Monday, November 9, 2009

The Big 12: From Powerhouse to Punchline

My, how one year can change things.

At the end of last season, the Big 12 was considered by many to be best in college football, based of it's top-to-bottom depth and the insane amount of firepower in the South Division.

I can hear the SEC fans complaining already: But Florida won the National Championship over Oklahoma, your conference champion! Ah, but what about Texas, the team that beat OU but was denied a shot because of the Big 12's ridiculous tiebreaker policy? Who knows for sure if the Gators would have beaten the Longhorns?

In addition to Texas and Oklahoma (12 wins each), you also had Texas Tech at 11-2, Missouri at 10-4, Nebraska and Oklahoma State both at 9-4, and even Kansas finished 8-5.

It would be one thing if only the Big 12 North sucked. I mean, after all, people are used to that. But for whatever reason, this year the South has been dragged down as well.

Oklahoma, for so long one of the sure things in the top 10, has stumbled to a 5-4 record and is in danger of matching the worst season of the Bob Stoops era, when he went 7-5 in his first season in Norman.

Texas Tech, while no slouch at 6-3, stood no chance of matching last year's storybook season, when Michael Crabtree and Graham Harrell launched them to the best record in school history.

To it's credit, Oklahoma State is still playing well. Sure, people were quick to dismiss them as overrated when they lost to Houston, but it warrants mentioning that the Cougars are 8-1 and ranked 12th in the nation. OSU's only other loss is to the undefeated Longhorns.

Once again, the stench that accompanies any "Big 12 stinks" argument is yet again emanating from the North Division. The leader of the division, the Kansas State Wildcats, are a stout 6-4, with one of those losses coming to Louisiana- Lafayette.

Not surprisingly, the bulk of their wins have come against their equally-hapless competition in the North.

Missouri, the winner of the division the past two years, is currently 5-4, with all four of those losses coming against fellow Big 12 members, which is the exact same situation that the Kansas Jayhawks find themselves in.

Nobody is even sure that Colorado is still fielding a division I football team, what with most of his team apparently opting to play the intramurals that coach Dan Hawkins so famously condescended a couple years back.

And Nebraska, despite having a defense ranked #2 in the nation in scoring defense and being led by probable #1 NFL draft pick Ndamukong Suh, has managed only a 6-3 record in a year many hoped it would help balance the scales away from the South.

Me being a Nebraska fan, I have to mention that the Huskers are two plays away from being 8-1 right now: a blown coverage at Virginia Tech and any one of the 4 fumbles inside the five yard-line against Iowa State. That will happen when you have an offense ranked 84th in the country.

Unfortunately, there's that familiar saying about excuses: They're like assholes, and everbody's got one.

And so no matter what kind of way I break down the schedules, no matter how much I extrapolate on the parity in the Big 12, it can't distract from a terrifying reality: The Big 12 has become the Big 10 West, a conference that simply beats itself up until there's only one relevant team, and the rest, no matter what admirable traits they may possess, simply aren't that good.

I guess if there's one thing Big 12 backers can take solace in, it's that unlike the Big 10, at least we don't get massacred in our bowl games.

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