The Big XII North was one of the tougher divisions to predict at the beginning of this season. Now that we are 3 weeks into the college football season, have any of the three contenders shown that they will be the team to beat this year?
Honestly, the Jayhawks really haven't shown us anything spectacular in their first three games of the year. While their wins over Northern Colorado, UTEP and Duke weren't close by any stretch of the imagination, they haven't been ridiculously dominant either. With that said, at least Kansas has not fallen flat on their faces against their inferior opponents. The offense led by Todd Reesing and Dezmon Briscoe has been as good as ever, scoring 42 points per game over their first three games and the defense is allowing just less than 10 points per game. The Jayhawks have started the season the way everyone thought they would, and I don't think their expectations should change either. They are still the top competitors for the North title in my opinion.
Although this week's opponent, Southern Mississippi, isn't a Top 25 team by any stretch of the imagination, I think the Jayhawks will actually get their first test in Lawrence on Saturday. It will be interesting to see how the Kansas defense deals with a formidable Southern Miss offense because defensive performance was the biggest question mark coming into the season.
The Nebraska bandwagon was filling up rapidly this off-season and it continued to grow throughout the first two weeks of the college football season. The Huskers looked utterly dominant, even if the wins came against Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State. Zac Lee looked like the guy to lead the offense to dynamic status again and Lincoln was talking big things for the rest of the year. Then came the trip to Blacksburg for their game against Virginia Tech. The Huskers didn't step up to the challenge against the Hokies and ended up losing on a last second touchdown throw. What does this say about Nebraska's team this year?
The offense came out flat last weekend in the national spotlight and I think the Huskers true colors showed. Nebraska will be competitive this season with a quality defense, but I don't know if they have the firepower to compete with Mizzou or Kansas this season. The Thursday night game against the Tigers will be another key chance for the Huskers to prove that they are still contenders in the North, but I don't know if they will be able to keep up with Mizzou in Columbia in front of a raucous crowd.
The Tigers were the unknown in this competition coming into the year, so many publications went the safe route by picking them to finish 3rd in the North this year. They made a bang in the opener, crushing the respected Fighting Illini of Illinois, 37-9. The very next week, the Tigers stumbled out of the gate in their home opener against Bowling Green and they needed a 4th quarter comeback to secure their second win. These two games are probably indicative of what Mizzou's year will be like in 2009, inconsistent. The Tigers have the talent to be one of the top teams in the nation (no exaggeration), but the inexperience factor could make them ripe for an upset any given week.
I think going forward, Mizzou has proven that they have the talent to compete this season, but will they be consistent enough to win the Big XII North? I think the coaching staff will keep the team focused enough to at the very least give the Tigers a chance to go into the game against Kansas with a chance to claim the North title, that is how talented they are. The Tigers get their opportunities to prove their worth in the next four weeks with games against Nevada, Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Texas.
So overall, I think Mizzou has proven themselves to be more legitimate contenders than some people thought they were going into 2009, Kansas is in about the same position and Nebraska has disappointed some believers. We'll see how these teams perform in the first couple of weeks of Big XII play and re-asses them at a later date.