Tim's mailbag: Why the early love for OSU next season?

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are a few letters that I've received in the last several days. I don't have a Christmas card for everybody, but how about a few honest answers?

Drew from St. Louis writes: Tim, I know Texas is your early favorite for next year but I think Oklahoma will have the best defense in the Big 12. They return nine starters including their D-line and two All-American caliber linebackers in Travis Lewis and Ryan Reynolds. I think it all rests on Sam Bradford returning.

Tim Griffin: Let's not assume that you can immediately plug Reynolds back into the starting lineup as he will be recovering from knee surgery. He's shown great recuperative powers in the past, but we can't assume anything. And the Sooners will lose safeties Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes, who both will be difficult to replace.

But I agree with you that the Sooners' hopes of repeating will hinge greatly on whether Bradford returns or stays in school.

Also, I think that Oklahoma State will be a contender with most of its offensive weapons coming back. The South Division will be extremely competitive again next year and I think that Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are my early favorites for the top three positions.

I think the Cowboys' unexpected charge into South contention has helped build some confidence in players like Zac Robinson, Kendall Hunter and Dez Bryant. Next season, I think the Cowboys are going to expect to be in contention, rather than just happy to be included.

Steve from Norman, Okla., writes: I've watched every OU game for 5 years and attend practices as well and also coach 6A football here in Oklahoma. Lendy Holmes is not even the best safety on his team. Nic Harris will be a pro and also has had a little better year than Holmes.

Tim Griffin: Obviously, Steve, my only point of reference I could employ for my All-Big 12 teams were the Oklahoma games I actually have seen. None of us media types have the insight that we could have gleaned by watching practice.

It was a tough decision between Holmes and Harris for me. In the end I picked Holmes because he played every game at defensive back and wasn't switched to linebacker for one game like Harris was. And I also gave Holmes an edge because he produced eight turnovers (five interceptions, three fumble recoveries) while Harris had one fumble recovery. Where they will be playing in the pros had no relevance in picking my team from this year.

Jordon Olson from Durant, Okla., writes: Hey Mr. Griffin, First of all I love the blog. But why did you put A & M's Justin Brantly as your All Big-12 punter when OSU's Matt Fodge won the Ray Guy Award? With all due respect to Justin, I'm sure he is also a great punter.

Tim Griffin: Oklahoma State did lead the conference in net punting, but the biggest reason were the return yards that Texas A&M gave up in comparsion with other teams in the conference -- much like the defensive struggles that bedeviled the Aggies all season. I thought Brantly was a tad better than Fodge, despite having to kick much more often. His gross average was about one yard per kick better. And that's ultimately why I chose him.

Steve from Braymer, Mo. writes: I don't understand why the Holiday Bowl and Alamo Bowl pick their Big 12 teams ahead of the Gator Bowl. The Gator Bowl pays more money, and is a New Year's Day bowl . New Year's Day bowls have always been considered the more prestigious bowl games and who doesn't want more money? Can you explain this please?

Tim Griffin: The Gator Bowl's contract with the Big 12 enables it to pluck a team from the conference twice in a four-year period. It's a shared pick with the Big East and would give them access to a Big East team or Notre Dame when they don't pick from the Big 12.

The Gator Bowl is considered more prestigious only from a historical bent, in my opinion. And I've got to think the chance to play a game in either San Diego or San Antonio is just as attractive as playing in Jacksonville. And the appeal for many schools of playing as the only game on their particular night - like Missouri in the Alamo Bowl - is even more attractive than getting lost on New Year's Day among a jumble of games.

The Gator Bowl's contract enables it to get the fourth pick among Big 12 teams twice in a four-season period. It picks after the Holiday Bowl and before the Alamo Bowl. And it did have a caveat in its contract where it could have even jumped ahead of the Holiday Bowl in a season where the Big 12 only had one team in the BCS.

The Gator now has taken two teams from the Big 12 in back-to-back years with Texas Tech and Nebraska. It means they will not pick from the Big 12's pool of teams next season.

Ryan from Round Rock, Texas, writes: Tim, Why does everyone fawn over Josh Freeman? I know he has prototypical size for a QB, but he's maddeningly inconsistent. He's Chris Simms, except in a purple uniform. If I were Bill Snyder, I'd make him Kerry Meier 2.0 and put in a signal caller than can really read defenses.

Tim Griffin: The scouts I talk to all love Freeman's size and arm and his ability to move in and outside the pocket, but like you aren't enthralled with his consistency. I think he would do better to return to school, but I think some NFL team will make him a first-day selection if he was to declare.

And with all of the talk about the upcoming rookie salary scale, I think we'll probably see more players than ever declare for the draft this season.

Brian from Washington, D.C., writes: Five Texas posts in a row, Tim? You have done a great job all year long being unbiased. Don't fail me now and turn it into a Longhorn blog.

Tim Griffin: Brian, I appreciate your concern about the slant of my blog. I had a lot of Texas posts yesterday afternoon after spending the day with the Longhorns at their pre-bowl media availability. I'll chip in with some stuff from Oklahoma early next week as the Sooners conduct a similar press gathering before they break for the holidays.

Again, thanks for all of the questions and we'll do this again next week.