The Big 12 used to be a gridiron spaghetti western that sparked shootouts and produced national title contenders in bulk. In this new post-realignment, post-BCS world, the Big 12 is a conference of water gun-squirting, fugazi pretenders.
Anarchy reigns supreme as there is no Big 12 gunslinger striking fear in the hearts of rival coaches and defenses.
Oregon and Stanford are surfing on top of the Pac-12 wave like Keanu Reeves in Point Break while UCLA turtle rolls in the rear in hopes of continuing their ascension.
Jameis Winston is a Clint Eastwood-like figure from ACC Country shooting down potential assassins with itchy trigger fingers.
Alabama's defense will retool, but it’s the offense that will be the focal point leading up to the season opener.
AJ McCarron’s departure left an opening that will be filled by either Blake Sims or transfer Jacob Coker.
Coker lost out to Winston for the Seminoles starting job last summer, but he’s encountering a true de ja vu moment. Coker also succeeded McCarron as the starter at St. Paul's Episcopal in Mobile, Alabama, but the expectations are tenfold what he faced in high school.
Bama will be paced by Malzahn’s Miracle Tigers, which may have been the worst national championship defense of the BCS era.
Despite the jokes and lingering questions about their conference’s strength, it’s conceivable that Michigan State and Ohio State could also thrust the Big Ten into contention.
Each of the major conferences has a reasonable chance of being represented in the premiere college football playoff—except one.
It’s also the only one without a conference title game after being ravaged by realignment.
Baylor and Oklahoma split the Big 12 title last year, but there was no duel at sundown to determine who the conference champion and it’s hard to imagine either earning a spot in the end-of-season gridiron finale.
The armory in Commissioner Bob Bowlsby’s football stronghold hass been severely depleted.
At a time when the four-team football playoff has opened college football’s national championship race to more competitors than ever, the Big 12’s powerhouses might as well be lost at sea on a raft compared to the other conferences’ frontrunners pacing the shores, waiting for their chance to dive into the brave new postseason world..
Missouri has emerged as a national title contender after coming within seconds of going undefeated in the regular season before getting thwarted by South Carolina. However, sack-happy ends Kony Early and Michael Sam, who left quarterbacks feeling claustrophobic, have moved on to the NFL and will be difficult to replace.
Texas A&M’s offense will continue to keep on tickin’, but their defense needs a complete renovation. It couldn’t have been more of a disaster in 2012 and 2013 if their limbs were bound together and they were tossed onto train tracks.
But wait… A&M and Mizzou aren't in the Big 12 anymore.
A&M is the SEC’s newest rabblerouser and Missouri is the outcast that nearly upset the order of the NFL’s elite minor league division.
Missouri, buoyed by the growing legend of sophomore Maty Mauk, would be the Big 12’s ringleader if they hadn’t abandoned the Big 12’s ship in 2012.
Charlie Strong brings energy, acumen and savvy to mighty Texas, but the Longhorns are too far behind on both sides of the ball to be considered anything more than cattle preparing to be slaughtered by national title contenders.
The Texas Longhorns have been all talk (see: Longhorn network) and no bite for the past five seasons. Charlie Strong is bringing the creatine powder, but it’ll take at least one season before significant progress is witnessed on the offensive side of the ball.
The Longhorns should get their lethal injection early. They've got UCLA on Sept. 13, Baylor on Oct. 4, followed by Oklahoma on the 11th.
Strong may be able to affect change on their porous defensive side immediately, but until they can find a quarterback with some moxy, their lackluster offense will have as much punch as Richard Simmons doing Tae Bo.
Baylor is firing on all gears offensively, but faced questions about their strength of schedule all season long until they were impaled by their own defense against Oklahoma State and Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl.
Oklahoma finally got over the hump in a big BCS victory over Alabama. Trevor Knight’s mobility is vital to Stoops’ zone read scheme, but it’s his passing ability that got him the starting job over former quarterback Blake Bell-dozer.
The Sooners receiving corps is starving for a No. 1 receiver after the loss of Jalen Saunders, but the arrival of Dorial Green-Beckham, the No. 1 receiver in the Class of 2012 could fill that void for the Sooners offense.
Green-Beckham was dismissed from Mizzou by Gary Pinkel in the spring after pushing an 18-year-old woman down four flights of stairs, but is appealing on the grounds of a “run off” waiver to be immediately eligible for the 2014 season.
The most intriguing receiver on the depth chart to watch will be Blake Bell’s development as a tight end. Bell’s no Jermaine Gresham, but the former designated four-star recruit-turned designated QB sneaker-turned starter will be running routes, blocking or catching passes one year after leading the Sooners in touchdown yards and passes.
Bell’s father was an NFL tight end, so the hope is that the athletic genes and Blake’s natural inclination for physical play rubs off on his new position.
Nine returning starters will keep the Sooner defense’s momentum going, however, most of the Oklahoma hype is being based off of Knight’s performance in one BCS game and Mike/Bob Stoops’ history in Stillwater. There's still a a lot to be desired of the Sooners after losing by a combined score of 77-32 in losses to Baylor and Texas last season.
All in all, the Big 12 doesn’t appear to have a dark horse ready to leap into the national championship derby.
The real sleeper should be the Sooners in-state neighbors Oklahoma State, who won 10 of their first 11 games in 2013 before faltering in their final two regular season matchups. However, the Cowboys fate will be decided quickly though as they open up the season against the defending national champions.
After returning the fewest starters in the Big 12, OK State is too green, especially on defense, to string together an upset of FSU on the opening weekend.
The Big 12’s juxtaposition at the bottom of the power conference food chain is in stark contrast to the house dog, abandoned roadside. Now emaciated and scroungy, the Big 12 is down, but not out. However, 2014 isn't looking like their year.
Instead, the first year of the playoff will probably leave the whimpering Big 12's members in the outhouse as they watch the playoff take place without any of its marquee teams in the mix.