Archive for Saturday, August 10, 2002

Big 12 Football: Colorado should be best in North

Buffs loaded, especially at running back; Huskers seeking 11 starters

August 10, 2002


Four Big 12 Conference schools Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska and Colorado finished in the Top 10 in the college football polls last season.
Seven Big 12 Conference schools went to bowl games. By all definitions, 2001 was a great for year for the league.

What will the Big 12 do for an encore?

No one knows the answer, of course, but it seems the rich will continue to pan the gold.
Colorado appears to be the class of the North Division. The Buffs are favored to repeat because Nebraska and Kansas State don't seem as strong, on paper anyway. Iowa State could challenge with the multi-talented Seneca Wallace at quarterback, but Missouri and Kansas aren't likely to be factors.

In the South Division, Texas and Oklahoma should fight it out with perhaps the winner of their annual clash on Oct. 12 in Dallas not only determining the conference champion but the national champ as well.

In the South, Texas A&M; and Texas Tech could find some bowl crumbs, but Oklahoma State and downtrodden Baylor loom as strictly also-rans, although some people believe O-State is on the road back.


Forget the Buffs' 38-16 loss to Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. Colorado is loaded, particularly on offense with quarterback Craig Ochs and what many believe to be the best stable of running backs in the country Chris Brown, Bobby Purify and the injury-plagued Marcus Houston. CU tailbacks rushed for more yards last season (2,620) than any other team in college football.

Eight defensive starters are also back from the team that arose from the 3-8 ashes of the 2000 season by destroying Nebraska, 62-36 no team had ever scored than many points against Nebraska then stunning Texas, 39-37, in the Big 12 championship game.

Don't overlook Colorado's return game, either. The Buffs led the nation in punt returns, thanks mostly to tiny-but-tricky national leader Roman Hollowell.

Colorado Schedule
Aug. 31 Colorado State (Denver-ESPN2), 11 a.m. (MDT)
Sept. 7 San Diego State (Fox Sports Net), 5 p.m. (MDT)
Sept. 14 Southern California (ABC), 1:30 p.m. (MDT)
Sept. 21 at UCLA, 2:30 p.m.
Oct. 5 *Kansas State
Oct. 12 *at Kansas
Oct. 19 *Baylor
Oct. 26 *Texas Tech
Nov. 2 *at Oklahoma
Nov. 9 *at Missouri
Nov. 16 *Iowa State
Nov. 29 *at Nebraska (ABC), 2:30 p.m.

Nebraska hasn't lost fewer than nine games in a season since, well, it seems like since the Boer War. The Cornhuskers will probably win at least nine again but perhaps only because of this year's expanded 12-game schedule.

Expectations are always high in Lincoln, but they're only semi-high this season because coach Frank Solich is looking for 11 starters, most of them key players, none more so than quarterback Eric Crouch.

Crouch, a running back disguised as a QB, rushed for 1,115 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. With Crouch now attempting to make it in the NFL as a wide receiver, Jamaal Lord will take over at QB.

I-back Dahrran Diedrick, who led the Big 12 in rushing with 1,299 yards, will probably be the focal point of the Huskers' venerable I-formation offense.

Solich will also be hoping Lord can put the ball in the hands of wide receiver Wilson Thomas who caught 37 passes last season. On defense, Nebraska has standout end Chris Kelsay returning and cornerback DeJuan Groce, also a talented punt-return specialist.

Nebraska Schedule
Aug. 24 Arizona State (ESPN), 6:45 p.m. (BCA Benefit Game)
Aug. 31 Troy State, 6 p.m.
Sept. 7 Utah State, 6 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Penn State (ABC), 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 *at Iowa State
Oct. 5 McNeese State
Oct. 12 *Missouri
Oct. 19 *at Oklahoma State
Oct. 26 *at Texas A&M;
Nov. 2 *Texas
Nov. 9 *Kansas
Nov. 16 *at Kansas State
Nov. 23 *Colorado (ABC), 2:30 p.m.

Kansas State
Yes, the Wildcats will have a tremendous defense in 2002. Defense has been a tradition with the 'Cats, despite a handful of defensive staff changes, for nearly a decade now.
Bill Snyder must come up with some offense, however. In particular, he needs to find quarterbacks who can throw better than Ell Roberson and Marc Dunn.

Roberson is the better runner and Dunn the better passer, but Roberson is no Eric Crouch and Dunn won't make anyone forget Lynn Dickey.

Last season, both Roberson and Dunn threw four TD passes and nine interceptions. It goes without saying, it will be difficult for the Wildcats to contend with Colorado and Nebraska with similar numbers in 2002.

K-State also has a hole at running back with Josh Scobey, last year's leading rusher, using up his eligibility. Darren Sproles, a sophomore from Olathe, is probably heir apparent.

