Big 12: Big 12 mailbag

Mailbag: On K-State, OU-WVU, Tech woes

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
5:30
PM ET
In today’s Twitter mailbag, we discuss Kansas State's future after the hard-fought loss to Auburn, the big game between Oklahoma and West Virginia and Texas Tech's defensive problems.

On to the 'bag:

Trotter: The K-State game should make Oklahoma fans a little queasy. The week before meeting the Wildcats on Oct. 18, the Sooners play Texas. The same weekend, the Wildcats will be off. We saw Thursday night how good Bill Snyder is at drawing up a game plan with an extra week to prepare. And this time, his opponent won't have the extra week as well.

Trotter: The good news for Tech is that Oklahoma State's offensive line hasn't exactly dominated, either. But the Cowboys have good backs and they create creases by spreading the field. Though Daxx Garman can't run like J.W. Walsh, he can stretch the field to open up the running game with his arm. That said, if Tech gets steamrolled up front by an Oklahoma State offensive line that even Mike Gundy has termed as "very below average," the Red Raiders might very well get steamrolled by all comers the rest of the way.

Trotter: You're not going to like this answer, but I think it comes down to recruiting better players more than anything else, especially along the defensive line. There isn't a scheme out there that can account for a team's defensive front getting blown off the ball the way Tech's did against Arkansas. The Red Raiders can be better defensively than they were against the Hogs. But ultimately, you either have the horses or you don't.

Trotter: Brandon got the plum assignment of covering the stadium unveiling against SMU. At the moment, I'm not sure yet when exactly I'll be assigned to go down to Waco. But when I do, I'm going to see if I can find a spot in the Baylor Armada.

Trotter: It's a big loss, no doubt. Ford has been OU's best all-around back. But the Sooners are better equipped to deal with the loss of Ford than West Virginia is the loss of standout cornerback Daryl Worley.

Trotter: The fact that Kansas State, Oklahoma State and West Virginia hung tough against Auburn, Florida State and Alabama will do nothing but strengthen the perception of the Big 12 in the eyes of the playoff selection committee. I don't think the committee will get overly focused on scoring differentials. But Oklahoma (or Baylor) beating the Wildcats, Cowboys and Mountaineers would be viewed as quality wins, based on how those three opponents performed in their nonconference schedules.

Trotter: Did you not see the Duke score? I guess anything is possible. But there's reason why Kansas is 1-29 in its last 30 Big 12 games.

Trotter: Why would I trade away the league's best basketball program? And why would you want to trade away an automatic win for whatever team you pull for?


Matt H. writes: Is there a chance for Clint Trickett or Kevin White to be mentioned in the Heisman race if they keep performing at the high level they are playing at right now?

Trotter: White has no shot, if only because receivers don't win Heisman Trophies. But if Trickett lights up a really good Oklahoma defense Saturday, he might begin to generate a little buzz as a possible darkhorse contender.

 

Mailbag: Big weekend for the Big 12

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
5:30
PM ET
In today’s Twitter mailbag, we mostly discuss the monster upcoming weekend for the Big 12, which takes on seven opponents from Power 5 conferences. To the 'bag:

@Jake_Trotter: You're referencing an NFL.com report this week that suggested Bob Stoops would be a hot commodity for NFL coaching jobs after the season. Anything is possible. But my thinking is that if Stoops wanted to leave, he would have been gone already. Over the years, he has resisted overtures from the Cleveland Browns, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Florida (twice) and the Denver Broncos. If he's turning those kind of jobs down, what job out there would he take? The Dallas Cowboys? Maybe. But my money would be on Stoops retiring as the coach at Oklahoma.

Trotter: I would place the Big 12 behind the SEC and Pac-12. But a strong case could be made for the league as the third-best conference, especially with a successful weekend that includes games against seven Power 5 conference opponents.

Trotter: I have them ranked exactly the same. There has been a lot of hype with Samaje Perine, and rightfully so. But I think Keith Ford is the best all-around back.

Trotter: I'm not sure he's going to be able to do anything this season to completely calm the fan base. After all the injuries, suspensions and dismissals, this roster has been completely ravaged. I think Texas is staring down the barrel of a 2-4 start, which, before the season, would have seemed like a worst-case scenario. I will be interested to see, though, if Texas can make improvement over the second half of the season. That would bode well for 2015, which is when the pressure will begin to mount on Strong and his staff.

Trotter: At blue-chip programs like Texas, the switch can flip quickly. Oklahoma was in worse shape in 1998 than Texas is now. And the Sooners won a national title two years later. The Longhorns could be a top-10 team as soon as next season. But first, they're going to have to find an answer at quarterback, which has plagued this program since Colt McCoy was behind center.

Trotter: Probably not. It's not like Minnesota is Michigan State. And there are too many other teams ahead in the polls. But a win would definitely snag the Frogs more votes.

Trotter: When did Minnesota become the bastion of college football? This would be a very solid win for TCU. But the Gophers were picked in the preseason to finish fifth in the Big Ten West.

Trotter: Write a letter to your affiliated Big 12 athletic director and president. Because right now, none of them have given any indication they are interested in expansion.

Trotter: Oh, maybe a little. But you have to remember, this was a league that teetered on the edge of extinction for a couple of years. The Big 12 is enjoying this newfound stability as well as the money it's raking in with these new TV contracts. What is the motivation for them to expand?

Trotter: Assuming that J.W. Walsh is out for the year -- and I've been told that he is -- I think they have to. The Cowboys don't want to be in a situation where Daxx Garman gets injured, and they have to bring in Mason Rudolph in a critical moment with him having zero college experience. Plus, playing Rudolph will give them a chance to determine whether he might be the quarterback of the future. They could always come back and redshirt him next season when Walsh returns to the fray.

Trotter: This would be a huge win for the Mountaineers. But I don't think it would be enough to push them into the Top 25. A win against Oklahoma the following week would do it.

Trotter: I like Matt Wallerstedt's ploy of using more players. If you are lacking in standouts, at least keep the players you do have fresh for the fourth quarter when stops are at a premium. Personnel wise, the Red Raiders need their JUCO additions to start making bigger impacts. That would give the defense a boost.

Trotter: It's possible. Oklahoma losing to Tennessee would really be the only stunner. Maryland, Minnesota, UCLA, Arkansas, UTSA, Duke, Iowa are all more than capable of defeating their Big 12 counterparts..

In today's Big 12 mailbag, we discuss the league's injuries, its playoff chances and, yet again, its possibilities for expansion.

To the 'bag:

@jake_trotter: Pretty unlikely. Anything I guess is possible. But it wasn't until the second half of his second season as a starter that Vince Young finally showed definite signs of becoming a star. And Young was a special talent. And, he didn't have three of his starting offensive linemen missing going into his first career start.

Trotter: Penalties and turnovers ultimately come down to discipline. Tech has to become a more disciplined football team.

Trotter: Oklahoma -- and the Norman police department -- were on top of the Shannon case immediately. Florida State -- and the Tallahassee police department -- seemingly handled the Winston case very differently.

Trotter: I don't buy the argument that West Virginia hung in there simply because Alabama is overrated. Even if the Crimson Tide are overrated, they are still one of the top teams in the country. That was a tremendous performance from Dana Holgorsen's squad. I still want to see more. But do you think Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas State are looking forward to their trips to Morgantown like they all were before?

