A 2008 Big 12 Conference Performance Review
At any job, the employees have to sit down quarterly, biannually, or annually for a performance review.
As a fan of the Big 12 Conference, it's high time I sit down to examine the highs and lows of each team, grading the regular season and postseason (where applicable) performances of the teams, from top to bottom.
Fellow writers on the site have pegged me as a "Big 12 elitist," to which I say that's true. I can be blinded by my own conference's success, only to be let down when the teams fail me in December and January.
So here's Monk's examination of the Big 12's season in 2008.
No. 4 Texas Longhorns (12-1, 7-1)
Let me get one thing straight from the beginning: I hate Texas more than anything else on this planet.
So now we begin.
Texas will forever remember this season as the one they got "screwed" on—screwed out of the Big 12 championship, screwed from the Heisman trophy, screwed out of the national championship. I have my opinion, but I will not levy it. Just remember that one thing I told you earlier, and you can deduce my stance for yourself.
Texas had a great season, though. The Longhorns, under the accurate passing of junior quarterback Colt McCoy (mostly to [senior? No—medical redshirt will give him a fifth season, so he's...what exactly?] Jordan Shipley), beat Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout en route to another 2005 season...until Texas Tech happened.
A minor hiccup in Texas' traipsing about through the Big 12 conference changed the entire face of college football. Michael Crabtree's catch to finish off Texas will be remembered as a phenomenal game-changing play for seasons and seasons to come.
The ensuing three-way tie gave analysts and fans more to talk about than they could have ever wanted, cementing 2008 as an unforgettable season. Texas will certainly not just forget what happened, either.
But Texas didn't let all that get it down. After missing the Big 12 championship, the Longhorns pulled off an impressive late victory over a strong Ohio State team, grabbing the Big 12 South's only bowl victory.
SEASON GRADE: A
POSTSEASON GRADE: A
MACK BROWN: I hate you.
COLT MCCOY: Grow facial hair or something...you look 12 years old.
No. 5 Oklahoma Sooners (12-2, 8-1)
Oh, the Sooners. How do I begin?
I grew up in Oklahoma City and plan to move back there after I'm finished at my dream school (slide number six), so I'm very used to hearing the national championship talk year after year after year from Sooner fans to start the season.
I never thought, especially after the loss to Texas, that the Sooners would actually make it. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Oklahoma had a tremendous regular season, as they typically do, led by Sam Bradford and a phenomenal supporting cast. After linebacker Ryan Reynolds was injured against Texas and the Sooners lost, they bounced back with incredible resolve, knocking off several ranked opponents and scoring 60+ points in the five games before the national championship, an unprecedented offensive performance that won't be topped as long as I live.
Bradford was awesome, lighting up defense after defense on his way to taking home the Heisman hardware.
The Sooners, the lone team to benefit from the three-way tie action, won the Big 12 South and the Big 12 championship en route to the Big Game against Florida.
And the Sooners were annihilated. I expected more from them, and I believe they certainly had the potential to beat Florida, but not the way they ended up playing. After the final 24-14 score, Oklahoma has lost five straight BCS appearances.
Something has to change in Norman. Bob Stoops has been unable to win the big one since the Sooners' 2000 national championship. The LSU game was at least within grasp, the USC game was just sad, the Boise State game was the Boise State game, and last year's loss to West Virginia was much worse than expected. With the loss to Florida Thursday, the Sooners have made their most recent legacy in college football being one of the biggest disappointments in history.
That hurts for me to say because I cheer for Oklahoma almost as hard as I cheer for Nebraska. But there's a point where you have to sit down and be honest: Something's got to give. I'm not saying fire Stoops, but the joke "Cereal looks better in a bowl than Oklahoma" is starting to get old, and they need a bowl win BADLY.
SEASON GRADE: A
POSTSEASON GRADE: F
SAM BRADFORD: Keep on keepin' on, buddy.
BOB STOOPS: Start preparing your résumé, man...
No. 12 Texas Tech (11-2, 7-1)
At least they had that play, "The Catch," that will live in infamy forever.
The Red Raiders had a pretty nice season, though. They beat Texas on the Michael Crabtree catch I'm sure everyone has seen at least a thousand times, then turned around and got blown out by Bradford & Co. in Norman, Okla.
But Texas Tech ascended to heights that hadn't been reached before in school history, thanks to brilliant offensive mind Mike Leach. Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree were the nation's most electric duo.
However, in a division like the Big 12 South, the Red Raiders simply didn't do enough. That one game against Oklahoma essentially erased all the success Tech enjoyed, but the victory over Texas gave the Sooners a ticket to the Big 12 championship and the national championship.
Tech disappointed us all, however, when they were blown out by Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl. Weeks before, they'd been complaining they were left out of a BCS game despite being ranked No. 7 because of a stupid rule.
