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Beyond the Fort: NFL Kliff, the bowl season the Big 12 needed, and early hoops madness

It’s safe to say 2019 is off to an entertaining start.

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Well, we’ve made through another wild season of college football — capped off by the biggest beating Alabama has ever taken under Nick Saban’s watch. But before you get all down in the dumps about the words the sport has to offer — the offseason — fear not, because there’s Big 12 basketball to the rescue.

While tonight’s top 25 showdown between TCU and Kansas may take center stage in the immediate time, the league is already once again proving to be a free-for-all just a week into conference play in the wake of several upsets. And that should set the stage for an exciting road ahead, all the way to Kansas City, Mo. in march.

But of course, we aren’t starved completely of football news, including a wild turn of events for one former Big 12 coach. So let’s get this first Beyond the Fort of 2019 started, shall we?

USC offens...errr...Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury

It’s a puzzling ordeal, no doubt about it, but former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury saw his tenure as USC’s offensive coordinator come to an end before it even began on Tuesday after he was introduced as the next head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

So what happened? Were Kingsbury and his agent just playing USC athletic director Lynn Swann all along to use the job in Los Angeles as a vehicle to the NFL? Was there unexpected tension after the Trojans reportedly blocked Kingsbury from interviewing for NFL jobs? Who knows, but one of the most brilliant offensive minds in football is now joining an NFC West division that is already chalked full of both talent and potential on offense. That said, have fun facing the Rams, Russell Wilson, and a theoretically productive 49ers team twice each season.

Oh, and a shout-out to Gil Brandt, who was spot on all along. That said, maybe we now shouldn’t be so shocked if Kyler Murray returns to Oklahoma either (gulp).

An already unpredictable Big 12 basketball season

If you’re on a quest to perfectly predict how everything will pan out in conference play this winter, buddy, good luck.

Already, Kansas was handed a 17-point loss at the hands of Iowa State on Saturday. Three days later, that same Iowa State team — ranked No. 20 in the latest AP Top 25 poll — was upended in a 73-70 loss at Baylor. Kansas State — the preseason No. 2 team in the Big 12 — can’t stay healthy. And Oklahoma, who many expected to regress significantly following the departure of Trae Young last spring, is ballin’ yet again at No. 23.

Add it all up, and half of the Big 12 finds itself in the top 25, with no telling of who may win on any given night. Even for those unranked, games at West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Kansas State are rarely cupcakes. Baylor already has an upset under its belt after nearly upending TCU a few days prior, and Texas isn’t a team to be taken lightly either with the highest NET ranking (47) of any unranked Big 12 team.

So can TCU finally emerge victorious at Allen Fieldhouse Wednesday night? Can somebody other than the Jayhawks finally take home the regular-season Big 12 crown in 2018? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, tune in for this ride, because it’s set to be a highly entertaining one.

The bowl season the Big 12 needed?

Okay, one more football note to wrap this thing up. Let’s face it, for a Big 12 conference that is constantly ridiculed for lacking defense and never having a chance against the blue chips, this bowl season was just about everything the conference could ask for. Sure, Oklahoma may have fallen short against Alabama in the College Football Playoff, but the Big 12’s 4-3 mark was the highest winning percentage of any Power 5 conference this bowl season. But perhaps the more important note was that the Big 12 finished 3-1 vs. the SEC alone — punctuated by Texas’ 28-21 victory over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl to wrap it all up.

Now, is the league going to still have more work to do in order to fully restore its reputation? Absolutely. But for the meantime, the past few weeks dispelled the narrative that the Big 12 can’t keep up with its fellow Power 5 counterparts — not only putting up points, but also holding six of their seven opponents below their season-long scoring averages. That’s a step forward in the right direction, if you ask me.