Every year, there are games that spark the interest of football fans across the board, games that are able to transcend the conference boundary garnering the potential of becoming a thing of legend. Most of these games have national implications which is what draws the masses and gives us, the fan, a good look at where a team is at as well as what they are capable of. In many of these games, hearts are ripped out and tears are shed while others are overflowing with joy and awe. In past years, there has traditionally been the Oklahoma Sooners vs the Texas Longhorns. With the "best of the worst" tactic being applied to the Longhorn QB/RB/OL situation along with the installment of a new OC in Bryan Harsin where does Texas stand? They are getting some attention and being placed in many pre to the pre-season top 25 polls but let's not forget the gauntlet they had to run last season which included the likes of the Iowa State Cyclones, the Baylor Bears, and @ the Kansas State Wildcats. Yes, these are teams that always find themselves
nationally ranked and atop the conference standings near or at the bottom of the heap more often than not. I'm not sure that UT could have competed with some of the high school teams in the area. But, do the Longhorns come in and surprise us naysayers and convince the nation that they are back and take the prize when it comes to the Big XII's Marquee Match-up?
Stillwater, OK seemed to be the magnet for epic games last season as they had a few with a series of events that people only dream of. Texas A&M @ Oklahoma State was an instant classic with each team erasing a 14-point deficit to eventually tie or take the lead only to have OK-State rip the carpet out from under aTm on a last second field goal. Oklahoma @ OK-State saw four touchdowns scored in a span of 92 seconds. However, each of these three teams will be eyeballing a BCS berth and possibly a National Title.
Let's not forget the Missouri Tigers either who staked their claim as the last undefeated team in the Big XII last season. The Tigers wrecked the hopes of not only the Sooners but also of the Aggies (who without Von "The Crampmeister" Miller do not have a chance this year to be a championship caliber defensive team in the pass happy conference so I hope they charish their "we almost made it" rings) before having their undefeated season suffer a blemish at the hands of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
There were plenty of insta-classics (just add water) in the Big XII last season that included Texas A&M-Nebraska, Oklahoma-Oklahoma State, Missouri-Oklahoma, Oklahoma-Nebraska, and Oklahoma State-Texas A&M. Here's a look at my top 3 Match-Up's to watch in the Big XII heading into the 2011 season:
3 - Oklahoma @ Texas
I'm not sure that you can talk about the Big XII and leave this match-up out of the conversation. Sure Texas is coming off a 5-7 season after "running the gauntlet" of the Big XII and has revamped their entire coaching staff for the most part but rivalry games always seem to give sub-par teams that boost they need to compete. Oklahoma is going to come into this match-up as the heavy favorite but we must remember that the final score from last year was 28-20. Texas is going to need a lot of things to go their way with the offense being out of sync which I'm sure the refs will gladly help them with. The Red River Shootout is going to be full of surprises but one thing that will not be a surprise is that Bob Stoops > Mack Brown and Landry Jones > Garrett Gilbert.
2 - Oklahoma State @ Texas A&M
This will once again be the first conference game for both teams and will set the tone for the rest of their seasons. As mentioned before, both of these teams will be looking at making a run the to regular season championship. However, one of the teams hopes could be dashed very early in the season with this game (praying we don't end up with a three way tie once again to get all the idiots to start popping out of the wood work). aTm is going to be a different monster than they were during this point last season with Jerrod Johnson leaving and the establishment of a new QB. Also aTm has proven to be a solid defensive team and with the crowd on their side this time the outcome could drastically change. OK-State on the other hand has lost Dana Holgorsen to WVU and will need to do some tweaking to their offense in his absence. Much of the season is riding on what OK-State is able to do offensively and with Brandon Weeden resorting to showing the OC Todd Monken the ropes, this could be a bleak season.
1 - Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State
This is a game that will be played on championship weekend and you can bet that it will have championship implications not only in the Big XII but also nationally especially if OK-State escapes aTm unscathed. Both of these teams return their star offensive players while graduating their starting RB. Throughout all of last season we saw just how potent that these offenses could be and then we're wowed in the Bedlam game. Expect both of these teams to come in with the same mentality as well as the capability to score at will. Look for this to be a high scoring game that will be decided by turnovers more than anything else. Again, as mentioned above - I'm not 100% sure that OK-State will be capable of the same offensive numbers they were last year. Plus without Holgorsen, the "inventor" (a term used very loosely since I still hold to the fact that it is an adaptation of the inverted wishbone) of the diamond formation, who is going to be able to recognize it and potentially help stop it? Oh, wait, I forgot OK-State couldn't stop the diamond and I don't expect them to this year either.
Of Course all of these aforementioned teams are going to come in being ranked and will have no excuse as to why they couldn't win the Big XII. But it is because of the rankings that each of these match-ups will spark interest all over the nation. To use a March Madness term, some teams sitting on the bubble will be hoping the worst for each of these teams so that they get a ray of light and begin to be mentioned as one of the front-runners for the title. You can also bet that each of these teams will have a target on their backs along with some revenge games thrown at them. Only time will tell which games will go down as legendary.