Big 12

A closer look at the Big 12

1. OKLAHOMA SOONERS

Bob Stoops

129-31 in 12 seasons

Projected record: 11-1, 9-0

2010: 12-2, 6-2

Overview

The nation’s top-rated team in the preseason is expected to win a second straight Big 12 championship. With 14 starters returning from a team that won 12 games a year ago and Heisman contender Landry Jones leading an explosive offense, it will be hard for anyone in the conference to keep up with the Sooners.

The key Sooner

Senior LB Travis Lewis is the unquestioned leader of Oklahoma’s defense, but he will miss a few early games because of injury. The Sooners will need him at full strength down the stretch.

Come December

Without Lewis, Oklahoma may lose a must-see game at Florida State early, but once he returns the Sooners should be set for a Big 12 title run.

2011 projection

Sept. 3, Tulsa, W

Sept. 17, at Florida State, L

Sept. 24, Missouri, W

Oct. 1, Ball State, W

Oct. 8, x-Texas, W

Oct. 15, at Kansas, W

Oct. 22, Texas Tech, W

Oct. 29, at Kansas State, W

Nov. 5, Texas A&M, W

Nov. 19, at Baylor, W

Nov. 26, Iowa State, W

Dec. 3, at Oklahoma State, W

x-at Dallas

2. OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS

Mike Gundy

47-29 in 6 seasons

Projected record: 11-1, 8-1

2010: 11-2, 6-2

Overview

Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon could be the most dynamic pass-catch duo in the country. Weeden, a senior, threw for 4,277 yards last season. Blackmon, a junior, totaled 1,782 in receiving yards. With a veteran line returning, OSU will likely have the Big 12’s top offense. But will it have enough defense to challenge Oklahoma for a league title?

The key Cowboy

As Blackmon goes, so goes Oklahoma State. He is the top returning receiver in the country, and could end up winning the Heisman Trophy with an outstanding year.

Come December

The Big 12 no longer has a championship game, but if the Cowboys can survive road trips to Texas A&M, Missouri, Texas and Texas Tech with only one loss, Oklahoma State’s final game against rival Oklahoma in Stillwater will be for the first 10-team crown.

2011 projection

Sept. 3, La.-Lafayette, W

Sept. 8, Arizona, W

Sept. 17, at Tulsa, W

Sept. 24, at Texas A&M, W

Oct. 8, Kansas, W

Oct. 15, at Texas, W

Oct. 22, at Missouri, W

Oct. 29, Baylor, W

Nov. 5, Kansas State, W

Nov. 12, at Texas Tech, W

Nov. 18, at Iowa State, W

Dec. 3, Oklahoma, L

3. TEXAS A&M AGGIES

Mike Sherman

18-20 in three seasons

Projected record: 8-4, 6-3

2010: 9-4, 6-2

Overview

The Aggies enter what could be their final season in the Big 12 as a contender for the league championship. Ryan Tannehill sparked a six-game conference winning streak a year ago at quarterback, and the senior will start from the get-go this time around. But Texas A&M has serious questions on defense with the departures of sack master Von Miller and linebacker Michael Hodges.

The key Aggie

Tannehill. Can he lead an offense for 12 straight games? He will need to do navigate the Aggies through a difficult schedule.

Come December

Texas A&M will play in a nice bowl game, but losses to both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will prevent the Aggies from winning a conference title.

2011 projection

Sept. 4, SMU, W

Sept. 17, Idaho, W

Sept. 24, Oklahoma State, L

Oct. 1, x-Arkansas, L

Oct. 8, at Texas Tech, W

Oct. 15, Baylor, W

Oct. 22, at Iowa State, W

Oct. 29, Missouri, W

Nov. 5, at Oklahoma, L

Nov. 12, at Kansas State, L

Nov. 9, Kansas, W

Nov. 24, Texas, W

x-at Arlington, Texas

T4. BAYLOR BEARS

Art Briles

15-22 in three seasons

Projected record: 7-5, 5-4

2010: 7-6, 4-4

Overview

It will be hard for the Bears to improve on their record from a year ago, when they won seven games and played in a bowl game for the first time since 1994. But with Robert Griffin at quarterback, anything is possible.

