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July 23, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN- Big 12 is anyone’s to win

MORGANTOWN — One would think on a day deemed Big 12 Media Day the conference’s media would be in for some special treatment, if not a parade, at least a bit of praise, something the media rarely experience these days no matter which branch we are talking about.

But not even on this date were they given a day of rest.

So there was Bob Bowlsby, the conference’s commissioner, beginning to talk about the upcoming football season, and what was virtually the first thing he made note of?

“I think it will be a very interesting year. Our champion — and many of you probably know this — but our champion the last two years was picked in the second division of our conference. I think they were both picked sixth, Kansas State and Oklahoma State,” he said.

And who do you suppose conducts this poll?

Indeed, the media.

So who did they land on this season? Oklahoma State ... barely.

“You look at the media poll relative to who’s going to win the league, and Oklahoma State, our preseason pick, garnered 35 percent of the vote. We’ve kind of got Iowa caucus numbers in terms of people being all over every place,” Bowlsby pointed out.

“I think the second-place team got 19 percent of the first-place votes or something like that, as compared to Alabama getting something over 75 percent of the votes in the SEC.”

The point Bowlsby was making was that there is no point in making a preseason prediction in this conference, for it is set up for parity. This year, it is anybody’s league to win.

This has been a quarterback’s conference, one with pinball game offenses that run up points the way Dean Martin used to run up his bar bill. But this season seven teams will sport new quarterbacks.

Pick a winner?

You might start by asking Bill Snyder at Kansas State. If ever there’s a wise old head capable of doing it, it is he as the oldest active head coach in college football.

Snyder knows how far off the media can be, finishing second two years back after being picked eighth and last year winning it after being picked sixth.

This year Snyder again is picked sixth.

“I think I said last year that, if I were given the opportunity, I would have picked us 99th. As I look at it this year right now where we stand, I’d probably echo the same thought,” he said.

“It’s precarious trying to make those kinds of decisions as the season gets started. Our program is no different than any other in that the dynamics of the program change year in and year out regardless of how many you do or do not have returning. It’s just a different environment, and I would suggest that it’s just a difficult task.

“I know it has to be done, but it’s an awful difficult task to make those kinds of decisions. I certainly couldn’t do it. I’ve declined so many times to be on the coaches polls in regards to selecting the top 25 in the country, et cetera, because I just — it is so difficult to do. Even during the course of

the season, it becomes difficult to pick winners and losers. That’s why people make so much money in Las Vegas, I guess.”

If Snyder can’t agree or disagree with the media pick, certainly Coach Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State can, seeing as his team was picked to win it this year, right?

“I think it’s a tribute to the players that have been before this group, the young men that are on our team now, and the ones in the future. They’ve got a lot to look forward to,” he said. “I know that it won’t have any effect on our season, but I do think it means a lot to Oklahoma State that people feel comfortable in saying that we’re good enough to have the opportunity to win a conference championship.”

Gundy isn’t picking out a nook into which to place the championship trophy.

“We all know — I don’t know what the exact number of years to go back, but being picked No. 1 certainly doesn’t guarantee you the conference championship. We all know that,” he said. “We’ll mention that to our players and be very vanilla. They’ve still got a lot of work ahead of them, but we’re very proud of how far they’ve come and that they have the opportunity. They have to go out and play well.”

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

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