Over the past two days we’ve named one team that should be considered on the rise and one that could be prime for a fall. Charlie Strong’s Texas Longhorns could be the Big 12’s team with a bright future and Kansas State’s best days could be in the rearview mirror.
In today’s Take Two, Max Olson and Brandon Chatmon discuss other Big 12 programs that could be ready to rise or set up for a fall.
Brandon Chatmon: Texas is definitely one team on the rise but I think West Virginia is another team that falls into that category. Dana Holgorsen’s program finally has the depth and quality on its roster to compete on a weekly basis in the Big 12. As fellow 2012 entrant TCU has risen to the top of the conference standings, the Mountaineers are just 11-16 in their first 27 conference games. But WVU finally seems ready to make its mark on the Big 12 thanks to the ability to sell playing in the Big 12 on East Coast recruiting trails -- which is playing off -- and the familiarity of three years experience in the conference. All those elements should come together and start paying dividends in 2015.
Max Olson: I agree that West Virginia seems to be pointing in the right direction, and its efforts to boost the talent level by landing more talent from the state of Florida are about to start paying off. Holgorsen knows what he's doing, but can he put all the pieces together and make at least one good run at a Big 12 title in the next three years? I wouldn't rule it out if they can develop a difference-maker at quarterback and maintain some consistency on defense.
Brandon, where do you stand on Oklahoma State? The Cowboys didn't make this year's top 25 for the Future Power Rankings, but it hasn't been long since they won the Big 12. Do you think they can be a consistent top-25 team over the next few years? We know they have resources and are quality recruiters, but how safe is Mike Gundy in terms of a three-year window?
Chatmon: I think OSU is already there. Its 73.8 winning percentage in the past five years is No. 12 nationally ahead of Wisconsin, TCU, Baylor, USC, Texas A&M, Texas and others. Can the Cowboys take the next step and win a national title? Well, that’s easier said than done, but I think they can do it -- especially if Mason Rudolph matures and leads the young group of playmakers in Stillwater to greater heights. So, in a lot of respects, I can see why you would point to OSU as a team that could continue to rise.
Unfortunately for other teams in the conference, as some teams rise, others must fall. KSU has already been singled out as a squad that could slide but, crazy as it sounds, I’d have to add TCU to that list. Slide is probably too strong of a word, because I fully expect TCU to add to its Big 12 trophy case at some point but I don’t anticipate them competing for a national title year in and year out while cementing a spot atop the conference standings. I think they’re a program that you can slot in for 8-10 wins per season, but not double-digit wins every year. Am I crazy?
Olson: You're raising a question that I'm sure a lot of folks in the Big 12 are pondering this offseason: How long can TCU (and Baylor, for that matter) sustain this success? I think Frogs fans generally understand that there will be great years in the Big 12 and there will be good years. The likelihood of either Gary Patterson or Art Briles leaving the Big 12 in the next three years is so slim that I have a hard time seeing either taking any kind of a slide in the near future, but I get where you're coming from after TCU landed such a friendly ranking (12th) in the Future Power Rankings.
Speaking of those rankings, we have to mention that Oklahoma dropped from No. 7 to No. 17. Our panel of experts believe the Sooners are trending in the wrong direction. And if we're talking three-year windows, do you think Bob Stoops will still be running this program by 2018? That would be his 20th season at Oklahoma. I'm not saying a downfall is imminent, but I'm starting to wonder what the end game is for that tenure, especially if the Sooners are unable to reach the College Football Playoff in the next few years. Any reason for concern in Norman?
Chatmon: There is definitely reason for concern, but there’s also reason to believe things aren’t nearly as bad as they might seem. The Sooners' Sugar Bowl win is proof that Stoops’ program can still compete at a high level, and nobody has won more Big 12 games than Oklahoma in the past three seasons. The problem has been an inability to avoid the letdowns and silly mistakes that separate champions from good teams. Thus, I can see why our experts see them trending down.
Honestly I think your question will be answered this fall. A lot is riding on the 2015 season, and the hires made by Stoops during the offseason need to pan out. Lincoln Riley needs to kick-start the offense and Kerry Cooks needs to shore up the secondary. Most importantly, Oklahoma needs to compete in every game, not get run off the field like it did against Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl or Baylor at home in 2014. This time next year we all could be saying Oklahoma is back or be wondering if Big 12 parity has permanently surrounded the Sooners' program and made its dominance a thing of the past.