SportsTemps home

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Big 12 (South) Predictions for 2009

Texas

Record: 11-1 (7-1)

2008 Synopsis

Being left out of the BCS Championship Game will be forever stuck in the craw of Texas football history in 2008. Yet, an eleven win campaign can never be looked down upon for a program, even one as prestigious as the Longhorns. The “what if” thought process will haunt this team until next year’s kickoff. One can only wonder if their heart will be in the upcoming Fiesta Bowl matchup with Ohio State?

Strengths and Weaknesses

The announced return of the offensive machine Colt McCoy for his senior year is a huge coup for head coach Mack Brown. McCoy (Texas’ leading rusher) will for sure be the leading Heisman candidate heading into 2009. The Longhorns will also sport a stable of thoroughbred running backs in Foswhitt Whitaker and monstrous Cody Johnson. The 255 pounder had an amazing 12 touchdowns in 2008. McCoy will also be protected with a stout offensive line with four senior linemen returning for action.
Attrition within the receiving corp and along the defensive line will make an eleven win season difficult to match in 2009. Leading receivers Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley will be graduating and only senior Lamarr Houston will be coming back on the defensive front. Running the ball and stopping the run will determine how far the Longhorns get in 2009. A weak non-conference schedule (Rice, Florida Atlantic, and UTEP) will allow the Longhorns to achieve a 10-2 record and first place in Big 12 South division next season.

Texas’ Memorial Stadium (cap. 93,553) gradually through expansion and renovation over the last ten years has become a pristine, state of the art football gallery. Its immaculate grass sod is arguably the finest playing surface in the country. Though, for a stadium that seats over 90,000 people, I expect crowd noise on par with an SEC venue. This unfortunately has not been the case in Austin. The crowd creates a wine and cheese scene instead of a Lion’s Den so prominently described in the Southeast and other large capacity stadiums.

Stadium Grade: B+


Oklahoma State

Record: 9-3 (5-3)

2008 Synopsis

Mike Gundy had his Cowboy team sitting in the top ten for most of the year and put to bed the chatter over not being former coach Les Miles equal. The offensive mastermind (Gundy) has built and sustained a quality program in Stillwater.

Strengths and Weaknesses

2009 will be marked by the return of the three-headed offensive monster in quarterback Zac Robinson (2,735 yards passing), running back Kendall Hunter (1,518 yards rushing, 6.7 ypc), and wide receiver Dez Bryant (18 touchdowns). Three returning offensive lineman will also be back to aid in clearing holes for the amazing running game and aid Gundy’s plentiful passing attack. The Cowboy defense will return seven players with the entire linebacker corp coming back for their senior season. Massive nose guard Tonga Tea will be a difficult cog in the run defense to replace. Both starting defensive ends (Derek Bruton & Ugo Chinasa) return to create a much needed pass rush. If they were not Oklahoma State, I would pick the Cowboys as the favorite in the South. I tough early season matchup with Georgia will toughen up the Cowboys for the Big 12 season and their second place finish (9-3).

Boone Pickens Stadium (cap. 60,000) has been enlarged by the funding from the generous booster who bears his name upon the Cowboy’s stadium. The field now welcomes more proper college football scenery with the football field being completely enclosed. Cowboy fans have done well in transferring their zaniness presented at Gallagher-Iba to Pickens Stadium. The absurd rule banning non season ticket holders from attending the Bedlam rivalry needs to be outlawed. They were 10,000 empty seats for the big matchup against the Sooners this year.

Stadium Grade: B-


Oklahoma

Record: 12-1 (7-1)

2008 Synopsis

Oklahoma’s season will be either remembered for glory or another failed BCS Bowl effort. Bob Stoops has lost the stigma of being a “big game” coach and shows the weight gain of a coach dealing with the stress of the hot seat. A national title would sure bury those worries and reestablish Stoops as one of the elites in the college football community. Oh yeah, quarterback Sam Bradford rounded up the regular season by laying claim to the Heisman trophy.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The 2009 season will hinge on whether stud passer Sam Bradford returns for another go at a college football season. If he does, Oklahoma may be able to offset the damage of losing everyone from one of top offensive lines in the country. Receivers Juaquin Iglesias and Manuel Johnson will be graduating, leaving new faces for Bradford to throw to. Running backs DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown will be returning to help in the offensive effort. The unusual porous defense displayed by the Sooners for most of 2008 had to send alarm to the defensive minded Stoops. Therefore, I see nothing but improvement coming from Oklahoma in 2009. If not, I think defensive coordinator Brent Venables will be looking for a new job next December. Oklahoma achieves a hard fought 8 wins and four losses next year. Considering the amount of decimation on the offensive side of the ball and the success in ’08, a third place finish in the south is nothing to be ashamed of for Oklahoma.

Memorial Stadium (cap. 82,112) is always packed no matter the competition and one of the cleanest stadiums in the conference. The fans seem drunk with the program’s success and usually only bring the noise for big matchups. Though, when the game does come with hype, the Sooner faithful do not lack enthusiasm. One can only imagine how much the atmosphere would improve if the Red River Rivalry came north every other year? For a program with such history, the Sooners home just lacks that presence or charisma that most major football schools supply for game-day theater.

