What If...Mizzou had joined the Big Ten? (1996-99)

UPDATE, 12/17: Being that SBN's connected to SI.com now (for instance...), and I don't want to pollute teams' news feeds with eight different posts on this subject, I think I'll start just updating the same post with two additional seasons (or so) each day.  The 1998 and 1999 seasons have been added to the bottom of the post.

We're just going to assume Kirk Farmer would have been made of papier mache no matter which conference Mizzou inhabited.

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As filler during a "No real news" week, I figure I can unload this year-by-year Big Ten walkthrough at a leisurely pace, looking at a couple of years at a time instead of just posting a couple of 5,000-word write-ups...though I know that's what you were looking forward to (ahem)...

What If...Intro

Again, the main purpose of these posts is what I stated yesterday: the best way to see what impact a move to the Big Ten would have is to look at the impact the move might have had in the past.  Obviously there were no serious rumors of a 12-team Big Ten in the mid-1990s, and as we will learn over the next 1-2 years, the process of Big Ten expansion moves slower than a glacier (though I guess glaciers are moving faster nowadays, so maybe I need a new descriptor).  But to see what we might (or might not) miss moving away from the Big 12, let's see what we would (or would not) have missed.

1996

The real-life Missouri team that took the field in 1996 was still pretty young and had to face one of the most difficult schedules in the country.  Heading into the season, Phil Steele ranked the Tigers' schedule the 7th-hardest in the country.  They faced six teams ranked in the preseason Top 25 (#1 Nebraska, #5 Colorado, #8 Texas, #21 Kansas State, #24 Kansas, #25 Clemson), defeating two of them (KU, Clemson). The Big 12 North was absolutely loaded in the Big 12's first year, with Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas State all winning at least nine games.

So how would Mizzou have fared in the Big Ten?  Would the schedule have been any easier?  The Big Ten's preseason rankings looked like this:

9. Ohio State
11. Penn State
14. Michigan
18. Northwestern
22. Iowa

Mizzou would miss tOSU and Northwestern but face the other three, and they would still get Clemson and now Kansas in non-conference play.

1996 Schedule

8/31: Penn State
9/14: Clemson
9/21: at SMU
10/5: at Indiana
10/12: Wisconsin
10/19: at Michigan
10/26: at Iowa
11/2: Minnesota
11/9: at Purdue
11/23: Illinois
11/30: Kansas

As I mentioned yesterday, for whichever games didn't happen in real life (which would be every conference game for Mizzou), I used my Estimated S&P+ figures (gleaned from points data) to fill in the gaps.

#11 Penn State

Losing a handful of offensive starters kept PSU out of the preseason Top 10, but nobody knew that those starters' replacements -- QB Wally Richardson, RB Curtis Enis, WR Joe Jurevicius -- would be pretty damn good themselves.  Plus, with nine starters returning on defense, we would learn soon enough that this team was really good.  Mizzou performed pretty well in an Austin monsoon to start the 1996 season, and we'll say that the home crowd and excitement of the moment keep this close.  But Mizzou just would not have had enough offense to make this one a tight game.

Penn State 20, Mizzou 3

Clemson

This one really happened.

Mizzou 38, Clemson 24

at SMU

This one really happened, for better or worse.

Mizzou 27, SMU 26

at Indiana

This was Bill Mallory's 13th season in Bloomington, but after four winning seasons in five years in the early 1990s, the magic was wearing off pretty quickly.  Indiana went just 2-9 in 1995 and was not looking much better in 1996.  But Mizzou was not ready to be much of a player on the road yet.  They beat SMU and Baylor on the road in 1996, but...well, both of those teams were worse than Indiana.

Indiana 23, Mizzou 17

Wisconsin

In Barry Alvarez' fourth season as Wiscy head coach, the Badgers shocked the world and won the Rose Bowl.  The next two years, they won a combined ten games.  Things appeared a bit stagnant in Madison ... until Ron Dayne came to town.  1996 was his freshman campaign, and he put up a cool 2,100 yards.  Corby Jones got better as the season progressed, and Mizzou put some points on the board, but the Great Dayne is too much in Columbia, and Mizzou falls to 2-3.

