the best kept secrets at RB in the Big 12,Taurean Henderson, who had 16 TD’s rushing last year, and is quickand elusive, and of course, can catch the ball and break big plays.Shannon Woods is a solid backup at RB who had a big spring campand adds depth here as well. The WR unit is deep, fast and allhave good hands. The star of the bunch is Jarrett Hicks, and at6’4″ is taller than most DB’s and he comes down with the ballif it is anywhere near him. The rest of the crew is sneaky fastand all have good hands, including Joel Filani who lit up Calin the Bowl game last year and is a banger over the middle withno fear. The usual for Tech this year, short passes and a quickstrike offense that is hard to defend and with such a vast arrayof weapons and a good RB, they once again will average over 30ppg and be a nightmare to defend.
The good news is this defense is better thanmost expect out of a Mike Leach team. They can rush the passer,and look for sack leader from 2004, Keyunta Dawson to step upand make a huge splash at DE in 2005, and his 40 yard dash timein spring ball was 4.48! The front four returns 3 starters, andthe key is the Red Raiders ability to stop the run this year,as last year they ranked 77th in the nation last year. I see thatimproving with an experienced line and a solid group of linebackersled by Brock Stratton. The secondary is of no concern as theyranked 15th in the nation in 2004 against the pass, and return3 out of 4 starters, and a great safety in Duane Slay and oneof the best cover corners in the Big 12 in Antonio Huffman. Thisdefense ranked 7th in the Big 12 last year, and I expect themto be in the Top 4 in 2005. Special teams was an issue last year,they have a great punter averaging 42 yards per punt, but somework was needed in the kicking game so hopefully that improvesand Tech also returns the #1 ranked returner from 2004 in theBig 12. Look for the Red Raiders to be a world beater at Lubbockthis year as they are every year, and win some big games, andif Oklahoma falters and Texas should struggle for any reason,Texas Tech could be in the drivers seat in the Big 12 South.
4. TEXAS AM
Look for the Aggies to operate at a high levelin 2005, and they also could be a contender. I am not sold onthem this year, and they were very inconsistent last year, losingto bottom dweller Baylor and getting blown out in a few games,and there are some serious holes to fill in 2005. I am not soldon head coach Dennis Franchione’s program yet, but with all worldReggie McNeal at quarterback, this team can put some points onthe board and hang tough in many games this season. A favorableschedule early may mask some weak spots they have, and a trueroad test at Colorado in early October will be a good barometerof where they are at. They also get Texas at home this year inthe final regular season game, and that, as always, is the biggestgame of the year in the state of Texas.
On offense it starts and end with QB McNeal.This guy is simply a top 2 QB in the Big 12, and maybe top 4 or5 in the nation in terms of ability to do what it takes to scorewith his abilities. He took some serious punishment last yearas an option throwing QB, but he is quick, elusive, and can throwthe ball. He rarely throws it away and had only 4 interceptionsin 2004, and is underrated as a passer, as he has a golden armin my opinion. The problem is he had no help to balance the offensewith running the ball last year. Look for Courtney Lewis off aninjury filled 2004 to step up with highly touted freshman bangerJorvorskie Lane to contribute. This will be KEY for Texas AM thisseason, because if they balance their attack somewhat, QB McNealmay have the best trio of receivers in the Big 12 to throw to.With Kerry Franks, Chad Schroeder and DeQawn Mobley, they bringexperience, speed and depth to this position, if NcNeal can bustloose out of the pocket and get these guys in man-to-man coverage,this team could put points up in a hurry. Add in the fact thatthe offensive line returns 3 of 4 starters, and you may have ahigh octane offense here, that has multiple schemes and is hardto defend.
On defense this team should be very good up frontreturning 3 out of 4 and a top rush end, so they are stacked upfront. The weak spot early will be the secondary, and they gotshredded last year but return those starters with a years experience,and should improve. Once again a weak schedule should help thelearning curve somewhat here and I expect Erik Mayes to emergeas a good cover corner, and touted freshman Danny Gorrer to getthe other starting job, but in the Big 12 south, inexperiencewill kill you at the cover spots if you cannot rush the passer,so it is a work in progress on defense. The linebackers are ledby Lee Foliaki slated to be the best of the bunch, but speed islacking here, so they must rely on the front 4 to stuff the run.All in all a middle of the pack defense with some weak spots dueto inexperience or lack of speed. The Aggies will have to outscoresome good teams this year, and I look for a ton of high scoringgames this year involving the Aggies, and a 8 win season.
