Texas Longhorns: West Virginia Mountaineers

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

June, 30, 2014
Here’s the latest in recruiting from around the Big 12:


Total commits: 10

ESPN 300 commits: 3

The latest: The Bears lost their top-rated commitment last week when John Humphrey Jr. decommitted. Baylor had plans to use the four-star prospect as a cornerback, but Humphrey has his eyes on playing receiver, where the Bears are well stocked with playmakers.


Total commits: 6

ESPN 300 commits: 0

The latest: The Cyclones landed another commitment last week in Denton (Texas) Guyer safety Jordan Wallace, who is reportedly a distant cousin of former Iowa State standout OB Seneca Wallace. The coaching staff snagged five of their six commitments in the month of June, including Austin (Texas) Lake Travis dual-threat QB Dominic DeLira.


Total commits: 9

ESPN 300 commits: 0

The latest: Kansas continued to make noise on the recruiting trail by snagging a pair of Texas prospects last week. Carl Thompson, a 6-foot-3, 260-pound defensive lineman from Denton (Texas) Guyer, had offers from Duke, Minnesota and Vanderbilt. Taylor Martin, a 5-foot-9, 179-pound running back, committed to Kansas later the same day. He had an offer from Colorado State, and was reportedly drawing interest from TCU, Illinois and Kansas State. The Jayhawks went into the month of June with one commitment, but now have nine.


Total commits: 6

ESPN 300 commits: 0

The latest: The Wildcats landed two running backs last week, one from their backyard, the other all the way out of Georgia. Denzel Goolsby's recruitment picked up in the last week, with Kansas and Iowa State both extending offers. But the Wichita (Kansas) Bishop Carroll product wound up pledging to Kansas State. Goolsby is a versatile offensive threat, who also plays slot receiver and returns kicks. The Wildcats picked up another intriguing playmaker earlier in the week in Cartersville, Georgia, running back Kalin Heath, who had offers from the likes of Mississippi State, Washington State and Louisville. At 6-foot-1, Heath has the frame to become K-State’s next power back in the mold of Daniel Thomas.


Total commits: 7

ESPN 300 commits: 5

The latest: John Humphrey’s decommitment from Baylor could be Oklahoma’s gain. The Sooners are giving Humphrey the option to play receiver, and Oklahoma appears to be his favorite. The Sooners also recently made the top five that ESPN 300 WR Ryan Newsome released, along with Texas, Oregon, UCLA and Notre Dame.


Total commits: 8

ESPN 300 commits: 3

The latest: The Cowboys already have one ESPN 300 cornerback commitment in Jaylon Lane, and now have a strong chance to grab another. Xavier Lewis announced last week that Oklahoma State made his cut of final four schools along with LSU, Arkansas and Texas. Lewis, out of Laplace, Lousiana, is the No. 14 rated cornerback in the country, seven spots behind Lane. If the Cowboys managed to scoop up Lewis, too, they would have an incoming cornerback tandem that would be the envy of the Big 12, and perhaps the country.


Total commits: 16

ESPN 300 commits: 0

The latest: Even though they didn’t add anyone last week, the Horned Frogs still easily have the biggest commitment total of the Big 12. They’ll have to fight to hold onto to guard Cody Ford, who is showing interest in the Sooners after recently getting an offer. At 6-foot-4, 314 pounds, Ford has the potential to be a road grader in the run game down the line.


Total commits: 10

ESPN 300 commits: 5

The latest: Texas is hosting a key night camp July 18 that will include visits from several of its top targets as well as top-rated pledge, QB Zach Gentry. Texas is also planning to host four-star QB Kai Locksley in mid-July after making his top six, along with with Florida State, Auburn, Maryland, Oregon and Virginia Tech. Locksley is the son of Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley.


Total commits: 7

ESPN 300 commits: 2

The latest: Texas Tech is still looking for its running back from this class, and last week extended an offer to three-star New Orleans product Kendall Bussey, who is currently committed to Nebraska. The Red Raiders also got a visit recently from Waco, Texas, four-star safety Kahlil Haughton, who has offers from Baylor, Ohio State, LSU and Oklahoma, among many others.


Total commits: 13

ESPN 300 commits: 2

The latest: The Mountaineers already have three pledges in this class from their Miramar, Florida, pipeline, and could be close to adding another. Mammoth offensive lineman Leeward Brown, who is currently committed to Miami, visited West Virginia last weekend along with Miramar teammates Kahlil Lewis and Kendrell McFadden, and reportedly came away impressed. If the Mountaineers wind up offering the 6-4, 340-pound Brown, they stand a chance of flipping him.
With the playoff era coming to college football this fall, we’ve been spent time looking back on the Big 12 in the BCS era.

To keep with that theme, we’ve selected what we think were the biggest regular season wins for every Big 12 program during the BCS years (postseason victories were not eligible for this, since they would be too obvious).

Every school had multiple wins to choose from. But the ones we picked were based on the following criteria: how they helped shape each program; what the wins meant in the context of a particular season (or stretch of seasons); who the wins were over (a rival or a highly ranked team?); and, finally, the wins each respective fanbase seems to discuss the most still to this day.

Here is the list:


Nov. 19, 2011 (45-38 vs. No. 5 Oklahoma): The 2013 victories over Oklahoma and Texas, which clinched the program’s first Big 12 championship, were strongly considered here. But Robert Griffin III's stunning, 34-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams in the waning seconds not only landed the Bears a historical win, it changed the way the media, the fans and budding recruits perceived Baylor. The win catapulted RG III to the Heisman and basically became the spark that ignited the funding for the school’s new $260 million McLane Stadium.


