The first shots fired at the Big 12 Conference this season didn’t come on the football field, but at the Grandover Resort and Hotel in Greensboro, N.C.
That’s where, in front of a group of reporters (including yours truly) at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff in July, Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher threw out a not-so-thinly-veiled barb at the Big 12 Conference when talking about the new College Football Playoff, given the fact the the Big 12 is the only one of the Power Five conferences that do not stage a conference championship game.
“I think every conference should have one,” Fisher said in a dimly-lit conference center/ballroom at the hotel. “Not everyone plays the same number of games and does the same thing. I think it’s ridiculous.”
Definitely not taking those comments lying down, members of the Big 12 fired back during its own media days in Dallas, with commissioner Bob Bowlsby emphasizing that the league is the only one of the Power Five to have a round robin schedule and thus its conference is able to crown “a true champion.” Baylor head coach Art Briles took Fisher’s words a little more to heart, saying, “He (Fisher) needs to worry about the ACC. Don’t come down to Texas telling me how to do my business.” Though Briles came with some strong words in a hotel room, the Big 12 has a chance on the football field to serve up a tall, cold glass of “shut up juice” to its detractors on Thursday, as league member Kansas State takes on Auburn.
For all of the talk before the season about whether the SEC or the Pac-12 is the best conference in the country, as well as how much the ACC has caught to the SEC with the help of Florida State’s national title last season, the Big 12’s strength in numbers simply can’t be ignored, especially if the Wildcats take care of business in Manhattan against last season’s national runner-up. The league already has two teams, Oklahoma and Baylor, ranked in the top seven in the AP Poll (both are in the top six in the Coaches Poll), and a K-State win would see the Wildcats catapult near or into that strata by next week. Kansas State would also have a huge leg up on many teams across the country in terms of owning a quality non-conference win that will stand out like a diamond ring to the College Football Playoff committee. With Baylor and Oklahoma already national title contenders, having a third team in the same league jump into that mix will greatly enhance the profile of the league, and the round robin between those three teams this season would almost certainly lead to one team making the season-ending College Football Playoff, if not a second. (Oklahoma will play both K-State and Baylor at home, while the Wildcats play in Norman and in Waco.)
Below that troika, Oklahoma State, after its impressive showing in a nail-biting loss in the season opener to Florida State, is much better than first thought, West Virginia looked very good in a 10-point loss to Alabama and just defeated Maryland last week and TCU is undefeated and can never be counted out as long as a Gary Patterson/Dick Bumpas-led defense is performing at its best. And remember that last season, two games played on the same day decided the Big 12’s champion, as Oklahoma’s win over Oklahoma State in Stillwater simultaneously ruined the Cowboys’ opportunity at a Big 12 title and caused the Texas/Baylor game later that day to be a winner-take-all game for the league crown. (Baylor won the game and headed off to the Fiesta Bowl.)
Sadly, however, the best part about Kansas football in the Big 12 is that it’s a diversion until basketball season starts in a couple of months.
The A Lot of Sports Talk‘s College Football Top 25 polling sextet is as strong as any college football voting bloc around. Once again, let’s welcome our weekly voters: T.J. Basalla (super fan, marketing professional, WJPZ Alumni Association President), Pavan Sandhu Eckhart (Texas A&M graduate, Sales Rep at Ferring Pharmaceuticals in Dallas), Basil Mitchell (former TCU and Green Bay Packers RB), Sandy Weintraub (super fan, Director of Student Conduct and Community Standards at the University of Oregon), Adesina Koiki (Football Writers Association of America member/voter, A Lot Of Sports Talk editor-in-chief) and an anonymous assistant coach who once coached at a Division I-FBS school. If you have any comments and/or complaints, write them below on the Facebook window or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you, as always.
The Ducks came out flat against Wyoming, but when you have Marcus Mariota, you are going to be a difficult team to beat in 2014. (Sandy Weintraub)
Pardon me for already thinking ahead, but I cannot wait for Nov. 8 and Baylor. (T.J. Basalla)
I second that, T.J., but the Sooners’ trip to Morgantown this weekend intrigues me, especially after the Mountaineers’ emotional last-second win at Maryland. A night game in Morgantown usually spells trouble for opponents, no matter their ranking coming in. (Adesina Koiki)
The tenor of Saturday night’s game with Clemson just took a drastic shift after the announcement that Jameis Winston would be suspended for the first half of the game after shouting an obscene statement in public on FSU’s campus. (Adesina)
Florida needed three overtimes to beat Kentucky last week…in Gainesville. I’m scared to see what ‘Bama will do to that Gator team in Tuscaloosa. (T.J.)
