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Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Big 12 ill-suited to knock off SEC in 2012

By David Ubben

Things were a lot different this time a year ago.

Oklahoma looked ready to assume the role of preseason No. 1, and did. The Sooners were the prohibitive favorites to win their first BCS National Championship since 2000.

"We have high expectations, and I don’t shy away from them," Stoops said in August. "My feeling is it is about time. We need to win one."

Landry Jones
Landry Jones will be heavily relied upon next season to carry the Sooners' offense again.
Don't look for any bold proclamations from anyone in the Big 12 this year. Oklahoma stumbled early and late, losing three games and finishing the season with an unremarkable Insight Bowl win.

Oklahoma State emerged as the only legitimate title contender in the Big 12 as 2011's dark season dragged on. Even the Cowboys' chances were doomed on a chilly Friday night in Ames, Iowa in November, a day after a plane crash killed four people, including head women's basketball coach Kurt Budke.

No one other team was close.

And if any Big 12 team is going to be close in 2012, it'll have to overachieve. Oklahoma enters the season as the most likely candidate, but it'll probably begin the season on the back half of the top 10 at best, outside of it at worst. Of course, the last time Oklahoma won a national championship, it began the season at No. 19. The way the Sooners are built in 2012 requires Landry Jones to string together 13 performances without a big mistake in a big spot. He's started for three seasons, and given plenty of reason to doubt his ability to do so. Will that change in 2012, when he's a senior, four-year starter? It'll have to for Oklahoma to reach the title game.

Oklahoma State? Good luck winning the Big 12, much less a national championship. A first-year quarterback's only won the league twice, and the Cowboys have a three-way quarterback derby to replace Brandon Weeden set for the spring. Justin Blackmon? You don't replace a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner in one season.

Kansas State could start the season in the top 15 at best, but they'd need a lot more Bill Snyder magic to climb back into the national elite. The core of the team returns, with quarterback Collin Klein and linebacker Arthur Brown headlining the team, but can Klein handle another 317 carries? Can Kansas State improve upon its need to go 8-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less? It can't duplicate that kind of success.

Conference movers haven't made a big splash in their first year in new leagues, but not many have joined new leagues as conference champions returning most of the team's major contributors. Could TCU and West Virginia change the trend?

Here's guessing a more difficult Big 12 schedule trips both up in Year 1 inside their new digs.

Texas? The Longhorns won eight games in 2011, but the road from winning eight to 12 is by far the most difficult, and it isn't easily traversed without a savvy, accurate, big-armed quarterback leading the way. Texas has a lot of work to do in that area.

The odds are good that the SEC's reign continues for a seventh season.

Maybe it doesn't, but it'll take a Big 12 team overachieving to do it.