Big 12 North football previews
- Aug. 20, 2009
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2008 Record: 9-4, 5-3
Key Returnees: DT Ndamukong Suh, RB Roy Helu
Key Losses: QB Joe Ganz, WR Nate Swift, DT Ty Steinkuhler
Top Newcomers: Cody Green (freshman, 6’4″, 220 pounds, quarterback) — Green may not have the starting quarterback position yet but he will be key in the future of Nebraska’s offense and is the top overall recruit for Nebraska. Antonio Bell (freshman, 6’2″, 180 pound, wide receiver) — With Nebraska losing its top two wide receivers last year, Bell will be given opportunities to make some plays for the Cornhuskers.
Game to watch: Nov. 14 at Kansas will most likely be the game that decides the Big 12 North. With the game being in the second half of the season, both teams will be ready to play a competitive game for the league title.
Overview: With a new attitude for the Nebraska football team, Bo Pelini has high expectations for his second season as head coach. Pelini said he expects improvements from the defense led by Suh. Nebraska comes into the season favored to win the Big 12 North, but will face tough competition from Kansas and Missouri on the road to the conference championship. Nebraska’s offense will be led by junior quarterback Zac Lee but Green will by vying for the position. Another freshman quarterback, Kody Spano will be out this season with an injury from training camp.
Storyline to Watch: Nebraska will look to its running game in a primarily passing league to get back in the hunt for a conference championship. Helu, who averaged 6.4 yards per carry last season, and fellow running back Quentin Castille, who had more than 450 yards last season, will lead the Nebraska running game. Pelini said that running the ball would allow Nebraska to hurt a team in different ways, something that Nebraska will have to do if it wants to compete in this league.
2008 Record: 2-10, 0-8
Key Returnees: QB Austen Arnaud, OL Reggie Stephens, WR Darius Darks
Key Losses: WR R.J. Sumrall, DE Kurtis Taylor, LT Doug Dedrick
Top Newcomers: Darius Reynolds (junior transfer, 6’2″, 201 pounds, wide receiver) Reynolds was the 34th best junior college player in the nation, running for 749 yards and throwing for 1,752 yards last season. David Sims (junior transfer, 5’9″, 208 pound, defensive back)-Sims almost went to Oklahoma after a stellar season (72 tackles, five fumble recoveries) in 2007 at Butte Community College, but came to Ames and could find a spot at strong safety for Iowa State.
Game to Watch: Versus Kansas State on Oct. 3, at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. Iowa State will be the home team for this game against Kansas State in the first of a two-year series at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas State may have the home field advantage, but Iowa State has little to lose coming into this season.
Overview: First-year Head Coach Paul Rhoads has proclaimed this a new era for Iowa State Football. With no victories in the Big 12 last season, the Cyclones are looking for improvement in every aspect of their game. Rhoads will look to returning players such as Arnaud and defensive lineman Nate Frere to lead the team in the new Iowa State football culture. Frere said he had confidence in Rhoads to build up a team that would not “choke away” any of its close games which was a key factor in Iowa State’s losses last season.
Storyline to Watch: Rhoads is bringing a no-huddle offense to Iowa State in hopes of giving his players a better chance for success this season. Rhoads said the spread offense is all about wearing a defense down, something that Rhoads is well versed in as former defensive coordinator. Rhoads said Iowa State will have to approach this season uniquely in terms of schematics with its offense having to switch systems with a new coach. If Rhoads can find a working system, Arnaud and his corps of receivers will have the chance to score more points for the Cyclones this season.
2008 Record: 5-7, 2-6
Key Returnees: QB Cody Hawkins, ILB Jeff Smart, CB Jimmy Smith
Key Losses: DT George Hypolite, DT Brandon Nicolas, LB Brad Jones
Key Newcomers: Nick Kasa (freshman, 6’7″, 270 pound, defensive end) — Kasa gave up his spot at Florida to come to Colorado and has made some effect, but with a knee injury from practice he may not see as much playing time this season. Edward Nuckols (freshman, 6’3″, 295 pound, defensive tackle) — Nuckols is favored to play early for the Buffs with the loss of the two starting defensive tackles, but will have to prove he can hold himself with sophomore Eugene Goree.
Game to Watch: Oct. 1 at West Virginia after a big victory over then-ranked West Virginia last season, Colorado will get another chance to impress. A victory on the road will be needed momentum preceding its game against Texas, their first Big 12 opponent, the following week.
Overview: Coach Dan Hawkins has already said he wants “10 wins, no excuses” for his team this season, but only winning two games in the Big 12 and five overall last season make that a pretty lofty goal. Playing Texas and Oklahoma State on the road won’t help either, but the Buffs face an easier than normal non-conference schedule this season. Hawkins will have to fill out his defense with the loss of Hypolite and Nicolas but he does have some depth on the offensive side of the ball. Hawkins has also taken on coaching the wide receivers for the Buffs and is confident in their abilities he said.
Storyline to Watch: The quarterback position is still up for grabs at Colorado. Last year’s starter Hawkins is facing some stiff competition in fall training from sophomore Tyler Hansen. Hawkins completed just 57.2 percent of his passes last season and has started in 23 games over the last two years. There’s also a battle between the three freshman quarterbacks, Clark Evans, Gerry Slota and Seth Lobato, as to who will be the No. 3 — providing depth should either Hansen or Hawkins go down.
2008 Record: 10-4, 5-3
Key Returnees: LB Sean Weatherspoon, WR Jared Perry, OL Kurtis Gregory
Key Losses: QB Chase Daniel, WR Jeremy Maclin, TE Chase Coffman, DT Ziggy Hood
Key Newcomers: Sheldon Richardson (freshman, 6’4″, 275 pound, tight end) — After receiving offers from schools such as USC and Miami, Richardson comes to Missouri as one of the nation’s top recruits. Kendial Lawrence (freshman, 5’9″, 185 pound, running back) — Although he may not be starting this season, Lawrence has already made an impact at fall training and is working his way up to Derrick Washington’s backup at the position.
Game to Watch: Versus Kansas on Nov. 28 at Arrowhead Stadium. The rivalry between Kansas and Missouri has gone back and forth for years and whichever team wins, it will be a deciding factor in the Big 12 North.
Overview: Missouri has won the Big 12 North two years running but with the loss of key players, its dominance is coming into question this season. Daniel was the all-time leader in passing at Missouri, Coffman and Maclin were both All-Americans and several key defensive players like Hood are gone. A new group of players will have to emerge, such as quarterback Blaine Gabbert, tailback Derrick Washington who went 1,000 yards rushing last season and All–American candidate Weatherspoon, for Missouri to continue to stay on top. Missouri will also have to win games against Oklahoma State, Texas and Nebraska if it wants to hold on to the Big 12 North.
Storyline to Watch: The Missouri defense was less than stellar at times last season and is being filled by several young recruits this season. The defense is led by Weatherspoon who had 155 tackles last season, but he will have to produce even more if Tigers are going to stop offensive powerhouses like Texas. With only Jaron Baston returning to start for the defensive line, Jaquies Smith and Aldon Smith are expected to effect the field this season.
2008 Record: 5-7, 2-6
Key Returnees: WR Brandon Banks, DB Courtney Herndon, OT Nick Stringer
Key Losses: QB Josh Freeman, WR Deon Murphy, DE Ian Campbell, K Brooks Rossman
Key Newcomers: John Hubert (freshman, 5’9″, 190 pounds, running back) — Hubert may be on the small side, but someone who can rush over 2,800 yards like Hubert did in 2008 could definitely help the Wildcats. Tim Flanders (freshman, 5’9″, 208 pounds, athlete) — Flanders was one of the few highlights in the Wildcats recruiting class this season running for 2,153 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior.
Game to Watch: Versus Iowa State on Oct. 3 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. — This will be the conference opener for Kansas State and will show just how long its second attempted resurgence under Bill Snyder may last.
Overview: Snyder is faced with one of the toughest seasons he’s ever had. With one of the nation’s worst recruiting classes, several holes to fill on offense and defense and facing two back-to-back road non-conference games at the beginning of the season, Snyder has his work cut out for him. While Kansas State returns stellar players like Banks and Herndon, they have to replace their quarterback with players who have little playing time in the system like junior Carson Coffman or transfer Daniel Thomas. The defense, which allowed 479.1 yards per game last season, could use some improvement too.
Storyline to Watch: Snyder is back and ready “to fix Kansas State family.” When he left Kansas State in 2005, the program had gone to eleven bowl games, had eleven winning seasons and a Big 12 championship. Can Snyder build up the Wildcats to a winning program again? Even though he will be 70 this season, fans and players seem optimistic that he still has the energy and spirit in him to take them to a winning season. Snyder said that the Big 12 has become more competitive since he started coaching at Kansas State in 1989 but the game of football is still the same.
— Edited by Anna Kathagnarath