Dear BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF,
Welcome to the Big 12. We are excited to finally get acquainted with you after two years of waiting, and it is so exciting to see this actually come to fruition.
The conference is ecstatic about the prospect of having you guys along for this wild ride, and with Brett Yormark at the helm, you guys might not be the new guys for very long.
There are probably a few things that you’ve heard about the conference from the outside world; some true, and some most certainly false.
Now seems a good a time as any to address the rumors, as well as any questions you might have.
1. The Big 12 Doesn’t Play Defense.
This is completely false.
The narrative is outdated, and quite frankly, lazy. For the last three seasons, the Big 12 has had at least two teams rank inside the Top 25 in scoring defense, and over the last two seasons three teams inside the top 10.
In 2022, Iowa State ranked fourth nationally in total defense (285.6 ypg) and was one of the stingiest scoring defenses as well, allowing just 20.25 points per game.
In 2021, Oklahoma State (18.1 ppg) and Baylor (18.3 ppg) were both ranked inside the Top 10 defensively, with Iowa State (20.5 ppg) and Kansas State (21.0 ppg) both ranking inside the Top 25 as well.
Cincinnati, you guys seem to have it figured out on that side of the ball too, ranking inside the Top 30 and in the Top 10 two seasons ago.
2. Big 12 Offenses Are Wide-Open.
This one is true, but maybe not as much as in the past.
In the mid-2010s, the Big 12 revolutionized the spread offense, with several spread offensive attacks that you see versions of across the country today. The Big 12 still has several guys from the spread or air raid coaching tree, with Kendal Briles (TCU), Zach Kittley (Texas Tech), Andy Kotelnicki (Kansas), and Kasey Dunn (Oklahoma State) all implementing some styles from that era.
Plus, Steve Sarkisian (Texas) and Jeff Lebby (Oklahoma) will still be around this season and are two of the top minds for that kind of attack. You won’t have to deal with them for long though.
While the “spread” schemes are still used across this league, the league has seemingly transitioned into using the scheme to run the ball more effectively. OU, Texas Tech, TCU, Kansas, and Texas all ranked inside the Top 35 offensively a year ago, with Kansas State and Baylor just outside of that.
Of course, you guys know about offense too, with UCF and Houston both ranking in the Top 25 last year.
3. Big 12 Coaches are as entertaining as they come.
This one is also true.
Mike Gundy is, well, Mike Gundy. He’s truly one of a kind and someone that will grow on you very quickly. And no, he’s not 40 anymore, so don’t ask him.
While he hasn’t been around for very long, Joey McGuire is quite the character too. What he’s doing in Lubbock is pretty exciting for folks around there, and anybody that’ll climb a 200-foot construction tower to keep his word is a keeper in our book.
No, Dave Aranda isn’t an alien, and yes he really does appreciate your question.
Chris Klieman might be the best pure football coach in the country. It’s not a coincidence that he won four national championships at North Dakota State. His kids will run through a wall for him, so expect a dogfight when K-State is on the schedule.
Sonny Dykes is quite boisterous on the sidelines, and he’s not afraid to let the side judge have it every once in a while. Also one hell of a football coach.
Lance Leipold is another guy that hasn’t been around the neighborhood long, but he’s made a huge difference in Lawrence in just two years (more on this in a bit).
Neal Brown is as genuine a guy as there is out there, and he’s someone that you’d invite to the barbeque, just to chat it up for a few hours.
And Matt Campbell, man does he have those kids in Ames believing in the five-star culture. Like Sonny, he can get pretty heated on the sidelines, but he means well. Just like Coach Klieman though, you’d better be ready for a fight against Campbell’s Cyclones.
4. Kansas is the doormat of the Big 12.
While it might have been true in the past, this is no longer the case.
Coach Leipold threw out the old doormat when he showed up in the neighborhood a couple of years ago. Just ask Steve Sarkisian.
The Jayhawks had one of the best offenses in college football last season with Jaylon Daniels under center. The Jayhawks also made their first bowl game since 2008 last year and took Arkansas to 3OT in that one.
Don’t count them as a win on the schedule, or you might leave Lawrence scratching your head.
5. There’s No Parity in the Big 12.
False. WAY False.
Since we brought back the Big 12 Championship game in 2017, at least one new team has played in it every year. In their first appearance last season, Kansas State won the title over TCU, who was 12-0 coming into the game.
There are also some very weird dynamics in the league amongst some of the teams
The Wildcats have owned Oklahoma in recent memory, winning three of their last four and five of their last 11 games.
Texas has found a way to lose to Kansas twice in the last six years, even before their recent resurgence under Lance Leipold.
In all likelihood, you’ll find yourself on the wrong end of a weird game every other year against the same team. It just seems to play out that way here. Call it kryptonite, or bad luck, but that’s just how it is. You’ll be fine though, it happens to everyone.
6. Oklahoma and Texas are leaving.
Yes, this is also true, and thank goodness.
Oklahoma has missed the Big 12 championship the last two years, but before that, they’d won the league six times in a row. Too bad they couldn’t do anything with it when they got to the Playoff. It took TCU just one try to win a game and make us proud, but OU had four chances and couldn’t get it done. Oh well, not our problem anymore.
On the other hand, Texas hasn’t won the conference since 2009, but take our word for it: you’ll be glad they left. Those guys in Austin are a pain in the neck, and it’s better for all of us that they’re leaving. We will miss the “Texas is Back,” every offseason, just to watch them fall on their faces when the season starts.
Sure, these guys were here when the neighborhood was built, but that doesn’t mean much anymore. If you’ll do us a favor and beat them on their way out the door, that’d be great. Then, be sure to tell them, “Good luck in the SEC.”
7. We’re Looking to Add a Couple More Pieces.
True, but let’s keep this one on the down low.
Commissioner Yormark (Great guy) has been doing everything he can to bring value to the conference and it seems like we’re really close to getting Colorado to join us and maybe bring Arizona along with them.
It’s not a done deal, but we’re not entirely sure that anyone in the Pac-12 even knows what a “deal” looks like at this point, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
8. Big 12 Basketball is a Different Animal.
Very, very true.
It’s a grind each and every game. We will save some of the finer details for basketball season, but just know you’d better pack a lunch when conference play starts.
There’s not another conference in America that has the depth and talent that Big 12 basketball does, which you’ll soon find out all too well.
9. Big 12 Fanbases are NEXT-LEVEL Passionate.
This one is also true.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better group of fan bases in the country.
Big 12 fans are unique, and aren’t talked about enough on the national level. From Manhattan to Ames and Stillwater to Lubbock, the in-game atmospheres on Saturdays are phenomenal and represent just how crazy fold in Big 12 country are about college football.
You’ll know what we’re talking about when you experience your first night game in Lubbock, or your first blackout in Stillwater.
While some of you already know this (looking at you, UCF) the Big 12 has a strong following on Twitter, too. Fans are quick to defend their teams and conference against naysayers, and now you’ll get the chance to chop it up with them as part of the gang as well.
10. We’re Excited to Have You!
Adding programs like BYU, Houston, Cincinnati, and UCF would be an exciting move for any conference, and on Heartland College Sports’ behalf, we are excited to cover your teams!
With four new campuses to visit, home crowds to experience, and teams to build rivalries with, the Big 12 just got better and we couldn’t be happier about it.
So, folks in and around Provo, Cincinnati, Houston, and Orlando: We can’t wait to meet you and get this thing going as quickly as possible.
From all of us here at Heartland College Sports: Welcome to the Big 12.