Ubben's Big 12 Mailbag: What do Big 12 coaches think of Strong hire?
JAN 10, 2014 12:09a ET
It's time for the return of the Big 12 Mailbag. We'll be taking your football and basketball questions periodically, and you can keep an eye on those opportunities by following me on Twitter.
Thanks to those of you who wrote in this week. There's a whole bunch to answer. Let's do this.
Will Klose asks: Do you believe this is one of the best Non-con schedules for the Big 12? How do you think the Big 12 fares in those endeavors?
David Ubben: No doubt it's one of the best in recent memories. You'll have to go back a long way to find a year when Big 12 nonconference schedule featured the two teams that played for the national title the previous season. Oklahoma State and Kansas State will both likely be solid underdogs against Florida State and Auburn, respectively, but there are plenty of other big games on the docket.
Texas plays BYU and UCLA, a pair of solid teams that give Texas chances to earn some quality early season wins that would put some meat on the bone of Charlie Strong's first season as the head Longhorn. I'd bet Texas is favored in both of those games.
West Virginia will line up against Alabama in Atlanta in Week 1 as a heavy underdog. I have a hard time seeing anything but a Saban beatdown there.
Then, we have another class of good games against good name opponents who aren't necessarily great teams but add some intrigue. Texas Tech plays Arkansas, its first major conference opponent in nonconference play since 2003. TCU also plays Minnesota, in addition to its Iron Skillet rivalry game against SMU. Oklahoma plays Tennessee and Iowa State gets three-time defending FCS national champion North Dakota State, who famously beat Kansas State in Manhattan last year. KU also plays Duke, who won 10 games under David Cutcliffe this year. After a few years of pretty snooze-worthy schedules, it's easy to get fired up about the nonconference schedule in Year 1 of the College Football Playoff.
Scott Greene asks: Haven't seen much reaction to Strong hire from other B12 coaches. What have you heard from them?
David Ubben: Well, you're not going to get much more than stock quotes unless you talk to coaches off the record. I've spoken with a couple assistants and one head coach to gauge the hire a bit, and it's not much different than the public consensus. He's a great coach, but everybody across the league seems to sort of be breathing a sigh of relief that Saban's not coming to Austin. There's not much fear, necessarily, but a whole lot of respect for him as a coach and how he runs his program.
Blake West asks: The Big 12 bball champ will have how many conference losses?
David Ubben: I'll go with three in conference play. Winner goes 15-3. I find it difficult to bet against Iowa State and the DeAndre Kane Show at this point. I'm skeptical of history, which tells us Kansas will get it going at some point, but Oklahoma State's flaws and injuries make it tough for me to see them winning it. Baylor's got a nice inside-outside balance with Gary Franklin, Kenny Chery and Brady Heslip with Isaiah Austin and Corey Jefferson, but Iowa State just looks better to me.
Jason Perdue asks: Who starts at QB in 2014? Trickett, Millard, Childress, Skylar Howard, or incoming 4 star William Crest?
David Ubben: Holgorsen already went down the road of having an inexperienced quarterback by necessity. I doubt he wants to do that again with Howard or Crest. I'd be surprised if Crest didn't redshirt. Holgorsen seemed to be buying into Childress before the injury ended his season, so I'd narrow it down to him or Trickett. Trickett didn't seem to really show enough progress late in the year, but in the same breath, he was pretty beat up for most of the season and was playing well below 100 percent. That's going to be taken into account. Still, can Holgorsen rely on a guy who completed 60 percent of his passes in just two of six games this season?
Give me Childress in Morgantown next year.
Cody Wright asks: Who's your Top 5 WR corps of the BIG12 heading into 2014?
David Ubben: Tough question. Lots of talent is heading to the NFL, including Jace Amaro, Tevin Reese and Eric Ward. That's three of the top five receivers who won't return in 2014. In no particular order, here's my top five receiving units next season:
Kansas State: Lockett's presence alone is enough to put them here. He was the Big 12's best receiver this year and will be again next year.
Baylor: Antwan Goodley will get a lot of help from young receivers like Corey Coleman and Jay Lee next year. Don't forget about Levi Norwood, who stepped up big when Reese was injured. Keep an eye out for Robbie Rhodes, too.
Texas Tech: Jakeem Grant and Bradley Marquez are a fantastic 1-2 punch. Marquez's ability to track the ball down field and make plays is way underrated, and Grant is the shiftiest player in the league.
Oklahoma State: Three of the team's top four targets are gone, but I love what I saw from Jhajuan Seales and Brandon Sheperd this year. Young guys like Marcell Ateman and Ra'Shaad Samples are promising, too.
West Virginia: Inexperience and poor QB play last year hamstrung these guys a bit, but WVU gets the nod here because it's so deep at the position. Five receivers had at least 20 catches last year, and Mario Alford, Daikiel Shorts and Kevin White are a great trio.
TCU is a narrow miss. The Frogs have a lot of potential in guys like Brandon Carter and LaDarius Brown, but there wasn't enough production last year. The quarterback play is a factor there, but the receivers were awful early in the season before surging late.
Not enough proven depth for Texas and too many losses for Oklahoma to include them.
Sheer_con asks: Do you think Oklahoma will suffer with Charlie Strong joining Kevin Sumlin in reaping all the Texas talent?
David Ubben: Uh, no. How much better can Charlie Strong recruit at Texas? Talent hasn't been the Longhorns' problem in recent years. Previously, it was recruiting players who didn't fit their system. That's been repaired a bit, but Texas' weakness at quarterback is still glaring. The Longhorns perennially signed top 5-10 recruiting classes under Mack Brown and I expect them to do the same under Strong. There's still plenty of talent in the state of Texas for Oklahoma to make a big mark and continue its own winning tradition.