With the National Championship game only a few days away, a few disturbing trends are continuing for the Big 12. In four years of the College Football Playoff, the Big 12 has yet to put a team into the national championship game under the playoff system, and has not won a national title since Texas brought the conference one in 2005. If you’re playing along at home, that’s now 13 years.
Another trend crippling the conference is that all of the top schools consistently vying for national titles have rosters full of talented players from the Lone Star State.
Just look at the rosters of Alabama and Georgia. The Crimson Tide features starters Deionte Thompson, Jalen Hurts and Tony Brown, the number one recruit coming out of Texas in 2013. Georgia features starting corning back J.R. Reed from Frisco, Texas.
It’s no secret that, with four schools in the Lone Star State, the Big 12 relies on the state of Texas as their most dominant recruiting pipeline. Thirteen of the 19 recruits that signed with the University of Texas hail from the state of Texas. Not surprisingly, Baylor, TCU and Texas Tech also pull in a very high number of Texas recruits.
However, even Big 12 schools outside of Texas focus on recruiting the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas. Of the 22 commitments that signed with Oklahoma State during the early signing period, 13 come from Texas. Oklahoma signed six players from Texas and has commitments from two more.
Even schools that are further away rely on recruiting Texas. Kansas State has four players signed from Texas. Four might not seem like a lot, but for perspective, they only have three signed from their home state, Kansas.
For the Big 12, it’s important for the conference to protect its most fertile recruiting ground. However, in recent years, that’s becoming harder and harder to do as more high-profile teams from outside of the state have raided the Big 12’s recruiting pipeline.
For another big example of talent leaving Big 12 country for greener pastures, just look at the star power from last week’s Cotton Bowl. Both USC and Ohio State featured star players from Texas in the form of Ronald Jones II, J.T. Barrett and freshman sensation J.K. Dobbins.
With so many star players from Texas leaving the Big 12 region, it begs the question: Why do they leave and go onto shine for other national powerhouse programs?
“I didn’t know where I wanted to go as I had a lot of family pushing me towards [Oklahoma State], but at the end of the day I had to make a decision for myself because I’m the one who had to live with the final decision,” Jones said leading up to the Cotton Bowl.
“I picked USC to get away from home and to play for a prestigious school and football team. These last two seasons only validate that I made the best decision for me as I don’t know if I would have experienced the same success team wise or individually had I went to a Big 12 school.”
In Jones’ tenure as a Trojan, the McKinney, Texas (North HS) product has run for 3,619 yards and 49 touchdowns while helping USC win their first Pac-12 title since 2008 this season. Not to mention the 2017 Rose Bowl win, which was an instant classic over Penn State. Jones chose USC over Oklahoma State and Texas and is scheduled to be a first or second round draft pick in this April’s NFL Draft.
Like Jones, Barrett had opportunities to stay in Big 12 country but choose to pick the Buckeye’s over Texas Tech, Kansas State and Baylor. However, Barrett decision to go up North has been validated for the Wichita Falls, Texas (Rider HS) native. In the Cotton Bowl, he set the Big Ten career all-offense record with 12,788 total yards, and he has been a part of the two Ohio State Big Ten Championship teams, and the 2015 National Champion team,
“When I made my decision to go to Ohio State I was two-feet in with my decision and didn’t think about how things would have been if I‘d stayed home and gone to a Big 12 school,” Barrett said. “I went to Ohio State because it felt right, and I knew I was going to be somewhere where I could win a national title during my time there.”
Unlike Barrett, Dobbins (LaGrange, TX) was once firmly committed to a Big 12 school when he committed to Texas during Charlie Strong’s tenure. Once Strong was relieved of his duties at Texas, Dobbins decommitted and, like Barrett, took his talents up north.
In his first year in Columbus, Dobbins became only the fourth freshman in Ohio State history to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark in a season, and overtook Maurice Clarett for the most rushing yards by a freshman in Ohio State history. He then capped of his splendid freshman campaign by running for 174 yards and being named MVP of the 2017 Big Ten Football Championship Game and was named to the Second Team All-Big Ten.
“This entire season, this week and the feeling I have right now only validates that I made the right decision to leave Texas and the Big 12 region,” Dobbins said as confetti was flying all over him after Ohio State’s Cotton Bowl victory.
“No disrespect to any Big 12 school, but the feeling of family and knowing you are always going to be in the national title picture each year is why I came here. Because I knew that’s what Ohio State is all about, and I wasn’t so sure about any of the Big 12 schools.”
Dobbins didn’t see any Big 12 school as a consistent contender, but maybe that’s because Tom Herman wasn’t at Texas yet. In 2017, The top 9 athletes in Texas went to schools outside of the Big 12, and at 19th, Sam Ehlinger was the Longhorn’s top commitment in the state.
Herman has made it clear that the Longhorns need to get back to recruiting the top guys in the state, and so far he’s delivered on that. In the 2018 class, the top 5 recruits in the state of Texas have committed to Texas, and of the top 12 players that have committed to a school, 10 are headed to the 40 acres. That’s domination.
If the Big 12 as a conference is to turn the tide and be taken seriously again by the nation, that trend must continue, and they must consistently keep Texas talent in the region. The next step is winning on the big stage. If they don’t, we may continue to see the nonsense we have seen over the last decade. And no Big 12 fan, no matter of allegiance, wants to continue seeing that.