Oklahoma State flies the flag as reigning Big 12 football champion, a claim glorious to all Cowboys and one not to be surrendered without a scuffle.
Yet stand warned early, an enemy worth fearing will advance on Stillwater, and it'll come dressed as a friend.
Oklahoma will be the preseason pick for No. 1 in the conference and Texas will be doused in the usual love, deserved or not.
Don't be fooled, the team to beat: West Virginia, led by old OSU pals Dana Holgorsen and Joe DeForest amid a staff built on coaches with ties to the Cowboys and the Big 12.
The Mountaineers are due in Stillwater on Nov. 10. And it'll be a homecoming of sorts for Holgorsen, DeForest, running backs coach Robert Gillespie and quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital, who all spent time at OSU.
In terms of talent, the Mountaineers have what it takes, returning 16 starters from a team that routed Clemson in the Orange Bowl. But in a coaching staff that features six men with deep knowledge of the Big 12 — and how to win in the Big 12 — West Virginia holds a valuable asset in the program's transition to the conference.
“We probably know a lot more about the Big 12 than the Big 12 knows about us,” Holgorsen has said. “We know a bunch about it.
“We're not going to go into a hornet's nest without knowing about it. Now, that in itself isn't going to win you any games, but I do think it will be beneficial in the long run.”
Holgorsen served as an assistant at Texas Tech and OSU. DeForest, of course, was a mainstay with the Cowboys dating back to the Les Miles era. Gillespie and Spavital had short stints in Stillwater, while cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts is a Texas alum and co-defensive coordinator Keith Patterson is a former Tulsa assistant who ran up against Big 12 teams on many occasions with the Golden Hurricane.
The Mountaineers will know what they're in for in this move from the Big East.
And under Holgorsen, they'll tote along a significant amount of swagger and confidence.
“I've won a lot of games at those different venues,” he said in the spring, “and lost some big games at some of those venues.”
These Mountaineers are built to win.
Nine of the starters are back on offense — Holgorsen's specialty — including Heisman candidate Geno Smith and a pair of wideouts in Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey who have already been tabbed as First Team Preseason All-Big 12 by Phil Steele.
West Virginia should only be better offensively in Year 2 under Holgorsen, frightening considering they were one of only two teams to produce a 4,000-yard passer and two 1,000-yard receivers a year ago, when they set a school record with 6,104 total yards.
“It's going to make a lot more sense to us now,” Holgorsen said.
If there are questions, it's on defense, although the Mountaineers improved steadily with a young unit throughout 2011. The rest is on DeForest, who is ditching the 3-3-5 stack defense that was a staple at WVU for a more aggressive 3-4.
And DeForest is stressing turnovers — sound familiar? — with his defense producing four in the spring game.
In all, 12 Mountaineers were named to Steele's four-deep All-Big 12 teams. The schedule isn't bad, with road games at Texas, Texas Tech, OSU and Iowa State, meaning they get Baylor, Kansas State, TCU and OU in Morgantown, along with Kansas.
Stand alerted Cowboys fans, some old friends are coming… with ill intent.
Early Look: West Virginia
2011 Record: 10-3.
Bowl: Clobbered Clemson, 70-33, in the Orange Bowl, where the Mountaineers broke several team and bowl records, including an Orange Bowl-best six touchdown passes by quarterback Geno Smith.
Returning starters: 16 (nine offense, seven defense).
Top players: Smith has directed WVU to 19 wins as a starter and is coming off a 2011 season in which he set a school and Big East record with 4,384 passing yards, throwing for 31 touchdowns. Wideouts Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey each topped the 1,000-yard mark receiving, combining for 20 TD grabs.
Reason to believe: The offense figures to be deadly, with a year to grow in coach Dana Holgorsen's system. The conference schedule is favorable, with five home games featuring some the league's top teams: OU, TCU, Kansas State and Baylor.
Reason to doubt: The weekly grind of the Big 12 will be a steep upgrade from the Big East. And the defense must prove better than it was a year ago, when it allowed 47, 49 and 38 points in losses to LSU, Syracuse and Louisville.