Big 12 football media days takes place this week at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas this week. It’s the unofficial start of the football season as we can really begin to get a feel for the teams, how the coaches feel about their programs, learn the new faces and much more. Here’s the list of the Big 12 players who will be in attendance this week. And between the programs, coaches and players, here are the top five stories I’m watching heading into media days.
1. The New Man at Texas
Any time the Texas Longhorns have a new head coach, it’s obviously a big deal and going to be one of the most-discussed stories in the Big 12 Conference. For the Texas Longhorns, Steve Sarkisian takes over for Tom Herman, who got as far as a Big 12 Championship Game appearance, but never further. Sarkisian has had an impressive offseason with the staff he has assembled and the way he has recruited, but if he doesn’t get it done on the field, none of that will matter. I’m curious to see the temperament of Sarkisian, how he is with the media and how much he really learned from Nick Saban. Herman was aloof. He was not good with the media. And if you’re not good with the Texas media, your leash tightens quickly. Mack Brown bought himself more time because he was great with media and boosters. Herman was not. We knew that from the start. What will Sarkisian be like? We’ll get a glimpse this week.
2. Iowa State in the spotlight
The Cyclones are going from the hunter to the hunted. No longer does Iowa State come to town for a sleepy 11 a.m. kick off and teams overlook them. That’s not happening. In fact, it’s more likely to be the other way around. Iowa State is really talented, but can’t overlook anyone, because now they will be the team that opponents are looking to knock off to ruin a potentially magical season. What does Matt Campbell think about that role? How do the players handle it? Will they all be prepared? It’s a new landscape for Cyclone Nation.
3. Year 3’s to Follow
Three head coaches head into critical Year 3’s: K-State’s Chris Klieman, Texas Tech’s Matt Wells and West Virginia’s Neal Brown. Klieman and Brown are not going anywhere, unless they choose too. They each signed extensions last year. Wells is the one who has the hottest seat, by far. But they each know that Year 3 for a football program is an important one as the guys you recruited are progressing through the system and hopefully starting to make a difference. Each of these coaches need to answer those questions in their own ways and there is a certain amount of pressure attached to that.
4. Oklahoma Pressure
Speaking of pressure, Oklahoma goes from the usual expectations of winning the Big 12 to now the expectations of finally getting over the hump and making, while possibly winning, the National Championship. Lincoln Riley doesn’t know anything other than winning Big 12 titles, he’s won four in four years. But is he feeling some heat for not getting beyond that point yet? And considering this is likely his most-balanced team he’s had yet, the expectations of OU getting beyond just a CFB Playoff appearance are not unreasonable.
5. Lance’s Introduction
New KU head coach Lance Leipold has won several Division 3 National Titles, but this is a different beast. Big 12 media days with hundreds of reporters and national publicity. He’s never dealt with that. He has the toughest job in college football in a generation, since Bill Snyder at Kansas State. Everyone who has tried what he’s about to do has failed. How will Lance handle his first Big 12 press conference. One thing I’m very optimistic on though: He will do a better job than Les Miles’ first Big 12 media days.