Wherever you go you will always find proponents and opponents of conference championship games in college football. You really can't argue with the fact that there have been some pretty meaningless games over the years, but there have also been some awesome ones that have had HUGE ramifications on the national stage.
The Big 12 certainly has had their fair share of thrilling championship games, and I'm going to try to figure out which one was the best. So without further ado, here is the comprehensive list of Big 12 Championships, 13 through 1.
13. 2005 Texas v. Colorado (Reliant Stadium, Houston, TX)
There was absolutely never any doubt who the winner of this game was going to be. It was simply billed as a Big 12 money maker, and the last show in Vince Young's hometown before he rode off to become a legend in Pasadena.
While the outcome was never in doubt before the game, I don't think anyone could have ever expected what was to come. A 70-3 beat down by Texas was by far the most lopsided defeat in any championship game in college football history.
This game was without a doubt the low point for the North division. Colorado backed into the game in a division that nobody seemed to want to win. I guess nobody wanted to be the sacrificial lamb for the Longhorns.
The worst part about the game is that the score isn't even indicative of how much of a beat down this game was. The last point was put up with 7:36 left to go in the third quarter. If they had wanted, Texas could have put up well over 100 points with ease.
Adding to the misery for Colorado was a big time hit on quarterback Joel Klatt that gave him a nasty concussion. It was simply adding injury to insult.
This was without a doubt the worst championship game in Big 12 history, and likely will remain so forever.
12. 2008 Missouri v. Oklahoma (Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri)
This is another game that had no real question as to who would win going in. The only question surrounding this one was whether or not OU would put up 60 again against a far inferior opponent.
Yes, they did tack on a classless touchdown to get the record for most 60 point games in a row with a 62-21 rout of Missouri.
Everyone wanted to see if Missouri could somehow rebound from a disappointing season, and get to a BCS bowl, but they were clearly outclassed just as they were against Texas earlier in the season.
All in all this was a truly meaningless game, which could have been better had it been say a South division rematch with Texas and OU, but instead we all had to settle with this pathetic excuse for a "championship" game.
11. 1997 Nebraska v. Texas A&M (Alamodome, San Antonio, TX)
This was the last season of Tom Osborne's coaching career, and he wasn't about to be denied his shot at a championship. Only upstart Texas A&M stood in his way, but for all the magic the Aggie's had that year, nobody was going to stop this locomotive on their way to a split national championship.
Nebraska jumped out to a 16-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, and then made it 23-0 before A&M finally kicked a field goal to get on the board. The final was a dominating Cornhusker victory by the score of 54-15 which really wasn't as close as it sounds.
10 & 9. 2002 &2004 Colorado v. Oklahoma (Reliant and Arrowhead Stadiums)
I lumped these two together so i didn't have to write the same thing over.
In 2002 Colorado was trying to pull yet another upset of the South division and become the first ever repeat champion of the Big 12. However, Oklahoma denied them at the door pulling off an easy 29-7 drumming of Colorado.
In 2004 OU was looking to make another BCS title game appearance by going undefeated. They went into the game clearly on a mission after being embarrassed the year before. OU walked way with yet another Big 12 title after a 42-3 beat-down of the Buffaloes.
8. 1999 Nebraska v. Texas (Alamodome)
This was one of the most dominating defensive performances in championship game history. Texas was only able to gain six yards rushing on the ground, and their only touchdown came via a fumble return.
Correll Buckhalter and Eric Crouch on the offensive side were unstoppable as the Husker O-line just dominated the defensive front of the Longhorns.
Nebraska was up early with a 10-0 lead at the end of one, and with the way the defense played the 22-6 final seemed much much worse than the score indicates.
7. 2006 Oklahoma v. Nebraska (Arrowhead Stadium)
This is a game that Oklahoma was expected to dominate going in despite having backed into the game because of two straight Texas losses at the end of the season.
While they did win easily it wasn't really the dominating performance that everyone expected, and should have been a sign that Boise would be able to keep up with and perhaps beat the Sooners.
The 21-7 win by the Sooners was a real lackluster performance.
6. 2007 Oklahoma v. Missouri (Alamodome)
This was the year that the Big 12 North was supposed to be catching up to the South, but it wasn't meant to be for the Tigers.
Missouri had high hopes going to the Alamo City as the top ranked team in the nation. However, as was the case earlier in the season, the Tigers were unable to handle the Sooners.
The Sooners walked out of San Antonio with a 38-17 victory, but more over they threw a huge wrench into the BCS as a plethora of teams now sat with two losses. Ultimately Missouri got the big screw by the BCS committee and wound up in the Cotton Bowl, and OU had yet another BCS meltdown.
5. 2003 Kansas State v. Oklahoma (Arrowhead Stadium)
Going into this matchup, Oklahoma was being billed as perhaps the greatest team ever as they had completely destroyed every team they played coming into this game.
However, perhaps overlooking their North division foe, and perhaps being a bit overrated (or a lot) the Sooners were quickly given a reality check by shifty Darren Sproles and the Wildcats.
Sproles put together 235 rushing yards as the Wildcats scored 35 straight points after OU scored the opening touchdown to rumble to a stunning 35-7 victory.
