Texas ready to dance with Simms in rugged Big 12

July 16, 2002 6:29 AM
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The eyes of Texas are upon Chris Simms, who Longhorns fans believe has been chosen to bring the first national football championship to Austin since 1969.

But, then again, that was supposed to happen last year with Nebraska and Kansas State off the regular season schedule. Texas won 11 games, but it was the losses to Oklahoma and Colorado that fans remembered. And they blamed Simms in each case, rallying around more popular QB Major Applewhite.

Though Simms is 15-4 SU as a starter many felt Applewhite, the Big 12 Player of the Year as a sophomore, should have been running the show. Now, it is Simms alone to guide an offense that is loaded, coupled with a recruiting class rated tops in the nation.

With Eric Crouch gone at Nebraska, the Longhorns and Sooners are 1-2 preseason in the Big 12, where five teams are ranked among the top 13 on the Imperial Palace oddsboard.

The IP lists Oklahoma and Texas behind early national title favorite Miami of Florida (9-2 odds). Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas State complete the top 13. Texas A&M is 16th and Texas Tech is tied for 33rd. The rest, including our ATS money team Iowa State, are part of the 25-1 "field."

The Big 12 appears as deep as the SEC. Baylor, the Vanderbilt of the league, has dropped a record 29 straight conference games. That string could end with the selection of Bob Trott as defensive coordinator. Trott was at Clemson in 1990 where he put together the nation’s No. 1 team in total defense. Add the three years with Bill Parcells at New England and Baylor could be a great UNDER play in the Big 12.

Oklahoma, the national champion two years ago, has defeated Texas two straight years and is ranked No. 1 in three national publications. Bob Stoops and his Nebraska counterpart Frank Zolich are each 31-7 in three seasons at their respective schools. Yet the matchup between OU and Texas has become the league’s marquee game.

The Sooners have three efficient quarterbacks to go with arguably the nation’s best defense, which shutout the offense in the annual spring game.

Colorado used its power game to beat Nebraska and Texas last year, only to fall to the air attack of Joey Harrington and Oregon in last year’s Fiesta Bowl. This season, the Buffs have to go into Lincoln and Norman, a real murderer’s row.

Two Heisman trophy quarterback candidates (Seneca Wallace and Kliff Kingsbury) could lift Texas Tech and Iowa State into national prominence. Kansas and Missouri are teams Kansas State is not likely to bully around this year.

Still, Bill Snyder is the co-dean of Big 12 coaches (14th year) and has turned K-State from a have-not into one of the most feared teams in college football.

Snyder shares the longevity title with R.C. Slocum at Texas A&M. The Aggies have a 27-year-old QB in Mark Farris, the usual stellar defense and the famed 12th man that has built an incredible 86 percent winning percentage at Kyle Field under Slocum.

Oklahoma State could be a sleeper under second year coach Les Miles. The Cowboys figure to improve on a 4-6 ATS mark last year. The first big test comes in Week 3 in Stillwater against Southern Cal.

Big 12 teams are involved in two of the Aug. 24 matchups. According to noted Las Vegas oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro, Iowa State is a 17-point underdog to Florida State in Kansas City. Vaccaro rates Nebraska a 17-point choice against Arizona State in Lincoln.

IMPERIAL PALACE RATINGS

Oklahoma  

 5-1  

 2nd

Texas  

 7-1  

 3rd

Nebraska  

 12-1  

 6th

Colorado  

 20-1  

 8th

Kansas State  

 35-1  

 13th

Texas A&M  

 75-1  

 26th

Texas Tech  

 100-1  

 T-33

Field (all others)*  

 25-1  

 ””

*”” Iowa State, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma St, Baylor.