Big 12 South Breakdown

Recruiting seems to have quieted down for a bit. As football fans, writers, or casual observers, the month of July is a pure drag. The only thing going on in the world of sports is the MLB and the Tour de France. Well, we here at realize how sad this is and are here to breakdown the Big 12 South for the 2005 football season.

Baylor –

Head Coach: Guy Moriss (6-17 at Baylor, 15-31 overall)
2004 Record: 3-8 (1-7 Big 12)
Returning Starters: 4 offense/7 defense
Key Offensive Players: Shawn Bell (QB, Jr.), Dominique Zeigler (WR, Jr.)
Key Defensive Players: Michael Gary (DT, Sr.), Montez Murphy (DE, Sr.)
Strongest Unit: Defensive Backs
Weakest Unit: Defensive Line

After a disappointing season, the Baylor Bears had a good recruiting class pulling in a couple of surprising catches from the Class of 2005. David Gettis, the four star wide receiver out of Los Angeles, CA was definitely the crowning jewel of this class. Baylor looks to improve even more so this season. After a shocker of Texas A&M in OT last season, Baylor hopes they can knock off a few more Big 12 opponents this season. Bowl eligibility seems to be achievable with a fairly easy non-conference schedule. The question remains, can the Bears do it? While the North seems weak, however, not as weak as last year, the South will be murderous this year. The Bears don't have quite the depth to overtake a lot of the South, perhaps another shocker, but not enough to go bowling. The stretch from October 1 to November 12 will not be kind to the Bears, despite hosting Texas and Texas Tech. Road trips to Texas A&M and Oklahoma will be difficult to overcome. Michael Gary and Montez Murphy must improve pass rushing in order to help the secondary and the offense has to get rolling under the leadership of Zeigler and Bell. In a nutshell, it will be another tough year for the Bears.

Projected Record: 4-7 (1-7 Big 12)
Key Game: vs. Oklahoma State, November 19

Oklahoma –

Head Coach: Bob Stoops (67-12 at OU, 67-12 overall)
2004 Record: 12-1 (8-0 Big 12)
Returning Starters: 7 offense/4 defense
Key Offensive Players: Adrian Peterson (RB, So.), Travis Wilson (WR, Sr.)
Key Defensive Players: Rufus Alexander (OLB, Jr.), Marcus Walker (CB, So.)
Strongest Unit: Running Back
Weakest Unit: Quarterback

Will Oklahoma reload or fold? This could be the year for the rest of the South to overtake the Sooners. Oklahoma loses a lot of key pieces to the National runners-up from last year. The big question is who will captain the Sooners this year. With the exception of Paul Thompson (Jr.), all the quarterbacks are underclassmen. The most obvious two choices are Rhett Bomar or Paul Thompson. Adrian Peterson will alleviate some of the pressure off of the quarterback situation, but he can't win 13 games on his own. Peterson will, however, be on everyone's Heisman list. Dan Cody will be hard to replace off the defensive line and it appears Dusty Dvoracek, who was reinstated after being dismissed off the team last season, will be out at least until mid-September with a torn bicep. This is Texas' best chance to overcome the Red River curse of the past few years. A loss to Texas would possibly knock the Sooners out of the race to return to the National Championship. This edition of the Sooners will not be as good as the past, but how far off will they be? Only time will tell.

Projected Record: 10-2 (6-2 Big 12), Bowl win
Key Game: vs. Texas (Dallas, TX), October 8

Oklahoma State –

Head Coach: Mike Gundy (0-0 at OSU, 0-0 overall)
2004 Record: 7-5 (4-4 Big 12)
Returning Starters: 6 offense/7 defense
Key Offensive Players: D'Juan Woods (WR, Jr.), Donovan Woods (QB, So.)
Key Defensive Players: Vernon Grant (CB, Sr.), Xavier Lawson-Kennedy (DT, Jr.)
Strongest Unit: Wide Receivers
Weakest Unit: Defensive Backs

Oklahoma State has a new face. Mike Gundy, the new head coach, has never seen the field in such a position. After the departure of Les Miles to LSU, Vernand Morency to the NFL, and the lack of any serious running back candidate, the Cowboys are switching to a spread offense. This leads to some concern in Stillwater. Donovan Woods has several good targets split out wide, but has yet to prove himself as a legitimate passing threat. Bobby Reid could quite possibly push Woods out of his role. The Woods brothers could find themselves lining up next to each other out wide. The same faces are there in the secondary; however, they were not exactly the best unit last season. As a matter of fact, the whole defense left something to be desired. A restructured offensive line looks to make whoever sits in the pocket uncomfortable. This transition could be a rocky one. Look for the Cowboys to take a step backwards this season. The game at Baylor could be for the Big 12 South cellar.

