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The Big 12 conference has been home to many great teams since its inception in 1996. Nebraska stomping on SEC champ Tennessee in the ’98 Orange bowl, Oklahoma’s return to power in 2000 over Florida State and Vince Young’s incredible comeback in the fourth quarter against USC.

Texas, Oklahoma & Nebraska were the major powers for the conference, with each giving the Big 12 a National Championship. But other Big 12 teams had a lot of success as well. Kansas, Kansas State, Texas Tech & Texas A&M all had impressive teams.

The Big 12 conference will lose two of its charter members July 1st, 2011. Nebraska is heading to the Big Ten conference and Colorado heading west to the Pacific 12. In anticipation for these moves, I have compiled a list of 10 teams, with a few honorable mentions, to commemorate the Big 12 1996-2010.
#10
2007 Kansas Jayhawks
12-1 (7-1 Big 12) #7 AP/Coaches
ORANGE BOWL CHAMPIONS
Truly a Cinderella story for the ’07 Jayhawks. They took full advantage of not having Texas or Oklahoma on their schedule as they navigated through their Big 12 schedule only losing once to #4 Missouri in Kansas City. Had KU won that game, they would have controlled their own destiny and possibly a trip to the National Championship game.

KU went on to defeat #5 Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl, giving their school their first ever BCS Bowl victory. Mark Mangino won consensus Coach of the Year honors.

Notable players: Tood Reesing, Kerry Meier, Tariq Talib
Notable statistics: 44.3ppg to only 16ppg allowed

#9
1997 Kansas State Wildcats
11-1 (7-1 Big 12) #8 AP / #7 Coaches
FIESTA BOWL CHAMPIONS
Bill Snyder and his Wildcats started off the season fast outscoring opponents 138 to 27 in their first three games. But then the Wildcats had to visit #3 Nebraska in Lincoln. A 56-26 beat down later, the Wildcats hobbled out of Lincoln. Fortunately the Wildcats rebounded and didn’t seriously face the prospect of losing the remainder of the season. Snyder and his Wildcats defeated Donovan McNabb and the Orangemen 35-18 in the Fiesta Bowl.

#8
2004 Texas Longhorns
11-1 (7-1 Big 12) #5 AP / #4 Coaches
ROSE BOWL CHAMPIONS
2004 would be a change of luck for Mack Brown and the Texas Longhorns. Texas kicked off the year drubbing North Texas 65-0, but then traveled to Fayetteville, Arkansas and had to slug out a close win against the Razorbacks of Arkansas. Texas would suffer its only defeat in the Red River Shootout against arch rival Oklahoma, losing 12-0. It was after this loss that the coaching staff decided to go in a different direction with Vince Young, and just let VY be…VY. Texas didn’t lose again during the season (And ultimately wouldn’t lose again until Colt McCoy’s second career game against Ohio State in September 2006) and went on to defeat Michigan in the Rose Bowl 38-37 under a wild finish.

Notable players: Cedric Benson (Doak Walker winner), Derrick Johnson (Butkus winner), Vince Young (Rose Bowl MVP)

#7
2008 Texas Longhorns
12-1 (7-1 Big 12) #4 AP / #3 Coaches
FIESTA BOWL CHAMPIONS
2008 would prove to be a year of redemption for Colt McCoy after coming off his terrible 2007 season. McCoy set the NCAA record for single season completion percentage (76.7%) and the Horns found themselves #1 heading into Lubbock against #5 Texas Tech. After a wild finish in which Graham Harrell threw a last second touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree with just one second justify on the clock, the Longhorns were forced to let the pollsters control their destiny due to Big 12 tie-breaking rules.

Ultimately the pollsters gave the nod to Oklahoma after the Sooners put up impressive margin of victories, and the Longhorns were relegated to the Fiesta Bowl where they needed a last-second miracle of their own, with McCoy finding Cosby for the game-winning touchdown over Ohio State.

