The advantage to a backloaded Big 12 schedule is that it creates an exciting finish for many of the conference's top teams. The disadvantage is that the cannibalization process results in fewer ranked teams.
That's the case after Week 12. The Big 12 checks in with just three ranked teams in the latest Associated Press and USA Today polls. Baylor is still on the outside looking in when it comes to the BCS championship race, but the Bears did surpass Ohio State in the AP poll.
The Bears will face Oklahoma State in Stillwater next week for what should be the game of the season in the conference. The Cowboys continue their rise in the polls after dismantling Texas 38-13 in Austin.
Not surprisingly, then, the Longhorns have dropped out of the Top 25 after a one-week appearance.
So how did the three Big 12 teams in Bleacher Report Top 25 fare in the national polls this week?
Ben Kercheval's B/R rank for each team is listed in italics.
Baylor (9-0): No. 4 (BCS); No. 3 (AP); No. 4 (USA Today)
The Bears got behind Texas Tech early but settled down and eventually blew the doors off the Red Raiders, 63-34, in Arlington.
The polls—so, by association, the voters—are split on which team, Baylor or Ohio State, should occupy that next spot behind Alabama and Florida State. If the criteria is what each has done lately, it's hard to argue the Bears didn't have the better Week 12 win (vs. Texas Tech) than the Buckeyes (vs. Illinois).
If pollsters are looking at the whole body of work, both schedules are more are less the same. No matter how they are ranked, the gap between Ohio State and Baylor appears small. If either Alabama or Florida State loses over the next few weeks, the politicking for the Bears or Buckeyes is going to be insufferable if they're undefeated.
B/R rank: No. 3
Oklahoma State (9-1): No. 10 (BCS); No. 11 (AP); No. 9 (USA Today)
The Pokes keep creeping up the polls thanks to a win over the Longhorns. Plus, Oklahoma State will have a chance to really make some noise nationally if it beats Baylor next weekend. Keep in mind, too, that several Top-15 teams play each other over the next couple of weeks (No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 6 Auburn, for example). In other words, the ceiling is potentially high for the Cowboys.
Since losing to West Virginia in late September, Oklahoma State has been getting better. Saturday's win was easily the most impressive the Pokes have looked all season.
Who is the best team in the Big 12?
B/R rank: No. 9
Oklahoma (8-2): No. 20 (BCS); No. 22 (AP); No. 18 (USA Today)
Oklahoma's conference title hopes aren't technically kaput yet. They're just on life support. However, the Sooners will need to win their final two games at Kansas State and Oklahoma State, plus get some help, to have a chance.
Oklahoma was able to pull away from Iowa State in Week 12 and found more offensive consistency with quarterback Trevor Knight. The Sooners are irrelevant in the national discussion this late in the season, but they can put together a more complete effort if the offense turns a corner.
B/R rank: No. 20