Wisconsin 28, Mizzou 24

at #13 Michigan

In Mizzou's first trip to the Big House since 1975, the Tigers took on a Wolverines team in the middle of a transition.  Scott Dreisbach and Brian Griese were fighting it out for the top slot at QB, and UM had to replace Tim Biakabatuka at RB.  They still had WR Tai Streets, though, and their secondary consisted of three seniors and Charles Woodson.  In other words, the defense was stout.  Mizzou is competitive, but Michigan still gets the win.

Michigan 27, Mizzou 7

at #20 Iowa

The 2-4 Tigers really need a shot in the arm as October comes to a close, but they don't get it in a tough road trip to Iowa City.  Phil Steele listed Iowa as one of his major surprise teams (the other: Arizona State...in other words, he pretty much nailed 1996), and they lived up to it, upsetting Penn State in what would turn out to be a huge division result.  With RB Sedrick Shaw, WR Tim Dwight and a really good line, the Hawkeyes' offense methodically puts Mizzou away.

Iowa 26, Mizzou 10

Minnesota

With bowl hopes on life support, Mizzou hosts, well, a pretty bad Minnesota team.  The Gophers were the Baylor of the Big Ten in the mid-1990s (pre-Glen Mason), and Mizzou takes this one...barely.  QB Cory Sauter gets some points on the board, but in the end, Mizzou's running game keeps Mizzou in bowl contention at 3-5.

Mizzou 31, Minnesota 28

at Purdue

Road woes strike again.  Purdue had gone just 4-5-2 and 4-6-1 with Mike Alstott in the backfield in 1994 and 1995, and they certainly were not very good at all in 1996.  But neither was Mizzou.  We'll say LB Chike Okeafor comes up with a huge forced fumble and recovery, and the Boilers end Mizzou's bowl hopes.

Purdue 27, Mizzou 21

Illinois

Now it's time to build momentum for 1997.  After four straight seasons at either 5 or 6 wins, Illinois began to fall appart in Lou Tepper's fifth season.  They had RB Robert Holcombe (remember him?), but their defense was terrible, and Mizzou moves to 4-6 with a nice, 9-point win.

Mizzou 31, Illinois 22

Kansas

I realize this game probably wouldn't be at the end of the season anymore, but for 1996 I couldn't help it.  A victory going away over the Jayhawks, complete with Corby's epic 80-yard option jaunt, was the absolute perfect way to set the table for 1997, and I'm not going to change that.  So the season ends exactly the way the real 1996 ended -- with a fun win over Kansas and a 5-6 record.

Mizzou 42, Kansas 25

So Mizzou goes 5-6 in 1996, just like they did in real life.  And they finish the season with the same type of momentum, knocking off both of their chief rivals at home.

1996 Big Ten(12) Standings
North
South
Ohio State 7-1 10-1 Iowa 7-1 9-2
Michigan 6-2 9-2 Penn State 7-1 11-1
Northwestern 6-2 8-3 Missouri 2-6 5-6
Michigan State 4-4 5-6 Indiana 2-6 4-7
Wisconsin 3-5 6-5 Purdue 2-6 3-8
Minnesota 1-7 4-7 Illinois 1-7 2-9


For Ohio State, 1996 unfolds like it did in real life -- with what looks like a national title bid falling apart via painful home loss to Michigan.


The loss dropped Ohio State from #2 to #6 heading into Thanksgiving weekend.  #4 Nebraska beat #6 Colorado the next week, raising the Buckeyes to #5 heading into championship weekend.

Big Ten Championship
Ohio State 35, Iowa 6

So here's where things get interesting.  #4 Florida beat #11 Alabama to win the SEC, but their lead over Ohio State shrank in the AP poll, from 101 points to 85.  If the Buckeyes came out and laid an absolute beat-down on an Iowa squad ranked around #10-15 the same weekend, I'm pretty sure they'd have leaped Florida in the polls.  Why is this important?  Because Nebraska was upset by Texas that same weekend, and Florida hopped to #3.  I say Ohio State hops Florida now, and we head into the bowls with the following two matchups:

Sugar Bowl: #1 Florida State (11-0) vs #4 Florida (11-1)
Rose Bowl: #2 Arizona State (11-0) vs #3 Ohio State (11-1)

When Florida whoops Florida State and Ohio State beat Arizona State in just about the best Rose Bowl ever...


