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Archive for Wednesday, July 29, 1998

HARTSOCK COLUMN

July 29, 1998

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The big, bad Big 12 is back, and it just might be better than ever.

In football, that is.

OK, so maybe the first two football falls have been somewhat disappointing from the Big 12's standpoint. The first year the league didn't get enough teams eligible to claim the six guaranteed bowl slots. Last year six teams qualified, but -- oops -- Texas Tech took itself out of consideration in the hopes of getting leniency from the NCAA.

But if last season is an indication and not an aberration, Year Three just might be the best in the superconference-to-end-all-superconference's brief history.

For the most part, the Big 12 did not disappoint during its first two seasons, with a combined 10 postseason bowl appearances, an unmatched four Alliance Bowl appearances, an impressive 3-1 Alliance Bowl record and a share of a national championship.

Last year alone the league boasted 28 NFL draftees, a share of a national championship, the nation's leading scorer and rusher and Doak Walker Award winner Ricky Williams of Texas, Outland Trophy winner Aaron Taylor of Nebraska and Lou Groza Award winner Martin Gramatica of Kansas State.

But last year, the also-rans started getting in on the act.

Kansas State, which hasn't won a league title since 1934, continued its awe-inspiring turnaround from patsy to powerhouse, and the KSU faithful are calling this the year of the 'Cat.

Oklahoma State jumped out to its best start in 53 years, went bowling and finished with its first winning record (8-4) since 1988.

Missouri threw a scare into Nebraska and ended a streak of 13 years of postseason-less football.

But enough about last year.

Some critics suggest the transition in Huskerland from legendary coach Tom Osborne to Frank Solich just might be enough to get Nebraska out of the firmament and back among the mere mortals.

Some pundits say it doesn't matter, that this is Kansas State's year regardless of the goings-on in Lincoln, Neb.

Some Texans suggest it's A&M's turn, while others say the Longhorns will be back and better than ever.

Whatever.

Regardless, the start of the Big 12's third go-round is just over a month away, when NU and Louisiana Tech meet in the Eddie Robinson Classic on Aug. 29.

Last week, all 12 coaches gathered in a downtown Dallas hotel to wax upbeat about the upcoming season. Almost to a man, they promised to take `em one game at a time.

But mixed in with the coachspeak came a few revelations.

A very few, to be sure, but a few nonetheless.

  • For the lowdown on the league, turn to page 6C.

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