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Picking the Big 12

Posted on: June 29, 2009 3:01 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2009 12:09 pm

The Big 12 South Division race, the Big 12 title game, the Heisman race and the national championship hinged on the conference's three-way tiebreaker. We found out about the 11-year-old rule when Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech each tied at 7-1 in the South Division.

Oklahoma "won" the tiebreaker because it finished the regular season as the highest-ranked team in the division  -- by .0128 of a point in the BCS standings. Instead of reliving the Austin angst, let's just say that one Longhorn suggested that if the tiebreaker rule wasn't changed in the offseason his school ought to pull out of the Big 12.

What's changed? Not much. The rule wasn't changed and Texas is still in the league. At the spring meetings, the Big 12 ADs accepted the coaches' vote that the tiebreaker remain the same. Why?

 One theory is that Texas probably doesn't get much sympathy from the other coaches because ... it's Texas. The school is perceived to have the best of everything so it didn't get much sympathy from schools that don't. Yeah, jealousy sucks.

 There is nothing to be gained for schools like Missouri, Iowa State, Colorado, Baylor, etc., so why change? Hey, the league got two teams in the BCS. To the other schools it doesn't matter who plays in those games as long as the money keeps rolling in.

 The tiebreaker makes sense. Why wouldn't you want your highest rated BCS team to win the tiebreaker? There was some feeling that the SEC tiebreaker is fairer.

In a three-way tie, the SEC drops the lowest-ranked team and decides things head-to-head. But since you're chasing a BCS title, the SEC tiebreaker potentially keeps the highest-ranked team out of a title shot.

The tiebreaker would have been a footnote on the national scene had not Texas and Oklahoma been involved. The rivalry was bitter enough without having to explain why the Horns lost out when they beat the Sooners on the field. Yeah, Oklahoma's fortune might cause a bit of consternation in Austin.

"They got a huge break," Texas' Colt McCoy said.

Like I said, nothing has changed. Texas and OU still hate each other. There is a good chance we could have another tiebreaker train wreck at the end of this season. Only the teams will change.

Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State could all start the season in the top 10. The Red River Shootout on Oct. 17 shapes up as one of the most intense in the history of the rivalry. Just for controversy's sake let's assume the Horns win in Dallas, they still have to play in Stillwater on Halloween. If the Cowboys win they could win out until a Nov. 28 date in Norman. If the Sooners win that one, we're looking at another three-way 7-1 finish.

Who wins it in the BCS tiebreaker? In that scenario, you'd have to like Oklahoma again. The Texas loss would be six weeks old by then and beating Oklahoma State impressively would be the emphatic final statement for the computers the pollsters. That same thing happened last year when OU blew out Texas Tech.

Closer to the field, for the second consecutive year the Large Dozen remains the conference of quarterbacks. It sports a Heisman winner (Sam Bradford), a runner-up (Colt McCoy) and well as 2009 Heisman candidate Todd Reesing of Kansas. You can add Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson, Baylor's Robert Griffin and Texas Tech quarterback du jour Taylor Potts as difference makers.

Just giving you a fair warning, Texas fans. Grow your hair out now. You might be pulling it out in December.

Picking the Big 12 ...

North Division

1. Kansas -- If this were Miami, Dezmon Briscoe, Kerry Meier and Reesing would be on the cover of every preseason mag in the country. Meier is the leading returning receiver in catches per game (10.8). Briscoe is second in receiving yards per game (108.2). Reesing already has led the Jayhawks to an Orange Bowl and is in line to become the school's best quarterback ever. Mark Mangino already has proven he can coach. If a new set of starting linebackers can tackle and if KU can beat either Oklahoma, Texas or Texas Tech (he is a combined 0-9 against the three) this could be a special season. The Jayhawks get the slight edge in the North because the Nebraska game is at home.

2. Nebraska -- Bo Pelini is slowly building Huskerville back to its usual standards. Slowly is the key word because defense is Pelini's thing and the D showed astounding lapses last year. Slowly, because Nebraska has not had a first-team All-American on the defensive line in 12 years. Tackle Ndamukong Suh could break the streak. Some draft boards already have him in the top five. There is little room for error where Pelini is a turned ankle away from having real problems at quarterback. Zac Lee is the guy after Patrick Witt, who was being counted on, left before the spring. A lot of folks think Nebraska has the advantage in the North because of its schedule. I see road trips to Missouri, Baylor, Kansas and Colorado, plus a home game against Oklahoma. Please tell me how that is favorable?

