Big 12: West Virginia Mountaineers
West Virginia's opener with Alabama this weekend took an interesting turn Tuesday when Mountaineers quarterback Clint Trickett was asked after practice about his relationship with Alabama coach Nick Saban.
Trickett's father, Rick, who is currently Florida State's offensive line coach, worked at LSU under Saban in 2000.
Trickett, however, apparently had a relationship with another Saban, as well.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Trickett, when prompted that he probably knows Saban well: "His daughter was my first kiss back in the day. So yeah... I don't know if I should have said that [laughs]. She's actually engaged now. Coach Nick is one of the greatest there is. My brother (Travis Trickett) worked for him. He was a GA for him when he first got to Alabama. And we've known him for years, family friends and just one of the best coaches out there."
Trickett cut off the next question to add one more tidbit: "For clarification, we were like six years old! Just so everyone knows that."
It's unclear at the moment whether this news will affect how many blitzes Saban dials up on Saturday.
On to the 'bag:
Doug T. from Philly writes: Am I the only one who think the perfect storm for an upset may be brewing in Atlanta this Saturday?
Chatmon: I would be surprised, not shocked, if the Mountaineers find a way against the Crimson Tide. I have reservations about WVU’s ability to win in the trenches and I need to see Clint Trickett take his game to another level and play consistently for Dana Holgorsen’s offense. But I like what WVU has at the skill positions and don't see any scenario where Holgorsen's crew will back down against the Crimson Tide.
Brenna from Stillwater writes: Maybe I'm just looking at it from a true "black and white" perspective, but isn't Baylor returning nine starters, as is Oklahoma State? According to Phil Steele, that's the case. Does Bryce Petty's return compensate for Baylor's loss on defense? Does the quality of Baylor's limited returning starters truly peg them as the team (alongside Oklahoma) to beat in the Big 12 and to make a legitimate run at the four team playoff?
Chatmon: Petty goes a long way in changing the expectations for the Bears. He’s a Heisman Trophy candidate and returning Big 12 offensive player of the year. Oklahoma State’s issue is youthful players all over its defense and uncertainty at quarterback and offensive line. Baylor’s question marks aren’t as widespread as the Cowboys. To cap it all off, the Bears young players will get a chance to ease into the season while OSU faces the defending national champion. That’s what separates the two teams before Week 1 in my eyes.
Sean from Stillwater writes: Give us [OSU] hope for an upset this weekend.
Chatmon: There are plenty of reasons for hope. OSU’s receivers and defensive line should be among the Big 12’s best and Tyreek Hill looks like a playmaker. And, talent-wise, the Cowboys have upgraded from a year ago, but hearing Mike Gundy say his team could play 20 newcomers against FSU is a scary thought.
Theylo from Snyderville writes: Who is going to be the K-State running back?
Chatmon: It looks like Charles Jones has won the job as he sits atop the Kansas State depth chart heading into the season opener. But this will be decided between the lines on several Saturdays this fall. Jones may get the initial nod but if DeMarcus Robinson outperforms him on game day then he could end up being the guy. I think we may not know who John Hubert’s replacement is today, despite the Wildcats’ releasing their depth chart, but we will know by the time October rolls around.
Jon in Tulsa writes: If OSU beats FSU, OSU doesn't become favorite for national championship, then why does OU become contender just because last year's team beat Bama? How do you know that UCF wasn't better than Bama and that mostly returning Baylor shouldn't be favorite in Big 12?
Chatmon: Why are you assuming OSU does not become a national championship favorite if they beat Florida State? I find that odd because the Cowboys will be in the College Football Playoff if they go undefeated. Regardless, Oklahoma is a national title contender because they have a good young defense that carried them to 11 wins a year ago. And the Sooners are the Big 12 favorite, for me at least, because they host Baylor in Norman. It’s not all about the Sooners' Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Alabama.
Jacob Jones from Lubbock writes: Iowa State and Texas Tech will both do better then what experts picked. Watch out for Texas Tech going 9-3 and Iowa State 6-6. West Virginia could be a sleeper as well. I still think Oklahoma holds off the competition and reclaims the Big 12 championship. Bold prediction: Texas Tech upsets OU in Lubbock.
Chatmon: I could see it happen with Tech, but I’m worried about ISU’s defensive line. I need to see them first before I can get on that train. I agree with West Virginia as well but where are those wins coming from? TCU, OSU? I think the Big 12 has a chance to be as competitive as ever this fall, particularly after OU and Baylor at the top. Also, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Sooners fall at Tech; Lubbock has been unkind to the Sooners in the past.
Shaun Rucker from Shawnee, Kansas writes: Why does the media insist on bringing up the fact that the Big 12 doesn't have a championship game every chance they get? Our teams have only ever been hurt by the title game, with the exception of Nebraska not playing in it and getting a title shot in 2001. What's your take?
Brandon Chatmon: I don’t think the Big 12 needs a championship game. I don’t see a scenario where a Big 12 team goes undefeated and finds itself on the outside looking in at the College Football Playoff bracket. Thus, the destiny of every Big 12 team is within its control. That’s good enough for me.
Andy from Austin writes: This past mailbag someone asked, "Why doesn't Texas have alternate unis?'' I love that Texas usually just has subtle tweaks instead of major overhauls. But how awesome would it be to have a solid burnt orange uni for home, like the road ones, but reversed, including the helmets? Any chance of getting that look planted in the minds of those who could make it happen?
