The unexpected loss of starting quarterback Rhett Bomar created plenty of questions about whether No. 10 Oklahoma could still be a legitimate Big 12 contender this season.
Maybe for everybody else, but not coach Bob Stoops, who believes too much has been made out of Bomar's departure.
``We had a guy who ended last year with 10 interceptions and 10 touchdowns. It's not like when (Heisman Trophy winner) Jason White left,'' Stoops said Monday on the first Big 12 coaches teleconference of the season. ``Maybe at one point, (Bomar) might have developed into that. He hadn't developed into that yet.''
When the season opens Saturday against UAB, senior Paul Thompson will be the starting quarterback _ just like in last year's opener that Oklahoma lost to TCU. Bomar took over as the starter after that, and Thompson switched to receiver.
``When we made the change, Rhett had three more years, and we thought he might progress to be one of those guys,'' Stoops said.
Bomar finished his freshman season by leading the Sooners to six wins in the last seven games, including the Holiday Bowl. Bomar completed 167-of-308 passes (54 percent) for 2,018, along with those 10 interceptions and 10 TDs.
``If Paul had stayed there, he could have thrown for at least that, or maybe better,'' Stoops said.
Thompson is getting another chance at throwing instead of catching passes after Bomar was kicked off the team Aug. 2 for breaking NCAA rules.
``He looks great. He has done a really good job,'' Stoops said. ``Day in and day out, he's gotten more comfortable with his reads, throwing and where we're going with the football.''
At least defending national champion Texas knew last January that Vince Young wouldn't be back. The Heisman Trophy finalist bypassed his senior season to be a first-round NFL pick and freshman Colt McCoy and Jevan Sneed began competing for the job last spring. McCoy starts Saturday for the No. 3 Longhorns against North Texas.
Returning starter Allen Webb is among three quarterbacks who have left Kansas State's program since April. New Wildcats coach Ron Prince still has an old starter after senior Dylan Meier beat out heralded freshman Josh Freeman. Meier started in 2004 before missing last season after shoulder surgery.
``It was really remarkable that Josh as a true freshman to come in and push the way he did,'' Prince said. ``Both quarterbacks are very capable.''
There is also a Meier starting at the Big 12's other Kansas school. Dylan's younger brother, Kerry, will be the Jayhawks' starter as a redshirt freshman.
``He truly is prepared _ emotionally, physically and mentally,'' Kansas coach Mark Mangino said. ``He's a very mature guy for his age, has a lot of savvy and is hard to rattle.''
Instead of inserting another senior and first-time starter into Texas Tech's pass-happy offense, coach Mike Leach chose sophomore Graham Harrell as the starting quarterback. Freshman Chris Todd is the backup.
RETURNING PUNTER: One of Baylor's best weapons is punter Daniel Sepulveda, who last season averaged 46.2 yards per kick _ better than in 2004 when he won the Ray Guy Award as college football's best punter.
It was expected that Sepulveda would miss the start of his senior season after tearing right knee ligaments in April. But the NFL prospect might play Sunday when the Bears open against No. 22 TCU in matchup of former Southwest Conference rivals.
When coach Guy Morriss went by the weight room to check on workouts over the weekend, Sepulveda pulled him aside and said he wanted to kick.
``We'll punt him this week as he was going to punt Sunday. We'll see how the knee holds up and how he feels Saturday,'' Morriss said. ``Like you, I thought he was definitely out.''
Morriss plans to talk to Sepulveda's parents and team doctors before making a final decision.
``I just want to make sure he understands what he has to gain, and what are the risks,'' he said.
BOWLING FOR WINS: Iowa State gets a jump on the rest of the Big 12 when it plays its season opener against Toledo on Thursday night.
Toledo is the first of nine opponents on Iowa State's schedule that played in bowl games last season. That list doesn't include Northern Iowa, last season's NCAA Division I-AA runner-up.
``Everybody but the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers,'' quipped Dan McCarney, the dean of the Big 12 coaches going into his 12th season.
Army was supposed to be on the schedule for the return of a home-and-home series after Iowa State played at West Point last season. But Army bought out the contract, and the Cyclones filled the opening with Toledo, a 45-13 winner over UTEP in last year's GMAC Bowl.