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NATIONAL PREVIEW

Five points

September 01, 2007|Chris Dufresne

* The South Division will rise again. The Big 12, like the NBA, has a balance problem. All the power in the NBA is in the West, and all the Big 12 strength dips toward Antarctica. The South has so dominated the North that it may be time to rethink the boundary lines. The South has won the last three Big 12 crowns and two national titles since 2000 -- Oklahoma and Texas.

* Bug-eaters, meet quarterback Sam Keller. Nebraska may have a secret weapon to help regain its most favored football nation status. Keller is a transfer from Arizona State, where he was headed toward All-American consideration in 2005 before he was derailed by one bad half against USC and a thumb injury the next week against Oregon. Keller lost his job the next year to Rudy Carpenter and immediately high-tailed it to Lincoln. Keller sat out last year and became Nebraska's scout team player of the year. The senior has bigger plans in his final year of eligibility.

* Missouri, show us. If the Big 12 North is as wide open as it appears, this could be the year the Missouri Tigers make the most noise they've made since winning the Big Eight in 1969. Missouri raised hopes last year when it started 6-0 before it capped a 2-5 finish by blowing a fourth-quarter lead against Oregon State in the Sun Bowl. Missouri should be nothing but fun to watch with quarterback Chad Daniel, who passed for 28 touchdowns passes and 3,527 yards, running the spread offense, and Tony Temple, who ran for 194 yards in the Sun Bowl, getting loose from his tailback spot.

* Oklahoma, OK or not? The Sooners started the year off with that loss to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1, then were hit hard over the summer by the NCAA for violations that involved former Sooners quarterback Rhett Bomar and a car dealership. The beginning of a Sooners Swan Dive? Texas fans can only hope. Oklahoma is the defending Big 12 champion and remains one of the more talented teams in the country. If Oklahoma can settle on a quarterback among many quality candidates, and end that two-year losing streak against the rival Longhorns, the Sooners could repeat.

* The Big 12 needs to get its act together. The conference posted only three nonconference wins against Bowl Championship Series schools, went 3-5 in bowl games, did not have a team finish ranked in the top 10 in the polls, and even lost its commissioner, Kevin Weiberg, who left to work for the Big Ten Network. Chalk some of it up to bad luck, starting with Oklahoma's controversial loss to Oregon, but it's time some other schools (Texas A&M? Colorado?) step up and make perennial powers Oklahoma and Texas work for their BCS lunch money.

-- Chris Dufresne

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Quick facts

* AP preseason top 25: No. 4 Texas, No. 8 Oklahoma, No. 20 Nebraska, No. 25 Texas A&M.

* AP final 2006 rankings: No. 11 Oklahoma, No. 13 Texas.

* 2007 conference projection: (North) 1. Missouri (8-5 overall, 4-4 in Big 12 in 2006). 2. Nebraska (9-5, 6-2). 3. Kansas State (7-6, 4-4). 4. Kansas (6-6, 3-5). 5. Colorado (2-10, 2-6). 6. Iowa State (4-8, 1-7). (South) 1. Texas (10-3, 6-2). 2. Oklahoma (11-3, 7-1). 3. Texas A&M (9-4, 5-3). 4. Oklahoma State (7-6, 3-5). 5. Texas Tech (8-5, 4-4). 6. Baylor (4-8, 3-5).

* 2006-07 bowl record: 3-5.

* Last season vs. Pac-10: 1-6.

* Key Pac-10 win: California 45, Texas A&M 10 (the "other" Pac-10 co-champion ended the year with a bang in the Holiday Bowl).

* Key Big 12 win: Oklahoma 37, Washington 20 (the Sooners might tell you they also defeated Oregon if not for a certain officiating crew. . . ).

* This season vs. Pac-10: Sept. 8, Colorado at Arizona State; Sept. 15, USC at Nebraska.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

* Adarius Bowman, Sr., WR, Oklahoma State, is a JC transfer who made 60 catches for 1,181 yards.

* Ian Campbell, Jr., OLB, Kansas State, had 11.5 sacks last season but is moving from end to linebacker in the Wildcats' new 3-4 scheme.

* Colt McCoy, So., QB, Texas, passed for 2,570 yards and 29 touchdowns sas a redshirt freshman.

* Reggie Smith, Jr., DB, Oklahoma, will play at corner and safety in addition to returning punts.

* Aqib Talib, Jr., CB, Kansas, led the conference with six interceptions.

-- Eric Maddy

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