Throughout the offseason, Big 12 coaches were peppered with questions about how their conference compares to the SEC. Could its mixture of depth and offensive firepower make it the stronger overall league this season?
One week into the season, we already have an answer — no.
It was a week to forget in the Big 12. The conference opened the college football season with two humbling losses to Football Championship Subdivision teams, a neutral-field defeat against a SEC foe and only one signature victory. It adds up to a respectable 6-3 start, but the league is on pace for its worst nonconference record in quite some time.
It went 26-4 a year ago, with all four losses coming to bowl teams. Two years ago, the Big 12 went 27-3. So those three losses look bad by comparison before you factor in that defending league champion Kansas State lost to North Dakota State on Friday. Iowa State, a bowl team a year ago, lost to Northern Iowa and West Virginia looked lost while surviving William & Mary.
Even on a week when eight FCS teams beat their Bowl Subdivision counterparts, the Big 12 came out looking bad.
"There are a lot of great FCS teams out there," said Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads, "and there are a number of FBS teams sitting here today that would agree with that even those that beat FCS teams."
The Big 12’s lone signature moment came when Oklahoma State demolished Mississippi State 21-3 at Reliant Stadium in Houston. The Cowboys looked dominant on defense and flexed their muscle against a name opponent. It’s obvious why they were the preseason pick to win the league.
Texas, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas Tech all looked good defeating lesser opponents, while TCU gave LSU a game in Arlington, Texas. But we will learn more about those teams in the coming weeks.
The Big 12 has upcoming opportunities to redeem its name. Texas will play BYU and Mississippi. Oklahoma will take on Notre Dame. Until then, the conference needs to avoid more upset losses. They held it back in Week 1.
It will be a while before anyone argues the Big 12 is better than the SEC again.
How’s this for a human-interest story?
Texas Tech freshman Baker Mayfield joined the Red Raiders as a walk-on a few months ago. On Friday, he started against SMU and threw for 423 yards and four touchdowns while leading his team to an easy victory. He is believed to be the first walk-on freshman to ever start his first game for a team from a major conference.
In a matter of hours, he went from unknown to well-known. On Monday, he was named Big 12 Player of the Week.
"I had a pretty good feeling he was going to show up and continue doing what he had done in practices," said Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury. "He did."
Do you care?
K-State football coach Bill Snyder said he will continue to emphasize day-to-day improvement with his team following its surprising loss to North Dakota State.
That should come as no surprise, but he did say something interesting about his team’s reaction to the opening loss.
"We need to be a more inspired football team than what we are," Snyder said. "It all boils down to caring. We will see how that plays out."
Ranking this week’s games
Big 12 Power Rankings