As the Big 12 Championship game looms ever closer, the contest appears to be one of the biggest mismatches in the history of championship football on the collegiate level.
Texas, as we're all aware, will represent the Big 12 South. The Big 12 North will be represented by either Colorado or Iowa State. Colorado will earn the berth if they defeat the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Boulder this weekend. Should Colorado stumble at home and Iowa State defeat Kansas in Lawrence, then the Cyclones would make the trip to Houston's Reliant Stadium on Saturday, December 3rd.
But any way you slice it, it appears as though the championship game will be little more than a formality for the Longhorns. Texas has not only won their games impressively, but they've managed to intimidate the rest of the conference into believing that they are invincible.
This presumption, as history has shown us, is flawed. Looking back as recently as 1998, the Kansas State Wildcats were ranked second in the country going into the Big 12 Championship game in St. Louis. They had rolled over eleven consecutive opponents that season, outscoring them by a grand total of 543 points to 124 (Snyders' truly ‘Wild' cats averaged 49 points per game while allowing an average of only 11). Their opponent in the championship game was Texas A&M, a team that had just come off of a loss to Texas. Although A&M had only lost one game that year, they were considered to be little more than road kill for the powerful ‘Cats. The result was an astounding 36-34 come-from-behind victory by TAMU. This loss knocked K-State out of the BCS bowl picture, a development which probably contributed heavily to their final defeat of the year, a 37-34 heart stopper to Purdue in the Alamo Bowl.
Fast forward to 2003. The top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners were touted as not only Bob Stoops' best team but arguably the best team in the history of college football. They had bulldozed their first eleven opponents by the ugly margin of 528 points to 134 (averaging 48 offensive points per game while allowing only an average of 12) and headed into Kansas City on December 6, 2003 to face the Kansas State Wildcats, a team that had never beaten Bob Stoops. Snyder's Wildcats sliced and diced the Sooners in a 35-7 lesson in football fundamentals that left the college football world stunned. Oklahoma then went on to lose the national championship game to LSU in the Sugar Bowl on January 4, 2004, 21-14.
Texas may indeed cut through their Big 12 North counterpart like a knife through warm butter on December 3rd; but having taken a look back at surprising results in comparable games may also provide a hint as to what to expect in this year's Big12C game.
Or, what not to expect.
Friday, November 25th
Wisconsin (-6) at Hawaii Not only are these not your father's Rainbows, they aren't even Jack Lord's Rainbows (or are they calling themselves the Warriors these days?). Hawaii just isn't the same without Tim Chang and Chad Owens, no matter what June Jones has done to try to fix the situation. Barry Alvarez will be trying to help his team walk a fine line between luaus, grass skirts, beaches and first downs. And in spite of Hawaii usually having the world's most outrageous home-field officiating advantage, the 4-6 Rainbows won't be able to keep up with these Badgers.
Wisconsin by 10
Nebraska at Colorado (-14) These two Big 12 Bad Boys are always fun to watch going head-to-head. Whether it's Barnett blowing a critical call or Callahan making threatening gestures to the officials or cursing the fans, it'll be Carnival time in Boulder this coming Friday. Callahan needs every positive he can muster to put a happy face on the disaster he's authoring in Lincoln, so his defense will be making a kamikaze effort…for at least the first three quarters. His offense will be its usual slow, predictable self. And even though Colorado has been playing well this rivalry generally produces close games (with the 2001 ‘62-36 Solich meltdown' being a vivid exception).
Beefaloes by 9
Texas (-26) at Texas A&M Actually, Franchione did a decent coaching job in his annual loss to Oklahoma on the 12th. Will any momentum gained by the Aggies from the OU game carry over to A&M's annual post-Thanksgiving loss to the Horns? Yes and no. Expect Texas to win, but expect A&M to keep it a bit closer than the point spread.
Texas by 24
Arkansas at LSU (-16 ½) Houston Nutt has to be kicking himself. Having been offered the Nebraska job two years ago, he must now realize that he could have been doing all this losing in Lincoln for lots more money than he's currently making in deepest, darkest Arkansas. There'll be no salvation for the Nuttster on Friday as his Hogs will barely have had enough time to digest their turkey & grits before taking this sissy-slapping.
LSU by 28
Saturday, November 26th
Arizona at Arizona State (-9) Do or possibly die for Koetter? That's what they're mumbling in the desert. Mike Stoops has his Wildcats playing better, but they aren't there yet. Big step backwards for Mike and Mark this weekend.
Arizona by 14
Florida State at Florida (-6) Say what you will about St. Urban the 1st, but in his first year driving the Florida team bus he has been flawless at home. And conversely, "Meals-on-Wheels" Bowden has lost three of his last five including two road losses. Put all that together and what do you have? Retirement for Bobby.
Gators by 7
Georgia (-3) at Georgia Tech It might be reasonable to assume that after upsetting Miami, Tech-the-Wreck would be hosting their arch instate rivals with a full head of steam. But before you do something stupid like calling your bookie with a big wager on GT remember one thing…Chan Gailey is still calling the shots in Atlanta.
Bulldogs by 8
Virginia at Miami, Florida (-18 ½) With the exception of an early September squeaker against Syracuse, Virginia has lost every time they've gone on the road this year. And while Larry Coker is no Jimmy Johnson, Al Groh is, unfortunately for the Cavs, Al Groh. Look for a surgical rebound by Miami from their silly loss to Tech.
Sugarcanes by 30
Notre Dame (-17 ½) at Stanford I'm tempted to take the guys with the pimples and slide rules for the scientifically arrived-at reason that my ophthalmologist is a Stanford grad; but I can't because Charlie Weis has Stanford penciled in for a first-class caning on Saturday.
Irish by 20
Iowa State (-3) at Kansas Despite the Cyclones mid-October three-game fiasco, they've been playing very well this season. In fact, I'm tempted to say that Kansas doesn't stand a chance in this one. Shall I say that? Hmmm…yep. That's exactly what I'll say. Do you think it might be time for Mangino to track down that graduate assistant who can type for a quick resume update?
ISU by 14
Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (-19 ½) The best way to describe Oklahoma State's chances in this one is with a parable. There was once a little train (OSU) that was trying to climb a very, very steep grade (OU in Norman). Although the little train was carrying lots and lots of heavy freight (6 losses) and had an inadequate engine (Mike Gundy), it was still convinced it could make it up that steep grade. As it began its journey it remembered some advice its mother (Les Miles) had once provided…to keep repeating "I think I can…I think I can" over and over until the task was accomplished. So as the little train climbed the grade, although its speed was gradually diminishing with the increasing severity of the angle, it kept on trying and kept on repeating "I think I can, I think I can." And then, as the little train began to cross a railroad trestle halfway up the grade (end of the second quarter), its engine burned up. Burning residue (fumbles, interceptions, porous defense) from the train ignited the trestle which then collapsed and the train and all on board plunged into the deep, dark abyss below (OSU loses).
OU by 24
Wann Smith has served two years as national columnist for the Pigskin Post, contributed to the College Football News (a contributor to Fox Sports and the Sporting News) and is currently the editor of the College Football Gazette. Smith lives in St. Louis with his family.
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