Nov. 18, 2011 (37-31 vs. No. 2 Oklahoma State): Paul Rhoads had delivered some signature wins his first three seasons at Iowa State. But the Cyclones were 0-56-2 against teams ranked sixth or higher in The Associated Press poll all-time. That changed on this night, as Iowa State pulled off the upset of the college football season. The victory helped galvanize fan support for Iowa State, which has sold out Jack Trice Stadium the last two years despite 6-7 and 3-9 seasons.


Nov. 3, 2007 (76-39 vs. Nebraska): For many years, Nebraska kicked the Jayhawks when they were down. In 2007, the tables were squarely turned. The 8-0 Jayhawks went into that game holding BCS bowl and national title aspirations, but they had yet to deliver a signature win. But the first week of November, Kansas delivered exactly that, humiliating the Cornhuskers. It was just Kansas’ second victory over Nebraska in 39 years, but it couldn’t have come in finer fashion for the Jayhawks. In the long, storied history of Nebraska football, the Huskers had never given up 48 points in a half or 76 points in a game -- both of which Kansas accomplished. The Jayhawks went on to win 12 games and beat Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.


Nov. 14, 1998 (40-30 vs. No. 11 Nebraska): The final building block to the Manhattan Miracle was overcoming rival and Big 12 North power Nebraska. Going into the season, the Wildcats had lost 29 straight to Cornhuskers, including a 30-point loss the year before that essentially knocked 11-1 K-State out of the Big 12 and national title picture. But in ’98, the Wildcats finally got over the hump, dispatching Nebraska on their way to capturing the Big 12 North title, the program’s first title of any kind in 64 years.


Oct. 28, 2000 (31-14 vs. No. 1 Nebraska): Bob Stoops has delivered many memorable victories over Texas and Oklahoma State. But ask him, and he’ll tell you this victory over Nebraska remains his most memorable. The Sooners had defeated No. 11 Texas and No. 2 Kansas State their previous two games, but there was still skepticism as to whether Oklahoma was really back -- especially after the Huskers jumped to an early 14-0 lead. But that skepticism was replaced with belief during a furious second-quarter rally. This is still the only game of the Stoops era where the fans rushed the field.


Dec. 3, 2011 (44-10 vs. No. 13 Oklahoma): The Bedlam rivalry historically had been one of the most lopsided in-state rivalries in the country. But to secure the school’s first Big 12 championship and BCS bowl appearance, the Cowboys had to topple their longtime nightmare nemesis. They did that and more, completely obliterating the Sooners to come within a hair of advancing to the national championship game despite the loss to Iowa State two weeks before.


Nov. 6, 2010 (47-7 at No. 6 Utah): In arguably the biggest game in Mountain West history, TCU traveled to Utah with a possible BCS bowl berth and second consecutive undefeated regular season on the line. With College GameDay in the house, the Horned Frogs flexed their muscles, routing the Utes to secure a trip to the Rose Bowl. There, the Horned Frogs defeated Big Ten champ Wisconsin to finish the season 13-0 while proving to the Big 12 they were worthy of inclusion in the league after the second round of conference realignment.


Oct. 8, 2005 (45-12 vs. Oklahoma): In just a couple of years, Mack Brown turned the Texas program around, restoring the Longhorns to a perennial double-digit win team. But the one crimson stain on Brown’s tenure was his series of debacles suffered against Red River rival Oklahoma, which had won five in a row against the Longhorns by an average margin of almost four touchdowns. But behind All-American QB Vince Young, Brown and the Longhorns conquered those demons with a convincing 45-12 rout of the Sooners. With Oklahoma finally vanquished, the Longhorns went on to seize the school’s first national championship in 35 years.


Nov. 1, 2008 (39-33 vs. No. 1 Texas): With the final seconds ticking away and Texas Tech trailing by a point, quarterback Graham Harrell heaved a pass toward the boundary. At the other end, wideout Michael Crabtree snagged Harrell’s throw, shook off a defender, and tiptoed down the sidelines for a stunning, game-winning 28-yard touchdown with one second remaining. The victory catapulted the Red Raiders to second in the polls, and ultimately assured them a three-way split of the South Division title with Texas and Oklahoma. Current Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, who had just started his coaching career at Houston and was at that game, has a painting commemorating the Texas win hanging in his office.


Oct. 22, 2003 (28-7 vs. No. 3 Virginia Tech): In 2003, the jury was still out on coach Rich Rodriguez, who had replaced the legendary Don Nehlen two years before. The Mountaineers had gone 3-8 in Rich-Rod’s first year, and were off to a terrible 2-4 start in 2003. Next up was rival Virginia Tech, which was ranked third in the country and held national championship expectations. The Mountaineers quashed those by the end of the third quarter with a dominating effort in Morgantown for the program’s firs-ever win over an opponent ranked in the top three of the polls. The game also turned around West Virginia’s season, as the Mountaineers reeled off seven straight wins to make the Gator Bowl. The stunning upset also set the tone for the Rich-Rod era, as West Virginia won 11 games apiece in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Stat crunch: Returning lettermen

June, 13, 2014
As part of his in-depth look at returning experience, college football guru and ESPN Insider Phil Steele calculated the percentage of lettermen returning for every team in the country.

You can view the entire list here.