Notable players: Colt McCoy (Heisman runner-up, Walter Camp PoY, Fiesta Bowl MVP), Brian Orakpo (Lombardi winner, Nagurski winner), Jordan Shipley, Quan Cosby
Notable statistics: Texas defeated both Big 12 Championship Game participants by double digits. (Oklahoma 45-35, Missouri 56-31)
#6
2004 Oklahoma Sooners
12-1 (8-0 Big 12) #3 AP / #3 Coaches
A season much of the Sooner Nation would like to forget was still a very good season for Oklahoma. The Sooners marched through the Big 12 unscathed and a win over arch-rival Texas 12-0, where star freshman Adrian Peterson had his breakout performance. Oklahoma returned its heisman quarterback Jason White and the Sooners walked into the Orange Bowl to face defending National Champion, and reigning Heisman winner Matt Leinart, with a lot of confidence that they could walk away with another National Championship. As the game finished 55-19, the Sooners walked out of the Orange Bowl in humiliation.

Notable players: Adrian Peterson (Heisman runner-up), Jason White (Heisman finalist)
Notable statistic: Southern California was forced to vacate their win over Oklahoma after the NCAA found that Reggie Bush was ineligible.

#5
1999 Nebraska Cornhuskers
12-1 (7-1 Big 12) #3 AP / #2 Coaches
FIESTA BOWL CHAMPIONS
Heading into Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium in late October, it appeared as though the Cornhuskers were cruising to another possible National Championship season. However, Mack Brown and his Horns had different ideas. Nebraska walked away with its only loss of the season, and dropped from #3 to #8. Nebraska went on to humiliate #21 Texas A&M 37-0, #5 Kansas St 41-15 and got their revenge against Texas in the Big 12 Title game 22-6.

Nebraska went to the Fiesta Bowl to play #6 Tennessee again, and walked away with another impressive victory 31-21 and finished the season #2 in the Coaches poll.

Notable players: Ralph Brown, Mike Brown, Dominic Raiola, Eric Crouch, Steve Warren

#4
2009 Texas Longhorns
13-1 (8-0 Big 12) #2 AP / #2 Coaches
Fresh off their 2008 snub to play for the National Championship, Colt McCoy & the Longhorns came into the season with a chip on their shoulder. Texas’ ride through their schedule wasn’t as exciting / dominating as the 2008 campaign, but Texas did manage to beat rivals Oklahoma, Texas A&M & Texas Tech and remain undefeated going into the Big 12 Championship game against Nebraska.

Defense dominated the Big 12 title game, with Ndamukong Suh having one of the most dominant defensive performances in BCS history. Texas however, managed to find themselves in field goal territory after a controversial ruling that put one additional second on the clock. Hunter Lawrence sent Texas to Pasadena.

The National Championship game began with a lot of promise of the Longhorns. Texas effortlessly drove the ball deep into the red zone, and it appeared as though McCoy and the Horns might finally give the rest of the country solace that they wouldn’t hear that annoying “”SEC”” chant at the end of the game. However this was not meant to be, as McCoy had a freak shoulder injury which forced Texas to insert true freshman Garrett Gilbert. Alabama was then able to merely run the ball, since Texas had no offensive production. Texas found itself saying “”what might have been””.

Notable players: Colt McCoy (Walter Camp PoY, Maxwell winner, Davey O’Brien winner), Jordan Shipley, Earl Thomas

#3
1997 Nebraska Cornhuskers
13-0 (8-0 Big 12) #2 AP / #1 Coaches
NATIONAL CHAMPIONS
ORANGE BOWL CHAMPIONS
The 1997 college football season needed the BCS probably more than just about any other season minus 2004 & 2005.

Nebraska began the season hot with a thrilling victory over #2 Washington in Husky Stadium, then later, humiliated arch-rival Oklahoma to the tune of 69-7. Fortunes turned however for the Cornhuskers, which ultimately contributed to their shared National title, when they needed an overtime victory over unranked Missouri to remain unbeaten. Nebraska fell from #1 to #3 after the game, and were unable to regain the AP #1 for the remainder of the year, despite humiliating SEC champ Tennessee 42-17 in the Orange Bowl.

