Bob Stoops doesn't buy the theory that it's harder than ever to win a Big 12 title. In his mind, that demeans all those championships he won when the 21st century was young.
“Those ones we won before weren't easy,” Stoops said.
Maybe he's right. But this much we know. Unlike the old days, more schools are winning than in the past.
And if the Stoops Troops don't beat Baylor on Thursday, and dang few people think they will, that list could grow.
OU plays in Waco in a game that just feels like it could have lasting ramifications.
Win this game, and little ol' Baylor remains more than the Big 12 favorite. The Bears can become the fifth school to win the conference championship in the last five years.
Texas in 2009, OU in 2010, OSU in 2011, Kansas State in 2012. Baylor would bring seldom-seen parity to the Big 12.
Only 15 times since World War II has a major conference spread its championships over five members in a five-year span. The Big Eight never did it. The Big 12 never has. The Southwest Conference did it once.
Lose this game, and the mighty Sooners officially will have entered drought status. Lose this game, and OU isn't winning the Big 12. Again. After four titles in five seasons (2006-10), the Sooners have gone two straight seasons watching traditional underdogs enjoy the Fiesta Bowl fruits. Losing to Baylor would make it three straight.
Yep, parity has come to Middle America. Baylor, K-State and OSU have had long stretches of futility, but they've become sabertooths in recent years.
“I don't believe there are lesser teams,” Stoops said. “I don't believe it's been that way for quite awhile.”
Baylor, in particular, is “right down there in the middle of Texas,” Stoops said. “And they have really good players. I've said this for 10 years. There's more and more players out of high school for everybody. With the (scholarship) restrictions, we can all take so many.
“Everyone we play has talent and good players. It's that way around the country anymore.”
Which makes it rough on the traditional powers that are accustomed to winning.
Texas knows the feeling. Mack Brown has two Big 12 titles in 16 years. Heck, Stoops won seven conference titles in 11 seasons, but now his Sooners no longer dominate.
Part of that is OU talent slippage, no doubt. But part of it is Big 12 talent upgrades.
The Sooners went 8-0 in Big 12 play in 2000, 2003 and 2004. But they haven't been unbeaten in conference since. From 2009 through 2011, OU went 5-3, 6-2 and 6-3 in conference play.
Good. Not great. And OU is used to great.
Great is going to be difficult to regain in this age of Big 12 parity.
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.