Even with the great team Oklahoma has put together, it won’t be a walk in the park. In state rival Oklahoma St and Texas A&M will make Oklahoma earn everything. Both OSU and Texas A&M have very solid teams that can compete with anyone in the country and are looking for a Big 12 championship and a shot at a BCS bowl. Even with a horrendous season last year, Texas is still looming and could come out of left field to make some noise.
The surprise team to look out for is Oklahoma St. The Cowboys return one of the most explosive QB-WR combos in Weeden and Blackmon, which can take over any game. Despite some scares, I still believe Oklahoma will come out on top in this conference and might even end up in the BCS National Championship game.
The Big 10 has been pretty easy to figure out the past few years with Ohio State dominating the competition, but the 2011 season brings with it a lot of change. Not only did the Big 10 add powerhouse Nebraska, but the conference split into two divisions and will feature their first conference championship game. This new alignment, coupled with all of the turmoil at Ohio State, it’s difficult to determine a clear-cut favorite. Wisconsin, Ohio State, and newcomer Nebraska are the top 3 teams in the conference, but teams like Michigan State, Penn State, and Northwestern will push for their share of the spotlight.
Wisconsin is probably the early prospect for the Big Ten’s best team, especially when you consider the addition of dual-threat QB Russell Wilson. Wisconsin features one of the best backfields in the country, with the dynamic tandem of Montee Ball and James White. The Badgers are a very solid and veteran team on both sides of the ball who will have a lot to prove coming off a frustrating Rose Bowl loss to TCU.
You can expect Nebraska to make a huge splash in its first Big Ten campaign. With Taylor Martinez leading the way, Nebraska will make some noise early and often and should compete for their spot in the inaugural conference championship.
It’d be foolish to rule Ohio State out entirely. While the off-season drama certainly hurt their chances, the Buckeyes still have a solid group of core players capable of putting together a run of their own. Ohio State’s success will hinge on the transition at quarterback and the capability of Luke Fickell to rally his players behind him.
The surprise team in the Big Ten this year is Northwestern. Coach Pat Fitzgerald has quietly put together a very solid and great team. Northwestern has started to make some noise in the Big Ten recently, and their 2011 team is one of their most complete in years. With the return of QB Dan Persa, Northwestern is a bit of a sleeper pick to compete in the Big Ten Championship game.
When it’s all said and done and the Big Ten champion is crowned in Indianapolis, I believe Wisconsin will take home the top prize.
With the Miami scandal in full-fledged panic mode, I truly see the ACC as a two-team race with Florida State edging Virginia Tech for the conference’s automatic BCS bid.