The Norman Transcript

National Sports

September 24, 2013

Out of conference play proving tougher than usual for Big 12

NORMAN — Mack Brown’s team at Texas is feeling much better after getting into Big 12 play.

After ugly non-conference losses to BYU and Mississippi, a win over Kansas State in their league opener provided a fresh start for the Longhorns.

“I do feel a difference sense,” Brown said Monday. “Everybody has got new hope, so it’s really like two different seasons.”

Once the Big 12 gets through this last weekend in September, there will be no more non-conference games in the regular season. Then at least league teams will be beating up on each other.

There have already been eight non-conference losses, twice as many as the Big 12 had throughout the regular season last year. Big 12 teams are 19-8 against non-conference opponents with three such games left to play this weekend.

“Not only the Big 12, but across the country, there’s a very huge amount of parity and I’ve mentioned that over the last three or four years,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said during the weekly Big 12 coaches teleconference. “It’s great for the fans, it’s great for everybody other than the coaches. There will be challenges week to week.”

Last year, the Big 12 was 26-4 in its non-conference games played during the regular season — the mark was 27-3 in 2011, the league’s first season with 10 teams and a round-robin schedule. Even in 2010, when the league still had 12 teams and each played four non-conference games instead of three, the Big 12 was 40-8 in the regular season against outside competition.

No. 11 Oklahoma State, coming off an open date after winning its three non-conference games, plays its Big 12 opener Saturday at West Virginia (2-2).

West Virginia suffered its first shutout loss since 2001, losing 37-0 last weekend to Maryland when the Mountaineers had only 175 total yards. West Virginia lost its Big 12 opener at Oklahoma more than two weeks ago and will be the first to play two conference games already.

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