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Monday, January 11, 2010
Big 12's bowl struggles cap season to forget

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

There’s really no way to sugarcoat it. The 2009 season was a disappointment in the Big 12.

The bowl season only added to those miseries.

The conference finished 4-4 in its bowl games, but lost in the BCS title game for the second straight season as Texas fell to Alabama. Colt McCoy’s injury may have left an asterisk on that defeat in the minds of most Longhorn fans and even for Barack Obama, but it’s a loss nonetheless.

McCoy’s injury was the capper in a jinxed season for the Big 12 that included season-ending injuries to Sam Bradford and Robert Griffin, a season-ending NCAA suspension to Dez Bryant and season-long injury struggles for 2008 leading rusher Kendall Hunter.

The final Associated Press rankings underscored that sentiment. The Big 12 finished with only three teams ranked among the top 25, the fewest since a record-low two teams were ranked at the end of the 2006 season. Texas finished at No. 2, Nebraska was No. 14 and Texas Tech was No. 21.

Most notably, the Big 12 lost all three bowl games against the Southeastern Conference. The nation’s baddest conference bullied the Big 12 again, stretching its record in bowl games against the Big 12 to 12-3 since 2003. Convincing victories by Alabama over Texas in the BCS title game, Mississippi over Oklahoma State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl and Georgia over Texas A&M in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl came by an average of 18 points per game.

Missouri was flummoxed by Navy’s triple-option offense in a humbling 35-13 Texas Bowl loss where it appeared the Tigers’ coaches had little inkling for making in-game adjustments.

Despite a victory over Stanford in the Brut Sun Bowl, Oklahoma finished the season out of the top 25 for the first time since Bob Stoops’ first season in 1999. The Sooners finished 2009 with five losses, most since Stoops’ first season.

Texas Tech overcame a suspension-depleted Michigan State team in the Valero Alamo Bowl in a game that was overshadowed by Mike Leach’s firing three days before kickoff.

Oklahoma State skidded out of the top 25 after starting the season at ninth in the preseason Associated Press poll.

The Big 12’s two most impressive bowl victories came with upset triumphs from North Division teams. Nebraska stymied Arizona with a vintage defensive performance in Ndamukong Suh’s final game in a 33-0 victory over Arizona. And Iowa State punctuated the conference’s feel-good story of the season as Paul Rhoads’ team produced an emotional 14-13 triumph over Minnesota.

But conquests like those were too few and far between for the Big 12 in a season to forget for the conference’s power elite.