Looks like a Bedlam year in Big 12 football. Bedlam and Baylor.
Through four weeks of the 2013 season, Baylor and the Bedlam brothers seem to be the class of the conference, for a simple reason. They apparently don't stink.
That puts the Cowboys, Sooners and Bears far above the curve this season. For make no mistake. Big 12 football in general stinks.
With three nonconference games remaining, the Big 12 is 19-8 against teams outside the league. That's by far the worst among the five major conferences.
The Pac-12 is 27-4, not counting three late games Saturday night. The ACC is 28-7. So is the SEC. The Big Ten is 35-10.
But the Big 12's 19-8 record is worse than it looks. Six of the Big 12's 19 wins have come against I-AA foes. Ten of the 19 wins have come against Louisiana Tech, Massachusetts, Texas State, New Mexico State, Louisiana-Monroe (twice), Georgia State, Texas-San Antonio, Buffalo and Louisiana-Lafayette.
Playing an embarrassing nonconference schedule is bad enough. Playing an embarrassing nonconference and schedule and not dominating is unforgivable.
The Big 12 has three remaining nonconference games: OU-Notre Dame, TCU-SMU, Iowa State-Tulsa. A victory in South Bend certainly would enhance the Big 12's reputation. A loss would further stamp the Big 12 as inferior to all of the other league with which it competes.
The Big 12's best win? OSU over Mississippi State. The next-best win? OU over Tulsa or Texas Tech over SMU. The beleaguered American Athletic Conference, which you used to know as the Big East, has more good wins than does the Big 12. Washington has more good wins all by its lonesome than the entire Big 12.
No doubt about it. Our conference is down. Way down from the lofty perch a few years ago, when it made the case for nation's best, before SEC dominance ended all discussion.
Which is bad news for the OU and OSU programs. You're known by the company you keep. A weakened Big 12 is not good for the long-term health of the Cowboys and Sooners. It's hard enough to recruit against the SEC when the Big 12 was competitive; it will be doubly tough if the Big 12's reputation continues to crater.
But the Big 12's weakened state is excellent news for the OSU and OU teams.
In August, a conference championship seemed a good possibility for one or the other. After all, OSU was picked first and OU second in the preseason Big 12 poll.
Now, the likelihood has increased that the Dec. 7 Bedlam showdown in Stillwater will be a de facto Big 12 title game. Before the season, TCU and Texas appeared to be contenders as well. But the Frogs are challenged offensively, the Longhorns defensively.
Baylor has emerged as a worthy contender. The Bears have thrashed three overmatched foes. OU beat Louisiana-Monroe 34-0; it took Baylor less than 13 minutes to hit that exact score Saturday against the same Monroes, before winning 70-7.
That's a mathematical trade you'll make every time. Losing two contenders and taking on only one.
Kansas State, which won the Big 12 last season and has gone 15-3 in conference play the last two years, opened the season with a loss to North Dakota State. Texas was pistol-whipped by both Brigham Young and Ole Miss, two decent teams but not exactly Oregon and LSU. The KSU-Texas game Saturday night was not so much an elimination game as it was a pack-up-the-season game.
OU's 16-7 survival of West Virginia looks a little dubious now that the Mountaineers were beaten 37-0 Saturday by Maryland.
OSU's 21-3 victory in Houston to open the season remains solid, but again, that was against the Bulldogs of Mississippi State, not Georgia.
Most years, if the Cowboys and Sooners took these caliber of teams into the season's fifth week, they would be accompanied by cautious optimism.
The level of confidence is much higher, for a very good reason. The Big 12 stinks.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.