Chatmon: I love the idea, Andy. But I don’t see it happening anytime soon. Texas has a good look, and the Longhorns have tried to meet recruits/players halfway with their practice uniforms. I wish I was wrong though.
Who between West Virginia and Oklahoma State has the better chance to pull off the upset this weekend?
Olson: West Virginia, simply because I think Florida State has a little more talent than Alabama. Last year, Virginia Tech gave up two punt return TDs and a pick-six in the first half of their opener vs. Alabama. The Hokies shot themselves in the foot from the start. West Virginia has absolutely no margin of error for that. What the Mountaineers do have is a potentially explosive offense and a full game film of OU thrashing the Tide to use as the blueprint. They must strike early and often and give Bama’s new starting QB hell.
Chatmon: The Mountaineers are hoping a year in the offense will pay off for quarterback Clint Trickett and the rest of the unit. At this time a year ago, none of WVU’s playmakers on offense had much experience. Twelve months later, it should be a different offense. Oklahoma State is talented but it is largely untested, and its defense could be a deer in headlights early against the Seminoles, which would be too much to overcome. Thus, WVU gets the nod, but I wouldn’t bet on either squad to triumph.
Trotter: West Virginia. Florida State returns several key parts off a team that steamrolled most everyone on the way to a national championship. Oklahoma State has the fewest returning starters among any Power 5 conference team. That’s not a recipe for an upset. Alabama is a powerhouse, too, but at least West Virginia will be taking a veteran team to Atlanta. If the Mountaineers can pull off some big plays early -- and they have the players to pull off big plays -- then they can hang around into the second half.
Which Big 12 team should be on upset alert in Week 1?
Olson: No need to overthink this one. It’s Iowa State, because they play North Dakota State. And I don’t say that out of disrespect for the Cyclones, who could be better in a lot of ways in 2014. Just have to respect how NDSU screwed up another Big 12 team’s opener a year ago. Even with coach Craig Bohl gone to Wyoming, NDSU might still be the best team in FCS.
Chatmon: I don’t expect any Big 12 team to be upset this weekend, but TCU is the team that immediately comes to mind. The Horned Frogs won’t lose to Samford -- their defense is too good for that upset to happen -- but they could run into some ups and downs as they try to get their offense humming in the first game with new coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham at the helm. Another team that will have to be on its toes is Baylor, as the Bears try to ignore the distraction of opening McLane Stadium against SMU and focus on the actual game at hand.
Trotter: This one is obvious. Iowa State lost last year’s opener to FCS opponent Northern Iowa. Iowa State’s Week 1 opponent this season, North Dakota State, beat Kansas State on the road in Week 1 last year. If the Cyclones play their game, they’ll be fine. But if they don’t, the three-time defending FCS national champs are more than capable of delivering the upset.
Who is the one player to watch this weekend?
Olson: Oklahoma RB Keith Ford. There were times last season, even when the freshman was getting limited reps, that I sensed Ford might be OU’s most talented running back. He didn’t get talked up too much this offseason, but I think Ford could run wild on Louisiana Tech and alleviate some concerns about an OU run game that lost its top three backs this offseason.
Chatmon: I’m looking forward to seeing what Tyreek Hill can do against the athletes on Florida State’s defense. If Hill is going to live up to the hype as Big 12 preseason newcomer of the year, he will have an immediate impact against the Seminoles and the Cowboys are sure to make getting him the ball a priority. I’m also looking forward to hopefully getting a look at Baylor receiver KD Cannon and Texas Tech quarterback Pat Mahomes in action during week 1.
Trotter: Remember David Ash? It’s difficult to remember, considering he has played in only a couple of games since 2012. Ash will be back behind center for the Longhorns this weekend and is the single biggest key to Texas’ 2014 outlook. If Ash stays healthy and plays well consistently, the Longhorns have the pieces elsewhere to make a run at the Big 12 title. If Ash struggles or gets injured again, the Longhorns will be cooked. The North Texas game will give us a glimpse of which player Texas will be getting.
Here is what was said, and my thoughts:
Strong: Jaxon Shipley (hamstring) is day-to-day. Game time decision.— Ryan Autullo (@AutulloAAS) August 25, 2014
Jake Trotter: The Longhorns won't need Jaxon Shipley this week. But they will need him the following weekend against BYU. With quarterback David Ash working his way back into form, he will need Texas' most experienced and accomplished wideout on the field.
Weis continues to emphasize that newcomers Corey Avery & De'Andre Mann are talented and capable backs who can shoulder the load... #KUfball— Matt Tait (@mctait) August 25, 2014
Trotter: The injuries to Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox hurt Kansas' depth. But De'Andre Mann and Corey Avery were pushing for the top spots on the depth chart before the injuries. The depth took a hit. But the Jayhawks should be fine at running back, provided they suffer no more injuries.
Trotter: The BCS was kind to the Sooners over the years, notably in 2003 and 2008. It remains to be seen whether the playoff committee will look favorably on Oklahoma as well.
Florida State is as "far along as any team I've prepared for in 25 years," says OklaSt Coach Mike Gundy.— Blair Kerkhoff (@BlairKerkhoff) August 25, 2014
Trotter: That is high praise. As a player and coach, Mike Gundy played against some formidable opponents, including some powerhouse Oklahoma and Nebraska teams as a player, then a pair of national championship teams at Oklahoma and Texas as a coach. The combination of Florida State's prominence and Oklahoma State's inexperience is hardly an ideal combination for an opener.