As for the Big 12 teams, they rank like this:

11. West Virginia (78.33 percent)

29. OU (73.85 percent)

30. Texas (73.77 percent)

39. TCU (72.31 percent)

53. Texas Tech (70.42 percent)

61. Baylor (69.86 percent)

116. Iowa State (60.61 percent)

119. Kansas State (60.0 percent)

126. Kansas (56.14 percent)

128. Oklahoma State (54.29 percent)

Couple thoughts:
  • Calculating the percentage of lettermen returning only tells the small part of the story when examining experience. And in many cases, what story it tells can reveal very little. A reserve that only plays in mop-up time might letter, but whether he returns might make no difference on the outlook of a team.
  • That said, this chart bodes well for West Virginia, which has had issues with its depth since joining the Big 12. Dana Holgorsen has said this will be his deepest and most complete team yet, and this chart certainly supports that notion.
  • Conversely, this is yet another chart that suggests Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and his staff have their work cut out this fall. The Cowboys have the fewest returning starters, least percentage of tackles coming back, and now the fewest returning letterman. If the Cowboys are competitive this season, they could be an absolute load in 2015 with the number of players they’ll have coming back.

In this week's mailbag we discuss Baylor's stadium, West Virginia's 2014 outlook and whether Nebraska and Colorado are better off in their new leagues.

To submit a mailbag entry for a future mailbag, simply go here.

To the 'bag:

Jimmy in Austin, Texas, writes: As a recent grad of Baylor, I am so pumped about our new stadium. Based on projections of what it will look like, how would you rate it compared to other Big 12 venues?

Trotter: That’s impossible to say without having seen the finished product in person. But it could be a game-changer for Baylor, which has had to overcome Floyd Casey Stadium and other mediocre facilities in the past in recruiting. Those will no longer be a hindrance, which is scary considering how well Art Briles and his staff have recruited in the past despite it. Ask me this question again in September and I will be able to give McLane Stadium a proper rating relative to the other Big 12 venues.

Bob Stricker in Alvin, Texas, writes: I was impressed with Marcus Johnson's production in 2013, given his limited playing time. His footwork on the sidelines and polished route running for a sophomore indicate a substantial upside. His speed and ability to separate (see wheel route vs. Oklahoma) might be his most outstanding asset. I can't find a 40 time listed for him. Do you have one?

Trotter: I’ve heard 4.3, which is really fast. Outside of Tyreek Hill, it might be the fastest time in the Big 12. I honestly don’t know. That brings up this thought – wouldn’t it be fun to have summer combine featuring the top returning players in the Big 12? If ESPN broadcasted that, wouldn’t you watch?

Shaun in Old Bridge, N.J., writes: With the West Virginia QB spot still being as shaky and the running back corps being as deep as it is, don't you think the offense should be run around the RBs' talents more?

Trotter: Sure, but remember who your coach is. West Virginia is only going to run the ball so much. But I agree, he needs to run the ball more. The Mountaineers ranked eighth in the Big 12 in rushing attempts per game. With that running back position stable and veteran run-blocking guards Quinton Spain and Mark Glowinski, West Virginia would be wise to establish the run more often.

David in Virginia writes: WVU went into the fourth quarter of Texas, Texas Tech and Iowa State with the lead. Had it held the lead until the end of those games, it would have finished 7-5. There has been a lot of talk about how the offense needs improvement, but the offense did their job in these games to get the lead and then the defense gave it away. That being said, do you see the offense or defense being a bigger issue for WVU next year?

Trotter: I’d call the offense the bigger concern, simply because of uncertainty with the quarterback position. The rest of the offense looks pretty good on paper. But if the quarterback play is shaky, that paper won’t amount to much. Depth is what killed the defense late in the season last year, after a host of injuries. This should be a deeper and more seasoned defense that also added a really good assistant in the offseason in Tom Bradley, who will bring composure to the unit.

Raymond Boggess in Charleston, West Virginia, writes: I really believe the Big 12 is sleeping on WVU after a rough start in the conference. I'm not saying WVU will win the conference or be world-beaters in 2014, but I believe it will finish in the top four in the conference. Am I being too optimistic, or is the Big 12 in for a wake-up call?

Trotter: With the fourth-most returning player starts in the league, West Virginia will have a veteran team. But top four sounds way too optimistic for a program that has gone 6-12 its first two seasons in a big-boy league.

Mike T. in Dallas writes: It's been a few years now since Nebraska and Colorado left the Big 12. Do you think the two schools are happier or feel like they made a mistake? I’m not asking about Mizzou or A&M, since they haven't been gone long enough.

Trotter: Neither would admit they made a mistake, but I can’t imagine either move has gone as they had imagined. Last December, I did a conference realignment scorecard for every team that changed conferences in the last five years. I gave Nebraska a “C,” and Colorado an “F.” Nebraska is going to be in the Big Ten division opposite Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State, which I guess will make for an easier road to the Big Ten championship game, but it's also less desirable home schedules. Nebraska’s new big “rival” these days is Iowa, which hardly moves the needle. It’s hard to remember whether Colorado even fields a football team anymore, as it has seemingly become so irrelevant. I still think it’s too soon to give a determination on whether either made a mistake. But so far, it’s difficult to make the case that either is better off.

Big 12 teams as World Cup squads

June, 13, 2014
Finally, football is back. Well, fútbol, actually.

The World Cup will consume sports fan across the globe for the next month, taking us right up to the outskirts of the college football season.

Many in Big 12 country know little about the World Cup, or what team to pull for outside the United States. So to give you soccer novices a rooting choice, we’ve come up with the fútbol counterparts for every team in the Big 12 (thanks to soccer aficionados Royce and Russ for their help in putting this list together):


Belgium: Baylor has been the up-and-coming squad in the Big 12, winning its first conference title last year. The Belgians are the up-and-comers of this World Cup, and a popular sleeper pick to win it all. Both have lethal offensive attacks, but still must prove their staying power this year.


