With the playoff era coming to college football this fall, we’ve been spent time looking back on the Big 12 in the BCS era.
To keep with that theme, we’ve selected what we think were the biggest regular season wins for every Big 12 program during the BCS years (postseason victories were not eligible for this, since they would be too obvious).
Every school had multiple wins to choose from. But the ones we picked were based on the following criteria: how they helped shape each program; what the wins meant in the context of a particular season (or stretch of seasons); who the wins were over (a rival or a highly ranked team?); and, finally, the wins each respective fanbase seems to discuss the most still to this day.
Here is the list:
Nov. 19, 2011 (45-38 vs. No. 5 Oklahoma): The 2013 victories over Oklahoma and Texas, which clinched the program’s first Big 12 championship, were strongly considered here. But Robert Griffin III's stunning, 34-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams in the waning seconds not only landed the Bears a historical win, it changed the way the media, the fans and budding recruits perceived Baylor. The win catapulted RG III to the Heisman and basically became the spark that ignited the funding for the school’s new $260 million McLane Stadium.
Nov. 18, 2011 (37-31 vs. No. 2 Oklahoma State): Paul Rhoads had delivered some signature wins his first three seasons at Iowa State. But the Cyclones were 0-56-2 against teams ranked sixth or higher in The Associated Press poll all-time. That changed on this night, as Iowa State pulled off the upset of the college football season. The victory helped galvanize fan support for Iowa State, which has sold out Jack Trice Stadium the last two years despite 6-7 and 3-9 seasons.
Nov. 3, 2007 (76-39 vs. Nebraska): For many years, Nebraska kicked the Jayhawks when they were down. In 2007, the tables were squarely turned. The 8-0 Jayhawks went into that game holding BCS bowl and national title aspirations, but they had yet to deliver a signature win. But the first week of November, Kansas delivered exactly that, humiliating the Cornhuskers. It was just Kansas’ second victory over Nebraska in 39 years, but it couldn’t have come in finer fashion for the Jayhawks. In the long, storied history of Nebraska football, the Huskers had never given up 48 points in a half or 76 points in a game -- both of which Kansas accomplished. The Jayhawks went on to win 12 games and beat Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
Nov. 14, 1998 (40-30 vs. No. 11 Nebraska): The final building block to the Manhattan Miracle was overcoming rival and Big 12 North power Nebraska. Going into the season, the Wildcats had lost 29 straight to Cornhuskers, including a 30-point loss the year before that essentially knocked 11-1 K-State out of the Big 12 and national title picture. But in ’98, the Wildcats finally got over the hump, dispatching Nebraska on their way to capturing the Big 12 North title, the program’s first title of any kind in 64 years.
Oct. 28, 2000 (31-14 vs. No. 1 Nebraska): Bob Stoops has delivered many memorable victories over Texas and Oklahoma State. But ask him, and he’ll tell you this victory over Nebraska remains his most memorable. The Sooners had defeated No. 11 Texas and No. 2 Kansas State their previous two games, but there was still skepticism as to whether Oklahoma was really back -- especially after the Huskers jumped to an early 14-0 lead. But that skepticism was replaced with belief during a furious second-quarter rally. This is still the only game of the Stoops era where the fans rushed the field.
Dec. 3, 2011 (44-10 vs. No. 13 Oklahoma): The Bedlam rivalry historically had been one of the most lopsided in-state rivalries in the country. But to secure the school’s first Big 12 championship and BCS bowl appearance, the Cowboys had to topple their longtime nightmare nemesis. They did that and more, completely obliterating the Sooners to come within a hair of advancing to the national championship game despite the loss to Iowa State two weeks before.
Nov. 6, 2010 (47-7 at No. 6 Utah): In arguably the biggest game in Mountain West history, TCU traveled to Utah with a possible BCS bowl berth and second consecutive undefeated regular season on the line. With College GameDay in the house, the Horned Frogs flexed their muscles, routing the Utes to secure a trip to the Rose Bowl. There, the Horned Frogs defeated Big Ten champ Wisconsin to finish the season 13-0 while proving to the Big 12 they were worthy of inclusion in the league after the second round of conference realignment.
Oct. 8, 2005 (45-12 vs. Oklahoma): In just a couple of years, Mack Brown turned the Texas program around, restoring the Longhorns to a perennial double-digit win team. But the one crimson stain on Brown’s tenure was his series of debacles suffered against Red River rival Oklahoma, which had won five in a row against the Longhorns by an average margin of almost four touchdowns. But behind All-American QB Vince Young, Brown and the Longhorns conquered those demons with a convincing 45-12 rout of the Sooners. With Oklahoma finally vanquished, the Longhorns went on to seize the school’s first national championship in 35 years.
Nov. 1, 2008 (39-33 vs. No. 1 Texas): With the final seconds ticking away and Texas Tech trailing by a point, quarterback Graham Harrell heaved a pass toward the boundary. At the other end, wideout Michael Crabtree snagged Harrell’s throw, shook off a defender, and tiptoed down the sidelines for a stunning, game-winning 28-yard touchdown with one second remaining. The victory catapulted the Red Raiders to second in the polls, and ultimately assured them a three-way split of the South Division title with Texas and Oklahoma. Current Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, who had just started his coaching career at Houston and was at that game, has a painting commemorating the Texas win hanging in his office.
Oct. 22, 2003 (28-7 vs. No. 3 Virginia Tech): In 2003, the jury was still out on coach Rich Rodriguez, who had replaced the legendary Don Nehlen two years before. The Mountaineers had gone 3-8 in Rich-Rod’s first year, and were off to a terrible 2-4 start in 2003. Next up was rival Virginia Tech, which was ranked third in the country and held national championship expectations. The Mountaineers quashed those by the end of the third quarter with a dominating effort in Morgantown for the program’s firs-ever win over an opponent ranked in the top three of the polls. The game also turned around West Virginia’s season, as the Mountaineers reeled off seven straight wins to make the Gator Bowl. The stunning upset also set the tone for the Rich-Rod era, as West Virginia won 11 games apiece in 2005, 2006 and 2007.