Trotter: OK, now let's slow down. West Virginia played very well last week. But this is a team that has six Big 12 wins over the past two years. The Mountaineers are going to have to show a lot more before we can give them Big 12 title-contender status.

Trotter: No question. I'm nowhere near ready to call West Virginia a Big 12 title contender. But that looked like a bowl team to me, which is something that West Virginia was not last season. If quarterback Clint Trickett plays that way the whole season -- and he can stay healthy -- the Mountaineers won't be an easy out for anyone in the league.

Trotter: It would if they weren't playing SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo in the non-conference.

Trotter: The most impactful injury to date is the one to David Ash, who might not be returning to the field anytime soon. In my opinion, that injury severely dims Texas' chance of being a surprise contender for the Big 12 title.

Trotter: The Des Moines Register detailed the reason in this story. Basically, the Cyclones liked what they saw from Sam B. Richardson at the end of the 2012 season, when he totaled nine touchdowns with just one interception as a freshman over Iowa State's final three games. Paul Rhoads committed to Richardson as his quarterback of the future, and Waters wound up at Kansas State.

Trotter: According to Article 1 of the NCAA rulebook, technically a team can play with fewer than 11 players, as long as five players are on the offensive line of scrimmage. Though legal, that would make for a pretty boring 7-on-7 game.

Trotter: You can never have too many talented running backs. Just watch Alabama.

Trotter: I agree, I thought Johnny Jefferson showed some explosion. He will get a chance this weekend to show he's deserving of more carries with Devin Chafin nursing an ankle injury.

Trotter: Assuming it's not K-State that gets picked? Probably Oklahoma. The Sooners would have the head-to-head advantage over Baylor, plus the better non-conference resume.

Trotter: This really isn't that much about what BYU does or doesn't do. This is about the Big 12 being comfortable with its 10-team format. Now, that could change if, say, the Big 12 starts getting excluded from the playoff year after year. But there is nobody of note in the conference I've spoken with who favors expansion at the moment. The league is stable and the league is making plenty of money.

Trotter: Household name seems over the top. Tyler Lockett, for example, is a household name. But Judah Jones -- and his speed -- could give the Wildcats a boost, particularly in the backfield if they decide to give him more carries as a change-of-pace back. The Wildcats need playmakers to complement Lockett, and Jones could definitely be one of those.

Trotter: It's only been one week, but I think the Big 12 is looking solid for a playoff spot so far. The Big Ten and maybe the ACC (outside Florida State) seem like the more vulnerable conferences at the moment. Oklahoma State and West Virginia playing Florida State and Alabama tough in their openers certainly did nothing to damage the Big 12's reputation, either..

In Friday's Twitter mailbag, we discuss under-the-radar players, storylines this weekend, Texas Tech's chances of starting 8-0 and the best city for food in the Big 12.

To the 'bag:


Trotter: I think people will know the name Tyreek Hill after this weekend. The Oklahoma State running back is going to have a big year. Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman doesn't seem to be talked about much nationally, but he could be a star. Some other names flying under the radar nationally: Texas Tech wide receivers Jakeem Grant and Reginald Davis, West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley, Iowa State running back Aaron Wimberly, TCU cornerback Kevin White, Baylor receiver Corey Coleman and Kansas State's entire roster.
Trotter: Who knows? But Kansas State is being way undervalued nationally, including by some of my colleagues at ESPN. This was a top 15-caliber team at the end of last year. The offensive and defensive lines are going to be very good again, Jake Waters has his footing at quarterback and Tyler Lockett, well, I'm out of superlatives for him. The Wildcats will have to beat Auburn in September to gain some respect. But they are more than capable of doing just that.
Trotter: Probably linebacker Eric Striker. He can already do one thing at an NFL level, and that's rush the passer.
Trotter: That would require them beating Oklahoma State, Kansas State and TCU all on the road. Even if you considered all three of those to be coin-flip games, that, mathematically, would still give Tech only a 12.5 percent chance of winning all three. Possible? Sure. But the odds are very much against it.
Trotter: Even if the Cowboys get blasted this weekend -- and I think they will -- they'll have five winnable games immediately afterward. If they won all five, including that pivotal Thursday night matchup with Texas Tech in Stillwater, I could see them popping up in the Top 25 in mid-October.
Trotter: I see what you did there. I have Oklahoma winning the Big 12. The Sooners get Baylor in Norman, where the Bears have never won, and where Bob Stoops is 87-5.
Trotter: Storylines I will be following: Can Oklahoma State and West Virginia hang tough in tough openers? How will David Ash look in his fourth start since 2012? How will Trevor Knight look coming off that Sugar Bowl performance? Who will get the majority of snaps at QB for TCU? Can Iowa State avoid disaster facing a tricky opponent? And, the return of Mark Mangino and debut of Baylor's new stadium.
Trotter: The odds are we'll see an undefeated Big 12 team over the next five years. Who knows, we could see it this year. Oklahoma will be favored in every game. And if Baylor can topple the Sooners in Norman, the rest of its schedule is fairly manageable.
Trotter: How many Big 12 titles has Texas Tech won? I think Tech is going to have a good and exciting team this year. But until the Red Raiders actually win a championship, I don't see how you can complain about them getting overlooked in the title conversation. Especially when the top five teams in the league last year beat Tech by an average margin of three touchdowns.
Trotter: Richardson is not going to share snaps. They want -- and need -- him to be the guy. It feels like the Cyclones are still trying to replace Seneca Wallace. They're going to give Richardson plenty of opportunities to show he's the long-term answer at quarterback.
Trotter: That's impossible for me to say. All of them are cool in their own way. There's no place in the Big 12 I don't look forward to going to. @mulloy_k: You are a 4-5* recruit, but your only criteria for choosing a school is based on the unlimited snack rule ... and what LOCAL fare would be available (for free) in that city. What Big 12 school do you choose? Appreciate your work! Trotter: Thanks, Kyle. I've been to every campus in the Big 12 multiple times, and I can vouch that in all 10 venues, there are great places to eat. But nowhere in the Big 12 has more great eating options than Austin. That's no slight on the other Big 12 locales. New York City is the only place I've been to that has better food than Austin.
In today's mailbag, we discuss what team should be on upset alert Week 1, Baylor's front seven, Oklahoma's linebackers, Kansas' running backs and "College GameDay" possibilities this year for the Big 12.

As an aside, the season starts next week, which means we'll be looking to select our first guest picker of 2014. Click here and sell us on why you should be the Week 1 guest picker. And, as always, creativity counts.

