Big 12 vs. SEC: How each Big 12 team can help end the SEC's title run

by Jenni Carlson Modified: August 25, 2013 at 10:00 am •  Published: August 25, 2013
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Here is a look at what each school in the Big 12 could/should do to help end the SEC's title run:

BAYLOR

* Biggest asset: Art Briles. The coach has turned around the long-suffering Bears. He and his staff have lured standout players to Waco, installed a great offense and created excitement about the program that hasn't been seen in decades. A new stadium is even in the works.

* Biggest roadblock: History. The Bears are getting further away from it every day, but decades of disappointment can still be seen in the rearview mirror. That keeps them from even getting in the door on some recruits.

* How to step up: Build a better defense. While Briles has established great consistency with his offense, the defense continues to lag. The Bears have shown flashes on that side of the ball — remember what they did to Kansas State and Collin Klein last season? — but the consistency has to be there to compete on a national stage.

IOWA STATE

* Biggest asset: Paul Rhoads. The coach has a way of winning when his team finds its back against the wall. And that's often at Iowa State. The Cyclones face an uphill battle just about every season in the competitive Big 12, but under Rhoades, they have been to a bowl three out of four years.

* Biggest roadblock: Recruiting to Ames while playing in the Big 12. Iowa State has always had rosters mostly made up of players from the upper Midwest, where Big Ten football reigns. Getting on recruits' radars is tricky. Even though the Cyclones have made inroads in Texas — no doubt a byproduct of being in the Big 12 — their primary recruiting ground is saturated by the Big Ten.

* How to step up: Continue upgrading facilities. Iowa State completed a $20 million expansion of its football complex last season, but when you're trying to woo recruits to a program that isn't tradition rich, one shiny new building isn't enough. Oklahoma State has shown that a program can be grown by doing a massive upgrade of facilities. Iowa State should try to follow that lead.

KANSAS

* Biggest asset: No pressure to win. Unlike any other school in the Big 12, Kansas is a basketball school. As long as Bill Self has things going well on the hardwood, Jayhawk Nation is happy. Would they like to do better on the gridiron? Sure. But external pressure to win is minimal. Development and improvement can be the focus.

* Biggest roadblock: Recent downward spiral. Kansas has always had swoons, but this current one is a doozie. The Jayhawks have won a total of 11 games over the past four seasons, and only two came in Big 12 play. That puts a cloud over the entire program, from recruiting to fundraising to practicing.

* How to step up: Stabilize. Since 2009, Kansas has had three head coaches. Mark Mangino. Turner Gill. Charlie Weis. Who knows whether Weis is the answer — one win a year ago raises some doubt — but the program desperately needs consistency at the top.

KANSAS STATE

* Biggest asset: The old guy in the purple windbreaker. You can't understate Bill Snyder's importance to K-State football. He resurrected the program, then retired, then returned and resuscitated the ailing program again. Truly amazing.

* Biggest roadblock: Recruiting five-star players. Snyder and the Wildcats have made due just fine, thank you, with no-name recruits, but they've never landed a bunch of elite-level players. The way the program is able to develop talent, the Wildcats would take it to a whole other level if they were starting with even better athletes.

* How to step up: Figure out a way to keep Snyder coaching forever. Since the coach's return, K-State started an overhaul of facilities and was one win away from playing for a national title last season. Snyder has the program on a trajectory that could lead to unprecedented heights.

OKLAHOMA

* Biggest asset: Tradition. OU has plenty going for it. Facilities. Coaching. But tradition is at the heart of it all. Sooner football has long been tied to state pride, and that is reflected in how important the program's success is across the state. It drives ticket sales, fundraising and year-round consternation about all things related to OU football.

* Biggest roadblock: Elite talent depth. The Sooners still have elite players, but they don't have as many of them as they used to. That is most evident with the defense, which hasn't been dominant in several years and continues to search for answers. Scheme may be partly to blame, but elite talent is clearly down.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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