Oklahoma awaits Iowa State or Colorado
By Jacob Brown Daily Texan
Austin, TX (U-WIRE) -- It's not surprising the Big 12 North Championship depends on what happens in this weekend's games. What is surprising, though, are the two teams who still have a chance to win the division.
Either Colorado or Iowa State, both picked to finish near the bottom of the North, will play No. 2 Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game on Dec. 4.
The Cyclones are in if they beat Missouri Saturday or if Colorado loses Friday at Nebraska. The Buffaloes are in if they win and Iowa State loses.
"I've got to get those Tigers fired up," Colorado head coach Gary Barnett said, referring to Missouri.
While they were eliminated from the division title picture Saturday, the Nebraska Cornhuskers (5-5, 3-4 Big 12) still have a lot to play for. They need a win to become bowl-eligible and extend their streak of consecutive years with a postseason appearance to 36. They have also finished with a winning regular-season record every year since 1962.
"I think it's really important," Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan said of the streak. "It's significant in every respect, from morale, to spirit, to tradition, to recruiting. It all ties in, so we're going to do our best to keep that streak alive."
While the Cornhuskers hold a 44-16-2 overall edge in the rivalry, the Buffaloes (6-3, 3-4) have won two of the last three meetings, including a win at Nebraska in 2002. Barnett knows it won't take much to get his team riled up for Friday's contest.
"It's one of those games that I think the only thing I have to do is tell our players what time the bus leaves," he said. "Not much more has to be said."
Considering what the Colorado football team went through in its offseason, it was unexpected the team would be this position. But it might be even more astonishing if Iowa State (6-4, 4-3) makes the turnaround from a two-win season last year to a possible division championship this year.
The Cyclones' impressive play led Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel to praise the work of Dan McCarney, Iowa State's head coach.
"Dan has done a great job this year with the Iowa State football team. They really started off slow," Pinkel said, "[but now they are] just really playing well."
Iowa State lost its first three conference games but is currently on a four-game winning streak, with its last two wins coming against Nebraska and at Kansas State.
While the Cyclones have exceeded expectations this season, Missouri (4-6, 2-5) has been the most disappointing team in the Big 12. The Tigers opened conference play with a win over Colorado, but they have lost their past five games. Junior quarterback Brad Smith, a pre-season Heisman Trophy candidate, has had his worst season with the Tigers. After rushing for over 1,000 in both his freshman and sophomore campaigns, Smith has only 452 yards rushing this season. He has also thrown a career-high 10 interceptions, and he has totaled nine fewer touchdowns than he did last season.
Because the Colorado-Nebraska game is played the day before Iowa State takes on Missouri, the Cyclones will know whether or not they need to win the game before taking the field Saturday. McCarney said he will have his team focused on beating Missouri regardless of the outcome.
"It all comes down to our preparation and the leadership we have on this team," McCarney said. "We know we have a hard and physical game. Whatever happens on Friday, our preparation and everything will go into the game with Missouri Saturday."
(C) 2004 Daily Texan via U-WIRE