It's fashionable to bash the Big 12.

You know the narrative: The Big 12 put the "funk" in dysfunction. Oklahoma and Texas are renting, not owning, in the smallest conference in FBS.

The league can't get out of its own way whether it's the Baylor scandal, the misdirected expansion process or de facto commissioner David Boren (OU president).

I'm here to tell you there is a lot to like about the Big 12 as its media days begin Monday in Frisco, Texas. Here are five things to watch as the conference gets at least a makeover in perception by staging the media days at the Cowboys' fancy new practice facility

Big 12 football future

It seems to hinge on Texas' Tom Herman and Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley.

The 33-year old Riley became FBS' youngest coach when he took over for Bob Stoops in June. How many guys -- like Herman at Texas -- get their dream job at age 42?

Let's hope this leads to a long-lasting Red River Shootout rivalry. That alone would help prop up the league.

In case you missed it, Texas and Oklahoma together are basically why the league exists at all. A series of compelling Texas-OU games puts the Big 12 back in the playoffs and national spotlight.

The off-field future

No, the Big 12 is not breaking up. At least not anytime soon.

The soonest any shuffling anywhere could occur is five years from now. But by that time both OU and Texas will be making $60 million each because of the backloaded nature of the media rights contract.

That's cost certainty in a league that is easier to win than any other Texas and OU could play in right now.

Baylor reset

New coach Matt Rhule has given Baylor football a chance.

Despite the drip, drip, drip of seemingly weekly additions to the scandal, Temple's former coach has built a solid foundation on the field. He basically offered every player in Texas worth a damn. That's a good place to start.

So is being a solid coach and a solid citizen. For now, the Bears aren't going to fall off the end of the earth competitively. However, there are no guarantees when conferences realign five to eight years from now. (See above.)

The Wildcat in winter

How's this for Big 12 serendipity? Bill Snyder turns 78 the day Kansas State travels to Texas for one of the biggest Big 12 games of the season.

At stake will be the game (Snyder is 7-4 against the Horns), perhaps the league and the coach's legacy. After Snyder's cancer scare, many observers believe this will be Snyder's last season.

This could be an epic farewell tour. It's never wise to underestimate Snyder, whose team shouldn't be picked lower than third in the Big 12. Fourteen starters return. Conference favorite Oklahoma comes to Manhattan. Quarterback Jesse Ertz looks like the reincarnation of former Heisman contender Collin Klein.

How lasting is Snyder's greatness? On Oct. 21, the game's oldest coach (Snyder) will meet the youngest coach (Oklahoma's Riley).

Big 12 Championship Game

The league has gone all-in on its playoff chase by reinstituting its championship game it staged from 1996-2010.

As the first league to miss the 3-year old College Football Playoff twice, the Big 12 desperately needs to be a participant in 2017 to revive it flagging rep.

Having stepped back from expansion, league leaders decided a champ game would provide the proper juice for the Big 12 winner -- who can forget that 13th game "data point"? -- as well as $3 million per school in annual revenue.

The Big 12 will be the only league that automatically matches its two best teams (instead of division winners). That makes it more likely two 11-1 teams square off where there can be no "loser" in the CFP's eyes.

The game is also guaranteed to be a rematch in the only conference that plays a true round-robin.

Beware: During those 15 years, the Big 12 champ game was the most volatile around. The league lost at least four possible BCS title game participants due to upsets.