Mailbag: Tech's woes, best fans, Air Force?

Thanks for all the emails this week. Here's where you can reach me if you've got more to say.

Robert Powell in El Paso, Texas writes: David, Good article on Tech. Other than 'coaching cliche's', how can Leach's players not be near good enough for Tuberville's teams? Leach always had good/decent depth and playmakers. Now none of them can play (2011 season)? I know the defensive systems are different, but players play, no matter the system. Also, injuries happen, but Tech's apocalyptic injuries had to be among the most in all of CFB. How do Tech's number of injuries compare with other teams from '11 and in previous years? Keep up the great work!

David Ubben: Players play, yes, and the talent's been there on offense. Defensively, though? No way. Tuberville is right on. The Red Raiders' linebackers have been really underwhelming under Tuberville, because the upperclassmen haven't had the kind of talent you need to field a good defense in this league.

The corners have been bad, but they've been young, too. Tech hasn't had the kind of pass-rushers you need to compete in this league, and the best of the bunch, Scott Smith, missed most of 2010 and 2011 with a coach-imposed suspension. When was the last time under Leach that Texas Tech had a defender that really wowed you? For me, Colby Whitlock was the last I really remember.

Tuberville has stacked his team with some athletes like Leon Mackey and Delvon Simmons that haven't been at Tech for a long while. Those guys have to mature now.

Making matters worse have been the injuries. Tech's been hurt more by those the past two seasons than anyone else, especially on defense. Call it an excuse if you must, but it's the truth. I've been surprised at how slow the improvement on defense has been for Tuberville, who made his career on having great defenses, but there's no question he's been hamstrung by poor depth, and having that poor depth tested quickly by a ton of injuries.

Daniel in Waco writes: What do u think about adding air force as a way to recapture the Denver market?

DU: Not a fan of that idea for several reasons. Chief among those, Air Force does not capture the Denver market. Neither did Colorado in the same sense that, say, Texas or Texas A&M captured a market.

Here's the bottom line: All the true home run expansion possibilities are gone. A&M and Nebraska have massive fan bases that move the needle and provide a lot for any league. None of that is around anymore, but West Virginia was somewhat along that line.

Bigger than that, though, is the reasons why WVU and TCU punched tickets to the Big 12: Greatness on the football field. You don't want to count on a big fan base carrying TV ratings. What carries even more TV ratings? Nationally relevant games. You get nationally relevant games by having top 25 teams playing. Air Force doesn't have that.

To me, teams like Louisville and BYU are big question marks in that area, though BYU has the biggest fan base left. Either way, Air Force won't fit either of those. Not a fan of the Falcons in the Big 12. Louisville should be No. 1 if the Big 12 looks to expand, and BYU supposedly comes with plenty of other complications in terms of wanting to do things its way in the boardroom. They love independence. WVU wanted out of the Big East, and TCU's dreams came true with a Big 12 invite. For now, the league should stand pat.

Bob in Crab Orchard, W. Va., writes: Do you think that if Geno or Tavon Austin either one has standout seasons in the Big 12 that they have a shot at being front runners in the heisman running.

DU: Geno definitely does. I've written that a few times. Austin, though? He's going to have to do a lot in the special teams to truly differentiate himself. And even then, it's going to be tough. We've seen some amazing receivers come through this league, especially Justin Blackmon and Ryan Broyles the past two seasons. Neither had a real chance to win the Heisman. It's too difficult for receivers, and honestly, I think that's how it should be. Great players, yes, but receivers don't have the level of impact to win games like quarterbacks and running backs do. They just don't touch the ball enough. That said, Austin should be a candidate for the Biletnikoff Award.

Joshua Atkins in Tyler, Texas, writes: Ubben! You're Famous! No wait, this photo is supposed to be about Justin Blackmon kissing his girlfriend!

DU: That was only the second-best photo of the Fiesta Bowl, behind this one. A few of you sent me that photo from The Atlantic on Twitter this week. It cracked me up. And you know I can't see a player lay a big one on a cheerleader and not write about it, right?

Jack Thompson in Valdosta, Ga., writes: Hey David, Mountaineer till way after I die! I'm curious as to how well the other schools travel. I know we are well on our way to selling out every game this season and I know a portion of it can be attributed to the Big 12 folks coming to Morgantown. Really what I want to know is, if theres going to be a big ole (insert any B12 school ) motorcoach sporting team colors parking next to ours?!

DU: Well, that's a complex question. When Nebraska left, so did the only team in the Big 12 that completely swarms a city regardless of how big a game is. If it's a huge game, you'll see plenty of Big 12 fans in your city. Texas and Oklahoma obviously have the biggest fan bases, and they'll be, to quote one Big and Rich, comin' to your citaaay.

If I had to pick one team you could count on to travel regardless of the magnitude of the game, I'd probably say Kansas State. The Wildcats don't have the biggest fan base, but it's one of the most loyal. The Cats love them some Bill Snyder.

Seth in Kansas City, Mo. writes: I've got a plan for you to follow. How about, until the 2012-2013 academic year starts, you continue to report on the Mizzou Tigers and A&M Aggies. You know, what your job entails? Maybe I am misunderstanding your position here. You are a college football reporter for the BIG12 for ESPN correct? And the realignment does not take effect until 2012-2013 correct? Now that you have a complete understanding of the situation maybe you'll start to do your job.

DU: Glad to see you're one of our most loyal readers, Seth! Thanks for checking us out every day!