With the exit of Colorado and Nebraska, Gary Pinkel leads the most impressive team left from the Big 12's former North division.
Given, that’s a title won by default, but that doesn’t make Pinkel’s situation going into 2011 any less advantageous.
While he will still have to battle teams like Nebraska for talent in his own backyard, in some cases, a chance to play in the Big 12 may trump that of other conferences.
Say what you will about a recruit’s desire to go up against tough competition.
Sometimes winning BCS conference championships and going to big-time bowls via a less daunting schedule is a more attractive prospect.
With a win over Iowa, Pinkel can parlay the future of the Tigers’ program into that of a true conference contender.
For Kirk Ferentz and Iowa, a win over Missouri is about stopping the bleeding.
A loss to Northwestern is forgivable to a point.
The Wildcats always seem to find the ability to sneak up on an opponent or two per season somehow.
The loss to Ohio State was unfortunate, but we’re talking about a BCS-level opponent.
Minnesota? That can’t be spun positively no matter how you try.
For Iowa, the Insight Bowl is also about making a statement for the following season.
Missouri will be looking to put its now-smaller conference on notice.
They’re ready to play with the big boys on a consistent basis.
Iowa, on the other hand, wants to prove that they have, can and will again.