Monday kicks off two days of intense publicity for the Big 12 with the start of its annual Media Days in Dallas. This is one year when the Big 12 could use some hype.
The Big 12 enters 2013 without a consensus national championship contender and no names among the favorites for Heisman. There’s not even a consensus on who will dominate the league with six teams receiving first-place votes in the preseason media poll.
If this isn’t a down year, it’s certainly a year the Big 12 needs someone to step up.
Historically, Oklahoma and Texas have been the flag bearers for the Big 12 when it comes to national attention. Neither of those programs appears poised for a national title run right out of the box, but that’s OK as long as preseason No. 1 Oklahoma State or someone else keeps the Big 12 in the title conversation.
Last year it was Kansas State that gave the Big 12 a BCS title contender until a mid-November loss to Baylor. The year before, Oklahoma State presented a contrarian option to the Alabama-LSU debate for the crystal football.
So it doesn’t have to be Oklahoma or Texas to keep the Big 12 relevant to the national scene. Someone needs to do it again this year, but there’s no clear-cut favorite.
Oklahoma State is the most likely candidate, but like the majority of the Big 12 the Cowboys don’t have an established incumbent at quarterback.
That could give the edge to Texas, which is expecting big things from a matured David Ash. Or maybe TCU, which should benefit from the return of Casey Pachall who was a legitimate NFL prospect before his 2012 season was cut short by substance abuse issues.
There are other teams that could make a leap this season if new quarterbacks come through, but said quarterbacks have yet to show it on the field. If there’s one thing the Big 12 knows, it’s that talented passers can carry a league’s reputation.
If you’re looking for Heisman candidates, Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk is on the radar thanks to superb second-half of the season in 2012. But that’s about it as far as established names coming into the season.
Just a year ago, Geno Smith, Landry Jones and Collin Klein were household names in the college football world.
The problem the Big 12 faces is that the biggest name in college football resides well within its borders. As does one of the most buzz-worthy teams.
Of course, we’re talking about Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M. The Aggies, formerly Big 12 members, had a huge breakout season their first year in the SEC. They’re also cleaning up in recruiting.
The Big 12 can withstand losing key members as long as the current roster carries its weight. What it can’t afford is a “down” year, especially if it’s followed by another down year. Perception quickly becomes reality in an era where conferences are scrambling to shore up weaknesses through realignment.
The Big 12 remains a 10-team league while the other major conferences are swelling to 12 teams or more.
The Big 12 doesn’t necessarily have to get bigger to keep pace, but its teams have to play big. Heading into 2013, the Big 12’s top teams still have some growing to do.