Congratulations to Oklahoma State. Coach Mike Gundy's highly talented and motivated bunch finally got over the hump, annihilating hated archrival Oklahoma and winning their first Big 12 championship in the process. And Kansas State's Bill Snyder is a lockdown for Big 12 coach of the year, and he should be the national coach of the year.
Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State were the top three choices of the Big 12 coaches in their annual preseason poll in advance of the 2011 season. Baylor was picked sixth and Kansas State eighth. About the only thing the coaches got right in their preseason prognostication on how the teams would fare this football season was Kansas expected to bring up the rear.
Only six teams were in action on the final weekend of the regular season, but the three games that took place showcased what will go down as a changing of the guard in the power structure at the top of the Big 12, at least for this eventful pigskin season. The new Big 12 football hierarchy: Oklahoma State, followed by Kansas State and Baylor. Four years ago, Baylor did not win a conference game, finishing 0-8 and 3-9 for the season. Over the last four years, Baylor and Kansas, which ended the conference season at 7-1 in 2007, have traded places.
Oklahoma State's 44-10 beat down of Oklahoma, which resulted in Bedlam all over OSU's House that Boone Pickens Built after the game, was only the Cowboys' 17th win in a series that is over a century old. It also resulted in the Pokes' largest margin of victory over Oklahoma since 1945, when the final score was 45-0.
After the game, OU coach Bob Stoops, who had won six of the eight conference championship games his team has been in, was asked the inevitable question: What happened on Saturday against Oklahoma State? Said Stoops: I don't know, but I do know I'm voting for LSU No, 1 and then Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys' Mike Gundy was even more outspoken about where he felt the chips should fall in the BCS title game selection. "There's no question Oklahoma State should be No, 2 (in the BCS) right now," the OSU alum and head coach for the past seven seasons said, adding, "when you win by 34 points, we deserve the right."
Kansas State had a less easy time Saturday against Iowa State, the team whose upset of OSU two weeks, in retrospect, was the only thing standing between Oklahoma State and their chance of living the dream playing in the BCS National Championship vs, LSU, the lone undefeated team in the Football Bowl Series. The Wildcats broke a 23-all tie with a go-ahead touchdown with under four minutes to play and then stopped a late drive by Iowa State to preserve the victory and their chance for a share of the conference crown were Oklahoma to have beaten Oklahoma State.
Asked to compare this year's Kansas State team with some of the other great Wildcat teams he has had, coach Bill Snyder said, "I reserve the right to make those judgments until the end of the season, and then I'll find a way to avoid the question."
Following are five big things we learned this season in Big 12 football:
- If you didn't think Oklahoma missed All-American wide-receiver Ryan Broyles after he got suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Sooners eighth game of the season vs. Texas A&M, consider this: Quarterback Landry Jones did not throw a touchdown pass in any of the Sooners' three games after Broyles went down and the team voted No. 1 to start the season lost two of the three.
- Bill Snyder took a team that Big 12 coaches (other than Snyder, of course) projected to finish eighth in the 10-team league before the season started to a 9-2 year and a second-place finish behind conference champion Oklahoma State. And he did it with a team that may have lacked the physical talent and ability of other conference teams but obviously led the league in heart and determination. Chalk that up to Snyder and his coaching staff.
- All year long we read and heard about Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and Landry Jones as Heisman hopefuls. Let me tell you, neither came close to the phenomenal year that Baylor's Robert Griffin III exhibited. Griffin not only led his team, a perennial bottom feeder until he and coach Art Briles came along, to a third-place finish, beating Oklahoma and Texas for the first time since anyone can remember, but he three for nearly as many passing yards as Weeden and Jones while gaining 644 rushing yards as well. Jones' and Weeden's combined rushing yards were minus-111. RG3 stands above all the rest, and he has one more year of eligibility if he elects to come back for his senior season.
- Baylor also sported the best supporting cast in the conference, if not the country, backing up its star quarterback on offense. Terrance Ganaway led the Big 12 in rushing yards (1,347) this season and speedy wide-receiver Kendall Wright rolled up the most pass-receiving yards (101 catches for 1,336 yards). As a result Baylor not only was tops in the Big 12 in total offense (yes, even better than Oklahoma State), but finished second in the nation to Houston.
- If you ask me, the biggest disappointment in the conference this football season, notwithstanding the surprising collapses of Oklahoma and Texas A&M, was how Texas Tech fell off the cliff midway through the conference season. The Red Raiders stood at 2-2 after upsetting Oklahoma on Oct. 12 and also ending the Sooners' 39-game home winning streak, then the bottom fell out. Tech didn't win another conference game, dropping all five games after the stunning defeat of the Sooners. What's more, four of the five loses (to Iowa State, Texas, Oklahoma State and Baylor) weren't even close.
For more information:
Additional information on Missouri Tigers' sports
More information on Kansas State sports