For the second consecutive year, the North was won in an unorthodox way, mostly because it seemed like nobody wanted to win it.
A week after Missouri blew a two-touchdown lead, and all hopes of winning the Big 12 North Division, in a 36-28 loss to Kansas State, both Colorado and Iowa State blew their chances to be crowned division champs.
Nebraska surprised Colorado 30-3 in Boulder, Colo., Friday, giving the Cyclones control of the division. Then Iowa State lost a 14-3 lead at Kansas and lost 24-21 in overtime.
In the end, Colorado backed into the division title for the second straight year with a 5-3 Big 12 record. The Buffaloes earned — no, that’s the wrong word — tripped into a chance to play No. 2 Texas in the Big 12 Championship on Saturday in Houston.
Missouri, meanwhile, will sit at home and watch as the Buffaloes play Texas, wondering what could have been. The Tigers finished 4-4 in the conference but were a win or two away from being in Houston themselves. Perhaps the only thing that can keep those thoughts away will be wondering what bowl game the 6-5 Tigers will attend.
The top four Big 12 spots appear to be taken by Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and probably Colorado. That leaves Iowa State, Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas for the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., the Forth Worth (Texas) Bowl, the Houston Bowl and the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla. Those four have slots for the Big 12’s Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 8 teams.
Determining which of those three teams will land in which bowl, however, is nearly impossible. Here’s a breakdown of each bowl, Missouri’s chances of being invited and who possible opponents could be:
Fort Worth Bowl, 7 p.m., Dec. 23, FORT WORTH TEX., ESPN: This game, which invites the Big 12’s No. 8 team, wasn’t even an option for the Tigers until Kansas’ win against Iowa State made the Jayhawks the conference’s eighth bowl team. And even though Kansas was the last team to reach the plateau, don’t automatically put the Jayhawks here. They have defeated Iowa State, Missouri and Nebraska, so should come above at least one of those teams in the bowl pecking order. That team could be Missouri. The other team in this bowl will be Conference USA’s fourth pick. That will probably be Southern Mississippi, Memphis or Houston.
Champs Sports Bowl, Orlando, 4 p.m., Dec. 27, ESPN: Nebraska appeared to be the likely choice here until the Cornhuskers beat Colorado. That could lift them to the Independence Bowl and leave a sunny date in Florida to the Tigers. Remember, Nebraska is an attractive choice for any bowl because of its large, willing-to-travel fan base.
A tough Atlantic Coast Conference team awaits whoever goes to Orlando. It figures to be Florida State, Clemson or Boston College, all of whom have been in and out of the top 25 all season.
Independence Bowl, Shreveport, 2:30 p.m., Dec. 30, ESPN: Iowa State has played here twice recently and bowl games try to avoid repeats so the Cyclones are unlikely to be chosen here. That means Nebraska, Missouri or Kansas will fall here. The likely opponent is the lowest-rated Southeastern Conference bowl team, the No. 19 Florida Gators. Several college football Web sites predict that the Tigers will take on the Gators in Shreveport.
Houston Bowl, Houston, 1:30 p.m., Dec. 31, ESPN2: Amid all this uncertainty, at least we know one team that will play in the Houston Bowl. No. 15 Texas Christian has already accepted an invite to play here. The Horned Frogs’ opponent will probably be the most attractive Big 12 team left after the Independence and Champs Sports games pick. Colorado wouldn’t get picked here because the Buffaloes played in the game last year. By winning the North, however, CU has likely risen above this spot anyway.
Then again, everything could change if Colorado shocks Texas on Saturday. That would likely put both the Buffaloes and Longhorns in Bowl Championship Series games and move all of the other Big 12 teams up one spot.
So there it is. Clear?
Best bet? Wait until Dec. 4, the day after the Big 12 title game and the day bowl bids will be announced. But no matter what bowl game selects the Tigers, things won’t be easy. A ranked opponent awaits in three of the Tigers’ four potential matchups.
Find out where the Tigers are going bowling.
WHAT: BCS Bowl Selection Show
WHEN: 4 p.m., Dec. 4
TV: KMIZ/Channel 10