Mailbag: Tough venue, respect, A&M = Ark?

Thanks for all the questions. Didn't get yours answered? My mailbag is open as always.

Trey in Whitesboro, Texas, asked: I know Texas A&M is returning a lot of starters this season but are there any players that are not being talked about that you think could have big contributions to this seasons team?

David Ubben: I don't hear enough about Christine Michael, and it seems like I'm the only person who seems to remember he was playing much, much better than Cyrus Gray before he went down with the injury.

He runs with a power that nobody else in the Big 12 has, with maybe the exception of Terrance Ganaway at Baylor, and his speed is still solid. He's a guy I wouldn't want to stare across a hole in the offensive line at if I was a linebacker, but I think I'm in a very small minority of people that thinks he's the second-best back in the Big 12, behind Gray, who really improved late in the year.

So, Michael is pretty far from an under-the-radar guy, but he's a guy I do think is being overlooked in a big way this offseason.

Louis in McKinney, Texas, asked: Hey Ubbs,Great blog! What is a tougher road test for my Pokes; Mizzou, Tech, or Texas? I know that going to Kyle Field will be the toughest venue we see this year, but all of these scare me.Thanks!

DU: I'll go with Missouri, just because it's the best team from that group. Faurot Field can be intimidating at times (ask Oklahoma), but it's not always that nuts.

Tech has by far the toughest atmosphere from that group, but if they have to outscore Oklahoma State, they're going to have problems. Texas is just too much of a wildcard, and I don't see them having enough horses on offense to outscore the Pokes, either.

Thus, beware of The Zou.

Hankamer in Rowlett, Texas, asked: David -- last year you spent a Day in the Life of Robert Griffin III. Any plans on doing that with any other Big 12 players? Also, are you visiting any campuses before the season begins? If so, who and when? Thanks

DU: It's not 100 percent just yet, but it doesn't look like I'll be doing any traveling until the season starts. However, I'll get on the road plenty this fall for some actual football.

I don't think I'll be spending any more days in the life of Big 12 football players (I did do it with the Oklahoma baseball team this year, though), but I enjoyed the time in Waco with Robert.

Jared in Ames, Iowa, asked: Ubs, do you plan on making a trip to Ames this year? That new scoreboard is looking pretty sweet at JTS.

DU: I'd love to, but ultimately, it's up to the Cyclones. I'm usually at the biggest game in the Big 12 that week. Win, and you bet I'll be there. I'd love to see the new scoreboard. I haven't been keeping up with the webcam, but the mock-ups looked pretty good.

Zack in College Station, Texas, asked: I'm an Aggie through and through, but isn't it time Paul Rhodes gets a little credit for what he's doing at Iowa State? He took a team formerly run by Gene Chizik (Coach of the Year) and won 1 more game in his first year than Chizik did in his 2 years. Last year against one of the most formidable schedules in the country he had them on the brink of bowl eligibility again. Can we get the guy some love?

DU: No, I think he gets plenty of credit from those who pay attention to the Big 12. Iowa State has rather obvious limitations and hurdles it has to clear to have success in the Big 12, but based on the resources, both financial and physical, Rhoads has had his teams knocking on the ceiling of their potential in each of his three seasons in Ames.

If you polled the writers who cover (and actually pay attention) to the Big 12, I think a vast majority of them would agree that Rhoads is the most underrated coach in the Big 12 on a national scale. At least, that's what I've gathered from my conversations with people around the league.

Here's a small sampling of what I'm talking about. He's not the first to say something similar, either.

To get any real national respect, you have to win big. Obviously, that's pretty tough to do at Iowa State, a school with one season of more than seven wins since 1979, and just six bowl appearances in that 32-year span.

James in College Station, Texas, asked: So does the renaming of Aggies All-Access to 12thManTV on aggieathletics.com sound like a precursor to something bigger coming in the future?

DU: Sounds like somebody is re-branding their school-specific broadcasts online to try and take further advantage of having the rights to their third-tier broadcasts.

I don't see Texas A&M making its own network in any world, but the Aggies probably have more money to be made (besides Texas, obviously) in broadcasting and earning money for advertising for their third-tier events than any other school in the Big 12, even Oklahoma.

Chumo in Houston asked: Logic on comparing A&M and Arkansas move to SEC is heavily flawed. Arkansas lost recruiting ties to state of Texas when they left. No more games in Texas and not located in Texas. Don't know how to make this more clear.

DU: Yeah, let me be clear about that, because I've made the comparison a couple times. I'm not talking about recruiting and I'm not saying it's exactly the same. I only use Arkansas because I think they're a good team to gauge who I think Texas A&M would be if it joined the SEC, but slightly better. I understand the dynamics of recruiting are very different. I'm just making a comparison solely in the win column.

Arkansas won four SWC titles in the 26 years before it left for the SEC in 1992.

In the 19 years since? None, with three double-digit losses in the SEC championship game.

Texas A&M, like Arkansas, would go to bowl games far more often than it didn't, but I'd see Texas A&M winning a league title once every 10-20 years, if not less.

In the Big 12, the Aggies could win one every 5-10 years, if not more, especially with this strong recent run of recruiting the Aggies have going.

I figure it's healthy to make it very clear how much the disparity in winning would be, in my opinion.

S. Mo in Atlanta, Ga., asked: Don't let bowl season fool you about what conference is better. The teams who run the ball more will win a majority of bowl games. The 3-5 week layoff between the last game and the bowl game will always benefit the running teams because the timing of the passing game takes 2 Qts. and sometimes longer to adjust to game speed. Look at the regular season records between the conferences, it's a better gauge. Also, remember what the "running" Big 8 used to do to the passing SEC in bowl games? See Tommy Frazier vs. Danny Weurful. A playoff will change that. All teams can remain sharp, and you will see who truly are the best teams. Some years it would be the SEC, but not as oftern as you think.

DU: Interesting sentiment. I don't think it's a universal truth, but I agree there's some validity to it. There's not a lot of rust, considering teams do practice plenty heading into the bowl games, but practice isn't games, and the timing definitely has to be at least a bit off.

Your case is a weak one in favor of a playoff, but we also saw teams like Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Missouri look great passing the ball, maybe even better than they did during the regular season.

I'm interested to hear from the fans, though.

Is our man's idea legit? Do bowl layoffs favor running teams?