South Korea: On its home soil in 2002, South Korea pulled off three of the bigger upsets in World Cup history, knocking off Portugal, Italy and Spain to reach the quarterfinals. The Cyclones under coach Paul Rhoads have also been a giant killer at home, most recently upsetting second-ranked Oklahoma State to bounce the Cowboys from the 2011 national title race. With 21-year-old forward Son Heung-min leading the charge, South Korea boasts a potentially formidable offensive attack. And with nine offensive starters back this year, Iowa State has the chance to feature its best offense in a long time.


Australia: Both had their finest moments around the same time -- the Aussies advancing out of its World Cup group in 2006; the Jayhawks winning the Orange Bowl in 2007 -- but the hearts of both fan bases lie in another sport (basketball for Kansas, rugby for Australia).


Greece: Greece is not flashy. But emulating the Bill Snyder playbook to success, the Greeks grind out victories (and ties) with stout defense, fundamental play and by avoiding mistakes. Like K-State, the Greeks have been defined by their coach (Otto Graham/Fernando Santos) more than any star player. And Greece’s improbable 2004 Euro Cup title run might be the soccer equivalent of K-State’s Manhattan Miracle.


Germany: The Germans have been the epitome of consistent success, advancing to the semifinals in eight of the last 11 World Cups. The Sooners have matched that level of consistency during the Bob Stoops era, with eight conference titles and a dozen double-digit win seasons over the last 14 years.


Portugal: In recent years, both have piled up the wins and have featured plenty of star power. But they have failed to breakthrough when the spotlight has been the brightest. Portugal’s “golden generation” flopped in the 2002 World Cup, losing to the U.S. in the opener before failing to advance out of the group stage. Oklahoma State could have clinched the 2010 and 2013 Big 12 titles, but slipped at home against rival Oklahoma. The Cowboys and the Portuguese have also had to exist in the shadow of two preeminent powers in their sports (Sooners/Spain). Still they have become two clubs nobody wants to play, and have reached enviable levels of year-to-year success.


Uruguay: Uruguay is a small country surrounded by some of the giants in World Cup soccer. The same goes for TCU, which doesn’t have the enrollments or resources of the likes of Oklahoma or Texas. But just like Uruguay, TCU has carved out success with a hardnosed style of play. Furthermore, Uruguay won the first World Cup ever played in 1930, while both of TCU’s national championships came in the same decade (1935, 1938).


England: All the tradition, history and resources. And yet in recent years, these two have been massive underachievers. In South Africa in 2010, the English surrendered the top seed in its group to the Yanks, then got obliterated 4-1 by Germany in the first game of the knockout round. The Longhorns, meanwhile, have failed to win more than eight regular-season games the last four seasons. Because of these struggles, both squads are flying somewhat under the radar, and the talent is still there for either to ignite a run. But first, someone -- anyone -- has to light the fuse.


Mexico: After an emotional roller-coaster ride through the qualifying stages, Mexico is feeling optimistic following a manageable World Cup draw and cleaner play of late. Texas Tech rode the roller coaster of a five-game losing streak last season, but is feeling confident these days coming off its dominating bowl performance against Arizona State.


Ivory Coast: Les Éléphants bring the fireworks with Didier Drogba and Yaya Touré the same way the Mountaineers have through the Pat White and Geno Smith eras. But while West Virginia dominated the Big East the way Ivory Coast has Africa, neither has been able to take that next step against the big boys. In its first two appearances in the World Cup in 2006 and 2010, Ivory Coast failed to advance out of its group. Likewise, the Mountaineers have struggled their first two years in the Big 12. Both have the individual talents of a championship-caliber club, but neither will contend until the depth improves.
Ask any coach before a game about the key to winning, and one of the canned answers almost always will be, “turnovers.”

Of course, just because the answer is canned doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Turnovers are one of the biggest differences between winning a game and losing it.

Delving further into the data, I analyzed fumbles lost and gained, interceptions lost and gained and turnover margin over the last three seasons to determine which Big 12 teams have best used turnovers to their advantage. And, conversely, which teams have used it to their disadvantage.

View the results of my research on the right:

