Thanks for all the emails this week, everybody. Here's where you can reach me if you've got more to say.
Let's get to your mail.
Sam Brooks in Overland Park, Kan., writes: David, I saw in your Big 12 stock report that you have Kansas State's stock as going down, and your logic for this is very skewed. Sure, the Cats are losing two very important players with major leadership roles on both sides of the ball in Collin and Arthur, but don't think for a second that the quality of leadership will drop off. Tre Walker is more than ready to become the vocal leader of the 'Lynch Mob' (probably already was), and John Hubert and Daniel Sams have spent countless hours learning the intangibles from CK7. As for talent, they are taking a big hit on the defensive side pretty much only returning Zimmerman and Walker. However, as for the offense, look for them to be more explosive than this year. 5 returning on the O-Line, John Hubert, Tremaine Thompson, and Tyler Lockett all return, making it very plausible for D-Sams to ease into Snyder's system and put up huge numbers. The intense QB battle with Waters will only make both players better too. Combine that with a very favorable schedule (8 home games) and I believe K-State takes care of business in Austin early (as they did in Norman), and the Big 12 title will once again run through Manhattan, KS. (Cue November 16 hype [TCU])
David Ubben: It's possible, Sam, but I simply don't buy that K-State has pieces ready to just replace a guy as integral to the offense as Collin Klein and Arthur Brown. Both of those guys won their respective Big 12 Player of the Year awards on their side of the ball, and you don't simply replace Klein's experience and toughness or Brown's athleticism and instinct. Walker's a great player, but Brown held the defense together and missed so few tackles. The Sams/Waters quarterback derby in the spring will be interesting, but we'll see if Hubert continues his production without Klein and if Sams or Waters can prove to be a quarterback in the top half of the Big 12. That's a must if you're going to win the league.
Ask Oklahoma State how easy it is to replace pieces that are that important. OSU was a good team this year, but winning 11-12 games in this league is really difficult. The simple truth is next year's Kansas State team will not be as good as this year's team. Considering this year's team has a pretty solid case as the best in school history, I hardly think that's an insult.
K-State's a bowl team next year, but a Big 12 title contender? I don't buy that one bit, unless Sams or Waters just absolutely blows up next season. I expect one of them to be solid, but not one of the league's best.
Jamie Hoggatt in San Antonio writes: David,I really like Baylor's chances to get to 7 or 8 wins again next year. Tevin Reese will be the go to guy and will step up like TW did this year for the departed Kendall Wright. You have the Best Big 12 Lineman ( Cyril Richardson ) the best Big 12 back ( Lache Seastruck ) and Bryce Petty will do great. On defense you get all 3 LB's back ( Lackey, Hagar and Dixon ) plus 4 other starters return. The kicking game needs improvement. Art Briles is the glue and the last year in Floyd Casey should be promising.. 4 bowl games in a row for the Bears.
DU: I definitely buy it. I think Baylor's got a lot of upside next season. The receivers won't be as good as they were the past two years, but they'll still be solid, and I think Petty will be better than Florence but not as good as RG3. I do think Seastrunk is better than any back Baylor's had under Briles, and he'll get a whole lot of touches next season. I would be absolutely shocked if Baylor didn't make a bowl next season, but in a wide-open Big 12 with tons of turnover on the offensive side of the ball, a 10-win season or a Big 12 title run would be far from shocking.
I don't think it's likely, and I do think Baylor looks more like a 7 to 8-win team, but the upside is big, and guys like Petty and Seastrunk may easily surpass expectations next year. The defense has to get better, obviously, but I think the offense can maintain yet again, despite losing Florence and Terrance Williams.
Tommy in Dallas writes: When will someone please come and take Paul Rhoads out of the conference? As an opposing team fan, I don't ever want to play his teams. I can't imagine why more teams haven't come and tried to take him away yet? Or am I overlooking how much him being an ISU alumn effects the situation?
DU: You're not alone, Tommy. It's all about finding the right fit, really. There was plenty of rumblings earlier this month that Wisconsin was interested after Bret Bielema checked out to my old stomping grounds at Arkansas, but that never really materialized into anything significant. I don't know if that's the right fit for him. Pittsburgh showed lots of interest last year but Iowa State kept Rhoads around with a contract extension and a raise.
When a truly big-time program comes after Rhoads, I do expect him to leave, but right now, that opportunity hasn't come around. Until then, he's loved at Iowa State. He loves it there, too. He's a native of the state. I don't get the feeling that he believes he can turn the program into a power like Art Briles believes at Baylor, but he's building for the future, and he's not going to leave unless he does so for a major, major step up.
Nick in Fort Smith, Ark., writes: TOP HEAVY SEC!? wow! you know, i expect BIG 12 fans to be delusional, but a sports writer? pathetic. Bama, Georgia, LSU, A&M, South Carolina, Florida. ALL ten wins or more!!! thats nearly have the league! Vandy is no push over and they AND Miss St. will possibly finish with NINE wins! Arkansas with Bobby as their coach would have challenged for the pathetic BIG-12 title this year! ALL they would have had to beat was K-State and OU!!! They already throttled K-State once this year. Get your head out of Bob Stoops rear.
DU: Hey, I respect those top six teams. They're all good. All top 15 teams, though? I think there's plenty of reason to doubt that, considering as a group, they don't have a ton of great wins out of conference play. They've inflated their ranking by beating up on the bottom eight teams in the SEC, who went 0-30 against the top six this season. That's a top-heavy league if there ever was one. K-State's probably not as good as Alabama or Georgia or maybe even Florida, but teams in the bottom half of the Big 12 like Baylor or West Virginia are far superior than the bottom half of the SEC. The Big 12 is a more balanced league, but the top half of the SEC ascended in the polls largely on the back of the league's success the past 5-6 years, not what they actually did this year.
Daniel La Frankie in Temple, Texas, writes: Dave, enjoy your columns very much.Quick question. Always hear about the "Grant of rights" like it's cement.If people can sue to get out of exit fees of 10, 20, 25, now maybe 50 million dollars, and lawyer it down to a lesser fee...............why couldn't a school sue to get out of "Grant of rights"???Thanks, Dan
DU: I'm not a lawyer, but it seems highly, highly unlikely. I'll explain. The "exit fees" are, in theory, based on recouping a conference the money that it would lose if a team left the conference. That's why the supposed $50 million exit fee in the ACC may not stand up in court. Granted, we don't know that yet. We'll see. That's only a small part of it, but that's my understanding on why some schools have gotten out of paying the full fees.
The grant of rights, however, isn't based on any losses. It's an agreement to hand over your media rights to the conference for "X" period of time. In the Big 12's case, it's 13 years. I suppose, in theory, you could sue to get out of that, but there's no doubt that those "handcuffs" are going to be a lot more strict than the Big 12's weak exit fees that Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Texas A&M left in the dust.