- David Ubben, College Football
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So, is this how it ends?
Last June, reporters (myself included) chased commissioners and administrators into elevators and stalked meeting rooms at the InterContinental Hotel in Kansas City, wondering if the next time one of them spoke into a microphone, it would be to eulogize the Big 12.
They didn't. The Big 12 survived.
For awhile, anyway.
But now, with Texas (sort of) and Oklahoma's presidents possessing the ability to decide their university's future conference homes, the breaking point may be near. For all the drama of the Big 12's Almost Breakup last summer, nobody but the Buffs and Huskers got this far down the hallway leading to the exit sign.
Sure, it's not over just yet.
"It's not a done deal that this thing is going to explode. Now, there's a lot of smoke, but you've seen none of that fire yet coming up," Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said Monday.
COUGH. COUGH. COUGH. CHOKE.
Sorry, you'll have to give me a second. The air here in Dallas, the home of the Big 12 offices, is getting a little difficult to breathe.
Ok, I'm good. Had to slip one of these on.
Anyway, maybe Tuberville's right. The ink is not dry on any of these new conference deals, even the long-assumed marriage between Texas A&M and the SEC, which SEC commissioner Mike Slive first acknowledged publicly last week.
But consider me a pupil of the Gary Pinkel School of Thought.
"That’s naïve to even think that," he said, when asked Monday about the belief the Big 12 may survive.
Assess blame all you want. The number of schools or characters in this soap opera that can't have a finger pointed their way is minimal if not non-existent. I don't have the time or desire to dig in and sort out that amorphous blob. I suspect you don't either. (Just remember: It's all the other guy's fault.)
What I can't get past? The league is in the ugly, litigation-filled process of imploding. And, to think, they say football is all that matters in realignment.
On Monday, ESPN Stats & Information updated its conference rankings. For all of last season, the SEC dominated the ranking. This week?
There's a new No. 1.
This ranking, remember, comes without Nebraska, one of the nation's elite programs and one currently ranked No. 9 in both polls.
Also on Monday, Texas and Oklahoma took big steps toward leaving that newly No. 1 league.
From Stats and Info:
Overall, the Big 12 is 23-2 in games outside of the conference (SEC is 22-4) and have five teams ranked in the AP Top 25 (tied with SEC for most teams ranked in the poll). Big wins over Florida State, TCU, Arizona and UCLA in the first three weeks have vaulted the Big 12 over the SEC as the top conference in the country.
Eight of 10 Big 12 teams received votes in either the coaches or media poll this week, too.
The Big 12 may never have been strong. Oklahoma State is in the middle of the greatest three-plus year stretch in school history. Missouri has won more games in its last four-plus seasons than any other identical period ever.
Baylor is ranked higher than it's been since 1991. Oklahoma is the nation's No. 1 team, earning the distinction this week for the 101st time, more than any program in college football history.
Texas A&M is back in the top 10, with a 2012 recruiting class among the nation's elite and is preparing for its first showdown of top 10 teams at Kyle Field since 1975.
Texas is in the process of rebounding from a 5-7 season, but looks headed in the right direction, back to 10-win seasons, which it enjoyed for nine consecutive seasons before last year's debacle.
Texas Tech has been bowl eligible for 18 consecutive seasons. Only three teams in college football have a longer streak.
You get it.
There are a million reasons the Big 12 should work. As we've learned in the past year and change, there are a million reasons it doesn't.
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder tried his best to play the 71-year-old voice of reason, but I'm guessing his reasonable assessments go ignored by those with the power to alter college football's future.
"I just believe that it would be in the best interest of all to sit down and try to cast aside whatever petty jealousies exist and take a mature and adult approach to it and try to identify exactly what the problems are," he said.
The Big 12 has its problems. None of them are on the field.
Any conference moves will produce a few more problems, but the brunt of those will be endured by red-eye flying players, cash-strapped families trying to follow them and fans hoping to do the same.
As long as the university's prestige is high, its football teams play in big, full stadiums while postseason checks from the new conference continue to grow, those new problems won't be big enough to merit any real concern.
4dJake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson