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December 10, 2004
It was a year of the haves and the have-nots in the Big 12. The South Division laid its claim to being the best division in all of college football, while the North, well, it laid something else.
Oklahoma stepped up and took the South title, but it seemed no one in the North really wanted a spot in the Big 12 championship game. And, after the 42-3 spanking the Sooners handed Colorado in the title game, more than one team from the North might have been thankful to avoid the beating.
This season also will be remembered as the year Big 12 defenses earned back some respect. Countless conference offenses struggled throughout the season trying to find their way into the end zone. In 2003, four league teams averaged more than 36 points per game with three eclipsing the 40-point barrier; Oklahoma (42.9), Texas Tech (42.5) and Texas (41). However, only the Sooners (36.1) averaged better than 36 points per game this season.
The defenses also clamped down on the yardage, as only Baylor and Colorado allowed more than 400 yards per game, compared to seven teams last season.
In honoring that theme, it was clear that the Rivals.com Big 12 Player of the Year should come from the defensive side of the ball, and no one was better or more dominating than Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson.
The Longhorns didn't capture the Big 12 Championship they set out to win this season, but they will play in a BCS game, and Johnson played a key role in accomplishment. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound senior racked up 94 tackles, which ranked fourth in the Big 12, including 19 tackles for loss and a nation's best six forced fumbles en route to earning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors three times this season.
Johnson was one of five Longhorns to make the Rivals.com All-Big 12 team. Oklahoma led the conference with eight selections followed by Texas, while Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Texas Tech and Texas A&M each placed two players on the squad. Nebraska, Missouri, Colorado and Kansas State added one player each leaving the one-time Big 12 North frontrunner Iowa State as the lone team without a representative.
Action photos from Associated Press.