Thanks for all the mail, folks. Good stuff this week. If yours didn't make it, send a better question or a funnier comment my way.
Bud in Spicewood, Texas asked: Why is OU favored to win the Big XII by every one? A&M returns more starters AND beat OU last year pretty handily (2 TD's). I realize the game is in Norman but all good things come to an end at some point (just ask Terrelle Pryor). Also with Johnny Manziel's athletic ability I feel you have to get him on the field somewhere as a true freshman whether it's returning kicks/punts or as a slot receiver. What are your thoughts?
David Ubben: Lots of reasons. Above all else, Oklahoma has been there before and gotten it done. Call it what you want, but that's a big deal. It's been quite awhile since Texas A&M got over the hump. And sure, A&M beat Oklahoma, but Oklahoma also won 12 games to Texas A&M's nine, and played a much tougher schedule. Also, Oklahoma didn't get embarrassed by anyone on its home field like Texas A&M did. Count up returning starters all you want, but Oklahoma brings back the core of its team and the only big loss it might have trouble replacing is at safety, but there's plenty of potential there in Javon Harris and Aaron Colvin. I think both of those guys will be outstanding.
Sure, all good things come to an end, but Oklahoma's reign atop the Big 12 won't be one of them this year.
As for Manziel, I don't quite understand A&M fans' obsession with him. I talked about what the Aggies should do with him in my mailbag last week, but I swear, I get more e-mail about him than any other freshman or reserve quarterback in the league. It's uncanny. My mailbag is wondering who this "Malcolm Brown" guy is and is wondering when Manziel will win the Heisman. Any A&M fans care to explain?
Rachel McCoy in An Undisclosed Location asks: Since Brandon Williams (#5 ESPN RB), went through Spring Ball at OU and since Malcolm Brown wont be in Austin till the fall, Colt andd I think there is a very good chance that Brandon could make a bigger splash than Brown? (Didn't hear it from me) What do you think? P.S. Call me!
DU: That's entirely possible. Oklahoma's practices are closed and the spring game isn't broadcast, so I haven't gotten to see Williams play with my own eyes, but everything I've heard is that he looks like a big-time back with a great balance of size and speed. I saw Brown play a couple times when his high school games were on TV, and he's definitely more of a power back. Unless he gets a lot faster, I don't see him as a big-play guy in this league. He's got a great feel for creases in the line and really good balance, but the top-end speed just isn't there.
The spring definitely helps Williams. He's got a lot tougher competition and a deeper group of backs, but if he can figure out the more complex parts of being a running back, namely pass protection, I could definitely see that happening.
Jeremy in Fort Smith, Ark. asks: With possibly 4 teams good enough to be national title contenders next year, do you think the Big 12 could be football's best conference over the SEC?
DU: The first time I read this question, I thought no way. But then I sized up the leagues side by side at the top... and it's pretty possible. LSU and Alabama are stout, and legitimate national title contenders. Arkansas is a good team with a lot of upside, easily a top 15 team. We'll see about South Carolina, and Florida might get better under Will Muschamp. Mississippi State is solid, but their upside isn't high enough to do any better than the top 20 by the end of the season.
Meanwhile, the Big 12 has just one legitimate national title contender: Oklahoma. Oklahoma State and Texas A&M are good enough to make it happen, but they're going to have to get some good bounces to make it happen and the safe bet is both of them losing two games or so. Missouri is a good team that seems to be a bit polarizing in the preseason; ultimately James Franklin will decide how far it goes. Texas, well, I'm not betting on it, but the possibility is there for a return to the top 15-20. Baylor is a bit like Mississippi State. A good team not quite deep enough to be great. Texas Tech could sneak into the top 25 this year.
The SEC will rightfully begin the season as college football's best conference, but the idea of the Big 12 becoming the best this year is far from outlandish.
Derek Williams in Dallas, Texas asks: What do you think will come of the recent comments by Colt McCoy's wife?
DU: I'll just say this: Right now, I don't think you can absolutely rule out anything on either side of the spectrum from "it's nothing" to "it's very much something." People inside and outside the program will be looking into it.
Mike S. in Wichita, Kan. asks: Will you be picking up NCAA 12 on release date? If so, what's the new addition you're looking forward to the most?
DU: I've done so every year since 2002 with the exception of '07, when I had to wait a month because I was in Australia. I'll be making the run as always, though. The new addition I'm looking forward to the most is pretty obvious, isn't it? Create your own conference.
FInally, I'll be able to put Texas A&M in their rightful home: The SEC.
Otis Eader in Texas asks: Ubbenator, Do you think there are any teams that will struggle with the new "taunting/ celebration" rule that was put into place by the NCAA? From what I understand, refs will be flagging players a lot easier this season than they did in the past.
DU: Nah, I don't think so. Guys get a reputation for being celebrators, but I don't think there are a lot of guys in this league who get carried away with it. Kenny Stills (Texas Tech) and Justin Blackmon (Alamo Bowl) probably have the biggest rep for celebrating in this league, but both of those celebrations weren't that crazy. Like Ryan Broyles did after his high-step against Texas Tech while getting blown out in 2009, I think they both probably learned a lesson from it. Stills got lit up by Bob Stoops when he got back to the sideline from jumping and spiking the ball between his legs. I remember seeing an interview with Broyles shortly after and he was said something to the effect of, "As soon as I saw it, I was like, 'Oh no, here we go.'" And there they did go.
As for Blackmon, the cut across the field against Arizona was the only time he really got carried away. I didn't really care, and in my book, any celebration that's entertaining is fantastic. I love the game because it's entertainment. As long as it's not directed at an opponent, I'd like to see players celebrate any way they want. I hate this new rule. I didn't see Gundy say a ton to Blackmon, at least on the TV broadcast, but he got ripped by a few in the media for it, and I'm sure he knows that celebration was on a tape of examples shown to NCAA officials as a touchdown that would be erased under the new rule.
GTCat in Tonganoxie, Kan. asks: Do you find your job has changed much now that we're down to 10 teams? Do you find yourself just going more in depth to each team now, or is it not noticeable? I'm sure it will be more evident during the season when you have one less game to cover per week. I know one thing's for sure you probably at least have 10% less Husker mail now that they're out of the conference (they seem to still miss the friendly confines of the conference and your blog...funny thing is the feeling's not mutual for some reason).
DU: No, not really. It's pretty much the same. I enjoy messing around with you all, but I don't think losing two teams allows you to really go much more in-depth with the ones that remain. Nonconference game weeks should be a lot easier, though. You're dead on about that one.
As for the mail, if you think 10 percent is what I got from Nebraska fans, you're sorely mistaken. Try about 40 percent. Texas A&M fans have filled that void recently. They're the ones I hear from the most by far.
This new league should be fun. Nebraska will be missed, and anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves. That doesn't mean the Big 12 can't be a great league, but it would be fun to have them around to be in it, too.