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July 27, 2009

Top Big 12 storylines heading into Media Days

IRVING, Texas - With the Big 12 Media Days set to kickoff today, news and notes will be aplenty regarding all 12 teams in the conference heading into the upcoming season.

While we'll obviously have extensive coverage of Nebraska throughout the week, Huskeronline.com has decided to take a look at some of the top storylines to expect from the conference's 11 other schools.

The Quarterback Conference, Pt. II

Once again, the Big 12 is loaded at quarterback, arguably more than any conference in the country.

Along with defending Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford of Oklahoma and Texas's Colt McCoy, other signal callers such as Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson, Baylor's Robert Griffin and Kansas's Todd Reesing, the Big 12 as at least five QBs worthy of at least mentioning in preseason Heisman consideration.

Not only that, the conference also has some newcomers at the position that just might add to that list by the end of the season. Nebraska's Zac Lee, Missouri's Blaine Gabbert and Texas Tech's Taylor Potts all have big shoes to fill, but each of their respective coaching staffs all appear to have full confidence in them to do big things.

So will the Big 12 once again stake claim to the best offensive conference in college football? With this cast of quarterbacks leading the way, there's no reason to think otherwise.

Who really is No. 1?

As if the rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma wasn't fierce enough already, things are getting even feistier this season.

In the wake of last year's controversy over which team was more deserving of playing Florida in the national championship, the teams have been at it again this offseason in the debate of who should enter as the favorite to win the Big 12.

Many say it should be Oklahoma in a landslide. Others say Texas is the clear-cut favorite. A few even say Oklahoma State deserves to be part of the discussion, even going as far as to rank the Cowboys over Texas in their preseason rankings.

More than likely the issue won't be resolved until the two teams meet in their annual Red River Rivalry on Oct. 17 here in Dallas. Until then, the rest of us - including both Texas and Oklahoma - can only continue the debate.

Is Oklahoma State for real?

As previously mentioned, some fans and members of the Big 12 media have placed some pretty high expectations of Oklahoma State this season. With an offense loaded with talent and an underrated defense, that praise definitely seems warranted.

But just how good are the Cowboys? This won't be the first year that OSU has been tabbed as a dark horse team to finally compete with Texas and Oklahoma. In previous years, though, they've always come up short.

Whether or not this is the year Oklahoma State takes its program to the next level and wins the Big 12 South will depend on primarily on how well Robinson and Co. can handle the pressure when faced against the Longhorns and Sooners.

It's one thing to light up the likes of Iowa State for 59 points like it did last season. It's an entirely different matter of not getting blasted by Oklahoma for 61 points a few weeks later, also like it did last year.

Baylor's emergence

When Baylor takes the Media Days podium on Tuesday, there will undoubtedly be a different feel surrounding head coach Art Briles and his players.

That's because for the first time since the creation of the Big 12, the Bears are actually being viewed as contenders rather than perennial cellar dwellers. Behind the electric play of Griffin at quarterback and a defense led by a trio of all-conference caliber players, the folks down in Waco are finally getting excited again about the direction of the program.

The only problem with all the preseason hype Baylor has been receiving is the fact that they'll eventually have to try and live up to it. In a division featuring three top-10 teams and a not-so-easy non-conference schedule, it won't be a cakewalk for the Bears to make their first bowl appearance since 1994.

Still, after 12 years of being the laughing stock of the Big 12, it would be kind of nice to see Baylor see what it's like on the winning side of things once again.

Cyclones, Wildcats starting over from scratch

While some teams will be talking about possible national title runs this season, others - such as Iowa State and Kansas State - will likely set their goals a little lower.

Though each will be introducing new head coaches this year, it will be probably be a tough road for both teams in 2009. Iowa State's Paul Rhoads is taking over a team that won just two games overall and went winless in the Big 12. Some of the Cyclones' players also are trying deal with playing under their third coaching staff in the past four years.

Kansas State's Bill Snyder obviously isn't new to the position, but things certainly have changed a bit since he coached his last game with the Wildcats back in 2005.

There's still a chance that either Rhodes or Snyder can pull off a miracle and have some immediate success this season, but the chances are more likely that both will find this to only be the start of a very, very long year.



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