Phil Steele is one of the best in the business when it comes to all things college football, and he released his projected AP preseason top 10 for 2013.
How many Big 12 teams cracked the list? A big, fat zero. It's not a huge surprise (we'll get to that in a bit), but I took a look through the history books and realized an alarming truth: This could be the worst group of Big 12 title contenders in the preseason in the league's history.
Since the Big 12 began play in 1996, there has never been a year in which the league failed to place a team in the AP preseason top 10. There have, I should mention, been two seasons in which no current Big 12 members were in the AP preseason top 10.
All the way back in 1999, Nebraska and Texas A&M were in the top 10, and in 1997, Colorado began the year at No. 8, the lone Big 12 team in the top 10.
The biggest reason for the Big 12 lacking a true national title contender (or anything close to it, really) for 2013 can be blamed on the mass exodus of experienced quarterback play. Landry Jones, Geno Smith and Collin Klein are all gone, and only Texas (David Ash) returns a quarterback who started at least half of his team's games in 2012.
The Big 12 should have a handful of good teams, and five teams may crack the Top 25 in the preseason. You never, know, too. Oklahoma came out of nowhere to win the title in 2000. Still, to begin the season, the Big 12's national title hopes look extremely grim, clearly more grim than ever considering the history of the preseason poll.
Oklahoma loses Jones and a handful of defenders that will make returning to the title game a daunting task. Texas returns the most starters of any team in the country, but last year's nine-win team was riddled with question marks and head-scratching losses that makes any national title talk immediately inspire skepticism. TCU might just be the Big 12's most talented team next season, but still has to prove it can navigate a Big 12 schedule. Oklahoma State's got potential, too, but will be breaking in a pair of new coordinators come fall.
The biggest plus from having zero juggernauts to begin the season? We could see one of the most intriguing, tight Big 12 races in the league's history. It might also mean the pool of Big 12 title contenders is even deeper than it was this year. Might Baylor or Texas Tech crash the title party? More magic in Manhattan from Bill Snyder? Regardless, without a national title contender among the bunch, it'll be hard for anyone outside Big 12 country to take notice of the league.