Texas hasn't been its normal, indomitable self the past few years, but according to head coach Mack Brown, that might have a lot to do with the Big 12's unrivaled balance.
Speaking at media days in Dallas, Texas, Brown lauded his conference as the most balanced in the country, saying that anybody can beat anybody on any given day:
Texas' Mack Brown: "We have the most balanced league in the country. Anybody else can beat anyone else on any given day."— Stefan Stevenson (@FollowtheFrogs) July 23, 2013
Brown: "With us voted fourth, numbers really close. People confused who they think will win. Credit to our league."— Jimmy Burch (@Jimmy_Burch) July 23, 2013
Though the SEC is widely (and properly) regarded as the nation's best conference, Brown alluded to the talent gap between top and bottom SEC teams. He had a pretty telling stat at his disposal, too:
Mack Brown said that the top 7 SEC teams beat the bottom 7 teams to a win-loss record of 30-0. He believes the Big 12 is much more balanced.— Will McKay (@WMK74) July 23, 2013
Coming off a year where his team allowed 380 points (almost 30 per game), he also declared the Big 12 the best offensive conference in America:
Mack Brown: "I do think offenses in Big 12 are most difficult to defend in the country. Best offensive teams in America in this league."— Max Olson (@max_olson) July 23, 2013
There's a case for him to make on both fronts. As far as parity is concerned, the Big 12 truly is unrivaled. The term "preseason favorite" holds genuine weight in other power conferences, but in the Big 12 it's merely semantics.
Texas was projected to finish fourth, but no one would bat an eyelash if they won. Could the same honestly be said about Wisconsin topping Ohio State in the Big Ten, or Florida anyone besting Alabama in the SEC?
That said, there's a very fair point to be made about the cause of the Big 12's top-loaded parity. As USA Today's George Schroeder pointed out, it didn't always use to be this way:
Mack Brown is right: Big 12 is best balanced league. But that's in part because Texas, Oklahoma have slipped some.— George Schroeder (@GeorgeSchroeder) July 23, 2013
So Brown can brag all he wants about his conference's balance. It only exists at his expense.
Later in the afternoon, Brown weighed in on the public-condemned culprit of Texas's drop-off: the quarterback position.
Brown acknowledged that stability under center has hurt his team in the past few seasons:
Mack Brown acknowledges that Texas' struggles at QB is one reason team has struggled the past several seasons.— Chuck Carlton (@ChuckCarltonDMN) July 23, 2013
But he also had high praise for his 2013 starter, David Ash, who he said played "as good as anyone in the country" at times last season:
Mack Brown says there were times when QB David Ash was "as good as anyone in the country" and times when he struggled in 2012.— Max Olson (@max_olson) July 23, 2013
Ash finished the year with almost 2,700 yards, 19 touchdowns and an above-average passing efficiency of 153.3. But when he struggled, he struggled bad: in games against Oklahoma, Kansas and TCU last year, he averaged 93 passing yards, an efficiency of 64 and finished with six interceptions to zero TDs.
Still, Brown has high hopes for Ash this season, and plans to give him more responsibilities in Major Applewhite's up-tempo offense:
Brown says QB David Ash is ready to handle Major Applewhite's up-tempo offense. Still wants balance in up-tempo.— Chuck Carlton (@ChuckCarltonDMN) July 23, 2013
He went so far as to say he expects Vince Young/Colt McCoy-type production:
Mack Brown referenced past dominant QB play of Vince Young and Colt McCoy and said, "That's our expectation for David (Ash)."— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) July 23, 2013
But, as (admittedly biased) NewsOK.com writer Anthony Slater points out, that might not necessarily be a compliment.