What If... The New Big 12 Were The Old Big 12? (Part Three)

Part One (1996-00)
Part Two (2001-05)

We once again join a world in which Nebraska joined the Big Ten and Colorado joined the Pac-12 early in the 1990s, when the last batch of realignment was going down.  So far, Mizzou has missed out on both the kicked ball and the 2003 revenge against Nebraska, and they've had a few seasons go better, a few worse.  Kansas State established an almost-dynasty with multiple conference titles and three shots at the national title (all losses).  The balance of power rested in Manhattan until Mack Brown and Bob Stoops joined Texas and Oklahoma in the late-1990s.  Now, we move on to 2006.

2006

Coming off of a dominant title season, Texas gets ranked third to start the season, out of respect as much of anything.  Turns out, without Vince Young and company, they will struggle, and the 2006 conference race will be relatively wide open.  Meanwhile, Oklahoma gets some respect themselves, getting a #10 ranking despite the iffy 2005 season and the Rhett Bomar / Big Red Sports & Imports scandal.

Elsewhere, Texas Tech and Texas A&M are both supposed to be rather strong, and Missouri is expected to struggle without Brad Smith.  Instead, they surge.

Preseason Rankings
#3 Texas
#10 Oklahoma
#25 Texas Tech

Missouri Schedule & Results
9/2 Murray State W, 47-7
9/9 Ole Miss W, 34-7
9/16 at New Mexico W, 27-17
9/23 at Texas W, 40-38
9/30 Oklahoma State W, 34-31
10/7 at Texas Tech W, 38-21
10/14 at Texas A&M L, 19-25
10/21 Kansas State W, 41-21
10/28 Oklahoma L, 10-26
11/4 at Baylor W, 28-19
11/18 at Iowa State L, 16-21
11/25 Kansas W, 42-17
9-3 (6-3)

The F/+ rankings really did not like this Texas team.  Apparently there was a bit of a "Haha, you lost to Ron Prince" penalty involved.  Actually, their rankings suffered down the stretch when Colt McCoy got hurt -- they were rather stout for the first couple of months of the season.  But who am I to argue with a ratings system that says Mizzou would have won?  I'm all for it, even if I don't understand it.

In all, you flip a loss in Lincoln for a win in Austin, and Missouri improves by a game from the real 2006.  A 6-0 start including wins in Austin and Lubbock would have almost certainly landed Mizzou a spot in the Top 10, which would have made their hit-and-miss finish all the more frustrating.  Still, 9-3 is 9-3, and after going 11-14 in 2004-05, it's a great step forward.

Big 12ish Standings
Team Conf.
Record
Overall
Record
Real-Life
Record
Oklahoma 8-1 10-2 11-3 (+0)
Texas A&M 7-2 10-2 9-4 (+1.5)
Missouri 6-3 9-3 8-5 (+1.5)
Texas Tech 6-3 8-4 8-5 (+0.5)
Texas 5-4 7-5 10-3 (-2.5)
Kansas 3-6 5-7 6-6 (-1)
Oklahoma State 3-6 5-7 7-6 (-1.5)
Kansas State 3-6 5-7 7-6 (-1.5)
Baylor 3-6 4-8 4-8 (+0)
Iowa State 1-8 3-9 4-8 (-1)

Oklahoma still wins the title here, and those benefiting most from the absence of Nebraska and Colorado are Mizzou and Texas A&M, apparently.  Texas loses to both Missouri and Kansas, which hurts their record quite a bit.  The screwjob loss in Eugene prevents OU from making the national title game, but it's still a good enough season that they get to go to the Fiesta Bowl and lose to Boise State.

Bowls

Fiesta: #9 Boise State 43, #7 Oklahoma 42
Cotton: #10 Auburn 20, #16 Texas A&M 17
Holiday: #19 California 48, #20 Missouri 28
Alamo: Texas 26, Iowa 24
Sun: Texas Tech 42, #25 Oregon State 37

Missouri's added success (and the absence of Nebraska and their Cotton Bowl bid) bumps them up in the bowl pecking order, so they get the honor of going to San Diego and getting smoked by California instead of Texas A&M.  The conference goes 2-3 overall, with the tight losses to Boise State and Auburn.  Not the most memorable year the conference ever had, but it's setting the table for some unexpected excitement / craziness in 2007.