The game wasn't necessarily great, but I guarantee there wasn't anyone in America watching whose jaw wasn't on the floor as K-State walked all over a team that had sat at No. 1 for 16 straight weeks. The shock value of this game is what lands it at No. 5 on this list.
Despite the loss and being ranked No. 3 in both polls, OU still went to play LSU in the BCS championship game which resulted in the first and only split championship in the BCS era.
4. 2000 Kansas State v. Oklahoma (Arrowhead Stadium)
OU was without a doubt the surprise team in 2000. However, by the time that the Championship game rolled around Oklahoma was no longer sneaking up on people considering their number one ranking.
However, K-State ranked number seven was a very formidable opponent, plus the game was in Kansas City. So the scene was set for an epic battle between the Sooners and the Wildcats.
The three point, 27-24, victory for Oklahoma lifted OU to the BCS title game versus FSU, and the rise back to elite status was complete for Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners.
3. 2001 Colorado v. Texas (Texas Stadium, Irving, TX)
This game was filled with all kinds of national title implications. After No. 2 Tennessee fell earlier in the day, No. 3 Texas seemed primed to be going to Pasadena to take on Miami.
It seemed Texas would be well on its way to it's second Big 12 championship as they scored without much resistance on their first drive of the game. However, things would quickly change for the Longhorns after that as Colorado went on to score 16 unanswered points.
Much maligned Texas quarterback Chris Simms was booed off the field at the end of the second quarter and replaced by the more popular Major Applewhite.
Given the opportunity to bring Texas back from the dead, Major led what was almost one of the greatest comebacks in football history.
The Longhorns were down by 19 points in the third and 16 points going into the fourth, but they fought all the way back to pull within six, but a late Colorado field goal made the lead almost insurmountable.
Texas scored yet again to pull within two, but were unable to recover the onside kick, and Colorado was victorious 39-37, and created perhaps the biggest BCS controversy ever.
2. 1998 Kansas State v. Texas A&M (Trans World Dome, St. Louis, MO)
This was the first Big 12 championship that pitted two top 10 teams against each other. K-State came into the game ranked No. 2, and were looking to make it to the first ever BCS title game.
A&M, however had other plans for the Wildcats.
The game was dominated early by the Wildcats as they had built up a 27-12 lead over the Aggie's by the end of the third quarter.
However, A&M was able to run off 15 unanswered points in the fourth to tie the game and send it into overtime. The first OT was a stalemate with both teams trading field goals.
K-State got the ball first in the second OT, and only managed another field goal. They then had A&M backed up to a 3rd-and-17 when RB Sirr Parker became a championship game legend by hauling in a 32 yard touchdown pass to lead the Aggie's to a 33-36 victory over the heavily favored Wildcats.
1. 1996 Texas v. Nebraska (Trans World Dome)
This game was the epitome of why Tom Osborne was dead set against a championship game when the Big 12 formed. His Cornhuskers came into the game ranked No. 3 and still with a shot at a national championship.
The Texas Longhorns came into the game unranked and big time underdogs.
What happened between the two is now college football lore.
The Longhorns didn't have any real big time stars on their team. Ricky Williams was still a freshman, and Priest Holmes never really made a name for himself until well into his pro-career. QB James Brown probably would have faded into oblivion if not for this game.
Texas took a surprising 20-17 lead into halftime, and come out and extended that lead to 23-17 to start the third.
Nebraska would answer twice to go up 27-23. Having apparently gained all the momentum, and being the better team, it appeared Nebraska had the game in hand.
However, Brown would make the first of his two big plays in the game as he found Wayne McGarity for a 66-yd touchdown strike to put the Longhorns ahead 30-27.
Then, Brown would pull off one of the most famous plays in Big 12 championship history.
With the Longhorns facing a fourth-and-one on their OWN 28 yard line, with a three point lead, and only 2:40 left in the game, head coach John Mackovic called one of the gutsiest, and perhaps dumbest plays ever.
On the 4th-and-1 deep in their own territory Texas lined up to run a play instead of punt and put the game in the hands of the defense.
To further elevate the situation the Longhorns didn't go with a running play, but instead threw a 61-yard pass to back up tight end Derek Lewis. Priest Holmes would then run in an 11-yard touchdown to seal the thrilling 37-27 win for the Longhorns.
More importantly it cost Nebraska a shot at the Sugar Bowl and National Championship versus Florida State.
Other Championship Notes
Here are some interesting things worth noting about Big 12 championship games.
When the Big 12 was formed the North was expected to be the dominate division because OU and Texas were still in the middle of their down slide, and there was no real power team to speak of in the South.
However, the North division is 4-9 in Big 12 Championships with Nebraska leading the way with two wins.
Of the four wins by the North, three have come in venues which were in the South division. The only win by a North team in North division territory was by Kansas State in 2003, which was actually supposed to be a year that the game was in the South Division, but due to some previous circumstances the game was held in Kansas City.
Despite their lack of success in bowl games recently, Oklahoma is the only Big 12 team above .500 in Big 12 championship games with a record of 6-1. Nebraska and Texas are second with records of 2-2. A&M is also a .500 team with a record of 1-1.
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