...I think we end up with either split national champions or a standalone Ohio State title.  As it stood, Florida finished at #1 with 1,673 AP votes; Ohio State had 1,585.  Whether it should have or not, the Big Ten title game walloping of Iowa would have almost certainly been worth 88 votes for Ohio State.

So, one year into a re-jiggered Big Ten, and we already have John Cooper winning a national title (not to mention Steve Spurrier potentially not winning one) ... and therefore probably not getting fired for always falling short a couple of years later.  Interesting.

Bowls

Rose: Ohio State 20, Arizona State 17
Fiesta: Penn State 38, Texas 15
Citrus: Iowa 30, Tennessee 28
Outback: Alabama 17, Michigan 14
Alamo: Northwestern 34, Texas Tech 10
Sun: Stanford 21, Wisconsin 19

1997

Reason #1 for joining the Big Ten: trips to Madison.
Reason #2 for joining the Big Ten: this play never happens.


We all know what 1997 represented for Mizzou in real-life -- a trip back to respectability.  Not only did they make their first bowl game since 1983, but they also earned tons of respect for their showing against Nebraska, a game that didn't cost the Huskers a national title (it should have, ahem), but it at least cost them a solo title.  Mizzou finished 7-5 in a still-rock solid Big 12 North.  How would it have gone down in the Big Ten South?

Preseason Rankings:

1. Penn State
9. Ohio State
14. Michigan
21. Iowa
24. Wisconsin
25. Michigan State

Four North teams ranked in the Top 25, along with two South teams.  Missouri is a popular pick for a 3rd-place South finish.

1997 Schedule

9/6: Eastern Michigan
9/13: at Kansas
9/20: Tulsa
10/4: Michigan
10/11: at Michigan State
10/18: Iowa
10/25: at Penn State
11/1: at Wisconsin
11/8: Purdue
11/15: Indiana
11/22: at Illinois

Notice what doesn't happen in 1997?  Andy Katzenmoyer doesn't erase Corby Jones from existence at Faurot Field, because Mizzou doesn't play Ohio State this year!  Woohoo!


Yeah, that really was about the greatest hit I've ever seen in person.

Eastern Michigan

Really happened.

Mizzou 44, Eastern Michigan 24

at Kansas

Really happened...unfortunately.

Kansas 15, Mizzou 7

Tulsa

Happened in Tulsa, but Mizzou needs a sixth road game here, so I magically switch it to Faurot Field and increase the scoring margin by a touchdown.

Mizzou 45, Tulsa 17

#6 Michigan

In 1997, Brian Griese officially overtook Dreisbach for the QB job, and Tai Streets and TE Jerame Tuman presented rock-solid passing weapons.  The defense was led by Charles Woodson and LB Sam Sword, and as we know, the Wolverines ended up sharing the national title with Nebraska.  By early October, Mizzou was still trying to find itself, not yet kicking into overdrive like they would in November.  They stay competitive for a while, but the offense bogs down and Michigan pulls away.

Michigan 38, Mizzou 14

at #11 Michigan State

As appears to be their custom, Michigan State would fall apart down the stretch in 1997, falling from the cusp of the Top 10 to a 7-5 finish.  But they were good in early October, and riding sophomore running back Sedrick Irvin, they dump Mizzou to 2-3 on the young season.  With a huge game against Iowa the next week, Mizzou is on the verge of quickly losing hope for a bowl.

Michigan State 38, Mizzou 28

#15 Iowa

After getting whooped by K-State, Mizzou had a team meeting to get focused on the remainder of the season.  After a tough (but relatively tight) loss to Michigan State, we'll say they do the same.  And instead of rallying with wins over Texas, Oklahoma State and Colorado, the rally starts against Iowa, Mizzou's third straight Top 15 opponent.  The numbers like Mizzou in this Homecoming battle by exactly 0.1 point.  For drama's sake, we'll say Corby leaps backwards over the goalline for the go-ahead touchdown, and Mizzou wins a doozy to move to 3-3.