Bill Snyder said he expects to start Charles Jones at running back against Stephen F. Austin— Ken Corbitt (@KenCorbitt) August 25, 2014
Trotter: Bill Snyder traditionally has preferred to utilize one primary running back, and Charles Jones evidently will get the first shot to replace John Hubert. Whoever emerges from the competition will have the opportunity to shine playing alongside quarterback Jake Waters, receiver Tyler Lockett and behind an offensive line with a pair of all-conference performers.
Holgorsen: Icky Banks has been reinstated to the team after academic issues. Will be suspended for non-conference schedule.— Stephen J. Nesbitt (@stephenjnesbitt) August 25, 2014
Trotter: The loss off Icky Banks, a starter last season, in the non-conference hurts, but at least they get him back for the conference portion of the season. The Mountaineers have senior Travis Bell and Terrell Chestnut to at least bridge the gap. The good news is West Virginia has a reliable cover man at the other cornerback in Daryl Worley.
"I've seen some good flashes during fall camp. I expect them to be an improved group." #TexasTech HC Kliff Kingsbury on Red Raiders defense— Brandon Chatmon (@BChatmon) August 25, 2014
Trotter: Whether Texas Tech makes a big jump defensively will hinge heavily on how big an impact the junior-college defensive linemen make. The Red Raiders were gashed against the run last season. They need some of these big men up front, notably, 340-pound nose guard Rika Levi, to help shore that up.
Art Briles said his defense is the most talented he's ever put on the field. Remains to be seen whether it produces.— Suzanne Halliburton (@suzhalliburton) August 25, 2014
Trotter: This is interesting. The Baylor Bears were formidable last season defensively, headlined by All-American safety Ahmad Dixon and All-Big 12 linebacker Eddie Lackey. But there is no doubt the defensive line is going to be better this season. If the secondary comes around the way coach Art Briles think it will, Baylor might not suffer the downturn defensively many are predicting.
Big12 Teleconference - Paul Rhoads on improving on defense - starts with run defense but we didn't stop the pass either - need more pressure— BlueGoldSports.com (@Blue_GoldSports) August 25, 2014
Trotter: It was an uncharacteristically poor season for the Iowa State defense, which ranked last in the league in rushing defense, and seventh in pass defense. Improving those numbers won't come easy, but the Cyclones have some experienced pieces in the front seven to work with in tackle Brandon Jensen, ends Cory Morrissey and Mitchell Meyers, and linebackers Jared Brackens, Alton Meeks, Jevohn Miller and Luke Knott.
TCU's Gary Patterson said he'll announce starting QB when offense takes the field Saturday.— Anthony Andro (@aandro) August 25, 2014
Trotter: No surprise here. My money is on Trevone Boykin getting the first snap. But as coach Gary Patterson has hinted, this competition could linger into September.
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Bears commitment Chad President appears ready to start his season for Temple (Texas) High School, throwing for four touchdowns in a scrimmage on Friday. President is an ESPN 300 receiver whom the Bears will give a shot to play quarterback when he arrives on campus in January after enrolling early.
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Lawton (Oklahoma) athlete Darreyl Patterson will make his official visit to Iowa State this weekend. The three-star prospect has offers from ISU, Kansas State, Washington State and others.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Junior college players represent the bulk of KU’s class with eight of its 13 current commitments from the juco level. The Jayhawks continue to do a terrific job in North Texas, with four of their five high school commitments from the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats added arguably their top commitment of the class with a verbal from Tucker (Georgia) cornerback Duke Shelley last week. The three-star prospect turned down Clemson, Tennessee, Wisconsin and others to commit to Bill Snyder’s program.
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: The Sooners added more bulk to their recruiting class with a pledge from three-star guard Dru Samia of Danville, California/San Ramon. Samia, who turned down offers from Texas Tech, UCLA, Oregon State, Cal and Washington State, is the fourth offensive lineman on OU’s commit list.
Total commits: 8
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Cowboys will get the chance to impress receiver offer Ryan Newsome of Aledo, Texas, who plans to attend OSU’s season-opening tilt with Florida State on Saturday. Newsome tweeted his plans to join Cowboys commit Ronald Jones at the game. Newsome also has plans to officially visit OU and Texas, with Oregon, Tennessee and UCLA rounding out his official visit list.
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: One name to keep an eye on for the Horned Frogs could be Euless (Texas) Trinity defensive end Tipa Galeai. He doesn’t have an offer but visited the school last week and could be a long-term, developmental prospect to keep an eye on at 6-foot-6, 206 pounds. The three-star prospect boasts offers from Utah, Utah State and Washington State.
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 7
The latest: Long Beach (California) Poly cornerback Iman Marshall, the No. 8 player in the ESPN300, started a buzz on Twitter last week by asking fans of OU and UT to help him decide where to go for his fifth official visit. He already plans to visit Florida State, LSU, Notre Dame and Michigan with his other officials.
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Red Raiders reportedly offered Class of 2016 prospect Keith Corbin last week. The Beaumont (Texas) West Brook receiver also has an offer from Ole Miss. A big, athletic target at 6-2, 175 pounds, Corbin could see his offer list reach double digits.
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: WVU quarterback commitment David Sills had a terrific weekend, accounting for seven touchdowns in his team’s 58-56 overtime win over Spartanburg, South Carolina.
- David Ash is focused on quieting critics who thought he should quit. According to Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas' QB has used Eric Liddell, whose story is depicted in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire, as inspiration. It's a good thing for the Longhorns that Ash never quit, despite suffering from concussion issues that sidelined him for most of the 2013 season. Texas has no real other options at the moment at quarterback, with Tyrone Swoopes too raw and Jerrod Heard too young. The Longhorns are in good shape at most other positions. But whether Ash can stay healthy and play consistent will go a long way in determining whether Texas will contend for the Big 12 title in Charlie Strong's first season.