Lesson Number One, Tech: If you want to make a point, at least WIN your bowl game. Because of all the hype the Red Raiders had accumulated over the season, the 47-34 romping the Rebels gave Texas Tech virtually handed the baton of "America's top conference" to the SEC and begged Florida to take it all home for the new champion conference.
SEASON GRADE: A-
POSTSEASON GRADE: C
MIKE LEACH: Don't give up on your team. Some of us would like to see you really succeed.
GRAHAM HARRELL: Lol
No. 16 Oklahoma State (9-4, 5-3)
The 2008 season was the best one for Oklahoma State in 20 years, and they still fell short of the strong finish.
OSU, behind Nebraska and Oklahoma, is my third-favorite team, so don't get me wrong when I criticize them. My good friend is their starting kicker, too ("the man with the golden shoe," according to silly Brent Musberger).
After a great start and a spectacular climb into the top 10, capped off by a great victory over Missouri, the Cowboys were stopped in their tracks by Oklahoma. ... And again by Texas Tech. ... And again by Oklahoma. But that much was to be expected in a competitive division like the Big 12 South.
The really disappointing part was the Holiday Bowl loss to Oregon. The game was very exciting for a while, until Oregon started to pull away and OSU started to shut down. The Cowboys, last of the Big 12 South's bowl representatives, failed to contribute a win to the dismal 1-3 postseason record.
However, on a better note, the Cowboys made their name known this season and announced to the country that they were no longer a dormant member of the Big 12 conference. Their ability to compete with the "big boys" will keep them in the hunt, despite being a longshot, for the conference crown.
SEASON GRADE: B
POSTSEASON GRADE: C
MIKE GUNDY: Nice work getting State back to a level of success.
DEZ BRYANT: I'll give you my scholarship if you come to Nebraska.
No. 19 Missouri (10-4, 5-4)
The Tigers finished below expectations.
Many thought Missouri would have another season like it did last year, 12-2. However, after stomping over early conference opener Nebraska, the Tigers went on a rough streak during which former possible Heisman candidate Chase Daniel broke down in losses to Oklahoma State and Texas back-to-back.
Missouri bounced back slightly with a 58-0 shutout of Colorado and three more conference wins to clinch the Big 12 North before losing to Kansas to finish the regular season and getting blown out by Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship.
The Tigers' last-minute bowl victory over Northwestern proved how overestimated Missouri had been the first several weeks. However, Missouri did get the win and preserved the Big 12 North's untarnished bowl record for 2008.
SEASON GRADE: C
POSTSEASON GRADE: B
GARY PINKEL: You better hope Jeremy Maclin stays.
CHASE DANIEL: Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-4, 5-3)
If you haven't picked up on this yet, I'm probably the biggest Nebraska fan ever.
Members of the Husker Nation were being realistic in their preseason predictions for Bo Pelini's first year to fix Bill Callahan's mess. We'll be 7-5, most of us thought. We'll lose to Virginia Tech, Missouri, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Kansas, but beat everyone we're supposed to. And maybe we'll win the bowl game.
But Pelini was able to do more his first year than all of us thought. Nebraska surged back onto the scene in the Big 12, winning six of its last seven games after almost beating Texas Tech in overtime, including a tough conference battle with Kansas and the Gator Bowl victory over Clemson. The Huskers even finished tied atop the Big 12 North with Missouri, but the Tigers held the head-to-head tiebreaker to receive the honors of being kicked around by Oklahoma in Kansas City.
The season was a little rocky in places, but Pelini's solid work is thoroughly evidenced by a return of the tradition and swagger of the program.
Seniors Nate Swift, Todd Peterson, Joe Ganz, Marlon Lucky, Dan Titchener, and others will be sorely missed, but Husker fans are confident Bo & Co. will bring in fresh talent to fill those spots.
SEASON GRADE: B+ (well above expectation)
POSTSEASON GRADE: A (nice to have a bowl game win again)
BO PELINI: Praise God for you.
NATE SWIFT: Whatever NFL team drafts you is my new favorite team.
Kansas Jayhawks (8-5, 4-4)
The Jayhawks would not have another 12-1 season.
It became apparent that 2007's magic was a fleeting one after then-No. 13 Kansas lost to South Florida, 37-34. And though the Jayhawks were never bad, they only rose above mediocre in performances against Missouri and Nebraska.
Kansas' Todd Reesing quickly fell out of the Heisman race when it was clear his numbers would not match those he put up in 2007. However, Reesing and Kansas finished the season strong with a regular season closer win over Missouri and an impressive bowl victory over Minnesota.
SEASON GRADE: C
POSTSEASON GRADE: A-
MARK MANGINO: No comment.
