Tuesday, July 3, 2007

What If...Mizzou Joined the Big Ten in 1996? (Part Three)

When we last left off, Missouri was trying to figure out what to do with coach Larry Smith. After back-to-back West Division titles in ’97 and ’98, Smith’s Tigers fell to 5-7 in ’99 and 3-8 in ’00. Larry Smith had rejuvenated the Mizzou football program, improved Mizzou’s facilities, and softened the blow of a conference change. But recruiting had taken a step backwards recently, attendance was flagging, and new Athletic Director Mike Alden was probably looking to put his stamp on the football program.

So I say he fires Larry Smith, and in December 2000 Missouri is looking for a new coach. In the real 1999, here were the candidates Alden pursued:

Top Tier
* Toledo coach Gary Pinkel
* Florida State offensive coordinator Mark Richt
* Oklahoma co-defensive coordinator Brent Venables
* TCU coach Dennis Franchione

* Western Michigan coach Gary Darnell
* Wisconsin defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove
* Oregon offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford
* USF coach Jim Leavitt
* Florida assistant Jon Hoke
* ECU coach Steve Logan
* Purdue offensive coordinator Jim Chaney
* Recently-fired Georgia coach Jim Donnan
* Washington State coach Mike Price
* Louisville coach John L. Smith
* Clemson offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez

* Houston coach Dana Dimel
* Nebraska QB coach Turner Gill
* South Carolina assistant Skip Holtz
* Boise state coach Dirk Koetter
* UTEP coach Gary Nord
* Oklahoma co-defensive coordinator Mike Stoops
* Former Auburn coach Terry Bowden
* Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Callahan (HA!)

So if Missouri actually had a slightly higher profile in the alternate-2000, and they were in a bigger-money situation in the Big Ten, how would this list have taken shape?

Well, we can probably eliminate the names from the ‘Longshots’ list. From the ‘Others’ list, we can eliminate Price (From ’98 to ’00, Wazzu went 10-24), Donnan (we’re not hiring a coach who just got fired somewhere else), Logan (like Pinkel, only with no MW ties), Leavitt (hadn’t proven himself yet), Tedford (no MW ties), and probably Venables.

So that leaves...

Pinkel – coming off of a 10-1 season and thrashing of Penn State
Richt – getting ready to interview for the Georgia job
Franchione – considering Arizona State, Mizzou, or staying at TCU
Darnell – apparently nothing distinguished him above Pinkel
Cosgrove – his StL and Big Ten ties would probably have earned him a stronger look
Hoke – nah
Chaney – MO native with Big Ten ties and (thanks partly to Drew Brees) a major offensive pedigree
Smith – I think he’s too Larry Smith-like to have drawn heavy consideration
Rodriguez – his east coast ties would have probably drawn him to WV either way

So with some paring down, I’d say our list of finalists is Pinkel, Richt, Franchione, Cosgrove, and Chaney. Being that Chaney still hasn’t been a head coach anywhere, I’m thinking he probably doesn’t interview amazingly well...and not to be mean, but he doesn’t really look the part. Richt’s southeastern ties probably lead him to Georgia no matter what. Something just never really felt right with Franchione...am thinking he stays with TCU no matter what.

So that leaves Pinkel and Cosgrove. Proven coach versus proven St. Louis recruiter. This is a tough choice, but I’m going to go with what I said about Chaney: Cos still isn’t a head coach somewhere, and that tells me something. Plus, Pinkel’s MW ties and ever-growing success in a Big Ten-area school would have been a hefty draw.

So 500+ words later, Pinkel gets the job anyway. Convenient, eh?


What if, with higher achievement in the 1997-98 period and fewer blowout losses in 1999-00, firing Larry weren’t as clear-cut, and it took Mike Alden a little while longer to come to a decision?

Why am I bringing this up? Because by mid-December, rumblings were very strong that John Cooper was going to be fired at Ohio State. After they got drubbed by Lou Holtz and South Carolina on January 1, 2001, Cooper was indeed fired, and later in January, Jim Tressel—coach of Youngstown State—was hired to replace Cooper.