- Both Texas Tech and TCU released their Week 1 depth charts over the weekend. The Horned Frogs' two-deep brought no clarity to the quarterback position, as Trevone Boykin and Matt Joeckel are listed as co-starters. Running backs B.J. Catalon, Kyle Hicks, Aaron Green and Trevorris Johnson are actually listed as co-starters as well. It will be interesting to see whether new coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie actually utilize four running backs in their system. The biggest surprise in TCU's depth chart , however, came at defensive end, where Mike Tuaua and Josh Carraway were listed as starters ahead of Terrell Lathan and James McFarland. Lathan was actually listed ahead of Devonte Fields in the spring. McFarland played in every game last season, while Carraway redshirted. With Fields gone, defensive end is probably the biggest question mark on the defense. But the Horned Frogs seem to have four players they think they can rely on.
- The most intriguing storyline with Tech's depth chart was at cornerback, where true freshman Tevin Madison won a starting job opposite sophomore Justis Nelson. Madison beat out fellow freshman Jah'Shawn Johnson. With three starting sophomores and Madison, the Red Raiders are going to be extremely young in the secondary this season. But there's talent there -- and more on the way once true freshman Nigel Bethel II serves out his three-game suspension.
- The Charleston Daily Mail's Mike Casazza wonders whether West Virginia can mimic the Oklahoma team that beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The Mountaineers are the biggest underdog among Power Five conference teams this weekend. Alabama is almost a four-touchdown favorite. One point Casazza makes is that West Virginia is similar in scheme to the Sooners offensively, which in theory could place the same pressure on the Alabama defense. It wasn't scheme, however, that placed pressure on the Crimson Tide. It was QB Trevor Knight, who had a career night with 348 yards and four touchdowns. For West Virginia to hang with Alabama, QB Clint Trickett is going to have to deliver a career night himself. Sure, the Mountaineers will also have to force the Crimson Tide into mistakes with pressure. And West Virginia's experienced linebacking crew is going to have to hold up against Alabama's physical rushing attack. But the Mountaineers only stand a chance if Trickett takes care of the ball while producing explosive plays, just the way Knight did.
- Speaking of Oklahoma, the big news over the weekend was the NCAA shooting down the Sooners' request for a waiver that would have made wideout Dorial Green-Beckham eligible to play immediately. Oklahoma was considered to be the Big 12 favorite long before Green-Beckham transferred in from Missouri over the summer. And the primary reasons that made the Sooners a playoff contender previously are still in place. But DGB would have solidified the one question mark on this team: experienced playmaking at the wide receiver position. The Sooners still have three-year starter Sterling Shepard. But he is a slot receiver who operates underneath the coverage. DGB would have complemented Shepard perfectly and given Knight a lethal weapon downfield and in the red zone. Instead, Oklahoma will have to settle for relying on several unproven players at the skill positions.
As an aside, the season starts next week, which means we'll be looking to select our first guest picker of 2014. Click here and sell us on why you should be the Week 1 guest picker. And, as always, creativity counts.
Now, to the 'Bag:
Trotter: Eventually, yes. When, who knows? But it will happen. Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox reportedly performed well this preseason, but so have De'Andre Mann and Corey Avery. I think the Jayhawks will be fine at running back -- provided nobody else there gets injured.
@Jake_Trotter do you think UT/A&M will ever schedule a permanent OOC game between them? College football would be a better place for it...— Kevin Collins (@kevinkwc) August 21, 2014
Trotter: This has more to do with Trevone Boykin -- and the work he's put in this offseason -- than it does anyone else. Obviously Boykin has responded well to having Sonny Cumbie as his position coach. But Boykin has gotten into phenomenal shape and really focused on becoming a better quarterback. As result, it appears that he has. Jordan Evans showed as a true freshman last year that he can play at a high level. The Sooners would be better with Shannon on the field. But they're not going to be that much worse off without him, either.
@Jake_Trotter What can we make of the teas leaves that point to Boykin starting at TCU? How bad must of the OCs been last year!— Geoffrey Mitchell (@geoffmitchell) August 21, 2014
Trotter: I'm not sure Baylor is going to have the best front in the country, as Art Briles suggested in the spring. But it has a chance to be one of the three-best in the Big 12. Andrew Billings is one of the best young tackles in the league. Shawn Oakman has the ability to become a star. And Bryce Hager is one of the most proven linebackers in the conference. This has the potential to be a special group.
@Jake_Trotter Will Baylors defensive front seven really be that good?— Spencer Smith (@smith1_spncr) August 21, 2014
Trotter: That would be tough. The Baylor loss would happen late in the season. It would rob Oklahoma of its best chance for landing a marquee win. And Baylor, by defeating the Sooners, would theoretically surge ahead in the Big 12 playoff pecking order. So I don't see Oklahoma making the playoff without a win over the Bears.
@Jake_Trotter I believe the hype this year about OU. But if 1 loss to lets say Baylor could we still get into playoff?— Rocket Raccoon!!! (@Samy_III) August 21, 2014
Trotter: I can't see it, not this year at least. This isn't the Big 12 of 2008. Let's assume that the playoff would at the least include Florida State and the SEC champ. The Big 12 then getting two teams in would entail the playoff committee leaving out the champs from the Pac-12 and Big Ten, plus a potential second team from the SEC. There are a couple scenarios, however, where it might be feasible. Say Kansas State beats Auburn, loses at Oklahoma, but beats Baylor in the season finale. An 11-1 K-State would be an attractive second Big 12 playoff possibility (along with, say, an undefeated Oklahoma) because of the marquee non-conference victory over Auburn and the marquee win at the end of the season in Waco. So it's not impossible. Then again, it's probably more likely that the Big 12 gets left out completely than it gets two teams in.
