The college football season - at least in the Big 12 Conference - could be as wild and unpredictable as ever.
There certainly are favorites to win the league (surprise, surprise, Texas and Oklahoma), and there are favorites to drag behind while getting re-situated (Iowa State and Baylor).
But it has been awhile since there have been five or six legitimate candidates to make a league title run.
Texas and Oklahoma have the sensational athletes, prestige and winning attitude. Texas A&M returns enough talent to dethrone the two, if only it can survive its schedule. Missouri might have one of the best offenses in college football. Nebraska is reloading and returns many impact players.
Oklahoma State is a dark horse. Texas Tech never is a pushover.
It's time for the third annual game-by-game predictions column, and if I learned anything from the previous two disasters, it's that logic means a lot less than you might think. Off-field situations can derail predictions, and lesser foes sometimes show up and outplay teams they shouldn't be outplaying.
So my gut has more of a say this year. In the end, my picks to win each division aren't too surprising, but there were several games I agonized over when trying simply to pick a winner.
That's great news for college football fans. Predictability stinks, and there won't be too much of that as this season gets rolling.
Here's one man's guess for the 2007 season:
(10-2 overall, 6-2 Big 12)
Wins: vs. Illinois, at Ole Miss, Western Michigan, Illinois State, Nebraska, Texas Tech, Iowa State, Texas A&M, at Kansas State, vs. Kansas.
Losses: at Oklahoma, at Colorado.
Why 10-2?: Mizzou's offense is set up to be phenomenal. Chase Daniel is a great QB, and throwing to targets like Chase Coffman, Martin Rucker and Will Franklin will make him even greater. If the defense is just decent, MU takes the North and has a shot at taking the whole Big 12.
Wins: Nevada, at Wake Forest, Ball State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, at Kansas, Kansas State, at Colorado.
Losses: USC, at Missouri, Texas A&M, at Texas.
Why 8-4?: The Huskers return a lot of good players, but playing the best Mizzou team in a while on the road this year is a bad break. Still, the Huskers will win enough games to get a nice bowl invitation.
3. Kansas State
Wins: San Jose State, Missouri State, Kansas, Colorado, Baylor, at Iowa State.
Losses: at Auburn, at Texas, at Oklahoma State, at Nebraska, Missouri, at Fresno State.
Why 6-6?: If it plays out this way, K-State will regret scheduling Auburn when surely an easier game was available. The Wildcats are talented enough to be in the top half of the Big 12, but games at Texas, at Nebraska and at Oklahoma State - not to mention at Auburn and at an improved Fresno State - will make bowl-eligibility challenging.
Wins: Central Michigan, Southeastern Louisiana, Toledo, Florida International, Baylor, at Colorado, Iowa State.
Losses: at Kansas State, at Texas A&M, Nebraska, at Oklahoma State, vs. Missouri.
Why 7-5?: The way I see it, the Jayhawks will have to win a game they'll be underdogs in to get seven victories. Unless it's Nebraska or Missouri, that will mean winning on the road, a constant KU bugaboo. The game at Colorado will be a real fight, but it could lift the Jayhawks' confidence and help put them back in the postseason.
Wins: vs. Colorado State, Miami (Ohio), at Baylor, at Texas Tech, Missouri.
Losses: at Arizona State, Florida State, Oklahoma, at Kansas State, at Iowa State, Nebraska.
Why 5-7?: The Buffaloes lately have been better than their record, mainly because they schedule nonconference games they won't win. They were better than 2-10 a year ago, and they'll start to show it this year. But playing Arizona State and Florida State will keep them from being bowl-eligible.
6. Iowa State
Wins: Kent State, Northern Iowa, Colorado.
Losses: Iowa, at Toledo, at Nebraska, at Texas Tech, Texas, Oklahoma, at Missouri, Kansas State, at Kansas.
Why 3-9?: Three players - QB Bret Meyer, WR Todd Blythe and LB Alvin Bowen - will have to do the work of more to help ISU out. A new coach rarely comes with immediate rejuvenation, so it will be a tough year in Ames. But they're not so awful that they'll go 0-8, so I threw 'em a bone once.
