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The Bears had yet another unsuccessful and frustrating season in 2001, winning three games overall, none in the Big XII, and finishing in last place in the South Division. Five starters from the offense and eight from the defense return to this year’s squad. Only one WR returns, and three OL will have to be replaced. The QB and RB spots have returning starters. The Bears need a few WRs to step up and do their job. Defensively, only one DL will need to be replaced as three are back. The entire group of LBs also returns. In the secondary, two members are gone leaving two vacant spots. The kicker for Baylor is back, but the Bears need to improve in all aspects of the kicking game. The non-conference schedule is fairly easy though games at California and at New Mexico will be good challenges for Baylor. If the Bears pull off three OOC wins, a .500 season will be within reach. However, the conference schedule will be far too difficult for the Bears to make any significant noise this season though they could pull off an upset somewhere along the way. I expect Baylor to have a record very similar to last year’s 3-8 mark. They should, however, be able to find a conference win along the way.
The Colorado Buffaloes were the surprise team in the Big XII last season, coming on strong at the end of the season and, eventually, winning the Big XII championship game. The Buffs went 10-3 last year and finished tied for first in the North Division. Six offensive starters and four defensive starters return from last year’s squad to attempt to defend their title. Only one pass-catcher is back for CU, and an entire side of the OL will have new starters. OL Justin Bates is one of the best in the Big XII though. Ochs returns to his spot at QB this year, and the FB spot is taken as well. Junior RB Chris Brown is probably the best in the Big XII and has a chance to be an All-American. On defense, only one member of the DL is back leaving three spots that need replacements. Two LBs return from last year’s team, but only one member of the secondary returns. The punter is back, but a new kicker will have to step in for the Buffs. The OOC schedule is very tough. Home games with Colorado State and USC will be big-time challenges as will a road contest at UCLA. Colorado has a great chance to repeat as North champs and near the ten-win mark again this season.
The Cyclones had a good year in 2001, winning seven games and finishing third in the North divison of the Big XII. Six offensive and eight defensive starters return this season to try to take ISU even farther. Both WRs are back for the Cyclones, but the TE spot has a new starter. Only two members of the OL return this season, and the FB spot is also taken. While RB will need a new starter, everything is completely setteld under center. Senior QB Seneca Wallace is a talented play-maker and a very exciting player to watch. He could make all-conference team this year if he lives up to expectations. On defense, two DL are back, and all three LBs return for ISU. Only one member of the secondary needs replacing going into the 2002 campaign. The kicking and punting duties will be held down by Tony Yelk, a sophomore. The OOC schedule is in the top half of the conference. A road trip to Iowa as well as a home contest with Florida State are winnable but challenging games. If the Cyclones can win four or five non-conference games and Wallace plays great, this could be a fabulous season for Iowa State. Ten wins is definitely a possibility. I think that ISU will play very well throughout the season and win about eight to ten games.
KU had yet another bad season in 2001 but look to turn things around in 2002. After leading the Jayhawks to a 3-8 season and sixth place finish in the North divison, Terry Allen is out as head coach, and Mark Mangino is in. Five starters from each side of the ball return to lead the way for Kansas this season. Two pass-catchers, a TE and WR, return to this year’s squad. Three OL will have to be replaced after their departure last year. Although the RB spot is filled, new starters will have to be found for the QB and FB positions. On defense, two DL are back this year, and so is one LB. The defensive secondary also has two members returning for the 2002 campaign. The kicker is back, but the punter spot needs to find improvement. Kansas’s OOC schedule is one of the weaker ones in the Big XII. The only tough non-conference game away from home is a road trip to UNLV. A home contest with Bowling Green will be tough to win as well. KU fans hope changes on the coaching staff will lead to changes on the product put on the field by the Jayhawks. I don’t think the magic will begin this year though, as the Jayhawks again struggle in 2002.
