When Big 12 coaches and players gathered a couple weeks ago in Dallas for media days, the lack of star power was startling.
There was no preseason Heisman Trophy contender. No high-profile first-round draft pick hopeful. No player who walked in the room and instantly generated a buzz.
That's bad news for the Big 12.
And it's not just because the league lacks stars that it can market and tout.
Big names generate hype, and in the preseason and early weeks of the season, hype generates better rankings in the polls.
That is important.
Because as the season goes on, undefeated teams have trouble leapfrogging other undefeated teams that have been ranked in front of them, one-loss teams have trouble leapfrogging other one-loss teams that have been ranked in front of them, and on and on and on.
So, if you want to play for a national title — or get into the four-team playoff that starts next season — it's best to start as close to the pole position as possible.
This year, the Big 12 is starting way back in the pack.
Oklahoma State is the league's highest ranked team in the preseason USA Today Coaches poll, coming in at No. 14. Texas and Oklahoma follow right behind at No. 15 and 16, and TCU is No. 20.
Only the SEC has more teams in the top 20.
But all six of those SEC teams are starting ahead of the Big 12's ranked teams.
Actually, any team ranked ahead of those Big 12 teams has an advantage on them.
Let's say one of those ranked Big 12 teams finishes the season undefeated. But let's say preseason No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Oregon do the same. It would be darn near impossible for any Big 12 team to pass any of those three in the rankings.
Of course, the coaches' poll isn't the only factor in the BCS rankings. But it accounts for a third of the equation.
Another third is the Harris Poll, and it often mimics the coaches' poll.
So, those human rankings are significant.
Next season when college football goes to a four-team playoff, there's a chance that humans could have even more of a role in choosing who plays for a national title. Right now, we have no idea what the formula will include. Former coaches and athletic directors? Media members? Computers? But if it tends toward anything like the selection committee for the NCAA basketball tournaments, people will have a big say so in who makes the playoff.
What if a team without much preseason hype comes out of nowhere, performs beyond expectations and finishes among a group of one-loss teams vying for the last spot in the playoff?
Would they get the nod?
Or could where they started the season impact where they finish it?
Sure seems possible.
The Big 12's lack of star power and preseason hype may hurt it this season. No two ways around that. But the league needs to do its darnedest to avoid putting itself in a similar hole next season.
Are there players who could become stars, who could bolster the reputation of their teams and the league?
It seems like it.
Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk, OU quarterback Blake Bell, OSU receiver Josh Stewart, Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, West Virginia running back Charles Sims, and TCU quarterback Casey Pachall and defensive end Devonte Fields are just some of the players in the Big 12 who could make names for themselves this season. The league needs to hope that they and others become household names in college football.
It's good for the hype, and whether we like it or not, hype is good for the Big 12.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.