Wins: Arkansas State, TCU, at Central Florida, Rice, Kansas State, vs. Oklahoma, at Iowa State, at Baylor, Nebraska, Texas Tech, at Texas A&M.
Losses: at Oklahoma State.
Why 11-1?: They're not 2005 great, but they're scary good once again. Colt McCoy is a great quarterback, and he has a gifted supporting cast around him. The South's toughness will give UT constant tests, but expect the Longhorns to pass most of them.
Wins: North Texas, Miami (Fla.), Utah State, at Tulsa, at Colorado, Missouri, at Iowa State, Texas A&M, Baylor, Oklahoma State.
Losses: vs. Texas, at Texas Tech.
Why 10-2?: If Oklahoma had a proven quarterback, it'd be a serious national-title contender. If OU finds one among its inexperienced candidates, it might be anyway. The Sooners' defense will suffocate opponents, and Malcolm Kelly is a dark-horse candidate for best receiver in a conference full of great ones.
3. Texas A&M
Wins: Montana State, Fresno State, Louisiana-Monroe, Baylor, Oklahoma State, at Texas Tech, at Nebraska, Kansas.
Losses: at Miami (Fla.), at Oklahoma, at Missouri, Texas.
Why 8-4?: The road schedule will prevent Texas A&M's best team in years from having an even better record. At Miami, at Texas Tech, at Nebraska, at Oklahoma, at Missouri? Whew - that's not good. Expect the Aggies, led by the gritty Stephen McGee, to have a lot of success, but it won't be easy.
4. Oklahoma State
Wins: Florida Atlantic, at Troy, Texas Tech, Sam Houston State, Kansas State, Texas, Kansas.
Losses: at Georgia, at Texas A&M, at Nebraska, at Baylor, at Oklahoma.
Why 7-5?: The Bobby Reid-to-Adarius Bowman combination will lead to a lot of points (just ask Kansas). The Cowboys are more than that, though. They have good special-teams weapons, the linebackers and secondary all return, and Dantrell Savage averaged 6.5 yards per carry last season. The Cowboys really could surprise some people.
5. Texas Tech
Wins: at SMU, UTEP, at Rice, Northwestern State, Iowa State, at Baylor, Oklahoma.
Losses: at Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, at Missouri, Colorado, at Texas.
Why 7-5?: Texas Tech loses a lot of talent, though QB Graham Harrell will ensure that the passing craziness in Lubbock goes on. It seems to be a recipe for a bowl game every year, and that won't change. Still, with OSU and Texas A&M improving, Tech might have a decent season and still finish fifth in the South.
Wins: Rice, Texas State, at Buffalo, Oklahoma State.
Losses: at TCU, at Texas A&M, Colorado, at Kansas, Texas, at Kansas State, Texas Tech, at Oklahoma.
Why 4-8?: Baylor switched to a new offense before last season, and it worked. However, the Bears now must replace their top two wide receivers and their beloved quarterback, Shawn Bell. It smells like rebuilding, and the Big 12 South shows no mercy while a team is experiencing growing pains.
Big 12 football slate
Thur., Aug. 30
Kent State at Iowa State 7 p.m.
Sat., Sept. 1
Missouri vs. Illinois ESPN2 2:30 p.m.
Nevada at Nebraska ABC 2:30 p.m.
Baylor at TCU CSTV 5 p.m.
Oklahoma State at Georgia ESPN2 5:45 p.m.
Montana State at Texas A&M 6 p.m.
North Texas at Oklahoma FSN 6 p.m.
Kansas State at Auburn ESPN 6:45 p.m.
Arkansas State at Texas TBA
Central Michigan at Kansas 6 p.m.
Colorado State vs. Colorado FSN TBA
Mon., Sept. 3
Texas Tech at SMU ESPN 3 p.m.
Sat., Sept. 8
Miami (Fla.) at Oklahoma ABC 11 a.m.
