I have to admit, this was a tough division to pick. The parity is mystifying, especially when comparing such mediocre teams; seriously, I think OK St. or Tex. T could win this division outright. I've picked - and re-picked - three different teams at the top, but none has felt right. I know who I think will improve the most and who will drop off, but the former won't win the division and the latter won't be last. So, it's felt like juggling trying to peg where each team will fall come season's end, and, honestly, I don't know how to juggle. I think you'll be able tot tell that when you read below. Do me a favor and read each pick with a question mark at the end; it'll sound better and make feel a tad better when I'm completely wrong.
The Division Champion will be...Nebraska...?(see, like this.) Pelini seems to have a natural command of this team and that's crucial for the program to succeed; the coach must buy into Husker nation and Bo, more than anyone since Big Tom, does. While the option might be gone, the success of the heyday is creeping back in. While not returning as many starters as their competition, Nebraska has the individuals to compete. I see them as a favorite in most of their conference games, but the division crown could still be on the line in the season ending showdown with Colorado on 11/27. If they can pull that out and watch the upset, there's no reason they won't be repping the north with a 5-3 mark in league play.
2. Kansas - I REALLY wanted to put Kansas at #1, as I have a lot of faith in Todd Reesing and what he can do to motivate a football team. But, the Jayhawks never play D and the O-line is only returning a total of 26 starts - OUCH. Not only that, but they draw Texas and Oklahoma from the North and only host 3 conference games. Throw in any/every team in the B12 North's ability to drop a questionable game in the stretch and the Jayhawks should limp to a 5-3/4-4 mark, including a loss to the Huskers.
3. Colorado - Man, this was a tough call. I've had the Buffs placed everywhere from division winner to 4th and bowl-less. What makes the difference for me is the run game. They could possibly control the momentum in tight games, taking pressure off Hawk Jr. and a solid, but unproven defense. The big games might still be a bit out of Coach Hawk's reach and by losing the finale with Nebraska, Colorado should finish up with 4-4 conference mark.
4. Kansas State - This schedule is great for the 'Cats and their returning septuagenarian coach. They host 3 North foes and play Iowa State at a neutral site, meaning the game at Nebraska is their only true division road game. Replacing Josh Freeman is impossible and the O-line looks spotty at best. However, the Wildcats return 8 on D, which should be enough to get 3 league wins and possibly a bowl game.
5. Missouri - Double win seasons are over for the Tigers. Daniels, Macklin, and almost everyone else from those teams is gone, leaving a league worst 9 returners. Jared Perry and Derrick Washington can't win games by themselves and the defense will be completely rebuilt. This is the definition of rebuilding, and I was VERY tempted to pick Mizz to finish last, but I think they can edge out the lowly Cyclones...barely. A 2-6 mark will not be surprise.
6. Iowa State - What is there to say here, really? The Cyclones could have an improved D after the Auburn coaching swap meet, but even with 9 returning starters, the offense will most likely still be a bottom feeder. Yadda, yadda, yadda, no wins in conference. Well, maybe one.
Big Games : Why even bother with the details here.
Nebraska at Colorado
Nebraska at Kansas
Kansas at Colorado
Oklahoma at Nebraska
Kansas at Kansas State