Big 12: Kentucky Wildcats
Alabama continues its long run in the No. 1 spot of the class rankings, but for the first time in a little over three months there is a new team sitting behind the Crimson Tide. Georgia moved up to the No. 2 spot after picking up its 13th commitment from an ESPN 300 prospect with the addition of Rashad Roundtree. The top-five safety prospect is the fourth secondary commitment in the Bulldogs?? class. A tall, athletic, and aggressive defender, Roundtree could potentially contribute early and develop into a well-rounded player. His best fit looks to be at strong safety, but with his range, size and physical nature he could potentially offer some versatility to Georgia??s back end.
While Bulldogs defensive addition helped them rise, a decommitment from an ESPN 300 LB led to Michigan slipping. The Wolverines?? class still has five ESPN 300 prospects, but their total number of commitments has dropped to eight and the loss of Darrin Kirkland Jr. is their second ESPN 300 decommitment in three weeks.
Nebraska saw a rise in the rankings after dipping into Louisiana for the second time in this class to land ESPN 300 WR Stanley Morgan, who is a good fit for the Cornhuskers, bringing good size, some playmaking ability and a competitive temperament to Lincoln.
Inside the rankings
Since coming to Kentucky prior to the 2013 season, Mark Stoops and his staff have brought an entirely new approach to recruiting in Lexington. The Wildcats are ahead of schedule in Year 2 and one game away from being bowl eligible, which would pay huge dividends in December when it comes time to host prospects.
The process began by taking a pro personnel approach to recruiting when it came to prioritizing staff meeting times and evaluation by coaches and support staff. In other words, the evaluation process of all prospects is a 365-day-a-year requirement when coaches and staff are not on the road. This is the approach he brought over from Florida State after working under Jimbo Fisher. Secondly, Kentucky needed to expand its footprint which is why Stoops was the perfect choice to lead this change. The state of Kentucky does not produce enough top-tier talent to support an 85-man roster which forces the staff to go outside its borders. Traditionally this would mean going south, and UK still will, but now the movement has moved north into Ohio where Stoops has roots.
In 2014, Kentucky signed 11 players from Ohio, and currently has seven players committed in the 2015 class from Ohio. Their home state will always be the top priority and the Wildcats have won that battle as of late with the signing of QB Drew Barker, DE Jason Hatcher and DT Matt Elam, but the roster needs support from a net that more widely cast.
There is renewed enthusiasm and leadership under Stoops, a renovated stadium and millions of dollars being devoted to facilities enhancements which could make for a bright future in Lexington.
To see the full class rankings, click here.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has been out of the SEC since his days as Florida's defensive coordinator from 1996-98, but made headlines with some sharp critiques of that conference's current status as college football's kingpin.
"You’re listening to a lot of propaganda that gets fed out to you. You’re more than smart enough to figure it out," Stoops told the Tulsa World. "Again, you can look at the top two, three, four, five, six teams, and you can look at the bottom six, seven, eight, whatever they are. How well are they all doing?"
Stoops' comments have ignited something of a debate in the past week, but Weis, who hadn't heard anything of Stoops' comments until I informed him of them Thursday, says the Sooners coach is speaking the truth.
"Do you know the stats? In the SEC, the record of the good guys and the bad guys?" Weis asked ESPN.com in a recent interview.
"The stats" to which Weis is referring have appeared a few times on this blog, and paint the SEC as a league devoid of parity, at least last season. The conference's bottom eight teams went 0-30 against the top six teams in 2012.
"I’m just sayin’, you look at the bottom of our league and the bottom of their league, just going based off the numbers, there’s validity in what he said," Weis said. "I’m just going based off the numbers, I mean, I’m a numbers guy. Just based off the numbers, you’d have to say he’s got a point."
The Big 12 and SEC both sent nine teams to bowl games, but that number meant 90 percent of the Big 12 participated in the postseason, the highest number of any conference in college football history.
"We were the only team in the whole league that didn’t play in a bowl game. It was us. We were the sole member," Weis said. "You talk about bottom-feeders, you think Iowa State was a bottom-feeder?"
Certainly not. The Cyclones have reached bowl games in three of the past four seasons, never finishing the regular season with a record better than more than three Big 12 teams. Iowa State reached a bowl in spectacular fashion in 2011, upsetting BCS No. 2 Oklahoma State and derailing the Cowboys' national title hopes.
The Big 12 hasn't been able to beat the top of the SEC on the field in quite awhile, but Stoops, Weis and I are in agreement on at least one front: The bottom of the Big 12 is anything but a sure victory for any team in the league.
"So they've had the best team in college football," Stoops told the Tulsa World. "They haven't had the whole conference. Because, again, half of 'em haven't done much at all. I'm just asking you. You tell me."
Stoops, who recruits players to Oklahoma and as such, the Big 12, has a responsibility to defend the league he coaches in, but he may have gone a little too far.
