It’s that time of year where football is scarce across Big 12 country. If you’re like me, you need a football fix and quick. This mailbag is for all you football junkies out there who root for a Big 12 school who not only have questions about your team, but other teams in the conference as well. So, join me, grab a cold brew and relax as I answer all your Big 12 questions in my mailbag. For those interested, I will send out a tweet (@Derekduke25) every Monday at noon until last call (No, not 2 AM) at 8 PM CT for you to send in your questions to be answered every Tuesday right here at Heartland College Sports. I want to thank each one of you who submitted a question this week and for those reading, I am glad you could join me. Let’s get this party started!
@D353RT_J3D1 asks: Which team will be the most/least improved going into the 2018 season?
Duke: Let’s clear the air right now of any BS. Kansas has won 3 games in 3 seasons under head coach David Beaty. He also has a Big 12 record of 1-26 and yes, the one win came against Texas back in 2016 (Sorry Texas fans). By default, the least improved team is Kansas. Will Kansas win more than 1 game this year? I think so but are they improved? Not really. Show me where this team has improved because I don’t see it unless I am blind. If I haven’t bored you to death yet, I can answer the next part of that question.
This part of the question was much tougher than I expected. I like Texas and WVU to increase their win totals from last season, but no team will exceed last season’s win total like the Baylor Bears will this season. The Bears went 1-11 last year, that shouldn’t be too hard to triple, quadruple or even quintuple (Had to look this up, not going to lie) their win total from 2017. Look at the first 4 games for the Bears. They play ACU, UTSA, Duke and Kansas. They could easily be 4-0 heading into the OU game.
@mundodelovoide asks: Which team should have the best OL this season?
Duke: A lot of Big 12 teams will be losing key pieces of their offensive line. However, I don’t see how you can make an argument for any other Big 12 team besides Oklahoma here. Here is what the probable starting lineup is for the Sooners up front: RT Bobby Evans, RG Dru Samia, C Creed Humphrey, LG Ben Powers and LT Quin Mittermeier or Brey Walker. Also, Adrian Ealy could move to LT as well. Besides losing Orlando Brown, everyone is coming back but what’s crazy is that this group could be even better than last year. OL coach Bill Bedenbaugh is a wizard when it comes to coaching up an offensive line.
@Doc_Texas asks: What is your top 5 games in the conference?
Duke: I’m going to assume this excludes non-conference games, right? If that’s the case give me TEX vs OU (Oct. 6th), WVU @ ISU (Oct. 13th), TCU @ WVU (Nov. 10th), ISU @ TEX (Nov. 17th) and OU @ WVU (Nov. 23rd) in no particular order. A bonus would be OU @ ISU to kick off conference play on September 15th. In the Big 12 it is so tough to choose these games and a lot of these picks are based off how highly ranked these teams will be when they meet up.
@KBehr68 asks: Where does ISU finish? Is Texas back or still lost in the wood somewhere? Patterson (TCU Coach) is a defensive genius but can TCU overcome all they lost on offense? Tech returns 96% of defensive production but only 31% of offense. Which one keeps them from winning games this year?
Duke: I am going to have to start charging for some of my opinions like those other websites behind paywalls do with all these questions. Kidding! But seriously tips are more than welcome. Anyways, let me chug down this coffee before I rant. You ready?
- As of right now, I like the Cyclones to finish in the 4 to 5 spots in the Big 12. Two weeks ago, in my mailbag I had them at 5 but 4 isn’t a stretch for this team at all. I really like RB David Montgomery (AKA the Machine) and Kyle Kempt is no slouch at QB. Defensively they must replace some guys but overall, this team could potentially be better than last season.
- Is Texas back? According to Joe Tessitore (ESPN Play by Play guy), Texas was back on 9/4/2016 after they beat Notre Dame in double overtime. After you’re done laughing, I think Texas is under good hands with Tom Herman. It was a small reward last year but winning a bowl game as crazy as it sounds, hasn’t been done in Austin since the 2012 Alamo Bowl under Mack Brown. I think Texas has all the tools to reach the Big 12 title game this season IF and I mean IF the offensive line can improve this season. That Texas defense will be nasty once again this year under Todd Orlando.
- I know people want to pencil in TCU as a top 3 or 4 team in the Big 12 this year and I get it. Gary Patterson wins football games whether you like it or not. TCU won 11 games last year with Kenny Hill at QB. Give credit to OC Sonny Cumbie, he knows what he is doing. But, I can see TCU struggling on offense this season. They lose some key pieces up front and I still have some questions about Shawn Robinson airing it out. RB Darius Anderson is a stud and so is WR Jalen Reagor, but I can see where the TCU defense must carry this team this season a little bit.
- As crazy as it sounds, Tech can be a top 5 or 6 defense in the Big 12 this year. I went to their spring game and I came away mildly impressed by that side of the ball. Someone will need to emerge as a pass rusher to really take that defense to a new level, but my answer is going to be the offense. We all know Kliff is a QB whisperer, but Tech really struggled at times offensively last season which is something we aren’t used to seeing. As a mentioned in a recap article of their spring game and on HCS weekly, QBs McLane Carter and Jett Duffey were wildly inconsistent. Throw in a struggling running game and that could spell disaster (Possibly) for the Red Raider offense.
@ThatGuy_Seabass asks: Is the Big 12 ever going back to 12 teams? Or maybe even 14?
Duke: You seem like a nice guy, seriously. But the answer is not only no but HELL NO! I know it sounds dumb to call a conference the Big 12 conference and have only 10 teams but the Big Ten has 14 teams so? But really, I think we should leave the expansion talk back in 2016. Let’s dig a hole, throw it in the hole and cover it with dirt. I could go on and on about this topic, but I would be pushing 60 years old when I finished talking about it.
@Shroudedllama asks: Who gets left off the preseason All-Big 12 first team, OSU’s Justice Hill, OU’s Rodney Anderson or ISU’s David Montgomery? All three are deserving but there’s only 2 spots.
Duke: Dave, it’s always nice to hear form you but this question may take a couple years off my life trying to answer it. In fact, I can feel my face age as we speak. Now, no matter what I say here, one fan base will be pissed off but oh well. All three are more than deserving for this honor and you can make a case for any one of these guys. As for who will be on my ballot come July? It’s going to be Justice Hill and David Montgomery. Justice rushed for over 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns last season which led the conference in both categories. I think he is a lock no matter what. Now, the tougher decision is between David Montgomery and Rodney Anderson. Both rushed for over 1,000 yards and had more than 10 rushing touchdowns last year. If you are looking at yards per carry, then Rodney Anderson is your guy but just watch David Montgomery play. He had the most broken tackles in the country last year according to Pro Football Focus and his talent surrounding him (Including offensive line) doesn’t really come close to matching what surrounds Rodney Anderson at Oklahoma. I give the slight edge to David Montgomery here.
@4B12Family asks: Should the Big 12 hire refs with restriction that they only work games for the Big 12 to ensure better conference oversight of their performance and reduce fatigue from excessive travel?
Duke: I honestly don’t give a you know what about their travel schedule because guess what, it’s their decision to become and ref and they get paid to do it. Nobody forces you to be a ref. They already have Big 12 crews in place for games, but I wouldn’t mind if conferences started mixing them up more so certain folks don’t get too complacent. Everyone knows how bad the Big 12 refs can be between calls or the length of replays. A 3-hour game can turn into a 7 hour replay a thon.