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Streaking offenses help explain Big 12's fast start

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

A deep collection of playmaking quarterbacks was expected to turn the Big 12 into a place where calculators were needed to track offenses this season.

It's been all that and more this season as the conference has emerged as arguably the nation's most powerful after the nonconference portion of its season finished last week.

The Big 12 was able to navigate through a relatively soft nonconference schedule with most of its power teams unscathed. That's the major reason the conference has been able to notch three teams in the top five, four teams in the top seven and six teams in the Associated Press' media poll this week heading into the opening week of Big 12 play.

Those six teams -- Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, Texas Tech, Kansas and Oklahoma State -- have combined for a 23-1 record mainly because they have been immune to the upset bug that has nipped many top teams this season. The only blemish was Kansas' 37-34 loss at the buzzer at No. 10 South Florida in a game it very easily could have won.

The fast start for the conference really hasn't been that much of a surprise. Most judged those teams to have the conference's best quarterbacks in a conference full of strong ones.

And the best -- Missouri's Chase Daniel, Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Texas' Colt McCoy -- all are among the leaders in most Heisman Trophy polls after the first month of the season.

The conference has five of the nation's 13 unbeaten teams. That's more than any other conference. And four of them aren't real shockers after Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas and Texas Tech all have streaked to 4-0 starts.

The biggest surprise has been Oklahoma State which has scored a lot of points while subduing a soft nonconference schedule that's included Houston, Troy, Washington State and FCS opponent Missouri State. The Cowboys are averaging 51.8 points per game and have posted two of the top eight total offense games in school history in the last three weeks. Their defense, however, remains suspect until conference play begins.

The Big 12's only real disappointment has been Texas A&M, where new coach Mike Sherman has limped to a 2-2 start set up by two early home losses, including a stunning defeat in the opener against Arkansas State. The Aggies' bowl hopes have been jeopardized by a green offensive line and a lingering shoulder injury to quarterback Stephen McGee.

It will be interesting to see what happens when Big 12 teams start beating up on each other. The Southeastern Conference had five teams in the top 10 two weeks ago. But after conference play began, only two SEC teams remain in the AP's Top 10 this week.

Offenses should continue dominating when Big 12 play begins. So brace for more scoring binges and pity the Big 12 defensive coordinators who are going to have to tinker with new schemes hoping to slow these explosive attacks during the rest of the season.

Because it certainly won't be easy.