Big 12 South in league of its own

Sunday, December 4, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:39 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

The scoreboard read 70-3. But it said much, much more than that.

When Texas pummeled Colorado in the Big 12 Championship game on Saturday, using every conceivable weapon it could find by game’s end, some points were made sparklingly clear.

1. The Big 12 South Division should secede from the conference. Having to share its name with teams like Iowa State and Kansas reflects badly on it every time, and now that Nebraska is just another team, there is nothing of substance connecting the programs in the south with those in the north.

2. Conference championship games are a farce. These should be between the best two teams in the conference, if they’re held at all, and should serve as more than an opportunity for a top team (Oklahoma in 2003, for instance) to slip and fall against a mediocre opponent that overcame its own mediocre opponents on the way to a mediocre season.

3. Missouri can and should win the Big 12 North Division next year.

Missouri can win with Chase Daniel. That was the message when he led the team back against Iowa State. His presence will lessen the sting of losing Brad Smith, but the point is that this team can survive without the Golden Boy at the helm.

Granted, several important seniors are leaving, but with one spring and summer of practice, look for Daniel to make a splash in the conference — and certainly in the division — next season. He will have weapons, especially Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker, two valuable and underused players this year.

The team’s look will necessarily change. Coach Gary Pinkel will have all off-season to debate the merits of the spread offense, but it says here that without Brad Smith’s feet, the crowds at Faurot will see much less run-and-gun and far more I-formation, pro-style sets.

(Then again, this is Pinkel, master of keeping everyone, perhaps even his own players, guessing. See: game against Colorado in the late-first and early-second quarters.)

Whatever the choice, Missouri will still have to get past its own history of mistakes and its tendency of playing down to its opponent. Lumped into those two elements are beating Kansas, who is both an opponent Missouri screws up against and plays down to.

The Big 12 North Division, as exemplified by this game, is wide-open. Perhaps it’s even fair to say it’s a bad division. With that in mind, if Missouri only plays decently, it should at least make it to the 2006 championship game next season.

Unless everyone comes to their senses and conference championship games are abolished.

Or the South Division looks around, doesn’t like what it sees, and splits off to form the Really Big Six.

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