The Wildcats had a down season last year compared to the previous few years. KSU finished 6-6 overall and a sub-.500 3-5 in the Big XII. Their record was good for only a fourth place finish in the Big XII North. This season, only three offensive and five defensive starters return. No WRs return for the ‘Cats, and three OL will have to be replaced. OL Nick Leckey is a good player and could be an all-conference member by the end of the season. The FB and RB spots are also looking for new starters though the QB spot seems to be in good hands. Ell Roberson is back for his junior season, and KSU hopes he will continue to make the big plays to win games. On defense, two DL return including DT Tank Reese, one of the best in the conference. Two of the three LBs are also back. MLB Terry Pierce is one of the better play-makers at his positon in the Big XII. The secondary is fairly inexperienced; there is only one returning starter. The kicker is back though the punter will need to be replaced. KSU will need to improve in the special teams department this year. The ‘Cats’ OOC schedule is probably the weakest in the conference. Though a home game against Southern Cal will be tough, there are two D-IAA teams on the Wildcat schedule. Though they should move back to above .500, this isn’t the year KSU will step back up to the elite of the Big XII.
The Tigers have struggled greatly in the Big XII over the last few years. They will attempt to get things turned around in Columbia this year, though. Six offensive and eight defensive starters return from last year’s squad that went 4-7 and was one win shy of a .500 finish in the Big XII. Two pass-catchers, the TE and WR Justin Gage return to the Tigers this season. Three OL will have to be replaced though. The RB also returns as does QB Kirk Farmer, though he may not be the starter at the beginning of the season. On defense, three of the four DL return as do two LBs. Three members of the defensive secondary are also back for the ‘02 campaign. The punter is back, but both areas of the kicking game could use improvement. The MU non-conference schedule has a couple tough games: a home contest with Illinois and a road trip to Bowling Green. The Tigers appear to have the experience to be able to move up in the standings this season. If the offense can take a step forward, so can this team. A .500 season is not impossible, but I think the Tigers are still a year or two away from competing for a bowl game.
Led by Heisman Trophy-winning QB Eric Crouch, the Cornhuskers were only one win away from a national championship last season. Even though the Huskers didn’t win their conference or divison, an 11-1 record and tied-for-first place finish in the Big XII North was good enough for the Rose Bowl invitation. Now, a year later, five offensive starters and four defensive starters return to try to take Nebraska even higher. Only one WR and two OL are back this season, and Crouch will have to be replaced at QB. The FB spot is taken, and so is the RB spot. Dahrran Diedrick is one of the best RBs in the conference and could be an all-conference type player if the offense can direct some of the attention away from him. DE Chris Kelsey is one of two DL returning, and he could cause some major disturbances in the opponents’ backfields this season. Only one LB returns as does only one player from the defensive secondary. Nebraska’s OOC schedule is in the middle of the pack in the Big XII. A home game with Arizona State won’t be easy, nor will a road trip to Penn State. The Huskers aren’t good enough to make a run at the national championship and probably won’t win their divison. They are good enough, however, to reach double-digit wins yet again and go to a New Year’s Day bowl game.
After winning the national championship in 2000, the Sooners lost two games last season and finished second in the Big XII South. A loss to in-state rival Oklahoma State ended any chance OU had of going to the Rose Bowl. The numbers look good for the Sonners though: eight offensive and seven defensive starters return for the 2002 campaign. Three pass-catchers, two WRs and TE Smith, return this season. Smith is one of the better TEs in the country. Three OL will need to be replaced. The QB spot will be battled out between to guys who played there last year, Jason White and Nate Hybl. Quentin Griffin, a senior RB who could be an all-conference player, returns for OU as well. The DL is very strong with three returning starters including two, Wilkerson and Harris, who are a couple of the best DL in the conference. Only one LB returns, but three members of the defensive secondary are back, and all three are all-conference type players. The kicking game will need new starters to take over after both seniors graduated last season. OU’s non-conference slate is average. A home game with Alabama will gain national attention, and a visit from South Florida won’t be easy nor will a trip to in-state rival Tulsa. The Sooners have a legitimate shot at the national title, and I don’t think they’ll lose more than one game this season though that will probably be a Big XII game.
