Chris in Houston asks: Why do people keep picking A&M as a dark-horse contender for the Big XII. I realize the offense will be good, but what indications are there that the defense will be able to stop anyone with a pulse?
David Ubben: A lot of it is based on potential, but the Aggies fate rests almost entirely on the defense. New defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter brings a lot of excitement to campus after coaching the No. 11 defense in college football last year.
The offense is replacing three linemen, so they’ll have to be solid for it to happen, but there’s so much talent at the skill positions, they should be at least as good as they were last season.
If the defense can’t get better, the Aggies probably won’t win many more than six games. But they’re bringing nine starters back, and by all accounts, are adjusting well to DeRuyter’s new 3-4 scheme.
The interesting thing about Texas A&M this year is how their schedule sets up. They could possibly be 8-0 heading into November, but that month will define their season. They host Oklahoma and Nebraska before finishing the season in Austin. If they can at least be 7-1 heading into that stretch, they’ll control their own destiny.
Sam in Albion, Wash., asks: Hey David, which would you bet on: Missouri scores an average of 40 points per game or more or Nebraska's opponents score an average 15 points per game or less?
DU: Interesting question, Sam. Both have plenty of questions. Nebraska’s replacing a lot everywhere, but they’ve got guys who have potential to be great, and the coaches like their chances to become great. They also have a budding star in Jared Crick on the front line of the defense.
Same with Missouri’s offense, which is replacing a big-play guy in Danario Alexander, but has a lot of talent ready for bigger roles.
But, playing percentages, only two teams in college football scored more than 40 points a game last year. Seven teams held opponents to under 15 points a game.
That would make me lean Nebraska, but the best bet is neither.
Now, if you want to say 30 points a game, one more than Missouri averaged last season, it could be pretty close.
Rhett in Boulder, Colo., asks: Hey David,I'm a student at CU in Boulder, but am a frim Nebraska fan, it's tough. My question may be from left field, but is there any way the north could come down to the Nebraska-Colorado game the day after Thanksgiving?
DU: Maybe, but the only impact it could have would be playing spoiler. Colorado’s not winning the North this year, and I don’t like their chances of winning in Lincoln with Nebraska possibly looking to clinch the division.
Matt in Dallas, Texas, asks: Look--your articles on your Big 12 blog, not unlike the Big 12 itself, take on a decidedly pro-Texas slant. So can you take the glasses off and tell us why no one in the Big 12 press is wanting to address the elephant in the room re: Big 10 expansion--that the logical and likely grab from the Big 10 won't be Missouri, but will likely be Nebraska instead? There are only three teams with any sort of national prominence in this conference--taking one away makes the Big 12 wholly irrelevant past the OU/UT tilt in October, doesn't it?
DU: There’s been plenty of talk in the Big 12 media about expansion, but at this point, there’s not much more to talk about beyond speculation. Everything is very fluid, and yes, Nebraska and Missouri are both in play, but until, like Elvis said, there’s a little less conversation and a little more action, there’s very little to talk about that isn't entirely speculation.
But you’re right. On a national stage, if Nebraska leaves, the whole conference would lean in the direction of that game.
However, we like to refer to that phenomenon as “the 2008 season.”
Brett in Kansas City asks: David, how many years do you think Bill Snyder will continue coaching and who do you think will replace him when he retires
DU: I talked to him about that same question before spring began, and as of now, there’s no real plan in place. The reason he came back was to “calm the waters,” he says. His plan is to elevate the program back to where it once was, when bowl games were commonplace. They haven’t been to one since 2006, and they were blown out by Rutgers under Ron Prince.
If Kansas State can string together a couple 8-9 win seasons, I’d expect a final ride off into the sunset for Snyder.
As for who replaces him, it’s still a little bit early, but I think the Wildcats would want a more established coach as opposed to a first-time head coach like Prince.
But that coaching search could be even five years away.
Matt in Houston/Texas asks: Ubben, I'm enjoying the blog.I'm just curious, what fanbase pesters you the most (I'm guessing Nebraska) and the least (I'm guessing Baylor or Iowa State). Also, what questions are you sick of hearing?
DU: Nobody really “pesters” me, but I certainly hear from some more than others. Most of my mail is from Nebraska and Texas fans, but I hear from Oklahoma and Texas A&M fans a lot, too. A few Nebraska people thought I was making fun of them with my all-Husker mailbag earlier this spring, but I couldn’t help but notice the change that week, and it made me laugh. It was the first week of the NCAA tournament, and mail from Texas and everyone else kind of tapered off. But if anything, I got more from Nebraska people that week than in a normal week.
I almost never hear from Baylor fans, but I’ve gotten a few notes from Iowa State people. Everyone else is kind of in the middle.
As for your second question, allow me to illustrate my point with a pair of e-mails I received early this week less than six hours apart.
Chris from Tuscon, Ariz., wrote: I know you have a huge mancrush on the Big 12 South so just come out and say it.
M. Hancock in Lubbock, Texas, wrote: After reading your postings for better than two months, I have noticed a definite bias in favor of the North Division of the Big XII.
DU: Whatever people are looking for here, they’re going to find it.
But I think the real lesson in all this is that I’m biased against/hate every team in the Big 12 ... especially yours.