The Big 12 is supposed to be the weakest conference among the Power 5 this season. That has been the pundits’ consensus this summer.
The panel that votes for the USA Today coaches’ poll apparently didn’t buy their logic.
The Big 12 had five teams ranked in the preseason poll released Thursday. That ties the ACC for second-most teams in the top 25. The SEC has six teams ranked.
The Big 12 was ahead of the Big Ten, which led the nation with four teams in the top 10 but none in the rest of the top 25. And it was ahead of the Pac-12, which had four teams ranked and barely squeaked in the last one (Utah, No. 25).
Here are five quick Big 12-related thoughts about the release of the poll.
Big 12’s top teams aren’t perceived as national title challengers
With Oklahoma at No. 8, the Big 12’s projected champion ranks behind those of the other four major conferences. Oklahoma State at 11th is behind the second-place team from every major conference except the SEC. This indicates that most don’t expect a Big 12 team to challenge for the national championship. And it could be a prevailing opinion before conference play starts if the Sooners lose at Ohio State in the second week of the season, and the Cowboys fall at Pitt the next week.
Middle depth of the Big 12 is as good as any conference
With Kansas State ranked 19th, West Virginia 20th and Texas 23rd, half of the Big 12’s 10 teams are ranked nationally. No other conference matches that percentage of ranked teams.
Coaches were watching bowl games
After struggling with its national perception all last season, the Big 12 rebounded with a 4-3 record in the bowl games, including resounding victories by Oklahoma over Auburn in the Sugar Bowl and Oklahoma State over Colorado in the Alamo Bowl. Considering both were ranked, it looks like coaches were paying attention to the postseason games.
Was West Virginia a little overrated?
The Mountaineers were one of the biggest surprises nationally last season when they raced to a 10-3 record, finishing with a disappointing loss to Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The Mountaineers have a strong running game returning with Justin Crawford leading the way. But they will be breaking in a new quarterback in Will Grier. They have no returning starters along the defensive line and one starter back in the secondary. Against the Big 12’s potent offenses, that could be a recipe for disaster for the Mountaineers.
Little expected from bottom of conference
TCU checked in at No. 28, but no other Big 12 teams received votes. It’s particularly interesting that Baylor received no mention. The Bears enter the season with lower expectations in any season since Art Briles’ early days coaching the program.