OU, OSU player returns give Big 12 a boost

A year ago, there weren't many folks outside the state of Oklahoma who could have told you who Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden were.

That wasn't the case for Landry Jones, Sam Bradford's mustachioed replacement and Ryan Broyles, who had already earned a reputation as one of the nation's best receivers.

No matter the notoriety.

Weeden and Blackmon, the Oklahoma State duo, spent the season making Jones and Broyles the nation's second-best quarterback-receiver combo.

Weeden bested Jones for the Big 12's first-team quarterback nod. Blackmon beat out fellow finalist Broyles for the Biletnikoff Award.

All four will be coming back to their respective campuses. So, too, will Sooners linebacker Travis Lewis.

The Big 12's pair of schools in Oklahoma combined to win 23 games in 2010. Don't be surprised if that number goes up in 2011.

The Sooners look like one of the favorites to open the 2011 preseason as the nation's No. 1 team. Oklahoma State, which still must hire an offensive coordinator, could be solidly in the top 10 with two of its best players returning, and both playing behind five returning offensive linemen.

That's a good sign for the Big 12. And a good sign for anyone watching college football. More than anything else, Weeden, Jones, Blackmon and Broyles are fun to watch.

The pair of duos have now given us another season to see them do their thing. They've all but guaranteed a compelling race for the first "true" Big 12 title, when the Big 12 shifts to a round-robin, nine-game conference schedule in 2011.

Texas A&M, Missouri or Texas might knock off the Cowboys or Sooners and keep them from a Big 12 title in 2011 with a better team.

But this year, there wasn't another quarterback-receiver combo better than either that could be found in Oklahoma.

Thanks to tough decisions from Weeden, Blackmon and Broyles, it looks like that'll be true for one more season.