Just how tough is the North?
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North Division stating case in Big 12
For the past three seasons, the Big 12 has looked a lot like its Roman-numeral logo: two singular lines, representing Oklahoma and Texas, and one big ugly "X" representing everyone else. The space between them said it all: Two greater than 10, and through the first third of the 2007 season there had been little reason to believe anything was different.
Of course, that all changed last Saturday. Colorado dealt unstoppable Oklahoma its first loss to a team from the great lite North since 2003.
A couple hours later, Kansas State polished off a 41-21 pasting of the Longhorns in Austin, marking the Wildcats' first win over Texas since, well, the last time they played.
Couple those two statement games with the fact that this week's AP poll features three teams from the North for the first time since, again, 2003, and you might have some signs of life from a division that's recently been left for dead.
But in a season where the unthinkable has become almost unremarkable, it might be a bit early to declare that the North is back. If you're penciling in favorites in any conference, you'd be best advised to write lightly, but we do know this: The Big 12 race is officially wide open, and that's probably the best thing to happen to the conference in at least four years.
The fall of the Big 12 from national respect to talk-radio ridicule is pretty easy to trace. It all began sometime late on the night of Dec. 6, 2003. On that date, Kansas State threw the last great punch from the North, beating an Oklahoma team that had spent the entire season atop the AP poll 35-7 in the 2003 Big 12 Championship Game.
Including that game, the Big 12 crown had swung back and forth between the two divisions on a yearly basis. The conference was competitive, an unquestioned heavyweight on the national scene. In its first 10 years of existence, the Big 12 saw one of its members play in six national title games. In 2000, five Big 12 teams started the season ranked in the preseason Top 25 and the conference finished with four in the top 12 after it was all said and done.
Since that championship game in 2003, however, the conference may as well have been a match race. Only Oklahoma and Texas can claim conference crowns over that span and no team outside of the Red River rivals has reached the AP top five in more than five years. New Mexico, Troy, Montana State, Southern Mississippi, Marshall and Northern Iowa can all claim wins over favored Big 12 teams since that last conference title for Kansas State.
The also-rans from the South share in some of that blame, but the public perception of the conference has been undeniably linked to the fall of its northernmost members.
The North reached its nadir in 2005, when no team climbed higher than No. 22 in the polls and Colorado won the division with a 5-3 record before losing by 67 points to Texas in the conference championship game.
Until Kevin Eberhart kicked his game-winning field goal on Saturday, completing Colorado's 17-point comeback, that was still the reputation of the North — a division full of middling teams who played for the right to be trounced by the South.
Now, however, college football fans across the country have to at least entertain the notion that football is in fact played north of Norman. While the winner of this Saturday's Red River Rivalry game is still likely the favorite to take home the conference crown, for the rest of this week all we know is that the South's best has been beaten by the North.
Dan Hawkins and the Buffs pulled off a stunner vs. Oklahoma. (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images)
Determining who exactly is the best in the North is a bit more difficult.
Statistically speaking, Kansas is the most complete team in the Big 12 with the third-ranked offense and defense in the country, but Saturday's Sunflower State showdown will be their first game of the season against a team with a pulse.
Meanwhile, Missouri has put up its usual gaudy numbers, including a win over Illinois that looks better each week, but September has never been the Tigers' problem. It's October and November that haunt the columns in Columbia, and we'll learn a lot more about the Tigers, too, when they open conference play at home against traditional bellwether Nebraska.
With apologies to Iowa State, that leaves the only three programs to win conference titles out of the North: Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas State. After last week, both the Buffs and Wildcats look better off in Year 2 of their regime changes than Nebraska does in Year 4 under Bill Callahan. While the Cornhuskers have been exposed defensively, Colorado and Kansas State both boast top-15 defenses and each has faced a tougher schedule than either Oklahoma or Kansas, the two Big 12 schools topping them in total yards allowed.
Of course, some of those ratings are sure to plunge as conference play picks up. It's never been more difficult to stop teams from scoring in the Big 12 as it has been this year. Half of the conference ranks among the top 30 teams in the country in terms of passing yards per game, and seven teams possess top 30 scoring offenses.