What the data revealed:
  • Wonder why Oklahoma State is one of college football’s winningest teams over the last five years? The Cowboys force turnovers in bundles. And offensively they hold onto the ball. Sure, the 2011 season, when Oklahoma State led the country in turnover margin, might be a bit of an outlier. But the Cowboys led the conference in turnover margin again last season, and they also forced the most in the league in 2010, which was not included in the data. This is no coincidence. Mike Gundy’s team emphasizes the turnover battle in practice. Last offseason, all-conference linebackers Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey actually practiced catching the ball, which is a major reason why they combined for seven picks last season. Oklahoma State’s ball carriers have also been phenomenal holding on to the ball, which is why they’ve only lost 21 fumbles -- and also improved their ball security each of the last three years. The Cowboys might not have many starters coming back this season. But if their turnover margin rate holds steady, they will be tough to beat yet again.
  • Like Oklahoma State, Kansas State has made a living off its turnover rate. The Wildcats struggled early last season, in large part because they deviated from the Bill Snyder playbook to winning, and turned the ball over 25 times during a 2-4 start. But while reeling off wins in six of seven final games, K-State actually led the Big 12 with a plus-9 turnover margin over that stretch. Decisively winning the turnover margin again will be the recipe to K-State becoming a legitimate Big 12 title contender this season.
  • On the flip side, one of the major hindrances that has kept Texas Tech from getting over the hump has been its disastrous turnover margin. The Red Raiders have been dreadful at forcing turnovers, which, as Oklahoma State's defense has proven, is one of the best ways to stopping the up-tempo attacks of the Big 12. Texas Tech hasn’t been much better at holding onto the ball, either. During their five-game losing streak to cap the regular season, the Red Raiders were a minus-8, and the only time they actually won the turnover battle in an individual game last season came in a 54-16 win at Kansas. In fact, Texas Tech’s turnover margin in the dreaded month of November the last three years is minus-18. With Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma all on the November slate, the only chance the Red Raiders have of reversing that trend of late-season collapses is by cleaning up the turnovers. Having a semi-experienced quarterback in Davis Webb should help. But Texas Tech will not sniff a double-digit winning season -- like it did in 2008 when the team was plus-8 -- until it improves in the turnover margin department.
  • Baylor absolutely crushed its opponents off turnovers last season, ranking fourth nationally with 135 points off turnovers. Only Florida State, Arizona State and Houston had more. The TCU game was a great example of how Baylor capitalized off turnovers. Despite struggling offensively, the Bears scored three touchdowns off three turnovers (including two pick-sixes and a fumble recovery at the TCU 1-yard line) to win the game, 41-38. Baylor will be replacing several key players off its secondary, but with a swarming defensive line led by end Shawn Oakman, the Bears could set their explosive offense up with numerous short fields again in 2014.
  • Oklahoma has had rather pedestrian turnover numbers defensively the last three years. But it's difficult to see that not jumping up in 2014, especially if the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Alabama when the Sooners forced five turnovers is any indication. Oklahoma has several defenders coming back capable of getting to the quarterback, headlined by menacing outside linebacker Eric Striker.
  • The overall numbers for TCU and West Virginia included a season (2011) in the Mountain West and Big East conferences, respectively. The turnovers forced, however, have actually gone up for both teams since joining the Big 12. But so have the turnovers lost. Only Texas Tech gave up more turnovers than the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers last season. Inconsistent quarterbacking has been a big part of that increase. To bounce back from bowl-less seasons, both teams need their QBs -- whoever they turn out to be -- to take better care of the ball.
The BCS era is over. Next up, the College Football Playoff era.

But before we completely turn the page on the BCS here on the Big 12 blog, we’re going to have some fun -- with a playoff.

Through the month of June, we’re going to decide who the best Big 12 team of the BCS era really was.

Actually, you are going to decide.

Here’s how this will work. On Thursday morning, we’ll unveil the 16-team bracket, which will be seeded 1 through 16. Then beginning next Monday, you will vote each day to determine which team advances to the next round.

But first things first. We’d like your nominations of teams that should be included in the field of 16, with the following caveats:
  • The teams have to be from the BCS era (1998-2013).
  • Teams from programs (Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, Texas A&M) that have since departed the Big 12 are eligible for inclusion. However, any team from those programs that came after departure from the Big 12 is not eligible. (And don’t worry, we don’t think any Texas A&M team will make the cut anyway.)
  • Lastly, in the spirit of Big 12 unity, we’re making all TCU and West Virginia teams from the BCS era (1998-2013) eligible for this tournament.

Send us your Big 12 BCS-era team nominations here.

And check back Thursday morning for the bracket unveiling.
In this week's mailbag we discuss the College Football Playoff and other various topics.

To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. To submit a mailbag entry the traditional way, simply go here.

To the 'bag:

Jonathan in California writes: Hey, Jake, enjoy the blog. My question has to do with the unlikely but still probable dilemma when five conference champions all go undefeated? It has happened before and will likely happen again. What would the committee have to value the most then? What if it is the traditional powers that are undefeated, as in Oklahoma, Florida State, Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State? Would expansion occur or would conferences have to change so all are playing similar schedules then?

Trotter: Probable? The last time we had just three undefeated teams from the power conferences was in 2004 (Oklahoma, USC, Auburn). The more likely scenario would be five one-loss conference champs. In that event, the strength of the conference and the strength of individual nonconference schedules (you reading, Baylor fans?) would be the determining factor in picking the team to leave out.

Mark in Snyderville, USA, writes: Am I wrong for being skeptical of the new playoff system? Let's say a one-loss Texas team and a one-loss K-State team are in the mix for the final playoff spot. Isn't Texas more likely to get in based off name recognition alone? Am I just being paranoid or should schools with less recognizable brands just prepare to be left in the cold?

Trotter: Would that be any different than the system we had before? Does anyone really believe that Texas or Oklahoma would have been left out of the 2011 national championship game with Oklahoma State’s résumé that season? I have no idea how the playoff committee is going to select its teams. But the lesser brands can’t be at any more of a disadvantage than they were during the BCS era.

Lost Mountaineer in Nashville, Tenn., writes: How big of an impact can FCS All-American Shaquille Riddick have for West Virginia? I saw him as a projected second-round draft pick prior to the transfer.

Trotter: I did a Q&A with Riddick earlier this week. I’m starting to think this could be a big addition. Playmaking off the edge is where the Mountaineers need the most help defensively. That’s what Riddick brings. I have no idea how the transition to the higher classification will affect him. But he could be a factor.

Alex in Chicago writes: What are your thoughts on the rumors going around of replacing West Virginia with Tulane due to the geographical logistic headaches, and the league wanting to further strengthen inroads into the fertile recruiting grounds around New Orleans?

Trotter: My thought is you need to take a vacation from the message boards.

C.L. in Abilene, Texas, writes: Do ya'll know if any of the Big 12 coaches are good friends? I know it's tough being rivals and all, but I figure some of the guys must be known to hang out on occasion.

