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Big 12 Roundtable--The Rise of the North Edition

This week's Roundtable is being hosted by Clone Chronicles.  The title is probably apt, but for me it could also be called the "breaking all the rules edition."  You'll see why shortly.

1.  Were Saturday's games a sign that the Big 12 North may be on its way back?

They are certainly a sign the North could be on its way back.  In past years, the only team the North could consistently beat was Baylor, and even that ended last year.  However, K-State and Colorado have served notice that the South is no longer to be considered unbeatable.  Two games in one weekend do not a trend make, but it could be the start of something.

Personally, I’ve thought this might be coming for a while.  As I wrote on the eve of the season-opener against Auburn, K-State is not going anywhere.  Dan Hawkins has served notice that Colorado is on its way back.  Mizzou hasn’t sent such a statement yet, but they are capable.  Nebraska dropped A&M in College Station last season.  I’m not ready to predict a conference championship for a North school, but I do think this year’s game in San Antonio will be the most competitive in a while.

2.  How seriously do we take the hot starts at Mizzou and Kansas?

Mizzou: I take the Tigers very seriously, see rankings below.  That offense is fearsome, and can keep a defense off-balance by attacking from all angles with a lot of different players.  I have predicted from the beginning that MU was the favorite to win the North.  The race looks a lot more crowded now, but at this point I still give the upper hand to the Tigers.

KU: Sorry for the inconsistency, but I can’t call this team Kansas.  As to their start, I take it seriously, but with a grain of salt.  The ‘beaks have done exactly what really good teams are supposed to do to inferior competition.  On the other hand, really good teams don’t usually play four home games against inferior competition, they usually mix in a road game against a mid-level BCS school or some sort of high profile matchup.  KU can’t really get into a high-profile matchup because, well, they aren’t a high-profile football program.  But they could, and should have gotten at least one team with a legitimate shot to beat them on the schedule.  So in conclusion, I am absolutely not writing this team off, but I’m going to have to see them defeat a team that can go toe-to-toe with them first.  I just hope it doesn’t happen in my beloved Manhattan this weekend.

3.  Pick one team from the opposite division that you truly hate, and say why; follow this up by picking another team from the opposite division that you don't mind pulling for, and say why.

Tough question.  The only team in the South that I really don’t like is Oklahoma.  For one, the way Stoops pulled assistant coaches from Manhattan in 1998 has left a sour taste in the mouth of many a K-Stater, to say the least.  Also, I took a massive amount of abuse walking into Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City back on a cold December night in 2003, then watched OU’s players push our band, cheerleaders and dance team around before the game (even was told by a girl on the dance team she got pushed by a player).  You could tell the Sooners thought they owned the world and who could blame them, everyone was telling them they were possibly the best team in the history of college football.  Needless to say, I didn’t hear much on the way out of that stadium, but my distaste for OU lingers to this day.  Plus, I grew up in Nebraska, so disliking OU is probably hardwired into my DNA.

The South team that I don’t mind and often cheer for is Texas A&M.  A lot of my good friends down here are Aggie alums, so we often watch the games.  I was even invited up to College Station for last year’s A&M/OU primetime game, and was treated to a free ticket, free food, free beer, and a lot of good times.  They wouldn’t let me pay for anything!  I’ve often said that if Texas A&M didn’t have a Corps of Cadets, it would be a lot like K-State.

4.  The NCAA has enacted a rule allowing you to bring back one senior that graduated last year to play for your team for the rest of the season. Would you do it? And if so, who?

In my mind, there are three players in the running here: Yamon Figurs, Zach Diles and Brandon Archer.  I can only imagine how scary the wide receivers would be with Figurs, Jordy Nelson, and Deon Murphy.  But I’m going to eliminate Figurs because Murphy has been a decent addition in the passing game, and as we saw in Austin, the return game has not gone anywhere.

Another reason I eliminate Figurs is because of the injuries we’ve seen to the linebackers this year.  It would be huge to have one more experienced LB.  I’m going to go with Archer, although this is a really tough call.  I’d take either one of them.

5.  Rank the conference teams

 Oklahoma (Previous Week 1): This ranking doesn’t mean I think Colorado’s win was a fluke, because I think CU is going to be turning some heads before this season is over.  But at this point, I can’t justify putting anyone ahead of the Sooners.  Beating Miami was a decent win, but the every other team they’ve played is either marginal (Tulsa) or pitiful (Utah State, North Texas).