Now, to the 'Bag:

Trotter: Iowa State. The Cyclones face the three-time defending FCS champs in North Dakota State, which toppled Kansas State in Manhattan last year. The Bison lost their coach, Craig Bohl, to Wyoming. Several key starters from last year are gone, too. But North Dakota State opened No. 2 in the FCS polls for a reason. Don't forget, Iowa State lost to Northern Iowa last season, as well. This is not a game the Cyclones can afford to play poorly in. Trotter: Eventually, yes. When, who knows? But it will happen. Trotter: Yes. Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox reportedly performed well this preseason, but so have De'Andre Mann and Corey Avery. I think the Jayhawks will be fine at running back -- provided nobody else there gets injured. Trotter: This has more to do with Trevone Boykin -- and the work he's put in this offseason -- than it does anyone else. Obviously Boykin has responded well to having Sonny Cumbie as his position coach. But Boykin has gotten into phenomenal shape and really focused on becoming a better quarterback. As result, it appears that he has. Trotter: Oklahoma is going to be fine at linebacker. Obviously the depth took a hit. But Jordan Evans showed as a true freshman last year that he can play at a high level. The Sooners would be better with Shannon on the field. But they're not going to be that much worse off without him, either. Trotter: I'm not sure Baylor is going to have the best front in the country, as Art Briles suggested in the spring. But it has a chance to be one of the three-best in the Big 12. Andrew Billings is one of the best young tackles in the league. Shawn Oakman has the ability to become a star. And Bryce Hager is one of the most proven linebackers in the conference. This has the potential to be a special group. Trotter: That would be tough. The Baylor loss would happen late in the season. It would rob Oklahoma of its best chance for landing a marquee win. And Baylor, by defeating the Sooners, would theoretically surge ahead in the Big 12 playoff pecking order. So I don't see Oklahoma making the playoff without a win over the Bears. Trotter: I can't see it, not this year at least. This isn't the Big 12 of 2008. Let's assume that the playoff would at the least include Florida State and the SEC champ. The Big 12 then getting two teams in would entail the playoff committee leaving out the champs from the Pac-12 and Big Ten, plus a potential second team from the SEC. There are a couple scenarios, however, where it might be feasible. Say Kansas State beats Auburn, loses at Oklahoma, but beats Baylor in the season finale. An 11-1 K-State would be an attractive second Big 12 playoff possibility (along with, say, an undefeated Oklahoma) because of the marquee non-conference victory over Auburn and the marquee win at the end of the season in Waco. So it's not impossible. Then again, it's probably more likely that the Big 12 gets left out completely than it gets two teams in. Trotter: Deante Burton is the player to watch. He had a big spring, and has the size and strength to go up and get the ball downfield. With every defense focused on containing Lockett, Burton should get plenty of one-to-one opportunities. Trotter: Some possibilities include: Baylor-Oklahoma on Nov. 8; the Red River Showdown on Oct. 11; Kansas State-Oklahoma on Oct. 18; Baylor-Texas on Oct. 4; and Oklahoma-Texas Tech on Nov. 15. Trotter: The fact that neither DeMarcus Robinson nor Charles Jones nor Jarvis Leverett seized the job in the spring gives Dalvin Warmack the chance. It's been radio silence in Manhattan the last week or so. But if Bill Snyder (who likes redshirting his freshmen) announces before the opener he's not going to redshirt Warmack, that will be the sign that Warmack is going to play a lot. Trotter: If West Virginia gets back to a bowl game facing such a difficult schedule, I would consider it to be a successful season. Especially with what the Mountaineers would have coming back for 2015. Trotter: Texas has one of the most iconic looks in all of college football. Many schools need alternate uniforms to grab the attention of recruits and generate energy in their programs. Texas is not one of them.

Big 12 mailbag: Uniforms, DGB

August, 15, 2014
Aug 15
4:00
PM ET
In today’s mailbag, we discuss uniforms, Dorial Green-Beckham and Baylor's home schedule.

I took Twitter questions for this mailbag. But you can always submit a mailbag entry the traditional way by clicking here.

On to the 'bag:

@Jake_Trotter: If Heard is clearly the No. 3 quarterback, then they should try to redshirt him. But remember, he's playing behind a quarterback in David Ash with a severe injury history. And another in Tyrone Swoopes, who has yet to prove he can be a viable Big 12 quarterback. So while I think it would be beneficial to redshirt Heard for his future development, they need to keep him ready to play just in case.

@Jake_Trotter: I don't know who has the "worst" uniform, but there are some pieces in this league I don't like. I love Oklahoma State's alternates, but I'm not a fan of their shiny orange helmet with the interlocking "OSU" logo. Texas Tech's all black is one of the cleanest looks in the league, but their Lone Star Pride uniform is not my favorite. I'm not big on Oklahoma's alternates, but we'll see what they look like in person. The beak on Kansas' Crimson Chrome helmets is way too big, though I did enjoy the alternates the Jayhawks introduced last year.

@Jake_Trotter: I had Iowa State's receiving corps ranked sixth in the spring. With Kendall Sanders gone, Daje Johnson suspended and Jaxon Shipley nursing a hamstring injury, I could see myself slotting the Cyclones ahead of Texas. But if Dorial Green-Beckham were cleared, they would fall back behind Oklahoma. Either way, somewhere around sixth feels about right for Iowa State going into the season.

@Jake_Trotter: Not anytime soon, because there's no one feasible to add at the moment that makes sense for everyone financially, geographically, competitively.

@Jake_Trotter: There are really only three possibilities for a home loss. TCU on Oct. 11; Oklahoma State on Nov. 22; and Kansas State on Dec. 6. The Horned Frogs still have much to prove offensively before I'd pick them to win in Waco. Oklahoma State has traditionally played Baylor well, but the Cowboys are going to be very young this year. That leaves Kansas State as the most likely to pull the upset. That could be a dangerous game for the Bears. But if you're asking me today if Baylor loses at home this year, I say no.

@Jake_Trotter: Depends on who it is. And who that team beat during the nonconference relative to the other 11-1/12-1 teams that would theoretically be in the mix. This is where the Bears could fall into trouble. Baylor's best win would be SMU, which isn't going to stack up well. An 11-1 Big 12 champ would have a great chance. But it wouldn't be a lock, either.

@Jake_Trotter: Well, Shannon isn't technically off the team yet. He's still practicing while waiting to learn the outcome of his appeal. But anytime you lose your leading tackler, it hurts. Shannon has been a good player for the Sooners the past two years. That said, I think it's a defection the Oklahoma defense would be able to overcome. Jordan Evans was solid as a true freshman last year. He should be able to step in and fill Shannon's role. Evans would also be flanked by some very good players, which would help ease the transition.  

Ben R. in San Jose, California writes: How bad is ESPN going to look for ignoring KSU in the initial power rankings? They missed out of the Top 25 and Travis Haney's next four.

Trotter: I didn’t have a vote in the ESPN Top 25, but I would have advocated having the Wildcats ranked ahead of Texas and TCU. K-State is third in my Big 12 power rankings for a reason. So you and I are in agreement, even if others are not.

Kale in Dallas writes: Hey Jake, assuming DGB remains ineligible, there is a ton of talent but little experience at receiver for OU this year. I know Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal are locks to start, and Jordan Smallwood, K.J. Young and Michiah Quick are getting hype, but what about Austin Bennett? He looked really sharp in the spring game, and he could really make an impact.

Trotter: It’s going to come down to who makes plays in practice the next two weeks and the early portion of the schedule. Shepard is the only receiver right now guaranteed to be part of the rotation. Bennett is in that mix. But the competition for inclusion in that rotation will be fierce.

In today’s mailbag, we discuss OU’s limbo players, Oklahoma State QB J.W. Walsh, Kansas State running back Dalvin Warmack, TCU coach Gary Patterson and whether the Red River Showdown would ever become a night game.

I took Twitter questions for this mailbag. But you can always submit a mailbag entry the traditional way by clicking here.

