If you listen to the national media, you’d get the impression the Big 12 is falling off. To be honest there are a lot of facts to back it up. In the 3 years since the playoffs have been in existence, the Big 12 has missed out 2 of those 3 years. The conference has not even played in a national championship game since the playoff was created.
Another thing to factor in is the number of players that get selected in the NFL Draft. Here are the number of players drafted from each major conference. The AAC is not a major conference, but it was included to give some perspective.
2017 NFL draft picks by conference
SEC – 53, 3.79
ACC – 43, 3.07
Pac-12 – 36, 3
Big Ten-35, 2.5
AAC – 15, 1.25
Big 12 – 14, 1.4
Not a good look for the Big 12! Sure, these conferences have more teams in them, but it’s not proportionate to the number of players drafted. The SEC had nearly 4 times as many players drafted as the Big 12. That’s not even close.
Much of this can be attributed to several Big 12 teams being in transitional years last season. TCU and Baylor were way down in 2016 compared to past seasons. With the sanctions Baylor faces along with losing their coach, they could be permanently down.
The way Saban and Co. ships underclassmen to the NFL annually, you could call every year a transition year for the Tide, but they never have any trouble reloading. With all of the returning talent in the Big 12 this year there is no excuse. It’s time to put up or shut up.
Going into the 2017 season there is plenty of reason for optimism. Not just from the fans of the teams of the conference, but also the national rankings. There are five Big 12 teams starting out in the top 25 of the AP and Coaches Poll.
Compare this to last year when WVU had to win their first 3 games before getting ranked. If the conference was as bad off as many think then the 2nd tier of the conference (WVU, Kansas State, Texas) wouldn’t all be ranked.
With WVU opening the season against Virginia Tech on a neutral field, this gives the Mountaineers a springboard opportunity at the beginning of the season. Beat the Hokies and in all likelihood the Mountaineers are looking at 4-0 start and knocking on the door of a top 10 ranking. Then they will travel to Fort Worth for a showdown with TCU.
Five teams in the conference are starting out ranked, which will lead to some high profile showdowns later in the Big 12 season. Fear not, the Big 12 is not dead yet.