Mailbag: Playoffs, Tech, doubting WVU?

Thanks for all your emails this week. Here's where you can reach me.

On to your emails!

Connell in Blaine, Mich., wrote: In looking at Athlon Sports' predictions the other day, I realized it sees the Big 12 going 29-1 in non-conference games this fall. The only loss was forecast for Iowa State, presumably the game at Iowa City. Your thoughts?

David Ubben: Oddly enough, it's possible. The Big 12 went 33-5 last year in nonconference play, but went 6-2 in bowl games. If you take out the bowl performances, the Big 12 was 27-3 in nonconference play. Two of those losses came from Missouri (at Arizona State) and Texas A&M (Arkansas at Cowboys Stadium), and the rest of the Big 12 lost just one game out of conference (Kansas at Georgia Tech.)

So, why can't the Big 12 go 29-1? The nonconference schedule is laughably bad, so the league should rack up lots of easy wins. TCU has to take care of business against SMU, which beat the Frogs last season. Here are the five games the Big 12 is most likely to lose.

Of those five, the Big 12 may be favored in three of them. The Big 12 will be really strong this season, but the nonconference schedule is really, really bad. If I were eyeballing it, I'd guess the Big 12 goes 28-2 or 27-3, but 29-1 is definitely a possibility.

It's a big number, but there won't be very many impressive wins in the bunch. Oklahoma's game against Notre Dame in October is the league's only matchup against a preseason top 25 team.

Donald in Houston: Ubbs,Can we pump the brakes on WVU for a second? I looked up their past record since 2008: 3 wins over top 25 teams. #25 UConn 08', #9 Pitt 09' (who finished out of the top 25), and #23 Cinnci 11'. They have singed there first 4 star player this year, with only 3 top 150 since 2006. This year they play ranked Texas, Ksu, Tcu, Okie state, and ou. Don't you get the feeling that they might be out classed?

DU: I don't think West Virginia will be outclassed, but there's plenty of cause for concern, even if you look at last year's season. The talent WVU will be putting out on offense will probably be better than any team in the conference. Only Oklahoma will be able to compete in that area.

As for recent history, last year's loss to Syracuse was most eye-opening for me. Narrow wins over Pitt and South Florida are concerning, too. Show that kind of inconsistency in the Big 12, and you'll have issues.

As for the wins over ranked teams, you forgot Clemson last year. The Tigers may have been overrated, but they were No. 15 when WVU took them down. Pitt actually finished No. 15 in the final poll in 2009. West Virginia is 4-4 vs. the top 25 over that span, and faces five teams this year in the preseason top 25.

For comparison vs. the top 25:

  • Texas is 8-10, but 1-8 in the past two seasons. They were 7-2 in 2008 and 2009, when they played in the BCS.

  • Oklahoma is 15-8, including an injury-riddled, eight-win season with three top-25 losses in 2009.

I hadn't looked much at WVU's résumé beyond 2011, but you definitely bring up some interesting points. It will face five preseason top 25 teams this season alone. I still believe the transition will be tougher for TCU, but WVU better strap on the big boy pants if it thinks it can win a Big 12 title.

Concerned Frog in Fort Worth, Texas, wrote: On Wednesday you offended many Techsters when you wrote "TCU in 2011 would have been a tough matchup. Last January, though, Texas Tech squirmed out of the game..." My understanding is that TCU wanted out of the contract. I am confused, what are the facts surrounding this schedule change?

DU: That was not my understanding, according to the reporting from our crew at ESPN Dallas.

The Red Raiders were to visit the Rose Bowl champion Horned Frogs on Sept. 10 in Fort Worth. Texas Tech, however, needed to drop one nonconference game in order to fit in a ninth Big 12 game and opted to keep its games against New Mexico and Nevada and drop TCU. ...

TCU offered to relocate the game to Cowboys Stadium from Amon G. Carter Stadium, which is undergoing a $105 million renovation, but Tech declined. Tech and Baylor are in negotiations to move their Nov. 26 game from Waco to Cowboys Stadium. ...

A source close to Texas Tech said the Red Raiders are looking to push back any game against TCU a few years. Hesselbrock said Tech could reschedule but that it wouldn't be before the 2015 season. Tech would owe TCU a forfeiture fee if the game is not played, Hasselbrock said.

So, that's that. Tech could have dropped plenty of other games. It dropped TCU, the best team on its schedule. I get it. Tommy Tuberville admitted last year that it wasn't the kind of game he wanted his team to play. At least he's up front about it.

It's still lame.

Jon in Tulsa, Okla., wrote: Wouldn't the Big 12 not thrive in the most likely playoff scenerio. ie. Rose Bowl dictates that Pac 12 plays Big 10, therefore Big 12 forced to play SEC, Big East play ACC, two from independants and/or minor conference play fourth game. Then winners seeded 1-4 and play. The recent deal between big 12 and SEC would force the Big 12 to go through SEC to get to final 4 every year. Rose Bowl wanting big 10 pac 10 matchup has always stopped playoffs.

DU: No, I really don't get this idea. The Rose Bowl protection is a concern for the Big 12 in the scenario you put out, but the Champions Bowl (hate that name, by the way) wouldn't be a gateway game to the national title in the playoff. It would basically be the Cotton Bowl Deluxe (better name, by the way). If the Big 12 gets permanently paired with the SEC, that's a problem for the Big 12, but consider this:

If the Rose Bowl is protected, it's likely that the conference champions requirement had been installed in the new playoff. The SEC has made it clear that it wants the top four teams. The same with the Big 12. If the other conferences get their way, do you really believe that the conference champions will be required and the Rose Bowl protected as a playoff game for the national championship?

Queen P in Texas wrote: Ubben, Last fall you said that you thought TT could be good enough in 2012 to win the conference, do you remember that? Most of the team is back and the schedule is pretty favorable. What has changed that you don't see them contending? I don't get it.It seems like you hate Tech sometimes ;-(

DU: I don't have any issues with Texas Tech. As I've said tons of times, every fan base has people who think I hate their team. What do you want me to say about Tech? They went 5-7.

The team is back, yes. The schedule is OK, yes. But Tech's not a title contender. I wrote a bit about it this offseason, and Tuberville admitted to me earlier this spring that the injuries from last year stunted the growth of the 2012 team. The defense will have to learn a new system, too.

I thought Tech looked like an 8-9 win team last year. Injuries and a really tough league bumped it down to five wins. That stunted growth means Tech doesn't look like it has much of a shot to win the league this year. I like Tech's chances to reach a bowl game, but not much more.

Paul Rhoads at Iowa State wrote: How's my new facial hair?

DU: Nothing short of magnificent. You can't see or hear me right now, but I'm standing and applauding. Please keep this through the fall.