CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In the span of a year, the Big 12 has gone from turmoil to terrific on television once again.
A conference whose football future was uncertain with the defections of Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M and Missouri over the past two years has landed squarely on its feet.
The Big 12 has two teams in the top 10 and is the only conference to have eight schools with one or fewer losses. (The Southeastern Conference has seven).
No. 5 West Virginia and No. 6 Kansas State are the early front-runners in the Big 12 standings, with No. 13 Oklahoma and No. 15 Texas trying to keep pace while settling the Red River rivalry in Dallas on Saturday.
“I think the league is stronger now than it has been in a long time,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said Monday.
It might have been hard to imagine this a year ago, considering the Big 12 could’ve gone bust.
“We’ve gone from possibly not having a league, to having an unstable league, to having a league that wasn’t getting along, to having as stable a league as anyone with great football teams
When things got settled after two restless summers, the redrawn Big 12 was essentially the same — high-scoring offenses, questionable defenses and Heisman hype. Four Big 12 offenses are among the top seven passing teams in the FBS. Five are in the top nine in third-down efficiency.
This much is known — West Virginia likes the way it fits in.
The Mountaineers (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) set a lofty goal of winning the conference championship right away, but that’s way too far in the distance to contemplate. For starters, West Virginia must get through one of its toughest October schedules after going 28-8 in the month over the previous decade.
After beating ranked teams Baylor and Texas in successive weeks, West Virginia travels to Texas Tech (4-1, 1-1) on Saturday before returning home for an Oct. 20 showdown with co-leader Kansas State (5-0, 2-0).
“I’ve got some guys that believe,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “I like the way this team plays together.”
There are seven teams with one league loss, but that number will certainly dwindle on Saturday.
Kansas State travels to Iowa State (4-1, 1-1), while it’s Texas (4-1, 1-1) against Oklahoma (3-1, 1-1) at the Cotton Bowl, TCU (4-1, 1-1) at Baylor (3-1, 0-1) and Oklahoma State (2-2, 0-1) at Kansas (1-4, 0-2).
“Everybody understands how competitive it is and everybody seems to want to be a part of that,” said Kansas State coach Bill Snyder. “I think perhaps that adds to the stability of the conference. I think the people who are in the conference want to be in the conference. That’s the important thing.”