Mizzou 28, Iowa 27

at #2 Penn State

The October road is just murderous for Mizzou this year, and even though their level of play has begun to improve considerably, it is not enough to take down the nation's #2 team in Happy Valley -- Enis and Jurevicius are too much.  Mizzou continues to earn respect with competitive play against top teams, but the top teams still prevail, and Mizzou is 3-4 heading into October.

Penn State 26, Mizzou 17

at Wisconsin

Finally, the schedule begins to let up.  Mizzou travels to Madison to take on a Badgers team that still has Ron Dayne running wild but has taken a significant step backwards with a young defense.  Wisconsin is on the way to a disappointing 5-7 season, and Mizzou is able to sneak in and knock them off.  This game lasts about two hours as Dayne scores for Wiscy, then Jones/Olivo/Blackwell/West score for Mizzou.  The teams combine for over 500 rushing yards, and Mizzou scores late to seal the deal...we'll say with a one-handed touchdown catch by Ricky Ross, a la the 1997 Oklahoma State game.

Mizzou 33, Wisconsin 31

#23 Purdue

After surviving a thriller in Madison, Mizzou comes home to take on yet another ranked team.  This time it's upstart Purdue, with first-year coach Joe Tiller and a freshman by the name of Drew Brees.  Rosevelt Colvin and Chike Okeafor aren't enough to slow down a Mizzou running attack that is clicking big-time by this point, and for the second straight week, neither defense can get a stop.  Corby Jones finds Eddie Brooks (ahem) to put Mizzou up 42-34 midway through the fourth quarter, but Brees engineers a TD drive of his own.  On the two-point conversion, a Brees pass is tipped at the line and intercepted by Al Sterling to seal yet another dramatic win.  Mizzou is now 5-4, needing just a Senior Day win over Indiana to clinch a bowl bid.

Mizzou 42, Purdue 40

Indiana

This one's easy.  In Cam Cameron's first year, the Hoosiers have a redshirting Antwaan Randle-El on the bench and DE Adewale Ogunleye on defense ... and that's it.  Mizzou pulls away, and the goalposts come down.  Mizzou's going bowling!

Mizzou 31, Indiana 10

at Illinois

This was Illinois' 0-11 season, so consider this a Mizzou victory lap.  Robert Holcombe is still around to make things interesting in Champaign, but no.  Mizzou moves to 7-4.

Mizzou 31, Illinois 16

Two years into Mizzou's Big Ten tenure, and we see the exact same records as in the Big 12.  Mizzou's 7-4 record is a solid accomplishment considering the murderer's row of five ranked opponents in six weeks.  Mizzou snags two home wins over said ranked opponents and actually sneaks into the Top 25 themselves after the Illinois win.

1997 Big Ten(12) Standings
South
North
Iowa 6-2 9-2 Michigan 8-0 11-0
Penn State 6-2 9-2 Ohio State 7-1 11-1
Missouri 5-3 7-4 Michigan State 5-3 8-3
Purdue 4-4 6-5 Wisconsin 2-6 5-7
Indiana 1-7 2-9 Minnesota 2-6 4-8
Illinois 0-8 0-11 Northwestern 2-6 4-8


November losses to Iowa (thank you, Estimated S&P+) and Michigan State (45-17 in real life) drop Penn State from the inside track to a national title bid, all the way out of the Big Ten title game.  Good to see that Iowa's recent hex over Penn State can extend backwards into the 1990s.  The South as a whole has begun to get interesting, with Missouri and Purdue both starting to look like upstarts and Indiana and Illinois...okay, they are still terrible.  Nick Saban has begun to do interesting things at Michigan State (their late-season collapse isn't quite as bad with an adjusted schedule), and Michigan is a game away from a potential share of the national title after an elimination-game win over undefeated Ohio State (20-14 in Ann Arbor -- Ohio State went 10-2 in the real life regular season, with losses at Penn State and Michigan, but they don't play Penn State on this new schedule).

Big Ten Championship
Michigan 42, Iowa 14

(The Estimated S&P+ numbers love Michigan this season, ranking them an easy #1.)