@Jake_Trotter Do you foresee a way in which two Big 12 teams could make the playoffs, possibly facing off against each other?— Nick Lawton (@NickLawtonKTVE) August 21, 2014
Trotter: Deante Burton is the player to watch. He had a big spring, and has the size and strength to go up and get the ball downfield. With every defense focused on containing Lockett, Burton should get plenty of one-to-one opportunities.
@Jake_Trotter Besides Tyler Lockett, who do you see emerging as another playmaker in Wildcats' offense?— Laura Forster (@LauraBForster) August 21, 2014
Trotter: Some possibilities include: Baylor-Oklahoma on Nov. 8; the Red River Showdown on Oct. 11; Kansas State-Oklahoma on Oct. 18; Baylor-Texas on Oct. 4; and Oklahoma-Texas Tech on Nov. 15. DeMarcus Robinson nor Charles Jones nor Jarvis Leverett seized the job in the spring gives Dalvin Warmack the chance. It's been radio silence in Manhattan the last week or so. But if Bill Snyder (who likes redshirting his freshmen) announces before the opener he's not going to redshirt Warmack, that will be the sign that Warmack is going to play a lot.
@Jake_Trotter What Big12 games do you think could possibly be GameDay?— Garrett Purcell (@GarrettPurcell2) August 21, 2014
Trotter: If West Virginia gets back to a bowl game facing such a difficult schedule, I would consider it to be a successful season. Especially with what the Mountaineers would have coming back for 2015.
@Jake_Trotter what would be a successful season for WVU?— Sam Fisher (@sfisher46) August 21, 2014
Trotter: Texas has one of the most iconic looks in all of college football. Many schools need alternate uniforms to grab the attention of recruits and generate energy in their programs. Texas is not one of them.
@Jake_Trotter Keeping on the alternative uniform track: Why doesn't Texas have alternative uniforms? What will it take to change this?— Mike Elias (@MikeEliasC) August 21, 2014
But the Big Ten isn't the only conference with problem children. Texas is the obvious one in the Big 12. But that horse has been beaten with enough ink. And the Longhorns are hardly the Big 12's only one.
When the Big 12 lost Texas A&M and Missouri three years ago, the league didn’t appear to be losing all that much.
Despite their money, cavernous stadium and passionate fan base, the Aggies were themselves mostly a drag on the Big 12. During its entire tenure in the Big 12, Texas A&M reached double-digit wins as many times as Kansas did -- once. With the rise of Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, the Aggies were usually an afterthought in the Big 12 South Division title race, which was dominated by Oklahoma and Texas.
In place of Texas A&M, the Big 12 was adding TCU, which not only had emerged into one of top mid-major programs in the country under Gary Patterson, but was fresh off a 13-0 season and Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin.
The Horned Frogs seemed to be a suitable replacement to their old Southwest Conference rival.
Unlike Texas A&M, Missouri had actually surfaced into a conference title contender behind Gary Pinkel and a wide-open offense. The Tigers actually won 40 games their last four years in the Big 12. But while a contender, Missouri never actually won the conference. Nor had the Tigers ever gone to a BCS bowl.
The program the Big 12 replaced Missouri with not only had been to three BCS bowls, but had won all three. Like TCU, West Virginia joined the Big 12 on a roll, after rolling Clemson by 37 points in the Orange Bowl to cap a 10-win season.
But since entering the Big 12, both the Mountaineers and Horned Frogs have failed to carry the weight everyone expected them to. And while Texas A&M and Missouri have gone on to succeed in the SEC, TCU and West Virginia have faltered in the Big 12, further damaging -- instead of salvaging -- the reputation of the conference in the post-conference realignment era.
The Mountaineers have gone 6-12 in the Big 12, and failed to qualify for a bowl game last season for the first time in a dozen years. TCU has struggled in its new league as well. Like West Virginia, TCU also went 4-8 last year in its worst season under Patterson.
As college football transitions into the playoff era, now would be an opportune time for West Virginia and TCU to shed their problem child status.
Both have veteran teams loaded with players experienced in competing week-in, week-out in a power conference. TCU has 15 starters back; West Virginia, 14. Both made aggressive staff additions during the offseason. Patterson hired Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham to install an up-tempo offensive attack; Dana Holgorsen brought in longtime Penn State assistant Tom Bradley to flank first-year defensive coordinator Tony Gibson.
Both also have chances to make nonconference impressions. The Mountaineers play Alabama and Maryland away from home; TCU plays host to Minnesota.
Sure, West Virginia and TCU haven't been what the Big 12 thought they would be. Especially compared to what Texas A&M and Missouri have done since bolting. But the Mountaineers and Horned Frogs can change that this year. And they won't have to wait long for their chance to do it.
Look for an uptick in conference recruiting as the fall approaches, but here’s an analysis on how Big 12 teams are looking as of now for the Class of 2015.
- Lane Kiffin's arrival at Alabama creates some uncertainty for West Virginia, writes Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail. A new quarterback and new offensive coordinator is making it difficult for the Mountaineers' new defensive coordinator Tony Gibson to prepare for the Crimson Tide. Even with all the uncertainty, nothing will matter if WVU cannot stop the run. If Alabama wins the battle up front and the Crimson Tide's exceptional running backs find room to roam, it won't matter who is taking the snaps or calling the plays.
