For one week at least, the Big 12 has a legitimate claim as FBS’s deepest conference.
The league placed five teams in both the Associated Press and Amway Coaches’ polls, tying the SEC for sheer tonnage of elite teams but outpacing Mike Slive’s league in terms of volume of top teams. While the SEC has a paltry (heavy sarcasm, folks) 35 percent of its teams in the top 15, the Big 12 checks in at a clean 50 percent.
Boil it down, and pollsters in both major polls believe half the Big 12 ranks among the top 11.7 percent of FBS teams.
The teams, and, oddly enough, their rank, are the exact same in both polls. Baylor is fourth, Oklahoma is 11th with TCU one spot behind at No. 12, while Kansas State is No. 14 and Oklahoma State rounds out the group at No. 15. West Virginia and Texas have also displayed enough competence to count themselves as bowl-quality teams in most any other conference.
While the league did not pick up a major win outside of the conference – TCU’s 30-7 shellacking of otherwise undefeated Minnesota is the closest qualifier – the Big 12 did post some impressive showings as heavy underdogs, with West Virginia challenging Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic, Oklahoma State holding the ball with a chance to take the lead deep in the fourth quarter before falling to Florida State 37-31 in the Cowboys Classic, and Kansas State muffing a winnable game away versus Auburn. Quality of games inside the conference has been high, as TCU’s 37-33 defeat of Oklahoma and subsequent 61-58 gagging to Baylor rank among October’s most entertaining and highly-competitive games.
There are two downsides here for the Big 12. First, a “best conference” championship is entirely mythical. The College Football Playoff selection committee has stated over and over that they will rank teams according to their own schedules and won’t think in terms of conference vs. conference. It sure is fun to talk about, though.
Regardless, the conference has positioned itself well enough that the forecast for earning a Playoff spot appears clear at the season’s midpoint.
Finally, the Big 12’s lofty status is likely to last all of one week. Simple polling economics dictates that the number Will Likely drop from five to three by this time next week as No. 15 Oklahoma State visits No. 12 TCU (4 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1) and No. 14 Kansas State pays a visit to No. 11 Oklahoma (noon ET, ESPN).