So, two years into the Big Ten, Iowa has upset Penn State for the division crown and gotten murdered in the title game.  In other words, Mizzou finds itself in the division perceived as much weaker.  There's a ring of familiarity there.

Anyway, without Nebraska's Flea Kicker win over Mizzou, they are likely #1 (they fell from #1 to #3 after the "win"), and Michigan's title hopes might actually be dashed after the Huskers embarrass Texas A&M in the Big 12 title game and Tennessee in the Orange Bowl.  In other words, Mizzou's presence in the Big Ten indirectly leads to an Ohio State national title in 1996 and more directly takes away a Michigan title in 1997.  Funny the way things work out.

Bowls

Rose: #2 Michigan 21, #9 Washington State 16
Fiesta: #4 Florida State 31, #5 Ohio State 14
Citrus: #7 Florida 21, #25 Iowa 3
Outback: #12 Georgia 17, #11 Penn State 6
Alamo: #24 Oklahoma State 35, #25 Michigan State 28
Sun: #16 Arizona State 26, #21 Missouri 13
Aloha: #20 Washington 36, #17 Purdue 31

Wow.  Yeah, uhh, not the most successful bowl campaign for the Big Ten.  Mizzou plays the Sun Bowl with the same "happy to be there" vibe as they played the real-life Holiday Bowl, so they don't help matters, but this is a solid 1-6 campaign.

1998

So in the first two seasons of a 12-team Big Ten, the conference has managed four Bowl Alliance bids in two years -- the conference championship game has not disrupted that just yet.  They start 1998, the first year of the BCS, with two top five teams looking to make it six bids in three years.

Preseason Rankings:

1. Ohio State
5. Michigan
13. Penn State
20. Wisconsin
23. Michigan State

While there are two clear top teams in 1998 (both in the Big Ten North), three others fill out the Top 25, while teams like Missouri and Purdue come close.  Pretty deep year for the conference, just like it was for the Big 12.

1998 Schedule

9/5: Bowling Green
9/12: Kansas
9/26: at Ohio State
10/3: Northwestern State
10/10: Michigan State
10/17: at Iowa
10/24: Wisconsin
10/31: Penn State
11/7: at Purdue
11/14: at Indiana
11/21: Illinois

Bowling Green

Happened.

Mizzou 37, Bowling Green 0

Kansas

Happened...oh, did it happen.

#25 Mizzou 41, Kansas 23

at #1 Ohio State

Happened.  Mizzou damn near led Ohio State after three quarters despite no passing game whatsoever...but didn't.

#1 Ohio State 35, #21 Mizzou 14

Northwestern State

Happened...the Corby Turf Toe game.

#25 Mizzou 31, Northwestern State 14

Michigan State

The 1998 season was when Nick Saban began to take Michigan State to another level (and therefore hop to a better opportunity).  Plaxico Burress joined the fray after a non-qualifier year in 1997, and with RB Sedrick Irvin and an experienced defense, the Spartans put together a solid season in preparation for a great 1999 season.  But even with Corby hobbled, Mizzou was too good.  Carlos Posey returns a pick for a touchdown, and Devin West puts up 150+ yards.  Mizzou moves to 4-1 with a comfortable win.

#23 Mizzou 28, Michigan State 13

at Iowa

In 1998, Iowa began a sudden, harsh plummet.  They were good through much of the 1990s, but this year they began to realize that recruiting had begun to tank (not unlike what happened to Missouri with Larry Smith a year later).  They had redshirt freshman Ladell Betts at running back ... and that's about it.  Mizzou makes the trip to Iowa City and comes back with an easy win.

#20 Mizzou 27, Iowa 3

#9 Wisconsin

Homecoming at Ol' Mizzou!  For the second straight season, Mizzou and Wisconsin wage a ground-based shootout, with Ron Dayne and Devin West both putting up over 150 yards.  Wisconsin had a better Chris Chambers and a much better defense in 1998, their first of two straight Rose Bowl seasons.  But in this 1998, they get a tougher schedule and don't quite get the job done.  Anyway, with Mizzou down 40-35 late, the Tigers work the clock with a 13-play, 78-yard drive -- all on the ground -- and Jones scores on a keeper with about a minute left.  Mizzou jumps in the polls after a dramatic win ... and hosts yet another great team the next week.

