Here is a look at what each school in the Big 12 could/should do to help end the SEC's title run:
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
* How to step up: Get back to being OU. The Sooners shared a Big 12 title last season, but this is no longer the dominant program that it was even a few years ago. Other teams in the conference have gotten better, and OU hasn't kept pace.
* Biggest asset: Boone Pickens. The billionaire hit the re-set button on Cowboy football. His money allowed OSU to build and upgrade facilities in a way that was only dreamed about for decades. That was the catalyst for improved recruiting, coaching and development, and the results have been evident on the field.
* Biggest roadblock: Recruiting to Stillwater. Even with all the bells and whistles that the Cowboys now have — not to mention the recent success — they still can't get in the door on every recruit. If they can get a recruit to Stillwater, the Cowboys like their chances, but there will probably always be kids who won't make that first trip.
* How to step up: Win another Big 12 title. The Cowboys made school history two seasons ago when they won their first Big 12 title. Led by Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, it was a dream season, but if the Cowboys want to take another step up the ladder, they need to repeat that championship and show it wasn't a one-time deal.
* Biggest asset: Funding. No program in the Big 12 has more financial backing with an athletic department that had an annual budget of more than $160 million. The Longhorns have everything they need in terms of facilities to lure recruits, salaries to retain coaches and funds to recruit wherever they want.
* Biggest roadblock: Player development. Even if you dispute the ranking of the four- and five-star recruits that regularly land in Austin, there's tons of talent in the Longhorn locker room. But the results haven't reflected it in recent years. There are some serious issues with developing and meshing that talent.
* How to step up: Stick with an offensive identity. The Longhorns have changed philosophies more than they've changed socks the last few seasons. And their personnel hasn't changed a bunch. They need to figure out who they're going to be and stick with it.
* Biggest asset: Defensive stability. Gary Patterson has built a defense-first program, and that has helped TCU make a smooth transition into this pass-happy league. And this season, it might just help the Horned Frogs win the league.
* Biggest roadblock: DFW's shadow. The Horned Frogs aren't second fiddle in the metro. Or third. Or fourth. They rank behind the four pro teams, and that makes it tough to drum up support, interest or excitement.
* How to step up: Dominate DFW recruiting. All the talent that the Horned Frogs need is within 30 miles of their campus. If TCU could beat back the Texases and the Oklahomas and build a wall around the metro, it would elevate the program.
* Biggest asset: Kliff Kingsbury. And not just because of his offensive acumen. The Red Raider Nation had become fractured and disinterested these past few years, but the return of the former Texas Tech quarterback has rejuvenated the fanbase.
* Biggest roadblock: Recruiting in Texas. The Red Raiders are recruiting against so many powerhouses and a slew of up-and-coming programs, and a vast majority of them are in the Lone Star State. Even though the recruiting ground there is fertile, the Red Raiders face an ongoing uphill battle.
* How to step up: Contend for a Big 12 title again. Only five years ago the Red Raiders were in the running for the conference crown — and as a result, the national title game. Now, those days seem long ago and far away. Getting back to Big 12 relevance would be big for Texas Tech.
* Biggest asset: Passionate fanbase. You won't find folks any more wrapped up in their team than Mountaineer fans. Opponents that venture to Morgantown say it's delirium. But that's a boon for ticket sales and fundraising.
* Biggest roadblock: Adjusting to life in the Big 12. For years, West Virginia was one of the dominant teams in the depleted Big East. Now it faces quality opponents almost every week in the Big 12. Adjusting its recruiting, coaching and preparing accordingly will take a little time.
* How to step up: Defense anyone? Offense isn't going to be a problem for West Virginia as long as Dana Holgorsen is in town. But the Mountaineers are going to have to play some defense. Only Kansas and Baylor ranked worse among Big 12 teams last season.