Keep rollin rollin rollin rollin rollin rollin.....
Here are my Big 12 (#2 conference in 2008) predictions for this season.
Big 12 South
This Oklahoma team is stacked and has the schedule set up just right. There are worries at LB and DB for the Sooners, but the sick talent on the defensive line will allow the raw talent in the back 7 to make plays. The Sooner defense has VHTs (Steele TM) all over the place, so it's a matter of time before they explode. Offensively, they are just sick. Sam Bradford was the best QB in the nation last year, and he has playmakers everywhere ... again. Murray and Brown are both battle tested, plus Jermie Calhoun and Justin Johnson are super frosh. All of these things are going to be fine behind an entire returning offensive line where 3 of them made either 1st or 2nd Team All Big 12. Loadholt and Robinson are 1st round talents, and Walker, Cooper, and Braxton are draft picks, possibly 1st day ... and all are seniors. If they can win the annual showdown with Texas (they will) and stay focused on the road, they'll play for the national title.
Did you know Tech actually ranked 2nd statistically in Big 12 play last year? Some people have pegged them as surprise B12 South champs, but they don't have the same talent as OU in the trenches. Everybody knows about the offense, and it returns 10 starters. The pass defense for Tech was good last year, mainly because everybody ran it down their throat. They only generated 25 sacks and were -5 in turnover margin. Normally, with 8 returning starters, you'd expect improvement. However, TT doesn't have a lot of raw talent on hand on defense. Yes, those players will be a little better, but enough to take over the South? I don't think so. They have to travel to Norman, and it could decide the division.
With the addition of Will Muschamp, the Longhorns could jump above Tech for #2 this year. However, I'm still not sold on Colt McCoy, and I think his struggles will continue. The loss of Jamaal Charles will also be felt, but it's hard to ignore the masses of highly touted players they have on the roster. Same deal with the defense - only 4 returning starters, but VHTs (Steele TM) EVERYWHERE. I think Deon Beasley is a star in the making, but the defense will need another year before it's dominant. 2009 could be a very special season for the Horns, but be patient through a 9-3 (6-2) season.
Big 12 North
Normally when a team comes out of nowhere (I predicted it last year though), they regress the next year. Not Missouri, though. They were the #1 team statistically in the Big 12 and lost little to the draft. A couple points of concern are the +13 in turnovers (signals a regression) and +2 in close games (signals a regression). However, at worst they'll lose 2 games in a mediocre North division. Tony Temple was better than people thought, and Franklin and Rucker were very good targets for Daniel. They return 10 of their top 11 tacklers, so the defense will improve, too. However, they generated only 30 sacks last year, and lose 6.5 with the graduation of Lorenzo Williams. William Moore is a stud at safety, but for the secondary's sake, the pass rush needs to get there.
I really wanted to put Kansas at #3, but I couldn't. Just know this: they are going to lose at least 4 games overall, and probably 3 in conference. Their schedule is exponentially more difficult than a year ago: @ Oklahoma, @ Nebraska, v. Missouri, v. Texas, v. Texas Tech. They MIGHT lose 4 conference games. But I have to give them the benefit of the doubt. They return 6 starters from a potent offense, but they lose two 2-year starters from the line and a productive RB in McAnderson. Reesing will certainly regress, too. The defense returns 9 starters and 8 of their top 10 tacklers. Still, their +21 in turnovers and +3 in close games are two red flags.
I originally had the Huskers pegged for #2, but that defense still scares the crap out of me. It will take more than 1 season for Bo Pelini to fix it. The offense should remain very good, and with a bit more rushing offense, it can keep the defense off the field. The biggest thing for the Huskers is to improve on the awful 13 sacks it produced on defense last year. You could have Champ Bailey, Deangelo Hall, Bob Sanders, and Adrian Wilson in the backfield and still get torched when you don't get pressure on the QB. Luckily, the Huskers return all 4 starting defensive linemen, and they're talented. Pelini can generate a pass rush with these guys. Still, 3-5/4-4 is probably the end result.
If you're a Colorado fan, you'll probably leave feedback.