Mailbag: Expansion worries, Big 12 title talk

Thanks for all the emails this week, everybody. Here's where you can reach me if you've got more to say.

You people were in hysterics this week after expansion didn't involve anything Big 12 related. We'll start there in this week's Mailbag.

Ryan Bader in Overland Park, Kansas: David-Never written in before, but follow you pretty regularly. I am a K-State fan at heart, but cheer and promote Big 12. Is it me, or does the Big 12 seem to be falling in a pattern of reaction instead of proaction?? Two years ago it looked as if the Big 12 might dissolve because the powers that be didn't have enough foresight to see what was happening in College Football. Enter Texas and Oklahoma as saviors. Last year the Big 12 annouced it was good with Ten teams. I always thought this was again, shortsighted. Thoughts?? Now with the moves that the ACC has done, I again, feel like the Big 12 has missed out. Adding Louiville would have made a ton of sence and been a huge addition for the Big 12 (in all sports). That would have probably sparked ND to join as well. What do you think about the direction of the Big 12 and what if any changes would you like to see?? Thanks,Ryan

Bryant in St. Louis writes: Hey Ubbs, Whats going on with Big 12 expansion talks? I know this subject is like kicking a dead horse but I was really hoping Louisville would join the Big 12 rather than the "Almost Competitive Conference". I just don't want to see the Big 12 show up late to the expansion party and not have any teams to pick or even worse become vulnerable to picking again.

DU: Couple things here. I don't know if I'd go as far as calling Oklahoma and Texas "saviors" of the Big 12. They shopped around, saw the Big 12 was the best spot for them and chose the Big 12. The Big 12 survived, and thrived because of their presence. Can you also save what you put in jeopardy? I would argue no.

Anyway, fans just get so antsy when other leagues add teams. You don't add teams just to add teams. When you do, you get moves like Rutgers and Maryland joining the Big Ten, which might bring in more money and add additional product for the Big Ten Network, but it waters down the chief product -- football -- significantly, and produces must-see matchups like Rutgers-Indiana and Maryland-Purdue. Sign me up!

Louisville was a decent option, but not as good as West Virginia in terms of footprint, fan base or on-field results, and not as good on the field or in proximity and historical rivalry as TCU, which is why the Frogs are in the Big 12.

The Big 12 is already short on expansion options right now, which is one big reason it's sticking with 10. The other big reason? It's already making a ton of money per team, and that number might climb as high at $40 million when you factor in the new playoff money and the new Sugar Bowl money, which is equal to what the Pac-12 and Big Ten receive for the Rose Bowl. The Big 12 might not make quite as much as the Big Ten or SEC, but it'll be competitive for sure.

The negatives for expansion (less money per team, watering down a strong product) far outweigh the positives for the Big 12. I don't really like the idea of looking west, but if Maryland makes an escape from the ACC for significantly less than the $50 million buyout, I could see the Big 12 taking a much longer look at FSU and Clemson, if they want out of that league.

Mason in Austin, Texas writes: Ubbliminator, so with Louisville headed to the ACC what does that mean for future Big 12 expansion? You have said you didn't think it was likely, but that if it did Louisville would be the #1 target. Who would be now? Seems like if the Big 12 ever wanted to expand it would have to poach an ACC team; otherwise it would be slim pickings. Possible the Big 12 becomes the new target of the other major conferences now that the Big East has been picked clean?

Scott in Plano, Texas writes: Hey Ubbs. I know you're tired of the constant realignment questions we throw at you, so here's another one. With the ACC, Big Ten, and SEC all going to 14, don't you have a weird feeling that the Pac is going to make yet another offer to Oklahoma and Texas? With all of the Big 12 schools reluctant to expand, do you think a reason might be the schools keeping a lifeline to get out of the Big 12 with the Pac or the SEC?

DU: Guys, chill out and do your homework. I got a ton of emails like this over the past week. Three words for all of you: Grant. Of. Rights. Nobody in the Big 12 is going anywhere for more than a decade, and that deal will likely be extended as it gets closer. You never know what'll happen in the future, but it seems like that will be brought up for extension very early when everybody is still content.

Shane in Chelsea, Okla. writes: Hey David, so that article you wrote about TCU beating OU in 2005 really hit home with me. Only because that's been the only OU game I've ever watched in person. Yes, with Stoop's 80-5 record @ home, I got to experience the latter of that stat. And considering that our family has alumni from both OU & TCU, this game actually has a lot of relevance among us. I guess it's too much to ask that TCU is just lucky to be where they're at this year and that they're status in the Big 12 will start to decline lil by lil in the years to come because of the depth of the league, right? (Don't worry, I'm not expecting the answer I would like to hear, haha!)

DU: Thanks, Shane. I don't know if I'm missing some sarcasm, but I think it's only going to get better for TCU. I've reiterated it a lot since the Frogs came into the league. Their overall talent is already on par with the Big 12. Their depth was tested more than anybody in the Big 12 this year with all the losses, both in quality and quantity. They still competed every week and have won a lot more games than most people thought they would after the Casey Pachall loss, followed by the Iowa State loss.

They've got a great base to build on, and recruiting to the metroplex, and a brand-new stadium and locker room is a big deal. Don't be surprised if TCU joins Oklahoma and Texas as a legitimate Big 12 perennial power within the next decade. The big qualifier to that statement? All bets are off if Gary Patterson isn't running the show.

Wes Lunt in Stillwater writes: Do you think I will be named the starter again this offseason? If not who do you think will? Also who do you think will be the best pro prospect out of the quarterbacks here?

DU: I do expect that. Lunt was a questionable decision-maker this season, but you know what else he was? A stinkin' true freshman. There's no question Lunt's size and arm strength make him really the only legitimate NFL prospect on the roster, and he's only going to get better. Texas' David Ash has regressed a bit down the stretch, but just look at how much better he got from his true freshman season to this year.

Lunt's upside is much higher than anybody else on the roster. His injury history and high interception rate this season are a concern, yes. But the injury stuff could just be a fluke, and the interception stuff is highly likely to change as he matures and gains more experience and the game slows down for him.

Ross in Richmond, Va. writes: Ubbs, I'm on board with your notion of the Big 12 being the deepest league. 90% bowl eligibility is ridiculous. What do you think of the strength of our pre-conference games as a whole? In hind-sight was it that strong of a schedule? If it wasn't, doesn't that make our 9 teams bowl eligible teams a little less impressive? Thanks,Ross

DU: Good to hear from you Ross. I got a lot of feedback about that column this week. I'm with you on the nonconference scheduling. The Big 12's schedule was pretty weak as a whole, but I talked a lot about that in preseason. The Big 12 proved absolutely nothing in nonconference play. It went up against two teams currently in the BCS Top 25. It lost both. KU was close against 11-1 Northern Illinois, but Oklahoma got outplayed on its homefield by No. 1 Notre Dame. The rest of the league mostly played (and to their credit, beat) a lot of mediocre teams, but didn't prove anything. Arizona beat down Oklahoma State, and KU provided the other nonconference loss against Rice, who is bowl eligible, but still Rice.

The round-robin scheduling, as colleague Ted Miller eloquently wrote about (as it relates to the Pac-12) this week, adds an automatic five losses in the Big 12 pool. Somebody's got to lose the extra conference games. Still, managing to make nine bowls is amazing, even though the league is going to be looking awhile when it wants to trumpet its best nonconference win.

At this point, it's all about proving your worth in those bowl games. If the Big 12 goes 7-2 or 6-3, that would be pretty solid.