There was a never-before-seen oddity in today’s AP poll, though you are forgiven if it slipped by you unnoticed.
Just three Big 12 teams dotted the poll: No. 16 Baylor, No. 21 Texas and No. 25 Oklahoma. Which means, for the first time in the league’s 21-year history, not a single Big 12 team qualified for the AP’s top 15.
For the first time since the conference's inception in 1996, the Big 12 does NOT have a team ranked in the top 15 of the AP football poll.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 18, 2016
Eliminating leagues entirely this early in the season is asking for trouble — recall what you thought of Ohio State’s title chances after that home loss to Virginia Tech in September of ’14 — but the Big 12’s seem safe considering the conference has accomplished next to nothing in non-conference play. Texas’s win over Notre Dame has aged like a forgotten cup of milk, and the league’s second-best win is… Oklahoma State over Pittsburgh? West Virginia over Missouri?
The most memorable moment of September has been Oklahoma State’s unjust loss to Central Michigan. (Which, oddly, has kept the Pokes out of the rankings even after Saturday’s win over Pittsburgh.)
Overall, the Big 12 is 3-10 against the Power 5, the American and the MAC and 16-12 against the rest of college football. That includes the FCS.
An empty non-conference season is bad enough, but it builds into the league’s inherent problem: its 9-game, round-robin schedule without a championship game was built for the bowl-and-poll era, not the Playoff. Heading into its sixth season of existence, no team has run through the 9-game gauntlet unbeaten.
With no title game to serve as a punctuator and no good non-conference wins to look back upon, the Big 12 champion — whoever it is — may have a tough time arguing for one of the final four spots.