This fall, more than ever, the race for the Big 12 Championship in football is wide open and unpredictable. Many of the stars that ensured success for their respective teams have moved on to the NFL, a new crop of quarterbacks will be taking their first snaps as starters across the league, and perennial powers aren’t shoe-ins to win 10 games and make their way to major bowl games.
Pre-season predictions for how the league will shake out have started to surface online, and each and every one of them is widely divergent. Many polls believe the Oklahoma Sooners will still rise to the top regardless of starting a largely unproven quantity at quarterback in Blake Bell.
Others believe the Texas Longhorns will finally get over the hump — which begins by beating Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry game on October 12th — and make their way to a Big 12 title behind an improved David Ash and a new up-tempo offense.
Still others see the Oklahoma State Cowboys — who are as talented and deep as ever — to be the favorite or even the Baylor Bears who love nothing more than to fly under the radar and emerge when the time is right to win games they shouldn’t. Hell, Art Briles could write the book on fake modesty at this point. He’s certainly the master of it.
TCU is even mentioned here and there, although the uncertainty they have in the quarterback race between Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin probably makes them a longer-shot than their peers.
The Big 12 Media believes Oklahoma State to be the favorite — the Cowboys took 15 of the available 23 first-place votes in the official 2013 pre-season poll. As we all know, however, these polls are a first-time look into a very shady crystal ball where teams that look like world-beaters on paper can turn out to be duds, and vice versa.
A great example is the 2011 and 2012 Kansas State Wildcats. Bill Snyder’s 2011 squad was picked to finish eighth in the conference and finished 2nd overall, while the 2012 squad — led by Collin Klein — was picked to finish 6th and took home the Big 12 Championship.
The reality is, in a conference with plenty of fresh faces at QB, and with turnover across the board at important skill positions on both sides of the ball, that any prognostications in July should be taken with a very, very small grain of salt.
We’ll know much more by mid-October, but for now it’s all hot air.