In the photo shown here, once again we see the Oklahoma Sooners celebrating their sixth Big 12 Football Championship, and third straight, after last year's 62-24 pasting of the Missouri Tigers.
In fact, the South has won the last five Big 12 Championship games and seven out of the last nine. The two wins by the North (Colorado and Kansas State, respectively) were big upsets to boot.
Thus as we roll into the 2009 Football season, the members of the Big 12 North are seriously looking for some respect, and for that matter, some retribution for being called the worst BCS division in all of College Football.
The question is, can they?
Ever since Oklahoma won the National Championship back in the 2000 season, the Big 12 North has pretty well been taking it on the chin from their brothers in the South. No reason to argue against it: the numbers simply tell us as much.
If the Big 12 North rise is to happen, it must happen against the 'elite' teams from the South. I'll highlight these matchups, and what must happen for the North to reclaim some respect.
The four favorites in the North this year were had a combined 0-10 record last year against Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech, respectively.
The total combined scores of those contests was 456-224, or an average score of 45-22. Hardly competitive to say the least.
So how does the North close the gap? I feel the talent has gotten closer over the last several years as some teams have taken some lumps with younger teams, and lesser talent. That gap has definitely closed.
And I truly believe we will see that gap closing in 2009. I have no doubts that the 456-224 gap will get closed upon this year. The question is: How much?
With the gap, I'll preview the games that matter, and give some reasons why the North team cannot only close the gap, but actually win.
Time to preview the meaningful games in 2009:
Missouri @ Oklahoma State: Oct. 17
Last year the Tigers were pretty heavy favorites to hand the Pokes a pretty decisive defeat. The 28-23 upset, sent Missouri on a tailspin for the rest of the year as they finished a mediocre 5-4 including wins over down-trodden Iowa State and Kansas State, along with an unimpressive showing in the Big 12 Championship game and Alamo Bowl against heavy underdog Northwestern.
Payback is the name of the game here. Missouri will be getting two days more of rest after their Thursday night clash with Nebraska, and Okie State could be coming off of a hard fought battle with upstart Texas A&M on the road.
Shootouts don't really scare either of these teams, and we should full well expect one in this contest. This is a daunting task, but Missouri does have some weapons to score with Okie State.
Question is, can they? Not a likely victory for the North, but a good showing is imperative. The five points lost here will likely not be made up.
Texas @ Missouri: Oct. 24
Yet another payback game for the Tigers. Texas completely dismantled them on prime time TV last year to the tune of 56-31 in Austin. And honestly, it wasn't that close.
What Missouri has in their favor in this one is that Texas will be coming off of their annual Red River Rivalry game with Oklahoma.
It didn't help them much last year, but with this game being at home in '09, Missouri is the type of team that could give Texas fits: a mobile QB with a solid RB to help them out in the run game with the home crowd behind them.
I've already pegged this game as a very possible upset. Throw in the likelihood of Missouri getting beaten handily by Okie State and Texas beating Oklahoma the week prior, and this game will be flying very much under the radar for many fans.
Don't count Missouri out in this payback contest. The 25-point victory out of Texas last year could easily sink into single digits, and possibly end up in a straight-up loss.
Texas Tech @ Nebraska: Oct. 17
The Huskers suffered a narrow loss in Lubbock last year, losing 37-31 in OT the very week after getting their heads handed to them at home 52-17 by Missouri.
The early line has Nebraska as a favorite in this contest, but one should never count out the explosive Texas Tech crew.
Any way that you look at it, this game must go in the North's favor in order to restore some respect and pride. A 10-point swing should be expected.
Oklahoma @ Nebraska: Nov. 7
One of College Football's greatest rivalries will be wagered in Lincoln, Neb., this fall. Oklahoma put an early and decisive licking on the Huskers last year in Norman to the tune of 62-28. And once again, it wasn't even that close.
This could be a matchup of ranked foes, and will undoubtedly be on National TV unless one of these teams completely implodes before November.
I doubt it will be Oklahoma, and Nebraska needs to win at least two out of three contests against previous opponents in Virginia Tech, Missouri, and Texas Tech to make this game of any interest at all.
Either way, the Huskers have to play well in this game. Especially at home, and especially to show that last year's game was of the past.
Oklahoma will be favored, but put no doubt that this game is earmarked on the Husker calendar as a game in which the Husker faithful have pegged since last year's massacre in Norman.