- Texas coach Charlie Strong detailed the Longhorns' starters on Thursday, with multiple freshman and walk-ons showing up in the mix for a starting role in Strong's first season. Safety Jason Hall, tackle Darius James are among the freshman who could become starters while sophomore walk-ons Dylan Haines, a safety, and Ty Templin, a receiver, could end up earning roles. It's a clear sign everyone began with a clean slate under Strong and the new coach is willing to give anyone, no matter class or scholarship status, a chance to contribute if they show the commitment he's requiring from his players.
- On Thursday, Mike Gundy did everything but name J.W. Walsh the starting quarterback for Oklahoma State's opening game against Florida State, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. If indeed Walsh does start for the Cowboys it would be the right move for Gundy's squad. The junior has the most experience and he's the best runner of the quarterbacks on campus. With relatively an unproven offensive line set to battle the defending national champions, Walsh brings traits that could allow OSU to test the Seminoles ability to handle a game plan full of quarterback run game.
- The bulk of Kansas' freshman class talked to the media for the first time on Thursday, with running back Corey Avery getting plenty of attention after the Jayhawks lost a pair of senior running backs earlier this week. But fellow freshman Kyron Watson, a linebacker, sounds like he's been just as impressive as Avery on the defensive side of the ball. Weis calls Watson a "sideline-to-sideline" player and the ESPN300 linebacker is expected to play as a true freshman for the Jayhawks. So keep an eye on Watson as KU could have its understudy for Ben Heeney already on campus.
- Last but not least, this terrific read from Kellis Robinett of the Kansas City Star reveals Ryan Mueller's journey from overlooked prep recruit to sack master at Kansas State. Mueller has become known for hard work, on and off the field. He is the Big 12's leading returning sack leader with 11.5 in 2013, more than Texas' Cedric Reed, Oklahoma's Eric Striker and other Big 12 defenders who enter the season with more preseason hype. Bold prediction: Mueller reaches double-digit sacks for the second season and makes those who think he is a flash in the pan regret questioning his ability.
Here’s a look at how each Big 12 coach has fared against the AP Top 25 at their current school. For a look at their career record, you can go to the original piece on The Wall Street Journal’s website.
Art Briles at Baylor: 7-19
Paul Rhoads at Iowa State: 4-19
Charlie Weis at Kansas: 0-8
Bill Snyder at Kansas State: 23-43
Bob Stoops at Oklahoma: 50-23
Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State: 15-20
Gary Patterson at TCU: 14-14
Charlie Strong at Texas: 0-0 (2-2 at Louisville)
Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech: 2-3
Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia: 5-6
A few quick thoughts:
- These numbers just reinforce Stoops' ability to win games against top competition. People like to point at OU’s Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Alabama as the return of “Big Game Bob” but that conveniently overlooks road wins at Florida State and Notre Dame in games that garnered plenty of national attention in the past three years.
- It shouldn’t be a surprise to see Gary Patterson join Stoops as the lone current Big 12 coaches with a record of .500 or better against AP Top 25 teams. A couple of substandard seasons in the Big 12 shouldn’t completely erase years of dominating performances from the Horned Frogs under Patterson.
- It’s quite revealing to see Kingsbury has faced more AP Top 25 teams than Strong. In one season at Tech, Kingsbury saw a Top 25 squad five different times yet Strong coached four games against AP Top 25 teams in four seasons at Louisville. It will be interesting to see how Strong handles the clear step up in competition, week in and week out.
- Four wins against AP Top 25 teams shows the ability of Paul Rhoads to get the best out of his Iowa State teams. His 4-19 record isn’t great but it could be a lot worse.
- Bill Snyder and Mike Gundy rank second and third in total wins against AP Top 25 teams which is to be expected as Snyder at KSU and Gundy at OSU have taken their programs to previously unseen levels during their time as head coach at their respective schools.
- Holgorsen's 5-6 record is solid, particularly for a coach on the hot seat heading into the season. His five wins against AP Top 25 teams in three seasons at WVU could be one reason not to overlook the Mountaineers' chances to surprise in 2014.
After Bryce Petty, Davis Webb, Trevor Knight and Jake Waters, who will lead the Big 12 in passing?
Chatmon: This is a tough one, but I’m going to go with West Virginia’s Clint Trickett. The Mountaineers have the skill-position talent to support Trickett, and the senior has a year of experience in Dana Holgorsen’s offense under his belt. I fully expect to see an improved Mountaineers’ offense and Trickett should play a key role in that improvement.
Olson: Gee, we’ve really narrowed that down, haven’t we? The best way I can put my answer is this: Oklahoma State will finish with more passing yards as a team than Texas, so I guess I have to go with J.W. Walsh. While I can envision Daxx Garman earning a couple starts at some point, I still think Walsh will put up good numbers. David Ash might be a smarter choice here, but his injury history makes it a tough call.
Trotter: I can’t pick any of the quarterbacks from Oklahoma State or TCU, since it’s still unclear how much any of them will play. And I can’t go with Montell Cozart, given that his best asset right now is his wheels. That leaves Ash, Trickett and Sam B. Richardson. Ash has an injury history. Then again, so do Trickett and Richardson.And while West Virginia and Iowa State have other intriguing quarterback options, Texas really does not.This is Ash’s show. And he has shown at times in the past he has the ability to put up big passing numbers.