On to the 'bag:
Trotter: I have a bunch of favorites. Hideaway Pizza in Stillwater. Spanky's in Lubbock. Vitek's BBQ in Waco. They have a Primanti Bros. in Morgantown now. I always hit the Pappasito's near TCU's campus on the way out of Fort Worth. There are 20 places I like to eat at in Austin. I've never been to Hickory Park, but that's on my bucket list next time I'm in Ames.

Trotter: Can we wager on this?

Trotter: Not even a little. He's one of the main reasons TCU is even in the Big 12 with a new stadium. The last couple of years have been ugly, on and off the field. But two mediocre seasons while transitioning into a new conference do not wipe out Patterson's previously sterling track record.

Trotter: No chance. Officials at both schools would be nervous of what might transpire in the stands and out in the fair (where beer is served) between the burnt orange and crimson fan bases if that game were played at night.

Trotter: He has a chance. None of the veterans have seized that job yet. That keeps the door cracked for Warmack to be a factor, especially if he shines this preseason or early in the year if/when he gets a shot on the field.

Trotter: I'm going to guess zero. If Joe Mixon indeed hit a woman and broke bones in her face, he should have to sit out this season at the very, very least, regardless of the circumstances. But, the longer this Norman police investigation lingers, the more it makes you wonder...

Trotter: The Cowboys really, really want J.W. Walsh to be their guy. He's the leader of this team, and brings the toughness that you crave from your quarterback. But Daxx Garman's skill set is a better fit for the scheme Oklahoma State wants to run. Unlike Walsh, he has the arm strength to get the ball downfield to the receivers, which is the strongest position group on the entire team. Walsh is the quarterback. But if the offense bogs down again, as it did early last year, I think the staff will have no choice but to give Garman a chance.

Trotter: All four players would help the Sooners, but the answer is Dorial Green-Beckham. He's an NFL talent, and brings the one thing the Sooners really don't have right now, which is a big, physical receiver who can go up, make the catch and get the ball downfield. He would complement the rest of this offense really well. That said, the Sooners could use Baker Mayfield. Trevor Knight only started and finished three games last year. He has a tendency to get nicked up, and with Blake Bell now a full-time tight end, the current backups are inexperienced. Having the reigning Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year as a backup quarterback would be a nice insurance policy to have.

Trotter: Actually, there has been no signal whatsoever that the league has any interest in expanding. It will be interesting to see how the league fits into the playoff era. If the Big 12 struggles to get a team into the playoff, then I believe that would prompt the league to rethink the status quo. But one reason why the Big 12 has no interest in expanding is the lack of viable free agent options out there that would bring more to the revenue pie than they would take out. 
In today’s mailbag, we discuss the Top 25 Big 12 player countdown, underrated Big 12 players, viable Big 12 Heisman candidates and the outlooks for many of the league’s teams.

I took Twitter questions for this mailbag. But you can always submit a mailbag entry the traditional way by clicking here.

On to the 'bag:

Chris in Edmond, Oklahoma, writes: I'm really surprised to that Tyreek Hill was the only player on the Top 25 ranking from Oklahoma State. Desmond Roland only started for half of last season and still led the league in TDs. I'm also surprised not to see James Castleman or Kevin Peterson on this list. Other candidates with very strong possibilities: Jhajuan Seales, Ryan Simmons and Jimmy Bean. I expect Oklahoma State to have a year similar to 2010 and the end of year awards/player rankings to reflect the talent on this roster.

Jake Trotter: Who knows, Chris, you might be right. I remember many people picked that 2010 team to finish sixth in the Big 12 South. Instead, they won 11 games. All the guys you mentioned are good players. But there are a lot of good players in the league. Hill, to me, is the most likely to be great, which is why he cracked the list. There’s a reason why Mike Gundy is saying he wants to get Hill the ball 20 times, at the least, per game. It would not surprise me at all if Peterson or Seales had All-Big 12 caliber seasons. But I think Hill could be special.


Bob in Oklahoma City writes: How is Bryce Petty No. 1 in your top 25? He’s a system QB.

Trotter: Yeah, a system quarterback who’s also going to be a first-round pick next spring.


Nealyo in Olathe, Kansas, writes: Can Kansas be considered a sleeper team? With an improved line (which still needs improvement) and a few new position players, do they have the ability to shock-and-awe a few conference wins?

Trotter: With nine starters back defensively and some viable options (finally) at wide receiver, I think Kansas will be improved. But I’m not ready to call the Jayhawks a sleeper. After all, they have only one victory in their last 30 Big 12 games.

We also took Twitter questions for today’s mailbag…

Trotter: There are a few candidates for this, including the Big 12 co-favorites. Oklahoma has to go to Iowa State the week before hosting Baylor. The Sooners could get caught looking ahead. Baylor, meanwhile, has to go to Ames the week before traveling to Texas. The Bears could get caught looking ahead, too. I also think Texas Tech could be ripe Nov. 15. The Red Raiders' November woes have been well-documented. But Tech will be coming off back-to-back home games against Texas and Oklahoma. They'll also have the tilt with Baylor at Cowboys Stadium the following week. Will they have anything left in the emotional well for the Cyclones? Iowa State is going to upset someone in Ames this year. I'm just not sure who.

Trotter: Right now, there is no backup plan. Blake Bell is at tight end, Baker Mayfield is in ineligible and the young quarterbacks don't look ready yet. If Knight struggles, so will the Sooners. But I'd be more worried about Knight getting nicked up then him not playing well.

Trotter: Definitely the Mountaineers. They have the most talent of the three. The schedule is West Virginia's biggest problem. The Mountaineers could be better and still only go 5-7. That's how tough this schedule is. But if they can survive the September portion of the schedule, this is a team that could get back to bowl eligibility.

Trotter: The ceiling is a Big 12 title. Even with last week's player purge, Texas has no real weaknesses elsewhere. If David Ash is healthy and consistently plays like one of the three best quarterbacks in the league, then the Longhorns could contend with Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State for the Big 12 crown. But, as the last couple of years have shown, that is one big if.

Trotter: Top 60 seems a little optimistic, considering Tech ranked 85th last year. Oklahoma State had the best defense in the Big 12 last season, and only ranked 53rd nationally. That's just the result of running an up-tempo offense that forces your defense to defend a lot of plays on the other side. The key for Tech will be getting stops in the red zone and forcing turnovers, to give its potent offense short fields.

Trotter: The defensive line is going to be really good. Shawn Oakman is a budding superstar and Andrew Billings is right behind him. Bryce Hager is also one of the best linebackers in the league. The Bears feel good about their cornerbacks and safeties, but those guys haven't played a lot yet. They also don't have a thumper like Ahmad Dixon. But if the D-line proves to be as good as Art Briles thinks it will be, there might not be as much fall-off defensively as everyone is expecting. We'll see.

Trotter: The league is deep at wide receiver. Everyone knows about Tyler Lockett and Antwan Goodley. But keep an eye on the likes Oklahoma State's Jhajuan Seales, Baylor's Corey Coleman and Texas Tech's Reginald Davis. Those three guys have the potential to break out with big seasons.

Trotter: Don't sleep on incoming freshman Steven Parker.

Trotter: Petty, and probably Knight (because of the playoff potential) and Lockett (because he returns kicks, too).
In today's Big 12 blog, we discuss Trevor Knight, Devonte Fields and Iowa State Cyclones scheduling.

