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Archive for Friday, April 25, 2008

Mayer: Big 12 QB-rich this year

April 25, 2008

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A couple of injuries could change the picture, but right now the Big 12 enjoys a virtual embarrassment of riches in football quarterbacking. Our league, from the Big Seven era on, never has showcased such an array of potential game-changers. Every team except Iowa State has at least one promising signal-caller; 10 of them were starters last season.

Baseball managers every spring declare they could win a pennant, even if they're only blowing ticket-sale smoke. Then reality bites. Big 12 gridiron coaches don't have to be hucksters to get revved up.

A year ago, the Big 12 North was discounted by some as a poor relative that might even deserve pity. Along came Chase Daniel of Missouri, Todd Reesing of Kansas University, Josh Freeman of Kansas State, Cody Hawkins of Colorado and, finally, Joe Ganz of Nebraska.

Daniel and Reesing passed for 33 touchdowns each in leading their teams to victories in the Cotton and Orange bowls. Reesing and Daniel were deadly threats to run the ball into the end zone. Daniel will lure more preseason hype, but Kansas coach Mark Mangino insists he wouldn't trade "my guy" for anyone. Both teams could be better because of their established triggermen, though it's highly unlikely KU with its schedule can construct another 12-1 record.

KSU's Freeman has an interception demon to exorcise, but he, too, should be better. Hawkins, the Colorado coach's kid, is another who could do more wondrous things.

Looking south, the league has at least four quarterbacks whose coaches think they are as good as anyone: national passing champ Graham Harrell of Texas Tech, veteran Colt McCoy of Texas, athletic Sam Bradford of Oklahoma and battle-tested Stephen McGee of Texas A&M. Oklahoma State junior Zac Robinson and Baylor senior Blake Szymanski aren't in that class, but they still have a lot going for them. Again, only Iowa State currently lacks an entry into the QB derby after Bret Meyer's departure.

What a Big 12 season this should be! Four teams - Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas - finished among the nation's top 10 last fall, and the league posted a 5-3 bowl record. With all those quarterbacks to build on, imagine what a hair-raising showdown we should see in '08.

Some are picking Kansas as a 9-3 or 8-4 team this time around. Before you get your nose out of joint about the Jayhawks being slighted, consider the ferocity of the schedule.

With bowl-winner South Florida the third opponent, KU will have to amalgamate quickly to go 4-0 in non-league play as it did last year. The upset of Virginia Tech proved that anyone's in reach. Florida International, Louisiana Tech and Sam Houston State are definite probables, and so is Iowa State as the fifth opponent. Still, with Reesing in charge, KU's fully capable of a 5-0 surge out of the gate.

But can the Jayhawks do as well as 5-2 against Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Nebraska, Texas and Missouri? No Baylor, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State windfalls this year. Further, in the Big 12 North, Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Kansas State all figure to be better. There are visits to Lincoln and Norman to complicate things. What the heck. A 10-2 could result.

If no key quarterbacks get knocked out early, we're due for an absolutely delirious football experience.

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