HOW THEY'LL FINISH
This is an article from the Aug. 11, 2008 issue
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Top performers from unranked teams in the conference
DE, Sr., Kansas State
A first-team all-conference selection in 2007, he had 16 sacks, 281/2 tackles for loss and seven fumble recoveries over the past two seasons.
WR, Jr., Baylor
After catching 31 passes last season, the 6'4", 206-pound speedster should have a breakout year in new coach Art Briles's spread offense.
RB, Jr., Texas A&M
With 285-pound Jorvorskie Lane moving to fullback, the slashing, 196-pound Goodson becomes the feature back in new coach Mike Sherman's offense.
RB, Sr., Nebraska
The Big 12's top returning rusher (1,019 yards) and a terrific receiver out of the backfield (75 catches), he piled up 1,743 all-purpose yards as a junior.
TE, Sr., Oklahoma State
The 6'6" 260-pounder caught 35 passes for 540 yards and four touchdowns last season, and he could double those numbers this year.
TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYER
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Soph., Missouri.
His 2,776 all-purpose yards last season were the most ever by a freshman and the fifth most in Division I-A history. Think Reggie Bush without the glitz.
TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYER
Auston English (below), DE, Jr., Oklahoma.
With 9 1/2 sacks in 11 games last season, the high-rpm pass rusher was the best in the Big 12.
TRUE FRESHMAN TO WATCH
Darrell Scott, RB, Colorado.
The nation's top schoolboy runner in 2007 chose the Buffs over USC, Florida and Texas. At 6'2", 215 pounds, with 4.32 speed, he is one of those rare difference-makers who can elevate a program.
COACH ON THE RISE
Mark Mangino, Kansas.
College football's consensus Coach of the Year in '07 led the Jayhawks to their first 12-win season.
COACH ON THE HOT SEAT
Ron Prince, Kansas State.
With a 12--13 record after two seasons in Manhattan, he imported 19 juco players for this season.
Yes, there are some spongy matchups with Division I-AA schools, but it's not always the Big 12 schools' fault. Oklahoma had to scramble to get a game with Tennessee-Chattanooga after Middle Tennessee State bailed on the Sooners last November. Texas Tech invited Eastern Washington after Tulsa canceled last January. Kansas State, on the other hand, paid $250,000 to back out of its game against Fresno State and lined up Montana State.... The toughest schedule? Not even close. Colorado opens with rival Colorado State and later subjects itself to this seven-week gauntlet: West Virginia, Florida State (in Jacksonville), Texas, at Kansas, Kansas State, at Missouri, at Texas A&M.... There's cautious optimism at Iowa State. Despite a 3--9 record in their first year under GENE CHIZIK, the Cyclones improved markedly over the course of the season, knocking off Kansas State and Colorado in November. Anchoring the defense will be senior end KURTIS TAYLOR, who finished tied for second in the Big 12 in sacks last season, with 6 1/2.