2007

Missouri's extra success in 2006 allows them to squeeze into the Top 25 to start 2007.  Oklahoma once again gets the benefit of the doubt even though they're starting a relatively unheralded, redshirt freshman quarterback named Sam Bradford.  Meanwhile, Texas and A&M are expected to provide the biggest resistance for the Sooners.

Preseason Rankings
#7 Oklahoma
#9 Texas
#18 Texas A&M
#24 Missouri

Missouri Schedule & Results
9/1 vs Illinois W, 40-34
9/8 at Ole Miss W, 38-25
9/15 Baylor W, 63-13
9/22 Illinois State W, 38-17
9/29 Texas W, 41-28
10/13 at Oklahoma L, 31-41
10/20 Texas Tech W, 41-10
10/27 Iowa State W, 42-28
11/3 at Oklahoma State W, 45-31
11/10 Texas A&M W, 40-26
11/17 at Kansas State W, 49-32
11/24 vs Kansas W, 36-28
11-1 (8-1)

Whereas the projected 2006 win over Texas is questionable at best, I think we can all agree that, if Mizzou had played Texas for a big Saturday night game in Columbia instead of Nebraska, they'd have probably won.  It likely wouldn't have been 41-6, but it would have been a win.  They still lose to Oklahoma, of course, but the rest of the season goes according to plan.  The Arrowhead Armageddon game, however, doesn't have stakes nearly as high.  Kansas now loses to Texas by two and to Oklahoma by six, meaning they are ranked in the teens for MU-KU.  Meanwhile, without a Big 12 championship game to lose, Mizzou makes the national title game, right?

Wrong.

Big 12ish Standings
Team Conf.
Record
Overall
Record
Real-Life
Record
Oklahoma 8-1 11-1 11-3 (+1)
Missouri 8-1 11-1 12-2 (+0)
Kansas 6-3 9-3 12-1 (-2.5)
Texas 5-4 8-4 10-3 (-1.5)
Texas Tech 5-4 8-4 9-4 (-0.5)
Oklahoma State 4-5 6-6 7-6 (-0.5)
Texas A&M 4-5 6-6 7-6 (-0.5)
Kansas State 3-6 5-7 5-7 (+0)
Iowa State 2-7 3-9 3-9 (+0)
Baylor 0-9 2-10 3-9 (-1)

Oklahoma's first loss of the season came against Colorado ... which now would not have happened.  You can make the case that, had they played Kansas around that time, they'd have lost that game too (it was one of those "learn from your mistakes" games, and OU might have slipped up at some point no matter what), but the projections clearly aren't going to take that into account.  So in this new world, Mizzou goes 11-1 and absolutely goes to a BCS game ... but OU stays ahead of them in the BCS pecking order, and they play Ohio State for the national title.

Bowls

BCS Championship: #1 Ohio State 28, #2 Oklahoma 24
Orange: #3 Missouri 24, #4 Virginia Tech 17
Gator: #16 Kansas 31, #21 Virginia 19
Cotton: #20 Texas 30, #25 Arkansas 20
Holiday: Arizona State 27, Texas Tech 24
Alamo: Penn State 23, Oklahoma State 17
Insight: Texas A&M 38, Indiana 30

So the bad news is that Mizzou still doesn't play for the title.  The good news is that, at 12-1, they finish #2 in the polls instead of #4.  And after OU's loss to Ohio State, they get quite a bit of "It should have been them" sympathy.  This officially goes down as Mizzou's best season in their history, and not even a game against Texas can change that.

In all, the conference goes 4-3 in bowls, but the big wins by Mizzou, Kansas and Texas give the conference's perceptions a nice boost.

2008

With a higher finish in 2007, Mizzou gets ranked a smidge higher to start 2008 too.  And for the first time ever, the New Big 12 has five teams ranked in the Top 20.  Mizzou faces a potentially brutal slate, hosting #4 Oklahoma, traveling to #12 Texas Tech and #15 Texas, and facing down neutral field battles against #18 Kansas and #20 Illinois.  Ouch.

