Bob Stoops and the Sooners host Florida State on September 11.
NCAA college football expansion has been the big buzzword this past offseason, but that expansion will eliminate one of the sport's best divisions. The Big XII Conference South Division boasts national powers Texas and Oklahoma, along with the solid programs of Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas A&M.
When Nebraska bolts to the Big Ten Conference after this season, and with Colorado scheduled to join the Pac-10 in 2012, the Big XII will have 10 teams and no conference title game. The powerful South Division will now be joined by the weaker teams in the North Division. Without a conference championship game, Texas and Oklahoma might have a tougher time capturing a national title with a diminished Bowl Championship Series ranking.
There are plenty of interesting storylines heading into the final NCAAF college season of the Big XII South Division. This division hasn’t won a national championship since Vince Young led the Longhorns past Southern Cal back in 2005. The only other team in this division to win it all was the Oklahoma Sooners in 2000.
Both of those programs will be strong once again this season, entering the season as a 12/1 selection to win the national championship. Texas Tech and Texas A&M opened at 100/1, while Oklahoma State enters the fray at 150/1.
Perennial division doormat Baylor is listed as a 25/1 selection as a member of the ‘field.’
Texas went 8-0 in the conference last season, and won its first 13 games before falling to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game in Pasadena. The Longhorns chances of victory took a major hit when quarterback Colt McCoy went down with an injury, but backup Garrett Gilbert earned some valuable experience during that game.
Texas will have to overcome the losses of McCoy and Jordan Shipley on offense, and talented Sergio Kindle, Roddrick Muckelroy and Lamarr Houston on defense. However the Longhorns continue to have one of the nation’s best recruiting classes every year, keeping this program as an annual BCS contender.
Texas has its sights set on recording its 10th straight season with at least 10 victories, currently the nation’s longest active streak. The biggest games on the regular-season schedule include the annual Red River Rivalry game with Oklahoma October 2 before a bye week and Oct. 16th tussle at Nebraska.
Oklahoma enters the 2010 college football campaign just one win shy of 800 victories in program history, joining just seven other schools on that distinguished list. The Sooners played for the national championship at the end of the 2008 season, but stumbled to an 8-5 record last season along with a 5-3 conference ledger. Oklahoma uncharacteristically finished tied for third in the Big XII South, but did conclude the season on a positive note with a Sun Bowl victory over Stanford.
There are a couple of potential potholes on the nonconference schedule, with the Sooners facing Florida State at home on Sept. 11 and at Cincinnati Sept. 25. That road matchup with the Bearcats occurs the week before the Red River Rivalry contest with Texas. Oklahoma wraps up the regular season with three road matchups the final four games, traveling to Texas A&M, Baylor and Oklahoma State along with a home game against Texas Tech.
Oklahoma State posted a 9-4 record last season that included a 6-2 conference ledger. The Cowboys finished second in the South Division, but culminated the season with a 21-7 setback to Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl. Despite all the T. Boone Pickens money flowing in Stillwell, Oklahoma State figures to take a step back this season.
The Cowboys will have to deal with the loss of quarterback Zac Robinson and wideout Dez Bryant. Along with those two offensive stars, five other starters will have to be replaced. Oklahoma State will also have to find nine new defensive starters, meaning growing pains will be evident this fall.
An easy non-conference schedule against Washington State, Troy, and Louisiana-Lafayette should get this team some confidence before facing some of the Big XII heavyweights.
Texas A&M played 17 freshman last season in some capacity, leaving the team with a 6-7 record including 3-5 in conference. The Aggies advanced to the Independence Bowl, but they were hammered by Georgia, 44-20. Coach Mike Sherman’s team will be led by quarterback Jerrod Johnson, who had 22 touchdowns passing (seven rushing) with just five interceptions.
Texas A&M should get out of the gates quickly with home games against Stephen F. Ausin, Louisiana Tech and Florida International. There is a tough midseason stretch with games at Oklahoma State followed by a NCAAF college matchup with Arkansas in Dallas and home game with Missouri. A bowl game might be on the line leading up to late-season games against Nebraska and at Texas.
It has been an eventful offseason at Texas Tech, where the team will be hard pressed to repeat last year’s 9-4 ledger and 5-3 conference record. The Red Raiders toppled Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl, 41-31, but then the real fireworks began.
Head coach Mike Leach put this program on the map, and almost had the team playing for a national championship just two years ago. But the coach was suspended for the Alamo Bowl victory surrounding the alleged mistreatment of a player, and was eventually fired in late December.
Tommy Tuberville was brought in to clean up the mess after successful stints at Ole Miss and Auburn, but his offensive philosophy differs greatly from Leach’s air attack. There is a potential non-conference loss Sept. 11 at New Mexico, while back-to-back Big XII road trips against Colorado and Texas A&M could have this team rebuilding for the future.
Every conference or division has a doormat, a place that Baylor (4-8 overall, 1-7 in conference) knows all too well. The Bears secured just one victory last season after October 3 with a road upset November 7 against Missouri, 40-32. This year’s non-conference slate contains tough matchups versus Buffalo, along with road games against Texas Christian and Rice.
Quarterback Nick Florence had 1,786 yards passing and six touchdowns during his freshman campaign, while senior Jay Finley led the team last season by rushing for 370 yards. Despite some returning playmakers on both sides of the ball, expect another long football campaign in Waco this fall.