By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch on Twitter)
At the midpoint of the 2011 season, it's time to take a look at the first half and predict how the second half will turn out in the Big 12.
Coach of the Year — Bill Snyder, Kansas State
This one is easy. Snyder, in his second stint at Kansas State, has guided the Wildcats to a 6–0 start, with each of the last four wins coming as an underdog (and each coming by seven points or less). K-State visits rival Kansas this weekend before embarking on a difficult four-game stretch that includes home games with Oklahoma and Texas A&M and visits to Oklahoma State and Texas.
Freshman of the Year — Malcolm Brown, Texas
A top-five national recruit, Brown has given Texas its most dependable running threat from the tailback position since Jamaal Charles. He has run for over 50 yards in all six games and has topped the 100-yard mark twice, against UCLA (110) and Oklahoma State (135).
Newcomer of the Year — Arthur Brown, Kansas State
A top recruit in the Class of 2008, Brown transferred back home to the state of Kansas after spending two seasons at Miami (Fla.). The 6-1, 223-pound linebacker leads the Cats with 45 tackles, including 4.5 for a loss.
Offensive Player of the Year — Landry Jones, Oklahoma
It’s nearly impossible to pick the best player from a list that includes Jones, Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Broyles. We went with Jones, who leads the Big 12 in passing yardage (362.8 ypg) and has thrown 16 touchdowns and only six interceptions.
Defensive Player of the Year — Frank Alexander, Oklahoma
We no longer have to use the word “potential” when describing Alexander. The defensive end is having a monster senior season, with 9.5 tackles for a loss (tied for the league lead) and 6.5 sacks (second in the league).
Midseason Disappointment — Missouri
The Tigers are 3–3 overall and 1–2 in the Big 12. Their three losses have come against quality competition — Arizona State, Oklahoma and Kansas State, all on the road — but they also don’t have anything close to a good win. Statistically, Missouri has been solid on both sides of the ball, but Gary Pinkel’s club just hasn’t been able to make the big play at the right time.
Midseason Disappointment — Bryce Brown, Kansas State
The Wildcats were hoping that Brown, a transfer from Tennessee who was once considered the top prep running back in the nation, could slide right into the starting job filled so well last season by Daniel Thomas. But Brown, the brother of K-State linebacker Arthur Brown, was a non-factor for the Wildcats — he had three carries for 16 yards in the opener — before leaving the team a few weeks ago.
Midseason Surprise — Kansas State
Just like picking Bill Snyder for midseason Coach of the Year honors, this is the easy choice. The Wildcats have done the seemingly impossible — win four straight games as an underdog. K-State is already 6–0 and has yet to play Kansas and Iowa State. The school’s first 10-win season since 2003 isn’t out of the question.
Midseason Surprise — Henry Josey, Missouri
Josey was part of a tailback-by-committee at Missouri last year as a freshman. This season, he has emerged as the primary ball-carrier and leads the league with 717 yards on only 74 carries for a 9.7-yard average — the best in the country for a player with at least 40 attempts.
What Athlon Sports got right — We thought Oklahoma would be really good (which it is) and thought Kansas would be really bad (which it is). We picked OU No. 1 in the Big 12 and No. 2 in the nation and forecasted a perfect 12–0 regular season. We tabbed Kansas last in the Big 12 and predicted an overall mark of 3–9 and a league record of 1–8.
What Athlon Sports got wrong — Kansas State is the only team that really jumps out at this point. We picked the Cats to finish ninth in the league with a record of 2–7.
Athlon projects the wins and losses for each team for the rest of the season. Here’s how we think the final standings will look before bowl season.
1. Oklahoma 12-0 (9-0)
2. Oklahoma State 11-1 (8-1)
3. Texas A&M 9-3 (7-2)
4. Texas 8-4 (5-4)
5. Kansas State 8-4 (5-4)
6. Baylor 7-5 (4-5)
7. Missouri 6-6 (4-5)
8. Texas Tech 5-7 (2-7)
9. Iowa State 4-8 (1-8)
10. Kansas 2-10 (0-9)
Three Things to Watch
The Best Bedlam Ever? - Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were ranked third and fourth, respectively, in the first BCS rankings. Both teams will be favored in every game leading up to the Dec. 3 showdown in Norman. Just think how big this game will be if both the Sooners and Pokes remain undefeated.
The Texas Quarterback Situation - Garrett Gilbert began the season as the starter. He was benched and eventually left the program. David Ash and Case McCoy have each started, as well. Ash, a true freshman, played wire to wire against Oklahoma State, completing 22-of-40 for 139 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. McCoy and Ash both figure to play down the stretch, but you know Mack Brown would like one player to seize the starting assignment.
Will Kansas win a Big 12 game? - Turner Gill’s first season in Lawrence didn’t go well. His second season has been worse. The Jayhawks are 2–4 overall, with only one win over an FBS opponent (45–42 over Northern Illinois at home). They have given up 42 points or more in each of the past five games, including 66 to Georgia Tech and 70 to Oklahoma State. Will KU go winless in the Big 12 for the first time since 2002, Mark Mangino’s first season? The guess here is yes. The best chance to win a game figures to be on Nov. 5 against Iowa State, but that game is in Ames. It could be a long two months for Gill and the KU program.