With a Heisman Trophy in his hip pocket, Sam Bradford has his sights set on a BCS Championship this year for his Sooners. Colt McCoy and the Longhorns have the same plans, setting up a big contest on Oct 17.
Oklahoma or Texas? Texas or Oklahoma?
The Sooners have taken the Big 12 South Division four of the past five years, with the Longhorns breaking up the party in 2005 on the way to the national title. Can Colt McCoy do what Vince Young did and lead Texas to the top? Or will reigning Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford keep Oklahoma rolling?
The betting odds say it’s more likely the Sooners will go on to the BCS Championship Game, just like they did last year. But those odds are at odds with the recently released AP preseason rankings, which have UT at No. 2 in the nation and OU No. 3. Given the contentious voting decision that kept Texas out of the conference and national title pictures in 2008, it appears the Longhorns are due for some payback in 2009.
They’re at the top of our projected conference results – with Big 12 and BCS title odds included.
1. Texas Longhorns (13-10, 11-2): The ‘Horns have seven starters returning on the only Big 12 defense that truly shone last year. On offense, WR Jordan Shipley (89 catches, 11 TDs) gets to come back for a sixth year of eligibility. This team has everything it needs to win the whole enchilada, including a special teams unit featuring Shipley on returns, senior kicker Hunter Lawrence (10-of-12 on field goals last year) and two specialist punters: John Gold for distance and Justin Tucker for accuracy.
2. Oklahoma Sooners (8-5, 9-2): Sam Bradford (50 TDs, eight INTs) returns for his junior year, and he should get more help from his defense this time around. But the offensive line will miss Duke Robinson (now a Carolina Panther) and Phil Loadholt (Minnesota Vikings). The Big 12 odds were released after the BCS odds, so factor in the preseason polls, and even a novice bettor can see the market moving away from the Sooners.
3. Oklahoma State Cowboys (8-1, 30-1): OSU is the preseason No. 9 (highest in school history) and talking national title, although last year’s 9-4 (8-4 ATS) record was a bit of a fluke – the ‘Pokes were No. 36 in the FBS in team efficiency according to Brian Fremeau’s advanced stats. Their flaws on defense will be masked again this year by a soft schedule featuring eight home games before wrapping up the season in Norman.
4. Texas Tech Red Raiders (20-1, 60-1): They played with the big boys last year at 11-2 (5-5-1 ATS), but the Raiders are likely to take at least a small step back with QB Taylor Potts replacing Graham Harrell (45 TDs, nine INTs). Then they’ll take another step back in pass defense without the likes of DE McKinner Dixon and S Darcel McBath. Tech didn’t get enough love from AP writers to crack the Top 25, finishing behind Rutgers and ahead of West Virginia in the balloting.
5. Baylor Bears (40-1, 150-1): The Bears improved from 1-11 to 4-8 (8-3 ATS) in 2008. The money should continue to flow as Baylor welcomes nine starters returning on defense and senior QB Robert Griffin (15 TDs passing, 13 TDs rushing, three INTs) burning up the field for one more year. Griffin won’t have the protection once provided by Jason Smith, the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft, but his new lineman is a rugged 6-foot-4, 320-pound firefighter from British Columbia named Danny Watkins. You don’t want to mess with this guy.
6. Texas A&M Aggies (40-1, 150-1): While the Aggies have made big cutbacks in their athletic department because of financial concerns, second-year coach Mike Sherman has recruited well since taking over for Dennis Franchione. But Sherman still has a mountain to climb to get A&M back into a bowl game. The defense finished No. 117 out of 120 FBS teams last year in terms of efficiency, and there’s a stretch of four road games in five weeks ending Nov. 14 at Oklahoma.