Mailbag: Sugar Bowl, Big 12 cash, UT coach

Thanks for all your emails this week, everybody. Here's where you can reach me every day, any time.

Ric A in Brooklyn, New York, writes: One of your blog-leagues over at the Big Ten said that Nebraska would make much more money in the Big ten than it ever would in the Big 12. He based that on the announced payout of their conference compared to the B12. That's not an apples to apples comparison since their payout includes third tier rights (are included in the B10 Network). We know that the B12 paid out $22 million not including third tier rights. (Can you say, Longhorn Network?) So, including third tier rights, who makes out better as a conference? How do individual teams compare across these two conferences?

David Ubben: First off, I may have to steal that "blog-leagues" term. Gotta make that work. They're mostly right about the payout. This year, Big Ten teams received $25.7 million per team. They obviously believe that will grow after bringing on Maryland and Rutgers, but there's reason to be skeptical about how much the Big Ten Network's reach will grow with average football teams joining the league. The Big 12's $22 million payout was more than the SEC and didn't include third-tier rights. It's worth mentioning that West Virginia and TCU received just half of that share, but the third-tier money is all over the map for teams in the Big 12. I haven't seen a lot of figures thrown out, but I did hear Kansas State's new Web venture earned them in the ballpark of $2 million. Conversely, Texas earns $15 million on top of its Big 12 payout because of the Longhorn Network.

When it comes to Nebraska, they're pretty much correct. The money would be similar in the two leagues, but right now, it's probably more in the Big Ten, and takes much less effort and risk than starting up a third-tier deal with a different provider. Instead, Nebraska can just hand over those rights to the Big Ten and collect a check at the end of the year.

Klocke in Athens, Ga., writes: You've been analyzing teams' 'most important game' and Iowa State isn't usually on that list. I understand your reasoning as to why ISU doesn't make your cut (I think they've only made the Kansas edition of 'most important game'). Inevitably, ISU beats someone no one expected them to. Who has the most to lose by falling unexpectedly to ISU?

DU: I don't think any particular team has more to lose than another, but Iowa State is an example of the kind of depth the Big 12 has had the past few seasons. The Cyclones have obviously shown an ability to beat anyone, but the problem for them is doing it consistently. The lack of a reliable offense (mostly at quarterback) has been the biggest reason for that.

Nobody gets up for Iowa State, but especially in a season like this without an elite team, all the Big 12 contenders should be on alert for the Cyclones. If you don't play well, they're going to take advantage, especially if you've got to go to Ames. Texas' Thursday night game in October could be especially dangerous.

Mike Dub in Houston, Texas, writes: David,I am a big fan of Major Applewhite from when he is a player, but i think his offensive scheming/playcalling is definitely something I am worried about. I believe his offense at Alabama his one year there was not that great. And there has to be some reason they hired Bryan Harsin from Boise State and made him co-offensive coordinator at the time. What do you expect with this new offense? And if UT has another 4 loss team but the offense performs well under Applewhite, could he actually be in line to be the next UT head coach?

DU: Well, it's really an issue of experience. That was Nick Saban's first year at Alabama, and that just wasn't a very talented team. I subscribe to the belief that play calling is a bit overrated. When you have big-time talent, a lot more is going to work. Harsin had five years experience as a playcaller when they brought him in to replace Greg Davis. Applewhite had just one, and had been in a different role. I expect Applewhite to do well this year, but I don't buy him as Mack Brown's successor.

Texas' job brings with it a different set of challenges (expectations, Longhorn Network responsibilities, etc.), but the Longhorns will be able to hire just about anyone they want. You've got to go with a guy with head-coaching experience who's been a winner everywhere he's gone. Texas shouldn't (and doesn't need to) hire a coordinator. Applewhite will be a head coach soon, but making Texas his first job is craziness. If Texas loses four games this year, fans are going to want pretty much everybody on this staff gone, save perhaps the strength and conditioning staff headed up by Bennie Wylie.

Ken Clay in Wichita, Kan., writes: In the mailbag you cleared up the bowl confusion which was very helpful! But I have a side question on that. For example, If the B12 gets a team in the playoff, but the next team, let's say is 7-5, not ranked in the top 20 -- do they still go to the Sugar Bowl? Are they qualifications besides just being the next B12 team in line?

DU: Well, this isn't the old Big East, so I don't think the Big 12 has to worry about that. To answer your question, though: Yes. If a Big 12 champion makes the playoff, the next-best team would go to the Sugar Bowl to face the SEC, no questions asked. It's part of the mondo contract the Big 12 signed with the SEC. The two leagues are splitting the same $80 million payout the Big Ten and Pac-12 get for the Rose Bowl.

Howard in Houston writes: David, it seems like the recruiting game has changed. You have Baylor's Art Briles and Coach Kaz quickly grabbing "fits" for their program and turning 2 and 3 star recruits into NFL draft picks. Then you have more storied programs selecting 4 and 5 star recruits and not really meeting expectations. What do you think?

DU: Well, I'd say recruiting has always been about that. It's the biggest reason why Texas slid a bit lately. They were bringing in highly regarded recruits who didn't quite fit what they wanted to do on either side of the ball. Baylor has obviously done that well, and so have teams like Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Recruiting has changed in a lot of ways over the last decade, mostly in exposure. I don't buy that finding "fits" for your program is one of those big changes.