Oklahoma State continued to struggle last season as they won only four games and finished fifth in the Big XII South. The season did end on a good note for OSU, however, when the Cowboys defeated in-state rival Oklahoma and consequently left the Sooners out of a shot for a Rose Bowl berth. Seven offensive and nine defensive starters are back this year for OSU. The TE returns as does WR Rashun Woods, who may be the best WR in the Big XII. He led the league in receiving yards last season, and he was the only player in the conference with over 1,000 yards. The two tackles are the only returning starters from the OL, but the backfield is in good shape as the FB and RB Tatum Bell return. QB Pogi is back but may not be starting following an off-season car accident. Defensively, three of the four DL starters return as does one LB. All five members of the defensive secondary also return for OSU, making the DBs one of the most experienced units in the conference. Oklahoma State’s non-conference schedule has tough home games with Louisiana Tech and UCLA. A three-win OOC schedule should leave the Cowboys needing only to go .500 in the conference to have a winning season. I think the Cowboys will fall just short of .500.
The Longhorns had a great season in 2001 as they won eleven games and won the Big XII South. Although they lost to Colorado in the conference championship game, their appearance in that game should set the table for UT to again make a run at the conference title and maybe more than that. Eight offensive and five defensive starters return as do both kickers. Both WRs, Williams and Johnson, as well as the TE Scaife, return. Each of these players, along with Dockery and Donae from the OL, are possible all-conference selections. Although three OL need replacing, the QB spot is Simms’, the RB positon belongs to Benson, and the FB is settled as well. Defensively, the Horns return three DL including Cory Redding who is one of the best in the country. No LBs return from last season, but two defensive backs are back. Both kickers return, but both areas could use a little improvement. The Texas non-conference schedule is in the middle of the pack in the Big XII. A home game against North Texas will be interesting, and a road trip to North Carolina should challenge the Horns. I expect UT to be a strong contender in the South division but fall just short of OU. A ten-win season is not out impossible, but the 'Horns would need at least six conference wins to pull that off.
The Aggies won eight games last season while finishing .500 in the conference, good enough for a tied-for-third place finish in the final Big XII South standings. Ten offensive and seven defensive starters are back from last year’s team to try to get A&M in a New Year’s Day bowl game. Both WRs are back for the Aggies, and the center is the only position that will have a new starter in 2002. The TE, RB, and FB spots are also filled going into this season. QB Mark Farris, who seems like he’s been at A&M forever, will finally be a senior. The better he plays, the farther this team can go this season. Only one DL returns this season, but Ty Warren could make the all-Big XII team as could LBs Penright and Gamble, two of three returnees at the LB spot. The defensive secondary has three returning starters led by Terrence Kiel, one of the best safeties in the conference. Altough only one kicker returns this year, the special team duties seem to be in good hands. The A&M non-conference schedule is fairly strong. A game at Pittsburgh wil be tough, and so will home contests with Virginia Tech and WAC-contender Louisiana Tech. The Aggies will have to play very well to out-do last year’s team. I think A&M will again win eight games this season.
The Red Raiders finished the 2001 season 7-5, .500 in conference action, and tied for third in the Big XII South. Seven offensive starters and nine defensive starters are back for TT this season, and if things fall right, this could be the best season in Lubbock in many years. All four WRs return for the Red Raiders, but three OL must be replaced. QB Kliff Kingsbury is one of the top ten QBs in the country and will have a chance to prove himself even more this season. On defense, all four DL are back for the ‘02 campaign as are two LBs, one of which (Flugence) is one of the top LBs in the Big XII. Led by all-conference candidate Ryan Aycock, three members of the defensive secondary return this year. Since boht kickers are back this season, those duties appear to be under control and should not be a problem for Texas Tech. The Red Raiders’ non-conference schedule is probably the toughest in the conference. Road games at New Mexico and Ohio State will be very tough matchups as will home contests with Mississippi and NC State. If it weren’t for this extremely tough OOC schedule along with the annual beating you find on the Big XII slate, I would pick Texas Tech as one of the top fifteen or twenty teams in the country. However, mostly due to the difficulty of the schedule, I don’t think the Raiders can pull off more than seven or eight wins.
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