Big 12 mailbag: Tech's ceiling, FCS losses

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
4:00
PM ET
Robert SealsAP Photo/LM OteroBaker Mayfield's combination of accurate passing and mobility might make Texas Tech a tougher out in the Big 12 than previously thought.
In today’s mailbag, we discuss West Virginia’s chances in Norman, Texas Tech’s new ceiling and the fallout from the Kansas State and Iowa State FCS losses.

To the ‘bag:

Chris Gibson in Morgantown, W.V., writes: After averaging over 50 yards per punt, has Nick O'Toole solidified his nickname as “Boomstache?”

Jake Trotter: I like the nickname. But isn’t a little concerning that West Virginia’s best player in the opener was its punter?

Ali H. in Fort Worth, Texas writes: Love the blog. Regarding conference expansion, has there been any rumors that the Big 12 will expand? If so, I think the Big 12 should go after Virginia, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Louisville. Furthermore, create an East division and West division. That conference would go head-to-head with the SEC any day.

Jake Trotter: Why stop there? Why not add Notre Dame and Miami while we’re at it? Let’s be realistic: the Big 12 is not a destination conference for programs with wandering eyes at the moment. That said, I do think it’s possible the Big 12 and ACC merge into one conference down the line. Those two conferences have proven to be the most vulnerable to pilfering, and the momentum of conference realignment has been to settle at four superconferences. It’s doubtful, however, that the Big 12 would be able to just cherry-pick from the ACC. The more likely scenario is that one of the two conferences begins to crumble during the next realignment shift and is assimilated into the other.

Mr. Kingsbury in the Sunglass Hut writes: How concerned should I be that my top two rushers opening game were my QB and an inside receiver? I know run-stopping is SMU's defensive M.O., but I'm supposed to have two solid backs in DeAndre Washington and Kenny Williams. This is NOT the University of Texas where talented backs are allowed to underperform. The talent is there for our first 1,000-yard rusher in a decade, so ... not a good start. Thoughts?

Jake Trotter: I’m not sure Texas Tech has the offensive line to have a dominant run game. Baker Mayfield’s mobility is one of the many reasons he was the more attractive choice at quarterback, given what would be protecting him. Sure, the run game could be better. But I have a hard time seeing it becoming the M.O. of this Tech offense.

Wildcat Faithful writes: First off, welcome to the blog. Obviously K-State has Texas's number given that even under the Ron Prince’s guidance the ‘Cats still managed to beat Texas. So with that I fully expect this trend to continue even with Friday's disappointing start. What would you say the odds of this happening are? I would give it about a 70 percent chance, with the 'Cats winning by a late TD.

[+] EnlargeBrock Jensen
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesThe lesson learned in the Big 12 this week: If you are going to schedule an FCS team, don't schedule the best one.
Jake Trotter: I appreciate the warm welcome, Faithful. However, I must advise against drinking and messaging the 'bag. Otherwise you end up saying things like K-State has a 70 percent chance to win in Austin days after it couldn't beat North Dakota State in Manhattan.

Wilfred in Beverly, W.V., writes: Well, what can West Virginia do to beat Oklahoma?

Jake Trotter: If they can somehow take away OU’s ground game and force Trevor Knight to beat them through the air, the game could get interesting. Knight was shaky throwing the ball in his debut last week, though did get batter as the game wore on. I just don’t know if the Mountaineers have enough offensive pop to pull if off. Charles Sims is big time, but he doesn’t appear to have much help up front. If West Virginia somehow could get its ground game rolling, then beat the Sooners deep with some playaction completions down field, well, the game could get really interesting.

Matt in El Paso, Texas, writes: Of the Big 12 wins in Week 1, I feel like Texas Tech's victory over SMU proved the most. Given the situation at quarterback and Kingsbury being a first-year head coach, preseason predictions were understandably lowered. Assuming they can maintain that level of play on a consistent basis, what do you think Texas Tech's ceiling is for 2013?

Jake Trotter: I can’t disagree. Getting the win wasn’t all that impressive. Tech’s performance, though, was. A top-half finish in the conference is certainly attainable, something I wouldn’t have predicted before the season. But this is a question to revisit in two weeks, after TCU comes to town. If the Red Raiders win that game, I might be willing to raise the ceiling again.

Craig in Ames, Iowa, writes: Iowa State HAS to fire their offensive coordinator after that game, right? Our offense has been just -- to quote Charles Barkley -- turrible since (Courtney Messingham) took over. Our defense played bad in the first half. But they're young, we knew there would be growing pains after losing (Jake) Knott and (A.J.) Klein. But how is the zone-read, bubble-screen, then-pass-short-of-the-sticks-and punt-offense still viable? We have five good running backs, and yet our QB rushed the ball 21 times! Messingham has got to go after that, doesn't he?

Jake Trotter: I did find it curious that no Iowa State running back had more than eight carries. Then again, Messingham put this game in Sam Richardson’s hands, which I have no problem with. He’s Iowa State’s best offensive skill player -- probably by far. And doesn’t that smack more of being a talent problem than a play-calling problem? Other than Richardson, is there anyone on the Iowa State offense that would scare you as a defensive coordinator?

Doug in Morgantown, W.V., writes: I was wondering who should be more concerned, us barely beating a bottom-dwelling FCS team, or K-State, having actually lost, but to the two-time defending champion FCS team?

Jake Trotter: Both teams should be equally concerned. If West Virginia played the way it did against William & Mary, it would have lost to North Dakota State, too. But West Virginia is 1-0. Which brings us to this next question…

Steve in Mission Hills, Kan., writes: As much as I want Big 12 members do to well in the non-conference, I feel no sympathy for the Wildcats, who have eight homes games year-after-year. When will they step it up?

Jake Trotter: The lesson to be learned here is, if you’re going to play an FCS school, play a bad one. Don’t play the best one. You have nothing to gain by winning. And everything to lose. At the end of the year, nobody will remember that West Virginia almost lost to William & Mary. But they will remember Kansas State’s loss to North Dakota State.

Anonymous writes: What is the injury status of Oklahoma State receiver Austin Hays?

Jake Trotter: Hays is dealing with a hamstring injury. He didn’t make the trip last week to Houston, but it’s not believed to be serious. He’s expected to be back before too long.

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