Preseason Rankings
#4 Oklahoma
#5 Missouri
#12 Texas Tech
#15 Texas
#18 Kansas

Missouri Schedule & Results
8/30 vs Illinois W, 52-42
9/6 SE Missouri State W, 52-3
9/13 Nevada W, 69-17
9/27 at Texas A&M W, 49-23
10/4 at Texas Tech W, 35-24
10/11 Oklahoma State L, 23-28
10/18 at Texas L, 31-56
10/25 Oklahoma L, 21-49
11/1 at Baylor W, 31-28
11/8 Kansas State W, 41-24
11/15 at Iowa State W, 52-20
11/29 vs Kansas L, 37-40
5-4 (8-4)

Okay, I admit it: I strayed from the numbers in one game.  If you want, just ignore it.  The way I drew the schedule up, Mizzou played Texas Tech instead of Nebraska in the first Saturday in October.  The way Mizzou took out Nebraska that weekend, you would have trouble convincing me they'd have lost to anybody that weekend, so I fibbed and had them beating the Red Raiders, even though the numbers say they didn't.  Sue me.  Regardless, the aura of Mizzou invincibility still falls apart against Oklahoma State, and with not only Texas but also Oklahoma waiting directly afterward, the wheels come off a bit.  Mizzou still rebounds with the tight win over Baylor and blowouts against Kansas State and Iowa State, but as with those Mizzou teams of the late-1970s, the brutal schedule catches up to them in October.

And the Kansas game still sucks.

Big 12ish Standings
Team Conf.
Record
Overall
Record
Real-Life
Record
Texas 8-1 11-1 12-1 (-0.5)
Oklahoma 8-1 11-1 12-2 (+0)
Texas Tech 7-2 10-2 11-2 (-0.5)
Oklahoma State 6-3 9-3 9-4 (-0.5)
Kansas 5-4 7-5 8-5 (-0.5)
Missouri 5-4 8-4 10-4 (-1)
Baylor 3-6 5-7 4-8 (+1)
Kansas State 2-7 4-8 5-7 (-1)
Texas A&M 1-8 3-9 4-8 (-1)
Iowa State 0-9 2-10 2-10 (+0)

So my fiddling with the results screws Oklahoma ... and I can't say I feel bad about that at all.  If Tech beats Mizzou, then we face the same three-way tie we did in real life, and Oklahoma likely wins because of the "higher BCS rank" tie-breaker.  Because I still giggle a bit when I think about the "45-35!!!!" signs, I almost wish I hadn't had Mizzou beat Tech, but alas.  In this new scenario, Tech is 7-2, and Texas beats OU in the conference tie-breaker, therefore almost certainly qualifying for the BCS Championship over Oklahoma (because people sadly would have voted differently in the AP poll despite the results being the same).

After a preseason top five ranking, the tumble to 8-4 is frustrating for Mizzou, especially when they almost get more than they can handle in the Alamo Bowl.

Bowls

BCS Championship: #1 Florida 24, #2 Texas 11
Fiesta: #3 Oklahoma 27, #10 Ohio State 20
Cotton: #25 Ole Miss 47, #12 Texas Tech 34
Holiday: #17 Oregon 42, #13 Oklahoma State 31
Alamo: #21 Missouri 30, #23 Northwestern 23
Insight: Kansas 42, Minnesota 21

Texas also falls to Florida, just like Oklahoma did.  Meanwhile, Oklahoma gets revenge on Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl ... which means that their losing the tie-breaker results in them finishing higher in the polls than they did in real life.  Meanwhile, Mizzou still holds on to beat Northwestern, and the conference goes an okay 3-3 in bowls.  Things still play out mostly the same this season, though I guess you could say that the Gator Bowl is in play for Mizzou or Oklahoma State.  Alas.

2009

You should remember how this one played out, eh?  Well how does it play out in Alternate 2009?

