There are two different ways of looking at the Big 12.
Oklahoma -- and thus the league -- blew an incredible opportunity in the Rose Bowl losing to Georgia in a College Football Playoff semifinal. That or the 10-team Big 12 is just getting started. Entering only its seventh year in its current configuration, the league has survived defection (Texas, A&M, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska), scandal (Baylor) and the downturn of one of its cornerstones (Texas).
Things seem to be on an uptick with a second CFP appearance in four years. The league is still basking in the glow of its third Heisman Trophy since 2008. OU isn't going away (definitely). Texas is rising (maybe).
We'll find out more this week at The Star in Frisco, Texas, during the Big 12 Media Days. Here are five things to watch throughout the week.
1. What will Oklahoma do for an encore? Lincoln Riley is favored to win the Big 12 again in his second full season as coach. But, gosh darn, there has to be a lingering hurt after a conference title, Heisman and playoff berth. Who doesn't believe OU would be defending national champion if it had held onto its 17-point lead against Georgia in the Rose Bowl? That's 17 points, folks, with six seconds to go before halftime. To that point, the Dawgs had given up slightly more than 13 points per game. Riley may coach for 30 more years, but he should know by far how hard it is to get to the playoff, much less win it. We'll see how the Sooners and Riley rebound.
2. Speaking of rebounds, what about Texas? The Big 12 needs to have Texas good again. Hell, Tom Herman needs to have Texas good again. "I'm not going to be around here," he told me during the spring, "if we keep going 6-6 [in the regular season]." Herman enters his second season in Austin with his top two quarterbacks and top two receivers. The Longhorns could finish as high as second. But nothing really changes at Texas or in the Big 12 until Texas starts challenging Oklahoma. For the good of college football, let's that hope Oct. 6 in the Cotton Bowl has national implications.
3. The nation's best quarterback may be in attendance: That case can be made for West Virginia's Will Grier. After a drug suspension at Florida, Grier has thrived under Dana Holgorsen and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital. Grier is a gunslinger in a conference that loves gunslingers. Most of his weapons are back. With no clear-cut favorite to be preseason first-team All-American quarterback, might as well pencil in Grier. He's already the best returning QB in the Big 12.
4. Bill Snyder, 78, begins season No. 27: Kansas State's coach will turn 79 in October. He has beaten cancer and doesn't seem like he's slowing down. Still, the biggest question among K-State fans is the retirement date of the game's oldest coach. Snyder continues to advocate for his son Sean, the special teams coach, to replace him. I'm told that won't happen whether Bill leaves this year or five years from now. Regardless, the Wildcats are a typically pesky bunch picked in the middle of the Big 12 pack.
5. Will we see solidarity throughout the league? The smallest FBS conference doesn't get enough credit. Two NFL drafts ago, the AAC had more draft picks than the Big 12. The overwrought exploration of expansion was a waste. But the Big 12 has been to two playoffs in four years and won a Heisman. No other conference plays every team in its league. Last year, half the league won at least eight games. The only other conference to do that was the Big Ten. It'll be interesting to see if and how the Big 12 publicizes itself. Time to get rid of the inferiority complex.