Big 12 sporting trio of unbeatens at midway mark
The conference that keeps getting put down, the one supposedly in turmoil with an interim commissioner trying his best to hold things together, has more unbeaten football teams than any other in the country.
Third-ranked Oklahoma was expected to be there. No. 6 Oklahoma State has the kind of high-powered offense that could give anybody fits. But the surprise is No. 12 Kansas State, which gives the Big 12 three teams at the midway point in the season that have yet to taste defeat.
''Any way you can find a way to win is good,'' said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy, whose team faces Missouri on Saturday. ''We just have to continue to find a way to win.''
That goes for the other unbeatens, too.
The Sooners have perhaps the stiffest test this week when they welcome Texas Tech, which had Texas A&M and Kansas State on the ropes in its only two losses. The Wildcats get in-state rival Kansas.
There's a good chance all three will still be undefeated a week from now.
''It is what it is,'' said Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, whose spunky Wildcats are off to their best start since 2000 despite getting out-gained just about every time they step on the field.
''We're fortunate to be where we are right now, I understand that. I can appreciate that,'' Snyder said. ''But our thinking is about working on Monday, and tomorrow we'll try Tuesday and so on down the road. There's not a great deal of thought given to what's happened the first six ball games.''
Most of the Big 12 conversations this season have been about whether it will survive. Nebraska is already gone to the Big Ten, Colorado is playing in the Pac-12 and the Aggies are SEC-bound. Missouri is trying to figure out whether it wants to stay or go, and TCU is getting ready to join the fold.
Rather than talk about what interim commissioner Chuck Neinas is trying to accomplish in holding all the pieces together, though, maybe the conversation should be about what Gundy, Snyder and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops have done in making the conference one of the toughest in the country.
The SEC is the only other league that has two undefeated teams, Alabama and LSU. Stanford is still without a loss in the Pac-12, Clemson is perfect in the ACC, Wisconsin is unblemished in the Big Ten, and Boise State and Houston are both undefeated through their first six games.
Critics will point out that teams elsewhere have managed to beat each other up already, and that's certainly true in many cases. Michigan State knocked Michigan from the ranks of the unbeaten Saturday, and Virginia did likewise to Georgia Tech.
But of the 10 unbeaten teams in the FBS, three of them are in the Big 12 and they are in the top 12.
''There's always some spots here and there through six games you'd like to do better,'' Stoops said, ''but I feel like we're playing pretty well.''
That's quite the understatement.
The Sooners beat then-No. 5 Florida State, then-No. 11 Texas in the Red River Rivalry shootout, and have outscored their last three opponents by a combined 164-40.
Oklahoma State has already defeated then-No. 8 Texas A&M and the Longhorns to keep their unbeaten season intact. With games against Missouri and Baylor up next, the Cowboys could be looking at an 8-0 start when they play Kansas State on Nov. 5.
All the Wildcats have done is knock off Miami on the road, beat then-No. 15 Baylor and last week rally to beat Texas Tech on the road. Kansas State could conceivably slip into the top 10 before a showdown Oct. 29 with the Sooners.
So, yes, the unbeatens in the Big 12 will have to fall eventually. That's always the case in a conference in which everybody is forced to play everybody else.
But don't think for a moment that they're not enjoying the ride.
''Hopefully our guys are learning the importance of staying focused and preparing for the week, and being able to play in hostile environments,'' Gundy said. ''They're not giving any wins away.''