It is doubtful that Nebraska would ever catch Oklahoma off-guard, but they do have enough talent to make this one at least interesting, and maybe even able to pull off the shocking upset.
The 34-point difference is easily in the sub-20s and likely single digits. A straight up upset? Maybe.
Colorado @ Texas: Oct. 10
Colorado is a very different team. Even when they struggle through bad years, they step up and give an elite team or two all that they can handle.
But I have to be honest on this one. This game doesn't shape up very well for the North. Colorado will be coming off of a road visit to West Virginia while Texas will be coming off of a bye week and getting prepared for their Red Rivalry matchup with Oklahoma.
Colorado's only chance is if Texas shows up rusty and anticipating next week's game with Oklahoma.
If anything, Colorado must at least show up and not roll over to Texas as many will be expecting. A 20-point or more loss is likely, similar to last year.
Colorado @ Oklahoma State: Nov. 19
Now this is a game Colorado can win. They will be coming off of games against Texas A&M at home and Iowa State on the road, while Okie State will have just played Texas Tech at home and looking forward to a Bedlam Series game with in-state rival Oklahoma.
If, and I mean if, Colorado can stay somewhat healthy to this point in the season they will likely give Okie State everything they want, and maybe even more.
A team that can run the ball right down their throats has been Okie State's achille's heel for many a year. Colorado may well have that come November.
Keep Zac Robinson, Kendall Hunter, and Dez Bryant on the sidelines for long stretches of time, and give your defense a rest is the recipe for beating the Pokes.
Colorado can do that. Will they? I like their chances in this one. At the very least, they should be competitive. Colorado gains on last year's 13-point loss to Okie State.
Oklahoma @ Kansas: Oct. 24
Once again, the Red River Rivalry game comes into play as Oklahoma will be coming off of that contest as they enter this one on the road in Lawrence.
Kansas can score. Their biggest problem will be handling OU's front 4 on defense.
Last year Kansas showed the ability to move the ball against this same OU defense in Norman. The 45-31 loss was really never in doubt, but Dezmon Briscoe proved to be one of the elite WR's in all of College Football in that contest.
Can he repeat that performance?
Not likely, but I also look for his mates in Meier and Wilson to help him out much more this time around.
Jake Sharp and the running game must be somewhat effective in order for Kansas to simply not resort to the "chuck-n-duck" style they displayed in Norman last year.
It will be tough task, but don't look for former OU assistant in the head man in Mangino to be overwhelmed by OU either.
If they can keep OU one-dimensional on offense, we could have a storied shootout in Lawrence. And with KU having a better secondary, they could come up with the all-important pick to turn the momentum.
Kansas will likely give Oklahoma a very spirited battle in this one. With the change in scenery to Lawrence, they very well could pull this one out. The 14 point win by OU last year, should get cut into, but it could also get worse.
Kansas @ Texas Tech: Oct. 31
Perfect. Halloween. This game will be ghastly for any defensive coordinator in the country to watch.
In all likelihood, these teams should just drop the pads and play 7 on 7 against each other with tackles being two hand touch below the waist.
But in all seriousness, it should be a competitive game. And it very well could come down to who holds the ball last as so many games in Texas Tech lore have done so before.
Fully expect a four-hour game and at least 900 yards of offense, and I'll also look for the little general in Todd Reesing to somehow pull this one out.
A 42+ point swing in this one should be expected after the humbling 63-21 loss KU suffered to Texas Tech last year.
Kansas @ Texas: Nov. 21
Sometimes there are matchups that just don't go very well. The 35-7 pasting Texas put on Kansas in Lawrence last year is really all that needs to be said.
This one might get ugly early and often for Kansas. Especially coming off of a game with Nebraska and next week's contest with Missouri that could prove to be for the Big 12 Championship game North entrant.
Kansas simply won't be able to run the ball, and Reesing will likely be under a lot of heat as they feel the wrath of Texas' overall depth, size, and speed. Just like they saw last year.
Sometimes you have to be honest. This one just doesn't look good for the North. Although Texas won by 28, it will likely be worse this time around in Austin.
These are the games pitting the powers from the the North and the South this year in the Big 12. Nine of them.
In order for the North to start driving towards some respect they need to at least win three or four of them. Five or more obviously means a rise, but anything less than three or four means the North is still the South's whipping boy.
I think the North does get three or four wins, and throws a serious wrench into this year's National Title game representatives.
But the real question still remains. Can the North win the Big 12 Championship game? I think we just might...