If Gary Pinkel were still at Toledo in January 2001 (or maybe even in mid- to late-December 2000), you can bet that he’d have gotten considered for the job. Again, few MAC coaches ever had a higher profile (or seemingly brighter future) than Pinkel had when he left for Mizzou in 2000. Considering Tressel hadn’t ever achieved anything beyond the I-AA (sorry, Division I—Championship Subdivision) and Pinkel had just crushed Penn State in Happy Valley and gone 10-1 overall, you can even almost conclude that he’d have been heavily considered for the job...the favorite, even.

In other words, if Alden doesn’t immediately fire Larry Smith and get a search underway, Gary Pinkel might not be an option. In which case, Kevin Cosgrove is far and away the lead candidate.
Sounds like a nice Part 3A of my “What If...Big Ten” series, doesn’t it (unless my Franchione curiosity gets the best of me)? But for now, let’s assume the firing does in fact take place quickly, and Gary Pinkel is the man for Mizzou.

So let’s walk through the Pinkel era, but first with a disclaimer: if Pinkel were coaching in the Big Ten, chances are he wouldn’t have strayed from the Ohio/Pennsylvania/Michigan recruiting corridor nearly as much, and he consequently wouldn’t have recruited Texas as heavily. But there’s absolutely no way I could predict with even 1% accuracy who he would and wouldn’t have gotten (I know, that hasn’t stopped me before), so I’m not going to go there.


So the pseudo Gary Pinkel era starts in a pretty similar way to the actual Pinkel era—rougher, actually.

9/1: Bowling Green 20, Missouri 13 – As long as Kirk Farmer gets hurt in a stupid fight and Darius Outlaw starts at QB, this result is the same.

9/8: Missouri 40, Texas State 6Same.

9/29: Minnesota 28, Missouri 23 – The KU game scheduled for 9/15 is postponed due to 9/11, and whereas the Tigers in real-life came back from 3 weeks off to get thumped by Nebraska, the Big Ten Tigers instead lose a tight one to Glen Mason’s Gophers and fall to 2-1.

10/6: Missouri 35, Wisconsin 28 – In the real 2001, October was the month where the team started to figure things out a bit, winning at Oklahoma State and at Kansas. In the Big Ten (which, I’m pretty sure, was better than the Big XII...well, definitely deeper...no really elite team this season), shining moments are a little harder to come by. A surprise win over Wisconsin is pretty much the highlight of the season.

10/13: Penn State 45, Missouri 22 – A slightly resurgent Nittany Lion team comes into Columbia and takes care of business. Mizzou falls to 2-3.

10/20: Ohio State 28, Missouri 13 – Pinkel’s 2001 Tigers played pretty well on the road, but not well enough to compete in Columbus.

10/27: Purdue 20, Missouri 13 – The Brees-less Boilers have enough at home to move Mizzou to 2-5.

11/3: Iowa 18, Missouri 17 – Remember how painful the Iowa State home loss (the one where Tay Jackson screwed up like 13 times, and the Tigers attempted 4th and goal at the end of the game with only 10 players on the field) was in ’01? We’ll say Iowa is the new Iowa State.

11/10: Northwestern 35, Missouri 29 – Speaking of painful losses...

11/17: Illinois 32, Missouri 28 – Mizzou wraps up Gary Pinkel’s first Big Ten season by losing its last four conference games by a total of only 18 points. Illinois wins the West Division for the first time.

11/24: Missouri 38, Kansas 34 –Missouri finishes the season on a winning note, though a 3-8 season leaves plenty to be desired.

West Division
Illinois – 6-2 (10-2)
Iowa – 5-3 (7-4)
Wisconsin – 3-5 (5-7)
Minnesota – 3-5 (5-6)
Northwestern – 3-5 (5-6)
Missouri – 1-7 (3-8)

East Division
Penn State – 6-2 (7-4)
Ohio State – 6-2 (8-3)
Michigan – 5-3 (7-4)
Purdue – 4-4 (6-5)
Indiana – 4-4 (5-6)
Michigan State – 2-6 (5-6)

West Conference Record: 21-27
East Conference Record: 27-21

Big Ten Championship: Illinois 37, Penn State 29. Ron Turner’s shining moment.