And that's where this conference race will be decided. Which team is the best without the ball? For the time being, the Big 12 lost a legitimate national title contender last week but the conference could be on its way back to something much more valuable: National respect.
Let my Fred's Posse Ride: Georges, Naz, Hogue, Bryce, Nader, Monte, Matt, and McKay.
Re: Just how tough is the North?
I for one am hoping the North "is back".....
I know OU lost, but hey I enjoy the heck out of good football games....
I love it.
whos gonna lose 2 games, texas or oklahoma? nebraska gonna be 1 loss this year.
nebraska will lose to OSU and Mizzou
Texas will lose to OU and either Tech or AM
I'm a big time Sooner fan here, I was extremely BLEEP ed off that they lost to the Buffs. But since I live up here in Big 10 country (Cleveland, OH) I can now brag alittle about our conference. With 5 teams ranked we can't be called the Big 2!!!!
Masix you are right Nebraska will lose to OSU, and OU is going to kill Texas!!!
I'm a huge Huskers Fan. After last season they gave us some hope. Now they've shown the rest of the country that we have coaches that can't call the right play to stop a bunch of Pee-Wee football players.
I think it says alot of not only the conference, but for the two programs in the north that can claim a HUGE QUALITY WIN against the south's two best teams. Both coaches doing it in their second year is awesome.
The winner of the North will be decided this weekend when the Huskers defeat Mizzou, and when they travel to Boulder to defeat a very talented Colorado team.
Im so sick of Huskers fans thinking they are entitled to the Big 12 North title every year. You are going to defeat Mizzou this weekend? Are you sure?
#1: Check the rankings.
#2: Who has home field?
#3: Nebraska hasnt won in Columbia for 6.
#4: Nebraska has no defense.
Nebraska will stay in the North picture, but if I were you, Id only take one game against the north for given, the one you won last week against ISU. Mizzou, Kansas, K-State, and Colorado all have the guns to potentially beat the Huskers, and Mizzou absolutely WILL defeat them in 2 days.
Hey royalsfan, BIG RED is going to get their BLEEP handed to them this week and the rest of the year with that defense. They should be asshamed to call them selves Blackshirts.
I was at the ASU/Colorado game and I was shocked that Colorado beat the Sooners. I don't think ASU is that good, but we'll see in a few weeks.
Maybe the North isn't back, but the South is having a down year.
I'm from Lincoln and I live in Denver. I lose either way. Go Bulls! (USF)
This weekend is a big one in the North, seperation saturday! The KSU vs KU and Mizzou vs Nebraska game winners will be on a crash course to win the north. That being KSU and Missouri. The North will be decided in Manhattan on November 17th!
Nebraska has a horrible defense, they have not replaced their D Line or their Sam Linebacker. Also, the two juco safeties have not adjusted to D-1 football.
KU is a basketball school, not a football school, when you see them start playing real competition their stats and record will show the real team in Lawrence.
Colorado played the toughest non con schedule, caught OU at the right time, but will not challenge for the North. Their defense will wear down by the end of the conference season because they will be on the field too long.
What's with the Tiger bashing?!? Mizzou gonna trounce on the Fuskers this weekend and will be a formidable opponent against the rest of the Big 12. Mizzou will take a loss against Oklahoma possibly (likely) and MAYBE get upset by another decent Big 12 team, but at least show a little respect
RoyalsFan youre a moron. I am so sick of Missouri and Kansas teams having one good year and then pretending that they have been dominant for so long. Your points are so stupid. check the ranking, what happened to a #5 Michigan team in the opening weeks, they lost, what happened to a #3 Oklahoma Team your guessed it they lost, what about Texas. The rankings dont mean BLEEP ; they are just a bunch of media writer's opinions on how good a team looks one week from the next. You want to talk about home field advantage, talk to the longhorns who got stomped by K-State last week. Nebraska hasn't won in Columbia in 6 years; there you go adding your spin to things, try the last two times we have been in Columbia. In fact last year we beat them. The only valid point you have made this year is the Husker defense is terrible. But then again look at Missouri defense; I would take the huskers over them any day. Huskers also have the guns to beat anyone in the north. So I hope you keep getting sick of us fans thinking we are entitled to the big 12 title, because until someone proves me wrong I THINK we will go there. GO BIG RED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
i think the north is wide open. as much as i'd love to say my cats will win, i just can't do it. sure, we get ku, mizzou, and colorado at home. but an away date at nebraska is scary (no matter if their defense is as bad as everyone says it is...i'm in europe and can't watch games) and kstate isn't exactly flying under the radar anymore after whomping ut and gaining a national ranking. go state, but man, i picked a bad season to go abroad. consider yourselves lucky that get to watch some great football unfold!
