Big 12 Preview
Sooners no longer superhuman; is it Texas' turn?
Posted: Monday August 15, 2005 11:40AM; Updated: Monday August 15, 2005 11:40AM


Team on the rise Iowa State
Team on the decline Oklahoma
Toughest schedule Colorado
Most favorable schedule Nebraska
Coach on the hot seat Gary Pinkel, Missouri
Newcomer to watch Marlon Lucky, RB, Nebraska
Game of the Year Texas at Ohio State, Sept. 10

By Stewart Mandel, SI.com

It's the moment the rest of the Big 12 has been waiting for the past five years. Oklahoma, the conference's reigning power dating to Bob Stoops' second season, may have some chinks in its armor. Gone are QB Jason White, WR Mark Clayton, OL Jammal Brown and seven other veterans taken in last spring's NFL Draft. The Sooners aren't exactly barren, mind you -- they still have the greatest freshman performer in history, RB Adrian Peterson -- but they may be vulnerable while settling on a new quarterback and working through growing pains elsewhere in the starting lineup.

The obvious heir to the throne is Texas, coming off an 11-1 season that culminated in a dramatic Rose Bowl win over Michigan and boasting 16 returning starters, most notably electrifying QB Vince Young, but the Longhorns, if you aren't aware, haven't beaten the Sooners in six years and have a daunting road trip to Ohio State before they even make it to the Red River Shootout. Mack Brown's team is oozing with talent and starts out as the clear favorite, but few would be surprised if they slip up along the way. Texas A&M and Texas Tech both pose challenges in UT's own division.

Then there's that mess known as the North division, whose six teams went 0-15 against the South's top five last season. The North can't get any worse, but can it challenge whoever emerges from the South? Much depends on how dramatically, if at all, Nebraska improves in its second season under Bill Callahan, but literally any of the six North squads could wind up in the title game. That includes Missouri, last year's favorite before going into a tailspin; Iowa State, one of the league's brightest young teams; and Kansas State, which looks to return to respectability after enduring Bill Snyder's worst record (4-7) since his debut season 16 years ago.