Big Ten Bowls
Silicon Valley: Purdue 34, Fresno State 23
Sun: Michigan 24, Washington State 21
Alamo: Iowa 19, Texas Tech 16
Outback: South Carolina 31, Penn State 27
Citrus: Tennessee 31, Ohio State 21
Sugar: LSU 47, Illinois 34


The Gary Pinkel Era really got started in 2002, only it was known with a different name: the Brad Smith Era. How would the results have differed in a Big Ten conference that consisted of Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa, and a bunch of dregs in ’02? Probably pretty decent, don’t you think?

8/31: Missouri 36, Kansas 9. Instead of shocking Illinois in St. Louis, Mizzou starts the season by whooping KU in Kansas City. The original score of this game was 34-12, but I added a few extra points to the margin because of the “Who the hell is this guy?” shock value. And of course, if the game’s in Kansas City, Mizzou players don’t help tear down the goalposts.

The original season opener—a 33-20 win over Illinois—had probably my all-time favorite John Kadlec moment. Brad Smith scores a TD, Mike Kelly says something to the effect of “Missouri fans, you’ve got yourself a quarterback.” John Kadlec, damn-near blubbering in the booth, responds with “We have a quarterback.”

9/7: Missouri 41, Ball State 6. This one happened.

9/14: Oklahoma 31, Missouri 24. Couldn’t resist adding this game as a non-conference matchup. Just too great a game to let pass by. (Unintended consequences of adding this as a non-conference game: no home-and-home with Troy. Oopsie.)

9/21: Bowling Green 51, Missouri 28. This makes sense. Coming off of an OU game in which the nation started paying attention to Missouri again, the Tigers roll to Bowling Green and get demolished to fall to 2-2.

I should also mention that this was quite easily the worst road trip The Beef and I have ever attempted. Between the game result, the fact that I’d been broken up with the week before, and the fact that we stayed in Chicago with a friend of mine Saturday night and heard some woman screaming “Help me!” on the street at 3 in the morning, this trip simply blew. Luckily there was the 5-minute respite of humor that was a Bowling Green cop telling us not to shit on the grass.

10/5: Missouri 38, Minnesota 30. Pinkel’s Tigers regroup after a week off and take care of business against a typical decent Glen Mason team.

10/12: Missouri 41, Michigan State 30. The Spartans were down in ’02, and Missouri takes advantage, moving to 2-0 in conference and 4-2 overall.

10/19: Missouri 34, Wisconsin 21. Wisconsin was actually pretty mediocre in ’02 as well, and you can see how Missouri benefits from a much weaker offensive league.

10/26: Michigan 30, Missouri 28. Really, there were only 3 strong teams in the Big Ten this season, but Michigan was one of them. Mizzou can’t quite spring the upset at home.

11/2: Missouri 33, Northwestern 20. Northwestern was terrible in ’02.

11/9: Iowa 38, Missouri 37. Remember how painful the Iowa State road loss (the one where Seneca Wallace accounted for about 1,200 total yards and drove the length of the field in the final seconds) was in ’02? We’ll say Iowa is still the new Iowa State. Mizzou falls to 6-4 overall and Iowa clinches the West Division title.

11/16: Missouri 42, Indiana 27. Yeah, the bottom half of the Big Ten was really pretty bad this year.

11/23: Missouri 27, Illinois 24. This game’s in Champaign, and the Brad Smith shock value obviously doesn’t apply on November 23, but Illinois just didn’t have it this year, and I say Brad Smith comes through on the road. Mizzou finishes 6-2/8-4, and Brad Smith and Gary Pinkel are heroes in Columbia.