"So you're listening to a lot of propaganda that gets fed out to you," he said. "You're more than smart enough to figure it out. Again, you can look at the top two, three, four, five, six teams, and you can look at the bottom six, seven, eight, whatever they are. How well are they all doing?"
What I don't understand about the ensuing uproar is this: People don't want to buy three statements I believe are true and far from being mutually exclusive:
- The Big 12 has the strongest bottom half of any conference in football.
- The SEC is the nation's best conference on the football field.
- Considering its reputation and the way people refer to it, the SEC is far overrated.
I agree with Stoops that the gap isn't as wide as people think, but fresh off a 28-point beatdown to an SEC team in the Cotton Bowl, now is probably not the time to be making that argument.
Fortunately, our colleagues at SportsNation have stepped in and taken Stoops' points to the people. How would you rank a Big 12/SEC 24-team superconference? You can fill out your own ranking here, but here's how I'd slot it:
- Texas A&M
- South Carolina
- Oklahoma State
- Kansas State
- Texas Tech
- Ole Miss
- Mississippi State
- West Virginia
- Iowa State
Thoughts on my ranking?
The Big 12 was hurt most by West Virginia’s loss to unranked Texas Tech Red Raiders," wrote Stats and Info's Sharon Katz. "West Virginia fell from fifth to 17 in the AP Poll and no Big 12 teams was able to regain the points lost by the Mountaineers."
Here's the full rankings:
That's a troubling trend for the Big 12, but Oklahoma will have a big chance to earn the Big 12 some nonconference respect next week when Notre Dame makes a trip to Norman.
The Big 12 still has the No. 1 spot in the computer polls, but the Big 12 took a hit in the human polls after just four Big 12 teams showed up in Sunday's AP rankings. The SEC took the lead by a full point after steadily creeping up on the Big 12 since the rankings debuted.
What was the biggest factor for the move? From the Stats & Info Blog:
Losses by Top-5 teams LSU and Georgia did not impact the SEC’s conference ranking because they lost to teams that were also in the Top 10.
On the other hand, losses by TCU and Texas Tech impacted the Big 12 in the rankings since they lost to teams with worse records entering the game.
The computers still favor the Big 12 over the SEC due to the depth of the conference, but the gap has narrowed. The SEC’s dominance in the polls has vaulted the conference into first place for the first time since the final conference power rankings of the 2011 season.
It's going to be a tight race all season, but for now, the SEC's pulled ahead by a nose.
Last week, by way of grabbing four teams in the top six of the polls, the SEC took the lead over the Big 12 in the human polls.
The Big 12 still has the lead in the computers, but its overall lead is just half a point in this week's update. The Big 12 and SEC, however, are a healthy 12.5 points ahead of the Pac-12 at No. 3.
"The computers favor the Big 12 with nine of its 10 teams ranked in the top 34 out of 124 possible schools," writes the Stats and Info crew. "In comparison, only eight of 14 schools in the SEC rank in the top 34 by the computers."
The Big 12 still holds the overall lead, but it holds the No. 1 spot by only 0.9 points. Conversely, the Big 12 and SEC are ahead of the Pac-12 by nearly 11 points.
The Big 12 has a 25-3 record in nonconference play, the best of any conference, and two of those losses came by Kansas, the Big 12's 10th-place team.
Still, the SEC grabbed four of the nation's top six spots, and you can see that progress in the new conference rankings.
TCU and West Virginia gave the Big 12 a pair of wins over the ACC.
ESPN Stats & Information College Football Conference Power Rankings
We'll start it back up at 3 p.m. ET today.
Here's the link.
As always, you can leave your questions there before we start, and I'll get to them once I arrive at 3 p.m. ET on the dot. Keep them coming once we start, and I'll see you there.
If you haven't noticed yet, take a look at our little sidebar of team coverage on the right side of the blog.
We made the switch in coverage back in February, but now that it's official, we've made the switch. You'll find TCU and West Virginia on the Big 12 blog team coverage list.
If you feel the need to check out the SEC blog (which is often difficult to reach, what with all those defenses looming around), you'll see Missouri's and Texas A&M's logos on the sidebar.
It's official. And we're less than two months from the season's first kickoff.
The new deal, announced Friday, will have the champions of the Big 12 and SEC meet in a New Year's Day bowl game annually beginning with the 2014 season. So while it won’t have the tradition of the Rose Bowl, it’ll have the viewers and it’ll have the popularity.
We’re seeing more and more how power is truly the most important component in college football, and this is a great example. Soon, we’ll have the two best BCS conferences going at it in their own special bowl competing with the beloved Rose Bowl.
