You’ve heard all of the criticisms by now.
Whether it was a lack of defense or a lack of playoff success, Big 12 football has received its fair share of mockery this decade.
But those days may finally be over.
From the return of the championship game to a multiple playoff contenders, a Heisman Trophy winner to stacked offenses across the board, 2017 paid dividends for the Big 12 after struggling to establish its true identity in recent seasons.
CBS Sports’ Barrett Sallee wrote on Friday that this past season taught the nation that the Big 12 “isn’t as bad” as some may perceive it to be.
“Remember when the Big 12 was the punchline to a mediocre college football joke? Those days are long gone. Oklahoma made the playoff and fell in a Rose Bowl national semifinal for the ages, Oklahoma State and TCU were in the CFP mix throughout the season, and only two of the conference’s 10 teams missed the postseason. Sure, the Big 12 has its issues…but the 2017 season proved that it can produce top-tier teams capable of competing at the highest level, and is deeper than most anticipated.”
A much-needed renaissance
The 80 percent mark of Big 12 teams participating in a bowl game was the highest of any Power 5 conference this season. Iowa State returned to a bowl game for the first time since the 2012 season, defeating Memphis in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.
The Cyclones were just another example of unanticipated depth from the conference this past fall. After winning eight games combined from 2014-2o16, Iowa State won eight games alone in 2017 and posted 2 wins over top 5 opponents. The Cyclones even cracked the top 15 of the playoff rankings in early November.
The Big 12 will lose three of the quarterbacks that highlighted the conference during the fall this offseason — Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph and TCU’s Kenny Hill.
West Virginia, however, will return Will Grier for his senior season in 2018. Grier was one of the top passing quarterbacks in the nation before he sustained a season-ending finger injury vs. Texas on Nov. 18.
The other three schools, however, won’t have any shortage of talent when it comes to replacements at quarterback.
Kyler Murray, once a 5-star recruit, is expected to take the reins from Mayfield at Oklahoma. TCU will have two former 4-star prospects in Shawn Robinson and Justin Rogers, while Oklahoma State is set to bring in 4-star quarterback prospect Spencer Sanders from Ryan High School in Denton, Texas.
The Big 12 will seek to end what will be a 13-year national championship drought when the College Football Playoff National Championship Game is played in January 2019.