Monday, November 2, 2009
Tight North race shows no sign of clearing up
By ESPN.com staff
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The North Division is as tight as it's ever been at this point of the season.
Kansas State has a narrow half-game lead over Nebraska. The Wildcats are 3-2 and Nebraska is 2-2.
From there, every other team in the North has three losses. Iowa State is 2-3 and Missouri, Kansas and Colorado all are 1-3.
Imagine this scenario that could play out this weekend.
If Kansas beats Kansas State and favored Oklahoma beats Nebraska, as expected, along with wins by Iowa State over Oklahoma State, Missouri over Baylor and Colorado over Texas A&M, every team in the Big 12 North would have three losses.
Truthfully, that's not beyond the realm of possibility. Parity has been prevalent all season long, but I don't think anybody predicted that the division would be this balanced.
I still think that Nebraska has a slight edge because of its defense. If Cody Green grows confident in his leadership role, I would make the Cornhuskers the favorites.
Kansas State has an extremely difficult schedule down the stretch with remaining games against Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas.
I was impressed with what Missouri did at Colorado as the Tigers jumped on a team early on the road to cruise to an easy victory.
And Kansas is the biggest question. The benching of Todd Reesing for whatever reason is a puzzler. And the Jayhawks might have the toughest finish with a visit to No. 2 Texas thrown in for good measure along the other North Division minefields.
Iowa State needs only one more victory to earn bowl eligibility for the first time since 2005. The Cyclones' chances of winning the North title, however, are hamstrung by earlier losses to Kansas and Kansas State.
And Colorado is amid the cluster of teams with three losses but will have to win out just to reach to six victories that would get them to a bowl game and protect Dan Hawkins' job.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see a North team win the conference with a 4-4 conference record. That happened once before in league history when Colorado and Iowa State tied for the division championship with a 4-4 mark. And in 2005, Colorado won the conference with a 5-3 record and three other teams had 4-4 marks.
First team to five victories will win the North Division. But considering the rest of the teams there, I don't if any of them can make it there.