Back in 2019, I wrote a piece comparing some of soccer’s biggest leagues to American sports equivalents. The German Bundlesiga, with its wide-open offenses and high possession numbers, had an easy comp: college football’s Big 12 Conference.
Granted, defensive play rose considerably in 2020 in the Big 12, but I’ll add one more similarity between the two leagues: While we know who’s going to win the title every year (Bayern Munich in Germany, Oklahoma in the Great Plains), just about anybody can finish second. In the four seasons since the conference brought its title game back, OU has vanquished four different opponents.
Teams can rise and fall quickly, too. Baylor reached the 2019 Big 12 Championship just two years after going 1-11, and the Bears plummeted to 2-7 the year after. Texas was the 2018 runner-up two years after going 5-7. TCU advanced to the title game in 2017, a year after going 6-7, and has gone 18-17 since.
The teams in the bottom half of the league, then, have reason to remain ambitious. If they strike gold on a quarterback and get a few breaks, then there are enough close games in this league to allow them to rise quickly. Today we’ll preview the teams projected sixth through 10th in the Big 12 in 2021. Who has the most reason for hope?
Every week through the summer, Bill Connelly will preview another division from the Group of 5 and Power 5 exclusively for ESPN+, ultimately including all 130 FBS teams. The previews will include 2020 breakdowns, 2021 previews and a brief history of each team in one handy chart. The series has thus far covered the Conference USA East and West, the MAC East and West, the MWC Mountain and West, the Sun Belt West and East, the top and bottom half of the AAC, the seven Independents, the ACC Atlantic and Coastal and the Pac-12 North and South.
Oklahoma has won 21 games in the last two years. Kansas has won 21 in the last 12. The Jayhawks just made their first genuinely sensible hire since 2002, though. That’s a start.