This week, the Big 12 Roundtable is being hosted over at the Big Red Network, a blog that is about the Nebraska Cornhuskers. With that said, let's get to the answers.
1) What has been the biggest surprise of the Big 12 season so far? The home loss to Arkansas State by Texas A&M, the impressive scores by Kansas State and Iowa State, or something else?
This is a tough one for me. I expected A&M to be pretty bad this year, but I also didn't expect them to shit the bed against Arkansas State. And I all-but-guaranteed that K-State and Iowa State would be 5 and 6 in the Big 12 North this season, a fate that both could still find themselves in. However, both have looked incredibly tough thus far this season, although they have both faced, well, entirely inferior competition. Being forced to pick, I'll have to go with Kansas State, but kind of narrow the surprise. Instead, I'll state my utter shock that Josh Freeman has yet to throw an interception. Honestly, who the hell knew he had it in him. Maybe he can be the #1 pick in the NFL Draft afterall. Or not.
2) Should the ankle injury to Jeremy Maclin concern Missouri fans and does it alter the Tigers chances at a division or conference title? Or do his 65 all-purpose yards and a touchdown (on just 6 touches) tell us that he’s fine?
No, Jeremy Maclin's injury shouldn't have much of an effect on either the division or conference title. If he isn't already 100%, he figures to be before the Tigers play a particularly meaningful game. That isn't to say he is completely fine and that he should be treated as completely healthy, only that he should be completely healthy by the time a game rolls around where the Tigers will need a healthy Maclin to win.
3) Many people thought this could be the year that Texas Tech finally breaks through and wins the Big 12 South or at least finishes in the Top 10. Do their performances after two games change your perception of them at all or does this look like a team that can get to a BCS bowl game?
I don't think, personally, that the first two games should have too much of an impact on anyone's preseason predictions. The Red Raiders are a pretty polar team, with some believing them to be a darkhorse for a National Title and others believing that the lack of defense will leave them Bowling in a less desirable location. I don't think they will win the Big 12 South, Oklahoma is just too dominant, but they still have an outside shot at going BCS Bowling, and certainly have a chance, given a tremendous performance in the Bowl game, of finishing in the Top 10. Two less-than-inspiring victories don't change a whole lot, either you believe in them or you don't. Their defense hasn't been completely terrible, as some predicted, thus far, and it has instead been their offense that has struggled. Having not seen a single snap of their season, I would have to guess that the offense will, eventually, work its kinks out and resemble the past Mike Leach productions. That, combined with what appears to be a improved defense, seem to indicate that the Red Raiders are more real than they aren't.
4) Oklahoma has put together some strong performances so far and should be favored in every game they play. But Bob Stoops’ teams have shown themselves to be vulnerable to an upset from time to time. Is this team going to go 13-0 (regular season plus BCS championship game) or will they get knocked off (and if they get upset, who gets ‘em)?
I have them going through the season undefeated, beating MIssouri in the Big 12 North Title Game, and then dispatching USC in the National Championship Game. So, yes, I think that they will go 14-0 and win a National Championship. From what I have seen thus far (and just to make things clear, that was a preseason prediction) this season, they appear to be the most dominant football team in all the land, with the possible obvious exception of USC. Bob Stoops' has won an awful lot of Big 12 Champioinships to now be considered someone who "can't win the big one", which certain people are saying. Kind of idiotic, IMO, and something that they will be able to do away with after winning them all.
However, if they were to trip up, I think it would either be in Dallas or against Texas Tech. And of course, the OU-MU game could be incredible, but I assume we are talking regular season only here. Of course, as a Kansas fan, I would love to think that we stand a chance of knocking them off in Norman, and we do, of course, but it doesn't look good. So, I will go on record saying that if they do lose a game, it will to be an inspired Texas Tech team playing out of its shoes.
5) After two games, what can you say with confidence that you really know about your team?
I can say, with complete confidence, that few, if any, secondaries will be able to stop our passing attack. We are five-deep in high-quality WRs, and combining that with the incredibly accurate Todd Reesing and the take-what-they-give-us mentality of our OC Ed Warriner and just about every team in the country will be short-passed-to-death against us.
I can also say that our defense is going to be good this season. Damn good. More specifically, I can say that Darrell Stuckey is completely underrated in Big 12 circles and that our punt return game is worlds better this year than it was last year, with the addition of true freshman Daymond Patterson.
Of course, I also know that we are painfully thin at defensive end, especially in players who can play both against the run and the pass, and that, thus far, we can't run the ball. Like, at all.
6) With two games down, how would you re-rank the divisions?