Trotter: Art Briles, Kliff Kingsbury and Dana Holgorsen all know each other very well, dating to their connections to Houston and/or Texas Tech. Mike Gundy gave Holgorsen his big break by bringing him into the Big 12 as a coordinator at Oklahoma State. New TCU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham was at Oklahoma State just two years ago and is close with Texas offensive line coach Joe Wickline from their days in Stillwater. TCU’s other offensive coordinator, Sonny Cumbie, played with several of the coaches at Texas Tech. New Iowa State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino has strong ties to Oklahoma and Kansas State. Oklahoma’s Stoops Brothers coached under Bill Snyder at K-State. Gundy’s brother Cale is an assistant at Oklahoma. I could go on and on.

Wallace Bever in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, writes: Jake, I think your observations on in-stadium beer sales are right on. A few beers is one thing. Going to the car at halftime for a load of heavier alcohol is different, and not in a good way. West Virginia may have gotten this one right.

Trotter: In case you missed it this week, this is what Wallace is referring to. If you know you can get beer inside the stadium, doesn’t that dissuade you from getting loaded before the game? I think it does. People are going to drink at college football games. At least inside the stadium, it can be managed.

Matt in Wamego, Kansas, writes: Jake, as Charlie Weis begins Year 3 in Lawrence, what do you think the Jayhawks have to do this year to keep him off the hot seat?

Trotter: Progress in the right direction would do the trick. The Jayhawks don’t have to go to a bowl game. But they need to show they’re better than they were last year. With a veteran defense and a much improved receiving corps, it would be a major disappointment if they took a step back this season, which would also warm up Weis’ seat.

Big 12 lunchtime links

May, 29, 2014
Anyone remember doing this?
  • Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said he'll do anything to have a good practice. And that means anything.
  • Kingsbury also said that QB Davis Webb has the ability to be a top-five pick in the NFL draft someday.
  • Former Kansas State QB Daniel Sams is headed to McNeese State -- which opens the 2014 season at Nebraska.
  • Is K-State WR Tyler Lockett the league's most exciting player? SI thinks so.
  • Former star Texas RB James Saxton passed away at age 74. Saxton was a Heisman finalist in 1961.
  • West Virginia is prepping for the Alabama showdown.
  • The Oklahoman's Erik Horne analyzes The Sporting News' No. 1 preseason ranking of the Sooners.

Big 12 lunchtime links

May, 27, 2014
Good to see Texas and Texas A&M have gotten over their issues and will be playing each other again.
It's Take Two Tuesday, when we give takes on a burning topic related to the Big 12.

Tuesday's topic: Texas is primed to become the third Big 12 school to serve beer at football games; should other Big 12 schools consider following suit?

Take 1: Jake Trotter – Yes

This also got asked in last week’s mailbag, but as I wrote then, I don’t have a problem with it, as long as it’s done in a responsible manner.

[+] EnlargeWest Virginia fans
AP Photo/Christopher JacksonWest Virginia reported $750,000 in revenue from beer sales in 2012 and believes allowing sales in the stadium has helped curtail binge drinking prior to games.
Selling beer at football games actually can curb the binge drinking that occurs in the parking lots before and during halftime of games. West Virginia claims it curbed binge drinking once it began serving beer at its football games, while preventing anyone from leaving the stadium during the game to go back to the tailgating area.

By serving beer, West Virginia also reportedly generated $750,000 in alcohol sales during the 2012 season. And while the money was coming in, West Virginia’s alcohol-related incidents decreased.

Last week in Oklahoma City, I was at the Big 12 baseball tournament, which also began selling beer for the first time. There wasn’t even a hint of an incident, at least while I was there.

At college sporting events, people are going to drink, whether that’s tailgating in the parking lot or at the taps in the stadium. But in the stadium, at least the drinking can be managed.

With the concessionaries assuming liability, like they have at West Virginia, there’s very little to lose. But there's a whole lot to gain -- both in the monetary windfall as well as a reduction of the drinking-related problems that can occur outside the stadiums.

Take 2: Brandon Chatmon – No

Here I am to rain on your parade.

Without a doubt, adding alcohol sales to the equation will bring more revenue to Big 12 schools who decide to start selling beer and/or wine in their stadiums. And there are some positives in relation to fan behavior including the ability to monitor sales. Yet, alcohol and college students are always a combustible mixture.

When it comes to adding alcohol sales in Big 12 stadiums, the question is simple: Why change anything?

College football is as popular as ever, the gameday fan experience is second to none and, in this post-realignment world, universities are making more money than they ever have. It’s never easy to turn away additional revenue and some schools, most notably West Virginia and Louisville, have had some success maintaining a terrific atmosphere with alcohol sales in their stadiums.

The main reason to keep alcohol sales out of stadiums is to maintain the current atmosphere. College stadiums should remain as family friendly as possible. Selling alcohol would increase the number of people inside the stadium who have had a drink or two. That’s not to say a drink or two, for most people, will completely change everything about the stadium atmosphere, but it would have an impact.

And the additional revenue, after most schools have seen added millions from TV deals after realignment, isn’t worth the added hassle.
Last week, colleague Max Olson crunched the numbers on the total career starts each Big 12 team has coming back for next season.

What Max unearthed was that Texas (by far) leads the Big 12 in career starts returning, both offensively and defensively. TCU’s defense ranked second behind the Longhorns’ defense, while the Iowa State offense placed second. The Horned Frogs could have their most dominant defense yet in the Big 12, and the Cyclones could feature their best offensive attack in years, suggesting both teams could also be in for bounce-back 2014 campaigns.

Yet while revealing, compiling returning starts doesn’t tell the entire story when examining team experience, since the equation doesn’t account for those who played key roles as reserves. TCU safety Derrick Kindred, Texas Tech linebacker Micah Awe and Baylor end Shawn Oakman weren’t starters last year. But they were still valuable players on their respective teams.