3. Missouri -- The Tigers will take a dip after back-to-back Big 12 North titles. Missouri knows it. The fans know it. The league knows it. The key is trying to make an 8-4 season seem like a success. Six-foot-five Blaine Gabbert takes over for Chase Daniel, only the greatest qb in Missouri history. He would be wise to spread the ball out to 1,000-yard rusher Derrick Washington and receivers Danario Alexander and Jared Perry. The Tigers will score, just not as often. If the defense is shored up at all this team could be on the fringes of contending in the North. At times, the secondary looked like a fire drill. Linebacker All-American linebacker candidate Sean Weatherspoon passed up the draft and will chase the school's career tackles record as a senior.

4. Colorado -- Has Hawk Love turned into Hawk Doubt? Entering his fourth season in Boulder, Dan Hawkins has won only 13 games. The pressure is on to produce (hint: Big 12 North contention and a bowl game). Hawkins isn't backing down, saying this at the senior banquet: "Ten wins, no excuses." The quarterback situation is unsettled with son Cody Hawkins and Tyler Hansen maybe sharing the job again. Freshman tailback sensation Darrell Scott was upstaged by fellow freshman Rodney Stewart who led the team in rushing. Here's the scary thing: In a league with unrelenting offenses, CU has lost six of its top 10 tacklers.

5. Kansas State -- This isn't the old Big Eight for Bill Snyder. Back in 1989, he was taking over Kansas State from a zero position. This time he is chasing his own legacy. Not to diminish what Snyder accomplished, but back in the early 1990s, Missouri and Kansas were jokes and Oklahoma was sliding. There was no Texas to play two out of every four years. The Big 12 has more depth and strength than the Big Eight as Snyder tries for Miracle In Manhattan II. Snyder got K-State from dregs to the brink of a national championship game in nine years. Will the 69-year-old have that much time this time around?

6. Iowa State -- Iowa State swapped coaches with Auburn. Gene Chizik went. Paul Rhoads came. Rhoads, from nearby Ankeny, seems like he wants to stay awhile. He'll be looking up at the rest of the Big 12 North for a while. Ripping Wally Burham from South Florida to be his defensive coordinator was a huge get for Rhoads. The offense will have a chance with dual-threat Austen Arnaud at quarterback

South Division

1. Texas -- Mack Brown smiled when I told I had his pregame speech ready for the OU game. "We beat the Sooners last year, boys. Now let's go out and get some revenge!" Yeah, it's about that and a lot of things for Brown and the Horns. Except for perhaps some suspect running backs, Texas is loaded. Brown has his best team since the 2005 national championship crew. Hybrid defensive end/linebacker Sergio Kindle should be this season's Brian Orakpo. McCoy is driven not only by the tiebreaker but also his second-place finish in the Heisman. Still, it all boils down to Oct. 17 in Dallas.

2. Oklahoma -- Sam Bradford won the Heisman, became the first quarterback to win back-to-back Big 12 titles and got the Sooners to the national championship game. What is there left to accomplish? Plenty for Bradford who listened to family and advisors and put off the NFL. His body can fill out a bit and it doesn't look like there will be a Matthew Stafford to compete with in the draft this year. Oklahoma's questions are at offensive line and receiver. If this were anywhere else but the Big 12 South, the Sooners would be prohibitive favorites to repeat. With a break here or there, they still might end back up in the national championship game.

3. Oklahoma State -- With apologies to Texas and Oklahoma, this could be the best offense in the Big 12, if not the country. Returning are a 1,500-yard rusher (Kendall Hunter), an All-American receiver (Dez Bryant), and a 65 percent passer with 25 touchdowns (Robinson). The problem remains defense. New defensive coordinator Bill Young is the Cadillac of his profession. Okie State will be better just because of his presence. Perrish Cox is developing into an NFL talent at corner and is one of the nation's best returners.

