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Sunday, November 30, 2008
What we learned in the Big 12, Week 14


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are some things we learned over the Big 12's final weekend.

1. However Sunday's BCS announcement plays out, it's clear that the Big 12 should have taken a more active role in promoting transparency for the final BCS vote of the regular season. Obviously, one group of fans will be happy and the other two will be irate when the final decision comes down in a couple of hours about which South Division team will advance to Saturday night's conference championship game. It would have behooved Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe to have pushed to make sure all of the votes of the coaches and pollsters should have become public.

As it stands now, shrouded in secrecy, all kinds of conspiracy theories will be floated after the vote is released. Everybody's vote should have been common knowledge -- just like it will be next week when the BCS bowls will be released. Because playing for a conference championship game will be just as important to those schools as playing in a BCS bowl game.

2. There's a reason why Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds' move of hiring Will Muschamp as the Longhorns' head-coaching designate was so smart. It will be seen in his work next season with his second Texas defense. The Longhorns' defense has been one of their biggest strengths all season. Texas has limited opponents to an average of 11.5 yards rushing per game and 0.5 yards per carry in the last two games, outscoring opponents 84-16. Muschamp will have a chance to build on those concepts in his second season. He'll have to rebuild a defensive front that will lose all of its starters. Texas will return only five defensive starters. But having Muschamp back to direct the team, rather than starting his head coaching career someplace else with somebody else calling defensive signals, clearly benefits the Texas program in the short term.

3. If there was such an award as the Big 12's most improved defense player, Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh would win the honor. Before Bo Pelini arrived at Nebraska, Suh had been an underachieving disappointment. But he's blossomed this year into Nebraska's leading tackler -- an extremely rare occurrence for a defensive tackle -- and its top defensive playmaker. The work by Pelini and his brother, Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini, is seen all over Suh's transformation.

4. The best story of the final weekend in the conference played out in Kansas City, where Kansas former quarterback rivals Todd Reesing and Kerry Meier hooked up for a dramatic comeback victory over Missouri. Reesing might be the most underrated quarterback in college football and Meier persevered despite an injury that made his availability doubtful earlier in the week. Meier produced a career-best 14 receptions, showing the skill at the position that makes most NFL scouts are predict that he'll have a professional career at wide receiver for Meier. Working together, Reesing and Meier helped the Jayhawks to their first back-to-back bowl berths in school history.

5. Texas Tech coach Mike Leach provided an obvious indication Saturday why he deserves to be the Big 12's Coach of the Year this season. His team was clearly flat coming into the Baylor game, a result of their draining and emotional loss to Oklahoma last week. Tech was forced to play without likely All-Big 12 safety Daniel Charbonnet from the start. Michael Crabtree suffered an ankle injury that left him in street clothes along the sidelines for the second half. And Graham Harrell suffered a finger injury to his non-throwing hand that likely will require surgery early this week, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported.

Despite those handicaps and a two-touchdown deficit, Leach kept the Red Raiders focused as they persevered for a gutsy victory over the Bears and claimed a share of their first Big 12 South Division title. It likely won't be enough to get them into a BCS bowl, but still showed why Leach is an underrated motivator to go along with his clear offensive genius.