Mailbag: Nonconference skeds and WVU

In today's mailbag, we debate whose nonconference schedule is softest, positionless K-State playmaker Daniel Sams and Baylor's 2014 prospects.

Also, Happy Valentine's Day to all the couples out there.

To the 'bag:

Jay Young in Midland, Texas, writes: Seriously, Jake? Texas Tech ranked eighth in Big 12 nonconference schedules, below TCU, Kansas and Iowa State. You might want to take some vacation time and revisit this in a few weeks. Come on, man!!

Jake Trotter: Vacation time sounds good to me, but that won’t change the fact that -- by far -- the best team on Tech’s nonconference schedule lost nine straight games to finish the 2013 season. The Hogs will be better (they can’t be any worse). But when you factor in UTEP, which won just two games playing in a bad conference, and a mediocre FCS opponent, the schedule doesn’t match up with those others you named.

John in Dallas writes: How can you put Tech’s schedule ahead of Baylor’s? I don’t understand your logic at all.

Trotter: Now you’ve forced me to defend a schedule I just trashed. You can’t blame Tech for Arkansas becoming mediocre. But you can blame Baylor for failing to schedule a single BCS conference opponent. Every other Big 12 team did. The Bears didn’t. That’s why their nonconference schedule was last.

Scott Hughes in Edgewater, Md., writes: Jake, thank you for recognizing that WVU has the hardest out-of-conference schedule next year. With Maryland becoming a B1G team and returning so many starters, Towson coming off going to the FCS finals against North Dakota State, and Bama, WVU hands down probably has the hardest nonconference schedule in the country. Thanks for giving credit where credit is due!

Trotter: Scott, it’s an absolutely brutal slate. If Dana Holgorsen just gets West Virginia to a bowl game next season, it will be a great coaching job. In conference, the Mountaineers also go to Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Texas, while getting a pair of preseason top-10 teams at home in Oklahoma and Baylor early in the year. Assuming they win every other game (K-State in Morgantown and Iowa State in Ames are hardly gimmes), the Mountaineers would still have to knock off either OU or Baylor at home, Maryland, Tech, OSU or Texas on the road or Alabama in Atlanta just to get bowl eligible.

The WVU Wonka in Canton, Ohio, writes: There are 108 reasons why we should just leave Texas alone. There are too many schools all vying for the top talent there. You repeatedly say we need to make inroads into Texas to be successful. But you are wrong in this instance. Just look at what we were able to do in Ohio last year and North Carolina and Pennsylvania this year.

Trotter: When have I written that West Virginia needed to make inroads into Texas? All I did Wednesday was point out that West Virginia was the only Big 12 school not to get a player out of Texas, which has become the grandest hotbed for talent in the country. Recruiting for West Virginia is a perpetual puzzle because there’s very little instate talent. Instead, the Mountaineers have had to develop mini-pipelines across several states, like the one they have to Miramar, Fla. Because of the distance, West Virginia is never going to recruit Texas like the other Big 12 schools do. But since they play in Texas now twice a year, would it not be advantageous for the Mountaineers to cultivate a mini-pipeline in the Lone Star State, as well?

Tyler in Red Bluff, Calif., writes: It looks like K-State will have some talent at WR with Tyler Lockett and junior-college transfer Andre Davis. With John Hubert and Robert Rose graduating, wouldn't Daniel Sams be a better fit as a RB?

Trotter: In theory, yes. The Wildcats need more help at running back than they do receiver. But there’s concern about Sams’ ball security as a running back. There also seems to be concern about whether he’d be able to take the weekly punishment. Personally, I think Sams could thrive in a role similar to the one TCU carved out for Trevone Boykin late last season as a receiver and situational quarterback. In addition, I think you could hand the ball off to Sams a few times a game. Bottom line, K-State has to figure out ways to utilize Sams more. He’s too big a playmaker to stand entire games on the sidelines.

Jon D. in Davis, Calif., writes: With Baylor losing so many key playmakers on offense and especially defense, do the Bears slide to an eight-win total in 2014? I think it’s certainly possible.

Trotter: I didn’t realize this until I looked it up, but Utah State is the only FBS team with fewer starters returning than Baylor, which only brings back nine starters. Even so, Baylor should be loaded again at the skill positions with QB Bryce Petty, Shock Linwood (who was seventh in the league in rushing as a third-team running back) and wideout Antwan Goodley, who will have plenty of help thanks to Baylor landing back-to-back standout WR recruiting classes. The defense will probably take a step back with seven starters gone. But if DT Andrew Billings and DE Shawn Oakman play up to their potential, it might not be as big a step as you’d think.