Click here to submit an entry for a future mailbag.

Now, on to the 'bag:

Will in Houston: Do ya'll think defensive coaches can succeed in the Big 12? Gary Patterson so far has not, which makes me a little nervous about Charlie Strong.

Trotter: Bob Stoops is a defensive coach, and he's done just fine in the Big 12.

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Alex in Searcy, Arkansas writes: How well do you think Oklahoma would do if Trevor Knight went down with an injury for any length of time? Who do you think could step up and replace him in a leadership role if this were to happen?

Trotter: With Blake Bell having moved to tight end full time, this scenario would present a huge dilemma for the Oklahoma Sooners. That is, assuming Baker Mayfield's petition for eligibility with the NCAA falls through. Mayfield, the reigning Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, would be an excellent backup option for the Sooners. But if he's out until 2015, Oklahoma would have to roll the dice with either Cody Thomas or Justice Hansen, neither one of which looked ready yet for the big time during the spring. That's why Stoops said this week Knight had better be sliding a bunch this season. Right now, they can't afford to lose him.

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Ryan in Crystal Lake, Illinois writes: I realize every year they play Iowa. But I was wondering why Iowa State does not also schedule non-conference opponents from the SEC or Pac-12.

Trotter: The baseline goal for Iowa State every year is to get bowl eligible. That goal would be that much more difficult with an SEC or Pac-12 team on the schedule. The Cyclones already play the Iowa Hawkeyes, which went 8-5 last year. That's plenty. Nobody in the Big 12 has more than one Power Five conference opponent on its non-conference slate, except for the West Virginia Mountaineers.

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Christopher Edwards in North Carolina writes: What are the chances that Joe Mixon jumps Alex Ross for the No. 2 spot on Oklahoma's running back depth chart?

Trotter: Based on what I've heard, I don't think it's unthinkable that Mixon eventually jumps everyone into the starting lineup.

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Harry in Austin, Texas, writes: Is TCU on a string of bad setbacks or does Gary Patterson have a discipline problem? First the drug busts, then Casey Pachall, now Devonte Fields. These offseasons have not been good to the Frogs.

Trotter: The TCU Horned Frogs certainly have had some discipline issues since joining the Big 12. But the Horned Frogs are hardly alone. Several other schools in the Big 12 have been in the news for ugly off-the-field incidents. Too many to even list here. It really hasn't been a great offseason overall for the league. And, it's been another bad one for TCU.

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Bob Budiselic in Carlsbad, California writes: I was really hoping that Texas and Oklahoma were going to move to the Pac-12. Do you think that this might happen in the future, and bring Tech and OSU?

Trotter: When it comes to conference realignment, never say never. But that ship has sailed for the foreseeable future.

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Nicholas in Houston writes: Say Tech or TCU wins the conference this season. That would be four straight championships by teams not considered traditional powerhouses. What would that mean for the Big 12's national perception? Would it be a positive because it would show the league is deep? Or, would it be a negative because it would appear that the major powers are on the decline?

Trotter: Tech or TCU winning the Big 12 in a vacuum wouldn't be a negative for the league. But the Big 12 is always going to be perceived as being stronger when Texas and Oklahoma are strong, too. The same goes for Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten, USC and Oregon in the Pac-12, Florida State, Miami and Clemson in the ACC and Alabama, Florida and LSU in the SEC. Right or wrong, perception is reality in college football, and conferences are perceived to be better when their traditional powers are winning.
In today's mailbag, we discuss TCU's defense, Texas' recruiting and Oklahoma's backfield.

To submit a future mailbag entry, simply go here.

Now, on to the 'bag:


Bo McKown in Charleston, West Virginia writes: Jake, just saw that you were a W&L grad. I play football for the Generals, but I'm also a huge WVU fan. I would love to hear your predictions for this WVU team this upcoming year. If we get decent QB play, I think we could win eight games. If the defense comes along nicely, I think we could put together a solid season. Thoughts?

Trotter: Always great to hear from a fellow General, Bo. I actually believe there’s a good chance West Virginia will be improved this fall. The addition of Tom Bradley to the defensive staff should really bring a calming influence to that unit. There’s also quality depth at running back, receiver, linebacker and in the secondary. But even if Clint Trickett plays well, I’m not sure where the eight wins come from. Essentially, the Mountaineers would have to win five games they probably won’t be favored in. That’s asking a lot. I’m much more bullish on the Generals’ 2014 outlook. Good luck on the upcoming season, Bo.


Mitch in Fort Worth, Texas, writes: Most of what I have read regarding TCU football for 2014 talks only of our new additions for the offense. I was wondering what you knew about new developments in our defense for the 2014 season (not including Devonte Fields returning).

Trotter: The TCU defense should be one of the best in the country. Kevin White looks ready to take over for Jason Verrett as the team’s No. 1 corner. Opposite White, redshirt freshman Ranthony Texada had a tremendous spring and will move into the starting lineup. Junior-college safety Kenny Iloka impressed during the spring as well and will boost an already stout group at safety that includes Sam Carter, Chris Hackett, Derrick Kindred and Geoff Hooker. Of course, the biggest development this offseason was Fields returning to form. He’s the X-factor. If he plays the way he did as a freshman two years ago, look out.


 Eric Robinson in Dayton, Ohio, writes: I read a lot about how Texas is getting bludgeoned on the recruiting trail by Texas A&M. Other than ego, why should Texas care? Shouldn't it be more concerned about what OU and Baylor are doing?

Trotter: They ought to care care, Eric, because those are players that might otherwise be going to Texas. The more talent the Longhorns get, the better they’re likely to be. And the Aggies are snagging players a lot of players that in the past would have ended up in Austin.


 Crimson runner in Tulsa, Okla., writes: Will OU's running game be a one-two punch with Alex Ross and Keith Ford?

Trotter: Maybe more like a three-headed monster. Incoming freshman Joe Mixon has really been turning heads this summer. The Sooners have recruited extremely well at the position. Mixon, Ford and Ross were ranked 53rd, 27th and 70th in the ESPN 300 coming out of high school. All three players figure to get carries, but it will be interesting to see who emerges as the primary running back. Ford showed promise as a true freshman. But a lot of people in Norman think it might be Mixon.



John Madison in Salt Lake City writes: Jake, there has been a lot of buzz around the Red Raiders and something great is growing in Lubbock. Writers and analysts have nodded to the great things happening there, but still Texas Tech is projected to finish 6th or 7th in the conference. Are they really still an underdog in all but three or four games?

Trotter: This might be the first mailbag entry by way of Salt Lake that wasn’t about BYU. The Red Raiders, John, still have much to prove. The win over Arizona State was very encouraging. But before that, Tech lost five straight to the top five teams in the conference by an average margin of more than 20 points. To finish any higher than sixth in the league, the Red Raiders are going to have to show they can beat some of those teams. I think they can this year. But that’s why you don’t see Tech getting picked higher this preseason.
In this week's mailbag, we discuss West Virginia and TCU in their third year in the league, the College Football Playoff and BYU yet again.

To submit a future mailbag entry, simply go here.