That huge road win over South Carolina looks even better now with the Gamecocks takedown of Georgia last Saturday. (Sandy)
We may not get a better Thursday night game this season than AU’s visit to the Little Apple. (T.J.)
I guess Art Briles really wanted some Anchor Bar. That’s the only explanation I have for Baylor going TO Buffalo on a Friday night last week. (T.J.)
That is a sneaky good Mississippi State team coming into Death Valley this weekend. (T.J.)
Lots of attention on Notre Dame is pointed towards the offense with the return of Everett Golson, and rightfully so. But don’t forget about the Irish defense; they’ve allowed only 31 points in the first three games and look just as stingy as the unit two years ago that carried the Irish to the national title game. That’s enough to make Irish fans in Florida with ring tones of the iconic fight song on their cell phones want to “wake up the echoes cheering her name.” (Adesina)
Still the B1G’s best team, but the rest of the conference is basically killing any chance this team has to make it into the Playoff. (T.J.)
Impressive win by a quarterback (Jerry Neuheisel) who had to play in place of an injured, Heisman caliber quarterback (Brett Hundley) and was playing in a hostile atmosphere of 67,000 Longhorn fans. (Pavan Sandhu Eckhart)
They’re not as good as we thought they were, but they’re finding ways to win at this point. (T.J.)
Bo Wallace has been consistent so far this season, but we will see what happens when the Rebels face a tough SEC defense. (Pavan).
Losing Taylor Kelly for the UCLA-USC stretch is potentially a season killer for the Sun Devils. (T.J.)
Three words: Ole. Ball. Coach. (Sandy)
This is not hard; YOU HAVE TODD GURLEY! RUN THE BALL INSIDE THE FIVE! (T.J.)
As stated in the lead, Kansas State, in my opinion, is not only playing to become a national contender but also to vault the Big 12 as possibly the conference to keep an eye on for the rest of the season. No pressure, Wildcats. (Adesina)
I know South Carolina and Georgia are getting all the hype/love, but Missouri has a great chance to repeat in the SEC East. (T.J.)
All of a sudden, the Cougars’ home game this week against Virginia got a little more juicier as the Cavaliers have showed lots of fight in a close loss to UCLA and a win over a nationally-ranked Louisville team in the first three weeks. (Adesina)
Woke up in the second half against Army. This is still a scary team to play for all of their upcoming Pac-12 opponents. (Sandy)
The Badgers’ opponent this week, Bowling Green, pulled a surprise last week in defeating a Big Ten team, Indiana. If the Falcons pull off the same trick in Camp Randall, however, I suggest that all Big Ten football teams should just pack it in and call it a season. (Adesina)
Who knew that a road game at Fresno State would be a much easier affair than a home tilt against McNeese State for the Huskers? (Adesina)
The Trojans earn this week’s “I have no idea how that happened” result of last weekend. (T.J.)
The “amazing, yet true” stat of the season may have occurred in Chestnut Hill last week, as Boston College out-rushed the Trojans 452-20. FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY-TWO RUSHING YARDS? Holy %$*&! (Adesina)
If only the Buckeyes could schedule Kent State more than one time each season. Some cynics argue that they already do, at least in terms of the caliber of their non-conference competition. (Adesina)
Even with starting quarterback J.W. Walsh lost for the season with a foot injury, the Pokes didn’t skip a beat in pounding UTSA by 30. Their excellent start, including a valiant effort in a season-opening loss to Florida State, only makes the Big 12 an even stronger conference than we first thought earlier in the summer. (Adesina)
One of the big mysteries in college football right now is which team is the second-best squad in the ACC. The Blue Devils, who literally finished second place behind Florida State in 2013, is right in that mix once again. Quarterback Anthony Boone has still yet to lose in the regular season as a starter (13-0). (Adesina)
Others receiving votes:
Washington (12 points), Clemson (11), Mississippi State (9), Florida (7), North Carolina (6), Marshall (3), Boston College (2), Virginia Tech (1), TCU (1)
* – To break ties, we used a three-step criteria; 1) higher number of first-place votes, 2) higher number of ballots (out of six) the teams appeared in, 3) highest single ranking by an individual pollster (e.g. if Team A and Team B are tied cumulatively and appeared in all six polls, but Team A’s highest ranking by an individual pollster was No. 7 and Team B’s highest ranking by an individual pollster was No. 9, Team A wins tiebreaker)
[Cover photo (Kansas State players) courtesy of David Purdy/Getty Images]