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2009 College Football Betting: Big 12 Preview
by Marc Lawrence

For all intents and purposes, the BIG 12 CONFERENCE has become a main player in the BCS picture.

The conference has proven that quality, not quantity, earns national championships while the loop continues to get stronger by the season. However, Oklahoma’s loss to Florida in last year’s BCS title game perpetuated a problem that has officials in the conference concerned.

The BIG 12 has fallen short in bowl games where, since they expanded to a 12-team league in 1999, the conference is 38-39 SU and 31-44 ATS in post-season play. Worse, against bowl opponents with a win percentage of .750 or greater, the Big Dozen doesn’t get the job done, going just 12-21 SU and 8-25 ATS, including 3-14 ATS when laying points against teams of this ilk. Do yourself a favor and save that stat for the bowl games later this season.

A known haven for quarterbacks, two of the top three finishers in last year’s Heisman Trophy race, winner Sam Bradford of Oklahoma and runner-up Colt McCoy of Texas, figure to keep the focus on the BIG 12 regular season race. They will be pushed by the likes of Kansas’ Todd Reesing and Oklahoma State’s Zac Robinson in the race for QB supremacy….

(* indicates # of returning offensive/defensive starters)

BAYLOR – *9 / 9
Team Theme – ART SMILES

It’s safe to say Art Briles put smiles on the faces of many Bear alumni last season. While the Bears improved only game over the 2007 edition, huge strides were made on both sides of the ball. Those same smiles are again in place with the return of 18 starters (20 including special teams - the most since 1969). The offense is keyed by dynamic SO QB Robert Griffin who passed for over 2000 yards while managing to rush for more than 800 yards last year. ESPN.com’s Bruce Feldman says Griffin is the fastest man to ever play quarterback in college football. Griffin also graduated No. 7 in his high school class. Like last year, the Bears will take on 8 bowlers this season. “We feel really good about the direction we are going and about how we are going to get there,” beamed Briles. PLAY ON: vs. Connecticut (9/19)

COLORADO – *9 / 4
Team Theme – BAR-MITZVAH!

“Every place I’ve been we’ve raised the bar. That time has come here.” Those were the words of head coach Dan Hawkins, when asked of his goal of 10 wins this season. Is that a bold prediction or a bold intent? What we do know is Hawkins’ team lost 110-man games to either injury or illness from his two-deep roster last season. And it’s part of the reason 95 freshmen were forced start games the past two seasons. The Buffaloes return 10 starters on offense, including JR QB Cody Hawkins, the coach’s son. The offensive line is the strength of the team with 6 of the top 7 players back. It’s what sprung RB Darrell Scott all over the field in the spring game, prompting SPORTING NEWS TODAY college football staff writer Matt Hayes to exclaim, “Scott was a beast in spring drills.” Maybe the bar isn’t high enough. PLAY ON: vs. Missouri (10/31)

IOWA STATE – *9 / 6
Team Theme – TRADE UP

A follow up on the Gene Chizik “trade” to Auburn: the coach to be named later was Paul Rhoads, defensive coordinator with the Tigers last season and native Iowan. Rhoads was also the DC at Pittsburgh (2000-07) and a defensive coach for five years before that at LSU. Rhoads captured Big East Defensive Coordinator of the Year honors in 2007. Quite a nice resume, to say the least. His new DC is Wally Burnham from USF (10th in the nation in team defense last year). The new OC is Tom Hearn, who re-wrote school records at Rice the past two seasons. Returning QB Austen Arnaud figures to benefit the most from this transition. With Florida transfer RB Bo Williams entrenched in the backfield, the Cyclones should snap a 17-game road-losing skein – the nation’s longest - sooner than later. PLAY ON: vs. Texas A&M (10/31)

KANSAS – *8 / 7
Team Theme – ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK

According to Rivals.com, Mark Mangino knows what you're thinking. Kansas is a basketball school. Kansas hasn't won a conference football championship since 1968. "I have heard it all and I don't think any of those things are a big enough detriment to keep us from our goals," says Mangino. "When we came here there really wasn't a lot of talent. It was almost like a I-AA program." That’s not the case today. Last season's 8-5 record was a letdown, though KU did go to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history. Unsung QB Todd Reesing is 20-6 as a starter, tossing for 7374 yards and 65 TD’s the past two seasons. Favorites to win the Big 12 North title, Kansas could be 6-0 when Oklahoma comes to town in late October. Yes, KU is a football school, too. PLAY ON: as a dog vs. Oklahoma (10/24)

KANSAS STATE – 7 / 8
Team Theme – GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER

Who said you can never go back home again? Not Bill Snyder, that’s for sure. The 69-year old coaching legend returns to the sidelines in Manhattan where here compiled a 136-68 record with the Wildcats during his tenure from 1989-2005, including 11 bowl games. That was, by the way, after inheriting a team that was on a 0-26-1 run. Lest you think this man can’t coach, or is past his prime, consider this: the 136 wins equaled the amount KSU totaled the previous 56 seasons. Snyder assembled 3 former head coaches with 77 years of combined experience. Some of his former assistants include Bob Stoops, Mike Stoops, Jim Leavitt, Brett Bielema and Mark Mangino. The biggest shoes to fill are those of departed QB Josh Freeman. His replacement, JR Carson Coffman, saw action in six games last season. Guess who’s home again? PLAY ON: vs. Kansas (11/7)

