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June 26, 2012

Looking back on the Big 12


Missouri's membership in the Big 12 officially comes to an end on July 1st, which is now just five days away. PowerMizzou.com takes a look back at the Tigers' top five moments in their soon-to-be-former league:

5. A Break in the War

Admittedly, maybe this one just sticks in our memories a bit more because the memories are so fresh. By the time Missouri and Kansas met first at Mizzou Arena and then a couple of weeks later at Allen Fieldhouse, the battle lines had been drawn. The Tigers were headed to the SEC, the Jayhawks didn't like it and the verbal arrows had been slung. Going into the games, that was the story. Coming out of them, the two teams had played two games so epic that the play overshadowed the off-court pettiness. In Columbia, Marcus Denmon scored nine straight points, erasing an eight-point Kansas lead with just more than two minutes to play as the Tigers won a battle of top five teams. Mizzou looked ready to claim its first Big 12 regular season title a couple of weeks later in Lawrence as the Tigers shot their way to a 19-point lead in Allen Fieldhouse. But the Jayhawks roared back and won an overtime thriller that was secure only when Denmon's three (which went in) left his hand after the buzzer. Eventually, the Border War will happen again. Until it does, these two games were a fitting way for the rivalry to enter hibernation.

4. Husker Hex no More

For the first seven years in the Big 12 (and the last 15 in the Big Eight), Missouri-Nebraska just wasn't much of a rivalry. Beginning in 2003, it became one. On a rain-soaked Saturday night, the Huskers came to town unbeaten and relatively unchallenged. Mizzou was 4-and-1, but smarting from a smackdown by Kansas. Nebraska led 24-17 when the fourth quarter began. On the first play of the final stanza, Brad Smith ran 39 yards to tie it up. Three minutes later, the Tigers lined up for a field goal that would give them the lead. Instead, Sonny Riccio rose up from his holder's spot and etched his name in Tiger history with a 14-yard touchdown to Victor Sesay on the fake. Missouri added 10 more points, completing a 24-0 fourth quarter and giving the Tigers their first win over Nebraska in a quarter of a century. Mizzou would beat Nebraska three of the next five and win two North division titles. The Huskers took the final two games of the series and won the North before bolting for the Big Ten.

3. Goodbye, Big 12

Missouri won two Big 12 basketball tournaments. The one in 2008 was a high-water mark for the program over the first dozen years in the Big 12. But it didn't have quite the staying power of the 2012 title. Missouri was the second seed in the tournament, having put together a 14-and-4 regular season. The Tigers blew out Oklahoma State and Texas while Baylor took out Kansas, depriving fans of the rubber match in the season series between the Tigers and Jayhawks. The Bears stuck with Mizzou for a half, but by the time the final buzzer sounded, nothing was in doubt about Missouri's 90-75 win. Throughout the week (and the season), the war of words had been waged with Kansas City as the epicenter. Tiger fans boasted KC was in Missouri. Jayhawk fans claimed it was a Big 12 town. For three days in March, there was little doubt who owned the town. As chants of "S-E-C" rang through the crowd, Missouri took home the Big 12 basketball title in its final chance.

2. Later, Sooners

The 2010 Tigers had won their first two Big 12 games by a combined score of 56-9. But week three brought the top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners to town. It was Homecoming. Columbia was the host to College GameDay for the first time ever. The entire day had the atmosphere of a 12-hour party in Columbia. But nothing matched the roar on the game's first play. The Sooners kicked short and Gahn McGaffie grabbed the ball on a hop. The little-known Tiger reserve weaved 88 yards and gave Missouri a 7-0 lead just seconds into the game. Oklahoma would recover, actually leading 21-20 entering the fourth quarter. But a 38-yard pass from Blaine Gabbert to Jerrell Jackson gave Missouri the lead. Zaviar Gooden intercepted Landry Jones, leading to a Grant Ressel field goal. Mizzou would add one more touchdown to lead by 15 in the game's final minutes. The Tigers would hit the wall over the next two weeks, losing to Nebraska and Texas Tech, but Gary Pinkel's first win over one of the Big 12's big bullies ranks among the most memorable of his career.

1. Armageddon at Arrowhead

Really, this is the one spot on the list that nearly cannot be debated. Missouri entered the regular season finale once-beaten and ranked fourth in America. Kansas came in 11-and-0 and number two. College Game Day was there as were nearly 80,000 fans. Chase Daniel turned in a performance for the ages and Lorenzo Williams led a sack brigade on Todd Reesing to ice a 36-28 win and Missouri's first Big 12 North title in football. The Tigers would be No. 1 in the nation by the time they kicked off against Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game, but would fall short in their bid for a spot in the national title game. But that cannot take away what is probably the most memorable game in Mizzou history, in the Big 12 or any other league.

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