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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Wood

Wood: Huskers will win North

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Local throat Jud Easterday of KLWN-AM 1320 had a doozy of an idea: Construct a Big 12 Conference North football dartboard, announce for what place each dart represents, and fire six of them at your creation, preferably from across the street.

That, Easterday said, could be your best bet at predicting how this division could end up.

He's on the right track, but there are other ways of putting the six teams in correct order -- dice, an Ouija board, or a ferocious ability to draw names out of a top hat.

But I'm going to try the method least likely to come up with the right answers -- logic.

So here's how the Big 12 Conference football season looks on paper. And don't blame me -- or anyone else in the Milky Way -- if the North picks are pathetic.

I didn't have time to make a dartboard.

North

1. Nebraska (8-3 overall, 5-3 Big 12)

Wins: Maine, Wake Forest, Pittsburgh, Iowa State, at Baylor, at Kansas University, Kansas State, at Colorado.

Losses: Texas Tech, at Missouri, Oklahoma.

Why 8-3: Count on the Huskers being significantly better from last year. Coach Bill Callahan is back for his second season, and he has more players in the system who are comfortable with his style.

2. Colorado (6-5, 4-4)

Wins: Colorado State, New Mexico State, at Oklahoma State, at Kansas State, Missouri, at Iowa State.

Losses: at Miami (Fla.), Texas A&M;, at Texas, Kansas, Nebraska.

Why 6-5: It could look better, but the Buffaloes don't shy away from solid nonconference opponents, a dying belief. CU will make a run at the Big 12 North again, thanks in part to the best linebacker fleet in the conference.

T3. Missouri (6-5, 3-5)

Wins: Arkansas State, New Mexico, Troy, Iowa State, Nebraska, Baylor.

Losses: Texas, at Oklahoma State, at Kansas, at Colorado, at Kansas State.

Why 6-5: The Tigers could win eight games with the potential on its roster. Every year, though, Mizzou fails to meet expectations -- so I'm lowering them this time.

T3. Kansas (6-5, 3-5)

Wins: Florida Atlantic, Appalachian State, Louisiana Tech, at Colorado, Missouri, Iowa State.

Losses: at Texas Tech, at Kansas State, Oklahoma, Nebraska, at Texas.

Why 6-5: KU's defense is among the best in the Big 12, and many parts return. Kansas should hang around most every week, and if the offensive sparks light a fire a few times, the Jayhawks will go back to a bowl game.

T3. Iowa State (5-6, 3-5)

Wins: Illinois State, at Army, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas State.

Losses: Iowa, at Nebraska, at Missouri, at Texas A&M;, Colorado, at Kansas.

Why 5-6: ISU was young and aggressive last year, and I liked their style. But key defensive losses -- and the improvement of foes like Nebraska -- will cause a one-game decline.

T3. Kansas State (5-6, 3-5)

Wins: Florida International, North Texas, Kansas, Texas A&M;, Missouri.

Losses: at Marshall, at Oklahoma, at Texas Tech, Colorado, at Iowa State, at Nebraska.

Why 5-6: The Wildcats have good players scattered throughout the roster, but I just don't see enough of them. K-State will pull of the upset of the year, though, derailing Texas A&M;'s run at the conference title.

South

1. Texas (9-2 overall, 7-1 Big 12)

Wins: Louisiana-Lafayette, Rice, at Missouri, Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas Tech, at Oklahoma State, at Baylor, Kansas.

Losses: at Ohio State, at Texas A&M.;

Why 9-2: Texas is good enough to win the Big 12 this year. Vince Young is the most exciting player in the game, but Texas' national-title bid will fall apart early against Ohio State, a tremendous nonconference clash.

2. Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2)

Wins: TCU, Tulsa, at UCLA, Kansas State, at Kansas, Baylor, at Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M.;

Losses: Texas, at Texas Tech.

Why 9-2: A lot was lost to graduation last year. Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the country, but he won't be enough to stop Texas this time.

3. Texas A&M; (9-2, 6-2)

Wins: at Clemson, SMU, Texas State, Baylor, at Colorado, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, at Texas Tech, Texas.

Losses: at Kansas State, at Oklahoma.

Why 9-2: A&M; is lost in the annual hype surrounding Texas and Oklahoma, but this team is talented. Reggie McNeal could be one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country.

4. Texas Tech (8-3, 5-3)

Wins: Florida International, Sam Houston State, Indiana State, Kansas, at Nebraska, Kansas State, at Baylor, Oklahoma.

Losses: at Texas, Texas A&M;, at Oklahoma State.

Why 8-3: The nonconference schedule is incredibly easy, and a 3-0 start should be the law. After that, Tech's passing attack should be rolling -- and overwhelming to many, including Oklahoma.

5. Oklahoma State (6-5, 3-5)

Wins: Montana State, at Florida Atlantic, Arkansas State, Missouri, Texas Tech, at Baylor.

Losses: Colorado, at Texas A&M;, at Iowa State, Texas, at Oklahoma.

Why 6-5: Because the conference schedule is too hard, a new coaching staff is never easy, and OSU's best offensive weapon last year, Vernand Morency, now is in the NFL. OSU still is a good team, but the Big 12 South isn't about to be forgiving.

6. Baylor (3-8, 0-8)

Wins: at SMU, Samford, at Army.

Losses: at Texas A&M;, at Iowa State, Nebraska, at Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas, at Missouri, Oklahoma State.

Why 3-8: I approached Baylor adamant they were going to surprise one team in the Big 12 this season, like it has the last two years (Texas A&M; and Colorado). I didn't see it, though.

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