Posted: Wednesday September 21, 2005 1:37PM; Updated: Wednesday September 21, 2005 1:41PM
Joel Klatt will lead the Buffaloes into a test at No. 12 Miami on Saturday.
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
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During the weekly sift through the inbox, sometimes I come across questions that leave me wondering whether the writer and myself are watching the same sport. Like this one from Matt in Los Angeles:
When are sportswriters going to admit they were wrong about the Big 12 North?
I assume Matt is referring to the perception among pundits that the division, to put it nicely, stinks, as evidenced by the fact that just one of its teams, Iowa State, is in the national polls. By whipping a top-10 Iowa team two weeks ago, the Cyclones made a statement that the division may produce one upper-echelon team this season -- as opposed to last year's total of none, but if there's been some sort of overwhelming proof so far that the rest of the division has improved as well, I must have missed it.
A review of the other five North teams' seasons so far:
Nebraska: Though 3-0, the Huskers somehow look even worse offensively than they did last season, highlighted by Saturday's 7-6 victory over equally hapless Pittsburgh that wasn't secured until after the Panthers botched two last-second field-goal attempts.
Colorado: The Buffs needed a dramatic rally to overcome a Colorado State team that went 4-7 last year and also lost 56-24 to Minnesota on Sept. 10. In fairness, CU did beat the pants off New Mexico State in Week 2.
Missouri: Lost to New Mexico (which, granted, is not nearly as bad as losing to Troy).
Kansas State: After beating Florida International 35-21, the Wildcats needed a last-second interception (on a play in which the opponent should have been setting up the game-winning field goal, not passing) to hold off a Marshall team that struggled with William & Mary in its opener.
Kansas: The Jayhawks have beaten Florida Atlantic, Appalachian State and Louisiana Tech. Our hearty congratulations.
So, to get back to the original question, what is it going to take for people to admit they're wrong about the Big 12 North? In a nutshell, a whole lot more than that.
Now, there are plenty of good upcoming opportunities for North teams to bolster their credibility, most notably Saturday, when Colorado faces Miami. The Buffs have not been without encouraging signs -- I like the emergence of speedy RB Hugh Charles, and quarterback Joel Klatt is playing like the veteran he is. Can they beat the vulnerable 'Canes? I doubt it, but, hey, prove me wrong.
I also think Missouri is better than that loss to New Mexico would indicate (and the Lobos are a lot better than most people think). Brad Smith looks as if he's regained his old form. The Tigers get their opportunity to make a statement on Oct. 1, when they host No. 2 Texas.
There's no way to tell much about Kansas from its first three games, but the word coming into the season was the Jayhawks would have a pretty good defense, and that's been the case so far. LBs Nick Reid and Brandon Perkins (who had five sacks against Louisiana Tech) are studs. Are they good enough to slow down Texas Tech's aerial assault? We'll find out in two weeks.
I don't have a whole lot of faith in Nebraska or Kansas State to pull off any statement wins anytime soon. The Huskers' defense might carry them to a bowl game, but the Wildcats don't seem much improved from last year's 4-7 debacle. As for Iowa State, the Cyclones have certainly shown the promise, but when you haven't won a conference title since 1912, it's going to take more than one big victory to win over the non-believers.
So, in conclusion, when will people admit they're wrong about the Big 12 North? I don't know, get back to me in a couple of weeks.