Football Outside of the Big Ten - The Big XII

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From time to time, it's important to look outside the Big Ten and remind ourselves that there is football being played by other teams in other conferences.  The Rivalry, Esq. continues its look at those other conferences with the only league not to employ defensive coordinators - the Big XII.  

It's not that some of the Big XII teams gave up points in bunches - they've always done that.  As an example, the Iowa St. Cyclones have only had one year since 1980 in which they haven't given up 40 points in a game.  What was unusual was that it was the GOOD, the bad and the ugly Big XII teams that were allowing big numbers.  Every team gave up 39 points in a game at least once (Texas was the only school to avoid having 40 points hung on them), and almost all of the squads had 40 points dropped on them multiple times.  Yes, the offenses were good.  But those offenses may have glazed over some of the league's shortcomings.  The vaunted Big XII South had four Top 20 teams, and yet they managed but one bowl win (Texas's last minute comeback over Ohio State).  So the question is this: can the league of Mike Singletary, Lee Roy Selmon, and Brian Bosworth start playing defense again?

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Where have you gone Lee Roy Selmon?  A conference turns its lonely eyes to you...

The Rivalry, Esq. has already looked at these conferences:

Sun Belt    MAC    Independents    WAC    

Conference USA   Mountain West  Big East

Pac-10   ACC


1)      2008 Recap

a. Who Won the League?

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The 11-1 (8-1) Oklahoma Sooners won the league when they pummeled the 9-3 (5-3) Missouri Tigers 62-21 in the Big XII Championship Game in Kansas City, MO.  

The tougher question is, who won the Big XII South?  Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma all went 11-1 (7-1), only losing to one another.  The BCS computers called it for Oklahoma.  But don't worry, the league will never let ties be broken that way again.  Shit.

b. Games of Note

The league played, by any standard, a weak non-conference slate last year (it's improved this year).

Nebraska's home loss to Virgina Tech and Kansas's loss at South Florida were disappointing, while Colorado's home win over West Virginia was (at the time) encouraging.  It seemed unimportant at the time, but Oklahoma's 26 point victory over eventual Big East Champion Cincinnati, played a huge part in winning the computers in the BCS poll. 

The conference's biggest games were the three battles between Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma.  Texas's 10 point win in Dallas over Oklahoma put the Longhorns in the Driver's seat.  Then this happened....

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Chris Fowler (with jaw dropped to the right) knew it was the play of the year.

...and Texas Tech controlled their destiny.  When Oklahoma pounded the Red Raiders and defeated Oklahoma State, it made the crazy mess that fired talk radio for weeks.

c. Games Against the Big Ten

The two rivalry games resulted in a split.  Iowa extended its streak to 10 consecutive quarters without allowing an Iowa State touchdown.  Illinois lost for the fourth straight time to Missouri.

 

Date Big XII Team Score Big Ten Team Score Location
August 30, 2009 Missouri 52 Illinois 42 St. Louis, MO
September 13, 2009 Iowa State 5 Iowa 17 Iowa City, IA

d. Bowl Games

As mentioned up top, the Big Boys of the Big XII didn't show well in their bowl games.  Oklahoma had their best BCS bowl performance in years (just ask West Virginia, Boise State, and USC), but still suffered a double-digit loss to Florida. Texas Tech gave up 47 in a double-digit loss loss to Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl.  Oklahoma State gave up 42 in a double-digit loss to Oregon in the Holiday Bowl.  Only Texas was able to grab a victory, as Colt McCoy led the 'Horns to a last minute touchdown and a victory over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.  

In a delicious turn, it was the much-maligned Big XII North that secured a winning bowl record for the conference.  Kansas trounced Minnesota in the Insight Bowl.  Missouri needed overtime, but got past Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl.  Meanwhile, Nebraska held on to defeat Clemson in the Gator Bowl.  

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Yes, that made the Big XII a perfect 3-0 against the Big Ten in bowl games.

2) 2009 Preview

a.  Games of Note

As I said, it's an improved slate for the Big XII this year.  Although you may notice an absence of burn orange in the chart...

Date Big XII Team Opponent Location
September 5, 2009 Oklahoma BYU Dallas, TX
September 5, 2009 Oklahoma State Georgia Stillwater, OK
September 19, 2009 Kansas State UCLA Pasadena, CA
September 19, 2009 Nebraska Virginia Tech Blacksburg, VA
September 19, 2009 Baylor Connecticut Waco, TX
September 26, 2009 Texas Tech Houston Houston, TX
October 1, 2009 Colorado West Virginia Morgantown, WV
October 3, 2009 Oklahoma Miami Miami, FL

Oklahoma provides BYU a chance to show if they're for real (and give Barry Switzer the matchup he needed 25 years ago).  That same day, Oklahoma State gets its opportunity to provide its bona fides against ESSS EEEE SEEEE speed.  The K-State, Baylor, Nebraska, and Colorado games are all winnable - if these teams are improved from last year.  And Texas Tech better not take too long recovering from their (inevitable) loss to Texas.  Houston is good, and this will be the game of their season.

b.  Games Against the Big Ten

Same two games as last year.  The battle in the Hawkeye State moves to Iowa State's campus this year.