The key Bear

Griffin, a junior, is one of the fastest players in the country, and he has an arm. A year ago, he threw for more than 3,500 yards.

Come December

Baylor closes with a difficult stretch that will decide its postseason fate. It will need to beat Oklahoma, Texas Tech or Texas to go bowling for a second straight year.

2011 projection

Sept. 2, TCU, L

Sept. 17, Stephen F. Austin, W

Sept. 24, Rice, W

Oct. 1, at Kansas State, L

Oct. 8, Iowa State, W

Oct. 15, at Texas A&M, L

Oct. 29, at Oklahoma State, L

Nov. 5, Missouri, W

Nov. 12, at Kansas, W

Nov. 19, Oklahoma, L

Nov. 26, x-Texas Tech, W

Dec. 3, Texas, W

x-at Arlington, Texas

T4. MISSOURI TIGERS

Gary Pinkel

77-49 in 10 seasons

Projected record: 8-4, 5-4

2010: 10-3, 6-2

Overview

Missouri returns all 14 players who caught passes a year ago, but the Tigers will be without the player who threw those passes, Blaine Gabbert. Replacing the strong-armed QB will be Missouri’s toughest task this year. How well the new quarterback handles his transition will decide what bowl the Tigers play in.

The key Tiger

After busting the 1,000-yard mark a season ago, junior WR T.J. Moe will need to be a go-to target once again.

Come December

Missouri may do most of its damage late, as its schedule becomes easier at the start of November.

2011 projection

Sept. 3, Miami (OH), W

Sept. 9, at Arizona State, W

Sept. 17, Western Illinois, W

Sept. 24, at Oklahoma, L

Oct. 8, at Kansas State, W

Oct. 15, Iowa State, W

Oct. 22, Oklahoma State, L

Oct. 29, at Texas A&M, L

Nov. 5, at Baylor, L

Nov. 12, Texas, W

Nov. 19, Texas Tech, W

Nov. 26, x-Kansas, W

x-at Kansas City, Mo.

T6. TEXAS LONGHORNS

Mack Brown

133-34 in 13 seasons

Projected record: 6-6, 4-5

2010: 5-7, 2-6

Overview

Things can’t be any worse for Texas than they were a year ago, when the Longhorns went 5-7 and lost five home games. But it’s hard to see things getting a lot better in one season. Questions at quarterback and a coaching overhaul will keep Texas around .500.

The key Longhorn

Texas needs RB Fozzy Whitaker to keep the pressure off whomever wins the starting quarterback job.

Come December

Texas will return to a bowl game, but it will still be below the Longhorns’ usual standards.

2011 projection

Sept. 3, Rice, W

Sept. 10, BYU, W

Sept. 17, at UCLA, L

Oct. 1, at Iowa State, W

Oct. 8, x-Oklahoma, L

Oct. 15, Oklahoma State, L

Oct. 29, Kansas, W

Nov. 5, Texas Tech, W

Nov. 12, at Missouri, L

Nov. 19, Kansas State, W

Nov. 24, at Texas A&M, L

Dec. 3, at Baylor, L

x-at Dallas

T6. KANSAS STATE WILDCATS

Bill Snyder

149-79-1 in 19 seasons

Projected record: 6-6, 4-5

2010: 7-6, 3-5

Overview

K-State will be better on defense with Arthur Brown at linebacker, and its offense won’t drop off with Collin Klein at quarterback and Bryce Brown at running back. But the Wildcats have plenty of holes to fill on both their offensive and defensive lines. A tough schedule will make it hard to measure improvement in terms of wins and losses.

The key Wildcat

LB Arthur Brown is the key to a defensive turnaround after the 2010 defense allowed more than 230 rushing yards per game.

