Decade's Best In The Big 12

  • Wednesday, December 23, 2009 9:23 AM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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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.

Thursday hangover, Friday forecast

  • Friday, September 4, 2009 8:20 AM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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Any college football fan who tuned in last night saw Boise State humble Oregon on the Smurf Turf. What you might not have seen was the postgame aftermath, in which Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount completely lost his head -- first punching Broncos defensive lineman Byron Hout square in the jaw (a beautiful punch, for what it's worth) in front of BSU coach Chris Petersen, then attacking a group of heckling Boise State students, bringing us to this week's *cue booming voice* Big 12 Alum of the Week:

Frost, a former Nebraska quarterback, wrangled and contained Blount after he went for the kill in the stands. Not only did this former Husker more or less overpower and manhandle a young man in his athletic prime, he saved the lives of at least three BSU students, whose Krispy Kreme bodies had no shot of defending Blount's attack.

That said, it's time to look ahead to the weekend's games and make some predictions. I'll be keeping track of my overall and conference prediction record over the course of the season. I'm late getting to Iowa State, which defeated North Dakota State 34-17, and to the three of you who cared, I apologize. But really, what do you want me to say? Here's my after-the-fact prediction:

North Dakota State at Iowa State: The Cyclones will win but will offer no encouragement that they can do any better than worst in the Big 12 Conference. I expect ISU quarterback Austen Arnaud to throw for between 226 and 228 yards and think Grant Mahoney will boot a 50-yard field goal, if given the chance.

Yeah, it's a gift. Now for the real predictions:

Baylor at Wake Forest: It's a pretty tall order for Baylor to go into hostile ACC territory on opening weekend and hope to bring home a win. And I believe in Robert Griffin -- I believe he is Baylor's savior, that much like in The Beauty and the Beast he is the spellbound red rose, floating and wilting ever so precariously, the only remaining hope Baylor has of transforming into something other than the ugly football wannabe it currently is -- but I don't believe he can win this game. I think senior quarterback Brian Skinner produces just enough offense to help out the Demon Deacons' defense.

Georgia at Oklahoma State: Big 12 game of the week here. I subscribe to the school of thought that Georgia will almost always, almost surely lose a game early in the season that Bulldog fans will bemoan when the bowl bids get handed out. This is that game.

Illinois vs. Missouri: This has been a fun game to watch the last couple years. That may be the case this year, too, but Illinois will claim redemption over a down Missouri squad.

Florida Atlantic at Nebraska: I prefer to look at is as Nebraska v. Howard Schnellenberger, the coach at Miami when the Canes claimed their first championship after Tom Osborne's famous-but-failed two-point conversion attempt in the 1984 Orange Bowl. All-time classic game. This one's on pay-per-view. Why? Easy Nebraska win.

North Dakota at Texas Tech: What's with all these Big 12 teams scheduling sure-win games with schools from North Dakota? I swear, if Kansas State has Bismark Tech on the sked ...

New Mexico at Texas A&M: What I love about this game -- and I know, it's sick to delight in one team's pain -- but I love that this is not a sure A&M win. I'm picking them, but I'm not convinced.

Northern Colorado at Kansas: Another boring Big 12 home-opening win. I'm sorry, I wish I could be more interesting, but I'm not being given much to work with. Alright, here's something: KU hangs 50!

Massachusetts at Kansas State: The only thing coming to mind is Marcus Camby. But on a more serious note, I'd actually like to watch this game. I'm a big Bill Snyder fan, and with all that's gone on in Manhattan this offseason, even if the game's boring the commentary will pull me through. Oh, and I'm going with KSU.

Oklahoma vs. Brigham Young: That's what I'm talking about, a real game. It gets more interesting with Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham out. I still think they'll win, but BYU is just good enough to scare the Sooners and expose their problems on the offensive line.

Louisiana-Monroe at Texas: This is just a stats-grab, but it matters if my Colt-for-Heisman prediction will come through. I'll say 300 total yards for McCoy, no turnovers, and he sits the fourth.

Colorado State at Colorado: The Buffs' dubious road to 10 wins starts against their in-state rival. Expect them to win this game, but don't count on double-digit victories.

Finally, for those of you who made it this far:

Creepy coincidence: Also on the Ducks' staff with Frost is a tight ends coach named Tom Osborne. I wonder how it would feel to be the second-best football coach with your own name?