- Ivan Maisel, ESPN Senior Writer
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After years of tilting southward, the Big 12 has found balance. It didn't find it because the South Division weakened. (In fact, the top three teams in the South are ranked in the top 15 nationally.) The Big 12 is balanced because the North has muscled up. Missouri is a national power. Kansas is coming off a top-10 finish. Nebraska and Colorado show promise of returning to their once-dominant status. The league has never appeared stronger. Come January, there will be benefits to reap.
1. Oklahoma will win a BCS game.
Enough is enough. Stoops, 0-for-his-last-four BCS bowls, will reclaim his nickname of Big Game Bob.
2. Missouri will show it's not a one-year wonder.
The Tigers have a lot of returning talent and the attitude that they haven't achieved anything yet. When combined with knowing what to expect in big games, that's dangerous.
3. Kansas will show it is a one-year wonder.
The Jayhawks schedule is tougher than a breakfast steak, and let's face it: no one goes injury-free two seasons in a row. Even Mark Mangino acknowledges his team has a lack of depth.
4. The surprise team in the Big 12 North will be Colorado.
The Buffs are experienced and young -- always a good combination. Colorado freshman tailback Darrell Scott, who rushed for 86 yards on 14 carries in the opening scrimmage on Monday -- all with a sore groin -- and sophomore quarterback Cody Hawkins are going to make each other very, very good.
5. It's going to be an ugly year at Texas A&M.
The transition from an option-based offense to a pro-style is going to take a) time, and b) different recruiting. The Aggies have a severe shortage of able-bodied offensive linemen, and they are in the toughest division west of the SEC East.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Ivan at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book, "The Maisel Report: College Football's Most Overrated and Underrated Players, Coaches, Teams, & Traditions," is on sale now.
3hSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
3hAndrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna