More Than Just Oklahoma or Texas, Big 12 Lives Up to Its Motto

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The worm has turned in the Big 12. With its 48-14 blowout loss Saturday to Baylor—at home, no less—Oklahoma is completely eliminated from conference contention. That makes 2014 the fourth consecutive season in which neither Texas nor Oklahoma wins an outright Big 12 championship.

One season is an aberration. Two seasons is hardly status quo. Three seasons is a trend. Four seasons?

Four seasons are indicative of a new reality. The Big 12 is no longer the Longhorns and Sooners’ stomping ground.

Oklahoma finished 0-3 against each of the three teams the Sooners trail in the conference: Baylor, Kansas State and TCU. While the TCU and K-State losses came by a combined six points, the thrashing Oklahoma sustained against the Bears marked the second time in as many years the longtime standard-bearer of the conference lost to the upstart from Waco by double-digits.

Baylor has been on a steady, upward trajectory under head coach Art Briles, including last year’s Big 12 title. Saturday’s win was yet another important step in Baylor establishing itself as a perennial power, marking the program’s first road win over a ranked team since 1991.

This will be Baylor’s first road win against a ranked team since 1991. First victory in 12 tries in Norman.

— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) November 8, 2014

The 1991 season, of course, predates the existence of the Big 12 by six years.

Saturday’s win was also Baylor’s third over Oklahoma in the last four meetings. We’ve now reached a point that the Bears beating the Sooners shouldn’t come as a surprise. This is just the reality of the current Big 12.

Maybe “Big Game” Bob Stoops lost his magic—and that narrative will certainly resurface in the coming days and weeks. But Oklahoma’s tumble from the perch is not like the regression Texas experienced.

The Longhorns are undergoing a full-scale rebuild under Charlie Strong after things went stale in Mack Brown’s final years. And certainly, Texas’ woes opened the door for new blood to rise to the top of the Big 12.

But Baylor, Kansas State and TCU are not thriving simply because there’s a power vacuum. Traditional power Oklahoma may not be at its 2000 national championship level, but this is still one of the elite programs in college football.

The Sooners are just two years removed from winning a share of Stoops’ eighth conference championship and less than a calendar year away from running circles around Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

That makes the current accomplishments of Baylor, K-State and TCU all the more impressive. These are programs that:

  • Were the longtime basement dwellers of the conference in any of its incarnations (Baylor)
  • Overachieve with lowly recruited players, led by the oldest head coach in the FBS (K-State)
  • Were outsiders just three years, playing in the non-power Mountain West Conference (TCU)

As the only conference among the Power 5 that plays a round-robin schedule, the Big 12 likes to tout how every game matters. The competitive balance at the top of the conference, and the unlikely teams helping set the pace in recent years, has helped make that more than just empty rhetoric.