#19 Mizzou 41, #9 Wisconsin 40

#10 Penn State

Another total dogfight.  Penn State's offense was decent with QB Kevin Thompson and RB Cordell Mitchell, but this team was based around a young, disgustingly talented defense featuring Lavar Arrington, Courtney Brown, Brandon Short, etc.  Points are hard to come by, and after the Nittany Lions take a late lead, Mizzou drives to the PSU 20 with under 20 seconds left.  Corby lofts a desperation pass into the endzone ... and John Dausman drops it.  Mizzou loses, and their Big Ten South title hopes take a major hit.

#10 Penn State 21, #13 Mizzou 20

at Purdue

Reeling from the tough loss to Penn State, Mizzou travels northeast to take on a Purdue team that's starting to get things figured out.  Drew Brees has completely taken over as starting quarterback this year, and the offense is looking good.  But Mizzou's got plenty of offense too, and for the second year in a row, this game goes into the 30's.  With Mizzou up 31-28 late, Randy Potter fumbles a punt, however.  Purdue recovers and scores the go-ahead touchdown a few plays later.  A desperation field goal falls short, and the Boilers escape with a win.  A dream season for Mizzou has just turned into a good season, as the Tigers sit at 6-3, eliminated from the division title chase, with Indiana and Illinois awaiting.

Purdue 35, #18 Mizzou 31

at Indiana

Obviously Randle El is a hit right out of the gates during his redshirt freshman campaign, but this was the least-talented team in the conference at this point.  An angry Mizzou team takes its frustrations out on the lowly Hoosiers and move to 7-3.

#25 Mizzou 41, Indiana 23

Illinois

Mizzou was a couple of eyelashes away from a 10-1 season, but they wrap up an 8-3 campaign instead, thumping the Illini and freshman quarterback Kurt Kittner.  Illinois' mini-resurgence began to take hold this year, as Ron Turner had the Illini improving, but they still weren't very good, and on Senior Day at Mizzou, Corby has a big day and Mizzou wins going away.

#22 Mizzou 44, Illinois 7

As with the real 1998, Mizzou came oh-so-close to a magnificent season, but poor special teams and the inconvenient disappearance of the passing game at key times held them back.

1998 Big Ten(12) Standings
North
South
Ohio State
7-1
10-1
Penn State
8-0
11-0
Michigan
6-2
8-4
Purdue
6-2
8-4
Minnesota
4-4
7-4
Missouri
5-3
8-3
Wisconsin
4-4
7-4
Illinois
2-6
3-8
Michigan State
3-5
5-7
Indiana
2-6
4-7
Northwestern
0-8
3-9
Iowa
1-7
2-9


So if Ohio State wins the national title in 1996 and doesn't have the "can't win the big one" monkey on their back, do they still inexplicably lose to an inferior Michigan State team late in the 1998 season?  I say, probably so.  The late-season loss drops them to #6 heading into the craziest Championship Weekend of all-time.  Here is the new AP Top 6, taking into account Penn State's schedule-aided 11-0 record (they went 8-3 in real-life, with losses AT Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin):

1. Tennessee (11-0)
2. Kansas State (11-0)
3. UCLA (10-0)
4. Penn State (11-0)
5. Florida State (10-1)
6. Ohio State (10-1)

FSU holds a 74-vote lead over Ohio State for the fifth spot, and as with the 1996 season, each vote matters.

Championship Week
#6 Ohio State 31, #4 Penn State 20
#1 Tennessee 24, #23 Mississippi State 14
#11 Texas A&M 36, #2 Kansas State 33 (OT)
Miami 49, #3 UCLA 43

With #5 Florida State not playing, #2 KSU and #3 UCLA losing, and #6 Ohio State defeating #4 Penn State, the Buckeyes vault FSU into the #2 slot of the BCS standings, just like they did Florida in 1996.  You can't say it wouldn't have played out like that.  So for the second time in three seasons, Ohio State overcomes a late loss because of the conference title game, and your new BCS National Title matchup in the Fiesta Bowl is #1 Tennessee vs #2 Ohio State.  Now, you can judge for yourself whether Tennessee, a team that managed to do whatever it took to win games that year, would have beaten a ridiculously-talented-but-breakdown-prone Ohio State team; obviously that Vols team knew how to make the right plays at the right time.  But the numbers adore that Ohio State squad, with Germaine, Wiley, Boston and Dee Miller on offense, and Katzenmoyer and Na'il Diggs at linebacker, and Antoine Winfield, Gary Berry, and Ahmed Plummer in the secondary, and since my method of projection here is the Estimated S&P+, Ohio State wins its second national title in three years with a 24-16 win over the Vols.

