Much has changed in the Big 12.
Winning the Red River Rivalry used to be an almost surefire way of getting to the Big 12 Championship. Texas and OU will still play in Dallas each October, but the team that triumphs won’t be guaranteed a shot at the conference title. There won’t even be a Big 12 title game anymore now that the conference has only 10 teams and no divisions.
With Colorado and Nebraska enjoying greener grass in different conferences, the Big 12 will look different. Like the Pac-10 (now called the Pac-12 thanks to Colorado and Utah) previously did, Big 12 teams will play a round-robin schedule against one another, giving them nine conference games instead of eight.
The Bedlam Rivalry between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will now take place during the week that the Big 12 title game was previously played. Texas and Texas A&M will still square off on Thanksgiving, but it won’t be the Longhorns’ last regular season contest, which will be their Dec. 3 date with Baylor.
There is one thing that hasn’t changed: OU is good. Really good. They will be the favorite to win the Big 12 as well as the national championship, and for good reason. Landry Jones is a bona fide Heisman candidate, Ryan Broyles may be the nation’s best receiver, and the Sooners defense is vicious as ever. With Texas A&M’s recent resurgence, the Longhorns’ two fiercest rivals, the Sooners and Aggies, could finish first and second in the Big 12 standings.
Texas has a decent shot at the conference title too, but they won’t be considered one of the favorites to win it, as they will take on the unfamiliar role of a dark horse.
Oklahoma State could also sneak in and snatch the conference title, especially considering they get to play Oklahoma in Stillwater. The Cowboys will also have one of the best QB-WR tandems at their disposal with Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon (also a Heisman candidate) sure to keep scoreboard operators busy this season.
After those four contenders — Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Texas — there is a big drop-off. Missouri, without first-round NFL pick Blaine Gabbert, was picked No. 4 in the conference’s preseason poll but will not win 10 games again. Baylor’s signal-caller, Robert Griffin, comes back but doesn’t have the supporting staff to make a conference championship run. Missouri and Baylor have excellent chances of becoming bowl-eligible.
Unlike conference realignment, newcomers change college football every year. Two running backs — Malcolm Brown and Kansas State’s Bryce Brown, who transferred back home to Kansas after attending Tennessee his freshman season — were both top-rated running backs coming out of high school and should be their team’s starters this year. And pencil in Seth Dodge for 4,000 passing yards as he will most likely take over Texas Tech’s offense.
When it comes to the Big 12’s transformation, Tennessee transfers and freshman tailbacks pale in comparison to the other sweeping changes. After all, we’ll be flipping back and forth between Bedlam and Texas-Baylor on Dec. 3 instead of preparing for a Big 12 title game.
Printed on 07/25/2011 as: Big 12 enters first year as 10-team conference