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The Big 12-SEC Challenge, Part Deux

In last week's Varsity Numbers column at Football Outsiders, I broke down all BCS conferences the way I've been breaking down the Big 12 here for the last couple of months.  Since it is the end of the season, and since I have rankings of the teams in each conference now, I thought it would be a fun time to revisit the "Big 12 vs SEC" theme from earlier in the season.

So we'll do what we did last time and go 1 vs 1, 2 vs 2, etc., using the conference "+" rankings from the post above.  Here goes.

12 vs 12: Iowa State vs Mississippi State (in St. Louis)

It's too easy to say "The real winner: the terrorists," or something witty and snide.  I'll try to give some actual analysis.  I think Iowa State would move the ball on the ground a bit more than MSU would, and in the Austen Arnaud vs Tyson Lee/Wesley Carroll battle, give me Arnaud.

Verdict: Iowa State.  Big 12 leads 1-0.

11 vs 11: Texas A&M vs Kentucky (in Memphis)

Kentucky started strong in 2008 before fading considerably down the stretch.  That's in comparison to Texas A&M, who started horribly, became relatively competitive for a stretch, then limped home.  Both teams had slightly below-average defenses for their conferences, but in the end I simply think that UK would be more likely to score on ATM than vice versa.

Verdict: Kentucky.  Tied at 1-1.

10 vs 10: Colorado vs Auburn (in Tulsa)

Resistable force versus movable object.  Really, these two teams were identical within their conferences.  Good run defenses, solid pass defenses, bad running games, atrocious passing games.  In the end, I simply have to think that Auburn has enough athletes to take Colorado down, though.  Surely.

Verdict: Auburn.  SEC leads 2-1.

9 vs 9: Kansas State vs Vanderbilt (at a field behind a rest-stop in Warrenton, MO)

Vandy's bowl run was a great story (and how much does it suck that they finally get to a bowl game...and it's in Nashville?  I mean, they'll have great attendance and everything, but I'm pretty sure the alums would have traded great attendance for good attendance at a game in a more bowl-like location like Florida or something).  But in the end, the Commodores just really weren't that good a team.  That "program-defining" win against Auburn in October?  Yeah, not looking quite as hot right now (though their road win at Ole Miss is looking better and better).  Plus, they lost six of seven to end the season.

That said...yeah, they'd still beat K-State.  The Vandy pass defense makes the difference.

Verdict: Vandy.  SEC takes a 3-1 lead.

8 vs 8: Baylor vs Arkansas (at McAlester High School in McAlester, OK)

Now the Big 12 strikes back.  Baylor versus September Arkansas would be a blowout win, but November Arkansas was much more competitive.  Of their last seven games, six were decided by a touchdown or less.  They could have pretty easily been 2-10 or 8-4.  But in Hot Tub Griffin III (and Joe Pawelek) I trust.

Verdict: Baylor, baby.  SEC leads 3-2.

7 vs 7: Kansas vs South Carolina (in Carbondale, IL)

I'll admit this right upfront: I'm probably biased by the show Todd Reesing put on at Arrowhead two Saturdays ago.  He sucked for most of the last month, but he was at his gunslinging best against Mizzou.  If that Todd Reesing shows up against SC, KU wins by double digits.  If  not, this game becomes a slog that South Carolina could win.  But give me Reesing.

Verdict: Kansas.  It's tied at 3-3.

6 vs 6: Nebraska vs LSU (in Cape Girardeau, MO)

For this one, we really have to specify when the game is being played.  Is it right now?  Then Nebraska wins.  Two months ago?  LSU easy.  Looking at the conference season as a whole, these two teams were equal.  But I say NU's balance and LSU's propensity for either having a) a redshirt freshman QB who throws a pick-six a game or b) a true freshman QB who hasn't yet fully adjusted to playing D1 ball swing this one in the Big 12's favor.  A month ago, I'd have picked LSU by 21.

Verdict: Nebraska.  Big 12 takes the lead, 4-3.

5 vs 5: Oklahoma State vs Georgia (in Memphis)

Toughest one on the board for me.  A year ago, Matt Stafford and company wiped the floor with Oklahoma State in Athens.  But OSU has come a long way since then.  Now, at a neutral site, with a salty defense and explosive offense, I'm tempted to lean toward OSU.  I could honestly go either way with this one.  Okay, fine, I'll still pick Georgia.

Verdict: Georgia by a hair.  Tied at 4-4.

4 vs 4: Missouri vs Tennessee (in Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area just outside Eddyville, KY)

I swear I didn't know it was going to line up like this when I set this up.  This is almost unfair.  Of all the conference rankings I did in that FO column, Tennessee's appearance this high on the list was the most inexplicable...though I have at least a little bit of an explanation: first, the Vols had the toughest possible schedule in '08.  They played #1 Florida and #2 Alabama at home but weren't good enough to seriously threaten them.  They also had to play #'s 5, 7, 9 and 10 on the road.  Flip the home/road slate, and they still lose to UF and UA, but they have four winnable home games.  They would at least have beaten Auburn at home, and they might have picked off another win...which would have made them 7-5 and maybe saved Phil Fulmer's job.  So while I fail to believe that Tennessee was the fourth-best SEC team, I do believe they were better than perceived.

That said...yeah, despite the very solid Tennessee defense, the Vols would have no chance of keeping up with Missouri on the scoreboard, even if they held Mizzou in the 20s.

Verdict: Mizzou.  Big 12 takes the lead again, 5-4.

3 vs 3: Texas Tech vs Ole Miss (in Henryetta, OK, home of Troy Aikman)

Credit to the Right Reverend Nutt, Jevan Snead, etc., for turning Ole Miss around quickly.  They are a super-competitive team, and the Cotton Bowl should be a lot of fun.  But this is Texas Tech's best team ever.  Ole Miss can keep up for a while, but in the end I'm going with the Pirates Red Raiders.

Verdict: Tech.  6-4, Big 12...Big 12 has clinched at least a tie.

2 vs 2: Texas vs Alabama (in Shreveport)

I grew as sick of anybody of Mack Brown's disengenuous "Gosh, I think the SEC's tie-breaker is more fair (to us)" presence on ESPN a couple weeks ago, but a) they're still clearly one of the 3-4 best teams in the country, and b) they match up EXTREMELY well with 'Bama.  The Tide was dominant in the trenches this year, was Texas.  I don't think Alabama would be able to run the ball well, nor would Texas.  So eliminating the running game, it could become a QB battle.  Hmm...Colt McCoy vs John Parker Wilson...hmm...lemme think about that...

Verdict: Texas.  Big 12 clinches the win, 7-4.

1 vs 1: Oklahoma vs Florida (in New Orleans)

Woohoo...because the Big 12 clinched, I don't actually have to make a pick here!  I haven't decided this one yet.  I'm leaning toward OU because a) they're as good at defending the spread as any team in the country (though they haven't faced the Superman Spread yet), b) I can't see anybody holding them under 30 right now, and c) TIM TEBOW WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR 9/11!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh wait, I guess I just made my pick, huh?

Verdict: Oklahoma.  Big 12 wins going away.