Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

October 2, 2012

Parity may have arrived in Big 12

By JOHN SHINN for the Daily Telegraph
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— After the dust settled late Saturday night only one thing was clear, competitive balance is firmly entrenched in the Big 12 Conference.

Every team has now played a conference game. All five of those games were decided by two touchdowns or less. Don’t expect the tight-game trend to end. The odds makers see that continuing.

Only No. 7 Kansas State (4-0, 1-0), which hosts Kansas (1-3, 0-1) is a large favorite this weekend. No. 17 Oklahoma  (2-1, 0-1) opened up as a 4-point underdog when it meets Texas Tech (4-0, 1-0) at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas.

No. 16 TCU (4-0, 1-0)  is just a 12-point favorite over Iowa State (3-1, 0-1) when they meet on Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas. No. 11 Texas (4-0, 1-0) is currently a 7-point favorite against No. 8 West Virginia (4-0, 1-0).

The blowout win doesn’t seem to be in the forecast anymore.

When did the Big 12 go from a league dominated by Oklahoma and a handful of other teams, to one with a race so tight its hard to imagine a clear favorite emerging?

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops argues that it’s been that way for a while.

“Media and fans have thought too often that hasn’t been the case. That is not true,” he said.

“The parity didn’t just happen in the last two years. With the scholarship limits and the way things have been, we could have been beaten in the last six, eight years by anybody — just like we have been capable of being beaten by anyone. That has been the case.”

But what hasn’t been the case where the overwhelming majority of the league believes it has a realistic shot at winning the conference title.

One thing that has been displayed through the first month of the regular season is the Big 12 lacks a juggernaut team. There isn’t a team like Oklahoma in 2004 or Texas in 2005 that is going run roughshod throughout the regular season.

There’s still four undefeated teams, but the Longhorns needed a controversial win over Oklahoma State on Saturday to remain undefeated.

West Virginia scored 70 points against Baylor — and won by a touchdown. The Horned Frogs are undefeated with a road victory at Kansas. But its four opponents — Grambling, Kansas, Virginia and SMU —are a combined 4-12.

The Red Raiders picked up an impressive road victory at Iowa State on Saturday. But Northwestern State (La.), Texas State and New Mexico was hardly an impressive non-conference schedule.

Still, no one will doubt Texas Tech’s credentials if it can knock off Oklahoma. The Sooners haven’t won in Lubbock since 2003. They must win in order to stay in the race.

That means simply remaining with the pack. Oklahoma State, which is off this week, has to feel like it still has a chance to defend its Big 12 title after taking Texas down to the wire on Saturday.

It’s going to be games like Saturday night’s in Stillwater that determine the Big 12 championship. One of these teams is going to show a penchant for winning razor-tight games.

Kansas State, Texas, West Virginia and Texas Tech have a leg up because they did it in their conference opener.

But things can change quickly. The race for the Big 12 title is as wide open as it’s ever been.


Shinn is a sports writer for the Norman (Okla.) Transcript. This story is distributed by CNHI.