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Mailbag: New name, best RBs, UT hype

Thanks again for all the questions. Enjoy your snowless weekends. I know I will. As for All-Star Saturday Night: Give me Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin.

Jason in Austin, Texas, writes: Ubbs, I've been talking to some friends about new names for the Big 12, and I've heard one thrown around that I wanted to get your take on: The Ten. What do you think?

David Ubben: On first glance, I really like it. It's aggressive, and a little brash, which might rub a few people the wrong way, but a move like that might be what the Big 12 could use right now. A little administrative brashness has been missing for a while in this league. Dan Beebe sounds like he wants to position the league uniquely, and as the only 10-team conference left, that might be a pretty good way to do it.

The "big" problem with it is you still have the Big Ten. While "Big" may still be a qualifier, the mass perception would be The Ten vs. Big Ten. Not good. For that reason, when you look at the big picture, I don't think it would work well.

I'm on record as believing the Big 12 should keep its name, if only because A) I believe the brand is strong enough where a change would significantly hurt and B) there's no other good options. Maybe reason B could change, and "The Ten" is probably the best suggestion I've heard recently, but it's not better than the Big 12.

Anything lame like "The Heartland Conference" or something along those lines sounds like it belongs in NAIA.


Gary in Dallas writes: Did you really write that Texas Tech would contend for the national championship` in 2012? What in the heck makes you say that? Since when are the Red Raiders going to beat UT, OU, Mizzou, Oklahoma State and everyone else on their schedule in the same year?

DU: For the record, no. I was referring to the Big 12 title, which I do think Texas Tech will have a pretty good shot at winning in 2012. It'll be tough, sure. They won't be one of the favorites, but I don't consider them a team that has a great chance to win it this year. Next year, that may change. They can probably win 10-11 games. The question asked in the chat was kind of rambling, and those chats move pretty fast, but I would be very surprised if Texas Tech was in the national championship hunt as early as 2012.


Guy King in College Station writes: You list Ryan Tannehill with a 5-1 record as a starter. Tell me the game that he lost? Check your records.

DU: If I were a Texas A&M fan, I'd want to forget about the Cotton Bowl, too.


Bleedburntorange in Little Rock, Ark., writes: Being a Texas Longhorn fan I really enjoy your views and opinions. I can't help but notice that most of Longhorn nation, myself included, is expecting incoming freshman Malcolm Brown to breath some life into the Longhorns' rushing attack. How many touches do you see him getting and how many yards do you think he will get? Also do you see any specific players stepping up to help fix all the problems from last season?

DU: Well, it's obviously a little early for all that, and we haven't even seen Brown take the field yet. I'm not going to throw out a yardage figure, but my guess is he gets about 150-170 carries next year, and as he learns, starts to take a few more away from Fozzy Whittaker and Cody Johnson late in the season.

As for fixing the problems, it's not about one guy stepping up. They need everybody. You win in the Big 12 with offense. You become an elite Big 12 team with offense and good defense. The defense was OK last year, but the offense was a complete disaster. The offensive line didn't get it done. If that happens again, there's no point in worrying about what Malcolm Brown does. Garrett Gilbert had a historically bad year. And nobody consistently was a good target to throw to. Everybody has to be better.


Mike in Dallas asks: Is the Cyrus Gray/Christine Michael RB duo the best in college football next year?

DU: As long as Christine Michael can come back next fall and look like he did last year, I'd probably make that argument. He was playing fantasticly before he broke his leg. Against Arkansas and Oklahoma State, the two games I saw him really up close, he was running with a power that we didn't see from him as a freshman. And Gray obviously closed the season with an unbelievable run of seven 100-yard games against some great defenses (Nebraska, OU, LSU) that very well could carry into next year.

Also, people always want to ask, "Who'll start? Who'll get more carries?" Does it really matter? They're both going to get a lot. They're both good. Whoever is running it best at the time will probably get more at the time. That'll vary. Don't worry about the distribution, Aggies.


Ed in Chicago writes: It seems to me that the new ESPN deal with Texas essentially made the Longhorns an independent inside a conference. Do you think it made the Big 12 more likely to stay together since Texas is the kingpin and they have it both ways? Or do you think that jealousy will force other members to leave the horns shadow? It seems that Texas would be content to stay since it is a nice arrangement for them.

DU: I just don't believe it has as much of an effect on the Big 12's future as others do. Oklahoma is content to stay with Texas. Right now, with the television rights, money, scheduling and location, there's no question that Texas is happy in the Big 12 as it stands. Oklahoma would like much of the same. Texas A&M is the only other school that has the means to do anything about it, but all the decision-makers in College Station don't sound like they're seriously considering a move to the SEC this summer. They sound, for the most part, content in the Big 12.

The only other real option is if the Big Ten invited Missouri, an invitation which, in my opinion, Missouri would trip over itself to accept, but that "invitation" (yes, technically that's not how the Big Ten operates, but whatever. For the sake of simplicity, humor me here.) would require a sharp change of course from everything Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has said of late. In short, they're not looking to expand past 12 teams. The only conference that might take the leap is the Pac-12, but without Texas as part of the package, a move to do so with just Texas Tech, Oklahoma State or Baylor isn't quite as appealing, and like I said before, Oklahoma is staying with Texas.


Jeff in San Diego writes: David, Love the blog. Can you tell me how the Longhorns are in the pre-season Top 25 that ESPN put out. Where is all the love coming from? Mack replaced his entire staff and they have to teach the kids an entirely new offense and defense. Aren't expectations a little too high?

DU: Well, it's the beauty of polls. There's plenty of room for disagreement. Like I've said all offseason, Texas won't be sniffing any top 25 poll I vote in until they give me reason -- on the field -- to include them. Maybe it'll happen. Maybe it won't. But I'm waiting until mid-September at the earliest to even consider them. I don't care what anyone says/writes/does in the spring or fall camp. Show me in a game.


Jim Calhoun in Claflin, Kan,. writes: What can KSU do to improve their defense? They have to improve greatly to be able to compete in the round robin Big XII.

DU: The biggest problem I saw for Kansas State last year was a severe, severe lack of speed. Obviously, the great teams and defenses have it, but K-State was arguably the slowest defense in the Big 12 last year. That's not going to be good for any scheme, so don't hang it all on the coaches.

More than anything else, K-State needs speed to get better.


Kevin K. in Lawton, Okla., writes: So how is it now to go through a mailbag without getting any questions mentioning Nebraska?

DU: Oh, I still get Nebraska questions. Plenty of them, in fact. I just don't post them. We both know all you guys would get mad. Unless you really want to talk about Nebraska's new offensive scheme ...


Adam in Kansas writes: Turner Gill came into Kansas saying they would run the football and even have fullback sets. With the new recruiting class featuring a couple of highly rated RBs, and James Sims and Brandon Bourbon returning, will the Jayhawks have a ground game that can carry the offense?

DU: It's getting closer, but no question, that's where Kansas needs to focus. They don't have a ton of talent at receiver -- guys who can break games open -- so a ball-control offense that features the running game is probably their best option. They tried to be pretty balanced early last season, and it just didn't work. Obviously, they have to throw the ball some time, but running the ball is what Kansas should do best next year. They lost Brad Thorson and Sal Capra from the offensive line, so the new starters will have to fill the role well, but they also added Darrian Miller from the 2011 class, and he enrolled early. They're deep at running back with some guys who have a lot of potential, so while they figure out what they're going to do at quarterback, they need to expend a lot of energy refining the running game.