The Oklahoma Sooners have been to Big 12 football what the Kansas Jayhawks have been to the conference in basketball, though KU finally did have its 14-year run ended by Texas Tech and Kansas State this past season.
Since the Big 12 became an entity in 1996, the Sooners have won 12 Big 12 football titles, with Texas far and away a distant second with three. Baylor, Kansas State and Nebraska have two, while Colorado, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas A & M all have one.
So it’s no wonder the Sooners, who have won the last four Big 12 titles, were the overwhelming favorite on Wednesday when the Big 12 media poll was released.
Even though the Sooners must replace Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray — former Alabama star quarterback Jalen Hurts should step right in quite nicely as a grad transfer— they received 68 of the 77 first-place votes.
The other nine went to Texas, which is slowly returning to the days of Vince Young and coach Mack Brown as Tom Herman is gaining a stronghold in the Lone Star State.
It wasn’t that long ago when Iowa State and Kansas were battling for the bottom spot, but the Cyclones have experienced a renaissance under youthful coach Matt Campbell, who probably has the toughest recruiting sell in the Big 12.
TCU, most likely due to the presence of the well-respected Gary Patterson, was picked fourth, while Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State Cowboys were tabbed No. 5.
Baylor, which is recovering from the Art Briles scandal-riddled era, is making strides as it was picked sixth, while voters brought up the rear with four schools all with new coaches — Texas Tech, West Virginia, Kansas State and Kansas.
I believe this will be a year of transition in the Big 12. The conference has lost some of its luster as its reputation has been sullied by defenseless games that produce pinball numbers. The SEC and Big 10 are more defensive dominated, while the ACC is top-heavy and the Pac 12 has fallen off since USC and UCLA simply aren’t what they once were.
There will be a honeymoon period for the new coaches, but I know at Kansas it is tired of being the Big 12’s laughingstock. After fumbling on coaching hires such as Turner Gill, Charlie Weis and David Beaty, new AD Jeff Long was brought in almost solely for the purpose of making KU football relevant again. His hire of Les Miles gives the program instant credibility, if nothing else fans won’t be subjected to the horrible disorganization that permeated the program during the Beaty era.
Miles’ hire also has resulted in an uptick in recruiting, as he’s almost finished with his 2020 class, which has been ranked as high as No. 2 in the conference by some services so far.
I also believe Kansas State being picked No. 9 is too low. I really like what new coach Chris Klieman is doing and I think he’ll be one of the sleeper hires in college football this year. Being disrespected is nothing new for Kansas State, as it spent much of the Bill Snyder era being overlooked and the Wildcats used that as motivation every year to defy the pundits.
I’m sure the media got it right with Oklahoma winning it and Texas being No. 2. But from then on, most of the remaining teams could finish anywhere in the order.