5. OKLAHOMA STATE
Things are unsure in Stillwater this year as11 year assistant Mike Gundy takes over the helm as head coachsince Les Miles trotted off to Florida. The cupboards are notbare, but this will be a work in progress this year, and one ofthe most brutal October schedules in the nation awaits the Cowboyswith road trips to Texas AM, Iowa State, then home to play Texasand then a roadie to Oklahoma in October in that order. You maybe looking at 0-4 right there, and then the Cowboys play TexasTech at home the following week, needless to say they could loseall 5 games in those 5 weeks, which is why I ranked this team5th in the division.
On offense first year offensive coordinator LarryFedora from Florida wants a “no huddle” offense with a spreadattack led by star QB Donovan Woods, who is a good one to saythe least. He could emerge as a major force in the QB mix in theBig 12 this year and can make plays on his feet as well. The balanceon offense will be using QB Woods mobility and ability to throw,since the running game lost it’s star last year and has unproventalent and most likely freshman Mike Hamilton will start withlittle depth behind him. At receiver D’Juan Woods, older brotherof Donovan at QB, will shine in this spread attack system andcould be a top 3 receiver in the Big 12 this year, but depth isan issue and WR Chijuan Mack is the best of an inexperienced bunchbut has a knee injury which will limit him. All in all, this offensewill lack balance and will need some younger players to step upand fill some key roles at skill positions, so I consider it arebuilding year with a new scheme.
On defense, the Cowboys are a mess, with JUCOtransfers and young inexperienced players filling all major roles,especially on the line, and teams will be able to run on them.The linebackers are led by Paul Duren, but they lack speed anddepth, also a weakness exposed by a good running team. The secondaryis experienced and good, but lack size, and in the Big 12 South,that is a death sentence. Not much more to add as this is a rebuildingyear and the Cowboys will struggle against high octane teams witha good secondary and they are going to be a go against type teamfor me this year. A 6 win season would be a huge step for headman Gundy, but I do not know if the Cowboys can make it, as healthto skill positions will be key down the stretch.
Baylor looks to be the worst team in the Big12 again, and I doubt they win a game in conference play. Theschedule includes every major power in the North, and every majorpower in the South division. A 3 win season, to match last year’srecord would be about all I expect from the hapless Bears thisseason. They are playing 6 bowl teams not to mention they havenot won a road game in their last 24 attempts. They also havenot has a winning season in 10 years, and we can make that 11right now.
On offense, look for 3rd year coach Guy Morristo stick to the plan, strike with quick passes, and a vast arrayof off tackle mis-directional type run plays. They have 2 potentialstarters at QB, either Dane King or Shawn Bell, neither are notthat good but King had 1300+ yards last year as a starter beforean injury, and Bell is also the QB who led them to a shockingwin over Texas AM. At running back they lack size but Paul Mosley,who I saw play in Lincoln last year, has some ability, and ifhe gets more touches this year, may be a 1000 yard guy, but timewill tell. The line is young and inexperienced but Morris wantsthem to develop and sources say this was a major priority in theoffseason. They have 2 good receivers in Zeigler and Gettis, butnot much depth, and I expect this team to produce no more than17 ppg this season, and looking at the 102nd place ranking onoffense in 2004, they might be lucky to break under the 100thplace ranking in 2005.
On defense, they were horrible in 2005 ranking104th against the run, 62nd against the pass and 92nd overall.They have 2 stars in the secondary, and Maurice Lane is the bestof the bunch, and is potentially an all Big 12 performer. Theyhave some depth here, and they’ll need it as teams will attackthem, and this unit plays a ton of zone coverage, so underneaththe zone is open for teams in this division to pick apart as theline and pass rush are still non-existent this year with youngplayers and little depth. The linebackers with Crooks and Tolbertare above average, but all in all, this defense lacks big playpotential and depth, and in this south division, it could getugly again. This team has recruited well the past 2 years andsome young players that will gain experience and make them a betterball club in time, but the bad news is, the Bears will be lickingtheir wounds most of the season.
Tony George is known as a Big 12 specialist,and his 13 years in the handicapping business and 33 Top 10 awardsis well known. To get in touch with Tony check him out at www.sportsaudioshows.comor call hassle free at 800-562-1017 about his wares, hassle free.