- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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In Friday's mailbag we discuss West Virginia pessimism, Texas Tech optimism and "sister schools" of the Big 12.
To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. To do it the traditional way, go here.
To the 'bag ...
Kirk Bebout in Morgantown, W. Va., writes: Is it just me, or does all of the positive and upbeat talk about WVU's D sound exactly like the past few springs? The only difference is Tony Gibson's name is being used instead of Keith Patterson’s or Joe DeForest’s. I fear there will be more of the same in Morgantown this season.
Trotter: You might very well end up being right, but I see two differences this year. One, you left out the name of Tom Bradley, who is one of the most respected defensive assistants in the country; he’s going to be a major asset. Two, the Mountaineers have more depth and experience than they’ve had defensively the past couple years, including seven returning starters. There’s reason to believe this might be the same old West Virginia defense. But there’s reason to believe it will be improved, too.
Josh in Dallas writes: Jake, at this point, though it is very early, does Tech even really qualify as a dark horse for winning the conference? With the shaky QB play around the league and Davis Webb (provided he stays healthy) looking like one of the top two quarterbacks, doesn't it seem fair to say they have a legit shot at the conference title?
Trotter: You omitted one major requisite to winning a conference title: defense, which Tech played very little of last season. Not since the 2001 Colorado Buffaloes has a team won the Big 12 title without placing at least fourth in the league in scoring defense. The Red Raiders were seventh last season. They’ll have to be a lot better on that side of the ball to become a legitimate contender.
Cameron in Houston writes: Jake, noticed you went to Washington and Lee University. Are you a fraternity man?
Trotter: Yes sir. Sigma Chi. Zeta Chapter. Intramural Chair.
Donnie R. in Green Country, Okla., writes: Saw in the lunch links where you "played pickup basketball ... and lost all six games." That's nothing. Went out with the kids a few weeks back and was showing off my hops ... tore my calf muscle. Now they call me the old crippled man. Oh to be young again.
Trotter: I think my team would’ve been better off had I torn my calf muscle. Get well soon, Donnie.
Ken in Goldthwaite, Texas, writes: Hello, Jake. Lately there’s been a lot of buzz about Tech quarterbacks leaving for other programs, leaving Davis Webb as the only scholarship QB. If Patrick Mahomes opts for baseball, couldn’t they could pull Keenon Ward from safety and play him at quarterback, which was his original position coming out of high school at Snyder, Texas?
Trotter: Reginald Davis also played quarterback in high school, but Tech’s best option at that point -- if the rules so allowed – would be Kliff Kingsbury calling plays from under center.
Carla in Houston writes: You know how cities across the U.S. have sister cities? Houston has Abu Dhabi, for example. Just for fun, what schools would you say are the “sister schools” of each Big 12 member?
Trotter: Really interesting question, Carla. Below are my answers, with explanations:
Baylor/BYU: Religious institutions that innovated offense and developed quarterbacks to win at levels no one thought possible.
Iowa State/Mississippi State: Agricultural schools that are tough to beat at home. Only 14 all-time wins separate the two.
Kansas/Indiana: Basketball schools that have also had their occasional moments in football.
Kansas State/Virginia Tech: There’s only one Bill Snyder and there has been only one Manhattan Miracle, but Frank Beamer has coached 13 of Virginia Tech’s 14 double-digit win seasons. The Wildcats and Hokies rarely beat themselves, either.
Oklahoma/Alabama: In terms of conference championships, unbeaten seasons, All-Americans and national titles, only a couple of programs mirror what OU and Alabama have accomplished.
Oklahoma State/Oregon: Emerged after getting bankrolled by mega-boosters; have been on the cutting edge of high-flying offense and uniform possibilities since. The Cowboys haven’t quite reached Oregon’s level, but their Big 12 regular-season record the last five seasons is tied for best in the league.
TCU/Pittsburgh: Metro universities that have to compete for attention with popular pro franchises nearby (Cowboys and Steelers), and flagship schools within their own states (Texas and Penn State). TCU has 13 bowl wins in 29 appearances; Pitt has 13 in 30.
Texas/Ohio State: Similar money, power, resources, tradition, pressures; both located smack in the middle of recruiting hotbeds, and in the capital cities of huge states.
Texas Tech/Washington State: Lubbock and Pullman are equally remote, presenting similar challenges. But both still enjoyed strong runs in the 2000s. Also, two important figures in Tech history (Mike Leach/Graham Harrell) are now coaching for Wazzu.
West Virginia/Arkansas: Due to little instate talent, both have had to get creative in recruiting, and yet still have enjoyed success over the years. The Mountaineers have won 60 percent of their games all-time; the Razorbacks, 59 percent.