Think a coaching change is a life saver from day one? History has something to say about that.
It's time for my annual game-by-game prediction for the 2006 Big 12 Conference football season, but before I put on the blindfold and chuck the darts, I wanted to see how coaching changes have fared in the past before diving into Colorado and Kansas State's first year under new regimes.
Here's what I came up with: From 2000-2005, half of the Big 12 teams have changed football coaches. Those six had a 22-47 combined record in their first season of the new era. Some cupboards were empty (Kansas University), some in OK shape (Texas A&M;). Some hirings came from within (Oklahoma State), some came from outside, where a subsequent playbook gutting soon took place (Nebraska).
But get this: Just one out of the six showed any improvement from the old coach's last season to the new coach's first. That would be Missouri, which went 4-7 in Gary Pinkel's first year after Larry Smith's swan song was a 3-8 dance.
The other five showed no progress in the standings. Baylor had identical 3-9 records in Kevin Steele's last season and Guy Morriss' first. The other four, including Kansas, took a step back before slowly trudging forward.
I'm not one to argue with trends, so that's why Colorado and K-State don't look so hot in my crystal ball. As for the rest of the Big 12? Read on:
(9-3 overall, 6-2 Big 12)
Wins: Louisiana Tech, Nicholls State, Troy, Kansas, at Kansas State, Texas, at Oklahoma State, Missouri, Colorado.
Losses: at Southern California, at Iowa State, at Texas A&M.;
Why 9-3? The most talented team in the North continues to gain comfort under Bill Callahan's West-Coast offense. After the 40-15 pasting by Kansas, Nebraska went 3-0 against Kansas State, Colorado and Michigan. There's no reason to think it won't carry over into 2006.
2. Iowa State (7-5, 4-4)
Wins: Toledo, UNLV, Northern Iowa, Nebraska, Texas Tech, at Kansas State, Kansas.
Losses: at Iowa, at Texas, at Oklahoma, at Colorado, Missouri.
Why 7-5? Iowa State has a great fleet of skilled offensive players, but a step backwards on defense and an agonizing schedule won't make things easy in Ames. Still, a bowl berth looks good for the third straight season.
3. Kansas (7-5, 4-4)
Wins: Northwestern State, Louisiana-Monroe, South Florida, Oklahoma State, at Baylor, Colorado, Kansas State.
Losses: at Toledo, at Nebraska, Texas A&M;, at Iowa State, at Missouri.
Why 7-5? The defense will be good, but not awesome like last year, It's hard to ignore both KU's past struggles on the road and the uncertainty of a freshman quarterback - no matter how talented Kerry Meier appears to be. With the schedule, an 8-4 record certainly is possible if KU doesn't lay any eggs, but 7-5 is a safer bet. Independence Bowl, anyone?
4. Missouri (7-5, 3-5)
Wins: Murray State, Mississippi, at New Mexico, Ohio, Colorado, at Iowa State, Kansas.
Losses: at Texas Tech, at Texas A&M;, Kansas State, Oklahoma, at Nebraska.
Why 7-5? Between Oct. 7 and Nov. 4, the Tigers play four games that they should be underdogs in - three on the road. And then there's K-State and Kansas, two teams Gary Pinkel is 2-8 against while at Mizzou. Honestly, five losses aren't hard to find.
5. Colorado (5-7, 3-5)
Wins: Montana State, Colorado State, Baylor, Kansas State, Iowa State.
Losses: Arizona State, at Georgia, at Missouri, Texas Tech, at Oklahoma, at Kansas, at Nebraska.
Why 5-7? Colorado has a hard non-conference schedule and a hard road schedule. A new coach and new offensive skilled players could point toward rebuilding, but the defense will keep Colorado in most games. Just not enough.
6. Kansas State (5-7, 2-6)
Wins: Illinois State, Florida Atlantic, Marshall, Oklahoma State, at Missouri.
Losses: Louisville, at Baylor, Nebraska, Iowa State, at Colorado, Texas, at Kansas.
Why 5-7? The Wildcats have to prove themselves when you put together a coaching staff that seems a bit inexperienced and a group of players that have gone 4-12 the last two seasons in conference play. The added experience among the players will help, but I'm not sold on a winning season this year.
Big 12 South
1. Oklahoma (11-1, 8-0)
Wins: UAB, Washington, Middle Tennessee State, Texas, Iowa State, Colorado, at Missouri, at Texas A&M;, Texas Tech, at Baylor, at Oklahoma State.
Losses: at Oregon.
Why 11-1? Because top to bottom, Oklahoma is the Big 12's best team. Adrian Peterson could win the Heisman, Rhett Bomar could be first-team All-Big 12, and the defense is a great supporting cast that could allow the Sooners to win every game.
2. Texas (9-3, 6-2)
Wins: North Texas, at Rice, Iowa State, Sam Houston State, Baylor, at Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, at Kansas State, Texas A&M.;
Losses: Ohio State, Oklahoma, at Nebraska.
Why 9-3? It'd be undefeated-here's-your-crystal-football-have-a-nice-day if Vince Young was back. But with someone so special jumping to the NFL, you can't expect a flawless transition. UT is loaded enough that a Big 12 title is within reach. I just don't see them winning it.
3. Texas Tech (9-3, 5-3)
Wins: SMU, at UTEP, at TCU, Southeastern Louisiana, at Texas A&M;, Missouri, at Colorado, Baylor, Oklahoma State.
Losses: at Iowa State, Texas, at Oklahoma.
Why 9-3? Because the passing attack is so potent - and the receiving fleet so, so good - that only a serviceable defense is needed to make the Red Raiders big contenders. Texas Tech has it all, so keep an eye on their run.
4. Texas A&M; (8-4, 4-4)
Wins: The Citadel, Louisiana-Lafayette, Army, Lousiana Tech, at Kansas, Missouri, at Baylor, Nebraska.
Losses: Texas Tech, at Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, at Texas.
Why 8-4? Too many holes on last year's defense. Could they have all been patched up? I do like Stephen McGee at quarterback, and recruiting has never been a problem, so the talent is there. It's just not at Oklahoma-Texas-Texas Tech level right now.
5. Baylor (5-7, 2-6)
Wins: Northwestern State, at Washington State, Army, Kansas State, at Oklahoma State.
Losses: TCU, at Colorado, at Texas, Kansas, Texas A&M;, at Texas Tech, at Oklahoma State, Oklahoma.
Why 5-7? You look for more victories for Baylor, unquestionably an improving team, but where the heck are they? The Bears could win up to four Big 12 games, but it'll take some good performances against Colorado, Oklahoma State or Kansas to make it happen.
6. Oklahoma State (4-8, 1-7)
Wins: Missouri State, at Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, Texas A&M.;
Losses: at Houston, at Kansas State, at Kansas, Nebraska, at Texas, at Texas Tech, Oklahoma.
Why 4-8? The Cowboys are going to find rebuilding to be a multi-year process in the Big 12 South. Quarterback Bobby Reid needs to show why his talent was worth coach Mike Gundy moving Donovan Woods to defense. The good news is, the offense around Reid isn't all that bad.