Notable players: Grant Wistrom (Lombardi winner), Aaron Taylor (Outland winner), Jason Peter
Notable fact: Nebraska only won a share of the Nat’l Championship, despite playing #3 Tennessee in the Orange Bowl, while Michigan played #7 Washington State in the Rose. Michigan won the Associated Press Nat’l Championship, while Nebraska won the Coaches.

#2
2000 Oklahoma Sooners
13-0 (8-0 Big 12) #1 AP / #1 Coaches
NATIONAL CHAMPIONS
ORANGE BOWL CHAMPIONS
Oklahoma began their season #19 in the country, and just hoping to improve in the second year of the Bob Stoops era. Their fortunes would turn first in Dallas against arch-rival Texas, where the Sooners absolutely humiliated the Horns 63-14. Oklahoma rose to #8 after that victory, then dismantled #2 Kansas State in Manhattan, KS. Luck for the Sooners seemed to be returning back to their heydays, and this became fully evident 14 days later when the Sooners humiliated #1 Nebraska 31-13.

Oklahoma would have a near upset late in the season against in-state rival Oklahoma State, but the Sooners were able to walk away with a 12-7 victory, and a trip to the Big 12 Championship game against Kansas State. The Sooners barely escaped this time with a 27-24 victory, but thats all that was needed for a trip to the Orange Bowl, and in the end, Bob Stoops hoisting his first crystal ball.

Notable players: Josh Heupel (Walter Camp PoY), Roy Williams, Rocky Calmus, J.T. Thatcher

#1
2005 Texas Longhorns
13-0 (8-0 Big 12) #1 AP/ #1 Coaches
NATIONAL CHAMPIONS
ROSE BOWL CHAMPIONS
Arguably the best team of the entire BCS era, it’s no surprise that the 2005 Texas Longhorns come in at #1 for the best Big 12 teams ever. Texas returned nearly all key players minus Cedric Benson, Derrick Johnson and a few other role players, so Texas came into the season the preseason #2 with a lot of expectations and a pretty difficult out of conference game early in the year against #4 Ohio State. Vince Young and the Horns answered with a thrilling late victory over Ohio State and the Horns were not seriously challenged again until 1/4/2006.

The game that made this Texas team (and especially Vince Young) legends came against #1 Southern California in the 2006 Rose Bowl Nat’l Championship game. USC was the defending two-time National Champions with 34 straight victories, the reigning Heisman trophy winner (later to be forfeited) and the hordes of sports media singing their praises.

This didn’t matter a whole lot to Vince Young and the Texas defense though, and they proved right away that they definitely belonged on the field with USC as they went into halftime with the lead. USC came alive however in the 4th quarter and Texas found itself down 38-26 with just 6:42 to play.

Vince Young went on to score a touchdown on the ensuing drive, and then the defense came through with a crucial fourth-and-one stop on LenDale White to give Young a shot to win the Nat’l Championship for Texas. A fourth-and-five later, VY did precisely that.

Notable players: Vince Young (Heisman runner-up, Maxwell winner, Davey O’Brien winner, Rose Bowl MVP), Michael Huff (Thorpe Winner), Aaron Ross, Jamaal Charles, Brian Orakpo, David Thomas
Notable statistics: Texas had a (then) record of 652 points scored in a single season. Texas snapped USC’s 34-game win streak, and extended their own to 21.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:
2002 Oklahoma Sooners, 2001 Nebraska Cornhuskers, 2001 Texas Longhorns, 2008 Oklahoma Sooners, 2003 Oklahoma Sooners, 1998 Texas A&M Aggies, 1998 Kansas State Wildcats, 2008 Texas Tech Red Raiders

Whats Your Verdict?

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