Midseason report: Can it get any better for Big 12?

October, 15, 2008
10/15/08
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The Big 12 was expected to be the conference with the best quarterbacks and the highest-powered offenses in college football this season.

A funny thing happened on the way to those superlatives. A bunch of good football teams have sprouted.

The Big 12 is in an unaccustomed position of depth and power midway through the season with two different teams at No. 1 the last three weeks. More impressively, a group of five teams are ranked among the top 11 teams in the most recent Associated Press poll. The Big 12 is the only FBS conference with three unbeaten teams remaining.

"Is that a good thing? I wish it wasn't," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "For our sake, you probably wish there weren't as many [dominant teams]. But I guess for the sake of the league, it's a good thing."

The offenses and quarterbacks have been as good as expected. Five of the nation's top 11 offenses are present, along with five of the nation's top six scoring offenses. Nine of the nation's top 15 quarterbacks in terms of passing efficiency are from the Big 12.

And most of the nation's mock Heisman Trophy polls are marked with players like Texas' Colt McCoy, Missouri's Chase Daniel and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford in the top three or four spots.

"This is at a whole new level," said Iowa State coach Gene Chizik, whose team is struggling through a 14-game road losing streak. "It's a blessing for college football. But it's my curse that I'm trying to build a program now at Iowa State."

Cannibalization over the next few weeks will likely compact these teams as they beat each other up. But it still should result in a lot of entertaining football games across the Big 12 during the rest of the season.

Biggest surprise: Oklahoma State. Mike Gundy has gone from a laughing stock this time last year to taking his team to its first 6-0 start since 1997. The Cowboys have bolstered their potent offense with an improving defense that shut down Missouri last week, helping to push them into the top 10 for the first time since Gundy was playing quarterback for them in 1988.

Biggest disappointment: Texas A&M. New coach Mike Sherman was expected to struggle, but not to the depths that his 2-4 program has fallen. After losing a home opener to Arkansas State, they since have been smoked at home by Miami and Kansas State, giving them three home losses by mid-October for the first time in the school's modern era.

Offensive Most Valuable Player: Texas quarterback Colt McCoy. He doesn't have the gaudiest statistics, but his team has emerged as the nation's No. 1 squad through his leadership and playmaking abilities. McCoy is having the finest statistical season in Texas quarterback history as he's led the Longhorns into the top slot nationally for the first time during the regular season since 1984.

Defensive Most Valuable Player: Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo. It's hard to imagine a more dominant player than Orakpo, who has battled back after an injury-plagued junior season to become the most disruptive force for the Longhorns. Orakpo is tied for third nationally in sacks while serving as the linchpin for a defensive unit that ranks second in sacks and third in rushing defense.

Midseason coach of the year: Texas coach Mack Brown. Most thought that Texas was a year away, but Brown has pieced together the Big 12's best team so far by emphasizing teamwork in a unit that has been keyed by few individual stars other than McCoy and Orakpo. The Longhorns still face an arduous road to the South Division title, but Brown has turned in the coaching performance of his career to this point of the season.

Newcomer of the year: Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin. Sure, his statistics have been amazing, but the scintillating freshman has brought something more important to Baylor -- promise and hope for the future. Griffin has led Baylor to three victories in five starts, accounted for 17 touchdowns and has thrown more passes without an interception than any other player in the nation. And he's only scratching the surface of what he'll do with more experience.

Bowl teams: Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Kansas State, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma.

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