Time to let the predictions fly.

Big 12 Conference football coaches conducted their first media teleconference of the 2009 season Monday morning and most of them sounded about as tired of answering what-ifs and what-abouts as the reporters doing the asking.

One of the most ridiculous parts of covering college football is that you write stories for basically two months, if you count spring ball, without ever having a meaningful game to analyze and draw conclusions.

Sure, you get some direction from the spring game and more from preseason scrimmages, if you`re allowed to see them, but nothing replaces the real thing in front of a packed stadium and a television audience on a fall Saturday.

Then and only then do you really begin to understand the truth about teams, players and coaches in terms of what they might be capable of on the football field.

But after watching all those practices for two months and spending time around a team, some gut feelings and expectations develop. Here are a few of mine looking ahead to the Buffs` 12-game schedule:

Quarterback Tyler Hansen will start the season opener for Colorado on Sunday night against Colorado State. It`s a gut feeling that could be totally wrong. The sophomore seems to have made some significant progress and probably has a bigger upside in the long run than Cody Hawkins.

Hawkins will be needed at times this season and could be used in creative ways at other times.

Darrell Scott won`t rush for 1,000 yards but will look much more like the player everyone expected him to be as a true freshman. Combine Scott with his other three backfield mates and the Buffs have a Rashaan Salaam-like 2,000-or so yards on the ground.

The Buffs will finish 8-4 and will be in the mix for the Big 12 North Division title, along with Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. This could be another year where 4-4 or 5-3 in the conference wins it through tiebreakers.

The Buffs go from minus-seven in turnover ratio last year to plus-seven or better this season. Veteran linebackers and defensive backs find a way to win a few close games.

Place-kicker Aric Goodman rebounds from last year and a handful of missed field goals to have a pretty decent season culminating with a winning kick in either the Independence, Insight or Alamo bowl.

Now, we'll turn our attention to the opening set of Big 12 power rankings for the season.

1. Oklahoma State (last season 9-4) -- It`s been a long time since anyone outside Austin, Texas, or Norman, Okla., has finished first in the South. I believe the Cowboys have the makeup to break the streak.

2. Texas (12-1) -- What`s worse than getting left out of the conference title game and national championship the way the Longhorns did in 2008? Beating the arch-rival Sooners again and still finishing second.

3. Oklahoma (12-2) -- The three-time defending champs have to be the favorite in most minds. They`re tough to bet against, but Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford won`t have quite the same year with a new offensive line.

4. Kansas (8-5) -- Kansas is the logical choice as the first team from the North Division because of senior quarterback Todd Reesing, but I could see the Fighting Manginos finishing third or fourth in the division as well.

5. Texas Tech (11-2) -- You know, Mike Leach has taken his team to a bowl game every year at Texas Tech. This won`t be the year the streak ends.

6. Colorado (5-7) -- Go ahead and call me a homer for putting the Buffs in the top half of the league. The way I see it, they could finish anywhere from third if things go well to ninth if it all falls apart again.

7. Missouri (10-4) -- The last two times I`ve seen this program play in person, it has won by the combined score of 113-10. I know there is a lot to replace, but I still see plenty of talent.

8. Nebraska (9-4) -- I totally believe all the hype surrounding this bunch would be totally different right now if not for that 57-yard kick last year to beat the Buffs. Plus, they`re breaking in a new quarterback.

9. Baylor (4-8) -- Coach Art Briles ends the program`s streak without a bowl game in its 15th year. The Bears pull off a few surprises on their way to the postseason.

10. Kansas State (5-7) -- If you use the lifetime batting average former CU coach and athletic director Eddie Crowder liked to employ, Bill Snyder will find a way around all the problems this program faces.

11. Texas A&M (4-8) -- Coach Mike Sherman finds himself on the hot seat at season`s end not because it`s the right approach but because that`s the world in which we live and play these days.

12. Iowa State (2-10) -- Another dismal year for a school that ought to be traded to Mountain West for Texas Christian or Utah.

No depth-chart surprises

Colorado released its latest depth chart on Monday and there were no real surprises, but a few notes did catch the eye.

Sophomore Lagrone Shields and true freshman Forrest West are listed first and second at right defensive end. Shields has played a total of four snaps in his career.

Darrell Scott remains the backup punter after true freshman Zach Grossnickle struggled with hang time, distance and consistency throughout his first camp.

Walk-on place-kicker Ryan Aweida is listed second on the depth chart ahead of sophomore Jameson Davis, who still isn`t completely healed from offseason knee surgery.

Coach Dan Hawkins said the depth chart was probably more difficult to settle this year as compared to past seasons in Boulder.

"It`s much more competition," he said. "I think you have many more guys able to play."

Clemons putting UM to bed

CU wide receiver Toney Clemons became embroiled in the brewing investigation at Michigan this week when he confirmed reports that the program from which he transferred to CU requires players to dedicate more time than NCAA rules allow to practices, weight lifting and film study.

After being interviewed by an ESPN writer Sunday night, Clemons issued this statement through CU Monday.

"It was not my intention to come to the forefront of any situation dealing with the Michigan football program," he said. "I talked to a reporter Sunday night but did not answer any questions nor did I contribute any information. I don`t have any ties to the original allegations and my involvement in the matter doesn`t go any further then reading the article and confirming the allegations made by the anonymous sources.

"If I am asked to answer questions by any official party, be it the University of Michigan, the Big Ten or the NCAA, I will be honest about my schedule while at Michigan. But for right now, I am a Colorado Buffalo and no longer associated with Michigan or it`s football program. It`s time for me to concentrate on my classes and my teammates here at Colorado."

Notable

Hawkins said he doesn`t know when offensive lineman Max Tuioti-Mariner will be cleared to rejoin the team and practice. Tuioti-Mariner is recovering from two torn ACLs in the past year.

"They`re doing rehab on him," Hawkins said. "We`re not going to push that. We`re just going to see how his knee comes along. I don`t know the time line is on that."