4. Texas Tech -- The Red Raiders slip back to the 8-4 level this season. You know the drill: Potts will throw for eight million yards. There will be a 1,000-yard receiver or two. Mike Leach will be his usual quote-machine self. However, last season was a once-in-10-year event. There is payback waiting at Texas, at Oklahoma State and at Nebraska.

5. Baylor -- Does any Big 12 school have more upside? Joe Pawelek is an All-Big 12 linebacker. Center J.D. Walton anchors the offensive line now that Jason Smith is gone. But let's be honest, the moment quarterback Robert Griffin followed coach Art Briles to Baylor (from his commitment to Houston), things took off. A sprinter with Olympic aspirations, Griffin gave up the Big 12 track season to concentrate on what should be his breakout season in Waco. If there is a one-man team in the league, this is it. Griffin also was the team's No. 2 rusher. With more weight and more knowledge, Griffin should become the most elusive dual-threat in the Big 12 since Vince Young. At stake is a 14-year bowl drought. That ties for the longest active streak among BCS schools.

6. Texas A&M -- One former Big Eight coach said it during the offseason: This is A&M. It should be able to go over to the Houston high schools and scrounge up a couple of defensive linemen. In Mike Sherman's second season, d-line is a good place to start. The one-time Wrecking Crew was Charmin soft as one of the worst defensive units in the country. After the non-conference games, the Aggies gave up less than 35 once. Once! Nineteen players had surgery in the offseason. The Aggies better get fat early. The season ends with Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas.


Since: Apr 1, 2009
Posted on: June 30, 2009 2:27 pm

Picking the Big 12

Does anyone really want to see whatever crummy team the North produces this year get plastered by OU, OSU, or TX?  No

I agree with you, but I don't think it will ever change.

Since: Aug 15, 2006
Posted on: June 30, 2009 2:25 pm

Picking the Big 12

When you look at Kansas they do have the talent players but they don't have the defense or the offensive line.  They're relying on a 280 pound converted defensive end, redshirt freshmen to play left tackle and their only returning starters on the O-line are both sophmores and one of them is changing positions.  I love Reesing, he;s a gutsy player but he's short and unless that O-line is better than expected he's going to struggle against teams with talented defensive lines and secondaries (like Nebraska).

Nebraska has some big questions too but Pelini brought them from 109 in total defense in 2007 to 55th in 2008 and they're deeper, faster and better prepared.  If they break into the top 25 in total defense this year they'll win the North. 

Since: Apr 1, 2009
Posted on: June 30, 2009 2:25 pm

Picking the Big 12

Bradford has many accomplishments, but he's never beaten Texas. And he never will.

Hook 'em

He's also never won a bowl game.

Since: Nov 21, 2007
Posted on: June 30, 2009 2:19 pm

Picking the Big 12

Great Point BlkFlagMafia.  There are cycles in College Football.  If that is true, then it's an argument for keeping the North/South divisions and title game the way they are.  Back in the begining of the Big-12, K-State provided some entertaining Big 12 title games.  Once choking and losing to Texas A&M (who belong in the where are they now file), and then later upseting OU (which became an irrelavent game).

When the Big-12 was created, Nebraska had just come off of a dominating decade in which they won 3 titles in 4 years.  Colorado also was also mixing it up in the Big 8 with OU and Nebraska using 5 downs to keep their title hopes alive.  OU was in the crapper in the 90's, and Texas was just a refugee from the Southwest Conference who needed a home.  Who would have known that Nebraska would tire of winning 9 games every year and fire Frank Solich, or that Bill McCartney would run off to start Promise Keepers?  Who would have known that Mack Brown would finally find a QB who could overcome his incredible bad luck in title games?

So just be patient.  A team will eventually rise out of the North to compete at the BCS level again, and OU and Texas will eventually hit a rut and drop down to 2nd tier for a few years (probably after Brown or Stoops leave).

The one thing I don't like about the North/South split though is that it has entirely destroyed the OU/Nebraska rivalry.  That was one of the great rivalries, right up there with OU/Texas, Ohio State/Michigan, Auburn/Alabama, etc.  Now, nobody talks about it except in obituaries.

