The college football pundits nationwide have made a case that the Big 12 has surpassed the SEC and established itself as the top conference in the country this year. Who can argue with a conference which has at #1 Texas, #4 Oklahoma, #7 Texas Tech, #9 Oklahoma State, and #14 Missouri? (Using this week's BCS standings.) In my humble opinion, for a conference to truly establish itself, it must have a few key wins out of conference. So what are the big wins the top five teams in the Big 12 have won?
Missouri - Illinois, Southeast Missouri State, Nevada, Buffalo (none of them on the road.)
Oklahoma State - at Washington State, Houston, Missouri State, Troy
Texas Tech - Eastern Washington, at Nevada (evidently Nevada is trying to join the Big 12), Southern Methodist, Massachusetts
Oklahoma - Chattanooga, Cincinnati, at Washington, TCU
Clearly, all of these teams built their reputations on blowing out weaker opponents. Now they can go around and brag about having four teams in the top 15 because they have played no one, the strongest team on this non-conference schedule being TCU, currently BCS #13. Everyone hears about Okie State's great offense. They scored 39 on Wash St. Four Pac-10 schools have dropped 60+ on the Cougars. Texas has supposedly proven themselves by beating Oklahoma. Who cares? Oklahoma hasn't beaten a good team out of conference since George W. Bush was popular! Now obviously every conference has teams that play "gimme games." The Big 12 (and the SEC) though don't get the criticism the Pac-10 and Big-10 do for playing them.
I do not write this claiming the Big 12 is a poor conference. I believe they are a good conference, just not more elite than the others. Take the Pac-10's top four teams, and give them the OOC schedules of these four teams. Oregon State, by playing one of these schedules instead of going to Happy Valley would be a top 10 team having beaten USC. USC would have only one loss, to a top 10 team, and would be looked at as Oklahoma is now. California, instead of playing a road game that kicked off at 10:00 am Pacific time (the Maryland game), would only have a conference loss and be a top 15 team. Oregon, playing its third string quarterback would only have a loss to USC (and would not have played Boise State.) No one in Norman should be critical of that.
While the Big 12 conference games have been high scoring and entertaining, all college football fans need to evaluate those games with a grain of salt because until they step out of conference against a quality opponent, they have not proven they are better than any other conference.