Forget the resurrection of the Big 12 North. Why not the resurrection of the 10 teams not named Texas or Oklahoma?
While the Big 12 Conference's northern six get all the heat for its so-so parity the last four years of football, such problems really extend into the bottom two-thirds of the South, too.
Not since Kansas State stunned No. 1 Oklahoma in the 2003 Big 12 championship has any of the other 10 delivered a knockout blow to Texas or Oklahoma.
Sure, there have been some good jabs thrown. Kansas State and Texas A&M; knocked Texas out of the Big 12 championship game last year with late-season victories. But all that did was ensure Oklahoma a spot in the game, which it eventually won over Nebraska.
How long will this go on?
Preseason publications seem to be split when deciding a Big 12 champion this summer. Guess which two teams they're tossing around.
As for the underdogs? Texas A&M; might be the South's other best bet to supplant the big two, while Nebraska and Missouri seem to be the teams whispered most as the North representitive in this year's Big 12 championship, played Dec. 1 in San Antonio.
If you have a wad in cash in hand, though, and a Las Vegas sports book is six feet in front of you? The smartest bet might be sticking with what's worked since 2004 - Texas or Oklahoma.
Here's a brief rundown of the Big 12 Conference in 2007:
The Buffaloes weren't as bad as their 2-10 record showed in 2006, and they won't duplicate that dismal showing again in '07.
CU looks to be in stride now, with a true quarterback - Cody Hawkins, coach Dan Hawkins' son - likely under center and key returning starters on offense and defense.
A tough nonconference schedule (Colorado State, at Arizona State, Florida State) will make a bowl berth a challenge, but the Buffs should at least be competitive in the Big 12 North.
The Cyclones may have a tough season ahead. While new head coach Gene Chizik tears the program down and builds it back up, three big-time players will have to do a lot more than what's normally asked of them: quarterback Bret Meyer, wide receiver Todd Blythe and linebacker Alvin Bowen.
Truth is, the talent beyond those three isn't pretty. ISU has a shaky secondary, no proven running back and an inexperienced offensive line. Chizik might have what it takes to turn the Cyclones around, but it probably won't be this year.
Wildcats coach Ron Prince handed the reins to freshman quarterback Josh Freeman last year with mixed results. Wins against Oklahoma State and Texas were sweet, but Freeman imploded in a blowout loss to Kansas and wasn't great in the Texas Bowl loss to Rutgers.
Nevertheless, K-State went bowling in Prince's inaugural year, and has the horses to do it again. Freeman returns a year wiser, and is complemented by speedy running back Leon Patton, solid receiver Jordy Nelson and tight end Rashaad Norwood. Offensive-line play could be the wild card.
Defensively, K-State goes to a 3-4 look, meaning defensive end Ian Campbell will move back to linebacker where his body fits better.
K-State's biggest bugaboo could be its schedule. Games at Auburn, Fresno State, Texas, Oklahoma State and Nebraska will keep the Wildcats from flying too high.
A sexy pick to win the Big 12 North, and why not? Missouri has never done it, but it's hard to argue that this may be the Tigers' best chance yet.
Quarterback Chase Daniel will lead what looks to be a high-octane offense. Three offensive linemen are back, as well as running back Tony Temple, wide receiver Will Franklin and All-America candidates Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman at tight end.
The schedule looks even better. Missouri's top competition in the North - Nebraska - travels to Columbia this year, and a usual road game at Kansas has been moved to Kansas City, Mo., which can't hurt Mizzou's chances.
The Huskers have enough experience to be considered the Big 12 North favorite. Four starters return on the offensive line, Marlon Lucky could shine at running back and receiving options are plentiful for quarterback Sam Keller, an Arizona State transfer.
Linebackers Bo Ruud and Corey McKeon anchor the defense, but they're the only two returning from the front seven. Still, Nebraska has its share of tests the fan base expects it to pass, with a home game against Southern California and road games at Texas and Missouri. We'll soon know how legitimate the Huskers are.
With a slew of inexperienced offensive skilled players, things might not get better in Waco, Texas, just yet.
Continued from page 4C
Baylor went to a pass-happy spread offense last year, but it loses quarterback Shawn Bell and top receivers Dominique Zeigler and Trent Shelton to graduation. The defense has a little more experience returning, but not enough to lead the Bears into the postseason. Not with the Big 12 South schedule and a nonconference game at TCU on the horizon. Five wins probably is the ceiling.
The Sooners will miss Rhett Bomar this year. The quarterback who demolished NCAA rules is at Sam Houston State, and last year's replacement - Paul Thompson - is gone.
The most important position seems to be the only one lacking on a loaded Sooners' squad. Running back Allen Patrick, receiver Malcolm Kelly and a giant offensive line is ready to lend a hand. They just need a leader.
If a quarterback is established and flourishes, look out. The Sooners could really make noise this fall.
What Kansas University fans witnessed last year in Lawrence was the extreme - OSU's Bobby Reid passing for 412 yards and receiver Adarius Bowman accounting for a conference-record 300 off them.
However, it's the No. 1 weapon the Cowboys have going for them in 2007, and KU fans knows it can work wonders. The key to a strong run for the Cowboys is offensive-line play, an improved defense and the continued shining of return-specialist Parrish Cox. They may not win the South, but they won't make it easy on anybody else.
The Longhorns have always had the parts to score lots of points, and this year is no exception. Quarterback Colt McCoy, tailback Jamaal Charles and receivers Limas Sweed, Billy Pittman and Quan Cosby make up an impressive fleet of skilled players.
The offensive line needs to be redone, though, as well as a defensive secondary which lost a lot of talent. With a new coordinator, UT's defense will be under a microscope. If it passes the test, the Longhorns could be headed to a BCS bowl after a one-year hiatus.
If anyone can unseat the Longhorns and Sooners, it's the talented Aggies.
Texas A&M; has a big and experienced offensive line, an All-Big 12 caliber quarterback in Stephen McGee and a pair of running backs that complement each other tremendously. Defensively, the Aggies' front four is stocked with horses and their secondary stays in tact from 2006.
The downside? Texas A&M;'s four conference road games are at Texas Tech, at Nebraska, at Oklahoma and at Missouri. Yikes.
It's business as usual in Lubbock, but with an added twist.
Quarterback Graham Harrell is a - gasp! - returning starter for Tech, instead of the usual system where slingers develop as backups for three years and shine as a senior.
Harrell, just a junior, has the arm to keep Tech's high-powered passing attack going, though he loses receivers Joel Filani, Jarrett Hicks and Robert Johnson to graduation.
The Red Raiders are always good but never great. Don't expect them to win the Big 12 South this year unless they overachieve.