Big XII North
Last year the Big XII North was savaged, and rightly so, for its mediocrity. After all, the teams in the division went out and lost to the like of Fresno State, Southern Miss, Troy, and Northwestern, among others. (Yes, Blogpoller mdgcfb, I realize Fresno State is a good program, as is Southern Miss, but it's a pride thing.) Then, they got in to conference and the South teams savaged the North teams. Then they just beat up on each other.
However, things might be looking up for the North this year, partly because teams like Nebraska and Kansas have improved, partially because they can't do any worse as a division than last year. The thing is, each team still has to play 3 games against the South. Unless a team happens to be one of the lucky ones that drew Baylor, that's a tough proposition.
The only certainty, because conference rules dictate it: The Big XII North will have a representative in the championship game.
The Skinny: Iowa State finished 7-5 last year and came within a field goal of making the Big XII championship game. Iowa State's had 6 or 7 win seasons like this before, but they have almost always followed it up by sinking back down to the cellar. And there's too little depth and too many question marks by the people that are starting to suggest things will go any differently
|10/29||at Texas A&M||L|
QB: 3 - Bret Meyer finally has a year under his belt, but it's a question of staying upright
RB: 2 - Steve Hicks is a consistent back, but he's not a homerun threat, and he's going to get hurt eventually, and there's not many options behind them
WR: 1 - Todd Blythe is a question mark, even if he returns and the other recievers don't scare people.
TE: 1 - only one real blocker and no consistent receivers
OL: 1 - They allowed 34 sacks and ISU's runners averaged less than 3 yards a carry. Ouch.
DL: 1 - Undersized, no depth, and only produced 24 sacks last year.
LB: 2 - Don't expect any pass rush out of this crew either.
CB: 1 - Don't trust any unit that has 2 corner/safety tweeners playing corner.
S: 3 - Only because Nik Moser and Steve Paris are their 2 leading returning tacklers. And if your safeties are your leading tacklers, that's a problem.
Kicking Game: 2 Tony Yelk returns from injury, but there's too much uncertainty with the punter and coverage teams.
Return Game: 1 They are auditioning new people to go behind a unit that only averaged 9.5 yards per return. Yikes!
What the Cyclones must do to win:
1. Protect the Quarterback - Meyer is good when he's got time.
2. Avoid Injury - There's almost no depth at any position.
3. Improve on Special Teams - A field goal cost them their chance at a dream season last year, and the outlook for this year's special teams isn't good either.
Projection: When a team doesn't have the depth to survive injury and the defense is that bad, it's hard to take them seriously. 3-8 overall, 2-6 conference, and tied for last in the North
The Skinny: Kansas State slumped to its worst season since 1989 last year, posting a 4-7 record. Part of that is that K-State doesn't have the depth it used to. Bill Snyder used to be able to strip mine the Junior College leagues across the Midwest and Texas for talent whenever he needed a quick fix at a position. Now, everyone else has discovered this talent mine and it's a little harder for Snyder to come up with JUCO gems. They could return to form if they resolve the issues which led to their defensive ranking dropping to 43rd.
|10/15||at Texas Tech||L|
|11/5||at Iowa State||L|
QB: 2 - Dylan Meier's a good drop back quarterback, but doesn't give K-State the Ell Roberson-Michael Bishop dual threat that they've had in the past.
RB: 3 - Running back by committee, but it's a decent committee with Carlos Alsup as the power back and FSU transfer Thomas Clayton as the speed back.
WR: 2 - OK, but not great
TE: 1 - A position battle where there are no winners.
OL: 2 - Hard to give an O-line with one returning starter and unknown new starters anything higher.
DL: 2 - They improved toward the end of last year, but no one knows how good they are against the pass yet. And they're not real deep
LB: 3 - They have a potential Butkus award winner in Ted Sims, but all the top 4 linebackers are injury risks
CB: 2 - Someone has to step up to help Maurice Porter.
S: 2 - None of the safeties appear to be good enough tacklers or pass defenders to get the job done.
Kicking Game: 3 - Should be improved in the kicking game.
Return Game: 1 - Needs improvement. 7.3 yards/punt return isn't going to help your team.
What the Wildcats must do to win:
1. Run the ball - Take the heat off of Meier
2. Get a good push up front - This front 7 needs to consistently stop the run and get a good pass rush.
3. Recievers need to make something happen in the passing game and return game - One of the receivers needs to step up and be a threat to take it to the house on any play.
Projection: The Wildcats are not as talented as they used to be, so it's going to be an uphill climb back to respectability with the other teams in the North being better. 4-7 overall, 2-6 in conference, and tied for last in the North.
The Skinny: If you looked at their stats and couldn't see the records, you'd think the Missouri Tigers would have won the Big XII North last year: 29th nationally in turnover margin, 1st in the Big 12 in pass defense, 2nd in the conference in overall defense. Unfortunately, the Missouri Tigers offense sputtered, and Missouri lost a lot of close games. What should have been a team riding on a high into 2005 looking for a repeat of a Big 12 North championship is now a team that is struggling to find itself. Nebraska is on the way back, so the pressure is on for Missouri to win now. Problem is, that defense only returns 3 starters.
|10/8||at Oklahoma State||W|
|11/19||at Kansas State||L|
QB: 4 - Brad Smith elevates this entire team.
RB: 3 - Who's going to replace Damien Nash? It depends on who you ask.
WR: 2 - One real threat in Sean Coffey. After that it drops off
TE: 3 - They were OK last year, but I wouldn't call them a safety valve just yet
OL: 2 - They have to replace 3 starters. Position battles and injuries could weaken this unit.
DL: 2 - Replacing 3 of 4 DL spots, and the replacement's aren't as good.
LB: 2 - The new look linebacking corps is supposed to be talented, but we'll see if they can help the D-line stop the run.
CB: 4 - Marcus King could be All-Big XII and A.J. Kincaide is great so long as he doesn't get paired with a taller receiver
S: 3 - Jason Simpson is excellent in run stopping and pass coverage. The question will be the safety next to him.
Kicking Game: 1 - Adam Crosset is long, but not necessarily accurate, the punter situation is unsettled.
Return Game: 3 - Averaging 11 yards a punt return is good. 18 yards a kickoff return isn't.
What the Tigers must do to win:
1. Use Brad Smith's mobility - The experiment as a pocket passer has failed. Bootlegs and option plays would help him tremendously.
2. Get a running game going - They have to take the heat off Mr. Smith
3. Blow some teams out - They can't let people hang around like they did last year.
Projection: Good news is, the offense should be better. Bad news is, the pass rush and run stuffers aren't better, and the kicking game could cost them in close matchups. 5-6 overall, 3-5 conference, 4th place in the North.
Next: Part 3 - Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado
Back: Part 1 - TCU, UTEP, Houston, Rice, SMU, North Texas