Six Things to Be Thankful For in the Big 12 North

Chris FlanaganContributor INovember 26, 2009

LAWRENCE, KS - NOVEMBER 25:  Xavier Henry #1 of the Kansas Jayhawks competes for a rebound against Will Hudson #11 of the Oakland Golden Grizzlies during the game on November 25, 2009 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

When family and friends come together on Thanksgiving, many give thanks to good health, a good job, and a happy family. Today, give thanks to what has been an already exciting four months of football and basketball in the Big 12 North.

6. Colorado's Alec Burks

Colorado football fans have not had much to cheer for this year, but many have much to be excited about in basketball. Colorado came into the season with low expectations, but one freshman named Alec Burks has made a huge difference. In six games, he is averaging 16 points, including a 19-point performance against Arizona.

With Burks, Colorado has two scoring threats on the floor, which will make it tough for any defense to key in on one shooter the entire game. Burks is the spark coach Bzdelik needed to jump-start this program.

5. Iowa State's Paul Rhoads

After Gene Chizek left Iowa State for Auburn, athletic director Jamie Pollard knew he needed a football coach who understood what it takes to win at Iowa State. When he hired Paul Rhoads, who knew what type of turnaround he would have in his first year? A four-win difference in his first year at Iowa State has coach Rhoads as a hot commodity in the college football world. Since he is from the Ames area, don't expect him to leave anytime soon.

4. Kansas' Xavier Henry

Kansas was already going to be a preseason No. 1, returning everone from the 2008-2009 squad, but adding Xavier Henry to the team adds more depth to the Jayhawks. Not only does he lead the Jayhawks in PPG, but now Tyshawn Taylor and Tyrel Reed can come off the bench and still give the Jayhawks a talented backcourt while giving Henry a rest. The addition of Xavier gives the Jayhawks an edge to win the title in 2010.

3. Nike's Recognition of Missouri's Football Program

Missouri has been a very consistent football program that may not have gotten the recognition it deserves. Nike has changed that this weekend, at least. Missouri is one of 11 programs that Nike has chosen to introduce its new pro combat uniforms. Now this wouldn't be a big deal, but the company wanted to recognize what they considered to be the 11 elite programs in the country.

Even though Mizzou hasn't won a national championship, Nike believes that Missouri has a bright future ahead. This added creditability to Pinkel and his staff for what they have done will help Mizzou continue to recruit well and be a top-tier program.

2. Bo Pelini's Defense

In two years, Bo Pelini has taken the worst defense in the Big 12 to No. 2 in the Big 12, behind Texas. Bo Pelini has brought back the Blackshirts to dominance once again and developed players like Suh and Crick into top defensive lineman. Bo Pelini has captured his first Big 12 championship game appearance and with the improvement he has made on defense, don't expect it to be the last. Nebraska being back gives the Big 12 north more creditability as a top-tier football division.

1. Bill Snyder's Return to Kansas State

Bill Snyder was one win away from winning the north in his first year back at Kansas State. Even though the Wildcats will not play in a bowl game, Snyder has gotten the them back into the spotlight again. With Snyder back, it gives the Big 12 North three great programs in Missouri, Kansas State, and Nebraska that will garner national recognition in 2010 as part of the toughest division in college football.