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Mailbag: Two theories why the Big 12 has suddenly collapsed

For nearly the entire aughts, there were few bigger games played all season than Oklahoma-Texas . Six times in 10 years , one of the Red River participants went on to play in the BCS championship game. Which, with a little distance now, seems staggering, given that Saturday edition at the Cotton Bowl will pit a pair of 2-2 teams.On the bright side, at least Oklahoma is ranked at No. 20 in the AP poll. On the downside, not since 1999 has neither team gone in ranked higher than that.Which pretty well sums up the 2016 state of not only those programs, but also their entire conference.Article continues below ...Stewart The Big 12 appears to be in a steep decline. Is the cause lackluster recruiting and if so, has conference instability been a factor Can the Big 12 recover, or is the demise inevitable David Smalley, Tahlequah, OklahomaOftentimes over the years, usually when discussing the SEC and or Big Ten, Ie used the phrase onference strength is cyclical.In the Big 12 case, though, there an added variable that may preclude it from the typical ebbs and flows that four programs left the conference in 2011-12 and only two replaced them.Not coincidentally, the conference has been in decline ever since.If you go back to the 2011 season the league first with 10 teams the Big 12 was still very strong. It finished the year with the No. 3 team in the country , three others in the top 16 and a Heisman winner Four of its quarterbacks that year have started in the NFL.Furthermore, Jeff Sagarin computer ranked the Big 12 the nation No. 1 conference that season. It was No. 2 the next. Since then, though, it ranked fourth , fourth , third and, so far this year, fifth in central mean and seventh in simple average .In January, Jon Solomon of CBS Sports compiled some interesting data reflecting the league post-realignment talent drain. Both its recruiting rankings and number of NFL exports are way down. End of day, though, as Oklahoma and Texas go, so go those numbers. And both have seen declines since peaking around 2010.But I like to offer up one alternative theory for the conference larger struggles that goes beyond respective talent Has the conference near-universal move to hurry-up spread offenses had a negative effect Texas and TCU continued defensive struggles under two long-proven defensive coaches, Charlie Strong and Gary Patterson, may be the strongest indicator yet that practicing against those offenses every day lends itself to oft defenses. Patterson made that change in 2014, Strong this season. Poor tackling and coverage busts have been a hallmark for Oklahoma, Texas Tech, West Virginia and Baylor for years.The nation premier programs Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, etc. play good defense. And none of them run the Air Raid or Baylor-style offenses. John M, Fort Worth, Texas Definitely not the last one. The only realistic way a non-champion is going to reach the playoff is if it comes from the same division as the champ. I can imagine a scenario where the committee would pass on Team A in favor of Team B, which Team A beat head-to-head and finished ahead of in the standings.The scenario that would most benefit Louisville is for Florida State to beat Clemson, but then for Clemson to turn around and win out. Which may sound counterintuitive, but based on the rationale the committee has emphasized so far, the Cardinals will need as many marquee wins to stand any chance. Beating an undefeated Houston on Nov. 17 would certainly be one. But that 63-20 win over the oles back on Sept. 17 will carry a lot more value if FSU finishes 10-2 and in the Top 10 or 9-3 and in the Top 15-20 than 8-4 or 7-5.Mind you, Louisville other remaining games are against Duke, NC State, Virginia, Boston College and Wake Forest, so it may be that FSU and Houston wind up being its only two Top 25 wins all season. None of the eight playoff teams to date have had fewer than three such wins. So it would behoove Louisville if its two are both against highly ranked teams, and its sole loss a close one on the road to a 12-1 conference champ Mike Tverdov Jersey.Stewart In your most recent playoff projections you imply that Washington could make the playoff even with a loss in regular-season play as long as they win the Pac-12 title game. Do you really think a one-loss UW team would be higher than an undefeated Houston or a one-loss Louisville Does winning a conference compensate for the lack of a non-conference schedule Robert Madel, SeattleIt really hard to try to predict that without seeing how the respective schedules play out. The Huskies extra light trio of non-conference foes Rutgers, Idaho and FCS Portland State could definitely come back to haunt them. But just as I played out with Louisville in the last question, how many Top 25-caliber foes would Washington beat on its way to 12-1 Stanford, barring a total implosion, will be one, but No. 24 Utah is the Huskies only other currently ranked foe. Presumably the Pac-12 South champ would be another.It definitely possible that 11-1 Louisville would finish with a similar resume to 12-1 Washington, given it would have defeated Houston out of conference. But remember, the committeeprotocol says a non-champion must be nequivocally one of the four best teams in the country Jared Smolar Jersey.We haven seen it applied yet, but I take that to mean, basically, anything close to a tie goes to the champion.Should Houston beat Louisville and go undefeated, it may have a more nequivocal case than would 11-1 Louisville. But it also would not get to play the schedule card against Washington after playing Lamar, Texas State, Tulane and Tulsa, among others.Il be honest, I kind of rooting for a non-champion and or Group of 5 team to be in the mix this year just to see how the committee handles it. We just don have a good sense yet how they would. But it have to a pretty compelling case for that team to beat out a one-loss Power 5 champ.Mr. Mandel It seems to me that every season produces a team that, despite little-to-no preseason hype, catapults into the stratosphere of the Top 5 in the first few weeks of the season. Last year it was Utah after beating Michigan in Khaki Pantsfirst game and embarrassing the Ducks 62-20 on their home field. Who is this year team that has us fooled and may ultimately crash back down to earth Dan Aubrey, Salt Lake CitySo youe asking me which of Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Michigan and Washington is going to fall on its face first I would say none of the above. All inspire more confidence than 2015 Utah, which earned its high ranking based on merit but certainly seemed like it was overachieving. The Utes ultimately finished the regular season 9-3. As of today I can see any of those teams finishing worse than 10-2.If you expand to the Top 10, however, I do believe No. 10 Miami time there will be short-lived. I not sure what the anes have done to reach such a lofty status other than wear a on their helmets With all due respect to Mark Richt, his 4-0 team has beaten Florida AM, FAU, Appalachian State and Georgia Tech.

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