Mailbag: Expansion, 2013 title, schedules

Thanks for all the emails this week and while I was away, everybody. Here's where you can reach me if you have more nuggets of hysterical marriage advice.

Let's get to your emails!

James in Charleston, W.Va. writes: I am not going to argue that WVU has a good non conference schedule this upcoming season, because it doesn't. But I am going to argue that WVU should be ranked higher that Texas Tech and Kansas. At least WVU has a BCS team in its non conference schedule in Maryland, and on top of that, it is an actual annual rivalry game with a long history. I know Maryland hasn't been great lately, but a rivalry game alone should bump us over those other two.

David Ubben: I don't buy that at all. I agreed with where WVU was in my man Brandon Chatmon's rankings, for the most part. You could make a case for WVU ahead of KU depending on how Louisiana Tech looks after losing a ton of seniors from last year's team. But Maryland was awful last season again, losing its final six games of the year, and its two wins in ACC play were against teams that both finished below .500. That's not respectable at all. SMU was a decent non-AQ team last year, and June Jones has that program in its best shape in a long while. That's a good non-conference matchup. Skip Holtz was a solid hire for the Bulldogs down in Ruston, and I'd definitely take them over Maryland, which was stuck playing a linebacker at quarterback last season (seriously.) Just playing an AQ conference team doesn't mean that much. Granted, judging nonconference schedules in the preseason is always somewhat of a guessing game because you never really know how good teams will be.

It's close, but I'll take KU and Texas Tech's nonconference schedules next year ahead of WVU's.

Cowboy KS in Kansas City writes: DU, I'm not following the logic on having OState and TCU more favored to win the Big 12 this year than the Horns. The Horns return almost their entire group of starters and even get a couple of injured starters back in the line-up. Why not call for the Horns to win it all this year? What's behind the skepticism of the burnt orange herd?

DU: Well, TCU is pretty simple. It lost the best player on its team and its best running back and still managed to win seven games in its first year in the league, and had the Big 12's best defense despite playing tons of freshmen and sophomores and never seeing offenses like these on a week-to-week basis. That's amazing, and Casey Pachall and Waymon James return, with plenty of guys in place to replace Josh Boyce and Stansly Maponga, the team's two biggest losses.

For OSU, it comes down to wins and losses. The Pokes beat the heck out of a bunch of good Big 12 teams like Tech, TCU, WVU. They also played through a bunch of quarterback injuries and suffered respectable losses to Kansas State and Oklahoma, two teams who tied for the best record in the Big 12, and OSU lost a narrow game to a red-hot Baylor team late in the year.

Texas? The Longhorns beat OSU early in the year, but really did get shakier as the season went on, while teams like OSU and TCU improved. Texas played well against Iowa State and Tech, but was embarrassed by Kansas State and Oklahoma, and never really won a game that made you say, "Wow!" You've got to win a lot of those to win a Big 12 title.

With what TCU is gaining from last year's seven-win team that was a shell of what it could have been, and OSU's ability to just outclass a lot of good Big 12 teams, I believe a whole lot more in them to be double-digit win teams this year and threaten to win a Big 12 title. Texas will be in the mix, but OSU's late-season surge and TCU's Thanksgiving Night win against Texas doesn't make me feel very confident in the Longhorns as a better team than either.

Chris in Lubbock, Texas writes: Special teams seem to be more in the spotlight and more critical in a league were scoring is this rampant. Who in your mind is going to be the most explosive special teams player or top 3 if that is easier?

DU: I'd say the league's best special teams player begins and ends with Tyler Lockett next season when you're talking explosiveness.

Outside of him, keep an eye on Jakeem Grant at Texas Tech, and don't overlook Justin Gilbert having a big comeback season next year after a disappointing 2012 on special teams and at cornerback.

Jaxon Heath in Dallas writes: Ok David, I know you've been through all the expansion talk again and again, but with the Big East break up, why doesn't the Big 12 snatch up South Florida? It's located in a major market, in a major state and games in Florida would help in recruiting. USF is a large university as well.

DU: Interesting suggestion, Jaxon. It works on some levels, but I don't really buy it. If you're going to dig into Florida, I think you only do it for a home run, i.e. Florida State. I wouldn't take a risk on a team that is so far out of your footprint and doesn't have a lot of proven success on the field, though the formula to do that is there with its location and size. TCU was a little different because a) The Big 12 absolutely needed a new member, and b) its proximity and history and likely future growth outweighed its small size and poor facilities (outside of a new football stadium and baseball stadium). I could see a world in which USF works as a Big 12 member, but it's risky, and not worth rolling the dice. The risk far outweighs the reward, and it's hard to see USF truly becoming one of the best two programs in Florida consistently, Big 12 membership or otherwise. The league should jump at any opportunity to land Florida State, but USF would give me reason for pause.

Charles Cowart in Phoenix, Ariz., writes: Ubbs, As a huge fan of the Longhorns I am seeing a recent growth of Texas fans that seem to think David Ash was "mediocre at best." I would like your thoughts on this with an outside look. Besides Kansas and OU (No one on the roster or coaching staff did anything on this day) he looked to me to be one of the best in the country. Take into account he was playing in a run-based offense that was almost intentionally non-explosive, injured in the TCU game. In the true shootouts he performed like a gunslinger (OK State, Ole Miss) and made the bigger plays to beat a team with a QB most regard as better than him. It is not like our defense put him in favorable conditions....

DU: Here's my thing with David Ash: He's neither of the things you described. He's not "mediocre at best," but he's a long, long way from "one of the best in the country." His biggest issue is his consistency. His numbers against Ole Miss were bloated because the Rebels' secondary was awful and let Texas' receivers make plays on balls that were poorly thrown. His game against Oklahoma State was the best I've ever seen from him. Truly great stuff. When Ash is playing up to his potential, he's far above average, and probably a top 10-15 quarterback nationally. We just saw a lot of moments last year when he was playing nowhere near his potential, and struggled. Once he struggles, it seems like he loses a lot of confidence and has trouble getting back on track. You look at how he played against OSU, Iowa State, and in moments against Texas Tech and Oregon State, and it's really impressive. You see how he played in games against Oklahoma and Kansas and it doesn't look like he can beat anybody. Leveling that out and looking more like the former than the latter is the only way Texas is winning a Big 12 title next year.