The Large Dozen has done a lot to improve its image.
Thanks to Oklahoma, it earned a spot in the College Football Playoff in Year 2. Seven of the 10 schools went the postseason in 2015. Four of the 10 coaches have been at their current school at least 12 years. Heck, Gary Patterson even has his own statue now at TCU.
But the usual angst exists. Baylor isn't even close to digging out of its sexual assault scandal that shamed the university and weakened the league on the field. Charlie Strong's job security promises to be a week-to-week talking point. No other conference can claim a CFP participant (OU) and a winless team (Kansas).
Bring shorts and plenty of electrolytes the Big 12 Media Days beginning Monday in Dallas. Temperatures are expected to be in the 100s. That's outside the Omni Hotel.
There are two new head coaches and five new coordinators. Considering the full range of issues, things are likely to heat up inside the hotel, too.
Here are five things to watch at the Big 12 Media Days.
1. Oklahoma repeat: Sure looks like it. The Sooners are favored as Bob Stoops guns for his 10th Big 12 title in his 18th season. Few coaches nationally are even close to that number, mostly because Stoops enters the season as the dean of college coaches (at one school). His team is loaded with a Heisman-worthy quarterback (Baker Mayfield), an elite set of tailbacks (Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon) and six returners on defense.
The biggest upset of the Big 12 season might be if the Sooners don't win the league again. The talent gap between the Sooners and the next-best team -- whoever that is -- is considerable. "Oh yeah," Mayfield told reporters in the offseason, "we're even more hungry."
2. Charlie Strong's job security: In Year 3, the magic number for Texas' coach is probably eight wins. Anything less and the always level-headed Texas administration (snark added) could be motivated to scan the country -- or just 165 miles East -- for a new coach.
Strong seems to have the components in place for his first winning season. There is momentum. He is coming off the program's second win over Oklahoma in the last six years (his first). A top-10 recruiting class was bolstered by the addition of four Baylor players who got their release after the scandal broke.
New offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert is intriguing. He wasn't a first choice, but he as a Chad Morris-like quality to him. Gilbert came up through the Texas high school system. He guided Dino Babers' wide-open offenses at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green. The Horns' offense can't help but he better. That should translate to a winning season -- at least -- for Strong in Year 3.
3. Baylor's brand: Where do you want to start? The university and football program are in a legal, moral and ethical mess. The school president, athletic director and coach Art Briles are gone. If Baylor is going to dig out of it, it starts Monday afternoon. That's when school has chosen to announce its new AD, Mack Rhoades, at the media days.
That gives the former Missouri AD and the school a chance to control the message with local and national media gathered together. With acting coach Jim Grobe in attendance, it also gives us a chance to talk actual football without feeling like we need a shower.
Seth Russell could be the second-best quarterback in the league. Even with the Bears down to 70 scholarship players, there is plenty of talent. In Grobe's (supposed) lone season, the Bears could still win 10.
4. Big 12 playing up: Not to be a Dennis Downer, but has anyone else noticed the Big 12 could be out of the playoff race by the end of September? The league decided in December to require each school to schedule at least one Power Five nonconference opponent. That mimicked a similar requirement in the SEC.
Bravo, but more aggressive scheduling has a downside too: The possibility of devastating losses before conference play begins in the second half of September. Oklahoma had no second thoughts about keeping both Houston (Sept. 3) and Ohio State (Sept. 17) on the nonconference schedule. The loser of Notre Dame-Texas on Sept. 4 will be off to a depressing start. Texas lost 38-3 last year in South Bend and needs a win to restore some much needed credibility. Kansas State travels to Stanford for its opener. Arkansas goes to TCU on Sept. 10. Oklahoma State also gets dangerous Pitt on Sept. 17. That same day, Texas Tech's bottom-scraping defense gets a big test at Arizona State.
Existing nonconference contracts aren't affected by the new requirement. In fact, Baylor will go without playing a Power Five in the nonconference slate for the seventh straight year. However, 15 of the league's 30 nonconference games will be against bowl teams. Five nonconference opponents played in New Year's Six bowls: Stanford, Iowa, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Houston.
Worst-case scenario: The league's favorite (Oklahoma) could have two losses and the Big 12 be all but out of CFP competition by the end of the month.
5. The official end of expansion: The Big 12 presidents are expected to put a stake through expansion talk Tuesday in a conference call with media. The discussion/speculation has been going for almost 14 months. If expansion doesn't happen this summer, don't expect it to happen at all until after the current TV contract expires following the 2024 season. Oklahoma president David Boren and commissioner Bob Bowlsby are expected to speak Tuesday in what amounts to a close-out of the media days.