Kansas State Schedule
Aug. 31 Western Kentucky, 6:10 p.m.
Sept. 7 UL Monroe, 6:10 p.m.
Sept. 14 Eastern Illinois, 1:10 p.m.
Sept. 21 Southern California
Oct. 5 *at Colorado
Oct. 12 *Oklahoma State
Oct. 19 *Texas
Oct. 26 *at Baylor, 2 p.m.
Nov. 2 *at Kansas
Nov. 9 *Iowa State
Nov. 16 *at Texas A&M;
Nov. 23 *at Missouri

Iowa State
Iowa State will be touting quarterback Seneca Wallace for the Heisman Trophy if the Cyclones jump to a fast start. In other words, if the Cyclones shock Florida State in the Eddie Robinson Classic on Aug. 24 at Arrowhead Stadium.

Wallace came into the league last year as a junior college transfer, completed 62.1 percent of his passes, rushed for 475 yards and compiled 2,519 yards of total offense. Not surprisingly, he was voted the Big 12 newcomer of the year.

Wallace will be joined by seven other returning offensive starters, but running back Ennis Haywood isn't one of them. Look for Michael Wagner or Hiawatha Rutland to plug that gap, however.

On defense, the Cyclones were opportunistic in '01, scoring 69 points off 26 opponent turnovers. Coach Dan McCarney hopes linebackers Matt Word and Chris Whitaker recover from offseason surgeries. Word led the Cyclones with 108 stops last fall.

Iowa State Schedule
Aug. 24 Florida State (Eddie Robinson Classic, Kansas City) (Fox Sports Net), 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 31 *Kansas (Fox Sports Net), 11:30 a.m.
Sept. 7 Tennessee Tech, 6 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Iowa, 5 p.m.
Sept. 21 Troy State, 6 p.m.
Sept. 28 *Nebraska
Oct. 12 *Texas Tech
Oct. 19 *at Oklahoma
Oct. 26 *at Texas
Nov. 2 *Missouri
Nov. 9 *at Kansas State
Nov. 16 *at Colorado
Nov. 23 Connecticut

Missouri may have the league's best wide receiver in Justin Gage, who also plays basketball, but who will get the athletic 6-foot-4 pass catcher the ball?

Kirk Farmer has compiled impressive passing stats over the years, but Farmer has been injury-prone. Coach Gary Pinkel may go with red-shirt freshmen Brad Smith and Sonny Riccio instead.

The running game is solid with Zach Abron, but the Tigers have no breakaway threats. Linebacker Sean Doyle, son for former KU linebacker Mickey Doyle, is All-Big 12 material and clearly Mizzou's best defender.

Missouri Schedule
Aug. 31 vs. Illinois (St. Louis) (ABC), 2:30 p.m.
Sept. 7 Ball State, 6 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Bowling Green, 6 p.m.
Sept. 28 Troy State
Oct. 5 *Oklahoma
Oct. 12 *at Nebraska
Oct. 19 *at Texas Tech
Oct. 26 *Kansas
Nov. 2 *at Iowa State
Nov. 9 *Colorado
Nov. 16 *at Texas A&M;
Nov. 23 *Kansas State


Too bad Texas coach Mack Brown can't recruit quarterbacks. Not only does he have Chris Simms back for his senior year, Brown has two ballyhooed back-ups in the wings sophomore Chance Mock and freshman Vincent Young.

So if Simms, who has struggled against quality defenses, falters, Brown can always go to another well.

UT boasts plenty of other offense talent as well notably running back Cedric Benson and wide receiver Roy Williams. Safety Nathan Vasher hubs a strong defense and, like Nebraska's Groce, is also dangerous on kick returns.

Many soothsayers are predicting a national title for the Longhorns, but the schedule includes road trips to Kansas State, Nebraska and Texas Tech, not to mention the annual Red River battle with Oklahoma in Dallas.

Texas Schedule
Aug. 31 North Texas, 6 p.m.
Sept. 14 at North Carolina (ABC), 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 Houston
Sept. 28 at Tulane
Oct. 5 *Oklahoma State
Oct. 12 *Oklahoma (Dallas)
Oct. 19 *at Kansas State
Oct. 26 *Iowa State
Nov. 2 *at Nebraska
Nov. 9 *Baylor
Nov. 16 *at Texas Tech
Nov. 29 *Texas A&M; (ABC), 11 a.m.

Two years removed from the national championship how did the Sooners lose to Oklahoma State last year? Oklahoma is talking title again, if its quarterbacks can stay healthy.

QBs Nate Hybl and Jason White were both hurt last year and offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, who took the head job at Kansas, had to deal with a lack of continuity at QB.

Oklahoma could also use an improved running game, and has the potential for improvement with quicksilver Quentin Griffin.

On defense, coach Bob Stoops lost standout safety Roy Williams and linebacker Rocky Calmus, but Stoops still has two of the league's best linemen in Jimmy Wilkerson and Tommie Harris.

