Oklahoma edged Texas in the preseason poll because of the Longhorns' unsettled quarterback situation and because All-American RB Adrian Peterson has recovered from the ankle injury suffered last season against UCLA. Peterson is the media's preseason choice as Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year while teammate LB Rufus Alexander nabbed preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. Texas' freshman SLB Sergio Kindle was named the league's preseason Newcomer of the Year.
Nebraska is not scheduled to face Oklahoma until 2008, but the Huskers host Texas on October 21. The Horns, of course, renew their Red River rivalry against the Sooners on October 7 in Dallas. So, who is Nebraska QB Zac Taylor predicting will win the Big 12 South?
"There are six options right now," he replied diplomatically. "Somebody would probably post (my prediction) on a bulletin board somewhere."
The Horns are undefeated in Lincoln since the inception of Big 12 play, snapping Nebraska's NCAA-leading home win streak in 1998 and 2002. Texas is 4-1 against the Big Red during the first 10 years of Big 12 play.
"They've recruited very well the last couple of years," Taylor said of the Longhorns. "They're always going to have good talent."
Iowa State is projected to finish runner-up in the North, followed by Colorado, Kansas and Missouri. It was just three years ago that Kansas State dismantled Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game. Now, the Wildcats ranked dead-last in the media preseason poll.
"I haven't read any of those (predictions)," first-year KSU coach Ron Prince said. "We let the players pick and the players play."
Nebraska coach Bill Callahan is 13-10 since installing the West Coast offense in Lincoln two seasons ago. The Huskers last won, or shared, the North title five years ago, but the 2001 season was marred by blowout losses to Colorado, Oklahoma and then to Miami in the BCS Title Game. Now, the Huskers are riding the momentum of the three-game winning streak that capped the 2005 season and return 16 starters from last year's 8-4 squad.
"As you look at the history of the Big 12 Conference, only three teams have hit the trifecta," Callahan said. "And that's winning the division, winning the conference and then winning the National Championship game. Teams like Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas are the only three teams who capitalized on that opportunity. So we always sell it to our players from the aspect of capturing the division first and then winning the Big 12 championship, you've put yourself to be in the position to be in the title game."
BIG 12 MEDIA PRE-SEASON POLL
BIG 12 SOUTH (first place votes)
1. Oklahoma (23)
2. Texas (5)
3. Texas Tech
4. Texas A&M
5. Oklahoma State
BIG 12 NORTH
1. Nebraska (21)
2. Iowa State (5)
3. Colorado (2)
6. Kansas State
INSIDE TEXAS' BILL FRISBIE'S PRE-SEASON POLL
BIG 12 NORTH 1. Colorado 2. Nebraska 3. Iowa State 4. Missouri 5. Kansas 6. Kansas State
The Bottom Line: Somebody has to win the downtrodden Big 12 North and, four of the past five years, Colorado has found a way to do it. First-year CU coach Dan Hawkins, following a wildly successful stint at Boise State, has been a shot in the arm to the Buffalo program. Hawkins is quirky enough to blend right in at Boulder; meanwhile the good people of Nebraska are still trying to warm up to Callahan's West Coast offense. Nebraska's lofty media rating stems largely from it's three-game win-streak at the end of last season, but look closely at those W's: the first was a two-point home win against a sub-500 Kansas State team, the second was a road win at a cratering Colorado program and the final was a hold-on-for-dear-life win against a less-than-vintage Michigan team in the Alamo Bowl. The selling point in Lincoln these days is that the third season's the charm for fully assimilating Callahan's scheme. ("I never thought in a million years that Nebraska would run this offense," Taylor said). Personally, I think the Huskers are still a year or two away from possessing the across-the-board personnel needed to make its offense hum. What's more, Nebraska's offensive line is, arguably, the most suspect in the Big 12. Some give Nebraska the nod in the North because it gets Colorado in Lincoln, but the home field hasn't been much of an advantage lately: the host has not tasted victory in this series since 2001.
BIG 12 SOUTH 1. Texas 2. OU 3. Texas Tech 4. Texas A&M 5. Baylor 6.Oklahoma State
The Bottom Line: The media buzz is that Peterson is back and that QB Rhett Bomar has finally settled into the offense. The Sooners finished strong in 2005, upending No. 6 (and over-ranked) Oregon in the Holiday Bowl, and would have won seven straight had it not been for a late, controversial officiating decision that awarded Texas Tech the winning score. But if it, indeed, all starts up front then Texas has the edge in the South despite its unsettled QB situation. This promises to be the best offensive line Mack Brown has ever fielded during his 20+ years of coaching. Bomar was not as bad last season as his erratic offensive line made him appear. Now, due to completion of eligibility and attrition, OU returns just one full-time starter from last-year's O-line. And that line will face what is shaping up as Texas' stoutest defensive front in a quarter-century. Meanwhile, Oklahoma's WRs are unproven. If they don't step-up on October 7, the Sooners become very one-dimensional, even with college football's top RB toting the mail. It has overtones of 1979 when Texas D knocked the Heisman out of Billy Sims, or 1983 when the Texas D knocked Marcus Dupree out of college football.
Besides, in a series that has been invariably cyclical since World War II, Texas is not on schedule to lose to their archrivals until 2009.