No top-10 team for Big 12 into November

While there is nothing unusual about Oklahoma leading the Big 12 and being the conference’s highest-ranked team, there is a big difference with that scenario this season.

For the first time in the history of the 20-year-old conference, the Big 12 is going into November without a top-10 team.

“We’ve had plenty of years where we have, so that’s just where it is today,” Bob Stoops, coach of the 12th-ranked Sooners, said Monday during the weekly Big 12 coaches teleconference.

Baylor and West Virginia both dropped out of the top 10 — to 13th and 14th respectively, right behind the Sooners– after suffering their first losses of the season within a matter of hours Saturday. Oklahoma (6-2, 5-0 Big 12) moved up four spots in the latest poll.

Still, the Big 12 title is far from settled since those three teams all have to play each other.

“That was mentioned after the game, you lose one, you’re still in good shape,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “It’s just the way the Big 12 is in the round-robin situations. Everybody gets a crack at everybody else. Nobody’s getting any scheduling advantages.”

Oklahoma, which has won a record nine Big 12 championships, plays Thursday night at Iowa State before consecutive games against Baylor and at West Virginia. The Sooners then end the regular season at home against 22nd-ranked Oklahoma State (6-2, 4-1), which beat the Mountaineers 37-20 for its fourth straight victory since losing at Baylor.

When asked about the Big 12’s lack of a top-10 team, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said every league “other than the SEC” has gone through ups and downs. He said improved non-conference schedules could certainly be part of that.

“There’s been so much talk to up the ante there. … You’ve got to be careful on who challenge and take on in the preseason,” Gundy said. “If your team’s not ready and you get banged around a little bit, then essentially, you could be out of the latter part of the year in these rating systems that we have. I just think there’s some ups and downs in conference play, and you’ve got to take the good with the bad.”

The Cowboys had that disputed loss to Central Michigan before a win over Pittsburgh prior to Big 12 play. Oklahoma had losses to Houston and Ohio State before its current five-game winning streak in the conference.

After losing at Texas, and before going to Oklahoma on Nov. 12, Baylor is home Saturday against TCU.

“A lot of things can happen here in the next five weeks. I think for the league, it’s going to be really, really exciting,” Baylor acting head coach Jim Grobe said. “I think our players understand with West Virginia getting beat, and we’ve got everybody that still has a chance to win it left to play, our destiny’s kind of in our own hands.”

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