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Monday, March 12, 2012
Who was the Big 12's best player in 2011?


It's been a long and winding road, but we've finally met the end.

Sitting at the top of our 25 best players in the Big 12 in 2011 should be no surprise. He won the Heisman Trophy as the best player in all of college football, following it up with one of the most memorable speeches in Heisman history.

Without further ado, time to crown the best player of 2011.

No. 1: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

2011 numbers: Completed 291-of-402 passes (72.4 percent) for 4,293 yards, 37 touchdowns and six interceptions. Ran for 699 yards and 10 touchdowns on 179 carries. Also caught one pass for 15 yards.

Most recent ranking: Griffin was ranked No. 5 in our preseason list of the top 25 players, but grabbed the No. 1 spot in the midseason ranking of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Griffin: No quarterback accounted for more of his team's offense than Griffin, who produced 65.4 percent of Baylor's yardage. That's especially impressive considering the Bears' offense ranked No. 2 nationally in total offense. Every time Baylor needed a big play, Griffin provided it.

Need to convert a tough third down on a game-winning drive against TCU? Griffin will catch a pass in the middle of the defense and take a beating, get his wind knocked out and stay on the field.

Need to erase a three-touchdown, fourth-quarter deficit against KU? Griffin will break a long run and throw two touchdowns to force overtime, where, yes, he'll win the game there.

Need to go 80 yards in less than a minute to beat Oklahoma for the first time in school history? Griffin will scramble for almost 30 yards and throw a 34-yard game-winning touchdown pass with seconds remaining.

That doesn't even tell the full story of what Griffin means to the Baylor program he'll leave behind after this season. He changed the game and paved the way for others at Baylor. He restored some faith in the Heisman, proving that the award is a lot more than a figurative honor for the best player on the best team in college football. The best player in the game really does still win, even if his team has three losses.

Griffin's best attribute, though, may be his fierce loyalty to teammates and an unshakeable confidence which was strong and infectious. Griffin believed in his teammates. He knew what they were capable of doing. Time and time again, they proved him right, from his beefy, physical offensive line to Big 12 rushing champ Terrance Ganaway to receiving champ Kendall Wright.

The result was a historic season that made it easy to forget the difficult decade-plus in the Big 12 B.G. (Before Griffin). His arrival signified greater days were ahead. Now that he's gone, will they continue? That's the big question at Baylor, but a bowl win, a 10-win season and a Heisman Trophy assure that Griffin's time in Waco will never, ever be forgotten by the green and gold.

The rest of the list: