How They'll Finish
This is an article from the Aug. 17, 2009 issue
Players to Watch
Top performers from unranked teams in the conference
WR, Sr., Kansas State
The short story on the speedy Banks: He's only 5'7", 142 pounds, but he puts up big numbers: 1,049 receiving yards and 11 TDs in '08.
T, Sr., Texas Tech
Known for his multiple piercings and face paint, the 6'7" 354-pounder is a skilled pass blocker and a steamroller on running plays.
MLB, Sr., Baylor
In addition to being the brains of the Bears' defense, he was among the nation's top 10 in tackles (128) and interceptions (six) last season.
QB, Sr., Kansas
Owner of most of KU's passing records, he's ideal for the spread because of his ability to make quick decisions and to throw accurately on the run.
DT, Sr., Nebraska
The agile lineman led the Huskers in tackles, returned two interceptions for TDs and caught a scoring pass as a goal line fullback.
Trying to replicate the success that teams such as Kansas, Missouri and Texas Tech have had with the spread offense, Iowa State is making the switch. New coach PAUL RHOADS hired offensive coordinator TOM HERMAN, who installed the high-scoring attack at Rice.... No team in the conference lost more talent than Missouri. Sophomore BLAINE GABBERT (left) steps in at QB for the departed Chase Daniel; on defense, linebacker SEAN WEATHERSPOON is a solid anchor, but the line has only one returning starter, JARON BASTON.... Look for Texas A&M to use some trickery with RYAN TANNEHILL, a would-be QB who moved to receiver as a freshman and caught 55 passes for 844 yards. Tannehill may take some snaps, but he'll be equally dangerous as a wideout who might throw option passes.... It's not often that a blue-chip recruit chooses Baylor over Texas, but four-star safety AHMAD DIXON of Midway High in Waco backed out of his verbal commitment to the Longhorns in May. Keep in mind that Baylor coach ART BRILES also voted Texas fifth in the final coaches' poll last season, helping to kill the Longhorns' chances of playing in the BCS title game, and the Bears have been getting under the Horns' skin lately.
Best offensive player
QB, Jr., Oklahoma
The Heisman winner was prolific (50 TD passes), accurate (67.9%) and committed few mistakes (eight interceptions) in 2008.
Best defensive player
DT, Jr., Oklahoma
A run stuffer who can also generate a pass rush, McCoy (left) greatly improved the Sooners' defensive outlook when he bypassed the NFL draft.
True freshman to watch
After committing to Florida, the 6'7" Thornton, Colo., native decided instead to stay in state; he could contribute immediately as a pass rusher.
Coach on the rise
Last fall, in his first season, he won admirers not only for leading the Huskers to a 9--4 season but also for embracing the program's history and tradition.
Coach on the hot seat
After three years in Boulder he has a 13--24 record; a fourth consecutive sub-.500 season would be hazardous to his job security.