Now, on to the 'bag:

Kevin H. in San Antonio, Texas, writes: It'd be interesting to hear your take on the TCU-Baylor "revivalry." I realize most people in t he Big 12 probably don't know about one of the longest traditions in football and I think it deserves a little limelight. Plus, I’m tired of this "blossoming" TCU-Texas rivalry nonsense.

Trotter: TCU-Baylor is one of the more interesting games on the conference schedule, particularly with how the game went down last year. After two rounds of conference realignment, this league needs to build new and rekindle old rivalries. TCU-Baylor has some heat right now, and could be a game we all look forward to in the Big 12, given the animosity and the contrast of strengths.


Dennis in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, writes: Bill Snyder is a classy guy with a great coaching tree. But he’s old. Has he ever mentioned retiring? The Wildcats have never won without Bill as their coach. If and when he does retire, who do you think takes his place?

Trotter: I hope Snyder never retires (again). The Big 12 is way more fun with him in it. But if he hangs it up, here are three names K-State might consider: Snyder’s son, Sean, who is also K-State’s associate head coach; offensive coordinator Dana Dimel, who has head coaching experience; and TCU coach Gary Patterson, who has been wooed before and is a K-State alum.


Dave in Dallas, Texas, writes: Have you ever seen this much parity in recruiting in the Big 12? Mack Brown and Bob Stoops used to have a lock on talent.

Trotter: There is no doubt there is more recruiting parity in the Big 12, particularly in the state of Texas. In 2008, Oklahoma and Texas landed seven of the state’s top 10 players, and 11 of its top 20. At the moment, neither Red River school has a single commitment from the state’s top 10. And the two bluebloods only have four of the state’s top 20. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State has a pair of top 10 Texas players (running back Ronald Jones II and cornerback Jaylon Lane), Texas Tech has the fourth-best Texan (quarterback Jarrett Stidham) and Baylor has four of the Texas top 50. Factor in the level Texas A&M has been recruiting at lately, along with the SEC incursion, and the Lone Star State has never had so many tentacles grasping for the high-end players.


Dalan in Lubbock, Texas, writes: In lieu of a conference title game, could the Big 12 champion play BYU to close out the regular season. I have come to realize my mistake, but is that type of a semi-preplanned game possible? The idea would be to further enhance the Big 12 top contender’s resume prior to selection of the four playoff teams.

Trotter: The SEC and ACC don’t think BYU is worthy of including in their non-conference scheduling mandate, but the Big 12 champ is going to solidify its playoff spot by playing a 13th game against the Cougars? Even if it were logistically possible, little good would come of it; but, potentially, a whole lot of bad.


10 ` XII, guys in Towson, Maryland, writes: If BYU were the 11th school to get a full share, why not add Boise State at a fractional share? They could be football only, so it would be easy to only give them a smaller piece of the pie. Twelve really only matters to football, the rest of the sports teams can live at 11.

Trotter: I’m sure Boise State would jump at the chance to join a conference in which it would be treated as a subclass member.


Chris in Exton, Pennsylvania, writes: Hey Jake, love the blog, you and the other guys that cover college football are awesome! Big Sooner fan here and was wondering what you could tell me and other OU fans about LB coach Tim Kish. We always hear about the Stoops Brothers, and the other assistants, but Kish seems to lay low. How is he received in Norman?

Trotter: Thanks, Chris. Kish’s popularity in Norman hinges on the play of his linebackers. And considering he has one of the top units in the country right now, he’s pretty popular.


Coop in DC writes: Jake, you've mentioned that WVU and TCU have understandably struggled in their first two years adjusting to life in the Big 12. Assessing their programs today, how do you think both have done in regards to addressing what it takes to compete regularly in the Big 12?

Trotter: Both have made strong adjustments this offseason that I think will do them well. TCU coach Gary Patterson had to do something after two dreadful offensive seasons. He brought in Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham to install an up-tempo offense, and also convinced quarterback Matt Joeckel to transfer in from Texas A&M. Those moves could significantly upgrade TCU’s points per game. West Virginia’s hiring of longtime Penn State assistant Tom Bradley was very shrewd. He should bring a calming effect to a team that has been all over the place the past two seasons. Both squads have noticeably better depth, which should really help, too. TCU has a rosier outlook in part because of the scheduling difference. But I think both teams, potentially, could take steps forward this season.


Joe Ratliff in Frisco, Texas, writes: When the committee starts selecting its four teams for the playoff, do you think that the strength of a conference should be determined by how competitive the conference is over a team can beat up on its weak conference opponents?

Trotter: That is why the non-conference portion of the schedule will be so important. That will go a long way in differentiating the strength of the conferences. In other words, it would really help if the Big 12 could win a couple of these marquee non-conference games this season.
In this week's mailbag we discuss West Virginia’s quarterbacks, Baylor’s scheduling and the campuses of the Big 12 through the eyes of a recruit.

To submit a future mailbag entry, simply go here.

Now, to the ‘bag:

Grayson Grundhoefer in San Antonio writes: I am really comfortable in saying that I think Baylor has a legit shot to make the playoff this year. They return a top three quarterback in the country to lead an offense that I think is going to be even better this year than last year. Bryce Petty got happy feet last year in big games due to the that he had never played in those kind of games before. He will correct that this year. He has an unreal amount of talent at skill positions along with some stud offensive linemen. I also think defensively this team is going to pass rush well and force turnovers. What are your thoughts?

Trotter: I’m not quite as bullish on the Baylor defense as you are. The D-line is going to be superb, but that secondary is a total question mark. That said, the offense is going to be awesome again. If Petty is even slightly better than last year, he will be a viable Heisman candidate. Even without Tevin Reese and Lache Seastrunk, the skill talent around Petty is in place. And getting left tackle Spencer Drango back from the back injury will be huge (the pass protection went down the tubes after he got hurt last year). If the defensive backfield rounds out, Baylor could indeed be a bona fide playoff contender.

 




Matthew W. in Tyler, Texas, writes: Hey guys, just a quick comment about Baylor's horrendous non-conference scheduling. With things as they are now, it's horrible that Baylor is playing such pasties. But nonconferencegames are contracted years in advance, and it wasn't that long ago that Baylor was struggling for bowl eligibility. I would expect (and hope) that the teams we've signed contracts within the past three years or so will provide us with fewer and fewer cupcakes as time passes.

Trotter: That explanation would hold more water if the game with budding powerhouse Incarnate Word wasn’t agreed to just this year.

 




Paul in Waco, Texas, writes: Big 12 teams currently have more than 60 out-of-conference games scheduled against “Power 5” conference teams. Out of those, Baylor has a paltry two (the home-and-home with Duke). If the Big 12 did not fine its members for disparaging other members, how many coaches would speak out against the Bears’ scheduling? As a ticket-buying alum, I am upset and embarrassed with our out-of-conference offerings.

Trotter: Opposing coaches still probably wouldn’t publicly criticize Baylor’s scheduling. But they have definitely taken notice. And if Baylor goes 11-1 and is trying to slide into the playoff, the nonconference slate will get brought up by everybody, including the playoff selection committee behind closed doors.

 




Chuck Jordan in Fairmont, W. Va., writes: Jake, any chance Dana Holgorsen uses Logan Moore and Skyler Howard to back up Clint Trickett in the fall and redshirts Paul Millard, so he doesn't lose three QBs in one year and has some experience behind Howard and William Crest next year?

