1. Nebraska (9-5, 6-2): The Cornhuskers must overhaul their defensive front four, but they got a big break with quarterback Sam Keller transferring in from Arizona State. That should make the loss of All-Big 12 quarterback Zac Taylor relatively painless.
2. Missouri (8-5, 4-4): Chase Daniel emerged as one of the conference's best quarterbacks last season, and he has a cadre of capable receivers at his disposal - led by tight end Martin Rucker. The defense needs some repair, though.
3. Kansas State (7-6, 4-4): The Wildcats showed promise with a freshman-infested starting lineup last year. Those guys figure to be better in their second seasons. Also, Ian Campbell gives the Wildcats the conference's best pass rusher.
4. Kansas (6-6, 3-5): Losing Big 12 leading rusher Jon Cornish will hurt, but the Jayhawks have a couple of good, young quarterbacks. If they can avoid fourth quarter collapses they could be a factor in the North race.
5. Iowa State (4-8, 1-7): Talented players like quarterback Bret Meyer, receiver Todd Blythe, linebacker Alvin Bowen and incoming four-star junior college transfer Jamicah Bass give the Cyclones reason for optimism. Last year's disaster is hard to forget, though.
6. Colorado (2-10, 2-6): Ohio State's Jim Tressel, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Florida's Urban Meyer won national championships in their second seasons on the job. Colorado's Dan Hawkins would settle for a bowl game.
1. Texas (10-3, 6-2): When healthy, Colt McCoy was the Big 12's best quarterback a year ago. He has a good running back and upper-level receivers for support, but the middle of the offensive line is gone. The pass defense needs a serious upgrade, too.
2. Oklahoma (11-3, 7-1): The Sooners defense will be superb as usual. The loss of tailback Adrian Peterson is obviously significant, but the big question mark is at quarterback where a freshman - Sam Bradford or Keith Nichol - may emerge as the starter. Although that could be cause for concern, uncertainty at that position never seems to be a liability for Bob Stoops' team. 3. Texas A&M (9-4, 5-3): With several returning starters and a strong finish to the regular season last year, some might have thought A&M would be one of the favorites in the conference. However, that was before the Holiday Bowl disaster - which makes us unsure of what to expect from the Aggies in 2007.
4. Oklahoma State (7-6, 3-5): The Cowboys made tremendous progress in their second season under coach Mike Gundy, and they should continue to improve if quarterback Bobby Reid can avoid injuries.
5. Texas Tech (8-5, 4-4): Productive quarterback Graham Harrell and running back Shannon Woods are returning. However, the Raiders must replace three receivers and four offensive linemen. Expect the defense to have issues - as usual.
6. Baylor (4-8, 3-5): The postseason drought has stretched to 12 seasons and looks like it's getting longer. The Bears must rebuild their secondary, find a new quarterback and establish some kind of running game.
Sunday, February 25, 2007