As I continued to read the preseason magazine predictions, browse the newspapers from Dallas to Lincoln to Omaha, and scan the Internet sites related to the Big XII, I came to a conclusion. Everything I read I had heard before on HuskerConnection. Those thoughts ranged from the Dallas Morning News preseason ranking of the Huskers as the 15th best team in the nation to Saragin's placing the Huskers 3rd in his power ratings. Therefore, I concluded that HuskerConnection could do just as good at predicting the final Big XII standings as any of those magazines, newspapers and Internet sites. I proceed to do my research for this project by establishing who we are, how we predict the final standings, and then to contact some of the great minds that comprise HuskerConnection.
HuskerConnection is a solid group of football fans under the leadership of our very own Steve Ryan. In a poll I determined that 2.4% of the participants were under 18, 7.3% were 18-25, 29.3% were 26-40, 53.7% were 41-64 and 7.3% were 65 or older. Now that was not a Gallup Poll, was not scientific, but was based on those who chose to participate. The poll quickly shot down the most frequent family and friend criticism leveled at me that I was participating with a bunch of "high school age" flamers. To defend that, I also point out some of the very best posts are from some of our youngest, regular members.
So here, with the assistance of our resident Longhorn, Hookem, is the official HuskerConnection predictions for the Big XII.
6. Baylor (3-9) - Although Kevin Steele may be on the proverbial hot seat, this will be his best team. Steele has established the base that is required by AD Stanton. However, this team still will not be good enough to escape the cellar of the Southern Division. Per Hookem, they will gain their first conference win under Steele against Kansas.
5. Oklahoma State (5-7) - This team will be one of the most dangerous lower level teams in the conference. In their second year under a new coach, they will be capable of upsetting any team they play, as they proved last year with the upset of Oklahoma. However, they are projected to lose to UCLA, UT, KSU, NU, A&M and OU.
4. Texas Tech (8-6) - With Cliff Kingsbury slinging passes on every down, the Raiders will remain a potent weapon. They will put points on the board, and have a very formable defense. They will not be able to beat the powers above them.
3. Texas A&M (7-6) - The Aggies continue to play in the shadow of Austin, and could rise to the occasion this year with key games against the Huskers, Oklahoma, and Texas. They have the athletes to do great things, but again, not this year. 6.3% of the people responding to my poll have picked the Aggies to challenge and win the Southern Division.
2. Texas (11-2) - Okay, for those who have followed my posts predicting them to be No. 1 in the nations, I have to place Texas No. 2 in the Southern Division. I have to relinquish to Hookem, who placed them second, and to the HC poll, where only 18.8% picked them to win the Division. Hookem and I disagree on the outcome of the Longhorns/Huskers expected epic battle in Lincoln as I expect the Huskers to prevail.
1. Oklahoma (13-1) - The consensus opinion is that Oklahoma will win the Southern Division. 75% of the people that responded to the HC poll predicted the Sooners to win the Division. Hookem predicted it. Last year the experts I listened to said if the Longhorns did not win in 2001, their window of opportunity would be closed in favor of the Sooners for the next several years. Well, one of those years is this year, so the Sooners are the pick, against my better judgment.
6. Kansas (2-10) - Clearly the worst team in the Big XII entering the season, but don't expect them to stay that way. They have hired one of the best assistant coaches to take charge of their program, which was in shambles when he came on board. They will be extremely fortunate to win a Big XII game.
5. Iowa State (5-8) - The Cyclones will take a step back with a killer conference schedule. No team with upper level desires tackles a tougher individual schedule this year in games they probably cannot win. The Cyclones recruiting the last two years has not kept up with the rest of the Big XII, and Seneca Wallace cannot carry the entire load for them.
4. Missouri (6-6) - Much like Oklahoma State, any team that plays Missouri better be ready to strap it on. I look for a much better product to come out of Columbia with a new coach in his second year. His biggest problem is he is playing in the Big XII and the power above him.
3. Kansas State (9-4) - Much to my surprise, the Wild Cats have been missing in action from most of the preseason polls I have seen. The experts must know something I don't, but don't count this group of 'Cats out. They have the offensive fire power and the defensive strength to turn the tables on both the Buffs and Huskers. Look for the 'Cats to remain in the fight to the end, but the numbers will catch up to them.
2. Colorado (9-4) - The Buffs will not survive the trips to Oklahoma and Nebraska. However, any way you look at the schedule, the game with the Huskers after Thanksgiving will undoubtedly decide the Northern Division Championship. While the writers and coaches were almost evenly splint on who would win the Northern Division, the HC poll did not have a single vote for the Buffs and Barnett.
1. Nebraska (13-2) - The Huskers will not plummet to the depths some gurus predict. The Huskers could probably survive a loss to Texas or Kansas State, and still win the Division with a victory over the Buffs. Coaches and writers are almost evenly split, but 100% of the people participating in the HC poll, Hookem, and I all predict the Huskers to be the Northern Division champs!
BIG XII TITLE GAME
Nebraska versus Oklahoma - From the HC poll, 47.1% picked the Sooners, 41.2% picked the Huskers and the other 11.8% picked the Longhorns to win this game. The Huskers had the defense to stop the Sooners last year. The Sooners have the defense to stop anybody. Neither team will be capable of blowing out the other team. The Huskers lost more on offense, and the Sooners lost more on defense. If the Huskers young, talented offensive line and defensive line develops, they may be tough to beat at this point in the season. If the Sooners offense heals and develops, they will be almost unbeatable. Conventional wisdom says this time around, "It will be the Sooners." Therefore, the pick is Oklahoma to play for the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl.
So, buckle up and strap it on. There has never been a better year to be a Big XII fan. Watch your favorite team make shambles out of these predictions.