Trotter: After two mediocre seasons, Holgorsen doesn’t have the job security to be thinking about 2015. He needs to win now, and that means all hands will be on deck. Trickett has a history of getting dinged up, and Holgorsen will need his top backup ready to go -- if that is in fact Millard.

 




Jesse in Houston writes: How would you rank the Big 12 college campuses from the point of view of a recruit?

Trotter: This question is going to make pretty much everyone on here mad so ... let’s answer it! Again, this would be through the lens of a football recruit, not necessarily my own personal preference. And we’re talking campuses, not just football facilities. Austin, where I was for a couple days last week, is the clear No. 1. After that: 2. Lawrence, 3. Fort Worth, 4. Stillwater, 5. Norman, 6. Morgantown, 7. Lubbock, 8. Manhattan, 9. Ames, 10. Waco. Let the hate mail flow.

 




Mark Masa in Garden Grove, Calif., writes: Measuring Colorado’s realignment grade based off their (lack of) recent football achievements shows your fundamental misunderstanding of realignment logic. CU left because there are (supposedly) more CU alums in California than the entire Big 12 footprint. The Buffs have as much money now than if they had stayed put, so their grade should be a "push" at best unless you have inside information regarding contributions, gifts, monetary giving, etc.

Trotter: The grade I referenced was solely based on improved visibility, competitive standing and future outlook for its football program. I get there were other motives behind realignment with the Pac-12 (academic, cultural, etc.). And I’m not saying overall it wasn’t the right move for Colorado. But in four years, Colorado has yet to play a meaningful game in the Pac-12. There’s really no case to be made that Colorado’s football program is better off now in the Pac-12 than it would have been in the Big 12.

 




Tommy in Virginia Beach, Va., writes: Is it really that hard to believe that a healthy Clint Trickett-led team, that could have easily been 8-4 last year, be as bad as the media is predicting this year? Or does this come down to media hype? Mark it down sir, because I will be back in January to remind you and the rest of the readers. Go Eers!

Trotter: I have it marked down, sir. Good luck.
In this week's mailbag we discuss the possibility of a different conference title winner, recruiting pipelines and BYU, again.

To submit a future mailbag entry, simply go here.

To the 'bag:

Rick in DFW writes: Texas, OU, OSU, K-State and Baylor have won the last five Big 12 championships. Will there be a different winner again in 2014?

Trotter: Realistically, that would mean either TCU or Texas Tech winning the crown. Both teams have dangerous calling cards (TCU with its defense, Tech with its passing attack), so it’s possible. After all, nobody saw K-State coming in 2012, and few saw the Bears coming in 2013.



David Elswick in Richmond, Virginia, writes: With a home state population of less than 2 million, WVU has had to recruit extensively elsewhere. Under Rich Rodriguez half the team was from Florida. Does any other Big 12 team have a strong recruiting pipeline to other states?

Trotter: Oklahoma and Oklahoma State recruit Texas heavily. But the Sooners have been getting players from California lately. And Oklahoma State has five players from Georgia, thanks to defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer’s connection to the Peach State. Kansas State and Kansas will get players from Missouri. Iowa State has opened up a steady pipeline in Florida. But really, the majority of players in the Big 12 come from the Lone Star State.



Chris in New York writes: With the transfer of Mike Mitchell to Texas Tech, what's the actual likelihood that he gets the waiver to play next season?

Trotter: With the NCAA, you never know.



H. Dean Robb in Sandy, Utah, writes: As you mentioned BYU would bring new markets to the Big 12 not only on a national basis but on an international level. As a business person who has completed over 100 due diligences and approximately 60 acquisitions all based on: improving market share, product, and technology. I would recommend a "dating" period between the Big 12 and BYU. What does the Big 12 have to lose? Create a scheduling alliance similar to Notre Dame and the ACC. If it doesn't work out, do not extend the maturity. If it works out either extend the agreement or bring BYU in as a football only or full-time member. Your thoughts?

Trotter: The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel first suggested this idea last week, and I think it makes sense. It would allow the Big 12 to get familiar with BYU, as well as all the positives and negatives that would come with bringing the Cougars into the league. And it would help Big 12 programs with their future scheduling and give the conference more good games. I don’t see much of a downside to trying it out.



Andy Nordgaard in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, writes: How about we offer West Virginia to the AAC and take on BYU for 2015-16?

Trotter: This again?



Burkester13 in Boston writes: Hi Jake, thanks for your write up on BYU and the Big 12. Adding them has been on my mind a lot lately. My question is the geographic aspect. I'm confused about why this is a concern when BYU is first in the Salt Lake market, and between second and fourth in other huge markets such as Vegas, San Diego, San Fran and Colorado, which puts the Big 12 in those cities immediately. Isn't their geography a strength because it puts the Big 12 in untapped markets and expands the footprint?

Trotter: BYU has tradition. The Cougars would expand the Big 12 footprint. And they’re the one available program out there at the moment that would actually bring TV eyeballs. But again, the league is not stopping at 11. So who else is out there that also brings any of that as a potential 12th program?



Bobby in Idaho Falls, Idaho, writes: What about adding BYU/San Diego State as football only partners. That would open up the California market for the Big 12, wouldn’t affect the other sports and now gives more markets for recruiting base as well as the 12 teams needed for a championship.

Trotter: I guess we’re going to belabor the point -- any idea that takes more out of the revenue pie than brings in is going to be a non-starter with the Big 12 athletic directors and presidents. This is about money. Even based in California, San Diego State would take more money out than it would bring in. There’s a reason why the Aztecs haven’t been invited to join a major conference yet.



JP in Pittsburgh writes: Jake, I'm not one to email or post comments. However, you might want to immerse yourself in the culture and history of West Virginia a little more. You're way off on many historical things, my friend, including the biggest moments in program history. You picked Virginia Tech 2003 as the biggest win of the BCS era for WVU, and I understand the points you made with argument. However, if you understood West Virginia football, you would understand the impact the Sugar Bowl win against Georgia had. Additionally, WVU's Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma essentially kept the Mountaineers afloat nationally as everything came crashing down following the Pitt loss and Rich Rod's exit to Michigan.

Trotter: You need to start reading the fine print, my friend. If you did, you’d know that was a list of the best regular-season wins of the BCS era for every Big 12 team. Postseason wins were not included, since they’d be too obvious.
In this week's mailbag we extensively discuss the prospects of the Big 12 bringing BYU into the league, whether the Big 12 needs a conference championship game, and West Virginia's showing so far in the league.

To submit a future mailbag entry, simply go here.

To the ‘bag:

Dave in Dallas writes: If BYU could get invited to the Big 12, it would increase competition, which is good. But who would be the 12th team?

[+] EnlargeTaysom Hill
Chris Nicoll/USA TODAY SportsRight now, any talk of BYU joining the Big 12 is purely outside speculation.
Trotter: That’s part of the problem with adding BYU. The Cougars probably bring more to the table than any non-power conference team out there outside of Notre Dame. They have a global following. They have tradition. They would expand the Big 12 footprint into new TV markets. But who would you pair BYU with? There’s just really not anyone out there that would bring more to the pie financially than they would take out. That quickly turns this into non-starter, at least for now.

