The 2011 Big 12 football standings were interesting at the top. And not just because OSU broke through to win the championship.
The Cowboys certainly shook up the league. But even more startling was the win-place-show slots. OSU, Kansas State, Baylor. The Sooners actually tied Baylor for third place, but using the Bob Stoops tiebreaker method, the Bears were bronze medalists.
Think about that. Top three of the Big 12, and nowhere was found the two schools, OU and Texas, that have dominated the league. Nowhere was found the two schools, Texas A&M and Missouri, high-tailing it for the vaunted SEC.
Parity finally arrived in the Big 12. Better late than never. Here are two sides of the parity debate.
Baylor coach Art Briles: “It's good from our end. If I was sitting at OU or Texas, I may not giggle or laugh. But from where we're sitting, parity sounds pretty good, because we've been enough of the non-parity for awhile. So yeah, it's a good thing.”
Stoops: “No, it isn't any good. I'd rather win it every year. I like it when we win it three years in a row. Let's try and do that again.”
Who is right? Both. Parity is good for the Baylors of the Big 12, bad for the Oklahomas.
But clearly, parity is not only good for Big 12 football, it's great for Big 12 football. Parity is what has made the Southeastern Conference such a runaway mine train. Auburn pushes Alabama, which pushes LSU, which pushes Florida, which pushes Georgia, which pushes Auburn.
The Big 12 very much needs its championships decided well after the State Fair of Texas. OU-Texas is an epic spectacle, but it doesn't make for a strong conference when the champ is virtually determined in October.
“I don't know if it's good for the league or if it's not good for the league,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “It's reality. Parity in college football has been a topic of discussion for the last decade.
“I do think parity's becoming more and more evident, just based on who's in the different BCS games and who's winning the leagues and all that.
“It really goes back to, you better be able to line up and better be able to play your best each and every week. It doesn't matter who you're playing. You're going to be facing a good football team.”
OSU became the seventh school to win a Big 12 football title, but just the third in eight years.
The last time the Big 12 had three champs in a three-year span was 2001-03 (Colorado, OU, Kansas State, courtesy of KSU's huge upset of the Sooners in the '03 title game). The best stretch of parity came from 1998-01, when four schools won the four titles (A&M, Nebraska, OU, Colorado).
That, of course, came during the transfer of power from the North Division to the South Division. It never transferred back, and now we no longer have divisions.
But we do have parity. We even have a new member, West Virginia, that looks capable of winning the 2012 title.
The Mountaineers have been told all about the Sooners and Longhorns. But West Virginia might be interested to look at the cumulative conference records the last three seasons.
OSU 20-5, Nebraska 12-4, OU 17-8, Missouri 15-10, K-State 14-11, Texas 14-11, A&M 13-12, Baylor 11-14, Texas Tech 10-15, Iowa State 9-16, Colorado 4-12, Kansas 2-23.
Compare that to 2003 through 2008. In those six years, OU went 42-6 and Texas was 40-8.
In the last six seasons, only Texas 2009 has gone unbeaten in Big 12 play.
“It's almost impossible to go undefeated,” Briles said.
You could argue that's a bad thing, that parity has kept Big 12 teams from reaching the national title game. I don't necessarily believe that; OU made it in 2008, Texas in 2009 and OSU would have made it last season had the Cowboys won at eighth-place Iowa State late in the season, which was more the result of cosmic upset than conference parity.
But I would argue that parity enhances the Big 12's hope of winning once one of its teams reaches the Big Bowl. That's what has made the SEC such a January terror. The SEC has won six straight national titles; only two of those six went unbeaten in the SEC, and 2007 LSU lost twice. SEC parity sharpens its best teams.
No reason the Big 12's newfound parity can't do the same.
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.