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Thursday, June 20, 2013
Which Big 12 team needs to succeed now?

By David Ubben

This week, we're looking at future power rankings across college football, and today, we're tabbing teams in college football that need to win now, because the future doesn't look quite as bright. Which teams in the Big 12 fit that description?

Let's have a look ...

OKLAHOMA SOONERS

Bob Stoops
The Sooners have never gone two seasons without winning at least a share of the Big 12 title under coach Bob Stoops.
You don't need to be an expert to see there's not really a single team in the Big 12 that is technically built to win now because of a questionable future. Texas certainly feels an urgency to win, but the Longhorns have recruited well the past few years and have another season in 2014 in which they should look the part of a contender.

So, who needs to win now because the future's not as bright? I'm looking at Oklahoma, in part because of the bar the Sooners have set for themselves over the course of Big 12 history. Oklahoma's won eight Big 12 titles since 2000, and Bob Stoops carries the rather unbelievable distinction of having never gone two seasons without winning at least a share of the Big 12 title.

Still, many of those titles boiled down to simply beating Texas and playing well the rest of the season. Last season proved it's not that simple anymore. The Big 12's BCS representative the past two seasons has represented the league with just one loss, and even though Oklahoma went 8-1 in Big 12 play, that wasn't enough to win the league outright or take the tiebreaker away from Kansas State.

The point is, the Big 12 has proved it's getting deeper with Oklahoma State and Kansas State getting over the hump in successive years, despite the lack of divisions and the addition of a ninth conference game. Winning conference titles is a lot harder for Oklahoma than it used to be, and sliding results on the recruiting trail are only upping that difficulty level.

The Sooners don't have much reason to worry about Bob Stoops dealing with a slide to seven- or eight-win seasons consistently, but Oklahoma has won "just" 40 games in the past four seasons. That's the lowest four-year total of any span in Stoops' career at Oklahoma, and he's been very forthcoming about acknowledging that winning 10 games per season simply isn't good enough at Oklahoma. It's a tough spot for the Sooners these days. The bar is astronomically high, but the gravity of the rest of the Big 12's rising tide is pulling them down, making it even tougher to clear.

It's only going to get tougher with Baylor and TCU building strong programs and Oklahoma State looking like it's contending for its second (soon to be third?) title in the near future. Just beating Texas isn't enough anymore.