posted on July 22, 2010 10:01
On Wednesday, the Big XII Conference released its pre-season polls. Oklahoma was picked to nudge out Texas in the South. In the North, Nebraska was the selection. The release from the league said the Huskers were chosen unanimously by 26 voters, though at least one ballot seems to have been misplaced (click here: http://campuscorner.kansascity.com/node/961). Still, 25 to 1 is a fairly convincing margin.
Now, Missouri fans are yet again up in arms. A sampling of some comments made on the Internet after the poll was released:
“I still don't see the reason for the love... And I'm not just wearing my Tiger glasses.
They have NO offense.”
“No surprise. Will just make it all the sweeter when we kick their arse.”
“Just shows that winning a meaningless bowl game pays dividends the following year.”
“The end result is 7-5, maybe 8-4 if they pull out a win against either Washington or Okie State. It ought to be fun watching the fan base turn on the brothers Pelini.”
“the fall of nub will be epic. I fully expect pelini to punch a ref/player/brother by the end of the year. Fall can't get here soon enough.”
Now, listen. I'm not going to start trumpeting fans with Internet access as the beacon of objectivity. They, of course, are not.
And, to be up front about it, if I'm picking the Big XII North standings today, I'm picking Nebraska. There are reasons why. Their defense was so much better than any other North team's last year that it hid an offense that was (to be kind) below average. They appear to have a guy on the sidelines that can actually coach (a major difference from three or four years ago). They play Missouri (the only other legitimate contender to win the division) at home. They play Texas at home. Common sense says you have to give the Huskers the edge.
HOWEVER, let me also say that pre-season polls are stupid. These polls are all based on three games that took place more than six months ago.
While Nebraska was busy beating Texas for 59 minutes and 59 seconds, and then completely demoralizing Arizona, Missouri spent its post-season forgetting they were actually selected to play in a bowl game and rolling over dead for the Middies from Navy. And six months later, nobody can move past those things.
First of all, the major reason Nebraska stayed on the field with the national champion runner-up Longhorns is gone. By my unofficial count, Ndamakong Suh had 29 sacks, 42 tackles for a loss and was actually asked by Mack Brown to put a down payment on Colt McCoy's hip pocket at halftime if he planned to continue to live there for the next 30 minutes. Midway through last year, I was sick of hearing the man called Mr. Suh by every broadcaster in the free world and thought the hype was overblown. It reminded me of announcers in the Orange Bowl saying at one point that Rocket Ismail was the kind of player who affected the game even when he was standing on the sidelines. NOBODY is that good. Except Suh was. By the end of the season, he didn't deserve to be called Mr. Suh. People should have been forced to refer to him as “Sir” or “the Arch-Duke of Lincoln” or “The King of College Football,” or some term equally as reverential. He was, simply put, the most dominating defensive player I have ever seen in my lifetime. He might have been the most dominating player I've seen on either side of the ball.
In case you're curious, Mr. Suh now plays in the NFL (St. Louis Rams fans, I think you're going to be really really sad in about three years that you gave Sam Bradford the key to the U.S. Mint while Suh is hospitalizing people in Detroit).
As far as the bowl games go, well, you can't really deny what happened. Nebraska came out pissed off, wanting to prove what it did in the Big XII title game was no fluke. They had the good fortune to be matched against a team on which I could not name a single player. Sorry, Arizona, but if there weren't 342 bowl games, you wouldn't have been in one.
Meanwhile, Missouri went to Houston pissed off as well. Except they were pissed off they were in the Texas Bowl. They thought they were better than that game. The way they played, the Tigers may not have beaten a Texas high school team, much less a participant in the Texas Bowl. Navy ran all over Mizzou and, more disturbing, threw all over them as well. The game has been relived more in the past six months than any single Missouri sporting event I can remember. If I see the words Navy or “two-man front” in an Internet post now, I simply gloss right over it to the next topic. We get it. Missouri sucked. You're mad about it. Get over it.
The point is, those games were played last year. The best players for both teams are now gone. Nebraska still doesn't have a starting quarterback. It still doesn't have Suh. Missouri has plenty of questions of its own. This really isn't a column that's meant to be a case for why Missouri is going to win the North. They very likely will not.
No, my point has nothing to do with what the final standings will be. It simply is this:
Missouri fans (and everyone else), it is time to forget last December. A new season starts in two weeks. Missouri does not begin the year 0-and-1 because of the Texas Bowl. Nebraska doesn't get a bonus because some feel they should have won the Big XII Championship game. The North isn't decided by what happened last December or this July. The North will be decided on October 30, 2010 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, NE. At the end of that day, maybe, hopefully, finally, we can quit referring to what happened in Houston as a program-defining event.
Gabe DeArmond is the publisher of PowerMizzou.com. You can read his daily coverage of the Tigers online at http://missouri.rivals.com.