When the 2011 college football season began last fall, Oklahoma was the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 and was one of the teams projected to make it to New Orleans to contend for the BCS National Championship. Kansas State, on the other hand, was an afterthought, figured to finish at the back end of the conference and not be much of a factor in the conference race. Many experts projected the Wildcats as a stretch to win six games and become bowl eligible.
You get the picture. The point, of course, being: Football games are won and lost on the playing field, not on paper. Both Oklahoma and Kansas State finished with identical season records, 10-3. Coach Bill Snyder's troops, however, prevailed over seven of their nine conference opponents, while the preseason-favorite Sooners, who were still ranked No, 1 in the country in the USA Today poll heading into their seventh game of the season, won one game fewer vs. big 12 opponents than Kansas State, dropping OU to fourth place in the final conference standings.
The Sooners finished behind conference-champion Oklahoma State, K-State and Baylor, and instead of playing in a BCS bowl game found themselves relegated to, what for mighty Oklahoma was, a disappointing bowl location. Kansas State, meanwhile, felt it was worthy of a BCS bowl this season - and so did a lot of other people, including this writer - but they still did better than the seven-time Big 12 champion from Norman, going to the Cotton Bowl to take on the SEC's third best team in Arkansas.
Because three-year starter at quarterback for the Sooners, Landry Jones, has decided to bypass the NFL draft this spring and return to school next fall for his senior season, Oklahoma has been established again as the pre-preseason favorite in football in a newly reworked Big 12 next season. This time, however, Kansas State is right there with the Sooners in the minds of the football prognosticators, especially with many of the Wildcats' key offensive and defensive contributors returning this fall.
Oklahoma State will lose quarterback Brandon Weeden and arguably the nation's best wide receiver in Justin Blackman, but don't expect the Cowboys to drop off that much. Coach Mike Gundy will reload and field another formidable team that will come into the season as defending champions until some other team takes it away from them. And next season, the Big 12 will welcome two new teams in TCU and West Virginia, both of which won their conference titles in 2011 and capped off the season with postseason bowl wins. For TCU, it was the third consecutive Mountain West Conference championship, and the second consecutive Big East crown for West Virginia.
Hard to believe that this won't produce a stronger and even more tightly contested conference in football moving forward. But every year seems to bring its own set of surprises in the Big 12, as evidenced by what happened this past season.
Now that the 2011-12 football campaign is officially in the books for Big 12 schools, and Texas A&M and Missouri have played their final games as members of the Big 12, it's time to take one last look back with the final Big 12 Football Power Rankings for the season just ended.
Season Final Big 12 Football Power Rankings
- 1. Oklahoma State - Possibly the best Cowboy's team in its program history.
- 2. Kansas State - Bill Snyder is the best in the country in getting more from less and winning.
- 3. Baylor - Robert Griffin III carried the team on his Heisman shoulders.
- 4. Oklahoma - Texas Tech loss was the beginning of the end for the formerly No.-ranked Sooners.
- 5. Texas A&M - Four of six losses were by seven points or less. Better luck in the SEC.
- 6. Missouri - Great finish saves Tigers' season. The SEC won't be so forgiving.
- 7. Texas - Still far from the Longhorns of old. Is Mack Brown that revered in Austin?
- 8. Iowa State - A hard-working team that's getting better every year under Paul Rhoads.
- 9. Texas Tech - Failed to win any of its last five games after its stunning upset win at Oklahoma.
- 10. Kansas - Hopefully Charlie Weis can get this program turned around to respectability.
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