Oklahoma Schedule
Aug. 30 at Tulsa (ESPN), 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 Alabama (ABC), 2:30 p.m.
Sept. 14 Texas-El Paso, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 28 South Florida
Oct. 5 *at Missouri
Oct. 12 *Texas (Dallas)
Oct. 19 *Iowa State
Nov. 2 *Colorado
Nov. 9 *at Texas A&M;
Nov. 16 *at Baylor, 1 p.m.
Nov. 23 *Texas Tech
Nov. 30 *at Oklahoma State (Fox Sports Net), Noon

Texas Tech
Nobody in the Big 12 throws the football more than the Red Raiders' Kliff Kingsbury. Nobody.

Texas Tech's quarterback has thrown for nearly 7,500 yards and 50 touchdowns during his first three years and will surely become the school record-holder early in the 2002 season.

Kingsbury has several experienced wide receivers in Carlos Francis, Nehemiah Glover and Antone Paige, a former KU player. However, running back Ricky Williams, who caught 92 passes last season, is gone.

Linebacker Lawrence Flugence and end Aaron Hunt lead a competent defense.

Texas Tech Schedule
Aug. 24 at Ohio State (NACDA Pigskin Classic-ABC), 1:30 p.m.
Sept. 7 at SMU, 6 p.m.
Sept. 14 Mississippi (ABC), 2:30 p.m.
Sept. 21 North Carolina State
Sept. 27 at New Mexico (ESPN), 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 *at Texas A&M;
Oct. 12 *at Iowa State
Oct. 19 *Missouri
Oct. 26 *at Colorado
Nov. 2 *Baylor
Nov. 9 *Oklahoma State
Nov. 16 *Texas
Nov. 23 *at Oklahoma

Texas A&M;
Arguably the drabbest team in the Big 12 last season, primarily because the Aggies rushed for only 1,254 yards league leader Dahrran Diedrick of Nebraska ran for 1,299 yards and because quarterback Mark Farris was only so-so.

Coach R. C. Slocum switched speedy wide receiver Dwain Goynes to tailback in an attempt to infuse the backfield with much needed speed. Defense, as usual, will be rugged with cornerback Sammy Davis, the league leader with five thefts, returning.

Texas A&M; Schedule
Aug. 31 UL Lafayette, 6 p.m.
Sept. 7 at Pittsburgh
Sept. 21 Virginia Tech
Sept. 28 Louisiana Tech
Oct. 5 *Texas Tech
Oct. 12 *at Baylor
Oct. 19 *at Kansas
Oct. 26 *Nebraska
Nov. 2 *at Oklahoma State
Nov. 9 *at Oklahoma
Nov. 16 *Missouri
Nov. 29 *at Texas (ABC), 11 a.m.

Oklahoma State
Quarterback Aso Pogi has started 17 straight games for the Cowboys and you know how coaches love veteran quarterbacks.

Nevertheless, Les Miles has to be a little concerned after Pogi's spring work was limited because of injuries suffered in an auto accident.

O-State also has the best wide receiver nobody has ever heard of. All Rashaun Woods did was catch 80 passes last season. OSU finished 4-7, but ended with a stunning win over Oklahoma and that may be the springboard the Cowboys need to return to the sunny side of .500.

Oklahoma State Schedule
Aug. 31 Louisiana Tech (Shreveport)
Sept. 7 Northern Iowa
Sept. 14 UCLA
Sept. 21 SMU
Oct. 5 *at Texas
Oct. 12 *at Kansas State
Oct. 19 *Nebraska
Nov. 2 *Texas A&M;
Nov. 9 *at Texas Tech
Nov. 16 *at Kansas
Nov. 23 *Baylor
Nov. 30 *Oklahoma (Fox Sports Net), Noon

How many Big 12 games has Baylor won in the 21st Century? None. The Bears have dropped 29 straight to league foes since knocking off Kansas back in 1998 in Waco.

Baylor's first league foe in 2002 is, you guessed it, Kansas, and the Bears are optimistic about ending the drought with quarterback Greg Cicero and wide receiver Reggie Newhouse returning.

Cicero threw for more than 1,000 yards and Newhouse had 61 catches in 2001.
Ten starters return on defense, including middle linebacker John Garrett.

Baylor Schedule
Aug. 31 at California, 4 p.m.
Sept. 7 Samford, 6 p.m.
Sept. 14 at New Mexico, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 Tulsa, 6 p.m.
Oct. 5 *Kansas. 1 p.m.
Oct. 12 *Texas A&M;, 1 p.m.
Oct. 19 *at Colorado
Oct. 26 *Kansas State, 2 p.m.
Nov. 2 *at Texas Tech
Nov. 9 *at Texas
Nov. 16 *Oklahoma, 1 p.m.
Nov. 23 *at Oklahoma State

All times subject to change
* denotes Big 12 Conference game

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