Originally created 08/20/04

Sooners expect title win in '04



These are days of change in the Big 12.

Kansas State is a defending champion for the first time in 70 years. New Nebraska coach Bill Callahan has run the option right out of Lincoln; the Big Red Machine is now a passing offense.

But not everything about this conference is in flux.

Oklahoma still strikes fear in most opponents. Kansas State won the league title in 2003, but second-ranked Oklahoma won't let them keep it without a fight.

Not as long as Bob Stoops, the coach who routinely calls the biggest plays in the biggest games, is still the head coach.

White returns with a sixth year of eligibility eager to restore a reputation that took a beating with sub-par performances in the two losses. His entire offensive line returns, as does the Big 12's top receiver, Mark Clayton.

A capsule look at the teams in predicted order of finish:

OKLAHOMA: White's health will be a key concern again this season. When he was healthy, he was near perfect with 3,846 yards passing and 40 touchdowns.

TEXAS: The Longhorns got a huge break when running back Cedric Benson and linebacker Derrick Johnson, two of the best players in the nation at their positions, chose to stay for their senior seasons.

TEXAS TECH: Coach Mike Leach must replace departed QB B.J. Symons, who threw for an NCAA record 5,833 yards. Fifth-year senior QB Sonny Cumbie, who's never started a game, won the job in preseason.

OKLAHOMA STATE: Josh Fields set an Oklahoma State career record with 55 touchdown passes but left after the Chicago White Sox selected him in the first round of the Major League draft.

TEXAS A&M: Coach Dennis Franchione promises it will get better in year two than last year's 4-8 record.

BAYLOR: Bears must replace 1,000-yard rusher Rashad Armstrong and leading receiver Robert Quiroga.

KANSAS STATE: Mighty mite Darren Sproles is coming off superb '03 when he set the school single-season rushing mark with 1,986 yards.

MISSOURI: Brad Smith was 23 yards short of becoming the first player in NCAA history to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in a season.

NEBRASKA: In the new West Coast offense, QB Joe Dailey had 16 pass attempts in the first quarter of the Cornhuskers' Red-White intrasquad game in the spring.

COLORADO: Coach Gary Bennett is back on the sideline after a spring suspension for insensitive remarks he made.

KANSAS: DE John McCoy was called up with his Army Reserve unit and may be headed for Iraq.

IOWA STATE: DE Jason Berryman, the Cyclones' MVP, has been suspended indefinitely after being charged with second-degree robbery.

Oklahoma quarterback Jason White won the Heisman Trophy last season, but was criticized for below-average games while injured in the team's two losses. He's back in 2004 and as healthy as he's been in years.