Unchanged in the Big 12 are Oklahoma expectations

There are no more divisions and two fewer teams. Welcome to the

new-look Big 12, where one thing hasn’t changed.

Oklahoma is still king.

The Sooners have won seven of the last 11 titles, including a

season ago before Nebraska and Colorado left the 15-year-old

conference. Now with confident quarterback Landry Jones throwing to

All-America receiver Ryan Broyles and linebacker Travis Lewis

fronting a solid defense, Oklahoma is an overwhelming favorite to

win another Big 12 trophy and be a national championship

contender.

”I think we are,” Jones said. ”At OU, we have the talent year

in and year out to be at that game.”

Coach Bob Stoops won a national title in 2000, his second season

in Oklahoma. The coach is still looking for No. 2 even though the

Sooners have played for the championship three more times since

then.

Texas, which won the Big 12’s last national title six seasons

ago, is trying to recover from the humbling of its first losing

season under Mack Brown. Texas A&M still has to prove it can be

consistently good under Mike Sherman while Oklahoma State is loaded

on offense for Mike Gundy but has to quickly grow up on

defense.

Jones led the Big 12 with 4,718 yards passing and 38 touchdowns

last season, when the Sooners finished 12-2 with a five-game

winning streak after their two-touchdown loss at Texas A&M. The

Aggies had a six-game winning streak before their Cotton Bowl loss

to LSU that denied them a 10-win season.

With a round-robin conference schedule, there are no more

worries about divisional tiebreakers – such as the three-way mess

three seasons ago when Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech all were 7-1

in the South and 11-1 overall. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas

A&M had a three-way tie atop the South last year.

”At the end of the season there won’t be any teams that say

that a certain team from the North or a certain team from the South

didn’t play each other and didn’t deserve to be in a conference

championship game,” Gundy said. ”Ultimately at the end of the

season, whoever has the best record in the conference will be the

conference champion.”

OKLAHOMA – Key players: LB Travis Lewis, WR Ryan Broyles, QB

Landry Jones. Returning starters: 8 offense, 7 defense.

Notes: Oklahoma has had double-digit leads in 129 of its 160

games (81 percent) under Stoops. … With RB DeMarco Murray in the

NFL after setting school records for points and all-purpose yards,

best candidate to take over is sophomore Roy Finch, who ran for 398

yards in eight games. … Lewis has 362 career tackles, leading

team each of last three seasons.

OKLAHOMA STATE – Key players: QB Brandon Weeden, WR Justin

Blackmon, S Markelle Martin. Returning starters: 9 offense, 7

defense.

Notes: Blackmon set an NCAA record with at least 100 yards

receiving and a touchdown in 12 consecutive games, a still-active

streak. … New offensive coordinator Todd Monken was previously at

Oklahoma State when coach Mike Gundy was offensive coordinator. …

Weeden, who played minor league baseball before getting to

Stillwater, turns 28 halfway through the season.

TEXAS A&M – Key players: QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Cyrus Gray,

WR Jeff Fuller. Returning starters: 10 offense, 8 defense.

Notes: SMU, South Carolina and Toledo are only other FBS teams

returning 1,000-yard passer, rusher (Gray) and receiver (Fuller)

… First time Aggies had 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard receiver

in same season. … Aggies last season were first Big 12 team to

beat Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas in same season – and did in a

span of 19 days.

MISSOURI – Key players: WR T.J. Moe, DB Kenji Jackson, DE

Jacquies Smith. Returning starters: 9 offense, 7 defense.

Notes: Best four-year run in school history with 40 wins,

including three 10-win seasons. … Two departed offensive starters

were in middle of action – C Tim Barnes and QB Blaine Gabbert. …

Tigers allowed 16 points a game, best in Big 12 and lowest by

Missouri since 1981.

BAYLOR – Key players: QB Robert Griffin III, WR Kendall Wright,

LB Elliot Coffey. Returning starters: 8 offense, 5 defense.

Notes: New defensive coordinator Phil Bennett trying to rebuild

defense that lost top five tacklers. … While going to first bowl

since 1994, Baylor set 55 offensive school records – 22 team marks

and 33 individual records, many by Griffin. … Griffin, listed as

a junior, received undergraduate degree (political science) in

December.

TEXAS – Key players: LB Emmanuel Acho, RB Fozzy Whittaker, S

Blake Gideon. Returning starters: 5 offense, 7 defense.

Notes: Only Boise State (140) and Oklahoma (134) have won more

games than Texas (133) since coach Mack Brown’s arrival in 1998,

even with 5-7 record last season. … Nine returners on defense

have combined for 131 career starts. … With Garrett Gilbert’s

struggles last season, there could be another McCoy at quarterback

– sophomore Case, Colt’s younger brother.

TEXAS TECH – Key players: QB Seth Doege, S Cody Davis, RT Mickey

Okafor. Returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense.

Notes: New defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow switching from 3-4

to 4-2-5 scheme he helped run past decade at TCU. … Doege last

full-time starter in 2005, as sophomore in high school before two

major knee injuries and then waiting at Tech for his turn. … All

five starting offensive linemen return.

KANSAS STATE – Key players: LB Arthur Brown, DB Tysyn Hartman,

QB Collin Klein. Returning starters: 6 offense, 7 defense.

Notes: Couple of transfers, who happen to be brothers from

Wichita, expected to make impact. RB Bryce Brown, who came from

Tennessee, is younger brother of LB Arthur Brown, eligible after

transferring from Miami. … Since consecutive 11-win seasons

(2002-03), coach Bill Snyder has won only 22 games his last four

seasons, including two since coming out of a three-year retirement.

… Klein had two 100-yard rushing games last season.

IOWA STATE – Key players: LB Jake Knott, LT Kelechi Osemele, WR

Darius Darks. Returning starters: 6 offense, 7 defense.

Notes: Coach Paul Rhoads was born only 10 minutes from Iowa

State’s stadium. … Knott, team’s leading tackler, broke arm two

days before spring game. … Osemele has started 30 consecutive

games while playing 36 past three seasons.

KANSAS – Key players: TE Tim Biere, OL Jeremiah Hatch, LB Steven

Johnson. Returning starters: 7 offense, 8 defense.

Notes: Jayhawks return players responsible for all their passing

yardage, 84 percent of their rushing yards and 72 percent of the

receiving yards last season. … More players from Texas (38) than

Kansas (24) on roster. … Second-year coach Turner Gill could

already be facing a win-or-else seasons.