Tim's mailbag: Why I like Texas to win the South next season

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are a few letters from my mailbag that I collected this week.

Clay from Oakland, Calif., writes: With Colt McCoy's firm announcement that he will be a Longhorn in 2009 (and the belief that Sam Bradford will opt for the NFL) you discuss Texas as a very early favorite in the Big 12 for 2009, despite the number of playmakers they will lose on offense. However, could it actually be Oklahoma State that is in the best position to win the Big 12 South, considering the number of offensive starters that will be returning for the Cowboys? Or, after Missouri's disappointing 2008 campaign, will the buzz about non-traditional powers winning the Big 12 be muted next year until it is proven on the field?

Tim Griffin: I'm putting Texas in the favorite's role largely for the reason that I'm expecting McCoy to play much like he did this season. And I'm not entirely sure that Bradford will be back. It might behoove Mike Gundy to talk to Gary Pinkel about how things are different when you come in expected to do well rather than sneaking up on people. Yes, Oklahoma State will have a favorable schedule with games against Texas Tech and Texas at home next season.
But let's chew on this statistic before we anoint the Cowboys as favorites. Texas has won 11 straight games over the Cowboys. And Texas has won five straight games at T. Boone Pickens Stadium dating to 1997. So I like Texas to win the South because of their historic dominance in the series.

Billy Johnson from Horn Lake, Miss., writes: Just curious, Tim. How would you rank the teams in the North coming into next season?

Tim Griffin: It's a tough choice with what should be a balanced, entertaining conference race. I'm hesitant to pick Missouri to win a third-straight championship because the Tigers lose Chase Daniel and their defense underperformed so much this season.

When in doubt, go with the team that will have the veteran quarterback who has achieved something. So I'll give Kansas a very shaky vote as the favorite, mainly because Todd Reesing will be back again next season. I know they have the tough South schedule next season, but they will have Nebraska at home and I would expect that game would be very meaningful in how the North plays out.

Brian from Tulsa, writes: Tim, I'm honestly getting tired of the Oklahoma-Texas discussion. Everyone talks about how Texas got ripped off because of the head-to-head win over Oklahoma. Has everyone forgotten that it was a three-way tie? And more importantly, if Texas had won the Big 12 Ssouth, any Oklahoma argument would have been that they should have beat Texas (which would be true). Why doesn't anyone say that to Texas fans? Texas shouldn't have lost to Tech. If they took care of business on the field, then they would not be in this situation.

Tim Griffin: Brian, I think you just took care of it. I honestly don't think we'll ever come to an agreeable solution in terms of settling a three-way tie -- except that maybe Dan Beebe hopes to avoid another one through perpetuity.

Jon from Houston writes: Any updates on Mike Leach? I haven't heard anything further about his extension. Is his name still in the mix at Auburn?

Tim Griffin: The talks between Leach and Texas Tech are taking a break this week as Leach visits New York City to the Hall of Fame awards and will be visiting Florida for the awards presentation. I would expect to see him back in New York City if Graham Harrell is deservedly chosen as a Heisman finalist.

But my gut tells me that if Auburn had wanted to hire him, we would have already heard something by now. And with the parade of various candidates emerging, I'm thinking his chances for that job -- if he ever really wanted it -- are growing dimmer by the day.

Matt from Victoria, Texas, writes: Tim, sorry, but you've made an error. Texas wide receiver Jordan Shipley has already applied for his medical redshirt with the NCAA and Mack Brown says he will also be back for a sixth year with Colt! You're supposed to know this stuff, right?

Tim Griffin: Matt, I do. But I also know that Shipley was introduced with the rest of the senior class at his final home game against Texas A&M a couple of weeks ago. I realize that Shipley is talking about applying for a hardship case and has an outstanding case, but nothing is certain yet. While it looks like he'll have a good chance of obtaining that extra year, it still isn't certain. And until he receives that official clearance, I'm not considering him back. After it comes, his status will change in my predictions.

Scott from Tulsa writes: I shouldn't be surprised that an ESPN writer is throwing out the dynasty comment again about Oklahoma. How many different programs just this decade have anybody been mentioned as a potential dynasty by ESPN. I guess you didn't step back to consider that the team you're calling a potential dynasty has lost four-straight BCS games. They've also lost three of four games to their arch-rival Texas. Hardly a dynasty. Sensationalism at its best.

Tim Griffin: Scott, I respectfully disagree. I always prefaced my recent comments about Oklahoma in the context of Big 12 play only. I also mentioned some of their BCS failings as well. And I don't think we can really argue that the Sooners are a dynasty in terms of conference play.

