How different is the new Big 12?

The Big 12's going to look a lot different in 2012.

Texas A&M and Missouri are out.

TCU and West Virginia are in.

The cosmetic differences are obvious. TCU and West Virginia are the first non-founding members to join the Big 12, which began in 1996, and they join it as the league is undergoing plenty of less tangible changes.

Over the past decade, a crimson and burnt orange ceiling has capped the rest of the Big 12, keeping expectations measured for teams that didn't have "TEXAS" or "SOONERS" emblazoned on the front of their jerseys.

Colorado knocked off Texas in 2001 and Kansas State upset the Sooners in 2003, but every other Big 12 title since 2000 had been won by one of the Red River rivals.

Oklahoma State, though, brought an air of hope across the rest of the Big 12 in 2011. It outplayed preseason No. 1 Oklahoma and Texas for the entirety of a 12-game season in the first year of the league's new round-robin schedule.

Well, there goes the neighborhood.

The Big 12 is a two-team league? Think again.

Or should you?

The Big 12 feels different these days. Oklahoma State provided hope to the Kansas States and Texas Techs of the Big 12, but just as quickly as that window of hope arrived, Oklahoma and Texas would love nothing more than to slam it shut.

For the time being, both teams have the ability to do so in the next two seasons.

Oklahoma went from preseason No. 1 to Insight Bowl winner with a late-season swoon in 2011, but that swoon simply doesn't happen if Ryan Broyles' knee remains intact against Texas A&M and Dominique Whaley's leg doesn't get rolled up and broken at Kansas State.

OU beats Baylor. Season-ending Bedlam is still a toss-up, but the mental edge in a close game could come back into play for the Sooners, and that window never creaks open.

Texas? The Sooners have been flying solo as the Big 12's resident national powerhouse since the Longhorns went from national title game participant in 2009 to 5-7 punchline in 2010.

The Longhorns, though, are finally establishing the power running game they wanted since 2010, as Manny Diaz has spliced together the nastiest group of defenders in the Big 12 that has the personnel to state a case as the nation's best by season's end.

Oklahoma and Texas have continued to recruit top-tier talent, and their stranglehold on the Big 12 has loosened only slightly. One year without a title is one year without a title.

It doesn't change the fact that OU and Texas still have the most talent, from starters to benchwarmers, of any team in the Big 12.

That doesn't always equal wins, but it does equal a higher probability of wins. Oklahoma has proved that with seven Big 12 titles since 2000. Texas' renewed sense of purpose and more careful recruiting has helped the Longhorns begin to rebound from the 2010 disaster.

Last season was a big win for the little guys.

This season could be the year Oklahoma proves it was a little blip in Big 12 history. The Sooners will rebuild in 2013, but Texas could take its turn and win its first Big 12 title since 2009 with a team built for big success in 2013.

The Big 12 feels different, but is it really?

Just like always, that's for Texas and Oklahoma to decide.