September 20, 2006

The Big 12 race - a new perspective

So we're three weeks into the football season and the Big 12 race is set to officially begin on Saturday when the Longhorns tangle with Iowa State in Austin. The majority of the match-ups through the early portion of the schedule have been one-sided affairs against creampuff opponents, but there have been a handful of marquee games that have given some early insights into each team's strengths and weaknesses.

Some teams, particularly Missouri, have surprised in a good way. Others, like Colorado, couldn't look much worse if they tried.

Let's take an updated look at each team and rank them from 1 to 12 with our newest projections of the conference race.

1. Texas - The Longhorns were the favorite coming into the season (after Rhett Bomar's dismissal) and nothing has changed despite Texas' struggles against Ohio State. No team in the league can match Texas' talent from top to bottom, and this team should only get better from week to week as Colt McCoy gains more experience. The defense got rocked by a potent Buckeye offense, but it's still the best group in the conference, particularly with the way Oklahoma has been struggling.

Best case scenario - On paper, Texas should be favored in every game that's left on the schedule, and there's a very real chance that the Horns could win out. Do that, and Mack Brown and the Longhorns could inch their way back up the polls and back into the BCS Championship game.

Worst case scenario - As we mentioned, Texas looks great on paper. But, this team has yet to prove anything against a team with any substance, although it will get its chance this weekend. If the Longhorn offense struggles against top opponents, the Horns could easily drop a couple of games to the likes of Nebraska, Oklahoma or Texas Tech.

Best bet - The game against OU in Dallas will likely determine the South champion, and the nod right now has to be given to Texas. But, the Horns will likely stumble in one more game down the road, possibly in Lincoln.

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