Mailbag: Expansion, rivalries, top 25 gripes

Thanks for all the emails this week. It's been a fun one. Here's where you can reach me.

On to your emails.

Jay Young in Midland, Texas, wrote: Wow David! 6 out of 10 Big 12 teams in the top 25. Two of which lost a lot of expereinceand talent. Do you have an actual thought process on this, or just wishful thinking?? Please convince me!

David Ubben: Do you really need that much convincing, Jay? Sure, teams that bring back the most starters tend to get breaks, but Oklahoma State is really the only team in the six who lost a ton of talent that it may have trouble replacing. Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden were both once in a lifetime players. That said, they bring back a ton on offense and having two of the best running backs in the Big 12 in Jeremy Smith and Joseph Randle will help ease the transition from 28-year-old senior Brandon Weeden to 18-year-old true freshman Wes Lunt.

TCU and West Virginia lost a lot on defense, but both will have high-powered offenses that make them solid cases as top 25 teams. Bottom line, Jay: The Big 12 is really, really deep next year, even if it lacks what I'd consider a legitimate national title team. Oklahoma could do it, but they'll have to be much more consistent than they've been the past 2-3 years.

There's no doubt in my mind, though. The Big 12 has six bona fide preseason teams entering 2012. You never know how it will play out -- Texas A&M taught us that last year -- but when it comes to talent returning and replacing, the Big 12 will have as much as any league in the country.

Ryan in Stillwater, Okla., wrote: Davicus! Do you envision any new rivalries develop in the big 12 with TCU and WVU? (Baylor and TCU already seem to be that way) Thanks!

DU: This will be the fascinating part of the transition for these two teams. WVU is leaving behind its biggest rival in Pittsburgh, who was leaving for the ACC anyway. The Mountaineers, with Dana Holgorsen running the show, have something of a ready-made rivalry with Texas Tech (could Holgorsen end up the head coach there at some point?) and Oklahoma State (who may chase after Holgorsen when Gundy retires in 2055). But really, that only does so much. Ultimately, rivalries will be decided by memorable games, and for WVU, it could be anyone.

TCU will have leftover rivalries with Texas Tech and Baylor from its Southwest Conference days, and don't be surprised if one develops with Oklahoma and Texas in the years to come when TCU starts going after some of the top players in the DFW metroplex ... and getting them to sign. TCU still has that 2005 win over the Sooners on their home field, too, that I'm sure the Sooners fans haven't forgotten.

Pete in Paw Paw, Mich., wrote: Your take on the FSU and Clemson expansion rumors?

DU: I get asked this a lot. I don't believe them. I haven't seen any reputable media outlet write anything that's given them any legs. That said, rumors have persisted for months and refuse to go away. Does that say something? Nothing's impossible.

Rharkeem Wright in Memphis, Tenn., wrote: Is SMU really leaving C-USA to the Big 12?

DU: No.

Brian M. in Las Cruces, N.M., wrote: Ubbs, I feel like the only person in the world who doesn't like the new cfb playoffs. Having more than 2 teams get a shot at the 'ship is great but is this really the best way to do it?

DU: Yes.

Blake in Iowa City wrote: Here's an idea to fix the location for games in the playoff system, instead of playing at the higher ranked team's actual facility why not have it so that the teams with the higher ranking host the game at the same stadium that their conference championship game was (since those already are selected geographically). Then to a degree the games are home and to a degree neutral as well.

DU: Blake, I gotta hand it to you. This idea sounds sort of crazy, but I sort of love it. It could pose some logistical issues I suppose -- do you reserve these venues? -- but I doubt those kinds of things would be any more serious than playing at a campus site. The one problem that could arise is making teams travel to the same site two weeks in a row, or two games in a row, depending on when semifinal games are played.

That's not a big deal for, say, OU, Texas or TCU playing at Cowboys Stadium, assuming that would be the Big 12's site. Maybe the team could choose Arrowhead or Cowboys Stadium? That seems a little hokey.

But what about Arkansas playing in Atlanta? Or Nebraska playing in Indianapolis? What about West Virginia playing in Cowboys Stadium? Would fans be willing to travel to the same spot for two consecutive games? You could deal with attendance issues at that point.

That said, I don't hate the idea.

Zack in Basra, Iraq, wrote: David, I'm yet another WVU alumnus -- so first of all thanks for the warm welcome and extensive coverage. And thanks for visiting Morgantown and seeing it for your self. I'm really enjoying your detailed analysis and thorough responses to everyone on the mailbag. My question is why do you believe WVU will have less success over the next decade than TCU? I'm not necessarily arguing your point but you've said it more than once and as far as I recall, I don't remember you ever saying why. Perhaps it's the potential for Holgerson to move up and out in the near future, or the size of our athletic budget, recruiting track record? Look forward to your response. All the best, Zack

DU: My point isn't really about West Virginia as much as it's about TCU. I think WVU's success will remain relatively static. Maybe a little better or a little worse, depending on how recruiting goes.

TCU, however, is about to get a major upgrade all over the place. It'll be pumping money into facilities, but most importantly, it'll be a Big 12 team in the metroplex recruiting in the metroplex. WVU can't really compete with that. TCU's going to start hauling in tons of more talent as long as they can win with a little consistency -- not even win big, just win 7-10 games every year -- as they merge into the Big 12.

So, for me, it's not about West Virginia. It's about TCU taking advantage of its upside. It gained a lot more by joining the Big 12 than West Virginia did.