Our friends over at Crimson and Cream Machine have once again assembled the masses with a Big 12 Round Table, this time to discuss the state of the conference.
1. The Big 12 conference has only four unbeaten teams left and has endured numerous embarrassing performances on television. State where you believe the Big 12 ranks among the BCS conferences.
ETS: The Big 12 is in a sad, sad state at the moment. The early frustrations of "sleeper" South teams combined with the struggles of the North's supposed powerhouse has painted El Grande Doce in a very negative light nationally. Here's how I see they conferences as they stand at the moment:
1. SEC: It's getting old to hear since ESPN, SI, and probably even Al Jazeera continue to cram the SEC's greatness down the throats of football fans. But I will accept no arguments that the SEC shouldn't be at No. 1.
2. Pac-10: The emergence of Oregon and Arizona State this season has been a MAJOR credibility boost for Les Miles' favorite punching bag.
3. Big East: No. 3-6 are a straight toss up, but I give the nod at No. 3 to the Big East for its collection of rising programs, rather than programs falling and clinging to mediocrity.
T4. ACC: The freefall of Virginia Tech from early hype hurts the conference, but the emergence of Boston College coupled with the official beginning of the Randy Shannon era at Miami against Texas A&M puts them at a tie for No. 4. Plus, I love me some Clemson Tigers this season.
T4. Big 12: Oklahoma is on a straight rampage, and most of the rest of the conference has the ability to put up a fight against any team in the country. However, who usually ends up as the victor at the end of those fights drops the Big 12 down to a tie for No. 4.
6. Big Ten: Remember that quip about programs falling? Hello Michigan, Iowa, and struggling Penn State/Wisconsin.
2. What has been the conference’s best victory and worst defeat so far this season?
ETS: Oklahoma embarassing Miami on national TV is far and away the conference's best victory, especially after Miami showed this past week that it can still play a little ball. The win affirmed that, despite the questions about the conference's depth, the best of the Big 12 can play with the big boys.
The worst loss though has to be Oklahoma State's 41-23 loss to Troy. Even now it is hard to fathom that a team that was many people's ultra-sexy pick as a Big 12 and Top 20 sleeper went on the road and lost by double digits to a team that plays in a facility named "Movie Gallery Veterans Stadium." I guess it makes sense though, as that was one hell of an acting job by the Pokes in the offseason to look like a legitimate national threat.
3. Who is the worst coached team in the conference?
ETS: Let me break this down by process of elimination: Immediately take Bob Stoops out of the equation, for obvious reasons. I then subtract Gene Chizik, Dan Hawkins and Guy Morriss, who have very little to work with. Now I take away Gary Pinkel, Mark Mangino and Ron Prince, all of whom have done what is expected so far thus season.
This leaves me with the following list: Mack Brown, Bill Callahan, Dennis Franchione, Mike Leach, and Mike Gundy. The case could be made for Gundy, who, in several instances this season (like his statements against Jenni Carlson), has not properly prepared for the task at hand. But Gundy gets off the hook by virtue of a win over Texas Tech. I then turn to Leach, who I'll give a bye merely because you know EXACTLY the way Leach will coach, and if the Red Raiders truly had a problem with it, the exit door would be kicked wide open. Tech is merely reaping what it sows. Additionally, I'll pass Mack Brown, who I personally believe is nothing more than a better-than-average coach who can't win a championship without Vince Young. Brown has been more of a parole officer this season than a coach.
But my decision rests as a tie between two coaches: Callahan and Franchione. Both were highly respected hires brought in to reinvigorate programs but have done just enough to keep them afloat. Should Texas A&M really get stomped by Miami and have trouble defending sacred Kyle Field against Fresno State? Should Nebraska really have to rely on a dropped pass and missed field goal to defeat Ball State in front of the vaunted Sea of Red? If things don't turn around pretty soon for either coach, two VERY high profile jobs may be open come this offseason or two VERY high profile programs may continue their downward spiral from the success of the 1990s.
4. With the regular season already a third of the way over, which players received too much hype in late August and which players didn’t receive enough?
ETS: Too much hype: Nebraska's Sam Keller, OSU's Bobby Reid, Texas A&M's Stephen McGee
Not enough hype: Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree, Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, Kansas' Todd Reesing, Missouri's Jeremy Maclin
5. The best part of the roundtable is voicing how we believe the conference teams rank each week, from top to bottom. So, go ahead, let us know who’s up and who’s down in your book this week.
ETS: Here's how I see it:
1. Oklahoma: No contest. The "Crimson and Cream Machine" is well-oiled and going full steam ahead.
2. Missouri: It's not that I'm this impressed by Missouri, it's that I'm that disappointed in the rest of the conference.
3. Texas: Congrats. You blew out Rice. I'm still waiting for you to show me you're still a powerhouse.
4. Kansas State: The Cats are quietly going about their business and flying under some radars since the loss to Auburn.
5. Kansas: I can't believe I just did this, but I'll give the Jayhawks benefit of the doubt despite their pathetic non-con schedule.
6. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are proof to Missouri fans that, yes, this "one-dimensional" thing could be much, much worse.
7. Nebraska: Free-falling. The fall after Callahan's extension reeks of "Pinkel post-extension" from last year.
8. Oklahoma State: Can Zac Robinson get the Cowboys to the form everyone expected them to be in earlier in the season?
9. Texas A&M: Everyone not named "Mike Goodson" or "Mark Dodge" looks uninspired. Not giving the ball to J-Train Jorvorskie Lane early and often against a speedy Miami defense is unforgivable.
10. Colorado: Still not sure what to make of this enigma. I think Colorado could challenge teams 2-9 on any given day, but I need to see it on a consistent basis to bump the Buffs up.
11. Iowa State: Things all of the sudden don't look so bleak. They won't contend, but they could certainly start ruining some seasons.
12. Baylor: I don't buy into "Syzzle" and spread. The Bears are in trouble now that non-conference is over.
Photos courtesy Associated Press