DALLAS – Prominent preseason prognosticator Phil Steele, who claims to have the most accurate preseason magazine in the country over the last 15 years, picked Texas No. 4 in his rankings this year.
This is the same Longhorns team that was picked to finish fourth – in the Big 12 – in the conference’s preseason poll.
“I really like the first guy better,” head coach Mack Brown joked. “When you look at us being voted fourth, I thought what we saw is the numbers are really, really close, and people are confused on who they think may win this conference championship, and that’s a compliment to our league.”
Oklahoma State, who won its first Big 12 title two seasons ago, was picked to win the conference for the first time in school history. Kansas State won the Big 12 last season and was picked sixth for the second straight year. Oklahoma has captured a league-best seven conference championships and was picked second, followed by TCU at No. 3 while Baylor rounded out the top five.
“I think we have the most balanced league in the country right now, top to bottom,” Brown said. “You saw in the SEC the top seven beat the bottom seven 30-0, and that’s not happening in our league. Our league is very challenging. At one point, there were two or three teams that were better than everybody else, and that’s not the case anymore.”
Not many are making the argument that the Big 12 is a better conference than the SEC, which has won each of the last seven national titles. But SEC supremacy is not a unanimous view.
“I’m a Big 12 guy. I think it’s the best league in America without question,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said. “It’s just a tough league to go unscathed in. I think defenses are very talented, very good in our league. I think offenses are very talented. I think the style of play dictates a lot of times how one side of the ball is predicted. In the Big 12, there’s guys on offense trying to score every snap.”
Unlike the 14-team SEC, the Big 12 uses a round-robin conference schedule with each team playing the other nine squads in the conference. The parity in the Big 12 has served it well, although played a part in keeping it from being represented in the last two national championship games.
In 2011, Oklahoma State was upset in Ames by Iowa State on a late November night, squelching their national title hopes. Last season, Kansas State was on its way to playing for a national championship before also falling in late November as the Wildcats were blown out on the road by Baylor.
“I think our conference has maintained a good balance over the years,” Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder said. “I think maybe there are some years where there might be a little more balance or more teams that are prominent than other years. But, by and large, I think year in and year out it’s a very consistent conference.”