NORMAN — Nobody mentioned it Monday when it was Bob Stoops’ turn to speak. Strangely, not being about his changing offense or shakeups to his lineup, he might have offered one of his better answers.
But it would have been premature. It would have been premature to ask him if he thinks beyond this week to the possibility of winning a Big 12 championship, or beyond, to getting back into the national championship race. And, it would have seemed premature to float such opportunities for a team that has played only one good game against one real team.
It would not, though, have been crazy.
Because the Big 12 has never been so deep with so many good teams and ranked teams and teams that scare other teams (like, really, who wants to play Iowa State in Ames?), every conceivable outcome remains possible.
Just take a look at the Associated Press Top 25. It’s hard to know how much it will correlate with the first round of BCS standings, but West Virginia is No. 5, Kansas State is No. 6, Oklahoma is No. 13 and Texas is No. 15 (it’s Nos. 4, 5, 10 and 15 in the USA Today coaches poll).
TCU and Iowa State are Nos. 23 and 25 in the coaches poll and receiving votes in the AP poll. Baylor and Texas Tech are receiving votes in both polls. Oklahoma State is receiving votes in the coaches poll.
That’s 9 of 10 conference teams at least somebody believes belongs in the top 25.
Texas coach Mack Brown thinks it might shake out one way.
“In my estimation, we could see a conference champion with one or two losses this year; the way the league is, because there’s so much parity in the league,” he said. “So this game is really important — not just that it’s the OU game, but that it matters in your league.”
It could go that way.
You could have a bunch of Big 12 teams in the polls and none in the top 10 because they keep beating each other.
Or, you could have a one-loss team playing a no-loss team near the end of the season, the winner, either one, in position to play for a national championship.
That could happen, too.
Neither the Sooners nor the Longhorns should be thinking that far ahead, but each could be that one-loss team.
The Longhorns must win Saturday, then top Baylor at home, Kansas and Texas Tech on the road, Iowa State and TCU at home and then hope it’s unbeaten Kansas State welcoming them into Manhattan on Dec. 1.
When you think about it like that, Texas’ toughest Saturday before that last Saturday is this Saturday.
Oklahoma must beat Texas, beat No. 7 Notre Dame in Norman, win at Iowa State, beat Baylor in Norman and then hope, on Nov. 17, when it visits Morgantown, W.V., that the Mountaineers have yet to lose a game … then beat OSU in Norman and TCU in Fort Worth.
It’s a much tougher path than the one Texas faces. On the other hand, beat the Longhorns, Jayhawks, Irish and Cyclones and no Sooner Nation citizen will believe his or her team can be stopped.
Of course, that makes a week from Saturday the day the conference’s most important game gets played, when Kansas State visits West Virginia for a 6 p.m. kick. (just as long as the Wildcats can win in Ames on Saturday and the Mountaineers can win in Lubbock).
Who thought the Big 12 was in trouble?
“We’re the only league with eight teams with one loss or less,” Brown said. “The big 12 has the top three total offensive teams in America. We have seven of the top-25 in scoring … The Big 12 has six of the top nine quarterbacks in passing efficiency.”
You’ve got to love Mack.
He’s never not selling.
And he’s right.
It’s a great conference.
It’s still too early to have national championship dreams. Wait until Saturday afternoon.
Clay HorningFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org