Come December

K-State should win just enough tough games to make it back to a bowl.

2011 projection

Sept. 3, Eastern Kentucky, W

Sept. 17, Kent State, W

Sept. 24, at Miami (Fla.), L

Oct. 1, Baylor, W

Oct. 8, Missouri, L

Oct. 15, at Texas Tech, L

Oct. 22, at Kansas, W

Oct. 29, Oklahoma, L

Nov. 5, at Oklahoma State, L

Nov. 12, Texas A&M, W

Nov. 19, at Texas, L

Dec. 3, Iowa State, W

8. TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS

Tommy Tuberville

8-5 in one season

Projected record: 6-6, 3-6

2010: 8-5, 3-5

Overview

Texas Tech is breaking in a new quarterback and its defensive line must be rebuilt. That will make it hard for the Red Raiders to beat the Big 12’s top contenders, but they should still be a step above the league’s bottom-dwellers.

The key Red Raider

RB Eric Stephens will need to gain some yards and some defensive attention while Tech breaks in a new quarterback.

Come December

Texas Tech will be in a bowl, but how well it closes against a tough schedule will decide what bowl.

2011 projection

Sept. 3, Texas State, W

Sept. 17, at New Mexico, W

Sept. 24, Nevada, W

Oct. 1, at Kansas, W

Oct. 8, Texas A&M, L

Oct. 15, Kansas State, W

Oct. 22, at Oklahoma, L

Oct. 29, Iowa State, W

Nov. 5, at Texas, L

Nov. 12, Oklahoma State, L

Nov. 19, at Missouri, L

Nov. 26, x-Baylor, L

x-at Arlington, Texas

9. IOWA STATE CYCLONES

Paul Rhoads

12-13 in two seasons

Projected record: 2-10, 1-8

2010: 5-7, 3-5

Overview

Without its top two skill players from last season, Iowa State will rely on unproven players to direct its offense. The Cyclones should be competitive on defense, but that might not be enough against a daunting schedule.

The key Cyclone

A.J. Klein will need to be one of the top linebackers in the Big 12 for Iowa State to improve on its 2010 record.

Come December

The odds of Iowa State making a bowl are remote, but Rhoads will keep the Cyclones motivated enough to possibly pull an upset somewhere.

2011 projection

Sept. 3, Northern Iowa, W

Sept. 10, Iowa, L

Sept. 16, at Connecticut, L

Oct. 1, Texas, L

Oct. 8, at Baylor, L

Oct. 15, at Missouri, L

Oct. 22, Texas A&M, L

Oct. 29, at Texas Tech, L

Nov. 5, Kansas, W

Nov. 18, Oklahoma State, L

Nov. 26, at Oklahoma, L

Dec. 3, at Kansas State, L

10. KANSAS JAYHAWKS

Turner Gill

3-9 in one season

Projected record: 2-10, 0-9

2010: 3-9, 1-7

Overview

Although 13 starters return, Kansas appears in for another long season. It’s hard to imagine Jordan Webb making big improvements behind a weak offensive line. The Jayhawks are strong at linebacker, but don’t have enough speed to keep up with explosive offenses.

The key Jayhawk

Sophomore RB James Sims will need to rush for more than 1,000 yards and keep opposing defenses off balance.

Come December

It’s hard to imagine KU finishing anywhere other than last in the Big 12 standings.

2011 projection

Sept. 3, McNeese State, W

Sept. 10, Northern Illinois, W

Sept. 17, at Georgia Tech, L

Oct. 1, Texas Tech, L

Oct. 8, at Oklahoma State, L

Oct. 15, Oklahoma, L

Oct. 22, Kansas State, L

Oct. 29, at Texas, L

Nov. 5, at Iowa State, L

Nov. 12, Baylor, L

Nov. 19, at Texas A&M, L

Nov. 26, x-Missouri, L

x-at Kansas City, Mo.

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