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

No Nebraska in the conference means no kicked ball ... and no 2003 revenge.

In Part One of this series, we took a look at how the early years of the New Big 12 (whatever it may have been called) would have taken shape had both Nebraska and Colorado joined the Big Ten and Pac-12, respectively, from the start of the early-1990s expansion period.  Without the Huskers and Buffs, this would not have been a particularly impressive lineup.  Texas A&M and Kansas State were good, Texas was up-and-down, and teams like Missouri and (in theory) Kansas were improving, but Oklahoma had fallen apart, Kansas did the same when Glen Mason left, and Mizzou's 1990s golden age lasted all of three years (they went to bowls in 1996-98).  Kansas State was by far the dominant figure in the league, going 47-1 in the regular season from 1996-99, but they failed at the top level, losing three different chances at the national title.  And the rest of the conference was putrid in bowls, going 5-18 in the same four-year span.

Things were changing at the end of the decade, however.  While Kansas State was still very good, Texas and Oklahoma began to surge under Mack Brown and Bob Stoops.  Texas won 19 games in 1999-00, and Oklahoma broke through with a surprising national title in 2000.  Heading into 2001, the axis of power in the conference was pretty clearly shifting back to the conference's two main historical powers.


In the conference's sixth season, the New Big 12 once again finds itself with no more than three programs ranked in the preseason Top 25.  The conference's depth still hasn't kicked in, as OU's and Texas' surge coincided with a fade from Texas A&M.  Nebraska ranks fourth to start the season, so once again the conference appears lacking in their absence ... but with two teams in the Top 5, the marquee draw of the conference is A-OK.

Meanwhile, Gary Pinkel is setting up shop in Columbia after an 8-16 record in 1999-00 drove Larry Smith out of town.  Smith had worked wonders in the conference's first thee years, going 26-13 from 1996-98 and winning 19 games in 1997-98, but the recruiting that was supposed to set Mizzou up long-term was non-existent, and Smith was replaced by Pinkel, who had done great things at Toledo.

Preseason Rankings
#3 Oklahoma
#5 Texas
#13 Kansas State

Missouri Schedule & Results
9/1 Bowling Green L, 13-20
9/8 Texas State W, 40-6
9/29 Texas Tech L, 29-40
10/6 at Oklahoma State W, 41-38
10/13 Iowa State L, 14-20
10/20 at Kansas W, 38-34
10/27 Texas L, 16-35
11/3 at Oklahoma L, 3-35
11/10 Baylor W, 41-24
11/17 Texas A&M L, 24-35
11/24 at Kansas State L, 3-24
12/1 at Michigan State L, 7-55
4-8 (3-6)

Things don't go any better for Pinkel in his first year than it did in real life.  They are not particularly competitive in any of the three new games on the schedule, and while the Tigers find themselves at just 4-5 in mid-November, needing an upset or two to get to bowl eligibility, it very much does not happen.

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

Oklahoma is cruising toward another BCS championship game appearance until their upset loss to OSU, so they have to settle for a second straight conference title and Fiesta Bowl bid.  In Alternate 2001, Nebraska doesn't get crushed by Colorado at the end of the season, and they likely handle Illinois (or whoever) rather easily in the Big Ten title game, meaning they are #1, facing #2 Miami in the national title game.  Kicked out of the Rose Bowl (where the title game is taking place), Oregon ends up in Arizona to take on the Sooners, with the winner likely finishing #2 in the final polls.

Meanwhile, 11-1 Texas gets a BCS bid themselves, heading to Miami to crush take on the surprising ACC champs, Maryland.


Fiesta: #4 Oklahoma 38, #3 Oregon 27
Orange: #5 Texas 40, #6 Maryland 20
Cotton: #21 Texas A&M 9, Arkansas 7
Holiday: #25 Texas Tech 49, #22 Washington 47
Alamo: Kansas State 28, Iowa 19
Independence: Alabama 14,  Iowa State 13

And now you see the depth of the conference beginning to finally kick in.  Despite a pretty disappointing year from Kansas State, the conference goes 5-1, with only a one-point Independence Bowl loss keeping them from a perfect record.  After Miami's romp over Nebraska drops the Huskers a bit, OU finishes #2 and Texas finishes #3.  This is the most successful overall season for the conference, which has now gone 9-3 in bowls the last two years.


