Thanks for all the emails this week, folks. Here's where you can reach me if you've got more to say. Time to answer a few of your letters.
Blake in Kansas City writes: Ubbs,Can we dig a little deeper into Haney's comment about the Wildcats turning the ball over?K-State went +12 while Oklahoma State went 21. Looking at gains vs losses, K-State only lost the ball 15 times. OSU turned it over 23 times. OSU also grabbed an astounding 44 turnovers. Quite an astronimcal number. The Wildcats took the ball away only 27 times last year, certainly good, but nothing earth-shattering. Why would one pick the Wildcats to not be able to repeat in that category? They are a ball-control offense that is based on good decision making. They also lost 0 players at the skill positions. I would think they would be poised to perform around the same margin.Only one team was within the 44 take-aways of OSU, and that was NC State at 39. Those outliers are certain to come back down this year to the rest of the pack. And it might be expected for OSU to turn the ball over at a similar rate, losing a good number of players at the skill positions while starting a true freshman. If using turnovers as the deciding factor in wins, wouldn't OSU be in for the rude awakening? Thoughts? P.S. Most overrated team, year-in and year-out: FSU
David Ubben: Hey, I'm with you on both points here, Blake. I'm really surprised at how much the national media at large seemed to have soured on Kansas State. Honestly, I think it has as much to do with a very bad performance in the Cotton Bowl against Arkansas as it does the eight close wins everybody likes to cite. Those big-stage games do a lot for people's perceptions entering the next season. If West Virginia had lost to Clemson and Kansas State had beaten Arkansas, is there any doubt that WVU would be nowhere near the top 10 and Kansas State would be very close, if not inside it?
It's a little silly. They're still the same teams. For the record, I had Kansas State at No. 12 on my preseason top 25 ballot, and West Virginia at No. 9.
You're absolutely right on the turnover issue. I disagreed pretty strongly with that portion. Collin Klein knows what he has to do at quarterback, and first on that list is not turn the ball over. Kansas State can't play through those kinds of big mistakes. Forcing 27 turnovers, though? Very much in reach for K-State, and for a team with tons of experience returning that prides itself on not making mistakes (the hallmark of Bill Snyder-coached teams), it's very reasonable to expect this squad to take care of the ball even more in 2012. I'm not exactly buying on Kansas State as a top-10 team just yet, but to put these guys outside the top 20? Are we kidding? Crazy talk.
Dan in Atlanta wrote: Mr Ubben, From the "old gold and blue" discussion it's clear you've begun discovering the crazy end of Mountaineer fandom. As you likely assume, they don't represent the majority. Please take them with a grain of salt. And, as an alum and rabid fan, I can tell you I never heard "old gold and blue" uttered by a student, coach, player or administrator, not even once, until Stew broke it out. In fact, I thought he made it up. Appreciate the coverage!
Brad Bayles in Williamstown, W. Va. wrote: First off, on behalf of WVU fans, please accept our apologies regarding the rude email(s) you received regarding the school colors. Mountaineer fans across the state could not be happier to be part of the Big 12 and this foolishness does not represent our state and fans very well to the rest of the conference. Now, with the competition level in the Big 12, I think it will be very difficult for a team to go undefeated. How many losses do you think a team can have and still win the Big 12?
DU: This color issue just will not go away. I got more emails about it than anything last week, and this week, I got nearly as many after mentioning it again in last week's Mailbag. Oh you crazy 'Neers. (Just kidding, folks. I know it's 'Eers. Save your emails.)
Over the long haul, I'd disagree that teams can't go undefeated in the Big 12. We know Texas and Oklahoma can field teams good enough to do it. Don't be surprised if WVU, TCU and Oklahoma State do the same in the years to come. That said, this won't be the year. I tweeted about it a little bit on Thursday, but there are just too many flaws in the top half of the Big 12 for me to see somebody running the table this year.
If the Big 12's going to win a national title, it's going to need some help. I could see, in theory, any of the top six teams in the league improving during the season and separating from the pack to go 11-1. After that, it's sort of up to the luck of the draw. Oklahoma State got unlucky last year. Oklahoma got lucky in 2008 that one loss was good enough.
My official guess is the Big 12 champ has one loss at the end of the season based solely on history, but my gut might lean more toward two losses. Undefeated, though? The teams at the top aren't good enough to make that kind of a run, and the 5-6 best teams in the league are far too deep for those flawed teams to run the table. Everybody truly can beat everybody in this league, and if you don't believe it, go back and watch Iowa State/Oklahoma State, Oklahoma/Texas Tech or Kansas/Baylor from last season.
Brian Becton in Lubbock, Texas wrote: Don't you think you should change your top 25 players when #24 Ben Habern isn't playing anymore?
DU: No way. Call it a career-ending tribute. Habern's been a constant in this league, but never cracked the list. I hated to see the news he was hanging it up, but I totally understand. There's a lot to life beyond football. Habern wants to experience it without risking his health. Best wishes to him. Safe to say he won't be on the midseason or postseason top 25 players, but his spot is 100 percent safe on the preseason list.
Nick in Topeka, Kan. wrote: How is it right that TCU's Casey Pachall not get in trouble from the university? failed drug test and admitting it? haven't the universities learned to do the right thing and not worry about "winning".
DU: I go back and forth on this one. Gary Patterson says Pachall failed only one drug test and passed 24, including six since the failed test on Feb. 1. I'll take him for his word on that one because we don't have reason to believe he's lying.
On its face, a suspension for a failed drug test seems a little harsh. Repeated offenses? Definitely.
But the flip side is, "Does Patterson need to drop the hammer on his team to stamp out this whole drug issue once and for all?" Suspending his starting quarterback, even if it's only one game, would prove rather definitively that nobody is above the law at TCU. Clearly, there were some guys on the team last year who believed otherwise.
I don't think Patterson allowing Pachall to get by with only one university-mandated class on drugs and maybe some extra running is some grand injustice and Patterson is letting his team run wild.
I do think Patterson passed up an opportunity to send a very, very clear message to his team. If he believes he can do that and still rid his team of future drug issues, more power to him. He knows his team better than I do.
Chris in Cedar Falls, Iowa wrote: Hey Ubbs! I saw your resopnce to Matthew Braunschweig in last weeks Maibag about Iowa State. You said, "The biggest problem for Iowa State is its offense, which enters the season without knowledge of who its quarterback will be." So Question #1: If you are ISU can't you use your QB issue to your advantage? Keep teams guessing, keep thing competitive durring pratice? Q. #2. Which QB do you think ISU should go with?
DU: Totally disagree with you here, Chris. For one, no, the lack of knowledge isn't a big advantage. ISU's offense is basically the exact same with Jantz and Barnett, but Jantz is a little faster and Barnett is a little smarter with the ball. Both are pretty inaccurate passers.
Every team Oklahoma State or Baylor played last season knew who was going to start at quarterback. It didn't matter much. Establishing some rapport and chemistry between the QB and the offense, which will be largely static elsewhere, is much more important for the Cyclones.
Personally, I'd go with Barnett. You can't afford the turnovers that Jantz tends to lean against, and when it's that close, go with upside. Barnett is younger and can improve a lot more this season and in the future. Invest in him.