Scheduling is an issue in the Southeastern Conference. Eight league games for a 14-team conference seem too few, but creating competitive balance and loyalty to historical rivalries complicates matters.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier looked outside of his league — to the Big 12 — with a nod of approval.
“Ten teams, they all play each other,” Spurrier said. “That’s pretty doggone fair.”
College football’s most fair league gathers in Dallas today for its annual media day, an exercise in breaking down and building up a Big 12 in which no clear-cut favorite has emerged.
The media’s preseason poll released last week found the Oklahoma State Cowboys at the top, but with Oklahoma, TCU and Texas on the bumper, and Baylor and Kansas State receiving first-place votes.
Quarterback prospects and battles fuel the uncertainty. K-State, Oklahoma, Baylor, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Kansas break in new starters. TCU’s Casey Pachall, the all-league choice on preseason ballots, returns after missing all but four games last season because of a suspension after a drunk driving arrest.
A two-man race unfolds at Kansas State between Daniel Sams, last year’s backup to Collin Klein, and junior college transfer Jake Waters. At Kansas, Brigham Young transfer Jake Heaps is set to take over.
Tight end-sized Blake Bell (“Bell-dozer”) figures to be the Sooners’ choice, and Baylor’s Bryce Petty, in his fourth year in the system, possesses a skill set “that’s off the charts,” said his coach, Art Briles.
They join a small group of returning starters: Texas’ David Ash, Oklahoma State’s Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh and Iowa State’s Sam Richardson. TCU’s Trevone Boykin, who filled in for Pachall, also returns.
But is there a national championship contender in the bunch?
In its first two years as a 10-team league, a Big 12 team was bearing down on the BCS title game in November: Kansas State last season and Oklahoma State in 2011.
But the teams were knocked from a title shot with late regular-season road losses, K-State to Baylor and Oklahoma State to Iowa State, and that’s the flip side to the complete round robin schedule. More conference encounters increases the chance for a loss.
When the Big 12 was split into divisions, the conference was represented in the BCS title game seven times in 10 years, starting with the Sooners’ 2000 national championship.
Now, it’s working on a three-year title game drought.
Still, the 10-team league races have proved dramatic with titles not determined until the final game of the regular season.
Competitive and fair? Doggone right.