With OU and Texas both finishing in the top three and Kansas State seemingly falling back to the pack, it's pretty clear where the balance of power now lies in the New Big 12.  Texas A&M still looks decent, but while Colorado (#7) and Nebraska (#10) are both ranked in the nation's top ten, there is no clear #3 or #4 candidate in a suddenly top-heavy league.

Meanwhile, Gary Pinkel hands the keys to a blandly-named, redshirt freshman quarterback, and good things begin to happen.

Preseason Rankings
#2 Oklahoma
#4 Texas
#23 Texas A&M

Missouri Schedule & Results
8/31 vs Illinois W, 33-20
9/7 Ball State W, 41-6
9/14 at Bowling Green L, 28-51
9/28 at Texas L, 7-34
10/5 Oklahoma L, 24-31
10/12 at Baylor W, 51-20
10/19 at Texas Tech L, 38-52
10/26 Kansas W, 36-12
11/2 at Iowa State L, 35-42
11/9 Oklahoma State W, 38-31
11/16 at Texas A&M W, 33-27
11/23 Kansas State L, 0-38
6-6 (4-5)

Mizzou lost to both Nebraska and Colorado in 2002, so dumping them in favor of rather weak Oklahoma State and Baylor squads gets them to bowl eligibility.  Hooray!

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

After a year in the shadows, K-State reasserts itself in a major way.  They lose to Texas, but a four-point win over OU, combined with Texas' upset loss to Texas Tech, gives them their fourth conference title in the New Big 12's seven years.  Snyder is appropriately worshiped in Manhattan because he brought a conference title to KSU ... so what if he had brought in four titles and three national title game(ish) appearances?  Yikes.  They'd have not only named the stadium after him ... they'd have named the town after him.


Sugar: #3 Kansas State 34, #5 Georgia 21
Cotton: #9 Texas 35, LSU 20
Holiday: #15 Oklahoma 38, Arizona State 6
Alamo: Texas Tech 31, Wisconsin 28
Tangerine: Iowa State 27, Clemson 15
Independence: Missouri 28, Ole Miss 22
Houston: Texas A&M 31, Southern Miss 23

For the fourth consecutive season, the conference finishes with at least one team in the nation's top three (KSU roughly #3 in 1999, OU #1 in 2000, OU #2/UT #3 in 2001).  The surprising Wildcats handle Georgia's surprising SEC championship team ... and the rest of the conference handles its business as well.  It's quite possible that Mizzou would have been a little starry-eyed in their first bowl game since 1998, but who am I to disagree with the numbers?  The SEC was a bit down that year, so it's certainly conceivable that Mizzou might have not only made a bowl game, but won it.


The 2002 season began Nebraska's downfall toward mediocrity.  They would have a decent 2003 campaign, but after going 7-7 in 2002, they were not ranked in the preseason polls for the first time since ... well, a long time.  With OU, Texas and Kansas State once again populating college football's top tier, you can definitively say that 2002 was the first season where the conference was not lacking in any way from Nebraska's presence.

In real life, OSU began the season at #24 thanks to a solid 2002 campaign, but in Alternate 2002 they finished only 5-7, and that almost certainly wouldn't have gotten them ranked in 2003.  Missouri, on the other hand, won seven games with an electrifying freshman quarterback.  I think they would have definitely been ranked in that scenario.

