Texas A&M jumped to the SEC and was an immediate force in 2012. Now Missouri is the SEC East Division champ in 2013.
It's enough to make the Big 12 melancholy over what it lost. It's also enough to make the Big 12 grateful. The success of the Aggies and Tigers is the best testimonial to Big 12 football the last two years.
“I think the success they had early in the (SEC) league surprised most people in the country,” said OSU coach Mike Gundy, whose squad plays Missouri in the Cotton Bowl Classic on Jan. 3.
“The talk then, Missouri and A&M were getting into a league they weren't prepared for. It's interesting they would make the change going into the SEC, and both teams had tremendous success up front, would certainly make us feel good about ourselves in the Big 12.”
It's about time something did. Big 12 football has had little going for it the last two seasons.
No top-10 team in the final AP poll in 2012. Few marquee nonconference victories the last two seasons; OU over Notre Dame in September, Kansas State over Miami in 2012, bowl wins by Texas over Oregon State and Baylor over UCLA last December. That's about it.
KSU's and Baylor's marginal pushes to reach the Big Bowl the last two years seemed more wishful than legit. The Big 12 has stumbled from the national spotlight in which it once resided.
And yet two Big 12 teams that were decent, but not power brokers, go to the SEC and start throwing around their weight.
Missouri never won the Big 12 in football and won just two division titles, both in the weakened North. Texas A&M's only Big 12 title came in 1998; its last South Division title came in 1999.
And yet they go to the SEC and do well. A&M went 11-2 last season, beat Alabama and finished fifth in the AP poll. Missouri rose to fifth in the BCS rankings the first week of December, is ranked eighth going into the Cotton Bowl and sports the same 11-2 record the Aggies achieved a year ago.
A&M and Mizzou have scaled such heights mostly with ballplayers who played under the Big 12 banner.
“You know, they've both done well,” said OSU linebacker Caleb Lavey. “Texas A&M, they beat Alabama last year. Missouri, they went to the conference championship. I guess that says something about the Big 12.
“I'm sure they've changed some of their offenses and defenses schemes to better fit the SEC opponents, but I would definitely say them leaving our conference and going there and doing well, says a little bit about the Big 12.”
OU felt the wrath of a Big 12 expatriate last season, losing 41-13 to A&M in the Cotton Bowl even though the Sooners had won eight of the last nine games when the series was a Big 12 affair.
Now it's OSU's turn for a Cotton Bowl at-bat against an old foe that has prospered in new environs. And just like the Sooners, the Cowboys have dominated, winning four of five games against Mizzou since 2002.
“We have a lot of talent in the Big 12,” said OSU linebacker Shaun Lewis. “We have some of the best coaches in the country in this conference. Everyone wants to crown the SEC as the most dominating conference. And you should. They've won the last ever how many BCS championships.
“But we play good football over here in the Big 12, too, and any of our teams can compete over there.”
The success of A&M and Missouri show that the gulf between the Big 12 and SEC was not vast. The SEC clearly has produced more top-shelf teams. But the idea that the SEC's depth is far greater has been debunked by the Tigers and Ags. Programs ranging from so-so to solid went to the SEC and mostly have been far better than that.
But the shine on the Big 12 by A&M's and Missouri's success is about to disappear. After 2013, there can be little argument that their success casts a good light on the Big 12.
Which is why the best Big 12 marketing in the Cotton Bowl would be a Cowboy victory.
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.