Dallas Colleges: Phil Steele

Projecting Big 12 teams in the AP top 10

February, 4, 2014
Feb 4
ESPN college football analyst Phil Steele has projected what he believes the Associated Press preseason top 10 will look like in August, and he has two Big 12 teams listed.

Note: This is not Steele's top 10, but rather a projection of how he believes the AP pollsters will vote.

Steele projects Oklahoma at No. 5. He writes:
After back-to-back upset wins over Oklahoma State and Alabama to close the 2013 season, expectations for the Sooners have skyrocketed as Bob Stoops' "Big Game" moniker has returned. The Sooners' offense, which averaged 42 points per game in the last four contests, will benefit from the return of quarterback Trevor Knight, who closed the season with a sensational Sugar Bowl performance (348 yards and four touchdowns). The defense made significant strides last year, and with the return of nine starters, the Sooners could be in store for their best season statistically on defense since 2009.

Steele goes on to say how manageable Oklahoma's schedule is, as well. The Sooners have only one other projected top-10 team on their schedule.

That team is Baylor, which Steele projects at No. 9. He writes:
After one of the best seasons in school history, which included a Big 12 title, Art Briles' program looks to continue its climb toward consistent finishes in the top 10-to-15. In 2014, the Bears return just nine starters, but one of them is quarterback Bryce Petty, who threw for 4,200 yards and accounted for 46 touchdowns. He has some dynamic skill players surrounding him, including leading receiver Antwan Goodley, who averaged nearly 19 yards per catch.

Steele goes on to write that Baylor suffers major attrition defensively, but that the Bears have still had success under Briles even when the defense has given up big points.

Steele seems to be spot-on here, as both the Sooners and Bears figure to be the preseason picks to finish first and second in the Big 12.

It will be interesting to see if any other Big 12 team opens in the preseason Top 25. Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas are all possibilities, but hardly locks.

If no other team emerges, Nov. 8 could be the weekend of the year in the Big 12. That's when Baylor travels to Norman, Okla., to face the Sooners.
If you've been without an internet connection since Alabama clinched the SEC's seventh consecutive national title in January, you might not have noticed a bit of saber-rattling on the part of Big 12 coaches.

Bob Stoops started the parade by trumpeting the Big 12's depth and said the SEC's mystique and reputation are attributable in part to "propaganda."

Texas coach Mack Brown later patted Stoops on the back, saying he was proud of his Oklahoma counterpart for sticking up for the conference. In an interview with ESPN.com, Kansas coach Charlie Weis, too, said that Stoops had a point.

Still, it's going to take more than talk to knock off No. 1.

Phil Steele ranked the college football conferences Insider for his preseason magazine, and he's got the Big 12 sitting in second place, behind the SEC. The Big 12 actually finished ahead of the SEC in the computer rankings in 2011 and held a lead for much of 2012, but in tabulations by ESPN Stats & Information, the SEC was king by the end of that season.

Steele explains that without a preseason top-10 team in the Big 12, his ranking of the league might be a bit surprising, but notes that Texas and Oklahoma State were in his top 10, and could both be 9-0 when they meet Nov. 16 in Austin. The Big 12 has four more teams in Steele's top 40 and he pointed out that the conference had the best mark (26-4) in nonconference games last season.

He also notes, and I agree, that those numbers can be influenced by scheduling. This year, though, the Big 12 can settle more on the field. By the end of September, the Big 12 and SEC will have played three games and will meet in the Cotton Bowl at the end of the season. The two leagues met on the field just once in the 2012 regular season, with Texas routing Ole Miss in Oxford. Texas A&M famously rolled over Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.

The 2013 meetings between the leagues -- including TCU/LSU and Oklahoma State/Mississippi State on neutral fields on opening weekend -- should be fun, with plenty of bragging rights up for grabs.

Still, no amount of victories will do much to change anyone's mind about the SEC's superiority -- unless they get to take home a crystal football after the game's over.