Big 12 Tuesday mailbag: Big 12's top defenses, West Virginia's title hopes


In Tuesday's mailbag we discuss West Virginia's Big 12 title hopes, Iowa State's offensive line and Big 12 defenses in 2015. As always, thanks for your questions.

@AaronMiller13: How high is the ceiling for WVU this season?

Brandon Chatmon: There are no limitations for West Virginia in my mind. That’s right, I think the Mountaineers could fight themselves into Big 12 title contention. After all, they were there in 2014 before they started giving the ball away. The only reason I don’t mention the Mountaineers as Big 12 title hopefuls is that brutal October stretch that includes Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and TCU in a five-week span. Experienced defense, talented skill players, there’s a lot to like about the 2015 Mountaineers.

Chatmon: It is if they are quality linemen. The Cyclones have quite a bit of experience with senior center Jamison Lalk and senior tackle Brock Dagel along with junior guard Daniel Burton and Jake Campos. The Cyclones have five linemen with double-digit career starts, so Iowa State should feel pretty good about the line if the unit can stay healthy. As we've seen before in Ames, Iowa, staying healthy could be easier said than done. So eight is enough, if they're good enough.

Chatmon: I definitely think Kansas fans will see Ryan Willis at some point this season. Even if Montell Cozart plays well, I think it would be wise for David Beaty and company to see what they have in Willis and get the true freshman quarterback some game time. I don't know how long you will have to wait, but I'm betting you will see him this season. And it could be as early as this month. Redshirting him would be the wrong move.

Chatmon: This question will be much easier to answer in a week or so, after we've seen the teams in action, but I'll take a shot at it.

  1. TCU -- Gary Patterson has a proven track record of building elite defenses.

  2. Baylor -- The Big 12's best defensive line will set the tone.

  3. Oklahoma State -- Star power, speed and athleticism.

  4. Oklahoma -- If a young secondary comes through, the Sooners can top the list.

  5. West Virginia -- The most experienced defense in the conference needs some defensive linemen to be playmakers.

  6. Texas -- A young unit that could end up in the top 3 a year from now.

  7. Kansas State -- Always tough to beat and features some experience.

  8. Texas Tech -- David Gibbs has some talented pieces to work with, but still work to be done.

  9. Iowa State -- The Cyclones need some defensive linemen to step up.

  10. Kansas -- Losing three NFL draft picks off last season's unit doesn't help.

The top six is very fluid for me and will be impacted by how well the offense supports the defense, which is a primary reason why Texas is relatively low. West Virginia not landing in the top five just shows how many solid defenses play in the Big 12.

Chatmon: Oklahoma State will be that team. In fact, I think the Cowboys should be somewhere between 20-25 right now. Once Mike Gundy's team gets the chance to showcase itself in the national spotlight during the kickoff of college football on Thursday night, more people will realize what they're working with in Stillwater and Oklahoma State's national profile will start to rise, despite a lackluster non-conference schedule.