To examine returning experience in another way, I’ve tallied up the percentage of tackles returning for every team in the Big 12:

With nine starters back, it’s not surprising the Sooners top this chart. But the number of returning starters isn’t the only reason why Oklahoma is optimistic about its 2014 defense. The Sooners also bring back several key defensive performers that weren’t full-time starters last season. End Geneo Grissom, who notched three sacks against Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, only started five games in 2013. Linebacker Jordan Evans thrived whenever his number got called as a freshman. And tackle Jordan Phillips only started four games but was playing at an All-Big 12-caliber level before suffering a season-ending back injury in early October.

On the flip side, Oklahoma State is at the cellar of this list, and not just because it graduated seven starters. The Cowboys also lost several defensive reserves that played a bunch, including linebacker Joe Mitchell, cornerback Tyler Patmon and safety Zack Craig.

Of course, like with returning starts, a high level of returning tackles doesn’t guarantee success. And it doesn’t necessarily preclude it, either.

Oklahoma ranked 119th nationally in returning tackles (40 percent) last season. But by the end of the season, the Sooners were wreaking havoc in the backfield of the two-time defending national champs.

The tackle equation can be an indicator of the defenses that might be formidable. Oklahoma State and Baylor both had 73 percent of their tackles returning from 2012 going into last season. Both wound up being formidable, ranking first and second in the league in both fewest yards per play and points per drive.

That bodes well for the defensive prospects of Oklahoma, Kansas, TCU, Texas and West Virginia, which all have like tackle rates coming back for 2014.
In this week's mailbag, we discuss the contested recruiting in Texas, the starting experience of Baylor and Oklahoma State, and whether Big 12 schools should be selling beer inside their stadiums.

To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. To submit a mailbag entry the traditional way, simply go here.

To the ‘bag:

David Elswick in Richmond, Va., writes: I'm a little nervous about the future of the Big 12. Part of that is due to watching the Big East stand still until it was too late. Other conferences are talking about seeking more games against the power conferences. Is the Big 12 falling behind?

Jake Trotter: David, you know I’ll give it to you straight when it comes to the Big 12 and any potential flailing status, but I see no correlation between the power conference scheduling of the SEC and ACC, and the welfare of the Big 12. It’s a death knell to those outside the Power 5 conferences (was it a bad week for BYU or what?). But it has no bearing on the Big 12, other than it could supply the league with more marquee nonconference opportunities. The reason the Big 12 hasn’t introduced a similar clause is because the league already plays nine conference games. The SEC and ACC play eight.

Marty in Dallas writes: Jake, I noticed in the latest recruiting update, that Baylor has six guys committed who are in the ESPN 300. I understand that Art Briles has had some success at Baylor, but I have to admit I am still a little surprised that he has been able to get so much quality talent to Waco. I think many assumed that Baylor's success would impact UT's recruiting, but this number suggests that it may be having a greater impact on the conference schools outside Texas. Thoughts?

Trotter: Recruiting in Texas has never been more competitive. Texas A&M is a different animal in the SEC. Alabama and LSU are recruiting Texas like never before. Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor are doing major damage. Texas’ top in-state commitment (safety DeShon Elliott) is ranked No. 13 in the state. Oklahoma’s top Texas recruit (OT Bobby Evans) is No. 21. The Longhorns and Sooners are still going to get Texas players. But it’s not like it was a decade ago when they were getting all the players in Texas.

Mulley in Cleveland writes: I had my 11-year-old son and two of his buddies with me at Five Guys, where we were in line with Justin Gilbert. The boys got his autograph, talked to him about Johnny Football. Gilbert now has three fans for life. I didn’t even have the heart to tell him I was a WVU grad. It was cool to see that Justin is handling his newfound stardom in the NFL exceptionally well.

Trotter: Gilbert was one of the feel-good Big 12 stories of this draft. After a bad junior season, he came back to school for his senior year, worked his tail off and turned himself into a first-round pick. Good to see he has hit the ground running with the fans in Cleveland.

Philip in Fort Worth, Texas, writes: Hey Jake -- I'm loving all of the preseason attention that my Sooners are getting, but I'm worried. What if Trevor Knight goes down? What if Sterling Shepard goes down? Lord knows we're not stacked up in the running game. Are these preseason accolades taking potential injuries into account? I'm scared OU doesn't have enough depth at skill positions to meet the expectations. Thoughts?

Trotter: If Jameis Winston goes down, Florida State isn’t winning any titles. Same goes for Oregon and Marcus Mariota. Injuries are part of the game -- and impossible to predict. Lucky breaks are part of the national championship equation. Just ask the 2000 Sooners.

Mike T. in Dallas writes: Looks like there will be a lot of preseason hype for Baylor. Art Briles is a good coach and has some good players, but you will not convince me Baylor has reached the plug-and-play status of OU, Texas and, to a degree, OSU. Baylor had a great season, but let's not forget its embarrassment in the Fiesta Bowl. I believe the media needs to tap the brake pedal just a bit on Baylor and focus more on the traditional powers. That's still where the talent lies.

Trotter: I don’t agree with your premise, but you bring up a really interesting point that I was thinking about on Thursday after reading Max Olson’s well-done post on returning experience in the Big 12. Baylor and Oklahoma State both have, by far, the least collective returning experience in the Big 12. Yet, we in the media (me included) are pinning Baylor near the top of the Big 12 and national preseason rankings. Meanwhile, we’re burying Oklahoma State, which has a sparkling track record of exceeding expectations under Mike Gundy. Are we giving Baylor too much credit? Are we not giving the Cowboys enough?

JR in Houston writes: Do y'all think the Big 12 should start selling beer at games?

