July 23, 2007

QB advantage makes UT the Big 12's clear leader

It seems to be the same storyline every year in the Big 12 South.

In early October, the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners clash in Dallas in one of college football's greatest rivalries, and it's much more than bragging rights that each team lays on the line. Despite what fans of the other programs in the Big 12 South - Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Baylor - might try to tell themselves leading up to the season, one team takes complete control of the Big 12 race once the dust settles on the field of the Cotton Bowl. Sure, there have been a couple of hick-ups where the loser of the game has gone on to lose two other conference games, including last year when Texas' late skid allowed Oklahoma to slide into the conference championship game, but there's no denying that Texas and OU have been, and will continue to be, the cream of the Big 12 crop.

The story remains the same heading into the 2007 college football campaign, with the Longhorns and Sooners picked by most to compete for the Big 12 crown while the other programs fight for their table scraps. But this year has a bit of a different feel to it.

Both Oklahoma and Texas, although immensely talented, will need to fill some rather large holes before the start of the season. For the Longhorns, the challenge will be to shore up a young offensive line and secondary. For OU, the glaring issue facing the coaching staff is finding a new starting quarterback for the third season in a row. The candidates for the job - redshirt freshman Sam Bradford, junior college transfer Joey Halzle and true freshman Keith Nichol aren't exactly the Peyton Mannings of the college football world, and at this time no player has taken the lead for the top spot on the depth chart. Often times, the idea of facing the season with an unproven player under center can be a death wish for even college football's top programs, but Bob Stoops doesn't see it that way. As he readily point out, Oklahoma has won four Big 12 titles under his watch with four different quarterbacks, and the Sooners pulled it off as recently as last year with a converted wide receiver calling the shots.

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