Bravo, Oklahoma State Cowboys. I could have predicted a heart-wrenching, fourth-quarter meltdown loss, but you wouldn’t have that, would you? No, you had to keep me on my toes. Indeed, I did not see the complete offensive no-show coming. But you know what? Isn’t that type of performance the perfect closing number for this Big 12 season? It has been a wacky season, with loads of unpredictable results. A&M trouncing Texas Tech in Lubbock. Baylor taking it to Missouri. Oklahoma failing to score a touchdown against Nebraska. Kansas pulling the tank job to top all tank jobs. And finally, OSU’s punt-fest in Norman. Without further delay, I bring you the season finale of the Big 12 (Lack of) Power Poll. (ESPN bowl projections included.)
1. Kansas (5-7, 1-7, lost to Missouri 41-39; season complete) Nothing gets the fanbase excited like being favored to win the Big 12 North, opening with five straight wins, then proceeding to drop seven in a row while also throwing a massive coaching controversy into the mix. There is no question Kansas is lacking in power this year more than any other team. And next year they lose their starting quarterback, their top two wide receivers and possibly their coach. Only plus: they also lose OU and Texas from the schedule for two years. Either way, we could be seeing a lot more of the Jayhawks in this spot.
2. Baylor (4-8, 1-7, lost to Texas Tech 20-13; season complete) All in all, a pretty average year for the Baylor Bears. They decided to maintain a sense of familiarity, not straying too far from the type of performance they’ve given for most of the past 15 years. By that measure, this was a successful season in Waco. When all else is said in done, nobody will be able to say they weren’t consistent.
3. Colorado (3-9, 2-6, lost to Nebraska 28-20; season complete) Amazingly, Dan Hawkins kept his job. Who says the holiday season doesn’t yield miracles? Unfortunately for Hawkins, he already did a press conference where he talked about how bringing his son to Colorado was a mistake and if he could do it over again he’d have his son go somewhere else. Oops. What’s that? I’m not getting fired? Oh. Well. It’ll be great to be here with my son next year. No, really.
4. Kansas State (6-6, 4-4, season complete) Nothing takes the shine off a 6-6 season like two of those wins coming against FCS teams. The loss to a Sunbelt Conference team didn’t help either.
5. Iowa State (6-6, 3-5; next, Texas Bowl vs. Navy) You’ve heard about teams making the jump from “good” to “great.” Well how about a team making the jump from “horrifyingly terrible” to “not bad”? Maybe it doesn’t sound all that outstanding, but that’s what Iowa State did this year, and considering just how far down this program was, it really is quite an accomplishment.
6. Texas A&M (6-6, 3-5; lost to Texas 49-39; next, Independence Bowl vs. Auburn) This might be the team with the most promise heading into the 2010 season. Well, at least on offense they have promise. I can’t say much for the Aggies’ D. But as far as the offense goes, does Jerrod Johnson not have to be the favorite for first team quarterback next year? Even on that team, the guy can make plays.
7. Missouri (8-4, 4-4, beat Kansas 41-39; next, Insight Bowl vs. Minnesota) Missouri: 0-3 vs. the Big 12 South (including a home loss to Baylor), 4-1 vs. the Big 12 North. Did any team benefit more from being in a weak division? The Big 12 North: Propping up mediocre teams like never before!
8. Oklahoma (7-5, 5-3, beat Oklahoma State 27-0; next, Sun Bowl vs. California) People talked about Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Kansas State being enigmatic, but maybe the most bewildering team was OU. Puppy dogs on the road, pit bulls at home.
9. Texas Tech (8-4, 5-3, beat Baylor 20-13; next, Alamo Bowl vs. Michigan State) It’s easy to play the “what if” game, but maybe it’s most agonizing with Texas Tech. They lost to Houston by one point, then lost a home game to Texas A&M they really had no business losing on paper. Scratch those, and all the sudden Tech is 10-2 and maybe looking at a BCS berth.
10. Nebraska (9-3, 6-2, beat Colorado 28-20; next, Holiday Bowl vs. USC) Nebraska may be 9-3, but this is a really uninspiring 9-3. Only one other team in the Big 12 North finished with a winning record, and no other team in the division finished better than .500 in conference play. So congrats, Huskers, you emerged from the pile of refuse known as the Big 12 North smelling not quite as bad as everyone else.
11. Oklahoma State (9-3, 6-2, lost to Oklahoma 27-0; next, Cotton Bowl vs. Tennessee or Mississippi) Normally coaches will assign some blame to themselves after a particularly bad loss. Mike Gundy did that Saturday, and he couldn’t have been more correct. There was no indication Zac Robinson was going to get the team going. He was visibly limping and slumped after several plays. Gundy needed to pull the trigger faster on that one to get Brandon Weeden in there. It’s not like things could get any worse for the offense. That being said, 9-3 is respectable. As moral victories go, finishing second in the Big 12 South ain’t too shabby. Only problem is that if the Cowboys lose their bowl game, the 2009 team will be looked at as one that got extremely lucky with the schedule and maybe wasn’t really that good to begin with.
12. Texas (12-0, 8-0, beat Texas A&M 49-39; next, national championship game vs. Florida or Alabama) No squabbling with this ranking. Texas is surely the least lacking in power of all Big 12 teams. One benefit to Texas finishing the season undefeated: We don’t have to hear Mack Brown working the media to build up his team’s bowl standing.