Archive for Monday, September 19, 2005

Wood: Big 12 North unsettled

September 19, 2005


Three weeks into the college football season, has anything been determined regarding anyone in the Big 12 North?

No team can be counted out of the race yet. None can be considered a lock, a heavy favorite or even a front-runner. This division still is a bumper-to-bumper Dodge Stratus traffic jam.

Really. Try making a case for any North team to win the division. The arguments aren't that off base for any of them:

¢ Colorado. The defending champ, loaded with a strong linebacker unit and an experienced quarterback in Joel Klatt. The most battle-tested team heading into Big 12 play, with games against Colorado State and Miami. And, hey, the Buffs have an okay Big 12 schedule - three of the five North games are in Boulder, and the struggling Oklahoma State Cowboys open up the slate.

¢ Nebraska. Sure, some could argue that losing is more admirable than winning, 7-6, against winless Pittsburgh. But 3-0 is 3-0, and two of the victories were against BCS conference teams. No other North team can say it did that. The Huskers also have Baylor on the schedule.

¢ Iowa State. Young and talented at the skill positions, the Cyclones handled in-state rival and top-10 team Iowa, 23-3, in Ames. If the Cyclones play like that, they can beat any North team by two touchdowns. 'Clones also have Baylor AND Oklahoma State on the schedule. Certainly four or five victories are feasible in conference play.

¢ Kansas University. Another unbeaten North team, Kansas has shown several positive signs: a good running game, a poised quarterback, tremendous special teams and a punishing defense. Problem is, the Jayhawks haven't gotten them all to click at once, or even a couple to click at once. If they do, four conference victories certainly is possible - and that might be enough.

¢ Kansas State. Darn the visit to jail over the weekend, but running back Thomas Clayton is for real. Coupled with Alan Webb's dual-threat capabilities while Dylan Meier heals, the Wildcats aren't any worse than anyone else in the division. The Wildcats also have Kansas, Missouri and Colorado in Manhattan. A bounce here, a bounce there and they're in the race for Houston.

¢ Missouri. The defense could be better, but Brad Smith on a good day will have this offense flying. A few good days at opportune times, and close losses become close wins. Like Iowa State, MU is blessed with the Baylor/Oklahoma State side of the schedule. That's crucial in such a logjam.

Six arguments. Which one will you choose?

¢ Off the beaten path of the Big 12, but worth mentioning regardless: Those who get the opportunity to watch Southern California play this year should by all means do it.

You could be witnessing one of the most spectacular offensive shows college football has seen.

In their first two games, the Trojans dropped 133 points on Hawaii and Arkansas. Not the greatest opponents, but I'm convinced USC could put up six touchdowns a game without breaking a sweat. All 11 offensive starters are believed to be NFL-bound.

The Trojans will be on television a bunch, so tune in. You'll want to say you saw them when their generous place in history is determined.

- Sports reporter Ryan Wood can be reached at 832-7152.


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