NORTH (Overall Rank)
1) Missouri (2) -- Missouri is really good this year. Their secondary may not be all that hot (The Juice is Loose!), but the combination of Sean Weatherspoon at LB and William Moore at S alone is enough to scare plenty of people. And their offense is scary good, and Chase Daniel is a beast at QB. Oh, and Jeremy Maclin is quite fast, in case you hadn't heard. They aren't quite as talented or well-coached as Oklahoma or the other "legitimate" National Championship Contenders (USC, Oklahoma, UGA and Florida), but they just may be the leading team in the next tier down, and are fully capable of going undefeated heading in to the National Champioinship Game.
2) Kansas (5) -- In the Big 12 North, Kansas is clearly Team #2. In the entire Big 12, though, it gets a little tricky as, in my mind at least, KU, UT and Texas Tech are all incredibly similar. The lack of running game is forcing me to slide Kanas behind the duo, but the defense had only allowed a FG in two games (the TD in the FIU game was a punt return TD) and the passing attack looks damn near impossible. Add a running game to that, and Kansas has a chance to win the Big 12.
3) Nebraska (7) -- I'm not overly impressed with the Cornhuskers thus far, but they have been more impressive than any of the other Big 12 North teams. Sure, Iowa State and Kansas State have looked damn near impossible thus far, but that is against two inferior opponents, and while I have yet to see a single play of any of their games, my gut says Nebraska is the best of the trio. And while Colorado remains my pick to finish 3rd in the Big 12 North, and Eastern Washington seems to be a really good team, they don't belong here based off of what they have done thus far.
4) Colorado (8) -- Here, on the other hand, they do belong. I still have them beating Nebraska in Lincoln and creeping up into the 3rd slot, although that prediction looks more precarious following the embarassment of last Saturday. In all honesty, though, Eastern Washington was probably a better football team than Colorado State, as sad as that is, and thus the closer game isn't entirely on Colorado. Still, EWU deserved to win that game, and only some luck and a late INT return for a TD allowed the Buffs to win. A big game coming up next Thursday, where they could officially destroy the Big East's reputation by taking out the Mountaineers.
5) Kansas State (9) -- Sure, the opponents have been North Texas and Montana State, but the Wildcats have put two consecutive good, old fashioned whoopings on them. They have looked like the Bill Snyder teams of old, and Josh Freeman has seemed to have finally lived up to all of that potential. Still, they will need to prove it against anyone, even the terrible Louisville Cardinals, before they can move up from here.
6) Iowa State (10) -- Simply a victim of the North being a deeper division than the South (and maybe a better division overall), as they don't belong to be 6th in a division. They have played quite well thus far this year, especially in dispatching of Kent State by 20 points on Saturday, a team that beat them fairly easily last year. They are obviously on the upswing, and could be a sleeper in the next couple of years to creep up the North.
SOUTH (Overall Rank)
1) Oklahoma (1) -- Best team in the Big 12 South. Best team in the Big 12. Best team in the entire country, even, in my estimation. Now, if USC destroys tOSU this weekend (which I am fully expecting) then I might have to recant that last statement, but it will take someone beating OU on the field before I consider recanting either of the first two.
2) Texas Tech (3) -- I am a believer in the Red Raiders this year. I'm not being ridiculous and picking them to go undefeated, win in Norman and make the Big 12 Championship Game, but I am expecting them to lose only once or twice and find themselves at the Cotton Bowl. Their D still isn't great, but it is better than almost every other unit Leach has put out there, IMO, and their offense will pick it up enough to be the best team Mike Leach has ever had at TTU.
3) Texas (4) -- Not sold on the Longhorns at all this year. Will Muschamp looks like a really awesome DC, but they still have an average-at-best OC in Greg Davis which figures to limit their potential there. Plus, no matter how world-beaterish Colt McCoy looked last Saturday night against UTEP, he isn't that good. Not in the same category, IMO, of the Daniels, Bradfords, Harrells and Reesings. And not even all that close, either. I fully expect Kansas to be a better football team this year and to beat them in Lawrence, although we will have to prove we have a running game before I can justify us being higher.
4) Oklahoma State (6) -- Damn good offense, led by Zac Robinson (he's better than Colt McCoy IMO), but their D isn't that good. The new Texas Tech, maybe? Hmm.
5) Baylor (11) -- Baylor didn't look too good against Wake, but thoroughly demolished their next opponent in Northwestern State. That is all you need to surpass the Aggies, who have flat-out sucked thus far.
6) Texas A&M (12) -- Arkansas State isn't a terrible football team. And New Mexico was pretty good last season, even making a bowl. But in both games they looked sluggish, they looked poorly coached and they looked, honestly, like a Big 12 bottom-feeder. They are probably better than Baylor, but I want to see it on the field first.
Editor's Note: USF Offensive and Defensive Previews coming Thursday...