MISSOURI – 5 / 4
Team Theme – THE CHASE IS OVER

It’s funny how being in the right place at the right time makes all the difference in the world. With one winning season in his first four years with the Tigers, Gary Pinkel turned his fate over to QB Chase Daniel in 2005. Four straight bowl appearances and a 37-16 record later, Daniel is off hoping to land a job with the Redskins in the NFL while Pinkel has inked a long-term, multi-million dollar deal with Missouri. Is that fair? Hardly. Also gone is WR Jeremy Maclin, a first-round draft choice of the Philadelphia Eagles. Suddenly, Pinkel’s coaching prowess is on the line. With 22 wins the last two years (only Oklahoma and USC have more), and only 9 starters back this season, look for Pinkel to fall prey to the law of diminishing returns in 2009. PLAY AGAINST: vs. Nebraska (10/8)

NEBRASKA – 5 / 6
Team Theme – FLU THE COUP

Bo Pellini’s personality is highly infectious and it appears to have reached pandemic proportions at Nebraska. In other words, football fever is running rampant throughout Lincoln these days, much like it used to in the good old days. Inheriting a team last year that came off its worst season since 1961, Pellini went to work doing what he does best, namely orchestrating the defense. A 127-YPG defensive improvement, highlighted by a rush ‘D’ that was the most improved in the nation, resulted in a nine-win effort, the most by a first-year coach in 2008. Sure, 8 opponents that were .500 or better last year dot the schedule, but there are no back-to-back road games. Is a sophomore jinx in the offing for Pellini? We doubt it. Not in a city where winning is contagious and the coach is immune to losing. PLAY ON: as a dog vs. Oklahoma (11/7)

OKLAHOMA – *5 / 9
Team Theme – KILLER B’s

The stage is set for OU to win their 4th conference championship in a row. Like last year, when the Sooners faced the toughest schedule in the country, they will need to get past eight opponents who were bowl teams the previous season (four of which won 10-plus games). It should not be a problem for this deeply talented squad. A high-powered offense is in good hands behind Heisman Trophy winning QB Sam Bradford. Defensively, the entire line returns and all are NFL caliber players. In all, 4 starters on this year’s squad bypassed the NFL to return for another year. It’s no wonder Bob Stoops has joined the legendary likes of legendary coaches Bernie Owen, Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer as the only four coaches in school history to win 100 games. He’s a winner and so are his teams. PLAY AGAINST: vs. Baylor (10/10)

OKLAHOMA STATE – *8 / 6
Team Theme – ZAC ATTACK

Some feel the Cowboys may be the best football team in the state of Oklahoma. Eight starters return from the second-most prolific offense in OSU history, led by dynamic SR QB Zac Robinson. WR Dez Bryant and RB Kendall Hunter combined for 38 TD’s in 2008. Matt Hayes, head college football writer for SPORTING NEWS, calls Hunter the best running back in the nation. “By December, everyone will know about him,” said Hayes. A schedule loaded with eight home games means OSU will be on the road only four times this season and three of those rod foes posted losing records last year. Incidentally, all three regular season losses last year were against opponents ranked No. 1, 2 and 3 at the time. With new DC Bill Young (Miami Fla) influencing the defense, our opening statement could prove prophetic. “How about them Cowboys!” PLAY AGAINST: vs. Missouri (10/17)

TEXAS – *8 / 4
Team Theme – SIMPLY THE BEST

The only team in the nation that has started and finished the season the AP Top 15 the last nine years, the Longhorns figure to extend that streak in 2009 behind a wealth of returning talent. It begins with sixteen starters coming back this season, including Heisman-finalist QB Colt McCoy, whose 9732 career passing yards top all returning signal callers in 2009. McCoy’s 70.2 career completion percentage is also the best in the land. If you don’t think Texas is serious about the young Colt winning the Heisman this year, then think again. Seven full pages in the 2009 Texas Spring Prospectus were devoted to McCoy. The country’s best team away from home, in terms of win percentage the last 10 years (51-16, .761), the Horns will look to continue their 169 straight-week skein inside the USA TODAY poll this year. Don’t bet against them. PLAY ON vs. Texas Tech (9/19)

TEXAS A&M – *9 / 7
Team Theme – BAD BLOOD

A 4-8 season under first-year head coach Mike Sherman was embarrassing, but it gives the Aggies plenty of reason to come to play with a fully focused effort in 2009. An assault by Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach on the A&M program via the press did the trick. It concerned former Aggie QB Stephen McGee and occurred after the NFL draft when Leach proclaimed, “The Dallas Cowboys like him (McGee) more than his coaches at A&M did.” In the words of the Hatfields and the McCoys, “them’s fightin’ words”. To which Sherman countered, “Coach Leach is in no position to comment about my relationship with Stephen McGee.” Perhaps you can issue statements like Leach did after you’ve beat an opponent four straight years by a 165-76 margin. You should also know when to zip your lip. PLAY ON: as a dog vs. Texas Tech (10/24)

TEXAS TECH – 5 / 7
Team Theme – WOULDA COULDA SHOULDA

The warning signs were there. Eighteen returning starters and quick-strike offense piloted by a record-setting quarterback had all the earmarks of a special team. The 2008 Red Raiders did not disappoint. A 10-0 start had Mike Leach entertaining visions of playing for all the marbles in the BCS title game. Then it all fell apart. A 44-point loss at Oklahoma was followed by a lethargic 7-point victory over lowly Baylor. Then, at 11-1 for the year, the Red Raiders went down in flames in the Cotton Bowl against Ole Miss and the magical season was gone. Now, with Graham Harrell, the only QB in college football history with back-to-back 5000 yard seasons, and his main go-to WR Michael Crabtree playing for pay in the NFL, the Big 12’s leader with 16-straight bowl eligible seasons will be hard pressed to match last year’s dream-like campaign. PLAY ON: as a dog vs. Oklahoma (11/21)

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