We’re joined on the SEC blog by Big 12 blogger David Ubben to get his thoughts on what this means for the Big 12. We’re gentlemen down here in SEC country, so we’ll let him go first:
David Ubben: Rose Bowl, we love you. Not as much as Jim Delany does, but I'm not sure anyone can stake that claim. Anyway, it's time to face an unfortunate truth: You've been one-upped. The unnamed, unplaced bowl partnership between the Big 12 and SEC won't have the same level of tradition, but it will feature better teams. That's a powerful draw.
The BCS has played 14 national title games since its birth. The Big 12 or SEC have participated in 12 of them. Teams from the league have met in the game twice.
Now, they'll have another big stage to showcase their top teams. If a Big 12 or SEC champion is in the four-team playoff that will likely begin in the 2014 season, the next-best team will fill their place in the annual game. Deciding who plays in that game is up to each conference. The nation's two best conferences will get a much-needed opportunity to face one another on the field and test the hotly debated offense vs. defense theories on the field annually. The nation's college football fans were robbed of that when Oklahoma State was squeezed out of the national title game for SEC West second-place finisher Alabama. This year, the SEC and Big 12 only play once, when eight-win Texas travels to face two-win Ole Miss in September. Not exactly must-see TV.
This will be.
It assures the Big 12 a place at the adults' table of college football, further extending the distance between college football's top four leagues -- the SEC, Big 12, Pac-12 and Big Ten, in that order -- and the ACC and Big East. The ACC and Big East have the Orange Bowl, but any game like the SEC and Big 12 put together will pale in comparison when it comes to TV ratings and more importantly, TV money.
Only a few months ago, the Big 12 had eight teams, with half the league considering a move to the Pac-12 and the conference on life support. Things are looking very different now. It's about to sign a giant television deal, likely extending the grant of rights into the next decade and assuring stability at least through then, and probably beyond.
Tired of getting stuck playing Boise State and UConn in everything to lose, nothing to gain BCS bowl matchups? Seven-time Big 12 champion Oklahoma won't have to worry about that anymore, and even if the Sooners are in the forthcoming national championship playoff, the next-best Big 12 team will have a quality opponent to prove itself against.
Another plus for the Big 12? The Cotton Bowl's odds of getting into the BCS as it stood were minimal. Now? It's still in flux, but does anyone want to bet against Jerry Jones and his wallet to get this game in his Dallas palace at some point? That's a big game in the Big 12 footprint, something that's never happened on the BCS bowl stage.
How will this affect Florida State, too? News has surely reached Tallahassee by now, and the Florida State spear-toting brass have to be wondering how much this factors into their wandering eye toward the Big 12. Is the ACC the place to be?
We'll find out soon, but on Jan. 1, 2015, there will be only one place to be.
Edward Aschoff: I couldn’t agree more with pretty much everything you said. There’s no question that both of these leagues have dominated the BCS since its first year in 1998. The conferences have been left out of the national championship just twice in the last 14 years and the SEC has participated in -- and won -- eight. The Big 12 has won two of its seven appearances.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive has just about everything he wants in his conference, but he hasn’t had the Rose Bowl. Sure, all those national championship trophies are nice, but an annual game like the Rose Bowl commands respect. The game that the Big Ten and Pac-12 covet so much, and is watched by millions annually, will now get a major run for its money. While they’ll be played in different time slots, there’s no question that this will turn into the ultimate popularity contest. If you could sense that Big Ten-SEC tension before, just wait. Now, the SEC will be looking down on the Big Ten and picking at the game it holds so dear. Don’t think that didn’t cross the commissioner’s mind when he was thinking about this deal.
The SEC has truly been front and center in the college football world for the past six years with its 6-0 record in BCS championships, and now it will pursue a game it thinks can have the gusto of the Rose. This is a great opportunity for the SEC to build another fine tradition for the country’s top college football conference. And fans/the media want to see more of these matchups. For the most part, we're all deprived of them during the regular season, so here's a chance for us to win something as well. These two conferences need to play more. The best should always play the best, and as David said, we can finally settle the whole offense-defense debate.
This also means that more SEC teams have the chance to play in a primetime, marquee matchup in January. If this had been in place last season, Arkansas, which certainly had a BCS-caliber team, would have played in a BCS-like bowl, since Alabama and LSU met in the title game. The Cotton Bowl got the matchup this game would have received, but it would have been on a much grander scale and much more attention would have been paid to it. Oh, and much more money would have come out of it.
It would likely help the SEC this year too, as there could be as many as five teams jockeying for BCS position. Imagine if the four-team playoff took place this season? You might have two more SEC teams fighting for a chance at a national championship, meaning this game would give No. 3 a chance strut its stuff in front of its own grand audience.
There’s no question that with a four-team playoff, the SEC will have more opportunities to put teams in the national championship, continuing its dominance. Now, Slive has helped to ensure that a high-caliber team left out of the championship hunt will still play in a game that will command the type of attention that comes with a BCS bowl.