 Missouri (3): I don’t subscribe to the theory that you can’t move a team up or down when they didn’t play, thus Mizzou moves to No. 2.  I found that one of the two teams in front of Mizzou wasn’t as good as I thought (Texas).  In all honesty, I almost moved Mizzou to the top, because the Tigers’ win over Illinois is as impressive to me as Oklahoma’s over Miami, not to mention the Tigers have gone on the road for a win, albeit over Ole Miss.  The only reason I didn’t is because the MU defense is just not very good, so I gave OU the upper hand.  For now.

 K-State (5): Too big of a jump?  Maybe.  But I don’t think Texas is as bad as some think, and I had them at No. 2 last week.  The Cats’ defense smacked UT’s offense around, and that was without Marcus Watts on the field.  The offense may not be spectacular, but it is protecting the ball and putting together just enough scoring drives.  And of course, there’s the X-factor—special teams.  If we can rely on one big return to change field position each game, we can count on being ahead of most teams.  Finally, recruiting what?  Former walk-ons Jordy Nelson and Ian Campbell were the Big 12 offensive and defensive players of the week.  Like I’ve always said, give me a good athlete who will run through the wall for me over a lazy egomaniac any day...

 Texas (2): Like I said, the Horns are not that bad.  K-State has received little respect from around the conference (MidWestCoast Bias ranked them 11th in the conference a mere three weeks ago), and some KU message board fans believed that blowouts of glorified Division II teams would lead to a beatdown in Manhattan.  The point is, no matter the national, or even conference-wide perception, losing to K-State isn’t some huge shame.  Now the way in which it happened should concern UT fans, but the Horns have plenty of talent.  They will be fine.

 KU (6): Nothing new to say about KU, although if they held a 1s vs. 1s scrimmage Saturday, it would have been the toughest competition the team had seen all year.  The ‘beaks meltdown or validation will come this weekend in Manhattan.

 Colorado (10): Too low?  Quite possibly we will see the Buffs higher than this by season’s end.  Their defense dominated OU’s offense, but until the fourth quarter their own offense didn’t get much going.  They don’t need to score much with that defense, but can they even score that much?

 Nebraska (4): The 415 yards Nebraska gave up to Iowa State this weekend was a little deceiving in that ISU held the ball for nearly 2/3s of the game.  But that only leads to the question, "How in the hell did ISU hold the ball for 2/3s of the game?"  The Huskers made some big plays on defense, but that doesn’t mean they’re back considering the competition had previously lost to Northern Iowa, Toledo and Kent State.  Can Sam Keller outscore Chase Daniel this week?  Maybe the better question is whether Keller can avoid making stupid throws that lead to picks.

 Texas A&M (7): The Aggies picked up a solid win in a game I honestly thought they might lose.  Part of that was me getting too caught up in Baylor’s huge wins over Rice, Texas State and Buffalo, part of it is all the doomsday Ag fans I hang out with on a regular basis.  Somebody will come out of next weekend’s matchup with Oklahoma State with a full game lead on either Texas or OU.

 Oklahoma State (8): Solid but not spectacular win over an overmatched Sam Houston State team (a free shoutout to anybody who can tell me what famous Texas attraction is in the same city as SHSU).  I was a bit underwhelmed by this game, as I figured the Cowboys would be ready to take out the frustrations of last week’s drama in a big way.  Can the Pokes slow down A&M’s rushing attack?  And if not, can they outscore it?  Will Dennis Franchione sell team secrets to T. Boone Pickens for the right price?

 Texas Tech (9): It may be unprecedented to move a team down for a 75-7 win, but I’ve broken every other ranking ‘rule’ so I might as well break this one, too.  Northwestern State is terrible, and the Red Raiders win over them told us absolutely nothing about Tech that we didn’t already know.

 Baylor (11): I was really surprised the Bears lost to A&M as badly as they did, but then again I fooled myself considering the competition Baylor had been beating.  Now the Bears face a suddenly threatening Colorado team, fresh off a win over OU, the consensus top team in the conference until last week.  Going from having a chance to beat A&M to 0-2 in the conference would be crushing.

 Iowa State (12): Even when a lot of things go right for the Cyclones, they still lose.  Is Texas gonna be a pissed-off bunch of cows this weekend or what?  Good luck, Coach Chizik.