Preseason Rankings
#1 Oklahoma
#5 Texas
#7 Kansas State
#24 Missouri

Missouri Schedule & Results
8/30 vs Illinois W, 22-15
9/6 at Ball State W, 35-7
9/13 Eastern Illinois W, 37-0
9/20 Baylor W, 45-20
9/27 at Kansas L, 14-35
10/11 Texas L, 30-35
10/18 at Oklahoma L, 13-34
10/25 Texas Tech W, 62-31
11/8 at Oklahoma State L, 27-35
11/15 Texas A&M W, 45-22
11/22 at Kansas State L, 14-24
11/29 Iowa State W, 45-7
7-5 (4-5)

In the new schedule, instead of getting a week off to prepare for Nebraska after the Kansas debacle, they have to take on Texas.  As they did against Nebraska, Mizzou plays very well, but they fall just short against the 'Horns.  Because of that, they finish a game worse in Alternate 2003.  (Plus, we miss out on "VICTORY!!" poster associated with the NU win.)  They alternate home wins and road losses the rest of the way and make their second straight bowl appearance, but 2003 does not end up becoming the momentum builder everybody expected.

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

Oklahoma makes it to the national title game for the second time despite a 31-7 midseason loss to Kansas State.  If you want to know why I hate the polls having such an impact on national title participants, just look at this example.  It is very likely that nobody would have been yelling and screaming about OU's inclusion in the national title game had they lost to KSU in October, but since they lost in December in real life, this was an outrage.  I don't care when the losses happen -- I just care that they happened.  Regardless, OU is in the title game over a USC team that lost to Cal.  Jason White suffered a broken hand in the Big 12 title game, so obviously that doesn't happen now ... but the title game result is still the same.


Sugar: #3 LSU 21, #2 Oklahoma 17
Fiesta: #7 Texas 27, #6 Ohio State 24
Cotton: #19 Ole Miss 31, #11 Oklahoma State 28
Holiday: #17 Kansas State 21, #13 Washington State 10
Alamo: Michigan State 28, Missouri 24
Independence: Arkansas 34, Texas A&M 14
Tangerine: N.C. State 56, Kansas 26

I added a field goal to OU's total because of the slight improvement in Jason White's health, but they still lose.  Meanwhile, Texas wins an exciting Fiesta Bowl, and the conference once again finishes with two teams in the Top 5.  Kansas State's season is completely different here than in Real 2003 -- without the title game to redeem themselves, their season is defined by their three-game losing streak (Marshall, OSU, Texas) in early October.  They cap off the season, however, with a nice win over a gutty Washington State team (that beat Texas in the real Holiday Bowl), giving them yet another ten-win season.  Missouri is taken down in a fun Alamo Bowl, and the conference takes a step back overall in the bowls, going just 3-4.


In real life, this was supposed to be the season that Missouri competed for the North title for the first time.  In Alternate 2004, however, there is no North, and while Mizzou does get Oklahoma and Kansas State at home, and they are ranked to start the season, expectations are completely different.

For OU, on the other hand, they add Adrian Peterson to an already loaded team, and they are out to set some offensive records.

Preseason Rankings
#2 Oklahoma
#7 Texas
#13 Kansas State
#21 Missouri

Missouri Schedule & Results
9/4 Arkansas State W, 52-20
9/9 at Troy L, 14-24
9/18 Ball State W, 48-0
10/2 Oklahoma L, 10-30
10/9 at Baylor W, 30-10
10/16 at Texas L, 20-28
10/23 Oklahoma State L, 17-20
10/30 at Texas Tech L, 21-41
11/6 Kansas State L, 24-35
11/13 at Texas A&M L, 10-28
11/20 Kansas L, 14-31
11/27 at Iowa State W, 17-14
4-8 (2-7)

Ouch.  You know the real story ... well the alternate story isn't much better.  Instead of kicking off conference play with a win over Colorado, they get thumped by Oklahoma.  And instead of a five-game losing streak in October and November, it's six.  Mizzou's 3-2 start was a bit disappointing, but they are eliminated from bowl contention with three games left, and not even a win over Iowa State can tamp down the disappointment.

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

The Sooners roll to another national title game appearance, though we know they aren't going to fare particularly well.  The big story of 2004, however, is that this is the year the South officially stomped on the North's neck.  Not a single one of the four North teams in this conference earn bowl eligibility, and they go a combined 11-25 in league play.  The top five teams are all from the South.


