The Big 12 is a conference in crises. Just a couple of weeks into the 2017-18 college football season the Big 12’s national image has already taken a massive hit with the potential to get worse.
For the past few years, the Big 12 has been clamoring for respect but has done little to earn it on the national stage. Sure, there have been moments like OU’s playoff birth and Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, OSU’s Fiesta Bowl win over Stanford, TCU’s 12-1 2014 season and Baylor’s rise from doormat to conference contender. However, recently the bad has outweighed the good.
To start look no further than the recent slide of Texas. Once a national power, Texas has become a punchline of late posting three straight losing seasons and setting all kinds of records for all the wrong reasons. Not to mention the fact that they have not posted a ten win season since Colt McCoy took his final snap in 2009. That was all supposed to change with the hiring of Tom Herman after the failed Charlie Strong experiment. Herman who had turned Houston into a national contender was supposed to eliminate the mistakes that have cost Texas numerous games over the past few seasons and properly use the talent left by Strong. However after a 51-41 loss to a 6-7 Maryland team that saw the hornless Longhorn defense surrender 263 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns and an offense that was barely able to muster 20 points shows that much hasn’t changed in Austin.
In Waco former head coach Art Briles did what many thought was impossible; turning Baylor into a winner. Briles not only did that but delivered a BCS bowl berth, a Heisman winner, a top 5 draft pick, and a Big 12 championship. Then he and the program crashed and burned. Following a 7-6 season that saw the Bears start 6-0 and ranked as high as eighth before crashing to a 1-6 finish, Matt Rhule was brought in to fix a program rocked by the recent scandal. Rhule, who led Temple to back to back division titles and an American Athletic Conference championship last season was supposed to have an easy win in the season opener against FCS foe Liberty. Former Kansas head coach Turner Gill and co. had different plans as his Flames lit up Baylor’s clawless defense with a stat line of; 585 total yards of offense, 31 first downs, 15-24 on third downs, and most importantly a 48-45 lead with 0:00 left in the fourth quarter.
The Big 12’s last chance to salvage itself this week was West Virgina as they took on the 21st ranked Virgina Tech Hokies in Landover, Maryland the home of the Washington Redskins. Led by former Florida quarterback Will Grier, the Mountaineers traded blows with Tech until Hokies quarterback Joshua Jackson, the first freshman quarterback to start for Tech since Michael Vick in 1999, did his best Vick impression totaling 336 total yards of offense and two touchdowns in a 31-24 win.
The tally? Two ranked Big 12 teams sent home with losses. Another one downed by an FCS opponent for the first time since 1981. The rest of the conference? Handled their business against lesser foes…after some scares. Not a good look. However, there is hope.
The Big 12 has a shot at redemption next week. TCU goes to Arkansas. A win over a SEC foe is huge, just ask the boys in Norman and Lubbock. Iowa State gets Big 10 rival Iowa t home who throttled Wyoming and a possible top five draft pick, Josh Allen, this past Saturday. No game is bigger than OU vs Ohio State. A win would be huge on many fronts. One it would help the Big 12’s image by actually beating a top team from another power 5 team and doing it on the road would be an added bonus. Secondly, it would help cushion the blow of a possible USC beatdown of Texas and a shootout loss to Arizona State for Texas Tech in a few weeks. Thirdly, it would significantly help the Sooner’s image of winning big games, especially in non-conference after dropping two such games last season. A loss?…..
The Big 12 is a conference in crises with the potential to get much worse. They say all you need is an opportunity. Well, the Big 12 has their opportunity to earn the respect that they desperately seek this Saturday.