Last season, Oklahoma or Texas failed to win the Big 12 for the first time since 2003.
Well, Oklahoma State had a little something to do with it, but so did two huge positions in need of improvement.
Both cracked colleague Travis Haney's list of positions with the potential for huge growth in 2012.
First up, the Texas quarterbacks.
Texas seemed to indicate it would like for the more athletic [David] Ash to be the guy, even as a freshman, but he could not sustain enough consistency to win the job outright. And, really, Ash simply could not take care of the ball. He threw an interception every 21.8 passes. (The most efficient quarterback in 2011, Wisconsin's Russell Wilson, threw one every 77.3 throws.
[Case] McCoy was more consistent in November, but no one was mistaking him for his older brother in terms of arm strength and accuracy. He did put up a 356-yard passing day in the loss to Baylor at the end of the regular season, but McCoy then gave way to Ash for the bowl victory against Cal. It was a yo-yo effect all season for the Horns, who would like to see one of the two emerge -- but still haven't really through spring ball.
My take: I totally agree with this one. How much Ash improves is the big question. An offseason full of first-team reps will be extremely valuable -- he got almost none last year before being thrust into the role of starter as a true freshman. During spring camp last year, he was a fourth-stringer. He could get better, but Ash has never really looked the part of future superstar to me. Fortunately for the Longhorns, the team is good enough everywhere else it doesn't need him to be a superstar. If he's solid, but able to get the ball to Texas' playmakers like Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis, the Longhorns will be a factor in the Big 12 race.
Second, Haney looks at the Oklahoma defensive backs, who are under new direction this year with Mike Stoops.
Stoops has a variety of options for the different spots in the defensive backfield. Already, he has shifted Tony Jefferson from sam linebacker to free safety, his more natural position, and moved Javon Harris from free to strong safety. Harris was the goat in several games, including the Baylor debacle. Jefferson might be the most underrated defensive player in the Big 12 because he has yet to settle into one, specific position.
Another important piece of the OU defense, Aaron Colvin, missed the spring after minor shoulder surgery. He can play any of the secondary spots, again freeing up Mike Stoops to mix and match to find a solution for the big-play disease.
My take: The league's best quarterbacks gave the Sooners all kinds of trouble last year, and it won't be much easier this year. Yeah, Brandon Weeden and Robert Griffin III are gone, but TCU's Casey Pachall and West Virginia's Geno Smith are the new guys very capable of tearing up anybody's secondary.
It's tough to know exactly what the problem for Oklahoma was. The Sooners could be dominant at times. They have the talent and athleticism. Most importantly, they have lots of experience. For OU, it's a matter of just doing it. Stoops will try to make it happen, but big improvement could result in a big, big year for the Sooners.
A national title, perhaps?