If there was a way to renew that rivalry in the schedule I would be for that.  The East/West idea had some promise.  Unfortunately, the geography doesn't really support it.  It's a pretty narrow region running from Iowa State in the North/East to Colorado in the West and A&M in the South.

Since: Oct 8, 2008
Posted on: June 30, 2009 2:09 pm

Picking the Big 12

I don't need to repeat anything because these picks are pretty spot on. And are basically what I had in mind a few months ago. I'd love to see Reesing win the Heisman, but honestly, with all of the talent in the South I can't see it happening. The South should be pretty stinking competitive all year but the North should pretty much only be a two-team race (three-team at most).

Rock Chalk!

Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: June 30, 2009 1:51 pm

Picking the Big 12 may have hit on something here. Never really gave it much thought because....well 'that's just the way it's done'. Why have a geographic determination of division? Call it Division A/B, I/II whatever....and tear up the 'South' division...mixing with the North and come up with a little more competition at the end....BRILLIANT

Since: Dec 10, 2008
Posted on: June 30, 2009 1:44 pm

Picking the Big 12

This isn't a slam on the Big 12 but doesn't it seem like they need to re-align the divisions?  Maybe east and west or something.  Seems all the power is in the south.  Will Nebraska ever contend again?  And Kansas and Missouri? Maybe once in awhile but don't bet the mortgage on them.

wow, that statement tells me you really dont watch enough college football at all. its a cycle look through the cfb history powers come and go. i have nothing against UF but  yall win a couple of title and some you start acting like the gators have been dominating for a long time. USC was doing anything in the '90's look at them now, same goes for OU, neb/fsu were dominating the '90 not so much now. Its all a cycle, with that being said they were saying the same thing about the south in the early big12 days in the '90s when nebraska was running through their opponents. If you go back you also see those "supposed powers"(OU/TX) werent doing much, OU have some serious down years and texas was an average team nothing special.

But now that north is slipping and the south is taking off people are talking about re-align the division to make it even. even tho from 96-'03 the north and south split championship winner, and the south taking the last 4 after that. if you look at the sec since '92 the eastern has 11 wins and the west has 6. so should the sec re-align because if the east wins again thats 12 to 6, i mean only Bama,Auburn, Lsu have been to the championship game outside of msu magical run for the west. You ask about kansas-mizzou i ask about msu/vandy,the jayhawks played in the bcs game in '07 and won mizzou played in a cotton bowl, was ranked no1 briefly and won can msu/vandy brag anything close to that lately???.

Since your a gator fan your sitting high right now because you have won 2 titles in the past couple of years but remember it is a cycle before urban meyer Uf only had 1. Great teams and their offense get figured out eventually, hence the rise and fall of the U, usc, ou, and nebraska. Before the triple option dominated, now its the spread but once that gets figured out you'll see how vicious the cycle is. enjoy the run.

Since: Nov 5, 2008
Posted on: June 30, 2009 12:59 pm

Picking the Big 12

Consider this twist of fate possibility:

OU beats Texas

Texas beats OSU in Stillwater

OSU beats OKlahoma in Norman to close the season.
In this case, Texas wins. That is, with several factors: OSU has to be top-10 going into the game against Texas, Texas has to be ranked around numbers 4-8 going into it, and OSU has to drop to a top-20 team when they beat OU. In this case, OU does get screwed. So does OSU. My logic of course, stemming from the fact that this is near exactly what happened last year.

Since: Apr 28, 2009
Posted on: June 30, 2009 12:36 pm


I agree with the fact that KU and Nebraska are pre-ranked above Mizzou.  However, I would not discount the fact Gabbert is the QB this year.  This guy was highly touted coming out of high school, even more so than Daniel or Patton.  Finding someone to step up and get all those yards that Maclin got will be a different story though.  I will look for Mizzou to upset both teams before losing to our south foes. 

Since: Oct 31, 2006
Posted on: June 30, 2009 12:17 pm

Picking the Big 12

Cal4OU, amen. OU has been doing it almost since their inception. As for Big 12 offenses having difficulty in bowl games, any defense that has a month to prepare for the opposing offense is going to have the advantage. Though OU's O was far from the 60-some they're used to against Florida (never mind the red zone difficulties), you have to admit that OU did a good job holding the Gators well under their season average as well.

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