Nebraska at Wake Forest ESPN 11 a.m.
Fresno State at Texas A&M FSN 2:30 p.m.
TCU at Texas FSN 6 p.m.
UTEP at Texas Tech 6 p.m.
Colorado at Arizona State FSN 9:15 p.m.
Florida Atlantic at Oklahoma State TBA
Missouri at Mississippi TBA
Northern Iowa at Iowa State TBA
Rice at Baylor TBA
San Jose State at Kansas State TBA
Southeastern Louisiana at Kansas 6 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 14
Oklahoma State at Troy ESPN2 7 p.m.
Sat., Sept. 15
Iowa at Iowa State VERSUS 12:30 p.m.
Texas at Central Florida ESPN2 2:30 p.m.
UL-Monroe at Texas A&M 6 p.m.
Texas Tech at Rice 7 p.m.
USC at Nebraska ABC 7 p.m.
Florida State at Colorado ESPN 9 p.m.
Missouri State at Kansas State TBA
Texas State at Baylor TBA
Toledo at Kansas 6 p.m.
Utah State at Oklahoma TBA
Western Michigan at Missouri TBA
Thur., Sept. 20
Texas A&M at Miami (Fla.) ESPN 6:30 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 21
Oklahoma at Tulsa ESPN2 7 p.m.
Sat., Sept. 22
Illinois State at Missouri 1 p.m.
Texas Tech at Oklahoma State FSN 2:30 p.m.
Iowa State at Toledo 6 p.m.
Rice at Texas FSN 6 p.m.
Ball State at Nebraska TBA
Baylor at Buffalo TBA
Florida International at Kansas 6 p.m.
Miami (Ohio) at Colorado TBA
Sat., Sept. 29
Northwestern State at Texas Tech 6 p.m.
Baylor at Texas A&M TBA
Iowa State at Nebraska TBA
Kansas State at Texas TBA
Oklahoma at Colorado TBA
Sam Houston State at Oklahoma State TBA
Sat., Oct. 6
Colorado at Baylor TBA
Iowa State at Texas Tech TBA
Kansas at Kansas State TBA
Nebraska at Missouri TBA
Oklahoma State at Texas A&M TBA
Oklahoma vs. Texas TBA
Sat., Oct. 13
Baylor at Kansas MTBA
Colorado at Kansas State TBA
Missouri at Oklahoma TBA
Oklahoma State at Nebraska TBA
Texas A&M at Texas Tech TBA
Texas at Iowa State TBA
Sat., Oct. 20
Kansas State at Oklahoma State TBA
Kansas at Colorado TBA
Oklahoma at Iowa State TBA
Texas A&M at Nebraska TBA
Texas Tech at Missouri TBA
Texas at Baylor TBA
Sat., Oct. 27
Baylor at Kansas State TBA
Colorado at Texas Tech TBA
Iowa State at Missouri TBA
Kansas at Texas A&M TBA
Nebraska at Texas TBA
Sat., Nov. 3
Kansas State at Iowa State TBA
Missouri at Colorado TBA
Nebraska at Kansas TBA
Texas A&M at Oklahoma TBA
Texas Tech at Baylor TBA
Texas at Oklahoma State TBA
Sat., Nov. 10
Baylor at Oklahoma TBA
Colorado at Iowa State TBA
Kansas State at Nebraska TBA
Kansas at Oklahoma State TBA
Texas A&M at Missouri TBA
Texas Tech at Texas TBA
Sat., Nov. 17
Iowa State at Kansas TBA
Missouri at Kansas State TBA
Oklahoma State at Baylor TBA
Oklahoma at Texas Tech TBA
Fri., Nov. 23
Nebraska at Colorado ABC 11 a.m.
Texas at Texas A&M ABC 2:30 p.m.
Sat., Nov. 24
Kansas State at Fresno State ESPN/ESPN2 TBA
Missouri vs. Kansas TBA
Oklahoma State at Oklahoma TBA
Sat., Dec. 1
Dr Pepper Big 12 Championship at San Antonio ABC 7 p.m.