Mailbag: TCU future, underrated D, OSU

Thanks for all the questions. Didn't get yours answered? Try again with a better one.

Colin in Tulsa, Okla.: Is Johnny Thomas being ineligible a blessing in disguise like Orie Lemon getting hurt? OSU had a serviceable backup (Donald Booker) and would've been left to have Caleb Lavey be the day 1 starter last year. So, this year Dawtawion Lowe comes in and plays well enough next to Markelle and Johnny Thomas can come back next year? That way OSU isn't left to start some random safety next to Daytawion next year.

David Ubben: That's maybe a little harsh and perhaps insensitive, but I must say: I think I agree. It's an interesting point. There's no doubt that Oklahoma State's defense in 2010 benefited from having Lemon out there, and Booker was outstanding in 2009.

This year, we've seen a guy in Lowe that had huge potential really step into that role and not see much fall off. You never like to see guys deal with academic issues or have serious injuries like Lemon had, but Oklahoma State has been fortunate to have players behind defensive leaders step up and do well. Credit Mike Gundy and his staff for recruiting well and having a much deeper team than when he arrived. The difference is unbelievable.

Next year, when Thomas joins Lowe, you'll see another good group of safeties at OSU.

Ryan in Arlington, Texas, asked: Sean Porter for Texas A&M has 6.5 sacks this year (3rd in the nation), while the entire Longhorn defense has 7.0 (91st in the nation). Does this stat say more about Sean Porter, the effectiveness of Manny Diaz's or Tim DeRuyter's blitzes (who are both very aggressive), or the Longhorn defensive personnel?

DU: I'll say Porter. He's been outstanding, and has done an outstanding job of being everywhere. The combination of a) big leads early in games and b) defenses seeing they can beat A&M through the air has resulted in the Aggies defending 244 passes this year, which is 47 more than Texas and twice as many as Texas Tech, which has faced the fewest in the Big 12, with 122. Only Louisiana Tech has faced more pass attempts this season. So, take your pick, there. Texas A&M is racking up sacks but giving up yards by the bunches.

Neither DeRuyter nor Diaz has been outstanding so far this year. Diaz's defense got worked by the first real offense -- albeit one of the nation's best -- in its first real test. DeRuyter's defense has taken a huge step back.

Meanwhile, Porter has undoubtedly taken a big step forward. Kudos to him.

John in Oklahoma City asked: Everyone is down on OSU's defense still this year. About half of our games so far our 2nd or 3rd stringers were playing in the 4th. The Cowboys are only allowing 14.6 ppg through 3 quarters. Plus we are 6th in the nation in creating turnovers. We are much more improved defensively with a better offense to go with it. Big (X)II title here we come!!!!!

DU: Your persuasiveness is surpassed only by your unbridled enthusiasm, John.

That said, you're right, and its a point that's perhaps been overlooked in the defensive statistics for Oklahoma State. Its backups have given up gobs of points this year, but the first team defense has done really well. For those unaware, allow me to point it out:

OSU led its opener 44-13 before giving up a pick six and two garbage-time touchdowns in a 61-34 win.

OSU led Arizona 34-7 before giving up a 54-yard touchdown pass to Texas transfer Dan Buckner.

In a game that kicked off after midnight, OSU led Tulsa 45-6 midway through the third quarter before giving up two quick scores and winning, 59-33.

Finally, last week, OSU led 70-14 with 12:45 left before Kansas' first-teamers scored on a 68-yard touchdown pass and a 31-yard run to make it a 70-28 final.

So, there you go. Take from that what you will. Is OSU's defense great? No. But it's a lot better than the numbers suggest.

Chris J. in Houston asked: You have to give me props next week for this, I'm calling it: Texas beats Oklahoma State this week in a big way.

DU: K. What do I get if you're wrong?

Scott in Oklahoma asked: David, with tcu coming into the fold next year, is the big 12 just going to give them the a&m schedule or will they redo them all together and give osu another catered home game vs. Ou as they have the these last two years? Or will it be another team? Also, will they change next years ou tcu game to a conference game or will it stay as a non conference game ala the colorado cal game this year?

DU: All valid administrative questions that haven't been addressed in this space. Let's change that.

For now, when the Big 12 moves on as a ten-team league in 2012, the schedule is being reworked. TCU won't just slide into Texas A&M's spot. That means they likely won't be the Longhorns' Thanksgiving opponent, a tradition Texas would like to continue. UT president Bill Powers says "a lot of teams are in the mix" for a new opponent. There's lots of talk about Texas Tech filling that role, but it's very much in the air for now. The Big 12 isn't worried about that currently. You've got to know your configuration next year and beyond before you get too concerned about scheduling. That issue will be pushed to the forefront more during the offseason.

As of now, TCU-OU is up in the air, too. It might be kept as an early season game, but like I mentioned earlier, that's up in the air. TCU doesn't have anything to worry about. With a 10-team league and nine-game schedule, they just slide OU in as a conference game and keep their nonconference games with Grambling State, Virginia and SMU. That's a decent set of games. TCU-OU won't be an awkward conference nonconference game like Colorado-Cal this year.

For Oklahoma? Things are a little more complicated. TCU is a good secondary game, but the Sooners already have a home-and-home with Notre Dame (!) on the schedule for 2012 and 2013, but Oklahoma is reportedly looking at replacing the TCU game with Arkansas. That's one heck of a nonconference schedule for the Sooners if it happens. That's nothing new. Oklahoma is the most ambitious scheduling program in the Big 12, and that's a stated goal of the school: to put a compelling product on the field for its fans and schedule to get an edge in the BCS rankings.

Jordan Marshall in Hutchinson, Kan., asked: What do you think is going to happen to the BCS this year when there are going to be 4 undefeated teams at the end of the year (LSU/Alabama, OU/OSU, Wisconsin, and Boise State)? Clemson has a long shot of staying undefeated but that is just another team that could throw the whole system out of whack. Do you think that the BCS will just see this year as a fluke year or do you think that they will finally open their eyes to a playoff system?

DU: It could happen, but if it does, I don't think there's any question that the SEC and Big 12 champ would play each other. I could envision a scenario in which Wisconsin gets in over Oklahoma State, but hopping over Oklahoma or one of the SEC teams sounds impossible.

Jumping Oklahoma State is highly unlikely. We can talk conference strength, but simpler than that, just look at their past and future schedules.

OSU has a road win against a top 10 team, and four more top 25 teams on its schedule, closing with the crescendo of hosting Oklahoma.

The Big Ten is clearly down this season. Nebraska and Ohio State aren't great teams and will lose again. Michigan looks a bit overrated at No. 11. Wisconsin is a legitimate title contender, but even if Bucky runs the table, its weak nonconference schedule and the Big 12's depth and strength across the conference will push an undefeated Oklahoma or Oklahoma State team into the title game to face off with the SEC once again.