Losing a couple of teams in the offseason apparently has done nothing to change the landscape of the race for the Big 12 football title.
Wednesday, the Big 12 released the results of its preseason poll, and, for the 10th time since the inception of the conference, Bob Stoops’ Oklahoma football team has been picked first.
This, of course, marks the first time that the Sooners have been voted as outright champions, something made possible by the departure of Nebraska (to the Big Ten) and Colorado (to the Pac-12) earlier this year. During the other nine seasons when the Sooners saw a No. 1 next to their name, they simply were selected to finish first in the South. But with the conference moving away from the divisional format, all 10 members now make up one conference, and the Sooners are overwhelmingly the favorites to win the first such conference crown.
OU received 41 first-place votes — including all four from Journal-World staff members who voted — and totaled 428 points to easily finish ahead of Texas A&M; in the voting.
The Aggies came in second with 362 points, edging out Oklahoma State by just two points. A&M; and OSU each received one first-place vote. They were the only two schools other than OU to do so.
Missouri (281) and Texas (265) rounded out the top five, with Baylor (194), Texas Tech (191), Kansas State (140), Iowa State (93) and Kansas (51) finishing off the list.
Kansas being picked to finish last comes as little surprise. Its 51-point total indicates that voters had nearly as easy a time penciling in their 10th-place team as they did their first-place squad.
KU enters 2011 after a 3-9 season in which its only conference victory came against Colorado in a wild, 52-45 victory that went down as the greatest comeback in school history. Eight of the other nine teams that remain in the conference won at least three league games last year with only Texas (2-6) coming close to matching KU’s 1-7 mark.
While most are quick to say that preseason polls don’t mean much, Oklahoma has shown during the Big 12 era that it takes the cream-of-the-crop status seriously. The Sooners lead the Big 12 with seven conference football championships (2010, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2002 and 2000) and have finished first at the end of the season during six of the nine years in which they were picked to win the South division.
With the conference having done away with divisions, this year’s preseason poll also shows just how difficult winning the conference might be for the four teams that remain from what was known as the Big 12 North.
Only Missouri (fourth, 281 points) was picked to finish in the top half of the league, with KSU, ISU and KU filling out the bottom three spots.
In years past, the teams in the North only had to beat out each other to earn a spot in the conference title game, where they would take on the South champion in a winner-take-all game in which the victor automatically advanced to a BCS bowl.
The road to BCS glory certainly has gotten a lot bumpier for those four as well as the rest of the conference.
Big 12 preseason poll
Oklahoma (428 points, 41 first-place votes)
Texas A&M; (362, 1)
Oklahoma State (360, 1)
Texas Tech (191)
Kansas State (140)
Iowa State (93)