A Big 12 sign is seen outside the conference headquarters in Irving, Texas. The coronavirus pandemic has shuttered sports at all levels, but all Big 12 schools expect their campuses to be open in the fall, lending hope to the possibility that football can start on time. (Photo Credits: Icon Sports Wire)
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Going into week four of the 2021 football season, the Big 12 has shown its capability as the conference went 24-5 in non-conference play, housing three teams in the top 25. 

Following an obscure offseason, the Big 12’s fate was unknown after UT and OU announced their acceptance to the SEC. The departure, set for the 2025-26 season, made the Big 12’s strength as a whole an important factor of the 2021 season. 

Despite speculation, the Big 12 has shown over these last three weeks that it is qualified to remain a power five conference.

With big wins over Virginia Tech, Boise State and Nebraska in week three, the Big 12 gave fans an insight into what they can expect for the remainder of the season. 

Kicking off Big 12 play, Baylor defeated Kansas 45-7 Saturday. The Bears looked strong as they racked up 576 total yards and held the Jayhawks to one TD.  

Read more: Chancellor talks TCU’s place in Big 12 expansion, what’s next

As Baylor has looked tough throughout the season, No. 4 Oklahoma seems unstable.

Although undefeated, OU has had a difficult journey in non-conference territory, with a close win over Tulane in week one and another against Nebraska in week three. A suspected top dog for the 2021 season, OU, has had troubles in its first three games that could give other members a chance in taking down the Sooners this season.

The fate of the Sooners will become apparent in the coming weeks as they face the strong teams of West Virginia after its big win over Virginia Tech, and No. 25 Kansas State.

OU is not the only SEC invitee who has struggled this season.

After a loss against its future conference mate, No. 16 Arkansas in week two, UT beat Rice 58-0 Saturday. Although the longhorn’s offense showed their strength against Rice, the ultimate test will be this Saturday as the 3-0 Texas Tech Red Raiders come to town.

Another Big 12 competitor suspected to be strong this season has encountered misfortune. After a rough week against Iowa, No. 14 Iowa State redeemed itself this past weekend with a 48-3 win over UNLV, just in time for their matchup against Baylor who has proved to be a force to be reckoned with this season. 

While one Oklahoma school heavily relies on its offense, Oklahoma State leads Big 12 in scoring defense, holding its opponents to just 12 points and 95.3 yards per game.

As for last week’s game, despite troubles in the QB room and a 10-0 trail in the first quarter, Oklahoma State running back Jaylen Warren led his team to a 21-20 victory over Boise State with 218 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Now undefeated, the Cowboys will be facing another 3-0 conference team, Kansas State, Saturday in their first conference matchup of the season.

In TCU news, coming off of a bye, TCU will be facing SMU on Sept. 25 in a battle for the Iron Skillet. After a loss in 2019 and a cancelation in 2020, the Horned Frogs are determined to take back the rivalry.

As for the four new invitees’ performances, they are off to good starts with BYU ranked 15th, and Cincinnati ranked second in the AAC. 

Although unclear as to how this season is going to pan out, the troubles seen from OU and Iowa State are important to acknowledge in the coming weeks. As conference play gets underway, the team’s performance for the remainder of the season will become clearer. 

One thing that remains clear is the current Big 12 members focus on “long-term strength” following the departure of OU and UT in 2025.

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Lauren Cottrell is a senior sports journalism major and Spanish minor from Frisco, Texas. Throughout her time at TCU, Lauren has worked as a reporter with TCU Football. She is also a freelance sports writer for high school football with The Dallas Morning News.