West Division
Iowa – 7-1 (10-2)
Missouri – 6-2 (8-4)
Wisconsin – 3-5 (8-5)
Minnesota – 3-5 (7-5)
Illinois – 3-5 (4-8)
Northwestern – 0-8 (2-10)

East Division
Ohio State – 7-1 (12-1) (They don’t go undefeated due to a loss in Iowa City)
Michigan – 7-1 (10-2)
Purdue – 5-3 (7-5)
Penn State – 4-4 (8-4)
Michigan State – 2-6 (4-8)
Indiana – 1-7 (3-9)

West Conference Record: 22-26
East Conference Record: 26-22

Big Ten Championship: Ohio State 17, Iowa 14

Big Ten Bowls
Motor City: Minnesota 31, Toledo 25
Music City: Purdue 37, Arkansas 17
Alamo: Wisconsin 31, Colorado 28
Sun: Penn State 20, Washington 17

Outback: Florida 38, Missouri 30. The Tigers find more success in a relatively weak Big Ten, but they still don’t have enough defense to take down Ron Zook’s first Gator squad. Still...going from 3-8 to the Outback Bowl in one year is quite the achievement.

Capital One: Michigan 23, Auburn 21
Orange: USC 38, Iowa 17
Fiesta: Ohio State 31, Miami-FL 24. Ohio State’s loss to Iowa doesn’t keep them out of the National Title Game, where they still pull off the massive, pass-interference-aided upset of the Hurricanes.


People were taking notice of Mizzou in ’03, even though they were coming off of a 5-7 season. Imagine what the difference would have been after 8 wins and a New Years Day bowl? I’d say Missouri is preseason Top 15-20. Which makes a season-starting KU loss pretty hard to swallow. How does Missouri recover?

8/30: Kansas 35, Missouri 17. Perhaps you remember this one? Zack Abron runs wild but barely touches the ball in the 4th quarter?

9/6: Missouri 38, Ball State 3. Nice rebound.

9/13: Oklahoma 34, Missouri 13. This game was basically even aside from a 5-minute span in the 2nd quarter. Unfortunately, all 60 minutes count, and Missouri falls to 1-2.

9/20: Missouri 41, Middle Tennessee 40. Missouri is down 34-26 and 90 seconds away from falling to a disastrous 1-3 when Brad Smith and J.D. McCoy (remember his unbelievable 4th down catch where he damn near dislocated both kneecaps?) save the day in regulation and the Middle Tennessee kicker falter on a PAT in overtime. The season is saved...for now.

10/4: Missouri 24, Michigan State 21. The season is saved again by this narrow home win over an improving Michigan State squad.

10/11: Michigan 35, Missouri 17. The ’03 Tigers were great at home and bad on the road. This game was on the road.

10/25: Missouri 34, Minnesota 21. A week off rejuvenates the Tigers and sets up a surprising road win. Missouri moves to 2-1 in conference and 4-3 overall.

11/1: Wisconsin 28, Missouri 24. A surprising road win is followed by a surprising home loss.

11/8: Northwestern 31, Missouri 21. We’ll just say Tigerboard erupts with naysayers as Mizzou moves to 4-5.

11/15: Missouri 31, Iowa 21. Mizzou saves its season for the third time, moving to 5-5 with a tough home win.

11/22: Missouri 31, Indiana 24. Lucky for Mizzou, one of their road games is in Bloomington. Mizzou clinches bowl eligibility at 6-5, and due to a super-weak West Division (and wins over Iowa and Minnesota), Mizzou can somehow clinch the West with a win over Illinois.

11/29: Missouri 24, Illinois 14. Illinois is 1-10 heading into Thanksgiving weekend. No way do they stand in the way of Mizzou clinching the West at home.

West Division
Missouri – 5-3 (7-5)
Iowa – 5-3 (9-3)
Minnesota – 5-3 (9-3)
Wisconsin – 4-4 (7-5)
Northwestern – 3-5 (5-7)
Illinois – 0-8 (1-11)

East Division
Michigan – 7-1 (10-2)
Ohio State – 6-2 (10-2)
Purdue – 6-2 (9-3)
Michigan State – 5-3 (8-4)
Penn State – 2-6 (4-8)
Indiana – 0-8 (1-11)

West Conference Record: 22-26
East Conference Record: 26-22

Big Ten Championship: Missouri 34, Michigan 31. I couldn’t resist. In 2003, Mizzou pulled off its single-best win in the last 20 years with a home win over Nebraska. There was no equivalent to that win during the regular season, so we’ll say it comes in St. Louis in the Big Ten Championship. I mean...why the hell not? It’s Mizzou’s first Big Ten title!

