I hope you didn't think we were done after I posted my predictions for the North earlier today. Here's how I think the South will look after next season.
Texas and Oklahoma are in similar situations entering 2010. Both lose franchise quarterbacks, even if Oklahoma's watched most of the 2009 season from the sideline. Both lose a handful of defensive stars with promising young players ready to step into the spotlight. But Texas has the advantage over Oklahoma. Even though the winner of the Red River Rivalry hasn’t advanced to the title game in two of the past four years, the winner always gets the inside track. Texas has dominated Oklahoma at the State Fair, winning four of the past five. Can’t pick Oklahoma to win the South until Bob Stoops’ teams get back some of the swagger they had in five straight defeats of Texas from 2000 to 2004.
The Sooners will be ready to erase the memory of a frustrating 2009 when about everything went wrong, even though they still managed an eight-win season. Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles were a reliable connection in 2009, and there’s not much reason to think that won’t be the case again this season. Broyles caught 89 passes for 1,120 yards and a Big 12-most 15 touchdowns. And that’s even after Broyles fractured his shoulder blade on the opening drive against Miami and missed the rest of that loss as well as a win over Baylor, the only game Sam Bradford finished all season. The Sooners' success is tied closely with what Broyles can do in his junior season.
Still a concern is a shuffling offensive line that could be filled with young players once again in the fall.
3. Texas A&M
Everyone’s dark horse to win the South could benefit from a season in which Oklahoma and Texas aren’t virtual guarantees to compete for the national championship. Jerrod Johnson will sling it like he did 497 times last season, and heralded running back recruit Christine Michael returns for his second season.
For the Aggies to climb into the Big 12 South’s top two spots, new defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter’s defense will need to improve from 2009, when the Aggies were last in the Big 12 in scoring defense.
4. Oklahoma State
Dana Holgorsen brings his spread offense to Stillwater with 26-year-old quarterback Brandon Weeden expected to run it. Running back Kendall Hunter darted around defenders for 1,555 yards rushing in 2008, but was hampered by an ankle injury in 2009 and failed to reach 400 yards as a junior. Hunter missed five games last season, and failed to rush for 100 yards even once. He’ll want to finish his career with a flourish, but the Cowboys could be swallowed up in the always-deep Big 12 South.
Robert Griffin returns, but as an athlete, the concern is his torn ACL could reduce him to a player unequal to the freshman Robert Griffin that made headlines in 2008. Will his quickness and shiftiness still be there? Additionally, will he still be as apt to scramble after the injury? He says he will, but no one will know for sure until he makes his return to the field next fall. If the Bears want to leave their usual post in the Big 12 South cellar, Griffin will have to carry them on his back with a reconstructed knee.
6. Texas Tech
The Tuberville experiment in Lubbock will begin this spring, but for all the changes in personnel within the program, the Red Raiders will be without a few other stars. Hard-hitting defensive back Jamar Wall is gone and so are three starting offensive linemen, including (ex) Twitterer/face-painter/offensive lineman Brandon Carter.
Tuberville and the Red Raiders making a bowl game wouldn't surprise me , but they also have the highest potential for disaster of any team in the Big 12.