Projected Record: 6-6 (3-5 Big 12), Bowl loss
Key Game: @ Baylor, November 19

Texas –

Head Coach: Mack Brown (70-19 at UT, 156-93-1 overall)
2004 Record: 11-1 (7-1 Big 12)
Returning Starters: 7 offense/9 defense
Key Offensive Players: Vince Young (QB, Jr.), David Thomas (TE, Sr.)
Key Defensive Players: Rod Wright (DT, Sr.), Aaron Harris (MLB, Sr.)
Strongest Unit: Offensive Line
Weakest Unit: Linebackers

After losing Cedric Benson and Derrick Johnson, one has to ask, how good can the Longhorns be. Well, the answer is simple; Vince Young is still the quarterback, and he will be looking for a Heisman. After one of the hardest fought bowl wins over Michigan in the Rose Bowl, this lineup of ‘Horns has the University of Texas smelling Roses again. This is the best chance the Longhorns have to win the Big 12 and the elusive BCS Championship. With OU losing a lot of players, the Longhorns may finally get over the OU hump. The recruiting class was good in the running back department and the cupboard is far from bare. The defense has the biggest question marks at linebacker, but it's not too big of a worry. Rod Wright will clog the middle on the D and David Thomas will clear the middle on O. This is the best chance for Texas to go the distance and the schedule sets it up favorably with the biggest tests at Ohio State and possibly at Texas A&M. A win at Ohio State would set a positive tone for the rest of the season.

Projected Record: 13-0 (8-0 Big 12), Big 12
Champions, National Champions
Key Game: @ Ohio State, September 10

Texas A&M –

Head Coach: Dennis Franchione (11-13 at Texas A&M, 166-87-2 overall)
2004 Record: 7-5 (5-3 Big 12)
Returning Starters: 9 offense/8 defense
Key Offensive Players: Reggie McNeal (QB, Sr.), Courtney Lewis (RB, Jr.)
Key Defensive Players: Joseph Bryant (DT, So.), Lee Foliaki (ROV, Sr.)
Strongest Unit: Wide Receivers
Weakest Unit: Defensive Backs

A&M ended the season on a sour note being embarrassed by Tennessee in the Cotton Bowl. This season will be a better one, but don't expect a change in the record. The Aggies will get off to a quick start behind McNeal and Lewis possibly winning 8 straight before running into a tough stretch from November 5 to November 25 taking trips to Texas Tech and Oklahoma and ending with Texas at home. The Aggies have not won in Lubbock since 1993 and the Aggies last trip there ended in a 59-28 loss. If the Aggies can win in Lubbock, it may change the outcome of the two last games. The Defensive Backs will have to play tougher for the Aggies to improve a lot more this season. They can do it, but the secondary is young and the Big 12 South seems to be going pass happy with the exception of Texas and possibly Oklahoma. The Aggies will be good, but the schedule, especially the first game and the last three games, is not friendly to the Aggies. The addition of All-World TE Martellus Bennett will help the Aggie offense, but will it be enough?

Projected Record: 7-5 (5-3 Big 12), Bowl loss
Key Game: @ Texas Tech, November 5

Texas Tech –

Head Coach: Mike Leach (39-25 at Tech, 39-25 overall)
2004 Record: 8-4 (5-3 Big 12)
Returning Starters: 5 offense/7 defense
Key Offensive Players: Jarrett Hicks (WR, Jr.), Taurean Henderson (RB, Sr.)
Key Defensive Players: Vincent Meeks (FS, Sr.), Keyunta Dawson (DE, Jr.)
Strongest Unit: Wide Receiver
Weakest Unit: Defensive Line

Who's the only team in the Big 12 that has been bowl eligible since the inception of the Big 12? Yep, it's the Red Raiders. With arguably the best receiving core in the Big 12 led by Preseason All-American Jarrett Hicks, whoever wins the starting job at Quarterback will have plenty of targets to throw to. Cody Hodges seems to be the front runner. Obviously, the offense will get its numbers, but the defense is the big question mark. The defense improved from 106th to 47th last season. The secondary is strong and the linebackers are looking good, but the key to Tech being able to compete for the South depends on the play of the defensive line. If the line can stop the run, Tech has a wonderful chance to compete. The schedule is very favorable to the Red Raiders with 7 home games including Oklahoma and Texas A&M. The big test is at Texas. With the schedule, can the Red Raiders compete? Possibly, but it depends on if the defensive line steps up.

Projected Record: 11-1 (7-1 Big 12), Bowl win
Key Game: @ Texas, October 22

Projected Big 12 South Finish:

1) Texas Longhorns
2) Texas Tech Red Raiders
3) Oklahoma Sooners
4) Texas A&M Aggies
5) Oklahoma State Cowboys
6) Baylor Bears

Look for to breakdown the North soon.

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