Orange: #1 USC 55, #2 Oklahoma 19*
Rose: #5 Texas 38, #13 Michigan 37
Cotton: #15 Tennessee 38, #19 Texas A&M 7
Holiday: #23 Texas Tech 45, #4 California 31
Alamo: #24 Ohio State 33, Oklahoma State 7

* This game officially didn't happen now, according to the NCAA.

Though we know that OU didn't officially lose to USC now ... it happened.  We watched it, and it was super ugly.  Meanwhile, the conference takes a further hit by a) only qualifying five teams for bowls and b) only winning two of them.  OSU, A&M and OU all get smoked.  This is not the conference's shining moment.  However, for Texas, a thrilling win over Michigan sets the table for what we know now was a special 2005.


The balance of power has now officially swung to the South (not that there was a South, but you know what I mean).  Not a single North team gets a single vote in the preseason AP polls, and while most people assume Kansas State will bounce back, they have completely written off Missouri, who is breaking in a new spread offense in Brad Smith's senior season.

Preseason Rankings
#2 Texas
#7 Oklahoma
#17 Texas A&M
#21 Texas Tech

Missouri Schedule & Results
9/3 vs Arkansas State W, 44-17
9/10 New Mexico L, 35-45
9/17 Troy W, 52-21
9/24 Texas A&M W, 24-21
10/1 Texas L, 20-51
10/8 at Oklahoma State W, 38-31
10/15 Iowa State W, 27-24
10/22 Texas Tech
L, 35-38
10/29 at Kansas L, 3-13
11/5 at Oklahoma L, 17-36
11/12 Baylor W, 31-16
11/19 at Kansas State L, 28-36
6-6 (4-5)

A disappointing loss to New Mexico kicks off what will be an up-and-down season, coming on the heels of Aaron O'Neal's death.  Mizzou starts 5-2 after Chase Daniel leads a comeback win over Iowa State, but they fail in their first three attempts to score bowl eligibility before beating Baylor in uninspiring fashion.  Bowl eligibility likely saves Gary Pinkel's job, but there is not a lot of excitement about Mizzou football.

Big 12ish Standings
Team Conf.
Texas 9-0 12-0 13-0 (-0.5)
Texas Tech 7-2 10-2 9-3 (+1)
Oklahoma 7-2 8-4 8-4 (+0)
Kansas 5-4 8-4 7-5 (+1)
Kansas State 4-5 7-5 5-6 (+1.5)
Missouri 4-5 6-6 7-5 (-1)
Iowa State 3-6 6-6 7-5 (-1)
Texas A&M 3-6 5-7 5-6 (-0.5)
Baylor 2-7 5-7 5-6 (-0.5)
Oklahoma State 1-8 4-8 4-7 (-0.5)

While Texas Tech sees surprising success, and all four North teams qualify for bowls, Texas owns 2005.  They romp through the season like few others have, and they head to California for the Rose Bowl matchup people have been gearing up for since September.

It does bear mentioning that the North does indeed bounce back a bit here.  They still go only 16-20 in conference, but it's a step in the right direction.  Bill Snyder ends his career in a bowl game (because the KSU-MU game is no longer Snyder's last, I thought about flipping the results to Mizzou, but that would have been cheating), and the Big 12 comes very close to qualifying nine teams (even Baylor!) for bowls.


Rose: #2 Texas 41, #1 USC 38
Cotton: #14 Alabama 13, #12 Texas Tech 10
Holiday: Oklahoma 17, #6 Oregon 10
Alamo: #20 Michigan 26, Kansas 9
Champs Sports: #23 Clemson 21, Kansas State 17
Independence: Missouri 38, South Carolina 31
Houston: #14 TCU 27, Iowa State 24

Vince Young leads Texas to a national title, and all in all, this is a decent bowl season for the conference.  They go just 3-4, but unranked Oklahoma knocks off a highly-ranked Oregon team, and two other unranked schools (ISU, KSU) both almost knock off ranked opponents.  Once again a challenging slate of bowls dooms the conference's overall rankings, but this is a respectable showing.

And the Independence Bowl still happens.  So we've got that going for us.

Next up: the Chase Daniel era begins.