Monday, April 05, 2010

Big 12 Recap: 2005-2009

Thus far in our offseason half-decade retrospective, we've looked at the ACC, Big East, and Big 10. Now we examine the Big 12. Care to hazard any guesses as to who the 2 best teams in this league are?

First off, here are combined Big 12 standings from 2005-2009.Texas and Oklahoma are the Yankees and Red Sox of the Big 12. However, Texas is the only team to have gone undefeated in league play (2005 and 2009). Over the past 5 seasons, the Red Raiders from Texas Tech have not only been the 3rd best team in what has amounted to a 2 team league, but they have gone a respectable 4-6 against Texas and Oklahoma (beating Oklahoma 3 straight times in Lubbock). And while the Red Raiders have made a habit of taking it to the bullies of the Big 12 on numerous occasions, they have also been subject to a few shockers as well. The Red Raiders have lost 3 straight at Oklahoma State, once to a very good Cowboy team (2009), once to a thoroughly mediocre Cowboy team (2007), and once to a Cowboy team that would have gone winless in the Big 12 if not for the generosity of Tech (2005). The Red Raiders also dropped home games to lackluster squads from Texas A&M (2009), Missouri (2006), and Colorado (2007) teams. If the Aggies and Buffs had not won those games, they would not have even been bowl eligible. Elsewhere in the standings, Missouri and Nebraska have clearly been the cream of the crop in the Big 12 North. Oklahoma State and coach Mike Gundy deserve major kudos. After bottoming out in his first season at 1-7, the Cowboys have nearly clawed their way back to .500, going 18-14 in league play over the past 4 seasons. Baylor is the lone Big 12 team to not post at least a break even mark in league play at least once since 2005. The Bears (2007) are also one of only 2 teams (Iowa St in 2008) to post winless seasons in league play.

Now here is the standard deviation of each team's conference record (in wins). Teams are ranked from the most inconsistent to the least.Kansas has been the most inconsistent Big 12 team of the last half-decade. This is primarily the result of their dream 2007 season (7-1), followed shortly thereafter by a 1-7 nightmare (2009) that saw them lose their final 7 games and ultimately cost Mark Mangino his job. Oklahoma has been the most consistent team, alternating 6 and 7 win seasons from 2005 through 2008, before bottoming out (relatively) with 5 league wins in 2009.

Now here is each team's point differential in conference play since 2005.The point differential standings align almost perfectly with the actual league standings. The only real head-scratcher is Missouri's large lead over Nebraska in point differential (+221 points) resulting in only a one-game lead in the standings. All of this difference can be attributed to the historic 2007 season that saw Nebraska sink to new lows and Missouri reach new heights. Missouri's point differential (+154) was 236 more than Nebraska's (-82) that season. if we remove 2007 from the equation, Nebraska actually has a slight advantage in point differential (+113 to +96) and in the standings (21-11 to 17-15).

With this being the end of the decade, here's the tally of conference and division titles.Again, no shocker. Well, maybe a little. While Texas has the better league mark since 2005, Oklahoma really dominated this conference in the first half of the aughts. They won 4 of 5 South Division titles and thrice went unbeaten in Big 12 play (regular season). They were 36-4 against the Big 12 from 2000-2004. Of course, Texas was no slouch, compiling a 34-6 record over the same span. However, the Longhorns never defeated the Sooners in that stretch and won only a single division title, which they blew as heavy favorites to Colorado in 2001. The South has been favored in each Big 12 Championship Game in the past decade, and the pair of titles won by the North occurred in somewhat shocking (Colorado over Texas in 2001) and ultra-shocking fashion (Kansas St over Oklahoma in 2003).

And finally, what was the biggest takeaway from the 00 decade in the Big 12?
The fundamental shift in power from the Big 12 North to the Big 12 South. When the Big 12 was formed in the mid-1990's the class of the conference was clearly in the North. Nebraska had just won back-to-back national titles (94 and 95). They would contend for another in 1996 before sharing the title with Michigan in 1997. Kansas State was experiencing its finest decade ever under Bill Snyder. Colorado was still a national player, appearing in bowl games in 10 out of 11 seasons from 1985-1995, along with a somewhat dubious national title in 1990. It should be noted that when the league formed, even perennial doormat Kansas was coming off a 10-win season in 1995. Meanwhile, the 2 big boy programs in what would be the South were experiencing some of their worst times. Howard Schnellenberger and John Blake conspired to run Oklahoma into the ground, posting a 17-27-1 record in their 4 combined seasons (1995-1998). While Texas did upset Nebraska in the first ever Big 12 Championship Game in 1996 (for which Steve Spurrier is eternally grateful), the Longhorns managed only a 41-28-2 record in 6 seasons under John Mackovic (1992-1997) and lost at least 4 games each season save one. After the schools canned Blake and Mackovic, they certainly hired the right men for the job. Meanwhile, back in the North, Nebraska slipped a little under Tom Osborne's successor Frank Solich. After releasing him of his duties, they slipped a lot more under Bill Callahan. Kansas State also slipped under Bill Snyder. Upon his retirement, the program slipped a lot more under his replacement Ron Prince. Colorado also slipped under Gary Barnett and then really faceplanted when they hired zen guru Dan Hawkins to take his place. The fall of these 3 powers allowed programs such as Missouri, Kansas, and Iowa State to enjoy some of their finest seasons in the late-1990's and 2000's. However, the fall of those formerly elite 1990's programs caused a severe divisional imbalance. In the 1990's, Big 12 North Division teams were a combined 42-30 against teams from the South. That's good for a winning percentage of .583. In those 4 seasons, the North never finished worse than 9-9 against the South. Since 2000, the North has enjoyed exactly 2 winning seasons against the South (2001 and 2007). In both those seasons, the North went 10-8 against the South. They also broke even in 2000. From 2000-2009, the North has gone 65-155 against the South. That's a winning percentage of .361. The chart below shows the Big 12 North's winning percentage versus the South since the conference formed prior to the 1996 season.

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