<
>

Big 12 mailbag: Preseason hype and potential realignment

In today's Big 12 Twitter mailbag, we discuss who is being overvalued and undervalued this preseason, who the best Air Raid QB in college football history is and whether Oklahoma would ever leave Oklahoma State and Texas for another conference.

By the way, I enjoyed my stop at West Virginia on Thursday.


No prettier drive in the Big 12 than the one from Pittsburgh to Morgantown.

Now, on to the 'bag:


Trotter: I'm not sure there's much else of note to lose. I mean honestly, can any of you (Jayhawks fans included) still name five players on this team? KU's top returning receiver (TE Ben Johnson) had eight catches last year. Fish Smithson, Courtney Arnick and Tevin Shaw are the only three defenders still with the team that finished with more than 21 tackles in 2014. Given who graduated off last year's team, and the numerous defections since, David Beaty is starting at square zero in his first year in Lawrence.

Trotter: No. However, I will be at the all-star game in Cincinnati on Tuesday, apparently watching a scrimmage between the Royals and Cardinals, which is actually better than watching my Reds in their deplorable state.

Trotter: Because OU is OU. Just like Texas is Texas. Those two schools are always going to get inflated in preseason polls, just by virtue of the logos on their helmets. But anyone who followed the two last year knows both squads have major obstacles to overcome before becoming Big 12 contenders again. Anyone putting OU or Texas on the same level as Baylor and TCU going into this season just isn't paying attention.

Trotter: Why is that insane? Baylor has gone 11-2 the last two years and also brings back the most starters of any team in the Big 12. While not the favorite, the Bears definitely deserve to be in the conversation of national title possibilities.

Trotter: Oklahoma State at seven seems way too low. The Cowboys couldn't have had a worse season last year, and yet they still won six regular-season games. If I were going to lay money on a Big 12 over-under, the over on Oklahoma State would be it.

Trotter: This is an interesting question, and a tough one because the definition of an Air Raid offense has been loosened. For example, people think Art Briles runs the Air Raid, just because he has a spread offense. But one of the major tenets of the traditional Air Raid is utilizing short passes in lieu of running the ball. Baylor, on the other hand, is seemingly always handing off or bombing away deep; that's not the Air Raid. Texas Tech and Oklahoma both have produced some great Air Raid QBs, but after thinking about it, I might give this honor to Tim Couch. He was really the first QB to operate the air rAir Raid aid at the Division I level, and did so at Kentucky with tremendous success, success that paved the way for the likes of Josh Heupel and Graham Harrell. Like so many other Air Raid QBs, Couch flopped in the NFL. But he had a phenomenal college career. Had it not been for Couch, who knows if the Air Raid would have taken off as rapidly as it did.

Trotter: I think it will be better. (It can't be worse.) The calming stability that Gibbs will bring, combined with the return of DE Pete Robertson, eligibility of LB Mike Mitchell and arrival of freshman DT Breiden Fehoko will make a difference. Tech fans do need to temper expectations, though. This defense is not going to get completely turned around overnight. But if Gibbs can get the D-line to be more gap-sound and the secondary can force some turnovers, the defense at the very least will be more effective than it was last season.

Trotter: This is part of the dilemma/obstacle that Oklahoma would face if it ever concluded it wanted to go it alone to another conference. Separating from Texas would be a competitive nightmare. The Red River Showdown is so part of the fabric of OU in terms of development, fundraising and recruiting. The Oklahoma-Texas game is something that OU can recruit to that TCU, Baylor or Texas A&M cannot. The game is a big reason why the Sooners have enjoyed such great success recruiting in Texas, going back to the 1950s. Separating from Oklahoma State, meanwhile, would be a political nightmare for the Sooners. Local politicians, even those with OU backgrounds, would have to know that Oklahoma State getting squeezed into a lesser league would not be good for the overall health of the state. Sure, the legislature doesn't have direct control of OU's conference affiliation, but it does have control in funding, a pretty big card it could play. Even then, OU president David Boren seems committed to the overall well-being of the state; not just OU. While governor, he helped established Oklahoma State's renowned veterinary teaching hospital, which still bears his name. When realignment was gaining traction at the turn of the decade, Boren and Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis communicated almost daily. All this is why OU has incentive in making the Big 12 work, and why leaving the Big 12 (TV contracts aside) wouldn't be as easy or seamless for OU as some might think.

Trotter: Maybe I'll open up a Greek diner. But I'm open to your suggestions.