July 25, 2010

Top Big 12 storylines heading into Media Days

IRVING, Texas - With the Big 12 Media Days set to kickoff today for the final time, 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, HuskersIllustrated.com has decided to take a look at some of the top storylines to expect from the conference's 11 other schools.

The final season

Things will likely be more awkward than ever before when Nebraska and Colorado take the stage to talk about the upcoming season at this week's Big 12 Media Days.

It will be the final time both teams make the trip to Dallas to talk with the conference's media, as obviously NU is head to the Big Ten and the Buffaloes are off to the Pac-10 at the end of the school year.

With their departures, there will almost certainly be some hard feelings from the rest of the conference throughout the season and beyond. Will any coach or player actually voice their displeasure with two of their member schools leaving for greener pastures?

That remains to be seen, but there's no question that each team's representatives will be bombarded with questions in the hopes that someone will speak their mind on the elephant in the room.

The final year of divisional football

The loss of Nebraska and Colorado will not only cause of uncomfortable tension for the rest of the Big 12 schools this week, it will also forever change the landscape for all the remaining teams.

In particular, the four other North Division teams will now have to play the six teams from the South on a yearly basis, as opposed to the current three-team rotation each year.

How will that change the future for teams like Missouri, Kansas State and Kansas, who will now have to go up against the likes of Texas and Oklahoma every season instead of getting a free pass on one or even both every other year?

On the other side, what will getting to play the lower tier teams of the North every year do for a team like Baylor? Now getting to play Iowa State and KU each season could finally shed its title as the Big 12's bottom feeder once and for all.

New faces under center

For the first time in what feels like a decade, Texas will be led by a quarterback not named Colt McCoy. Instead, the Longhorns will put their hopes on the arm of sophomore Garrett Gilbert.

Gilbert showed nice flashes during his first real chance in the spotlight in the national championship, but can he really pick up where one of the best QBs in school history left off? The 'Horns think so, and they're so confident in Gilbert that they selected him to be one of their three player representatives at Media Days.

Oklahoma's Landry Jones essentially took over as the starter last year, but this will be the first time he enters the season with the title and without having Sam Bradford looking over his shoulder.

The you have Kansas trying to replace Todd Reesing, the most productive quarterback in school history. Unlike the others, the Jayhawks still haven't decided who their successor will be, as the battle between sophomore Kale Pick and redshirt freshman Jordan Webb.

Tuberville, Gill make Big 12 debut

Two coaches will face the conference's media for the first time this week as Big 12 head coaches.

Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville and Kansas's Turner Gill both took over for coaches who made ugly exits this offseason, and both will be looking to say all the right things as they get ready for their debut seasons in the conference.

While Gill has been around the block enough to know not to say much of anything of real substance, Tuberville - who has 15 years of head coaching experience to his credit - has been one of the more vocal coaches in addressing the Big 12's future in the wake of its recent losses of NU and CU.

If we can get anything close to what he told Rivals Radio host Bill King back in June about the future of the Big 12, it could be an interesting week.

I don't think this conference will last long because there is too much disparity between all the teams," Tuberville said. "In the SEC, for instance, Vanderbilt makes as much money in the television contract as Florida. Everybody is good with it. Everybody is on the same page. Everyone gets the same votes.

"That doesn't happen here in the Big 12. We have some teams that get a little bit more money and have a little bit more stroke than some of the other teams. And when that happens, you're gonna have teams looking for better avenues to leave and reasons to leave."

Can Oklahoma stay on top?

Despite losing a ridiculous amount of talent to the NFL from last season, Oklahoma is the heavy favorite to win the Big 12 crown coming into the year.

Even after injuries depleted the Sooners' talented roster and led them to finish with their most losses (5) since head coach Bob Stoops's debut in 1999, there is plenty of optimism floating around Norman at the moment. The big reason for it is while all the freshmen and backups that were forced to step into the starting lineup last year now have plenty of experience under their belts.

If guys like Jones can pick up where they left off last year and continue their progression, Oklahoma should more than live up to all the preseason hype it's been getting.

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