Trotter: As long as it’s done in a responsible manner, I don’t have a problem with it. West Virginia claims it curbed binge drinking by serving beer while disallowing spectators from leaving and coming back into the stadium to go “tailgate” at halftime. That makes sense to me. People are going to drink at football games. At least inside the stadium, it can be managed. Selling beer might not work for everyone in the Big 12. But for some, it could be a moneymaker -- and a way to eliminate problems that are occurring outside the stadium.
On Wednesday, we ranked the Big 12 position-by-position from strongest to weakest.

Last season the strongest position of the league was defensive back, headlined by Justin Gilbert, Jason Verrett, Ahmad Dixon, Aaron Colvin and Ty Zimmerman, among others.

But those players are all gone. So what will be the strongest position in 2014?

With such players such as TCU’s Devonte Fields, Oklahoma’s Charles Tapper and Texas’ Cedric Reed returning, we believe it will be defensive line.


What will be the Big 12's strongest overall position in 2014?


Discuss (Total votes: 3,613)

But do you agree?

Maybe you think it will be another position such as receiver, which includes All-American hopefuls Antwan Goodley and Tyler Lockett, and a host of potential 1,000-yard threats such as Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant, Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard, Iowa State’s Quenton Bundrage, Oklahoma State’s Jhajuan Seales and Texas’ Jaxon Shipley.

Perhaps it’s your opinion that the strength of the Big 12 will be at linebacker, where Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Kansas and TCU bring their entire units back, and virtually everyone else has at least one proven performer returning.

Maybe the conference’s best unit is the offensive line, with experienced centers BJ Finney (Kansas State), Dominic Espinosa (Texas) and Tom Farniok (Iowa State); talented tackles Spencer Drango (Baylor), Le'Raven Clark (Texas Tech) and Daryl Williams (Oklahoma); and versatile stalwarts Cody Whitehair (Kansas State), Quinton Spain (West Virginia) and Daniel Koenig (Oklahoma State).

Or with Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Kansas State’s Jake Waters, Texas Tech’s Davis Webb and Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight, do you believe quarterback is on its way back to becoming the dominant position in a league that not long ago was the nation’s preeminent conference for that position?

Tell us by voting in the weekly Big 12 poll.
ESPN Stats & Information released its automated preseason ratings on Monday for all 128 FBS teams. The ratings derive from a statistical model designed to predict how strong each team will be this coming season, based on offense, defense and special teams. Basically it’s a preseason version of last year's Football Power Index (FPI).

The methodology uses historical data such as past performance, the quantity and quality of returnees and recent recruiting trends to come up with expected points added (EPA) on offense, defense and special teams. Overall, it tells us a lot about how teams can be expected to perform the next season. The overall preseason FPI scores represent how much better or worse a team would be against an average FBS opponent on a neutral field.

Below is a breakdown of each Big 12 team ranks in each category and overall -- plus a few of my thoughts at the end:

7. Oklahoma
  • Offense ranking: 19
  • Defense ranking: 4
  • Special teams ranking: 38
  • FPI preseason score: 20.3
11. Baylor
  • Offense ranking: 4
  • Defense ranking: 29
  • Special teams ranking: 88
  • FPI preseason score: 19.6
21. Oklahoma State
  • Offense ranking: 35
  • Defense ranking: 15
  • Special teams ranking: 11
  • FPI preseason score: 15.1
25. Texas
  • Offense ranking: 38
  • Defense ranking: 22
  • Special teams ranking: 94
  • FPI preseason score: 12.2
33. Texas Tech
  • Offense ranking: 13
  • Defense ranking: 59
  • Special teams ranking: 107
  • FPI preseason score: 10.4
36. TCU
  • Offense ranking: 87
  • Defense ranking: 5
  • Special teams ranking: 26
  • FPI preseason score: 9.4
44. Kansas State
  • Offense ranking: 31
  • Defense ranking: 61
  • Special teams ranking: 9
  • FPI preseason score: 7.9
56. West Virginia
  • Offense ranking: 65
  • Defense ranking: 44
  • Special teams ranking: 90
  • FPI preseason score: 4.5

62. Iowa State
  • Offense ranking: 46
  • Defense ranking: 79
  • Special teams ranking: 71
  • FPI preseason score: 2.4
83. Kansas
  • Offense ranking: 110
  • Defense ranking: 47
  • Special teams ranking: 67
  • FPI preseason score: -4.1

A few thoughts:
  • The FPI is very bullish on Oklahoma State, even though the Cowboys only return nine starters. The reason? Under Mike Gundy, the Cowboys boast one of college football’s best winning percentages over the last five years -- in other words, a proven track record. Thanks to its state-of-the-art facilities, Oklahoma State has also recruited well.
  • The FPI also likes TCU, which is powered by having the fifth-best defensive ranking behind only Florida State, Florida, Alabama and Oklahoma. The Horned Frogs also have a strong special teams rating.
  • Kansas State comes in surprisingly low at 44th. Keep in mind, K-State returns only four starters defensively, which might be playing a part in the No. 61 defensive ranking. Otherwise, the offense and special teams EPAs smack of a top-25-caliber club.
  • The FPI loves the Baylor offense and the Oklahoma defense -- and rightfully so. Both units should be formidable.
  • The FPI doesn’t think much of the special teams in the league. Only the units of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU and Kansas State rank in the top 65 nationally.
  • The FPI does, however, think a lot of the league’s offenses, even after a relatively mediocre 2013 season according to past standards. Oklahoma, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech, Kansas State and Iowa State all have top 50 offenses, according to the FPI.


Texas Longhorns Show Out On Pro Day
The Texas Longhorns produced several eligible NFL Draft athletes who participated in Pro Day Tuesday afternoon in Austin, Texas.