Big 12 Media Days are a hodgepodge of media opportunities where reporters, fresh off a quiet summertime, get their first chance to truly gauge a team's potential for the next season. Sure, you get some idea from the spring, but summer marks a time where leaders emerge and other players develop through strength and conditioning training.
Each team will have hundreds of questions tossed their way, so LonghornDigest has come up with one question we would like to ask each of Monday's teams, starting with Nebraska.
Nebraska: Where's the QB?
It's no secret that the 'Huskers paid dearly in 2009 for their poor offensive play. With Ndamukong Suh and Bo Pelini combining to craft a championship-caliber defense, only a weak offense, one that averaged 11 points per game over Nebraska's four losses, kept the 'Huskers from a BCS bowl.
But saying that the offense needs to improve in general is a bit too simplistic. The 'Huskers boast one of the top running backs in the league in Roy Helu Jr., one of the top receivers in the league in Niles Paul, one of the top tight ends in the league in Mike McNeill and return four offensive line starters from a year ago. So if there's any problem spot, it's at quarterback, where Zac Lee faced injuries last year. Cody Green earned some time, but both he and Lee struggled, leaving an open competition. Lee also missed the spring after having surgery on his shoulder. Not exactly an encouraging sign.
With the loss of multiple key players on the defensive side of the ball, the 'Huskers figure to slide back a little bit there. So it will be up to an experienced offense to improve, and, more specifically, to a quarterback utilizing the tools around him. As the quarterback goes in 2010, so go the Cornhuskers.
Baylor: What's going on with Griffin?
Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin elected not to attend Big 12 Media Days, a decision that raised eyebrows in media offices around the region. But Griffin's reasoning was that he wanted the time to focus on the Bears' team in general, without all the questions about his knee's health.
But though Griffin might not want to hear it, the two -- Griffin's knee and Baylor's football fortunes -- are tied together. Without Griffin last year, the Bears went 4-8, and only topped 14 points once, in a 40-32 victory over Missouri. That game served as Baylor's only conference victory, though they were within two scores of Iowa State, Nebraska and Texas Tech, leaving an indicator of what could have been.
Last season's injury was especially haunting in that Griffin, known for his talents as a runner as a freshman, had shown great development as a passer before the tragic blow, completing 45 of 69 passes (65 percent) for 481 yards and four touchdowns to no interceptions.
The Bears return 12 starters from a year ago, and have a managable schedule. The North slate has Baylor hosting Kansas and Kansas State in Waco (two potential wins), while the Bears will travel to Colorado. None of those games are daunting, and with Griffin in the fold, the Bears have a chance to win all three.
So while Griffin doesn't want to answer the knee question, the answer to said question will likely be the difference between a bowl game and another sixth-place finish in the Big 12 South.
Iowa State: How can the Cyclones build on last year's momentum?
Nobody saw last season coming. The Cyclones started the year in heartbreaking fashion, losing 35-3 to Iowa and dropping close games to Kansas State and Kansas. Just like that, the Cyclones were 3-3, and 0-2 in the league. But Iowa State beat Baylor, and followed it up with a fluky 9-7 win at Nebraska. One more win, a seven-point victory over Colorado, sent the Cyclones bowling, where they defeated Minnesota 14-13 to end the year with a 7-6 record.
What can the Cyclones do for an encore? It might sound harsh, but avoiding the cellar should be a realistic goal. The Cyclones played the "soft" Big 12 schedule in 2009, avoiding Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Now, all three of those teams are on the schedule, with the OU and Texas games on the road. The Cyclones also host Utah in addition to their normal non-conference game against the Hawkeyes. So it's probable that the Cyclones will go 2-2 in the non-conference and 0-3 against South teams. That means Iowa State would have to go 4-1 against North teams to reach a bowl game, a mark that is likely a longshot.
The one thing that the Cyclones have going for them is that they only have one road game against the five North teams, thanks to a neutral site (at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.) game against Kansas State. Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri all must travel to Ames, and they'll do so in three of the final four weeks of the season. Sandwiched between the Nebraska and Missouri games is a matchup at Colorado.
Iowa State should field a more talented team than a year ago. But don't be surprised if that improvement doesn't show up in the win column.
Texas A&M: Will the real Aggies please stand up?
Perhaps no team was as bipolar last season as Texas A&M. The Aggies crushed Texas Tech in Lubbock, manhandled feisty Baylor and Iowa State teams and gave Texas a heck of a fight. But that same squad was waxed at Kansas State and at Oklahoma, was blown out by Arkansas in Arlington, lost a close game at Colorado and struggled with Utah State.
There's no doubt the Aggies have talent. When he's on, Jerrod Johnson can be a terrifying presence for a defense. Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray give the Aggies a pair of very good running backs and the receiving group is among the top groups in the league. Even defensively, where the Aggies have struggled, they have some talent on the defensive line, Von Miller at linebacker and safety Trent Hunter.
That talent is the reason that Texas A&M is picked third in the South, and some people feel that the Aggies are a darkhorse candidate to do some damage in the league, much like Texas Tech did two years ago. But to do so, they'll need to be more consistent in all phases of the game.
The schedule doesn't help either. The Aggies, who were last in the league in pass defense a year ago, must again entertain Arkansas's passing attack at Arlington. They exchanged Colorado, Iowa State and Kansas State for Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska from the North.
The Aggies have the talent to be one of the top four teams in the league this season. The question is, which Aggie team will show up? The one that clicked offensively and put up 39 points on Texas? Or the one that scored 14 against Kansas State? Perhaps no team in the league has a wider gap between its ceiling and its basement.