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Big 12 mailbag: Herbstreit's OU playoff prediction, Texas win total, Mason Rudolph

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Don't sleep on Oklahoma

The ESPN College GameDay crew talks about whether Baylor and TCU are the top teams in the Big 12 and predicts Oklahoma to be the surprise team in the conference this season.

In the final Big 12 Twitter mailbag before the start of the season, we discuss Kirk Herbstreit's Oklahoma playoff prediction, Texas' over/under win total and what Big 12 QB after Trevone Boykin I'd take to win a big game.

On to the 'bag:



Trotter: I thought it was pretty crazy. I mean, the last time the Sooners were on the field, they were getting completely annihilated by a pretty average Clemson team in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Then again, Kirk Herbstreit was basically alone in suggesting Oklahoma might topple Alabama in the Sugar Bowl two years ago. So maybe he knows something again. Among other things, Baker Mayfield would have to have a special season for OU to be a factor. It's been very rare that a team has won the Big 12 without having an elite performer behind center.





Trotter: I was actually having this discussion just two days ago. There's a plausible scenario in which TCU, Baylor and either Oklahoma State or Oklahoma are all undefeated in conference heading into November, then finish in a three-way tie at 8-1 atop the standings. You can read the league's new tie-breaking procedures here (though wouldn't it be just the Big 12's luck to have to go all soccer and resolve such a tie through scoring differential).





Trotter: In that scenario, I actually think OU could get squeezed out. The Sooners finish the season with Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State. I'm not sure OU (or TCU or Baylor for that matter) could survive a loss so late in the season. None of last year's playoff teams suffered a regular-season loss after Oct. 4. On the flip side, if OU lost early, say, at Tennessee, such a grueling finish would give the Sooners an opportunity to play their way back into the conversation (by the way, I would like to thank Herbstreit for the deluge of OU playoff hypotheticals now in my Twitter mentions).





Trotter: Texas Tech is one of only three Big 12 schools yet to officially name a starter. But like with Tyrone Swoopes at Texas and Jesse Ertz at Kansas State, I feel reasonably confident in saying Patrick Mahomes will get the first snap behind center. Mahomes has an intriguing skill set, and was terrific toward the end of last season. The Red Raiders have to give Mahomes a chance, if only to see whether that flurry of a finish was the sign of something special.





Trotter: Baylor, then TCU have the league's top two offensive lines. But Texas Tech isn't that far behind. Tech's left side of tackle Le'Raven Clark, guard Alfredo Morales and center Jared Kaster is as good as any in the league.





Trotter: I think I'd lean toward the under. Six wins feels about right for this team. Look at the schedule. There's a decent chance Texas could actually play well and still be 2-4 out of the gate. QB is still a major concern; the offensive line is incredibly green with a pair of starting true freshmen; and I still don't know who the big offensive playmakers are going to be. The defense could actually be stout again, thanks to a host of tantalizing underclassmen. But Texas had the best defense in the Big 12 last season, and still went just 6-7. Charlie Strong has Texas on the right track. But he also still has a ways to go.





Trotter: It could largely depend on what happens this season. If the Big 12 gets a team into the playoff, then it will likely be status quo. But if the league gets left out again, I think you'll see a conference championship game be implemented for 2016, and expansion discussions begin to gain more traction. I have a hard time seeing the Big 12 tolerating another snub without taking action.





Trotter: If it's me, I go get BYU and Boise State. As football programs, they bring more to the table than any other available one out there. But if the Big 12 expanded next week, my guess is that Cincinnati and Central Florida would be the frontrunners. Cincinnati, because it would expand the footprint into Ohio and give West Virginia a travel partner; UCF, because it would provide the Big 12 recruiting inroads into Florida (there you go, UT), expand the footprint into another large state and incorporate the largest undergraduate enrollment in the country.





Trotter: Keep an eye on K-State DE Tanner Wood. This is a guy who once rushed for a Kansas state high school record 659 yards in one game. It sounds like the third-year sophomore has begun to emerge this preseason. At 6-foot-5, he has the length and athleticism to be a factor for the Wildcats the way Young stepped in for Baylor last year.





Trotter: That's a great question, and could be one that has a big say in who wins the Big 12 title. Because the league is so collectively unproven at the position, I have to go with my gut on this one, and my gut says Mason Rudolph. I know he's only started three games. But the poise and composure he showed in those appearances suggests he has the "it" factor to win big games. That was the book on him coming out of high school, and nothing he's done since has dispelled that.