Friday, August 18, 2006
Last year, this conference was basically Texas and a whole bunch of average teams. This year? Well, not a whole lot better, but it does look like everyone else is catching up and some of those average teams improved. Let's take a look.
Player of the Year: Without question the most talented player in the conference is Adrian Peterson of Oklahoma. In his freshman year he ran for over 1800 yards, but that dropped off due to injury and an inconsistent pass game. Some of those same probelsm might still be there with the dismisall of Rhett Bomar, which will allow defenses to once again stack the line and gear up to stop Peterson. This should open the door for other candidates, namely Jamaal Charles of Texas. He was overshadowed last year by some guy named Vince Young and the fact that he was just a freshman. Still, he managed to run for 878 yards (on 7.4 YPC), and should keep improving that as he gets more touches. He's an explosive player and one of the big reasons Texas won't drop off much this year.
After that, there's a couple of QB candidates. One is Iowa St. QB Bret Meyer. He's a junior but already in his third year as the starter, and he's one of the most accurate and most athletic QBs in the conference. Plus, with great WR Todd Blythe in the mix, he has weapons. Another potential candidate is Nebraska QB Zac Taylor. He should now be fully entrenched in the offense Bill Callahan has put in, and with his top 2 WR returning, he should put up good numbers. Still, all of these guys pretty much only have a pipe dream if Adrian Peterson stays healthy. He is the best back in all of American and a big contender for the Heisman, and this is why he is my pick for Player of the Year.
Freshmen to Watch: The most important positional battle as far as the conference is concerned is the Texas QB position, which is between RS freshman Colt McCoy and true freshman Jevan Snead. Both will probably get playing time early, but they'll need one of them to grab the spot and flourish if they're going to make any noise this year. Word out of camp is that Snead is probably more talented, but McCoy is more polished. Should be one of the more fascinating battles to watch in all of the country. Another freshman to watch is RB Michael Goodson of Texas A&M. He might have been the best HS back out of Texas last year, and could be in the mix early for the Aggies.
Breakout Players: Nebraska has shifted emphasis from the running game to the passing game, but that doesn't mean they don't have a talented back in Marlon Lucky. With Cody Ross gone, Lucky should get more carries and has the talent to take advantage of them. In Texas Tech, they'll finally go into a year without a senior QB starting for the first time, and so it looks like sophomore Graham Harrell will be the starter there. With Mike Leach's offensive philsophy and the great WR trio fo Joel Filani, Jarrett Hicks, and Robert Johnson returning, Harrell should put up huge numbers. A final player is Stephen McGee of Texas A&M. Ryan McNeal has finally graduated, leaving the accurate McGee as the starter.
Other things to watch: Texas may have lost their all-world QB, but they're still returning a ton of talent, including their top 4 RB and starting WR. They'll obviously be extremely dangerous. Can the North ever catch up to the South in terms of team talent? Well, not this year. I'm also going to be very interested in watching Dan Hawkins, who has been so good at Boise St., and if he can turn around the Colorado program.
- Texas vs. Oklahoma - We all know about the tradition of this rivalry. Texas finally ended the drought and beat the Sooners last year, but can they make it 2 in a row? (October 7)
- Texas at Nebraska - Two very talented offensive teams meet up in Lincoln. (October 14)
- Texas Tech at Oklahoma - One of the best defenses in the nation for Oklahoma takes on the passing game of Texas Tech. It was a great game last year, and should be again. (November 22)
Projected Order of Finish
3. Texas Tech
4. Texas A&M
5. Oklahoma St.
2. Iowa St.
6. Kansas St.