Big Ten Bowls
Motor City: Bowling Green 28, Wisconsin 17
Music City: Auburn 23, Michigan State 7
Sun: Minnesota 31, Oregon 30
Alamo: Iowa 21, Nebraska 20
Outback: Purdue 31, Florida 26
Capital One: Michigan 27, Georgia 24
Fiesta: Ohio State 35, Kansas State 28

Rose: USC 28, Missouri 16. No matter how momentous an occasion it would be to see Brad Smith in the Rose Bowl, there’s nothing Missouri can do to beat USC in this game. So ends the greatest 8-6 season in Mizzou history.


There’s no way Missouri could have avoided being overrated going into 2004. An 8-5 season and an Independence Bowl loss led to Preseason Top 15 predictions. So now add a Rose Bowl to the mix. Yikes.

9/4: Kansas 24, Missouri 14. This game was one yellow flag from becoming the greatest comeback in Missouri history. The Tigers had made up half of a 28-point 4th-quarter deficit when Damien Nash took a swing pass 58 yards for a touchdown. With Missouri within a touchdown and the crowd at a half-empty Memorial Stadium (the other half had left by the start of the 4th quarter), no way would they be losing this game.

Only, Martin Rucker got called for a hold that nobody could find on the video. And then KU won easily. Now, part of the reason KU got up 28-0 was because MU was spent after about 15 straight blown leads and losses. It wouldn’t have happened that way at the beginning of the season. But I think KU still would have won. Without Troy on the schedule, this becomes the new Troy. And Missouri once again starts a ‘high expectations’ season on a horrid note.

9/11: Missouri 52, Arkansas State 20. Missouri bounces back at least a little.

9/18: Missouri 45, Ball State 3. This one’s in Muncie instead of Columbia, but the result is basically the same.

10/2: Missouri 30, Minnesota 24. Missouri moves to 3-1 on the season and mid-teens in the polls.

10/9: Penn State 22, Missouri 21. Now the fun begins.

10/16: Ohio State 27, Missouri 24. Missouri loses back-to-back heartbreakers, but they looked okay doing it. Either way, though, they’re 3-3 and on their way to below-expectations season.

10/23: Northwestern 27, Missouri 20. We’ll call this the Big Ten version of the Oklahoma State loss.

10/30: Wisconsin 31, Missouri 19. Judging by how this season actually went, we’ll say Mizzou was up 16-0 before falling apart. At 3-5, Mizzou’s bowl hopes are on life support.

11/6: Purdue 31, Missouri 28. And here’s the death blow. Another blown lead on Senior Day leads to a 2-4 home record for ’04.

11/13: Iowa 15, Missouri 14. Tigers put up a fight, but lose to the eventual West champions.

11/27: Missouri 21, Illinois 16. A six-game losing streak is snapped in what basically amounts to Mizzou’s bowl game.

West Division
Iowa – 7-1 (9-2)
Wisconsin – 5-3 (8-3)
Northwestern – 3-5 (4-7)
Minnesota – 2-6 (5-6)
Missouri – 2-6 (4-7)
Illinois – 0-8 (2-9)

East Division
Ohio State – 7-1 (10-1)
Michigan – 7-1 (9-2)
Michigan State – 5-3 (6-5)
Purdue – 4-4 (7-4)
Penn State – 4-4 (6-5)
Indiana – 2-6 (4-7)

West Conference Record: 19-29
East Conference Record: 29-19

Big Ten Championship: Iowa 30, Ohio State 7

Big Ten Bowls
Music City: Michigan State 27, Alabama 9
Sun: Arizona State 27, Purdue 23
Alamo: Wisconsin 28, Oklahoma 7
Outback: Michigan 31, Georgia 26
Capital One: Ohio State 20, LSU 16
Rose: Texas 31, Iowa 28


So begins Gary Pinkel’s restoration project. Just like with Larry Smith, Mizzou followed up a crowning achievement with a hugely disappointing season. To avoid Larry’s fate, he needed a strong rebound in ’05.

