One season after putting nine out of ten teams into bowl games and making a case to be the most competitive conference in the nation, the Big 12’s national reputation has taken a hit.
The conference has suffered several disappointing nonconference losses, including TCU’s loss to LSU, Texas’ loss to BYU and Kansas State’s loss to FCS power North Dakota State. Oklahoma’s victory over Notre Dame stands out as the lone highlight win by a Big 12 squad this season.
ESPN Stats & Info has published weekly power rankings for the past few years, and the Big 12’s struggles immediately jump out in the debut of this season’s conference power rankings, which were released on Monday.
The Big 12 ranks No. 4 behind the SEC, Pac-12 and ACC after finishing the 2012 regular season as the third-best conference in the country. The ACC, with three undefeated teams, has jumped the Big 12 during the first six weeks of the season. The conference’s overall rating is 62.3 and the Big 12 ranks fifth in FPI and fourth in AP rank. (Note: FPI is a one of ESPN’s new storytelling metrics designed to determine which team is the best in the country.) Oklahoma (13) and Baylor (15) are the lone Big 12 teams in the AP top 15.
Is there any hope for the Big 12 to change all this around? Yes and no.
Baylor brings hope with its explosive offense that would create problems for any defense in the nation and could carry the Bears high into the top 10 if they continue to dominate. OU brings hope of its own with a stellar defense and enough offensive talent to cement itself among the nation’s top 10 teams.
Yet, after that, things get sketchy for the Big 12 as it becomes much more likely the rest of the conference’s teams will beat each other up, thus preventing any rise up the rankings by pulling each other back into the pack. Oklahoma State has already been upset in its first road conference game and doesn’t have the explosive offense to which we’ve become accustomed. Texas Tech’s quarterback shuffling could be too much to overcome to cruise through its conference schedule unbeaten, though the Red Raiders might provide the best chance to spark a rise in these rankings.
Regardless, if the Big 12 has any hope of climbing higher in the rankings, it will need a team other than Baylor and OU to raise its game to another level.