You know how one of the reasons for expansion and a conference title game is so that voters don't forget about the Big Ten over the last couple weekends of the season?  That has very much played out through three years of these projections.

Bowls

Fiesta: #2 Ohio State 24, #1 Tennessee 16
Rose: #6 Penn State 32, #7 UCLA 21
Citrus: #20 Purdue 41, #11 Arkansas 31
Outback: #19 Michigan 35, Kentucky 23
Alamo: #21 Mizzou 32, #3 Kansas State 31
Sun: #25 Wisconsin 38, USC 19
Motor City: Marshall 38, Minnesota 24

It's the Big Ten resurgence!  Thanks to upset wins by Ohio State, Purdue, and Mizzou, the conference goes 6-1 in bowls, with the only loss coming in the Motor City Bowl.

And yes...Mizzou 32, KSU 31.  That's what you get when you roughly combine the real Mizzou-KSU game with Mizzou's Insight.com Bowl effort and KSU's Alamo Bowl egg-laying.  Instead of Drew Brees throwing a late touchdown pass in the real Alamo Bowl, you have Devin West scoring a touchdown and Corby sneaking in for the game-winning two-point conversion on his final collegiate play.  Mizzou finishes only one game better than they did in real-life, but with the upset win over a ridiculously good K-State team, the season ends on an even higher note than it did for real.  No South title, but you get the best moment/season for Mizzou since 1978.

1999

Ahh, 1999.  The year everything came crashing down.  Kirk Farmer got hurt, and the rest of the team was revealed to not have nearly as much talent as everybody thought.  Would things have played out any differently in Alternate 1999?  Probably not.  Though Farmer probably wouldn't have broken his leg getting pushed out of bounds on Homecoming in a different reality, the dude would have still been made of papier mache, and he would have gotten hurt somehow, some way.

Preseason Rankings:

3. Penn State
8. Michigan
9. Ohio State
10. Wisconsin
23. Purdue

Bad time for a rebuilding year, with almost half the conference ranked in the preseason and teams like Illinois and especially Michigan State improving quickly.

1999 Schedule

9/4: UAB
9/18: Western Michigan
9/25: at Kansas
10/2: at Northwestern
10/9: Indiana
10/16: Iowa
10/23: at Penn State
10/30: Purdue
11/6: Ohio State
11/13: at Wisconsin
11/20: at Illinois

UAB

This one happened.

Mizzou 31, UAB 28

Western Michigan

This one happened.

Mizzou 48, Western Michigan 34

at Kansas

This one happened, though after the Farmer injury.  I say Mizzou is a hair better with Farmer, but considering Mizzou simply sucks most of the time in Lawrence (thank you, Arrowhead series), they still wouldn't have won this game.  I give them a charity TD.

Kansas 21, #25 Mizzou 7

at Northwestern

Alright, so Mizzou's conference slate starts off super-easy, with three doormat teams.  Up first, a Northwestern team going through some major growing pains in Randy Walker's first season.  Their only wins are against TCU and Duke, and this Mizzou team handles them relatively easily (NW'ern wasn't really any better than Memphis, and Mizzou did manage to handle Memphis on the road, thanks to Farmer and good defense).  Mizzou's 3-1 with two nice home games ahead.

Mizzou 30, Northwestern 21

Indiana

Randle-El is thriving, and freshman Brian Lewis is an unforeseen success ... but that's it.  The defense is beyond wretched, and Mizzou wins this one.  This coincides with the really fun real-life loss to Colorado.  Colorado >>>> Indiana.

