12 Thoughts on This Week in Big 12: Texas A&M cop out, TCU exposure + more!

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1. So … not so fast when it comes to any type of renewal of the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry. A&M chancellor John Sharp confirmed on Friday that nothing is imminent, telling the Houston Chronicle, “My sense is with the 12th man – we’ve got new friends.” OK, then. A&M continues to prove they are the quintessential “little brother” and the chip on their shoulder is more like a crater. The stance taken by Sharp is beyond petty, it’s pathetic. Despite the fact that coach Kevin Sumlin and UT coach Charlie Strong have been in favor of renewing the rivalry, it’s the school administrators, boards, and politicians who won’t let it happen. In my humble opinion, it comes down to those associated with A&M being afraid to lose the game. They feel that under Sumlin, along with the jolt brought by Johnny Manziel and the SEC, plus UT’s recent struggles, they have gained ground on the Longhorns in terms of recruiting and popularity. They fear any kind of loss would be a setback. So in the end, they will hide behind their “new friends” in the SEC. Weak.

2. Let’s segue further into the conference realignment chatter. I wrote about this last week, the fact that some Big 12 coaches are still being naive enough to postpone, delay, or completely shoot down the idea of hosting a conference championship game. Of course, much of this hinges on the NCAA creating a new law that would allow conferences with less than 12 teams to host a title game. But, assuming that passes next year, the first thing the Big 12 do is bring back the conference championship game to Jerry’s World in Arlington. If they refuse to hold a game, the only guaranteed way for a Big 12 team to make the Final 4 is to go undefeated. I’d rather take my chances with the conference championship game. Currently, the Big 12 is an afterthought the last Saturday of the season. While the other Power 5 conferences play their championship games, the Big 12 plays another regular season game, with TCU facing Iowa State. That won’t do it. Man up, play the title game, and bring more exposure to the conference.

3. The other day I had a conversation with a West Virginia Mountaineers fan about possible expansion. He brought the discussion back to Notre Dame and Cincinnati. Cinci just isn’t a “needle mover” from a TV ratings standpoint. The Big 12 is very proud that their TV contract brings in the most money on a ‘per team’ basis. Cincinnati doesn’t bring much to the table. As for Notre Dame, of course any conference would be lucky to have ’em. And while there was a time, about 3-4 years ago, it seemed the Big 12 had a shot to lure the Irish, that day has since passed. ND’s deal with the ACC, while not a complete commitment, does tie the two for the foreseeable future. Frankly, I don’t see any way Notre Dame joins a conference. In the current format, an undefeated ND team is in the Final 4, and even a 1-loss ND is likely in. The brand, and pressure from TV executives to put the Irish in would be too great for the committee to overlook. If you don’t think that factors in, you aren’t paying attention. Replace Baylor/TCU with Texas/Oklahoma this past season, and the Final 4 may have had a different outcome…

4. As for TCU … it’s great to see the Horned Frogs getting a nationally televised game to kick off the season against Minnesota. Most believe TCU will be ranked #2 in the preseason and will have a Heisman favorite in QB Trevone Boykin. The more national exposure for Boykin, coach Gary Patterson, and the program that continues to be built in Fort Worth, the better for TCU and the Big 12. TCU, along with Baylor, will never be mentioned in the same sentence as the power public schools of Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Florida, etc. But, as private schools, maybe they can be the equivalent of what Miami was 15 years ago (sans off field issues), or SMU a generation ago; private Universities with nationally known programs that fans, regardless of affiliation, want to watch.

5.  How about a team that people, even their own fans, may not want to watch much of this season? The Kansas Jayhawks. Don’t get me wrong, I love new head coach David Beaty. But, he’s not a miracle worker. He will need time to rebuild the scraps left to him at KU. And as has been pointed out, much of that blame can be put on former coach Charlie Weis. Tom Keegan of KU Sports wrote about this, and noted the real possibility that KU could go 0-12 this season. As Keegan notes, an astonishing 37% of the recruits from Weis’ first two classes left the program before using up their eligibility. That is pathetic. KU will have about 69 scholarship players this season, well short of the 85 allowed for an FBS school. There’s no reason to put the blame for the upcoming 2015 season at the feet of the players or Beaty and his staff. But, this is going to be a rough season for the Jayhawks.

6. In addition, the Jayhawks spring game was on Saturday, and the one thing a program doesn’t want to have happen, happened: an injury to the starting quarterback. Michael Cummings knee injury is serious enough that he will undergo surgery, and miss “an extended period of time”, according to coach David Beaty. The irony is that, in theory, even Kansas can’t lose the spring game. Well, there is one way to lose a spring game … and that’s by having a major injury. So yep, Kansas can indeed lose their spring game. I don’t see much benefit in going back to Montell Cozart, I’d like to see what true freshmen Ryan Wills and Carter Stanley have this summer.

7. As for quarterbacks in the spring game, Kansas State is still looking for their replacement for Jake Waters. While Jesse Ertz and Joe Hubener are the front runners, the guy who made the most noise, at least on twitter, was true freshman Alex Delton. Delton came in as a dual-threat QB from Hays, and showcased his abilities, especially his legs, on Saturday. There were tons of tweets referencing Delton’s speed, quickness, and moves. From the highlights I saw, his arm didn’t look half bad either. But, Bill Snyder is not one to throw freshman into pivotal roles. That being said, maybe Delton can work his way into some kind of package this season.

8. The word out of Stillwater is that Mike Gundy “can’t stop smiling”. And why not? The man has, arguably, the best QB in the Big 12 in Mason Rudolph, and at least two more years with him at the helm. The Cowboys are a dark horse to upend TCU or Baylor for the Big 12 title this season. Plus, their schedule is favorable with home games against TCU, Baylor and OU. It’s a nice time to be Mike Gundy. Also, his $3+ million salary doesn’t hurt either. How can you not smile with that??

9. Who said Charlie Strong wouldn’t play well with the media?! Strong will be following his predecessor, Mack Brown, and join the NFL Network as a guest analyst for day two of the NFL Draft. Strong deserves credit for going outside his comfort zone. This is excellent for his brand, image, and marketing to future recruits. Every high school player in America watches the Draft and dreams about one day hearing their name called. By putting his face on the tube, Strong gets another chance to relate and recruit, albeit indirectly. Smart move on his part.

10. Here is our tweet of the week. Duane nails it! This Manny-Money fight is going to disappoint on Saturday. Mayweather is a boring, defensive fighter. The fight will go the distance, Manny will try and get a few good shots in, but will come up short. Plus, the fight is 5 years too late.

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11. Now to hoops … good news for the Sooners as Buddy Hield announced he would return for his senior year. Very smart move by Hield, who was considered to be a second round pick (read: contract not guaranteed). Also, this is excellent news for OU, who returns the Big 12 player of the year, and should be the favorites in the conference next season.

12. Speaking of guys returning … another smart move as Texas guard Isaiah Taylor will come back to Austin for his junior year. Had Taylor declared, he could have easily ended up like former UT guard Myck Kabongo, who is currently toiling away in the D-League. Taylor has plenty to improve on, and his new coach Shaka Smart runs a guard oriented style of play, which should be a big help for Taylor. A win-win for both sides.

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