Big 12 Review: Chalk Over Chaos
Every year about this time, you’ll read something along these lines: “This is the wildest year ever in the [insert your conference name here].” While there are seasons that do fit this description, that’s not the case so far in 2017 in the Big 12. Sure, there has been an upset or two, and a couple of teams a notch above where they were predicted, but for the most part the league stands as many thought it might heading into the season.
First, up top, there’s Oklahoma. Is anyone surprised the Sooners are there? The question for OU in September centered around its trip to Ohio State, which it handled with aplomb. Behind the Sooners stand the Horned Frogs of TCU, perhaps the biggest surprise of the year. It’s not a huge shocker, though, that the defense is back in Fort Worth, or that quarterback Kenny Hill is steadier after a year at controls. The win over Oklahoma State, which has an offense that moves the ball at will, probably says more about the former’s improvement as it does of any problems in Stillwater. The Cowboys are still going to be an incredibly tough out for any team that can’t score at least 45 points.
In the mid-pack, there’s Kansas State, Texas Tech and WVU. Is it a shock that the Wildcats are relying on their running game and defense to win? Or that Texas Tech has an offense capable of hanging with the best in the league? WVU is right there on the offensive end, setting ups some interesting games among this trio. Any of these teams could finish third — or sixth.
Next comes Texas, which is reflecting the mixed opinions that many held heading into the first year with new head coach Tom Herman. Some had them picked high in the league, some low, so it’s fitting that the Horns are 2-2 so far, with both good and bad performances under their belts. UT fans hope that an upward trend propels them above the .500 mark, and that could happen, but a result right around that mark is just as possible.
Iowa State continues to play respectably, but has come up a few plays short in losses to Texas and Iowa. Stop if you’ve heard that story line before out of Ames. There is enough talent to get an upset win here and there, but as ISU showed in the Texas game, not enough to move up into that mid-pack where a bowl game is a certainty.
Then at the bottom, there’s Kansas and Baylor. The Jayhawks look about the same as they have in previous years, which is to say, not good. Baylor still has some offensive talent, but did anyone expect it to fall to the basement of the league and be winless at the moment? That is a bit of an eye-opener, but the Bears weren’t picked to do much in the conference this year, so seeing them as the only Big 12 team without a win isn’t a huge shock.
Make no mistake, there will be upsets coming. Eight teams have the ability to pull off a win if their opponent isn’t playing well, and the tightly-packed bunch in the middle of the conference lends itself to up and down results in October and November. But barring the occasional one-off, and perhaps one team that ends up exceeding expectations by a large margin, it looks like the Big 12 is playing out pretty close to the chalk.