Oklahoma made history against Missouri by becoming the first Big 12 team to win three consecutive titles. No other Big 12 team has even won back-to-back titles. Bob Stoops has claimed six Big 12 titles. No other coach has won more than one in the 13-season history of the conference. No other program has won more than two titles in the history of the conference.

That sounds like a Sooner dynasty to me -- at least in terms of Big 12 play.

Jeremy from St. Louis writes: Tim, thanks for the great blog. It's become my go-to for all things Big 12 football. I want to comment on your recent post regarding whether Stoops erred in running up the score in the Big 12 title game. As to your assertion (or your linked assertion), I think Dan Hawkins has the perfect response: It's Division 1 Football!!! It's the Big 12 !!! If Matt Eberflus and Co. don't want to play defense, why is that Stoops' problem?

If Dave Christensen wants to quit running the ball and drag the game out, why is that Stoops' problem? If the shoe were on the other foot, I wouldn't have wanted us to step off the gas. There is too much at stake not to achieve the greatest margin of victory possible.
And frankly, I'm a little glad that Oklahoma kept its starters in so Gary Pinkel could clearly see what an epic fail this defense, and specifically the defensive line, was. Our three games against real opponents (UT, OSU, and OU) showed how far we still have to go. These types of games are good reminders that we aren't there yet. Hopefully, Pinkel knows that too.

Tim Griffin: Thanks for your kind words. I bet your opinion isn't shared by the majority of Missouri fans. And your comments a
bout the Missouri defense are correct, in my opinion. The Tigers have a lot of work to become competitively defensively against the South Division powers.

Ryan from Denton, Texas, writes: Hey Tim, I wanted to start by saying I love your blog, I've always appreciated your unbiased responses. Anyway, I was looking at all the conference's bowl matchups and I am hard pressed to find a matchup where the big 12 teams aren't likely to lose, other than the Oklahoma-Florida game, which is a toss-up. Do you think the Big 12 has the ability to run the table in bowl games this year?

Tim Griffin: The Big 12 is favored in five of the seven games. Only Nebraska and Oklahoma are slight underdogs. Considering that, the conference needs a big bowl season to get some of the criticism about the lack of defense in the conference to subside. The only way to do that is to play well against teams from other power conferences. That always hasn't been the case. But Big 12 teams will have their ability to stifle some of that criticism in the next few weeks.

Stephen Jones from Checotah, Okla., writes: Which Big 12 team do you think will have the most trouble as a favorite and which Big 12 underdog has the best chance of springing an upset during the bowls.

Tim Griffin: I'll say that Missouri will have the most difficulty as a favorite in the Alamo Bowl, mainly because of the way the Tigers finished the season. I'm curious about their mental approach heading into the Northwestern game. I also think Nebraska has the best chance to spring an upset. I really believe the Cornhuskers got a favorable matchup against Clemson in the Gator Bowl. And their chances will be bolstered because Clemson defensive coordinator Vic Koenning left to take the job at Kansas State. That uncertain leadership should work to the advantage of Joe Ganz, Roy Helu Jr. and Nate Swift for the Cornhuskers.

Ramon from Ecuador writes: Tim, I'd like to know your thoughts on Coach Mike Sherman's first season at Texas A&M and how you see the program moving in the future. Will I have to wait until 2009, or can you write on this subject any time soon? Best regards.

Tim Griffin: Ramon, anybody writing from South America deserves an answer.

I think the Texas A&M season was a huge disappointment, particularly the way it finished with a 90-30 combined margin of defeat to Baylor and Texas. I'm sure that Sherman was surprised by how far his team dropped. And the fact that the Aggies went 0-5 against the rest of the South Division for the first time in history indicates that the program has hit rock bottom in that regard.

The departure of Mike Goodson will open a position for Cyrus Gray, who looked good in brief bursts late in the season. Sherman has a strong offensive nucleus with players like Jerrod Johnson, Jeff Fuller and Jamie McCoy and an offensive line that will return four starters. Defensively, the Aggies have a lot of work to do. But I did like the late progress of Tony Jerod-Eddie and linebackers Von Miller and Garrick Williams.

Across-the-board growth will be important because I think the Aggies will be picked in the South Division cellar coming into next season. The competition in the division has never been more intense with two BCS teams, another that almost made it and teams like Baylor and Oklahoma State poised for continued improvement. I would suggest that Sherman better plan on rolling up his sleeves, because he clearly has his work cut out in turning around Texas A&M's program at this time.

Thanks again for all of the good questions. I'll be back again next week to answer another collection of them.