Date Big XII Team Big Ten Team Location
September 5, 2009 Missouri Illinois St. Louis, MO
September 12, 2009 Iowa State Iowa Ames, IA

c.  Bowl Affiliations

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Same affiliations as last year, although the choice of Nebraska by the Gator Bowl last season ensured that the Big XII will go to the Sun Bowl instead of the Gator Bowl this year.  They have already filled their two years in the Gator contract.  Next year will bring some changes for the league.  The Gator Bowl is hoping that this nets them Notre Dame for New Year's Day.

 

3) 2009 Projections

a.  Who Will Win the League?

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I am sold on Texas.  I think that the experienced O-Line is the difference if you weigh them against Oklahoma.  I see the Longhorns going 13-0 and headed straight to a matchup against Florida.  Wait...undefeated Texas...thought of as the second best team in the country...facing the unstoppable, defending national champion and a Heisman winning QB from a previous year...in Pasadena...while ESPN prematurely begins the Greatest Team of All-Time discussion...Where have I heard this before?

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That's right.  It's Mack Brown versus Over-Hype.  The Sequal.

b.  Any Wins Against the Big Ten?

I don't think so.  The Big Ten has the better team in each matchup.  That hasn't stopped them from losing to these rivals before, but I think talent prevails this year. 

c.  Who Goes Bowling?

I'm putting Texas in the National Championship game.  I believe that they are the second best team in the country, and the soft schedule helps. I think that Oklahoma goes to a BCS Bowl, and I'm leaning toward a matchup with Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.  Oklahoma State heads to the Cotton Bowl, Big Twelve North Champ Nebraska goes to the Holiday Bowl.  Kansas gets a trip to the Alamo Bowl, while Texas Tech travels to the Sun Bowl.  The Insight Bowl gets Missouri , while 6-6 Baylor earns their first bowl bid of the decade...and a trip to Shreveport, Louisiana for the Independence Bowl.  The spot in the Texas Bowl goes to Colorado. [edited to correct accidental omission of Texas Tech]

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Never before has Shreveport caused so much joy.

d.  Any MNC Hopes?

Absolutely.  You can pencil in Big XII South Champ in one of the two Pasadena slots.  A one-loss Big XII Champion likely sits behind only a one-loss SEC Champion in reaching the BCS Championship.  The interesting question will be what happens if there is a one-loss Texas or Oklahoma staring at an undefeated Penn State for the second spot in the BCS Championship...  

e.  The Rivalry Notes

This is a question posed to one of the site's founders that relates the conference at hand with the Big Ten. Law Buckeye is up again...

Not since the Big Ten in the 1970s has a "Big 2" completely dwarfed the rest of a conference the way that Texas and Oklahoma have towered over the remainder of the Big XII in the ‘00s.  In the 1980s, Michigan and Ohio State (while still powers) weren't able to continue their dominance for a second decade.  Can the Sooners and Longhorns keep it up for 10 more years? 


No.  At least not the same level of unbridled domination.  History shows that team stock radically fluctuates decade-by-decade.  Don't believe me?  Look who's ruled these conferences historically.


SEC
1930s: Alabama, LSU

1940s: Georgia Tech*, Tennessee

1950s: Mississippi, Tennessee

1960s: Mississippi, Alabama

1970s: Alabama

1980s: Georgia, Auburn

1990s: Florida, Tennessee

2000s: Florida, LSU

Pac-10
1960s: USC, UCLA, Washington

1970s: USC, Stanford

1980s: USC, UCLA

1990s: Washington, USC

2000s: USC, Oregon

Big Ten
1930s: Michigan, Northwestern, Minnesota

1940s: Minnesota, Ohio State, Michigan

1950s: Ohio State, Iowa, Illinois

1960s: Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan

1970s: Michigan, Ohio State

1980s: Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa

1990s: Michigan, Wisconsin

2000s: Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa

What's extremely interesting is there are ONLY TWO places in which the same "powers" are dominant in consecutive decades: Ohio State/Michigan in the 1960s/1970s and Ohio State/Michigan in the 1970s/1980s. (Anyone who questions why ours is the greatest rivalry in college football need look no further.)

There are two reasons for this.  The first is what I call a "race to the middle."  Parity is on the rise throughout college football.  Never before has the gap between elite BCS programs and rising middle-tier programs been this close.  College historians point to great equalizers like the spread offense to explain the coiling effect on the field.  Further, increased television exposure makes up and coming programs national names, and has immediate effects on recruiting and revenues -- which leads to better facilities.  In the Big 12, this means that incipient programs like Missouri, Kansas, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State will continue to get better.   

The second reason (absent in the Big Ten during Ohio State and Michigan's 30 year rein) is that the Big 12 hosts a sleeping giant in Nebraska.  When the Cornhuskers wake up -- and they will --they'll be a part of a perfect storm of challengers that will eventually wear down the UT/OU stronghold.  Enjoy the Red River Shootouts while they last, guys...

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