ps i'm not taking for granted wins on any of those home dates. i was expecting a win over colorado...but not any more. they've shown they can play a heck of a lot better than last year. ku is still an unknown (we'll find out this weekend) and mizzou, who usually folds about this time of year, looks fairly dangerous. again i say, i wish i could be there. oh well. europe is nice.
As must as I would love to say that Nebraska should be able to walk away with the North, They have a Jeklyl and Hyde team. If it is the same team that showed up for the first quarter and a half of the USC game, they have a good chance. If it is the team that has been playing since then, we are hosed. There is no clear favorite because everyone is stepping up and every game is a big game. All that anyone in the North can do is sit back, enjoy the games and wait for the dust to clear.
It looks like parity has finally come to the Big 12. Mediocrity in the North.....AND THE SOUTH.
For the first time, I think there is real parity for at least ten of the B-12 teams. And even I-State and Baylor can knock someone off. If anyone can play some defense, they would will be in the best shape to win it. Tech, Missouri and OSU have offenses to win it, but shaky defenses. Nebraska and A&M would be in the driver's seat if they didn't have the worst coaches in the conference. And isn't it amazing that we would live to see Texas and Oklahoma fighting to see who gets out of the conference cellar?
The Buffs are already better than Last Year, how good can they be This Year
Is it me or has anyone else noticed that reguardless of what the topic or discussion, some A-HOLE from USC's fan base, rears their ugly head and and opens their stupid mouth. Like anyone here really gives a s***. about what they think! The whole d.****. state could slide off into the Pacific tomorrow and it would only be an improvment for the U.S.A.!!!!!
Why are you fans forgetting about the Cyclones. We are getting better by the minute and still can win the North!
Last edited by Wesley; 10-05-2007 at 02:56 PM.
Let my Fred's Posse Ride: Georges, Naz, Hogue, Bryce, Nader, Monte, Matt, and McKay.
Re: Just how tough is the North?
You could say this about most other conferences out there really. I mean look at the Big 10. Really in the past few years they've had Ohio State and that has pretty much been the team in that conference. Just because a 6-6 Iowa team get's to go to a New Years day bowl, doesn't mean they are a great team. Also, because they start the season ranked 8th in the country in 2005 doesn't mean they are awesome either.
or the past three seasons, the Big 12 has looked a lot like its Roman-numeral logo: two singular lines, representing Oklahoma and Texas, and one big ugly "X" representing everyone else. The space between them said it all: Two greater than 10, and through the first third of the 2007 season there had been little reason to believe anything was different.
I hate to pick on the Hawks, but, it gets tiring to hear how horrible the North is. I really don't think we are any worse than most of the other mid pack in the Big Ten.
Our big downfall as of late has not really been the over all quality of the teams (seriously 2005 aTm) in the North, but ,the lack of a National Contender. If we weren't split divisions and you just skipped playing a few teams each year like the Big 10 does, would this even be a topic of conversation. How many teams in the Big 10 have beaten Ohio State in the last 6 years? In reality, since we play a championship game we should be considered a conference as a whole every year. Not just when the North is as good as the south. Yes, in the last couple of years ISU and Colorado have had a couple of seasons where they were horrible. Over all though. I don't see where most of the teams from the North woulddn't compete just as well as any other conferences non-elites.