Chatmon: Johnathan Gray is a easy choice for me. A healthy Gray is easily the best running back in the Big 12, and Texas’ offense will be built around its running game. Gray, who has a 4.8 yards-per-carry average in his career, will get plenty of opportunities, and he will take advantage of them.
Olson: Gray. It’s a really difficult prediction because I do think Shock Linwood will surpass 1,000 yards. I also think Baylor loves Devin Chafin and Johnny Jefferson enough that there’s going to be a equitable sharing of carries in Waco. Texas, meanwhile, won’t have Baylor’s passing game and should go all-in on a run-first mentality. Gray was on pace for more than 1,100 yards last year before his Achilles tear. He’s healthy again, and I think he can have a huge year.
Trotter: I have to agree with Brandon and Max. When healthy, Gray has proven to be the best all-around back in the league, and he is the best bet here. But keep an eye on Oklahoma State running back Tyreek Hill. If the Cowboys make him their offensive workhorse, he has the big-play ability to have a monster season. Sure, durability would be a question. But speed would not.
After Tyler Lockett and Antwan Goodley, who will lead the Big 12 in receiving?
Chatmon: Jakeem Grant immediately comes to mind here, but I’m going to go with Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard. The Sooners’ passing game should be improved with an improved Knight, and Shepard has the skills to make defenses play for leaving him in one-on-one situations. Grant will garner increased attention from secondaries while Shepard, helped by OU’s running game, should have more chances to make game-changing plays.
Olson: Did you know: In 2013, six of the Big 12’s top eight receivers in yardage played for either Baylor or Texas Tech. So I would be pretty stupid not to go with Grant here. Not only was he one of those six and very productive as a No. 3 option, but he’s also going to get a nice chunk of the 106 receptions (!) and 152 targets (!!!) that went to Jace Amaro last year. Tech’s No. 2 option, Eric Ward, had more catches (83) and targets (122) than Goodley. That’s insane. Grant is going to feast on their leftovers.
Trotter: Grant missed two games and was the third banana in Tech’s passing offense last year. And he still finished sixth in the league in receiving. With Ward and Amaro gone, Grant will take over as the Red Raiders’ primary receiving threat. And with quarterback Webb budding with confidence and the Red Raiders primed to air it out, Grant is easily the best bet here.
- The final verdict on Joe Mixon's discipline Monday -- a one-season suspension and removal from the roster -- evoked an excellent column from Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman, who writes that no matter what a courtroom decides, Mixon will always been the guy who hit the girl. Powerful stuff, and Tramel is dead-on. Mixon is now stuck with a reputation that will endure well beyond one football season. He's right, too, that if the video gets released this might get worse for the freshman running back. John E. Hoover of the Tulsa World mentions an OU precedent Mixon might want to follow: Dusty Dvoracek, who rejoined the Sooners a year after a similar incident and still had a productive career.
- Gary Patterson made his quarterback decision Monday night: There is no decision. Trevone Boykin and Matt Joeckel will both play in the season opener against Samford on Aug. 30. As Carlos Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports, it's as much a strategy move as an indicator of indecision. He took the same approach to prep for LSU last season, all the way down to putting both Boykin and Casey Pachall on the field for TCU's first offensive snap. Realistically, Patterson wants to see what both do against Samford so he can reassess during the bye week before hosting Minnesota. Gotta have a more clear-cut plan by then, right?
- Meanwhile, at Iowa State, a definitive call: Sam B. Richardson will start at quarterback. Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register writes that Richardson's push to win the job was an inspiring one. He was the No. 3 quarterback to play in the spring game, and now he's back on top thanks to a determined rally this summer. He deserves major props for that comeback, and Paul Rhoads believe Richardson has been excellent in fall practice. Bobby La Gesse of the Ames Tribune points out that what ISU really needs is the Richardson who nearly upset Texas a year ago.
- Baylor's McLane Stadium opens in two weeks and is 99 percent complete. The Waco Tribune had a thorough recap of the tour reporters were given of stadium on Monday as the final touches come together. Baylor also unveiled an iPhone app that lets you watch replays right from your seat. If you want a closer look, the Dallas Morning News has a great gallery. I went on that tour and, I have to say, that place is a gem. The locker room, recruiting room and suites definitely stood out, as did (selfishly) the greatly expanded press box. We'll see how it handles a crowd of 45,000, but so far McLane Stadium is living up to the hype.
- Two teams facing tough questions at cornerback right now: Texas Tech and West Virginia. In Lubbock, true freshmen Jah'Shawn Johnson and Tevin Madison have both impressed and are poised to make the two-deep, if not become starters. At WVU, MetroNews is reporting Ishmael Banks, a 12-game starter last year, could be academically ineligible this season. Both programs feel they have a good No. 1 corner in Justis Nelson and Daryl Worley, respectively, but these No. 2 cornerback spots are critical position battles that will have a real effect on how these inconsistent defenses bounce back in 2014.
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: ESPN 300 WR Chad President made it official: He's now a Baylor Bear. President, who's been committed since last summer, inked financial aid papers with the Bears this week. Coach Art Briles appears intent to let the 6-foot-3, 195-pound standout from nearby Temple, Texas, play quarterback when he enrolls early.
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: ISU will soon get a visit from one of their top targets, junior college CB Antoine Albert of Diablo Valley College in California. The 6-foot-2 defender has seen his offer list grow considerably -- now including Tennessee and Arizona -- but Iowa State got in the mix early and has to like its chances.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Jayhawks are having a hard time winning recruiting battles within their own state. That'll make the guys KU can get even more important. Keep an eye on safety Darreon Jackson from Derby, Kansas. He's a move-in who came from a big-time Texas program, Mesquite Horn, where he earned all-district honors at linebacker. Charlie Weis' staff should like its chances with him.
