It was clear that Oklahoma was going to need to find several impact players to even match last year's success (which they've actually done reasonably well) and that last year's Oklahoma success was as much due to a remarkably fortuitous schedule as it was their own brilliance. Clemson dominated that team and did so without having to resort to their calling card on offense, the 4/5-wide sets with Watson firing off quick passes or buying time with the scramble. No, Clemson just lined up and ran the Sooners over.
The rest of the league was clearly a notch below (except TCU, whom I thought might match Oklahoma only to be proven completely wrong) and there just isn't enough talent on any of these teams to emerge from the league without some losses. Texas has that ability somewhere within their players' bones but it has yet to be drawn out by Charlie and his staff.
Once the Sooners went down against Houston that was pretty much all she wrote for the Big 12 and the 2017 playoffs. Indeed, even before week nine the most likely scenario in which the Big 12 entered a team into the playoff was one in which the Sooners went undefeated in league play. That's still technically in play, but the needed combination of defeats from powers outside of the Big 12 and the Sooners avoiding any slips against Baylor, West Virginia, and Oklahoma State is pretty unlikely.
Meanwhile, the Big 12 race is now basically between Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Why do I say that? Take a look at the schedules of the top competitors for the league crown.
TCU, @Oklahoma, K-State, Tech, @West Virginia
Texas repeated Oklahoma State's strategy of using double TE sets to run the ball down Baylor's throat while taking advantage of having far superior cornerback play to the Cowboys. You can read my breakdown of the events for free at Inside Texas.
Baylor's D is better suited to play the smaller, less physical offenses at the other Big 12 schools but they are vulnerable to enduring some ground and pound. Meanwhile their own offense is very susceptible to anyone with solid DBs to cheat the run game and bring man blitzes or down safeties.
They're about to face some of the better defenses in the Big 12 and Seth Russell's accuracy problems are going to be exposed for all the world to see. That kid is a great athlete but he's a WR at the next level and probably the worst passing QB Baylor has seen since...2009 Nick Florence? Maybe even further back than that.
@K-State, Tech, @TCU, @Oklahoma
The Cowboys are combining a competent run game, brilliant Mason Rudolph-led passing attack, and hard-working, sound defense to milk the most out of their roster. Their victory over West Virginia was emblematic of the fact that Mike Gundy and his staff always have a good plan and have an edge in matchups with teams featuring comparable overall talent.
Their problem is that the Sooners have much superior talent and will be playing at home, probably with the league title on the line. What's more, that remaining schedule is a very tough slate for a team without a major talent advantage to navigate. The Kansas State Wildcats aren't going to compete for the league crown but they can play with anyone at home, Tech is always a nightmare because Pat Mahomes cannot be controlled, and the Frogs may not truly be in the free fall they seem to be experiencing.
To do better than .500 in that stretch would be hard and the Cowboys already have one loss on the schedule.
Kansas, @Texas, Oklahoma, @Iowa State, Baylor
The Mountaineers are still in nice shape to win the league, even after dropping the road game in Stillwater. It takes a truly great team to survive round robin play without dropping a road game against one of these explosive offenses in the Big 12 and there are no such teams in the league this season. In fact, there hasn't been such a team this decade.
The Mountaineers still have five games left, but two of them are against the league's dregs and that road date in Austin is a bit of an unknown at this point. Their big advantage is getting both Baylor and Oklahoma at home. One of those teams will do the other in earlier in the year and West Virginia may be playing Baylor for a chance at the crown at the end of the season.
@Iowa State, Baylor, @West Virginia, Oklahoma State
Still several tripwires out there for the Sooners, but they can probably afford to drop one of these games and still win the conference since it's unlikely any of the other teams mentioned will get through the league without taking on a second loss.
Bob Stoops is using this two week stretch of facing Kansas and Iowa State to get his team healthy for the stretch run. Obo Okoronkwo is back against Iowa State, and I've already noted that between him, Steven Parker, and Jordan Thomas the Sooners have the pieces to put together a "good enough" performance against most every offense in the league.
They're also getting a chance to work in some of their young DL that have promise for the future, some young LBs, and they got NB Will Johnson back recently which only serves to upgrade their coverage options.
This is where the smart money is right now. The Sooners have some of the best players in the league, they can score on anyone, and they have the athletes on defense to get enough stops to make winning shootouts a near certainty. The question now is whether they can go undefeated and if they do, will the committee even care?