Through two weeks of the season, the Big 12 looks the weakest it has in years.
KU and Iowa State may be much better by 2019, but their current teams seem unlikely to win another game that does not involve the other.
Texas Tech and Pat Mahomes are incredible on offense. Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, their defense just gave up 68 to Arizona State. Before too long, Texas Tech may have a functional enough defense they can win this league. Right now, the defense is far too weak to do it.
The supposed top of the league has had an incredibly disappointing first two weeks. Oklahoma State lost to Central Michigan. Yes, the last play should not have happened after the Cowboys were penalized for intentional grounding. But if Central Michigan can beat you with one additional play, then your hopes of winning the Big 12 are not great.
TCU just fell to Arkansas. The Razorbacks may be improved, but the TCU defense has struggled the last two weeks. Against South Dakota State, TCU trailed by 10 in the 3rd quarter. At 1-1, the Frogs may be able to win the league once Kenny Hill makes another leap, but the Frogs do not look like the same fearsome team they were for most of last season before injuries to Doctson and Boykin.
Then there’s Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s loss to Houston may seriously wound their shot at making the playoff, but it does not do anything to their Big 12 title hopes. I remain opposed to Houston’s inclusion in the Big 12, but the Cougars certainly look like one of the best teams in the country. Oklahoma’s questions- whether they could replace Sterling Shepard and Zack Sanchez- remain big issues. Oklahoma looks like they could win the Big 12, but they are not the force many, myself included, thought before the season.
Texas has looked like the team we’ve heard about every summer for the last five years. If Shane Buechele keeps playing so well and Sterlin Gilbert implements the Baylor/Briles offense like he has in the first two weeks, Texas may win its first Big 12 title since 2009. Yet, there’s a reason few teams go from 5-7 to 11-1 or 12-0. A freshman quarterback can be great, and Buechele has been through two weeks, but as he faces better defenses, how well the Longhorns offensive line holds up is a big issue.
Baylor has its issues too. The first half against SMU was ugly. Seth Russell missed a number of throws, and the wide receivers rarely provided much help as they dropped a number of passes. Add in an offensive line with a number of problems, and the first half demonstrated why Baylor might end up 7-5.
But for all its weaknesses against SMU in the first half, the second half showed why this team could still win the Big 12. Seth Russell displayed his speed and had a nice touchdown run and extended a number of drives. Shock Linwood, JaMycal Hasty, and Terence Williams found a way to convert on a number of plays while the offensive line did not get much movement. The receivers did not play their best game, but Blake Lynch broke a number of tackles, K.D. Cannon had a big touchdown, and Ish Zamora will return for Big 12 play.
If this were almost any other season, what remains of the Baylor football team would have little to no shot at winning the Big 12. But some years are weaker than others. Texas Tech had the misfortune of having their best team in modern history in 2008 when Oklahoma and Texas were also fantastic. Baylor and TCU were both superb in 2014, but 61-58 eliminated TCU and didn’t do enough to overwhelm Baylor’s loss to West Virginia.
This is not the Big 12 of yesterday and if expansion happens, it will not be the Big 12 of tomorrow. The 2016 Big 12 is a league where a number of teams are wondering: why not us? Baylor may collapse or fall just short of winning the Big 12. Few teams continue to face the uncertainty of this one. What remains certain is that nothing through two weeks should cause the Bears to think they cannot win the Big 12.