TIME OUT with Alex Mitchell: 9/30/11

Season’s greetings, sports fans, and welcome to the first autumn edition of Time Out. It was another great weekend of college football what with Tech continuing to win and USC getting dismantled on the road.
However, one thing really bugged me about this past weekend: College Gameday was at West Virginia to see the Mountaineers take on LSU.

Fundamentally, the decision to go to Morgantown for the first time to witness two ranked teams play makes sense. West Virginia is relevant again after the Rich Rodriguez drama subsided, and LSU plays in the heralded SEC.

Unfortunately for ESPN, the true game of the week turned out to be the 30-29 shootout between Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. It is a shame that this game, which featured two top-ten teams, went relatively unnoticed, especially considering that both teams are members of the best conference in the nation, the Big 12.

At the top, the Big 12 has three teams that could match up well with any other conference’s top tier. LSU and Alabama are snagging headlines left and right thanks to their stellar defenses, but sandwiched in between the two in the polls is Oklahoma.

Oklahoma has proved it belongs in the top two in the polls, having gone to Doak Campbell Stadium and defeated Florida State. Bob Stoops has had problems with big road games, but the Sooners’ play suggested that this year’s team might be different with that 23-13 victory.

There was no hangover effect for the Sooners either, as they followed the win at FSU up with a home win against Missouri, a team that Oklahoma lost to last season. Oklahoma will continue to win games by using its sixth ranked passing offense, but nobody throws the ball better than the Big 12’s second best team, Oklahoma State.

For the Cowboys, it all starts with quarterback Brandon Weeden, who has thrown for over 360 yards in every game this season. The senior is old enough to be the father of some of his teammates and plays like it too. He slings the ball all across the field and leaves defenses tipping their hats and calling him their daddy.

Like their in-state rivals, the Cowboys have a road win over a top-ten team in the aforementioned win over the Aggies. Texas A&M is not going to sweat over the early conference loss because it might have the most complete offense in the Big 12.

Ryan Tannehill was just the right spark the Aggies needed last season when he was inserted in at quarterback, and although he may look slow, he can run. Tannehill had a 65-yard run last Saturday to go with his 309 passing yards.

Tannehill also has the luxury of handing the ball off to Cyrus Gray and throwing it to Jeff Fuller. Those two have already combined for 525 yards despite Gray sharing carries and Fuller getting double-covered.

It is actually tough to put Texas A&M in the top tier of the Big 12, considering the conference has two other Texas teams that are undefeated. Still, I put both Texas and Baylor in the same tier as Missouri considering none of these teams has beaten a truly great team.

However, that is not to say that these teams have been padding their win counts with games against cupcakes.

No. 15 Baylor opened up the season against TCU in front of a national television audience. The game that ensued was an instant classic with Baylor winning 50-48 against the defending Rose Bowl Champions. The game proved that Baylor was no longer the laughingstock of the Big 12 and that Robert Griffin III is a legitimate Heisman candidate.

It seems odd that Texas should only be ranked No.17 even though the Longhorns are undefeated. To the voter’s credit, this is not Vince Young’s Longhorns and the only quality win that they have is a 29-point blowout at UCLA.

Even though Texas went 5-7 last year, it is still Texas.

The bottom of the Big 12 has familiar names: Iowa State, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Kansas; and while Kansas did look awful against Tech, these bottom dwellers are no pushovers. The bottom tier of the Big 12 has a combined record of 11-1, with the only loss being Kansas’ loss at Georgia Tech earlier this year.

It is crazy to call these four teams the bottom tier of any conference considering they have combined for wins over Miami, Iowa and Connecticut. These teams have also handled teams from the FCS, something that bad teams from other conferences cannot claim.

Duke lost to Richmond, Minnesota lost to North Dakota State and Oregon State fell to Sacramento State. Meanwhile, Texas Tech beat Texas State 50-10.

Oklahoma might not be as good as LSU and Texas’ 3-0 start may be a distant memory come season’s end but as of today, the Big 12 is surprisingly the best conference in football. So come on, ESPN, show the Big 12 some love while you still can.


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