Stadium Grade: B


Texas Tech

Record: 11-1 (7-1)

2008 Synopsis

Head Coach Mike Leach was a blowout loss from Oklahoma away from getting a shot at a true amazing season in Lubbock. Though, considering the status of Texas Tech’s football program years ago, one cannot be embarrassed of their eleven win season. Still, the consolation of a trip to the Cotton Bowl seems unrewarding for such a fine record. Red Raider fans should also feel glee for the fact that Leach is still manning the sidelines of this former wasteland of college football. Michael Crabtree’s miraculous last second winning touchdown catch against Texas can always be reminisced upon for years to come by Tech fans.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Quarterback Graham Harrell, his 41 touchdown passes and 4,747 passing yards will exit after 2008. The Red Raiders will also see exodus along its vaunted offensive line with the graduation of second team All-Big 12 linemen Louis Vazquez and Rylan Reed. Two-time Biletnikoff award winner Michael Crabtree will also be lost to the NFL, placing a severe absence in the Red Raiders passing attack. Eight players will be returning to Texas Tech’s defense in ’09 with only second team All-Big 12 safety Daniel Charbonnet leaving school. Hopefully, Texas Tech’s defense will be able to step up and limit the carnage on the opposite side of the ball. I see this being highly doubtful and a fourth place finish in the South Division with a 7-5 record in the works for '09.

SBC Stadium (cap. 52,882) garnered the spotlight this season with some major prime-time matchups. The stadium lacks the size of its South Division brethren but brought quite a noise level for its two huge night games against the Longhorns and Oklahoma State. Still, major point deductions for having the corporate sponsor (SBC) for the stadium. Corporate naming rights don’t belong in the college game.

Stadium Grade: C+


Baylor

Record: 4-8 (2-6)

2008 Synopsis

2008 christened first year coach Art Briles to the Waco scene. The season brought a one game improvement in the win column and the emergence of the talented Robert Griffin at quarterback. The program established that it is rising from the basement of the Big 12 with blowout victories over Iowa State and Texas A&M. A real direction seems to be in the works for Briles’ program.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Three more years of Robert Griffin is the main reason for optimism in Waco. The athletic quarterback seems to have a knack for making electric plays and turning broken plays into large gains. Eight starters will be returning to an improving defense under coordinator Brian Norwood. Having a returning center (JD Walton) is also a huge omen for an upcoming season. Baylor’s second leading rusher Jay Finley also returns to aid in the Bears’ running game. Both kicker (Ben Parks) and punter (Derek Epperson) return for the special teams, essential for a rising program. The only weakness for this team is getting over the baggage of being a program mired in mediocrity. I call for a 5th place South finish with another one game improvement (5-7).

Floyd Casey (cap. 50,000) is a stadium that really lacks a reputation for reasons being that the Baylor program has failed to have any semblance of success for the last 25 years. Waco itself maintains a reputation as a sour college town with no livelihood. I have no idea really how to grade this stadium.

Stadium Grade: C (really should be undecided)


Texas A&M

Record: 4-8 (2-6)

2008 Synopsis

2008 represented a transition year for the Aggies with new head coach in Mike Sherman taking over the reins for the terminated Dennis Franchione. With most first year head coaches, the season was entrenched in instituting a new system of play with players not recruited by the new head coach. With Sherman’s pro-style background, working with players recruited for the zone-read offense fostered its predictable shortcomings in the four win '08 season. Sherman’s hire also displays a yearning to return to the glory days of the Aggie past (Sherman was an assistant under R.C. Slocum). The verdict is still out on whether the “wrecking crew” will return.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Three year starting quarterback Stephen McGee’s graduation will place a void behind center, as will the loss of bruising running back Jovorskie Lane. Speedster Mike Goodson will return but his production dramatically decreased this season by only rushing for 406 yards. The running game must improve for the Aggies to be competitive in the Big 12. Texas Tech has surpassed A&M as the second best football program in Texas (something that can’t sit well with Aggie fans). Currently, Texas A&M has even become more of a basketball school (those screams you hear are A&M alumni running for the hills). Drastic help is needed to return this dormant football program to national prominence. I’m just not sure if some washed up NFL coach/coordinator is the man to do it. The Aggies ride another rough transition season with a last place finish in the South Division and a 4-8 record.

Kyle Field (cap. 82,600) and its 12th man tradition is a glorious sight on Saturday afternoons. The militaristic culture of the student body and the adoration for its collie mascot Reveille are second to none in the tradition department. Not many student sections are more involved in the game action. Even the concrete edifice of Kyle Field seems to fit the military vibe so prevalent in College Station. The simplicity of the stadium would fit well on a military base. Kyle Field’s grandstands tower over the game action and seem to have been designed for outright visitor intimidation. A&M’s student body swaying, yell leader chants, and the outright fan loyalty deserve a better product on the football field.

Stadium Grade: A
Post a Comment