I saw somebody last week try to give their summary thoughts on the Big 12 and who was what in the league. They started by proclaiming Kansas as a non-contender for the Big 12 championship. A good start, but from that point on they were off base and wrong.
I'm going to help him out a little. With just two conference games in the books there are a lot of possibilities out there, but I really think the Big 12 will come down to two front runners and one or two possibles.
The two front runners are Kansas State, clearly established with a road win at a solid Oklahoma team. Kansas State has experience, talent, and good leadership with its coaching staff and player leaders. Collin Klein in worth a lot as a player and an influential teammate.
The other front runner is West Virginia. The Mountaineers are playing with a lot of confidence on offense and they have the ability to hang in there on the defensive side. A defense that hangs in there and doesn't hang heads gives a powerful offense a chance.
Those two play at Morgantown, which will make it tough on Kansas State. The schedule is a minefield for these two and all others. At the end, a team with two maybe even three losses could win or tie for the Big 12 title.
Below these two are Oklahoma State and Baylor. Don't give me that look. Both have enough offensive firepower to put lots of points up, and while Oklahoma State has not proven it yet, the Cowboys have a better defense.
Baylor has an opportunistic defense similar to Oklahoma State a year ago. Baylor also has good, strong leadership at quarterback in Nick Florence and spectacular athletic ability at skill positions. I'll trust coordinator Phil Bennett to get the defense to an opportunisitic level.
Okay, so where are Texas and Oklahoma? Oklahoma put themselves on report for mid-level conference finish last night. They have talent but quarterback Landry Jones hasn't been his spectacular and impressive self since Ryan Broyles went out, and the time limit is looking to expire. Oklahoma will finish in the top half of the league, but with offensive line issues, quarterback issues, youth, and lack of depth in areas on defense they are not the complete team.
Texas is getting better, and the Longhorns would be my fifth team in but a brutal schedule starting with this Saturday in Stillwater could be what keeps Texas in fourth or below. The quarterback play has still not proven to be consistent.
Next in line are TCU and Iowa State, and both could be party crashers as Gary Patterson has a good TCU team that just seems to be missing something. I can't quite figure it out. Iowa State, on the other hand, has two teriffic linebackers, a very solid quarterback, and a good running back.
Texas Tech will get shuffled back in conference play, at least that is what I believe, and Kansas needs a lot more time. The problems left in Jayhawk land are not of the quick fix variety.
Now, as for the bye week work at Oklahoma State. It added up to three pretty snappy practices. What does that mean? It means the offense looked good with J.W. Walsh getting the first team quarterback reps. It means that the practices had high energy and that the execution was sharp.
The defense was flying around the ball. Guys are getting healthy, and no, I'm not talking about Wes Lunt. I would hope he is too, but it's guys like Andrae May and Justin Gilbert, and all the other guys that can help out with depth at critical positions.
It's a huge game for both the Cowboys and Longhorns, even bigger now that Kansas State beat OU because the winner of this gets an early perch at the top of the league and a huge roll of momentum to take to some tough football venues the rest of the season.