Baylor, Okla. St. have seized Big 12 control

Two Thursdays ago, Baylor flattened Oklahoma utterly and convincingly for its 12th consecutive victory dating back to last year. Then over the past weekend, Oklahoma State ran Texas out of its own stadium -- again.

As the Big 12 flagship programs continue to flounder, the Bears and Cowboys have taken over control of the conference.

And this weekend, while Oklahoma and Texas will be scrambling to make respectable bowls, Baylor and Oklahoma State will be duking it out for the conference crown with "College GameDay" in town.

“Parity continues to grow in college football,” said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy. “More teams across the country that fans wouldn’t consider tradition-rich schools are playing for conference championships.”

That’s only one-fifth true.

Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and Oregon -- all bellcows of their BCS conferences -- are primed to win their leagues yet again.

Only in the Big 12 has there been a coup.

Oklahoma State won the Big 12 title in 2011 and hammered Oklahoma 44-10 in the regular-season finale to come within a hair of playing for the national title.

Then last year, Kansas State captured a No. 1 national ranking before earning the league’s automatic BCS bowl berth.

And this season, Baylor has emerged as the Big 12’s lone national title contender, thanks to its record-setting offense and what Gundy terms the most-improved defense in the league.

From 2000 to 2009, the Big 12 title ran through Dallas, where the Sooners and Longhorns faced off as top 20 teams all but twice. Neither program, however, has seriously contended for a national title since. And meanwhile, the balance of power in the league has gradually shifted.

In 2011, Oklahoma State knocked off Texas and Oklahoma in the same season for the first time since 1944. Baylor accomplished the same feat for the first time ever that season as well.

This year, the Bears and Cowboys have put the Red River rivals in their rearview mirror.

Saturday, Oklahoma State rolled in Austin, 38-13, to hand coach Mack Brown his most lopsided home loss in 16 years at Texas. The Cowboys also became just the third team since 1950 to win three straight in Austin.

On Nov. 7, Baylor overcame a slow start to dominate the Sooners in Waco, 41-12, handing Bob Stoops his fourth-worst loss at Oklahoma.

“Coaches are overrated,” Gundy said. “College football is all about the players.”

And the fact is, Baylor and Oklahoma State have better players.

They have better quarterbacks. Bryce Petty and Clint Chelf are first and third in the league in QBR and would both start for Oklahoma and Texas.

They have better depth. The Bears scored 63 points Saturday against Texas Tech without their best running back (Lache Seastrunk) or receiver (Tevin Reese) in the lineup. Oklahoma State moved the ball up and down the field on Texas even minus its best offense player, receiver Josh Stewart, who was out with a foot injury.

They even have better defenses. Oklahoma State picked off Texas quarterback Case McCoy three times and prevented the Longhorns from scoring in the second half of a home conference game for the first time in seven years. Baylor held the Sooners to their lowest output since 2007.

The Bears and Cowboys are also recruiting better players than ever before. Both, in fact, could wind up with top 25 recruiting classes, which among Big 12 teams used to only be commonplace in Norman and Austin.

But times have changed in the Big 12. And this week, as the Sooners and Longhorns lick their wounds from the losses they suffered the last two weeks, Baylor and Oklahoma State will clash in prime time for the Big 12 title.

It might not be the last time, either.