Thursday, January 12, 2012
What we learned in the Big 12 in 2011
By ESPN.com staff ESPN.com
Here's a few other things we learned over the course of the 2011 season in the Big 12.
On Wednesday, we looked back on what we learned during the bowl season.
Leading once-lowly Baylor to a top-three finish in the Big 12 helped Robert Griffin III earn the Heisman.
1. The Heisman isn't what you thought it was.The best player on the best team? Not anymore. This was no Mark Ingram Heisman. The 2011 Heisman race restored the faith of many in the award which, simply put, went to the best player in college football -- Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. He carried the Bears to 10 wins, tying a school record, and doing things no one ever thought possible at Baylor. Like, for instance, a third-place finish in one of the toughest years in Big 12 history. And, you know, winning that stiff-arm trophy thing.
2. The 2011 title just wasn't meant to be for Oklahoma. The first loss was perhaps the most painful. A two-hour weather delay preceded a shocking loss to 28-point underdog Texas Tech that all but ended the "Chase for 8," the first national title since 2000 for the Sooners. It also sparked unrest in the locker room after controversial comments from linebacker Travis Lewis, who wondered aloud why some of his teammates didn't play injured when he did. He later apologized to teammates in a meeting, but the comments set something of a tone for the rest of the season. They didn't shy away from preseason expectations, but RG3 thrust himself back into the Heisman picture with a virtuoso game against a vulnerable Sooners' secondary that proved a weakness by season's end. That was aided by Ryan Broyles' torn ACL that ultimately handcuffed Oklahoma's offense. The Sooners managed just three points in a humbling five-touchdown beatdown in Stillwater from rival Oklahoma State, before scoring a late touchdown in garbage time. The Sooners will chase another title in 2012 with Landry Jones at the helm, but this season began with promise and a No. 1 ranking. It ended in the Insight Bowl. That's not good enough at Oklahoma, in a year like 2011 that had so much more potential.
3. Texas A&M and Missouri are nothing if not bold.Texas A&M is -- voluntarily, barring something sinister -- joining a division that just had three teams finish in the top 5. Missouri is putting its Texas recruiting pipeline at risk to join the SEC East, which is littered with sleeping giants (Florida, Tennessee) that are struggling for the time being, but still boasted two teams in the top 20 (Georgia, South Carolina) in 2011. Texas A&M knows the SEC is its best chance to surpass Texas' program, an opportunity to offer recruits in Texas something the Longhorns can't. We'll see if it pays off. Missouri wanted out of a tumultuous Big 12 that nearly left it without a home last summer before patching itself back together. Now, it'll play its games a long way from Columbia, Mo. Will the moves be worth it? Time will tell.