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats continue to do an impressive job of locking down their backyard. Their latest pledge came from three-star OT Evan Applegate, who's listed at 6-foot-7 and 280 pounds. Applegate turned down offers from Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Nebraska to join a KSU class that's off to a nice start.
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: The Sooners have missed on a bunch of big-time offensive line targets, but they got a good one last week in Cody Ford. OU coaches convinced the three-star offensive guard from Pineville, Louisiana, to back out of his six-month pledge to TCU and join fellow linemen Bobby Evans and Dominique Hearne in their class.
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: OSU beefed up its offensive line class last week with the addition of three-star tackle Joshua Jones and junior college tackle Brandon Pertile. Jones, one of the top linemen in the Houston area, chose the Pokes over Texas Tech and TCU. Pertile spent one year at Georgia State before enrolling at Mesa Community College in Arizona.
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: TCU has joined what should end up being a long list of suitors for 2016 DE Erick Fowler. The ESPN Junior 300 defender from Manor, Texas, went up to Fort Worth last week to watch a fall practice and went home with an offer. He now has at least six, and that list will continue to grow.
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 7
The latest: The Longhorns are among the top contenders for Mesquite (Texas) Poteet teammates LB Malik Jefferson and ATH DeAndre McNeal, and both have decided to announce their decisions in late December. McNeal might project out best as a linebacker in college, but he now says he wants to play offense. They'll take their official visit to out-of-state schools, and one lucky program could snag both for Christmas.
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The leaders of Tech's class, ESPN 300 recruits Jarrett Stidham and Breiden Fehoko, are both set to enroll early and have now signed financial aid papers with the school. The ability to unofficially sign in August is a beneficial deal for all involved, because Tech coaches are now permitted unlimited calls and visits (and even public tweets) with their top two committed guys.
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: The Mountaineers already have two QBs committed for their 2015 class, but they could be chasing another in Lamar Jackson. The three-star dual-threat passer from Boynton Beach, Florida, reportedly intends to take an official visit to Morgantown this fall and will also check out Nebraska. With David Sills and Chris Chugunov already on board, it'll be interesting to see how seriously WVU pursues him.
This season, Bradley will be coaching at a place other than Penn State for the first time in his 34-year career. But it's also a place he feels he knows well.
"I get it. I've followed them. I know it. I understand the pride that West Virginia takes in their football team. They get after it. These people are die-hard fans. And they live and breathe with the Mountaineers."
It wasn't long ago that the man known as "Scrap" lived and breathed Penn State. After playing there, Bradley joined Joe Paterno's staff in 1979, and would remain there for 33 seasons. He started as a graduate assistant and finished as the interim head coach in 2011. No person alive has coached in more Penn State games than Bradley, who was part of two national championships and 26 bowl teams there.
But when Penn State hired Bill O'Brien to be its head coach following the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Bradley resigned and became a broadcast analyst, notably covering Army football games.
Other opportunities to coach elsewhere came along over the past three years. Bradley, however, was waiting for the right one.
And when West Virginia asked him to be its senior associate head coach, Bradley finally pounced.
"It was just a great opportunity," he said. "It's very close to where I live (in Pittsburgh). I understand it. I'm not going to a totally different environment that I don't get. Coach (Dana) Holgorsen and (athletic director) Oliver Luck, when they talked to me about this opportunity, it was just something I couldn't pass up.
"This was the right fit."
Bradley just might be the right fit for the Mountaineers, too.
West Virginia has struggled in the Big 12, especially on the defensive side. Through two different coordinators, the Mountaineers have ranked ninth and eighth in total defense, which is a major reason why they've gone 6-12 in two seasons in the league.
After Keith Patterson bolted for Arizona State, Holgorsen promoted safeties coach Tony Gibson to become West Virginia's fourth defensive coordinator in as many years. Gibson and Bradley have known each other for years, developing a friendship while squaring off in Pennsylvania for the state's top recruits. Gibson's promotion is another reason why Bradley felt West Virginia was the place he needed to be. And the combination of the two could form the coaching chemistry that finally turns the Mountaineers' defense around.
"Tony is a first-year defensive coordinator and has a plan with what he wants to do and we're very comfortable with his plan," Holgorsen said. "But having a confident, well-respected coach like Tom Bradley that understands the game, what makes kids tick, gives you a backup defensive coordinator in the room. Coach Bradley being able to game plan each week, helping Tony with that, kind of figure out what offenses are trying to get accomplished. ...I think it will pay dividends."
Bradley admits there's been an adjustment. He knew the entire Penn State defensive scheme by heart, but has had to consult the West Virginia playbook occasionally this fall. But Bradley has instantly impressed the players this preseason with his energy, knowledge and confidence.
"He's just a natural leader," veteran defensive lineman Kyle Rose recently said to reporters. "He's doesn't get mad at you too much, but you can tell when he does get mad that he means business. He's a once-in-a-lifetime coach, after coaching that many guys in the NFL and having years of coaching experience.
"A great addition to us."
Bradley coached many great players and won many big games at Penn State over the years. He's hoping he can bring the same to his second football home.
"I'm here to help this team win," he said. "To help honest to goodness anyway I can. No task is too small. Whatever they need, I'm going to do it.
"The bottom line is to try and win some games."