9/3: Kansas 13, Missouri 3. Not really the way you want to start a reclamation project.

9/10: New Mexico 45, Missouri 35. Uh oh.

9/17: Missouri 44, Arkansas State 17. Slight rebound.

10/1: Missouri 27, Iowa 16. Back to .500 with a solid home win.

10/8: Ohio State 34, Missouri 23. And back under .500 we go.

10/15: Northwestern 30, Missouri 24. Missouri need to win 4 of 5 to qualify for a bowl.

10/22: Penn State 28, Missouri 27. Really, the Rose Bowl bid is about the only thing saving Gary Pinkel’s job at this point.

11/5: Missouri 38, Wisconsin 35. We’ll say Chase Daniel throws a late TD pass and saves the season for now. However, 3-5 is still the record.

11/12: Missouri 31, Purdue 20. Purdue really wasn’t very good this year, and Mizzou’s offense is rolling. 4-5.

11/19: Missouri 35, Minnesota 33. Back to back road wins, and the season comeback is almost complete.

11/26: Missouri 31, Illinois 12. Ron Zook’s first Big Ten season ends without a conference win, and Mizzou’s never been so happy to qualify for a minor bowl.

West Division
Iowa – 6-2 (8-3)
Wisconsin – 5-3 (9-3)
Missouri – 5-3 (6-5)
Northwestern – 4-4 (6-5)
Minnesota – 3-5 (6-5)
Illinois – 0-8 (2-9)

East Division
Penn State – 8-0 (11-0)
Ohio State – 6-2 (8-3)
Michigan – 6-2 (8-3)
Michigan State – 2-6 (5-6)
Purdue – 2-6 (4-7)
Indiana – 1-7 (4-7)

West Conference Record: 23-25
East Conference Record: 25-23

Big Ten Championship: Penn State 27, Iowa 21. Penn State moves to 12-0, but as always seems to be the case, they choose the wrong year to go undefeated. The national title game is still USC vs Texas, and Penn State is playing for #2.

Big Ten Bowls
Motor City: Northwestern 42, Akron 40

Music City: Missouri 38, Virginia 34. Completing the “comeback” theme of 2005, Missouri falls down 28-7 before raging back in the second half. Sound familiar?

Sun: UCLA 41, Iowa 34
Alamo: Nebraska 32, Michigan 28
Outback: Ohio State 28, Florida 27
Capital One: Wisconsin 24, Auburn 10
Orange: Penn State 26, Florida State 23. (PSU completes an undefeated, non-national title season)


The Chase Daniel Era, which sort of began with his dramatic season saver versus Wisconsin, comes in full-force in 2006. Most prognosticators pick Mizzou fifth, ahead of just Illinois, but after a few years of expectations built for disappointment, the opportunity to surprise people comes as a nice change.

9/2: Missouri 42, Kansas 17. Daniel starts off with something Brad Smith could only do once.

9/9: Missouri 34, Ole Miss 7. I’m sure that, Big Ten or Big 12, The Sporting News decides that Brent Schaeffer’s incoming presence is enough to take out little old Missouri in Columbia.

Yes, I’m still bitter about that. Not that it mattered...

9/16: Missouri 27, New Mexico 17. A 2-0 start is not something Mizzou is used to.

9/23: Missouri 31, Ohio 6. With Mizzou in the Big Ten, they have no history with Frank Solich...but they still win this one pretty easy.

9/30: Missouri 26, Wisconsin 23. The Big Ten version of the Texas Tech win. And quietly, Missouri has an uneblievable 10-game winning streak dating back to the 2005 Wisconsin win.

10/14: Missouri 37, Minnesota 14. Eleven straight wins, Chase Daniel is God, and Pinkel moves to 5-1 versus Glen Mason. At 6-0, Missouri makes its way into the Top 10...

