With the elimination of a conference championship game, the chances for a new Big XII champion have slightly gone up. Of course the natural contenders and power house teams of the Big XII have traditionally been from the former south division, but has the door opened for a team to come in and surprise everyone? We all know that Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Missouri, and Texas (lightly leaning on Texas having a shot at the title this year) all have a shot to bring home the hardware.
Last season, Oklahoma State was picked to finish 5th in the conference and came out with a share of the Big XII south, which still warrants no need for a ring. So, outside of these five (or four if you consider UT a long shot) teams, which school has the potential to be a sleeping giant?
Who is your Cinderella team from the Big XII for the 2011 season?
Kansas State loses a good portion of their OL along with RB Daniel Thomas, who is hard for anyone to replace in my opinion after the way he carried the Wildcats on his shoulders week in and week out. But, K-State will be looking to Collin Klein to lead the way under center after getting good experience last season along with Bryce Brown to get a majority of the carries out of the backfield. On the defensive side of things, David Garrett is proving to be a force to reckon with at CB. Don't forget about LB Arthur Brown either who has been selected to several award watch lists.
Texas Tech retains all five starting offensive linemen. However, they lose their top two receivers, two senior QBs, along with their star RB in Byron Batch. Eric Stephens will be depended upon heavily to lead the way in Tuberville's "balanced attack" offense at Tech. On defense, the Red Raiders have a ton of young talent who got experience far before they were ready. But, will this young defense be able to keep up in the Big XII and what will the offense look like as a unit?
Baylor was a great story of the 2010 season with Robert Griffin III leading the way on offense and giving Bear fans a glimpse of greatness. The Bears return the core of their team from last season. While Baylor has proven they have the offense to move the ball up and down the field, the defense isn't able to stop anyone. They must rely on a shootout style of play and hope they come out on top in the end. Phil Bennett takes on the challenge of shoring up the defense to compete for a title in the Big XII for the 2011 season.
Iowa State has a solid group of linebackers but lacks in the skill positions. Not to mention, the Cyclones have yet to name a QB to replace Austen Arnaud. The way things are shaping up for Iowa State, they might be on par with Kansas as the longest shot to win the Big XII.
Kansas need I say more? The Jayhawks will have a little improvement and may be able to pull themselves out of the basement with Jordan Webb running the show at QB. But at this point, anything would be an improvement from a 3-9 record with five of those losses being by more than 20 points.