Jonathan in California writes: Jake, what is with all this talk of expansion all of a sudden? BYU is definitely worthy of consideration but here I thought expansion was over, at least for a few years. I for one am against any expansion that ends round-robin scheduling. The Big 12 is unique right now that the winner is indisputable champion having played everyone. You can’t hide from another team from the other division.

Trotter: There are actually no discussions being held regarding expansion. This is all just outside chatter stemming from a quote BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall gave unprompted to the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. There won’t be any expansion coming up, at least until the league has a three- or four-year window evaluate how its format fits into playoff model.

John Robert in Houston writes: I still think BYU has a lot to offer our conference. But now that we are wealthy and strong, I think it is time for BYU to make some major concessions if they are serious about staying relevant. If they did, do you think they would receive an invitation? Would the Big 12 blog recommend they receive one?

Trotter: No and no. I get why everyone wants to get back to 12. But financially, logistically and geographically it just doesn’t make sense. The Big 12 is justifiably pleased with its current distribution revenue. If the Big 12 added BYU, they’d have to add another team (again, who would that be?). And good luck shuttling student athletes from Morgantown to Lubbock to Provo, Utah, on any kind of semi-regular basis.

Josh in Wichita, Kan., writes: Do the ADs have unilateral control with regards to adding new schools, or do they take any input from other school officials? Alumni? The league? BYU seems like it would be a huge get, but I understand that they like the money they are getting right now.

Trotter: Nope. The ADs have input, but ultimately the conference realignment buck stops with the presidents. So if the league ever decided to move forward with expansion, there would have to be a bunch of people that would have to get on board with it. And right now, virtually nobody is board with it.

Zack in Dallas writes: Is there any way we can trade West Virginia for BYU?

Trotter: Stop.

Chris in Provo, Utah, writes: What are your thoughts on the Big 12 getting a championship game with only 10 members?

Trotter: It could certainly be something the Big 12 entertains and pursues if the league finds that not having a conference title game is hurting its chances of putting a team into the playoff.

Mark in Snyderville, USA, writes: I keep seeing people clamor for Big 12 expansion and bringing back the conference championship game. But I'm looking at your Big 12 playoff article and I'm realizing that without the title game K-State plays for the national title in '98, Mizzou plays for it in '07. I have never seen any evidence that the conference championship game has actually ever helped a Big 12 team.

Trotter: You make a very good point. In chatting with West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, he doesn’t think the omission of a championship game will harm the Big 12 in the playoff era. And he believes the round robin format will be preferred in the playoff era to the cross-division scheduling gaps that could affect other conferences. Sure, there’s money to be made in a conference championship game. But it took more Big 12 teams out of the national title game than it helped put in there.

Mathew in Wheeling, W. Va., writes: Jake, you have said that West Virginia can't handle the big boys of college football. Granted, it has been rough since October of 2012, but Georgia, Clemson, and Oklahoma aren't big boys? Any program that goes 89-38 since 2004 has to be doing something right!

Trotter: It's always illuminating as a journalist to be misquoted. You’re referring to my Big 12 squads as World Cup teams post, which drew similarities between West Virginia and the Ivory Coast. I never suggested that West Virginia couldn’t compete against the big boys. What I wrote was that West Virginia has struggled to compete in its first two years in a big-boy conference, which no one -- even you -- can really argue.
In this week's mailbag we discuss Baylor's stadium, West Virginia's 2014 outlook and whether Nebraska and Colorado are better off in their new leagues.

To submit a mailbag entry for a future mailbag, simply go here.

To the 'bag:


Jimmy in Austin, Texas, writes: As a recent grad of Baylor, I am so pumped about our new stadium. Based on projections of what it will look like, how would you rate it compared to other Big 12 venues?

Trotter: That’s impossible to say without having seen the finished product in person. But it could be a game-changer for Baylor, which has had to overcome Floyd Casey Stadium and other mediocre facilities in the past in recruiting. Those will no longer be a hindrance, which is scary considering how well Art Briles and his staff have recruited in the past despite it. Ask me this question again in September and I will be able to give McLane Stadium a proper rating relative to the other Big 12 venues.


Bob Stricker in Alvin, Texas, writes: I was impressed with Marcus Johnson's production in 2013, given his limited playing time. His footwork on the sidelines and polished route running for a sophomore indicate a substantial upside. His speed and ability to separate (see wheel route vs. Oklahoma) might be his most outstanding asset. I can't find a 40 time listed for him. Do you have one?

Trotter: I’ve heard 4.3, which is really fast. Outside of Tyreek Hill, it might be the fastest time in the Big 12. I honestly don’t know. That brings up this thought – wouldn’t it be fun to have summer combine featuring the top returning players in the Big 12? If ESPN broadcasted that, wouldn’t you watch?


Shaun in Old Bridge, N.J., writes: With the West Virginia QB spot still being as shaky and the running back corps being as deep as it is, don't you think the offense should be run around the RBs' talents more?

Trotter: Sure, but remember who your coach is. West Virginia is only going to run the ball so much. But I agree, he needs to run the ball more. The Mountaineers ranked eighth in the Big 12 in rushing attempts per game. With that running back position stable and veteran run-blocking guards Quinton Spain and Mark Glowinski, West Virginia would be wise to establish the run more often.


David in Virginia writes: WVU went into the fourth quarter of Texas, Texas Tech and Iowa State with the lead. Had it held the lead until the end of those games, it would have finished 7-5. There has been a lot of talk about how the offense needs improvement, but the offense did their job in these games to get the lead and then the defense gave it away. That being said, do you see the offense or defense being a bigger issue for WVU next year?

Trotter: I’d call the offense the bigger concern, simply because of uncertainty with the quarterback position. The rest of the offense looks pretty good on paper. But if the quarterback play is shaky, that paper won’t amount to much. Depth is what killed the defense late in the season last year, after a host of injuries. This should be a deeper and more seasoned defense that also added a really good assistant in the offseason in Tom Bradley, who will bring composure to the unit.


Raymond Boggess in Charleston, West Virginia, writes: I really believe the Big 12 is sleeping on WVU after a rough start in the conference. I'm not saying WVU will win the conference or be world-beaters in 2014, but I believe it will finish in the top four in the conference. Am I being too optimistic, or is the Big 12 in for a wake-up call?

Trotter: With the fourth-most returning player starts in the league, West Virginia will have a veteran team. But top four sounds way too optimistic for a program that has gone 6-12 its first two seasons in a big-boy league.


Mike T. in Dallas writes: It's been a few years now since Nebraska and Colorado left the Big 12. Do you think the two schools are happier or feel like they made a mistake? I’m not asking about Mizzou or A&M, since they haven't been gone long enough.

Trotter: Neither would admit they made a mistake, but I can’t imagine either move has gone as they had imagined. Last December, I did a conference realignment scorecard for every team that changed conferences in the last five years. I gave Nebraska a “C,” and Colorado an “F.” Nebraska is going to be in the Big Ten division opposite Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State, which I guess will make for an easier road to the Big Ten championship game, but it's also less desirable home schedules. Nebraska’s new big “rival” these days is Iowa, which hardly moves the needle. It’s hard to remember whether Colorado even fields a football team anymore, as it has seemingly become so irrelevant. I still think it’s too soon to give a determination on whether either made a mistake. But so far, it’s difficult to make the case that either is better off.

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