Big XII South Previews

By: From Wire Reports
By: From Wire Reports

It's getting closer. Pads are popping, two-a-days are winding down, and we're closer to September than July. So we figured you might want to take a peek at the Big XII South. Here's how all 6 teams look going into 2007....

Oklahoma

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - For a team that lost one of the most prolific running backs in school history, Oklahoma sure doesn't seem concerned.

It would be a luxury to have Adrian Peterson back for his senior season, but the Sooners don't expect to miss a beat with a quintet of tailbacks being groomed to take his spot.

Peterson ran for 4,045 yards in his three-year career, including a school-record 1,925 yards as a freshman when he finished second in Heisman Trophy voting.

The Sooners hardly flinched after Peterson broke his collarbone midway through last season. Allen Patrick, Chris Brown and Jacob Gutierrez combined for 1,149 yards as the Sooners won six straight games.

OU has been trying to determine whether Sam Bradford, Joey Halzle or Keith Nichol will be starting quarterback. Halzle is the only one who has taken snaps in a game, and those came only after victory was well in hand.

The receiving corps is back, along with two proven tight ends and four of the five starting linemen. Linebackers Rufus Alexander and Zach Latimer have departed, as have three defensive ends.

The Sooners' season opens September 1st against North Texas.

Oklahoma State

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) - With one heartbreaking loss after
another, Oklahoma State came to understand how close it was to reaching the upper echelon of the Big 12 South.

So what will it take to cover that last bit of ground and move the Cowboys across the fine line between defeat and victory?

Linebacker Donovan Woods says more preparation, more hard work and some luck.

In Mike Gundy's second season as head coach, OSU improved enough to earn its fourth bowl berth in the past five years and finish with a 7-and-6 record.

But the Cowboys could have made it an even more remarkable turnaround, if not for five losses by a combined 26 points.

The close calls have motivated the Cowboys to put in extra effort in practice, attempting to get in good enough condition that they'll be able to outplay opponents in crunch time.

Defensive end Marques Fountain says the team has been harping on finishing since the end of last year. Fountain says once the team begins finishing the big games, OSU could win 10 or 11.

Texas

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - That national championship? Two seasons ago. Ditto the Big 12 title.

As good as the Texas Longhorns were for most of 2006, they crumbled at the end to finish 10-3 with no title. That brought the return of that empty feeling that comes when a good team fails to be great.

But that's what always makes the start of a new season so enticing in Austin: So much talent, so much hype, and such high expectations of championships.

Even coach Mack Brown has passed the point of settling for anything but perfection. He says he used to not understand how the Longhorns would win 11 games and leave their fans griping. Now, he says, "we don't win all the games -- and I'm the one griping."

Texas had its chances last season. The Longhorns were still in the national title hunt in November. Quarterback Colt McCoy was better than anyone expected, and the defense hung together despite giving up way too many big plays.

Then came a neck injury to McCoy, a two-game losing skid, and a trip to the Alamo Bowl. Texas beat Iowa in San Antonio, but the hated Oklahoma Sooners won the Big 12.

McCoy is a big reason the Longhorns are favored to win the South Division. He tied the NCAA freshman record for touchdown passes with 29, and all of his top targets return. The leader among them is senior receiver Limas Sweed, who tied a school record with 12 touchdown catches last season.

Texas Tech

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) - Texas Tech returns a quarterback for the first time in five years. But with so many others gone, building on the biggest comeback in bowl history will be harder for Graham Harrell and the Red Raiders.

Starting over at quarterback all those years never seemed to change the expectations or results. Tech's run the nation's top offense four seasons in a row before falling to sixth last year at 448 yards per game.

But things could be different this year with coach Mike Leach's pass-happy scheme. He'll have to break in four offensive linemen and find three new leading receivers.

One thing won't change, though -- and that's Leach's belief in a system that brought the Red Raiders back from 31 points behind for a 44-41 overtime win over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl. That's the biggest rally in Division I-A bowl history.

Texas A&M

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) - As the final seconds ticked away last November, the Texas A&M Aggies swarmed their embattled coach
and raced to the corner of Texas' Memorial Stadium.

There, ecstatic fans saluted the Aggies with "Horns Down" hand signals.

A season of wild road victories and bitter home defeats had culminated in a gritty 12-7 win over Texas for A&M's first win in Austin in a dozen years.

Quarterback Stephen McGee's game-winning, 8-yard scramble against the Longhorns was the lasting image from A&M's 2006 season. It capped a 16-play drive that lasted almost nine minutes. A&M won several games by simply keeping the ball away from the opposing offense and ended up leading the nation in average time of possession with 33 minutes, 35 seconds per game.

The winning drive also symbolized the chemistry and closeness of the team that's been absent since the "Wrecking Crew" days.

Now, it's time to prove that the win over their biggest rival wasn't a fluke for the Aggies, but a declaration that it's a Big 12 power again. And with McGee, the entire line and nearly every skill player back on offense, the Aggies may be ready to expand the playbook and take a few more shots down the field.

Baylor

WACO, Texas (AP) - Quarterback Shawn Bell's torn-up knee ended what had begun as a promising football season at Baylor last year.

After the injury, Baylor lost its last four games for a 4-8 finish and its 11th straight losing season.

Now, Bell's graduated and there's no a clear-cut replacement. Is coach Guy Morriss worried? He says, not really.

He says he thinks the difference this season "is the 10 guys you put around the quarterback have been in the system." He says the Bears will profit from a better supporting cast.

Still, it's an inexperienced group of returning starters -- except for three offensive linemen with at least 10 starts each.

The oldest quarterback candidate is 25-year-old Michael Machen, a former minor league baseball player and Kent State graduate who has one season of eligibility. He threw for more than 2,000 yards and 11 touchdowns a sophomore, but started only once for the Golden Flashes last season after breaking his collarbone.

But Machen and junior college transfer John David Weed are adjusting to the spread offense. Redshirt freshman Tyler Beatty has been getting most of the snaps in practice and impressing the coaches. Blake Szymanski, the starter after Bell got hurt last year, has been slowed by a sprained ankle.

(All Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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