Saturday, November 27, 2004

Once Upon A Time In The Midwest

Back in the day, there used to be a college athletic conference known as "The Big 8". It was mainly known for football, although it had some success in basketball. The high-point in football was possibly the 1995 season, when the AP Poll had:

1 Nebraska 12-0-0
5 Colorado 10-2-0
7 Kansas State 10-2-0
9 Kansas 10-2-0

Arguably, they should have been ranked 1-2-3-4, since Colorado lost to Kansas which lost to K-State which lost to Colorado, and they all lost to Nebraska.

The Big 8 is, alas, no more. When the current mania for 12 team Division I conferences began, it was incorporated into the Big 12. The Northern Tier (KU, K-State, Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, and Iowa State) became the Big-12 North. And how are they doing this year? You had to ask:

Colorado4-4 7-4
Iowa State 4-4 6-5
Missouri 3-5 5-6
Nebraska 3-5 5-6
Kansas 2-6 4-7
Kansas State 2-6 4-7

The Big 12 North "Champion" is Colorado, by virtue of beating Iowa State, and by the fact that ISU couldn't beat Mizzou this week. So Colorado will play Oklahoma, and Dr. Pepper should ask for its money back.

How did this happen? Well, KU lost coach Glen Mason to Minnesota. He'd been the only decent coach they'd had in years. Many years. K-State is happered by the fact that Bill Snyder will only play the Little Sisters of the Poor outside of those Big-12 teams he's forced to meet, and that doesn't help recruiting or preparation. Colorado has been hampered by various football related scandels. And Nebraska? Well, 9-3 wasn't enough, the coach got fired, and the Huskers are learning a new offense that involves throwing the football. This may take some time.

Will the trend reverse? Maybe, but probably not too soon. Remember, only Nebraska has a real football tradition over the last 40 years. CU, KSU, and KU have been occasionally good, the first two very good, but they always return to the median, if not below it. In the B12-South, we've got Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech, all of whom expect to be football powers, even if they aren't. I don't see that changing any time soon, so I don't see a return to greatness in the B12N, except possibly for Nebraska.

The rest of us above 37o North will have to make do with basketball season, and that's only if you root for KU.

Which I do.