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Brian Nelson in Afghanistan writes: David,Love the blog. Two things: Is this truly a make or break year for Mack Brown and if Ash at QB Brown at RB Davis and Shipley at WR the veteran D play up to the potential isn't there serious talk for Texas to contend for a National Title and Mack Brown keeping his job? Keep it up I'll be reading the blog in 105 degree weather here in Afghanistan
David Ubben: It definitely is. There are no excuses for Texas this season. I wrote about this a little bit last month, but there's definitely pressure on the program and Brown. Like you said, they've got great skill position talent and an offensive line and are experienced all over the field. Most of the guys on the two-deep have contributed for two seasons. The top of the Big 12 is as soft as it's ever been and it gets my title favorite, Oklahoma State, in Austin. It has to travel to Baylor and TCU, but plays Oklahoma on a neutral field, obviously.
Texas has the pieces to make a national title run I don't see from any team in the Big 12, but I need convincing to really believe Texas can put it all together. The Longhorns look like a 10-11 win team to me, but the pieces are there for a national title run if they put it all together.
Anything less than nine wins, though, and it's hard for me to believe Texas isn't shopping for a new head coach. Mack Brown built up a whole lot of capital with the fan base and administrators over the past decade, but he's used up a whole lot of that leash by winning 22 games in three seasons.
Mike in Overland Park, Kan., writes: Hey Dubbs, May I assume you're purchasing a copy of NCAA '14 this week sometime? Is there a school that's "your team" that you like to play as whenever possible?
DU: My wife was amazing enough to buy it for me as an early birthday present, so in a manner of speaking, yes, I've got it. I never really have "a team," but I usually play with teams that suit my playing style. I love the read option and speedy receivers, so for me, total team speed is the most important thing. That comes into play in not giving up big plays on defense, too.
Master K in Dallas writes: David - I accidentally clicked the drop down for 2012 when on the recruiting page for OSU and remembered that the pokes recruited ESPN 150 TE Dominic Ramacher last year. Haven't heard anything about him since he signed. I'm assuming he redshirted last year. Has Gundy (or anyone else for that matter) made any mention of him regarding the upcoming season?
DU: He did redshirt last season. I haven't heard a lot of hype around him, but a slow start to a career, even for an ESPN 150 player, isn't a real indictment of anybody's skills. He'll have his opportunities. It's definitely a red flag that he failed to make the post-spring two deep and you haven't heard a lot of hype about him out of spring practice, but like I said, give it time.
He's off to a bit of a slow start, but he's got four years of eligibility left. Not necessarily what you'd want out of the best recruit in the 2012 class, but nothing yet to make anyone think he can't develop into a great player.
Steve in Phoenix writes: The big 12 non conference schedule is pathetic. I get the whole "the big 12 is a tough conference and winning the conference is the goal" bit but I believe the conference will benefit from 1 or 2 above average teams. KSU is no exception this year. No risk, no reward. At least TCU is stepping up and even Texas playing Ole Miss is interesting. OU and Notre Dame is great as well. Your thoughts? Can the Big 12 benefit from playing above average teams for at least 2 games?
DU: Well, the incentive for teams who aren't explicitly eyeing a national title to play tough out of conference games is almost nil. When you're a building program like Oklahoma State or a power like Oklahoma and Texas, scheduling big games is necessary. All the talk around the CFP selection committee includes discussion of how important strength of schedule will be. I don't care how difficult your conference is, playing a lineup of three sub-.500 teams is going to mean you'll need some help to play in the title game.
You're seeing that in future schedules. Oklahoma has games against Ohio State, LSU, Nebraska, and Tennessee upcoming. Oklahoma State is playing Florida State next year (much to the chagrin of Mike Gundy, it's safe to assume) and has a future series with Boise State. Texas has games against Notre Dame and USC on its future schedule.
Around the rest of the Big 12, you'll see WVU play Alabama next season and TCU has future series against Arkansas and Ohio State on its schedule.
Simply put, the rules and importance of nonconference scheduling vary with the plight of your program.
Jeff in Wichita, Kan., writes: Mr. Ubben,I bleed Orange, but I'm trying to understand why O-state is such a popular pick to win the B12. Two new coordinators. That is a really big change. Defense still isn't proven it can handle the reps the offense requires it handle. (though if you stop'em on third down....) Glenn Spencer's one time leading the defense last year against Arizona didn't end well. Can you help?
DU: I don't think it's fair to put so much stock in that Arizona game, but Spencer has been around the program for quite awhile, and is tweaking the scheme but knows the personnel well. Yurcich is a more reasonable concern, but I subscribe to the theory that an offensive mind is an offensive mind at any level, and considering Gundy's run of coordinators, I'd say he's got a pretty strong track record, no? Considering the length of his tenure, not many coaches have a bushier coaching tree.
Matt in Manhattan, Kan., writes: Hey Ubbs, I was reading back thru the Challenged at home? OU always answers article and it got me thinking, is Stoops the Big 12's best coach ever? Stoops definitely has the resume to claim it but you could make an argument for a number of coaches, Mack Brown, Bill Snyder, Mike Gundy. If you base it solely on coaching ability (take out the recruiting talent certain schools have) who would you pick?
DU: Considering the length and consistency of the program, he probably gets my vote. You could easily make a case for Bill Snyder considering the difficulty level of coaching at K-State, but winning eight titles in 13 years is incredible, regardless of the natural advantages that come with coaching at Oklahoma.