The unofficial start to the 2013 Big 12 Conference football season comes Monday and Tuesday with the conference Media Days in Dallas. Judging by the preseason media poll, the race for the championship should be as wide-open as ever.
As the teams gather in the Metroplex, here are a few storylines to watch for over the next two days and into the weeks leading up to the season opener.
Wide Open Race
SEC-crazed, Big 12 outsiders might wonder why Big 12 Media Day doesn’t rotate every year between Norman and Austin. While Oklahoma and Texas have been powerhouses in the Big 12, their barks have become worse than their bites.
With Baylor and Oklahoma State on the rise, the inability to underestimate Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder, TCU making its case for the Big 12 title and Texas Tech buzzing with Kliff Kingsbury and company, the parity between teams this season is as large as it’s ever been.
Six teams — more than half of the conference — finished with first place votes: Oklahoma State (15) Oklahoma (8), TCU (9), Texas (8), Baylor (2) and Kansas State (1).
New QBs, WRs; Experienced RBs
Only two quarterbacks are coming to Media Day — David Ash of Texas and Jake Heaps of Kansas. As a whole, the conference lost five of its top six passers (Ash is the only one returning) and its top three wide receivers based on receiving yards — Terrance Williams of Baylor and Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin of West Virginia.
While the new quarterbacks and receivers will most likely live up to their expectations, the Big 12 boasts some of the top running backs in the nation, returning four of the top five from last season in James Sims of Kansas, Lache Seastrunk of Baylor, John Hubert of Kansas State and Damien Williams of Oklahoma. Nine Big 12 running backs were named to the Doak Walker Award watch list.
Season of Stability
The waters of the Big 12 have been quite calm this summer. No teams have left the conference and no teams have entered since last season. That’s quite a contrast from recent years.
After the 2010 season, Nebraska and Colorado left, trimming the Big 12 to 10 teams and eliminating the conference championship game.
In 2011, Texas A&M’s decision to leave for the SEC almost ended the Big 12 Conference. Ultimately, Missouri decided to join the Aggies in their move to the SEC.
TCU and West Virginia came aboard last year, replacing A&M and Missouri. With TCU, it was like a Southwest Conference reunion, while the addition of West Virginia expanded the conference’s geographical reach.
Lombardi Watch List
The Big 12 landed 12 players on the Lombardi Watch List, an award for the nation’s top offensive or defensive lineman or linebacker.
Of the 12, seven will be at media days: Oklahoma State defensive tackle Calvin Barnett, Kansas State center B.J. Finney, Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney, Texas Tech defensive tackle Kerry Hyder, Oklahoma offensive lineman Gabe Ikard, Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and Baylor guard Cyril Richardson.
Last hurrah for the BCS
Next season will be the inaugural run for the College Football Playoff system, in which four teams will earn playoff semifinal berths.
The College Football Playoff semifinals will rotate among six bowls. In the 2014 season, the Rose and Sugar bowls will host the semifinals on New Year’s Day 2015.
The championship game is slated for Jan. 12, 2015 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
The Orange and Cotton bowls are set to host the semifinals after the 2015 regular season on New Year’s Eve, and the Chick-Fil-A and Fiesta bowls have the semifinals on New Year’s Eve after the 2016 season.
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