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Friday, February 8, 2013
Mailbag: Expansion, recruiting, top 25 gripes

By David Ubben

Thanks for all your emails this week, everybody. Here's where you can reach me if you've got more to say.

Velden Linn in Columbus, Ohio writes: Ubbs, When WVU & TCU joined the B12, I remember you talking about the long-term advantages that TCU would have over WVU in recruiting based on their proximity in Texas. Well, we now have one year in the books for both schools, and yesterday WVU beat TCU in all three major recruiting services. Granted, WVU did sign a bigger class. But they did it with a higher star average in all three services. Care to reassess your position on who benefited more from the move to the B12?

DU: No, not really. They were pretty close this year, and I expect them to start close. What I buy with TCU is the potential for upward mobility in time. If they start winning big in the Big 12 (which if you win consistently like Oklahoma State did from around 2006-09, will happen) their location will allow them to grow into a possible third superpower in the Big 12.

West Virginia could win a lot, but it has been in a BCS conference for a long time and their location is never going to put the Mountaineers in position to start recruiting on par with the likes of Texas and Oklahoma. That's not the case with TCU, who can boast being the only Big 12 team in the metroplex. That's a big deal. If TCU doesn't win, I don't think it matters all that much. If the Frogs get some momentum going, look out. It's going to shake up the state.

I don't think it's a stretch to say this is the most important season in TCU football history. More important ones may follow, but this is enormous. This team is good enough to win the Big 12.



Mike in Fargo writes: K-State has struggled to put away its last two FCS openers, beating EKU by three and needing a fourth quarter explosion to beat a bad Missouri State team. This year they get the two-time defending champs [North Dakota State]. How does this game look to you?

DU: I'm sure I'm not the only one who remembers the Bison walking into Lawrence and beating KU in the first game of 2010. There's no doubt K-State will have to be careful. It'll have at least nine new starters on defense and an offense led by a quarterback making his first-ever start. We saw how slow this team started, and Bill Snyder isn't going to be opening up the playbook much to beat North Dakota State. If we see a couple inopportune turnovers (hello, Bryce Brown fumble against Eastern Kentucky) and the offense starts slow, it definitely could produce a nervous night in Manhattan. For one, when you foster a winning atmosphere and win as many games as NDSU has, players believe they're going to win. Any coach will tell you confidence is a powerful agent. They've done it so many times, it's what they're used to.

K-State better play well and not produce mistakes, or we might see another near-disaster lose that "near" at the beginning to start 2013.



Jim Ramsey in Stillwater, Okla. writes: Just a piece of advice, don't listen to Haney with regard to your article about OU recruiting slipping. He has been saying that for several years. When OU stops winning the BIG 12, I will start paying attention. Probably not then.

DU: Travis knows the program well. We both covered it for a year and he knows his stuff. You don't have to take his assessment as just his opinion. Look at the recruiting rankings across the board. Argue about the merit of stars until you're hoarse if you'd like, but the simple truth is Oklahoma's recruiting is in a general downturn. That can change with one good class or two, and it's not like OU is falling out of the top 25 soon, but it's not a coincidence that Oklahoma's been noticeably absent from the postseason top 10 lately as its recruiting classes have done the same.



Cowboy KS in Kansas City writes: David, Most everyone is completely bamfuzzled on how you could rank Joe Randle as the 16th best player in the Big 12. Top 5 was the expectation. Top 10 would have been understandable. He carried the load while Ostate made 5 QB starting changes and still lead all Big 12 rushers by 400 yards. Can you enlighten us on your madhatter logic on this one? Inquiring minds NEED to know!

DU: He's productive and he can do some special things, but Oklahoma State is clear that their entire offense is predicated upon passing first to set up the run. Randle is a great player, but I don't think he's necessarily a special player who can do a ton of things no other back can do. In his situation, a few other backs in the Big 12 could have duplicated his results or at least come close. His production easily earned him the title of the league's best running back, but we've seen better backs in this league and though Randle's a fantastic player, I wouldn't describe him as a complete gamechanger who defenses have to spend hours gameplanning for, or a guy that linebackers have nightmares about. It's pretty much that simple.



Jason in Kansas City, Mo. writes: Your thoughts on Charlie Weis' recruiting strategy with all the JUCOs?

DU: It's absolutely risky, but for Weis, it's probably his best option. He might have gone a little overboard with the percentage of jucos, but the biggest reason it's a risk is if it doesn't work, or if it only works a little bit, he's going to leave the program perhaps even worse off when he leaves or when those players leave than when he first took over.

In the perfect world, KU picks up some momentum and wins 4-5 games this year before fielding a team with a real chance to make a bowl in 2014. In a very possible nightmare scenario, KU isn't much better this year and wins 2-3 games before winning 3-4 in 2014 and all those jucos graduate, leaving either a bunch of other jucos who probably aren't much better than this class, or a team that has to stock its roster with tons of freshmen who still need to be developed, and maybe offer some scholarships to guys who wouldn't receive them if KU was not in such dire straits.

It just may work for Weis, but the odds are probably not quite in his favor just yet. The strength of the bottom half of the Big 12 makes his task of building a program so much harder than it might have been even five years ago.



Matt in New York writes: Hey Ubbs, I really enjoy your work even if some believe you are the anti-fan of their favorite team. Expansion seems to be on everyone's mind. Living in the wasteland of college football known as New York, I know a little bit about missing home. I believe if the Big 12 really is serious about expansion and making a splash it should look at two schools first- Nebraska and Missouri. I think both would have to think hard about returning. Both seem to have buyers remorse. Get those two and then add your pick of Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech. Now you have made a splash and statement by taking two from B1G and SEC. I know crazy....

DU: Good luck with that Matt. I don't think Nebraska would ever consider coming back. If Missouri cared about its competitiveness over prestige or money, it would consider it, but that's not happening. I thought all along that Missouri's exit for the SEC would subject its program to some major lean years that would only be avoided if Missouri recruited big-time in Atlanta and Florida. We haven't seen that happen yet, and we have seen Mizzou lose seven games for the first time in over a decade, with not a ton of reason to believe 2013 will be substantially better, save sneaking into a bowl game.

Alas, Mizzou's not going anywhere.

For the Big 12, Florida State's a home run, but this Maryland exit fee from the ACC will decide how realistic of a possibility that is. I'm not quite sure what to expect there. There's reason to be skeptical about every other Big 12 expansion possibility, and none of the other realistic options (that means not you, Notre Dame) are necessarily home runs.

I could see either of those other two ACC options happening, but we might see Louisville before either of them if the Big 12 decides to go to 12 and nabs Florida State first. Anything could happen, though.