Mizzou 34, Indiana 23

Iowa

Homecoming at Ol' Mizzou!  We'll say Kirk Farmer gets injured just as he did on Homecoming against Iowa State ... only in Kirk Ferentz's first season, Iowa is nowhere near as good (or mediocre) as Iowa State was that season.  Despite the loss of Farmer, Mizzou holds on and moves to 5-1 on the young season.  Things are looking up!  Mizzou doesn't rebuild, they reload!  Or not...

Mizzou 24, Iowa 21

at #2 Penn State

Let's just say this trip to Pennsylvania comes at a really bad time.  With no Farmer, Mizzou has no offense, and Jimmy Dougherty really isn't up to the task in Happy Valley.  A Nittany Lions defense that was ridiculously good in 1998, returns nine starters in 1999, and uhh, Mizzou isn't going to score against that.

#2 Penn State 41, Mizzou 0

#18 Purdue

Yet another brutal, late-October stretch of games for Mizzou continues with a trip home to host a hot Purdue squad.  Mizzou's running game gets going a bit -- Zain Gilmore goes over 100 yards -- but almost nobody was stopping this Purdue offense this year.  After back-to-back mega shootouts against the Boilers, Mizzou comes up short this time around.  And then things get a lot worse.

#18 Purdue 34 , Mizzou 24

#20 Ohio State

Remember how bad Mizzou's offense was against Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and Kansas State to round out 1999?  Do you really think it's going to be any better in the Big Ten?  Ohio State has taken a step backwards as they ring in the Steve Bellisari Era at QB, but the Buckeyes still have no problem with the Tigers on Senior Day.

#20 Ohio State 33, Mizzou 0

at #9 Wisconsin

Ron Dayne goes for 200 yards, outgaining the Mizzou offense all by himself.

#9 Wisconsin 45, Mizzou 0

at Illinois

A surging Illinois team led by sophomore Kurt Kittner and a set of athletic skill position players has no trouble with the Tigers in a battle of 5-5 teams, and Mizzou falls from 5-1 to 5-6, scoring 30 points in the final five games and getting shut out three times.  It's no 66-0 rout, but it does the trick.  Larry Smith enters the offseason facing major pressure to upgrade the offense.

Illinois 35, Mizzou 6

1999 Big Ten(12) Standings
South
North
Penn State 6-2 10-2 Michigan State 7-1 10-1
Purdue 5-3 8-3 Michigan 7-1 10-1
Illinois 3-5 6-5 Wisconsin 7-1 9-2
Missouri 3-5 5-6 Ohio State 4-4 7-5
Indiana 3-5 4-7 Minnesota 3-5 6-5
Iowa 0-8 1-10 Northwestern 0-8 2-9


Penn State holds on to win the South despite a November slump, but the interesting goings on are taking place in the North.  Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin tie for the North title, all having gone 1-1 in round-robin play among the three of them.  Big Ten tie-break rules are heavy on overall win percentage, meaning Wisconsin is eliminated from title consideration; Michigan State defeated Michigan in October, meaning Saban's Spartans win the North and head to the conference title game in the Top 5.  Florida State and Virginia Tech have finished the regular season undefeated with no conference title games to play, so State doesn't have a shot at the national title, but still...Michigan State in the Top 5!

Big Ten Championship
#10 Penn State 24, #4 Michigan State 21

Top 5 no more.  Playing inspired defense for a retiring Jerry Sandusky, PSU pulls out the South's first conference title game win.  State falls to the Citrus Bowl, while Michigan sneaks into a BCS game.

Bowls

Rose: Penn State 21, Stanford 3
Orange: Michigan 35, Alabama 34 (OT)
Citrus: Michigan State 37, Florida 34
Outback: Wisconsin 20, Georgia 17
Alamo: Ohio State 20, Texas A&M 3
Sun: Oregon 23, Purdue 21
MicronPC: Illinois 63, Virginia 21

Another great bowl season for the conference, as only a Sun Bowl loss prevents an undefeated record.  The Big Ten has gone 12-2 in bowls in 1998-99, and with plenty of up-and-coming programs (a list that suddenly does not include Missouri), the future of the conference looks bright.

Coming up: is Mizzou able to recover any better in 2000 than they did in the Big 12?  You probably already know the answer to that question, don't you...

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