Declaring Oklahoma to be the Big 12’s best may not be empirically provable, only arguably thus.
Whatever, the Sooners have overwhelmingly passed the eye test the last three times they’ve played.
Consecutively, they’ve scored 62 points, a threshold not reached back-to-back since the 2008 season, when the Sooners were in the 60s five consecutive games before falling losing the BCS championship game to Florida.
In two of their last three contests, OU has allowed 14 or fewer points, a feat not performed in the conference since shutting out Kansas State and limiting Kansas to seven points in 2015.
All that and, despite being schooled by the Sun Belt opening day — Louisiana over Iowa Sate; Arkansas State over Kansas State; Coastal Carolina over Kansas — the Big 12 is looking more and more like a reasonably good college football conference.
Because Kansas remains Kansas, Baylor’s playing like it once did at off-campus Floyd Casey Stadium and Texas Tech’s nosedived since scoring 56 points against Texas and losing — combined conference mark of Jayhawks, Bears, Red Raiders: 2-15 — the Big 12’s become impressively top heavy.
• OU’s 4-2 with a bullet, maybe playing better than any team this side of South Bend, Indiana.
• Oklahoma State’s 4-1 and would be perfect but for a cavalcade of turnovers against Texas.
• Iowa State’s 5-1 with a victory over OU it likely couldn’t repeat and an eclipse of Baylor by a mere touchdown, but they all count.
• Texas is 4-2 because somehow that’s the Longhorns’ record.
• Kansas State, which should have victories over both OU and OSU, is still 4-2 despite giving up 12-0 halftime edge to the Pokes.
• Because you can count on coach Gary Patterson’s squad not to fall too far, TCU’s fighting the good fight at 3-3.
• Even West Virginia’s 3-3, having lost to Texas by a field goal last week. Wait, should everybody have beaten Texas?
If it were a non-COVID season, with unchanging rosters, regular practice and game schedules and no surprise Sun Belt Saturday, it might feel like the glory days of the old Big 12 South, only with Iowa State playing the role of Texas Tech and Kansas State the role of Texas A&M.
The longer the season gets, the better the conference looks.
In the SEC, Alabama may have just scored another touchdown, but it’s beaten exactly one ranked team, Georgia, and gave up 48 points to Mississippi, which fell to Arkansas.
In the Big Ten, Ohio State’s unbeaten and ranked No. 3, but just played a competitive game against Rutgers; Michigan has won only once; Penn State hasn’t won at all; Wisconsin’s played only once and Indiana’s unbeaten, ranked No. 10.
In the Pac-12, nobody’s played more than once and Cal, Washington, Arizona and Utah haven’t played at all.
The only conference with nothing to apologize for is the ACC, in which moonlighting Notre Dame is unbeaten and ranked No. 2, Clemson remains playoff viable despite falling to the Irish and, somehow, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, North Carolina State and Boston College all have winning league marks.
As is the Big 12.
“I think it’s been pretty deep the last several years, so I wouldn’t say I’m surprised,” Sooner coach Lincoln Riley said. “I don’t know that there’s anybody that you look at and say, ‘I didn’t think they were going to be very good’ and then all of a sudden they’re really good.”
No, but after opening day, so many looked so bad; yet the conference has emerged since.
On Tuesday, writing for ESPN.com, Heather Dinich, offered an analysis piece under the headline “The path to the College Football Playoff for all 12 contenders.”
Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Clemson, Texas A&M, Florida, Cincinnati, BYU, Oregon, Wisconsin, Oklahoma State, Southern Cal.
Two of those teams, Oregon and Southern Cal, have only played once and will max out at seven games only by suffering no cancellations and reaching the conference title game; two of the teams cannot afford even a single loss, BYU and Cincinnati; the odds of the rest losing at least once or one more would appear to be very high, beginning with OSU, which has the week off, just like OU, before Bedlam arrives in Norman the evening of Nov. 21.
“I think we’re starting to click more and we’re starting to play more complimentary football,” said Sooner wide receiver Drake Stoops, as though something in his background allows him to see the game holistically. “We’re having a big special teams play here or there … Our defense is just creating more turnovers, which is huge … We’re just playing more 11-man ball.”
Who knows where this football season is going. And suddenly, it’s going quite well for the Big 12 and the program that’s long dominated it.