Finally settled, Big 12 unlike other power leagues in round-robin schedule determining title

  • Article by: STEPHEN HAWKINS , AP Sports Writer
  • Updated: August 2, 2013 - 12:30 PM

For the first time in three years, the Big 12 Conference has the same teams coming back from the previous season.

While the seven-time defending national champion SEC and the Pac-12, among other leagues, have expanded during all the shuffling of conference affiliations the past few summers, the Big 12 has settled into a 10-team league.

There is no league championship game in early December to determine the Big 12 champion. Instead, every team plays the other nine league schools in a round-robin schedule that stretches over three full months — from West Virginia going to Oklahoma on Sept. 7, until two final regular-season games Dec. 7.

The title is seemingly up for grabs in the league that has lost four teams and added two since 2010.

Consider the curious case of Texas, whose coach Mack Brown responded "Who knows?" when asked about being picked fourth in the Big 12 preseason poll by media who cover the league and as high as fourth nationally by at least one national magazine.

"I do think that we have the most balanced league in the country right now, top to bottom," Brown said. "Everybody else can beat anybody else in the league on a given day, and that's not happening across the country. ... People are confused on who they think may win this conference championship, and that's a compliment to our league."

Oklahoma State is the media's choice to win the league this time around. Kansas State and Oklahoma shared the title last year, with the Wildcats getting the league's automatic BCS berth because of their head-to-head victory over the Sooners.

With Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback Collin Klein gone, K-State is a preseason pick to finish in the bottom half of the league — just like the last two years, when the Wildcats instead finished in the top two.

"I said last year that, if I were given the opportunity, I would have picked us 99th" K-State coach Bill Snyder said. "As I look at it this year where we stand, I'd probably echo the same thought. It's precarious trying to make those kinds of decisions as the season gets started."

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5 THINGS TO WATCH

1. QB QUANDARY: Seven of the 10 teams had senior quarterbacks last season, so change is in the air. One of the most experienced QBs in the league hasn't even taken a Big 12 snap: Before transferring to Kansas and sitting out last season, junior Jake Heaps started 16 of his 22 games at BYU. Texas junior David Ash has started a league-high 18 games while going through plenty of ups and downs. TCU senior Casey Pachall has 17 starts, but played only the first four games last season before leaving school for a substance-abuse program. Even Oklahoma State had two freshman quarterbacks who started multiple games last season, and a third who has since left the team. Iowa State provided Sam Richardson a head start, letting him start a couple of games late in his freshman season.

2. SOPHOMORE SEASONS: West Virginia and TCU both had their Big 12 debuts last season, when each were the reigning champs of their previous leagues. Both started the season in the Top 25 and got through September undefeated. But both finished 4-5 in league play, part of a four-team tie for fifth place. "It's as competitive a conference as there is in college football," said Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen, whose team lost QB Geno Smith and nine other offensive starters. TCU returns nine starters from a defense that led the Big 12 in total defense — a staple for coach Gary Patterson's teams through all the conference-hopping the Frogs did after being left out of the original Big 12 lineup in 1996. "I don't think there's any magic formula, but you can't allow offenses to dictate," he said.

3. SPEED FREAKS: Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma each ran more than 1,000 offensive plays last season, while West Virginia and Texas Tech were within 10 of reaching that plateau. All averaged more than 37 points a game. Expect more of the same up-tempo offense this season. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is talking about going even faster and Oklahoma, even without 50-game quarterback starter Landry Jones, doesn't anticipate much difference. Texas, which had only 891 offensive snaps, plans for co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, the former Longhorns quarterback, to help turn up the tempo there.

4. BACK HOME: Kliff Kingsbury excited Texas Tech fans with his big-passing ways as a quarterback from 1999-2002. Now he's back in Lubbock as head coach after spending last season as offensive coordinator at Texas A&M , helping tutor Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel. Kingsbury will be 34 when the season begins, the youngest head coach in any BCS-automatic qualifying conference. Kingsbury joins Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy as a former standout quarterback now coach at his Big 12 alma mater. Gundy took over as the Cowboys' head coach 16 years after his last game; Kingsbury is back 11 years later.

5. WHEN DOES BASKETBALL START?: The Kansas football team has lost 21 consecutive Big 12 games since 2010. For his second season, Charlie Weis has more than 20 junior college transfers on the roster. That's not a long-term fix, but more a short-term necessity for a coach who has dismissed 29 scholarship players for a variety of off-the-field issues. "Not one of those players did I get rid of because they weren't any good. You can't do it for that reason," said Weis, who was 1-11 his first season. "So now I took a team that already wasn't very good, and I made them worse talent-wise. So that led to we need to fill the holes right now." The Jayhawks basketball team shared its ninth consecutive Big 12 title earlier this spring.

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Predicted order of finish:

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Team Irvin 32 FINAL
Team Carter 28
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 111 FINAL
Golden State 114
Washington 117 FINAL
Denver 115
Houston 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 87
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
NJIT 72 FINAL
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 67 FINAL
Maryland 68
Washington 56 FINAL
Utah 77
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
UMBC 42
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
UCF 61 FINAL
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
UCLA 57
(11) Stanford 71 FINAL
USC 60
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