Big 12 about to heat up after sleepy first 3 weeks

Associated Press Modified: September 17, 2012 at 12:48 pm •  Published: September 17, 2012

The Big 12's big bore is about to finally come to an end.

The league that dominated headlines for a variety of reasons during the offseason, not least of which was whether it would continue to exist, has been a blip on the national radar once games finally started against a dismal lineup of non-conference weaklings.

Oklahoma State scoring 84 points against Savannah State. West Virginia's Geno Smith throwing for 411 yards and 5 TDs against James Madison. Games against the likes of Western Illinois, Sam Houston State, Florida A&M and Grambling State over the past couple of weeks.

Not much to get excited about.

That all changes Saturday night, when sixth-ranked Oklahoma hosts No. 15 Kansas State in the first true showdown of the new-look conference. It's a game that should help decide the league champion, and also give people outside the Big 12 a reason to start tuning in.

"They're an excellent team, so the preparation for them is always complicated," said Sooners coach Bob Stoops, whose team will have had two weeks to prepare for the Wildcats.

Still, it's a difficult situation for the Sooners to be in.

They appeared rather uninspired in a season-opening victory at UTEP, then routed Florida A&M two weeks ago, leaving Stoops to wonder whether his team is ready for a real test.

"They look like an excellent football team. They're doing an excellent job of running the football, like always, and using the quarterback to run it," Stoops said. "It'll be a challenge."

It's just the start of challenges awaiting the Sooners.

The offseason overhaul of the Big 12 resulted in the loss of Missouri and Texas A&M, two teams already saddled with losses in the SEC, and the addition of No. 8 West Virginia — the reigning Big East champion — and 17th-ranked TCU, the defending champions of the Mountain West.

Both of them will see the Sooners down the road, along with everyone else in the round-robin Big 12. Oklahoma also has a non-conference game against No. 11 Notre Dame on Oct. 27, right in the middle of the league's regular meat-grinder.

While the conference has been beating up on punching bags, though, other leagues have played games that warranted more national attention. Florida and Tennessee pitted SEC rivals on the rise last Saturday, while the Fighting Irish visited then-No. 10 Michigan State. Even top-ranked Alabama booted around Michigan in a rare, season-opening showdown between power schools.

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