Last Call: Final Big 12 Power Rankings editor Wann Smith says the Sooners are No. 2.

It seems like only yesterday when we were all eagerly anticipating the opening kickoff of the 2005 season. But the old adage "time flies when you're having fun" is never more apparent than from early September through early January…during college football season. Whether your team wins or loses, the season seems to fly by with incredible speed.

And though it may not have ended as we might have liked, 2005 still brought with it pleasure and excitement (the Sooners went 8-4 and put together a 6-1 record down the stretch) along with pain and anguish (the fiasco in Lubbock followed by a Texas national title).

So now, at season's end, it's time to take a look at the Big 12 final power ranking.

The Final Big 12 Rankings

1. Texas (13-0) Rivers are flowing backwards, pigs are flying, hell has officially frozen over and Texas has won a national championship. Mack and his ‘Horns did the improbable by not only beating USC, but by spotting them twelve fourth-quarter points and then making coming-from-behind look easy. But winning another national title might not be so easy for Texas. Vince Young has left for the NFL, which leaves Mack at the tender mercy of offensive coordinator Greg Davis and we all know how well Mack and Greg have done without Vince. Don't be surprised if it takes Texas another 36 years to win their next one.

2. Oklahoma (8-4) Although the Oklahoma defense may not have corrected the frightening vulnerability it has shown to the pass, the spark the Sooners displayed in the second half of the season has kindled excitement and hope for the future. After an uncharacteristic 2-3 start, OU blasted six of its next seven opponents and, were it not for having their pockets picked in Lubbock, the Sooners would have wrapped up a seven game run and a 9-3 record. With the return of an experienced Rhett Bomar and a healthy Adrian Peterson and if Stoops can shore up a leaky pass defense, the sky could be the limit in 2006.

3. Texas Tech (9-3) Leach seems to improve the Red Raiders every year in spite of using quarterbacks whom no one had ever heard of before the season started and whom no one ever hears from again after the season ends. Say what you will about the RRs, their defense was the best Lubbock has seen in many seasons. Can they perpetuate the success of '05 in '06? Probably not. They'll have to play Mike Price's UTEP team in El Paso, TCU in Fort Worth, Texas A&M at Kyle, Colorado in Boulder and Texas in Lubbock. And by the way…they also have a bill to pay in Norman.

4. Nebraska (8-4) This season's 8-4 finish has left an undulating red mass of Nebraska fans absolutely euphoric about the future. Forget for a moment that Michigan sent a mediocre team to San Antonio…forget the 1-5 record that the Huskers posted from October 8 through November 5…and forget that their last two Big 12 victories came at the expense of a castrated Kansas State and a shell-shocked Colorado. The bottom line is this: Callahan has managed to buy himself a fresh start in 2006. If his Huskers can capitalize on the momentum built up at the end of '05, they very well could be on the road back to the top. But if Callahan fails to motivate and coach his team to a solid finish and a major bowl game next season, he'll be back in the same soup he crawled out of this year.

5. Kansas (7-5) Same chapter, different verse. Although Mangino's Jays won seven and a bowl this year, they still lost a few they could have won. To keep the wolves at bay next season, Big Mark's team will have to avoid slipping back into their losing ways.

6. Missouri (7-5) Pinkel continues to hang on in Columbia by the skin of his teeth. The Tigers' victory over Steve Spurrier's Gameless Cocks did little to raise expectations; Missouri fans suffer no delusions about the success of their team as they've lived through a seemingly endless string of underachieving coaches in the MU administration's trial-and-error approach to athletics. Considering that Pinkel's recruiting classes have been on the lean side and continue to be so for '06 as of this writing, and that Pinkel himself has rubbed the wrong people the wrong way on campus, the handwriting on the wall in Columbia spells trouble for their program and for their head coach.

7. Iowa State (7-5) Over the past several seasons Dan McCarney's enigmatic program has performed just well enough to keep him out of hot water. But after choking on the Big 12 North title-bone the past two years, McCarney needs to pull one out of his hat. The good news for the ‘Clones is that there doesn't appear to be a dominating team on the Northern horizon in '06.

8. Colorado (7-6) After losing their last four games by a combined total of 149-32, the Buffaloes finally had their fill of Barnett and brought Dan Hawkins to Boulder. Hawkins has proven himself a capable and cagey coach during his stints at Willamette and Boise State and should have the Colorado jalopy up and humming again by September.

9. Kansas State (5-6) Anyone who tells you that they are able to predict what the Wildcats will look like or how they will perform in 2006 is trying to sell you a bill of goods. New head coach Ron Prince, while arriving in Manhattan with all sorts of endorsements, has never assembled a staff or laid out a game plan as a head coach. Additionally, he will have the specter of Bill Snyder dogging his every move. Snyder won 135 games in 17 seasons during his tenure in Manhattan; it took Kansas State 54 years to win the same number of games prior to his arrival. So Prince certainly will have his hands full, not only in dealing with a team in transition but also with nervous and impatient fans and alumni. The suspicion is that Kansas State will reemerge as a power in the Big 12 North, but it will remain only a suspicion until KSU takes the field in September.

10. Texas A&M (5-6) Since the Great Dennis Franchione Experiment isn't working out as flowcharted, Athletic Director Bill Byrne may have a decision to make after next season. Franchione, a coach who made his name by raising the TCU phoenix from the ashes, besmirched his reputation by leaving Alabama in the midst of a heavy probation and has failed to produce the expected results in College Station. So, how long will Byrne allow Fran to flounder at A&M? The educated guess is that if Franchione doesn't produce a winner next year (with a schedule that seems designed to produce eight wins), he'll be looking for a graduate assistant to help him update his resume.

11. Baylor (5-6) At most universities, five wins does not a successful season make. But this rule should not apply to the 2005 Baylor Bears. Guy Morriss' team showed tremendous improvement last season and measuring five wins by that yardstick amounts to a pretty good year. Morriss should be given more time to show what he can do.

12. Oklahoma State (4-7) There is, quite literally, nowhere to go but up for Oklahoma State in 2006. Head coach Mike Gundy took the high road last season by suspending a strong core of performers for team rules violations which cost the Cowboys on the scoreboard heavily. If Gundy can truly coach, he'll have an opportunity to show it in '06.


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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