College football is less than a month away, and English Premier League soccer season starts this weekend.
That means it’s just the right the time to give each Big 12 team an EPL equivalent.
Let’s get to it. We’ll go in order of the Big 12 standings in 2017, and remember: this is an inexact science. For example: no Premier League team is as bad as Kansas.
Oklahoma: Manchester City
The new favorites to win, year in and year out. Both have one of the more innovative coaches in the league (Lincoln Riley/Pep Guardiola). Both have more money than they know what to do with. They each play an up-tempo, exciting style, with some of the best players in the game (Baker Mayfield and Rodney Anderson/Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne). Despite the domestic success, both haven’t capitalized in elite competitions (CFP appearances/Champions League). Pretty easy comparison here.
TCU: Tottenham Hotspur
Both are picked to be the underdog favorite every year, and both often fall just short. Both overachieve with players that are considered to be just a bit below the big-money programs’ standards. Both play an exhausting and physical style of defense (Gary Patterson’s 4-2-5/Mauricio Pochettino’s press). Both now have the longest tenured coaches in their respective leagues. And if you ask the fan bases of both teams, they’ll tell you that they’re very happy with the current situation, and are simultaneously tired of not breaking all the way through and winning some serious silverware.
Oklahoma State: Arsenal
Both play a breakneck-pace style of offense. Both have had some of the greatest players in their respective sport’s history pass through their ranks (Barry Sanders/Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp). Both are associated heavily with one specific coach and his love/hate relationship with the fans and the front office (Mike Gundy/Arsene Wenger). Arsenal has had more historical success than Oklahoma State, but in recent years, it feels as though both are slightly underperforming expectations.
Iowa State: Bournemouth
Both aren’t historical powers, but both will scare the living daylights out of any top-level teams that come their way. Both took some serious scalps in 2017-18 (Iowa State over Oklahoma and TCU/Bournemouth over Arsenal and Chelsea). And both have a highly regarded young coach (Matt Campbell and Eddie Howe).
Kansas State: Everton
Always just outside of the top level. Sustained mediocrity for a long time, with flashes of brilliance. Have had excellent players pass through the program (Collin Klein/Wayne Rooney). Both overshadowed by rivals (Kansas State by Kansas basketball/Everton by Liverpool). Will beat some good teams and lose to some bad teams, year in and year out.
Texas: Manchester United
The richest programs in their respective sports. There’s no excuse why these teams shouldn’t win the title each year. Both teams said farewell to a legendary coach (Mack Brown/Sir Alex Ferguson), and both have suffered since. A litany of legends have played for each team (Vince Young, Earl Campbell, etc./Cristiano Ronaldo, Rooney, Bobby Charlton, etc.). Every year, they bring in a new crop of talented players, and in recent years, there just hasn’t been a lot to show for it. Meanwhile, their rivals (Oklahoma/Manchester City) just keep getting better and better.
West Virginia: Liverpool
Both play attacking styles. Both have idiosyncratic head coaches (Dana Holgorsen/Jurgen Klopp). Both have songs that are inextricably linked to the program (Take Me Home, Country Roads/You’ll Never Walk Alone). Both have one of the favorites to win Player of the Year this season (Will Grier/Mo Salah). And both haven’t won much in recent memory. (No, the League Cup doesn’t count, Liverpool).
Texas Tech: Leicester City
This was a tough one to pin down — part of me just wanted to search “most handsome coach in the Premier League” and match Tech and Kliff Kingsbury up with whatever result I got. But in 2017-18, both of these teams scored a decent amount of points/goals that ultimately meant nothing. Both have had one dream season since the turn of the millennium (Texas Tech in 2008/Leicester in 2015), surrounded by years of mediocrity. And both fanbases really, really miss the coaches that led them to those seasons (Mike Leach/Claudio Ranieri).
This is slightly unfair to Chelsea, who won a title in 2016-17 — but then, Baylor is only four seasons removed from a split Big 12 title. Both teams are highly disliked by the others in their conference. Both have a relative lack of history compared to other teams — there’s a reason the SB Nation Chelsea blog is named “We Ain’t Got No History.” Both, at their peaks, played an extreme style (Baylor with Art Briles’ freakishly innovative up-tempo spread offense/Chelsea with Jose Mourinho’s park-the-bus nihilism). And both underachieved massively in 2017, but have plenty of potential to regain elite status soon.
Kansas: Birmingham City
Birmingham City aren’t playing Premier League soccer this season, and you could make the argument that Kansas is barely playing FBS football. Birmingham has been relegated 12 times, more than any club in EPL history. Kansas is, well, Kansas. This is a match made in heaven (or hell, depending on how you look at it).
(Note: This story originally had Texas Tech’s “dream season” as 2011. That has been corrected to 2008.)