Decade's Best In The Big 12

  • Wednesday, December 23, 2009 2:23 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl


There's no time like the bowl season to break out the nostalgia and take a look back at the last decade. Big 12 football has gone through a shift in power from the start of the decade -- when Nebraska and Colorado were contenders for a national championship in 2000 -- to the end, when three Big 12 South Division teams were at one point ranked in the Top 5 nationally and Big 12 South teams closed out the decade with two straight national title berths.

Between all that, there was a lot worth remembering, even if it's painful. Here's your quick rundown of the Decade in Big 12 Football:

Team of the Decade: This one goes to Oklahoma. Texas fans might disagree, clinging to its national championship in 2005, its berth in 2009 and Vince Young's historic season. Impressive as that is, Oklahoma tied them in national championships, earned four total title game appearances, won two Heismans to UT's none and collected four straight Big 12 championships. Texas didn't hold a flame to the Sooners.

Top Candidate for Conference Dismissal: Baylor. Hard as I may cheer for the Bears, they haven't done much in the decade, and they've always been undersized.

Greatest Offensive Player: Vince Young. His struggles early in his career benefited him at the end, as he closed out four years at Texas by rushing for 200 yards and defeating favored USC for the national championship.

Greatest Defensive Player: Ndamukong Suh. Nebraska's dominant defensive lineman broke through offensive lines and barriers all season, winning the Bednarik, Nagurski, Outland and Lombardi trophies while becoming just the 15th defensive player to be named a finalist for the Heisman. Earlier this week, he became the first defensive player ever named the Associated Press Player of the Year.

Greatest Upset: In 2003, Kansas State won the North Division and the right to be Oklahoma's stepping stool to a national championship game. The day of the game, numerous newspapers across the country featured articles discussing the Sooners' merits as potentially the best football team in the history of college football for its dominance throughout the regular season. Oklahoma scored a quick seven points against Kansas State, and that was the end of it: The Wildcats scored 35 straight, routing OU and claiming their first Big 12 Championship.

Worst Athletic Director Move: I couldn't cut this any other way than a tie: Steve Pederson's firing of Nebraska's Frank Solich in 2003 and Tim Weiser's hiring of Kansas State's Ron Prince in 2005. Solich's canning came one day after wrapping up a 9-3 season with a revamped coaching staff that seemed built to return Nebraska for glory. It was the first major move in Pederson's long-term abortion of Nebraska's tradition, which ended after he was fired in October 2007. Weiser's folly was hiring a man completely different from the one he was replacing, former Kansas State coach and program architect Bill Snyder. Prince struggled through an abysmal era, gutting the program of its prestige and the values that Snyder used to turn it into a winner. He tied the record for shortest-tenured coach in Big 12 history at three years.

Best Speech: Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy's "I'm a man! I'm 40!" speech earned him YouTube fame, but it also served him well in the recruiting aspect of coaching. Every player wants to play for a guy that stands up for his players. People will remember that speech for years.

One-hit wonder: Kansas, circa 2007. That team went 12-1, claiming an Orange bowl victory. Two years later, their coach was fired after a six-game losing streak sent them home for the bowl season. Outside of 2007, the Jayhawks' record boasts gratuitous amounts of mediocrity, sprinkled with awfulness.

Biggest Recruiting Bust: Every team has a handful, but I'm going to go with Nebraska's Harrison Beck, once an Elite 11 quarterback turned transfer to North Carolina State. He languished behind the Huskers' Zac Taylor, who earned Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year awards in 2006, while trying to progress as a budding punk rocker (so the story goes).

Best Trick Play: Black 41 Flash Pass Reverse, otherwise known as the touchdown pass thrown to Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch in the Huskers' 20-10 victory over Oklahoma in 2001. The catch was the biggest play of the game and a boost of momentum to Crouch's Heisman bid, which he ultimately won. It also kept Nebraska undefeated en route to an 11-0 start and national championship game berth.

Top Off-the-Field Moment: Colorado's fallout. With Katie Hnida kicking field goals, half a dozen rape accusations and the discovery of recruits being bribed with sex and alcohol, the Buffs had more drama than General Hospital. I'll be surprised if the next decade can provide something to top that.