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College Football 2011: Long Live the Big 12

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Reports of the Big 12's death have been greatly exaggerated.

I think I'm last person on the planet who hasn't ripped off that Mark Twain line (or some variation of it) in some form of writing. But if there was any occasion to use it, it's now.

Big 12 news of late has focused on four distinct story lines.

(1) Who's leaving (sayonara Texas A&M), (2) Who's still thinking of leaving (your next Mizzou), (3) Who's coming (howdy TCU), and who caused it all (we're looking at you, Texas)?

These story lines have since morphed into other narratives concerning the Big 12's very fabric and the tensions boiling under the surface. Baylor women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey probably had the line of the year when asked whether Baylor should continue its rivalry against Texas A&M.

"My feeling is this," Mulkey said, according to The Associated Press. "If a man wants to divorce me and says our relationship has no value to him, and then he asks me if he can sleep with me, the answer is, 'No!' "

In fact, so much attention has been placed on third-tier cable network deals and television demo markets and the billions at stake, it's easy to forget that there is actual football being played.

But after the BCS rankings were released for the first time this week, we can add another story line -- the Big 12 has five teams ranked in the top 25, and two (Oklahoma and Oklahoma State) are ranked in the top four.

How can this be?

Because despite all the off-field machinations, the schools didn't stop playing football the way they've always played it. Wide-open spread attacks on offense combined with stellar quarterback play make for whack-a-mole style games you won't find in the Big Ten or the SEC.

Here's a fun fact. Through the first half of the season, the Big 12 has five quarterbacks clocking in among the nation's top 15 in passing yards per game: Oklahoma's Landry Jones (3), Texas Tech's Seth Doege (4), Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden (6), Baylor's Robert Griffin (7), and A&M's Ryan Tannehill (14).

Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin

Here's some additional fun facts. No. 1 on that same list is Case Keenum at Houston, whose head coach Kevin Sumlin was an offensive coordinator at Oklahoma for a number of years. No. 2 is Nick Foles at Arizona, whose offensive coordinator is Seth Littrell, a former Oklahoma team captain who played under Mike Leach when Leach was a coordinator at OU. Littrell later became an assistant under Leach at Texas Tech. And No. 5 is West Virginia's Geno Smith, whose head coach Dana Holgerson piloted offenses at Texas Tech and, later, Oklahoma State.

So, there you have it. The top seven passers in the nation are either in Big 12 programs or have the seeds of the Big 12 planted in them.

So before we get riled up at all the off-field stuff, let's remember one thing -- the Big 12 is continuing to highlight the best quarterback play in the country, which will continue to make it a big destination for eyeballs for years to come. Oh, and with TCU in the fold, the future is looking that much brighter.

But despite my Big 12 lecture, let's not forget the key games this weekend. Wisconsin travels to Michigan State for a Big Ten Leaders-Legends donnybrook; USC will be in South Bend for its yearly rumble with Notre Dame, and we'll give you our take on defending champ Auburn's clash with No. 1 LSU. So sit back, relax and stay a while.
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