Has the sports world been turned upside down?
No. 3 Baylor and No. 11 Oklahoma State are the Big 12's highest-ranked teams. The Bears and Cowboys will meet Saturday night and the outcome should go a long way toward deciding the identity of the league champ.
That scenario is hard to fathom if you're familiar with Big 12 football history.
Baylor and OSU occupied the bottom two spots (or tied for one of those spots) in the Big 12 South Division standings in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.
OSU coach Mike Gundy often references parity when he interacts with media. A high-stakes game featuring ex-Big 12 cellar dwellers gave him a green light to deliver another refrain.
Gundy said Sunday that parity is growing and though he didn't use these words said things to suggest the toothpaste isn't going back in the tube.
"You are going to see teams that wouldn't be as tradition-rich as other teams that have a chance to play for their conference championship," he said.
Gundy pointed out that Oregon and Arizona State are atop the Pac-12. And, though acknowledging Ohio State's continued success, Gundy said teams you "wouldn't think would be there" are showing up in the Big Ten.
OSU has gotten accustomed to "showing up" in recent years, winning a Big 12 title in 2011.
Baylor traveled all the way from rock bottom to become relevant.
The Bears won 14 conference games (and lost 98) in their first 14 seasons as a Big 12 member.
Now Baylor is taking a school-record 13-game winning streak to Stillwater.
Gundy, asked about Baylor's rise, said the Waco, Texas-based school is in a good location (recruits are plentiful within a four-hour drive). He credited Art Briles for doing a nice job with his players and credited Baylor's administration for backing the coach from the start.
The backing was taken to a whole new level last week. Baylor's board of regents approved a new 10-year contract for Briles that will make him among college football's best-paid coaches.
After a 63-34 come-from-behind win Saturday over Texas Tech, Briles was asked about the new pact. He said it "means the world" to him.
"You are what others perceive you to be," he said.
"If you're telling your dog that he's not very smart, then he's not going to be very smart. If you tell him he's smart, you love him, like him, appreciate him, he's happy to see you when you come home."
Briles said appreciation is hard to come by in the coaching business. Now his staff ("it's not just me") has evidence of appreciation.
"If you can ever get to the point to where it can be a mutual appreciation, then you've got a chance to sustain it a little bit," he said.
How did the Bears get so good that they are 9-0 and averaging 61.2 points a game?
Gundy said Briles' teams kept showing progress and the Bears "hit" on recruits who turned out to be players. In Briles' third season, Baylor posted a .500 record in Big 12 play for the first time. In his fourth season, the Bears crowned a Heisman Trophy winner. Season six is trumping that one.
"Their talent level now on offense obviously is excellent and defensively they continue to get more and more players each year," Gundy said. "They move around on defense like everybody else does in this league this season."
BAYLOR RECORD HISTORY
OSU RECORD HISTORY
*as of Nov. 18
Jimmie Tramel 918-581-8389