10/21: Michigan State 24, Missouri 22. ...and falls right back out with a stunning road loss. Michigan State threatened to be a good team a couple times last year before imploding...we’ll call this the Big Ten version of the Iowa State loss.

10/28: Missouri 24, Northwestern 17. An underwhelming performance, but Missouri moves to 7-1 nonetheless.

11/4: Michigan 31, Missouri 27. Chase Daniel’s first home loss.

11/11: Iowa 24, Missouri 17. Missouri’s lost three of four, and the season is ending the exact opposity as the one before.

11/18: Missouri 51, Indiana 27. Luckily, Indiana’s bad.

11/25: Missouri 31, Illinois 12. So is Illinois. Yeah yeah, no worse than Iowa State, but...bite me. We already had our ‘loss to an outgoing coach’ against Michigan State. Mizzou finishes 9-3, though the loss to the Spartans costs them the West Division title.

West Division
Wisconsin – 6-2 (10-2)
Missouri – 5-3 (9-3)
Iowa – 3-5 (7-5)
Minnesota – 3-5 (6-6)
Northwestern – 3-5 (5-7)
Illinois – 1-7 (2-10)

East Division
Ohio State – 8-0 (12-0)
Michigan – 7-1 (11-1)
Penn State – 5-3 (8-4)
Purdue – 4-4 (7-6)
Michigan State – 2-6 (5-7)
Indiana – 1-7 (3-9)

West Conference Record: 21-27
East Conference Record: 27-21

Big Ten Championship: Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 28

Big Ten Bowls
Motor City: Purdue 24, Central Michigan 23
Insight: Texas Tech 44, Minnesota 41
Alamo: Texas 26, Iowa 24
Champs Sports: Penn State 20, Maryland 17

Outback: Missouri 27, Tennessee 24. While Missouri fought Oregon State to a stalemate in their bowl game, Tennessee was underwhelming against Penn State in theirs. Missouri hops out to a lead in the fourth quarter, and UT doesn’t have the offensive firepower to come back like Oregon State did. Missouri wins 10 games for the first time since 1998.

Capital One: Wisconsin 17, Arkansas 14
Rose: USC 32, Michigan 18
BCS Championship: Florida 41, Ohio State 14


So that brings us to the present day. Missouri returns its entire offense, and the Wisconsin-Missouri matchup is a big one. Using Phil Steele’s rankings, the Big Ten preseason rankings would shake down like this:

West Division
#16 Wisconsin
#19 Missouri (though with a New Years win, they’d probably be closer to #10-13)
#29 Iowa
#43 Illinois

East Division
#5 Michigan
#10 Penn State
#15 Ohio State
#35 Purdue
Michigan State

While the bottom four teams are likely to be pretty horrid, the top 2/3 of the conference are pretty loaded. However, with home games against Wisconsin and Iowa, Missouri is likely the West favorite.

Heading into its 12th season in the Big Ten in alternate-2007, Missouri has experienced higher highs (1998, 2003) and lower lows (2004) than they did in the Big 12. Their annual matchup with Illinois has taken the feel of a significant rivalry game--complete with suprise upsets and strange happenings--while the rivalry with Kansas is as intense and strange as ever.

At this point I should repeat my note from Part Two:

My aim with these posts is not to say we should or shouldn't have joined the conference. Again, I grew up with Big 8 rivalries, and getting caught up in battles with Minnesota and Northwestern instead of Oklahoma State and Kansas State would have taken a lot of getting used to. Until I found out about the emerging Big Ten Network, I never even gave the conference switch idea a second thought. The fact that the Big Ten does indeed have its own cable network in the works got me starry-eyed a bit (that seems like quite the unfair advantage right there), but I'll get over it.
That still stands. I love the Big 12...okay, let me clarify: I love playing the teams we play in the Big 12. It's what I'm used to. I'm a lot more interested in the goings on of Oklahoma State and Colorado than I am Iowa and Indiana. But it's interesting to think about, isn't it?