Preseason Rankings
#2 Texas
#3 Oklahoma
#9 Oklahoma State
#25 Kansas

Missouri Schedule & Results
9/5 vs Illinois W, 37-9
9/12 Texas A&M W, 28-27
9/19 Furman W, 52-12
9/25 at Nevada W, 31-21
10/8 Texas Tech L, 21-30
10/17 at Oklahoma State L, 17-33
10/24 Texas L, 7-41
10/31 at Oklahoma L, 7-30
11/7 Baylor L, 32-40
11/14 at Kansas State W, 38-12
11/21 Iowa State W, 34-24
11/28 vs Kansas W, 41-39
4-5 (7-5)

Instead of Bowling Green, Mizzou gets Texas A&M and barely fends off the Aggies in an early TV battle.  They are 4-0 when Texas Tech comes to town on a rainy Thursday night ... and just for consistency's sake, we'll say that Colby Whitlock sprains Blaine Gabbert's ankle just like Ndamukong Suh did.  That leads to an even worse slump than what Mizzou faced in Real 2009, as instead of winning in Boulder after the loss to Texas ... they have to go to Norman.  Yikes.

In all, Mizzou goes 3-0 against what we now think of as Big 12 North teams ... and 1-5 against South teams.  The loss to Baylor suddenly puts bowl eligibility into question, though Mizzou does come through in November once again.

Big 12ish Standings
Team Conf.
Record
Overall
Record
Real-Life
Record
Texas 9-0 12-0 13-1 (+0)
Oklahoma 7-2 8-4 8-5 (+0.5)
Oklahoma State 7-2 9-3 9-4 (+0.5)
Texas Tech 6-3 8-4 9-4 (-0.5)
Missouri 4-5 7-5 8-5 (-0.5)
Texas A&M 4-5 6-6 6-7 (+0.5)
Kansas State 3-6 5-7 6-6 (-1)
Kansas 2-7 5-7 5-7 (+0)
Baylor 2-7 5-7 4-8 (+1)
Iowa State 1-8 3-9 7-6 (-3.5)

Poor Iowa State.  Their smoke-and-mirrors act doesn't work out quite as well in Alternate 2009 -- instead of beating Nebraska and Colorado, they get killed by Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech.  Instead of all the kudos Paul Rhoads received in his first season, it looks like Same Old Iowa State.

Otherwise, things go mostly according to plan.  The North teams still struggle, and the South's Big 4 still dominate the conference.

Bowls

BCS Championship: #2 Alabama 37, #1 Texas 21
Cotton: Ole Miss 21, #19 Oklahoma State 7
Holiday: Texas Tech 28, Arizona 21
Alamo: Oklahoma 27, Michigan State 13
Insight: Missouri 31, Minnesota 30
Texas: Navy 35, Texas A&M 34

Hooray!  Mizzou doesn't have to play Navy!  With Iowa State safely in Ames, Mizzou scores the Insight Bowl bid and ends their season on a happier note.  They don't dominate the Gophers by any means, but they win and finish 8-5, just like they did in Real 2009.

Summary

Even in recent years, the switch to this nine-game schedule has not affected Mizzou as much as one might think.

Season Real Mizzou Alt. Mizzou
1996 5-6 7-6 (+1)
1997 7-5 9-4 (+1.5)
1998 8-4 10-3 (+1.5)
1999 4-7 5-7 (+0.5)
2000 3-8 3-9 (-0.5)
2001 4-7 4-8 (-0.5)
2002 5-7 7-6 (+1.5)
2003 8-5 7-6 (-1)
2004 5-6 4-8 (-1.5)
2005 7-5 7-6 (-0.5)
2006 8-5 9-4 (+1)
2007 12-2 12-1 (+0.5)
2008 10-4 9-4 (-0.5)
2009 8-5 8-5 (+0)

Early on in the New Big 12, the absence of Nebraska and Colorado opens up a door for Mizzou, and they happily walk through -- they finish four games better in 1996-98 than they did in real life, when they went 2-4 against NU and CU.  The 1999-01 funk gets a little worse as OU and Texas get their footing, and with the South improving quickly, the 2003-05 period also damages Mizzou a bit -- their 2004 collapse in particular is even worse than it was in real life.  The Chase Daniel era goes roughly the same -- 2007 is better, 2008 worse.  What we can draw from this is simple: if Mizzou is good, the ceiling is still pretty high.  Obviously playing Oklahoma and Texas hurts, but it shouldn't be forgotten that, in the last five years, OU has been extremely beatable twice (2005, 2009), as has Texas (2006, 2007).  If Mizzou is good, they can still succeed significantly.  And if they're poor, they're going to do worse.  It probably didn't take three long posts to figure that out, but hey ... I am who I am.

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