TODD REESING: Tough luck. Probably shouldn't have snubbed Nebraska.
Colorado Buffaloes (5-7, 2-6)
Well, the Buffaloes still have a lot of work to do.
After winning their first three games (including West Virginia in overtime), the Buffaloes dropped their next three games. A 14-13 victory over Kansas State was erased from fans' minds by a 58-0 loss to Missouri, emphasized by coach Dan Hawkins' futile attempts to instigate a two-quarterback system.
The coach's son and starting quarterback, Cody Hawkins, played a hot-and-cold season, playing fairly well one week and seeming totally absent the next. The Buffaloes were unable to get much working and lost in terrific fashion the day after Thanksgiving to Nebraska in Lincoln before my entire family's eager eyes to be kept from bowl eligibility.
SEASON GRADE: C-
POSTSEASON: Ha ha ha—yeah, maybe next year.
DAN HAWKINS: Don't recruit any more of your kids.
CODY HAWKINS: Punch your dad in the face for me, will you?
Kansas State Wildcats (5-7, 2-6)
The biggest story from Kansas State's season wasn't how they finished, but that their coach was fired.
The number of minority head coaches with jobs seems to be a hot topic these days, and Kansas State's firing of coach Ron Prince just added fuel to the fire. Prince wasn't doing a terrible job, but he certainly wasn't doing an acceptable job.
The Wildcats, despite having talented Josh Freeman at the helm of the offense, were unable to find much success in Big 12 play, catching wins from two of the three teams below them on the totem pole. Other than that, the season was fairly dismal.
Kansas State hired legend Bill Snyder back to turn the program around (probably because they saw what Tom Osborne was able to do with the reins at Nebraska), but Freeman has declared pro. Kansas State's future is uncertain, but Snyder has the ability to bring the program back. It just won't be next season.
SEASON GRADE: D
RON PRINCE: Sucks to be you.
JOSH FREEMAN: Good luck finding a job after the NFL rejects you.
Baylor Bears (4-8, 2-6)
Although the Bears finished with a poor record, things are looking up for Baylor. Coach Art Briles appears to be turning the program around, centered on freshman sensation Robert Griffin. The quarterback set the NCAA record for number of attempts to begin a career without an interception, stretching across games against Wake Forest and Oklahoma before being broken against Oklahoma State, who is coached by the previous record holder Mike Gundy.
The Bears have long been the laughingstock of Big 12 football, vindicating their spot in the conference through great basketball, but times are changing. Baylor looks to have an even better season next year, building momentum and garnering recruits.
SEASON GRADE: C (practically an A by Baylor standards)
ART BRILES: I'm eager to see what you can do.
ROBERT GRIFFIN: You scared the crap out of me the way you played Nebraska. Keep it up.
Texas A&M Aggies (4-8, 2-6)
Dennis Franchione left a mess behind at Texas A&M that Mike Sherman hasn't been able to clean up yet.
Stephen McGee's final season with the Aggies was certainly a forgettable one. The horrific exploits of Texas A&M week after week are rivaled only by the winless conference schedule of Iowa State (more to come on the next slide).
I can only imagine how hard it would have been as a TAMU fan to watch the Aggies fall again to Texas and Texas Tech, and to become yet another victim of Oklahoma's 60+ offense. It will probably be years before the team can be salvaged to a respectable stature (something Baylor is swiftly approaching).
SEASON GRADE: D-
MIKE SHERMAN: Good luck.
THE 12TH MAN: Hard to cheer when there's nothing to cheer for, huh.
Iowa State Cyclones (2-10, 0-8)
Much like Kansas State, Iowa State's head coach fiasco has been in the news recently more than their season because of the hot-button issue of minority head coaches.
However, I don't like discussing the topic, so I'll skip it for now.
Iowa State started off 2-0. Then they lost their next 10 games and came up short of a single conference victory.
For those of you not privileged to have been able to see Iowa State play this season, they were TERRIBLE. I'd venture to say if Washington (0-12) had the chance to play Iowa State, the Huskies might have picked up a win for this season.
So, because this makes ALL the sense in the world, Auburn decided to fire successful head coach Tommy Tuberville and hire the guy who led his team to a 2-10 record. ... WHAT?!? Someone explain that to me.
Oh well. Iowa State was horrendous this season. Lucky for them, the teams from the state of Washington were just a little worse.
SEASON GRADE: F
GENE CHIZIK: Seriously?!?
IOWA STATE: Sucks to lose a losing coach to a better program, huh.
Big 12 Conference
And the conference overall? I concede to SEC fans that your conference turned out to be a little stronger than my conference in the end.
However, I still love the Big 12 and will continue to preach of its dominance next season until proven wrong otherwise.
OVERALL CONFERENCE GRADE