Steele: Big 12 is No. 2, trails you-know-who

If you've been without an internet connection since Alabama clinched the SEC's seventh consecutive national title in January, you might not have noticed a bit of saber-rattling on the part of Big 12 coaches.

Bob Stoops started the parade by trumpeting the Big 12's depth and said the SEC's mystique and reputation are attributable in part to "propaganda."

Texas coach Mack Brown later patted Stoops on the back, saying he was proud of his Oklahoma counterpart for sticking up for the conference. In an interview with ESPN.com, Kansas coach Charlie Weis, too, said that Stoops had a point.

Still, it's going to take more than talk to knock off No. 1.

Phil Steele ranked the college football conferencesInsider for his preseason magazine, and he's got the Big 12 sitting in second place, behind the SEC. The Big 12 actually finished ahead of the SEC in the computer rankings in 2011 and held a lead for much of 2012, but in tabulations by ESPN Stats & Information, the SEC was king by the end of that season.

Steele explains that without a preseason top-10 team in the Big 12, his ranking of the league might be a bit surprising, but notes that Texas and Oklahoma State were in his top 10, and could both be 9-0 when they meet Nov. 16 in Austin. The Big 12 has four more teams in Steele's top 40 and he pointed out that the conference had the best mark (26-4) in nonconference games last season.

He also notes, and I agree, that those numbers can be influenced by scheduling. This year, though, the Big 12 can settle more on the field. By the end of September, the Big 12 and SEC will have played three games and will meet in the Cotton Bowl at the end of the season. The two leagues met on the field just once in the 2012 regular season, with Texas routing Ole Miss in Oxford. Texas A&M famously rolled over Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.

The 2013 meetings between the leagues -- including TCU/LSU and Oklahoma State/Mississippi State on neutral fields on opening weekend -- should be fun, with plenty of bragging rights up for grabs.

Still, no amount of victories will do much to change anyone's mind about the SEC's superiority -- unless they get to take home a crystal football after the game's over.