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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Parity rules Big 12

Bad old days of lopsided mismatches, weak also-rans a thing of the past

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— It was each team's only real chance.

When Kansas University's football team traveled to play Baylor the last time, the Oct. 5, 2002, matchup was significant because it was guaranteed that one of the two dismal teams would get a Big 12 Conference victory that season.

Kansas wasn't expected to get many, if any, in coach Mark Mangino's first year of a massive rebuilding project. Baylor, meanwhile, hadn't had one in four long years - since it beat, ahem, Kansas in 1998.

Of course, the diehard Jayhawk fans, who died hard in '02, remember what happened that day. A blown KU lead, a 35-32 Baylor victory in front of 22,103 fans and a goal-post razing, to name a few events.

Neither team won another conference game that season. But looking back, it was the way they lost them that is even more significant, with scores like 64-0, 62-11, 41-0 and 45-7 popping up on their schedules the rest of the way.

Remember those days?

In the Big 12 Conference, such struggles with any of its member institutions are a thing of the past. Parity, not futility, is the new word in these parts.

Texas has established itself as the class of the class, while the other 11 might as well draw names out of a hat.

But is that such a bad thing? Sure, it's not looking like the Big 12 will have a representative at the BCS title game on Jan. 8 - not without Texas getting significant help.

photo

Karl Gehring/Journal-World Illustration

But 12 competitive teams in a 12-team league does mean one thing: exciting football, every game, every week.

For example, Baylor coach Guy Morriss was asked to look forward after his team's loss at Texas last week.

"Honest to goodness, Morriss said, "I think we're in a situation where we could win out, or we could get beat in all five of them."

He's not alone. His opponent today, Kansas, could say the same thing. So could Iowa State, and maybe even Oklahoma State.

As for the rest of the teams, there are very few locks, and an increasing number of coin-flip games in the league this year. Here's a look at where each team stands with the season's stretch run still left to be played:

Kansas

Record: 3-4 overall, 0-3 in conference play.

Remaining schedule: at Baylor, Colorado, at Iowa State, Kansas State, at Missouri.

Outlook: For the Big 12 North, not good. But if Kansas shores up its problems and senses the urgency it is faced with, six victories and bowl-eligibility for the second straight year is definitely possible.

Baylor

Record: 3-4 overall, 2-1 in conference play.

Remaining schedule: Kansas, Texas A&M, at Texas Tech, at Oklahoma State, Oklahoma.

Outlook: If Baylor wants six victories, Kansas HAS to be one of them. The Big 12 South features six good teams for the first time in a while, making it even tougher (if that's possible) than in past years.

Colorado

Record: 1-6 overall, 1-2 in conference play.

Remaining schedule: at Oklahoma, at Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, at Nebraska.

Outlook: Not good this season. The defending Big 12 North champs were too punchless in their first six games, and running the table for a bowl bid seems highly unlikely. Still, Colorado's victory over Texas Tech last week gives the Buffs credibility that they shouldn't be taken lightly.

Iowa State

Record: 3-4 overall, 0-3 in conference play.

Remaining schedule: Texas Tech, at Kansas State, Kansas, at Colorado, Missouri.

Outlook: The Cyclones played arguably the league's three best teams - Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma - to start the conference slate, so it will get better. Six victories still are possible, but the Cyclones better be ready for shootouts, because their offense is the only hope.

Kansas State

Record: 4-3 overall, 1-2 in conference play.

Remaining schedule: at Missouri, Iowa State, at Colorado, Texas, at Kansas.

Outlook: So-so for a bowl bid. It's hard to imagine the offense-challenged Wildcats beating Missouri or Texas, so they might have to go 2-1 against Iowa State, Colorado or Kansas. Two of those three are on the road.

Missouri

Record: 6-1 overall, 2-1 in conference play.

Remaining schedule: Kansas State, Oklahoma, at Nebraska, at Iowa State, Kansas.

Outlook: Barring a collapse, Mizzou should compete with Nebraska for the Big 12 North title. Back-to-back games with Oklahoma and Nebraska will define the season. Already bowl eligible, Mizzou is playing for a little more this year.

Nebraska

Record: 6-1 overall, 3-0 in conference play.

Remaining schedule: Texas, at Oklahoma State, Missouri, at Texas A&M, Colorado.

Outlook: Competing with Mizzou for the North title, but doing so with a tougher remaining schedule. Thought to be the North favorite in the preseason, the Huskers are there as expected, but it's not so cut-and-dried anymore.

Oklahoma

Record: 4-2 overall, 1-1 in conference play.

Remaining schedule: Colorado, at Missouri, at Texas A&M, Texas Tech, at Baylor, at Oklahoma State.

Outlook: Depends on how the Sooners can adjust without Adrian Peterson, the league's best offensive weapon. Oklahoma has the talent to win nine games, but Peterson's loss may have dropped the Sooners down closer to the rest of the South.

Oklahoma State

Record: 4-2 overall, 1-1 in conference play.

Remaining schedule: Texas A&M, Nebraska, at Texas, Baylor, at Texas Tech, Oklahoma.

Outlook: Hinges on whether the offense can win the Cowboys' games in the South. The verdict still is out on a team that couldn't beat Kansas State but smashed Kansas. Today's game with the Aggies will say plenty.

Texas

Record: 6-1 overall, 3-0 in conference play.

Remaining schedule: at Nebraska, at Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, at Kansas State, Texas A&M.

Outlook: Texas should be the favorite to win the Big 12 and land a BCS bowl bid. A BCS championship game berth will require some help - too many undefeated teams are ahead of them. Still, overall outlook is solid for the league's most talented team.

Texas A&M

Record: 6-1 overall, 2-1 in conference play.

Remaining schedule: at Oklahoma State, at Baylor, Oklahoma, Nebraska, at Texas.

Outlook: Cruising to the finish line won't happen with three tough games to end the season. OSU and Baylor aren't pushovers, either. The Aggies are bowl-bound, but winning the South may be a stretch.

Texas Tech

Record: 4-3 overall, 1-2 in conference play.

Remaining schedule: at Iowa State, Texas, Baylor, at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State.

Outlook: This team beat Texas A&M on the road before getting pummeled later by Colorado, making the Red Raiders a big wild card. How this team finishes depends on which squad shows up.

But, of course, that's all too common in this league.

Comments

prairie_dog 8 years, 1 month ago

Thank G_d Keegan picked Baylor. That increases our chances of a "mini-upset" exponentially.

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