Mailbag: Rivalry, overrated, All-Big 12 gripes

Tomorrow morning, it will be game day. It's been more almost eight months since we've had one of those. Get excited. Time for the final preseason Mailbag of the year. Let's make it count.

Here's where you can reach me if you've got more to say.

Doug T. in Morgantown, W. Va., wrote: Dubss, do you believe that if the PAC-12, SEC, and Big 12 champs are all undefeated, the Big 12 will be shut out of the National Championship game? And what do you think hurts them more: the weak OOC schedule, or lack of a conference championship game?

David Ubben: There's a lot of variables here, and there's no way to answer this question definitively right now.

Here are the questions you have to ask to find the answer. No, some of them aren't right, but it's still reality. So, here goes:

1) How did the rest of their conference do? Did they get a steady diet of top 25 teams, or did everybody in the Pac-12 bomb outside of USC and Oregon.

2) Who did they play out of conference? You never know who'll emerge undefeated, so look beyond the usual contenders like Alabama, USC and Oklahoma. Maybe we're talking about Arkansas and West Virginia or Oregon.

3) Where did they start in the preseason poll? It's never easy to leapfrog undefeated teams.

4) How convincing were their wins? Margin of victory has been factored out of the computer rankings, but human voters take this into account, and how could you not? A team that wins five games in the final minutes is simply less impressive than one that rolls over everybody by double digits.

Those are the four most relevant questions. Some voters put more weight on some than others, but if I had to average out how voters think, that's how I'd rank them.

Cliff in Orlando, Fla., wrote: I love the coverage WVU is getting in the Big 12 blog. I have to ask, however, how is Joe Madsen not on the preseason top 25 payer list, and #24 is Ben Habern. You picked Joe for the All Big12 team. You prefaced the All Big12 team saying that you picked the best player at each position. Something just doesn't add up.

DU: I placed Habern on my top 25 players list, and two days after his entry ran, he announced his retirement because of lingering back and neck injuries. Two weeks later, I developed the All-Big 12 team. It felt like a fitting tribute to let Habern keep his spot on my top 25 players list, but when I made the new list, I felt like I needed to have a player who was actually going to play this season.

Thus, I gave Madsen the narrow nod ahead of Baylor's Ivory Wade. Kansas State' B.J. Finney got consideration, too.

Kris in Hollidaysburg, W. Va. wrote: Dear David, If you (rather ignorantly) insist on referring to the Marshall Thundering Turd as a "rival" of the West Virginia Mountaineers, then you owe it to your readers to explain what makes two teams rivals. MY definition is as follows: there must be some semblance of balance in the all-time series record, i.e., not 0-11; there must be competition for many of the same recruits; there must be hatred between the two schools and their fans, e.g., WVU/Pitt; both schools must have some geographical proximity. Marshall only fits into the last category, and is not even in the same universe as WVU in terms of prestige, either individual or conference-affiliated. So pretty please with sugar on top, explain why you're being so obtuse about this. And don't be a crybaby and ignore this just because I didn't talk nicely in this message; I know I'm not the only one hitting you up for this. Just do us all a favor and explain yourself. Sincerely, Kris

DU: I hear you on this one, Kris, and you're not alone. I heard from plenty of West Virginia fans on this account. Still, where hate is present, so is rivalry. West Virginia fans can deny it's a "rivalry" all they want, but the fact I even get these emails shows some proof that the Mountaineers fans love keeping in-state rival Marshall down.

You're in a small state with two FBS programs. I don't care what the history is between the two teams. There's going to be some level of rivalry there, and that's the case in West Virginia-Marshall.

Howard Mann in Dallas writes: KR - you ever heard of Tyler Lockett? All big 12 KR in 2011 and Pre Season 1st team all american, just checking, kind of the pick until unseated wouldnt you say ???

DU: Am I allowed to have a differing opinion? Bottom line is, it's close between Tyler Lockett and Justin Gilbert. Lockett's got better raw numbers than Gilbert, averaging more than eight yards a return, but consider this: Lockett's two scores came against Texas Tech and Kansas, the Big 12's worst defensive teams by far. His sample size is still a little small for me to feel like you can just hand the reins of the league's best kick returner to Lockett.

Teams kicked away from Gilbert last year, Lockett only returned kicks for four games. Gilbert's shown up in huge spots for the Cowboys for two years. He returned a kick for a score in a tight game against Texas last year when the Cowboys needed it most. He got OSU back into a game last year with a return for a score in the biggest game of the year against Oklahoma.

It's close right now. I wouldn't be surprised if Lockett speeds past Gilbert as the league's best return man next year, but right now, it's Gilbert's crown.

Cameron in Dallas writes: DU,Do you notice the resemblance in TCU's big 12 schedule and the single player arcade mode of Mortal Kombat? Seems like they move progressively tougher up the ladder each week.Welcome to the big 12 purple people

DU: Ha, this gets my vote for the email of the week. I was more of a Street Fighter man myself, but you've got a point. It's not an exact trend, but it might be by the time WVU plays them. I could see Oklahoma State (road game) finishing fifth, West Virginia (road game) sitting in fourth, K-State in third, Texas (road game) in second and Oklahoma in first.

The only question is, where's TCU?

After that schedule, it's not gonna be easy.

Scipio in Houston writes: Your homerism for all things KSU is somewhat idiotic. One aberration of a great season shouldn't have them ahead of traditional powers (ahem--UT)..your boldness is a blip on the college prediction Richter Scale...something's amiss homie.

Derek in Manhappenin writes: What did K-State ever do to you? Every time you write about the Wildcats, you have to mention that everybody's doubting us? Hmmm...could it be because you doubt us, too? So tired of all this hate, from you and everybody else. Optimus Klein will prove the haters like you wrong this year. And then next year I'm sure you'll just keep drooling over OU and UT like you always do.

DU: Oh, Mailbag. You never cease to entertain. Until next time, friends...