Welcome to our Week 2 edition of the Big 12 mailbag, where we take your questions involving everything Big 12, or otherwise. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet @ShehanJeyarajah to see your question featured next week.
So now that week 1 is in the bag, who has the greatest potential to exceed preseason expectations?
— Tristan McGonigal (@TristyMc) September 5, 2017
Well, Texas Tech fan Tristan McGonigal, I think you’re going to like my answer.
The Red Raiders might have faced off against an FCS opponent, but Eastern Washington was ranked No. 4 in the preseason FCS poll. This is a legitimate power at the lower level. Remember, the Eagles ruined Washington State’s season last year.
EWU averaged 7.0 yards per play last season, but Tech held the Eagles to just 4.2 yards per play in the 56-10 win. Quarterback Nic Shimonek also lived up to the hype, completing 86.7 percent of his passes for 384 yards and 3 touchdowns. With Baylor looking down and Texas struggling, there might be an unlikely opening in the Big 12.
Kansas also looked more effective with Peyton Bender under center. He’s probably the most talented quarterback the Jayhawks have run out since Todd Reesing in 2009.
Does OU have a running back problem? Or will the Baker/receivers make up enough of the load that it doesn’t matter
— MK (@yellmk) September 5, 2017
Let’s answer that second question first. If the running backs don’t come along, I do think it limits what the Sooners will accomplish on offense. Mayfield is really good, but it’s difficult to be nationally relevant when you can’t bleed the clock and move the chains against bulkier opponents. A short passing game can replace some of it, but not all of it.
That said, I’m not worried about the running backs — yet. At least one game in, Abdul Adams looks like a potential difference-maker at the position. If he can be a go-t0 guy, there is plenty of talent to rotate in throughout the season.
OU’s backs get an immediate test this weekend against Ohio State. If the Sooners can move the ball on the ground against the Buckeyes, then there’s nothing to worry about. It will be a difficult test for an up-and-coming rotation.
Is the feeling in Waco that the sky is falling or do most Bear fans believe in Rhule?
— Maitland Rutledge (@Maitland_III) September 5, 2017
As long as you avoid the message boards (rest in peace, BaylorFans), people aren’t feeling too bad. Liberty came out with a strong game plan and took advantage of all of Baylor’s weaknesses. The Flames used quick-strike passing to render the Bears’ defensive line ineffective. Baylor’s cornerbacks were too inexperienced to adjust.
Even if Baylor does struggle this season — and Matt Rhule went 2-10 in his first season at Temple — most understood the magnitude of the rebuild. Even most national analysts have given Baylor a pass for losing to a mediocre FCS opponent. Several considered it as part of a natural rebuilding process.
Obviously, it’s tough for any fan base to deal with losing after winning for so many years. But regardless, fans have not lost any faith in Rhule. If rebuilding the infrastructure and reputation of the program means a couple tough losses, so be it.
Who was the unsung hero from the Liberty game?
— Sir William (@will_horner) September 5, 2017
I’ll go ahead and give you two — cornerback Harrison Hand and quarterback Anu Solomon.
Look, I get it, Solomon threw a backbreaking pick-6 at the beginning of the second half. In a three-point loss, it’s hard not to point to that play. Baylor would not have been in the game if not for Solomon. He made numerous plays with his arm and feet against Liberty. Had Denzel Mims pulled in a couple more passes, Solomon is the hero.
Hand played his first collegiate game and looked like a star from the start. His positioning was excellent in coverage, even if he needs to work on playing the ball. His 11 tackles led the team. There were obvious lapses, like not realizing a receiver was eligible to come back in bounds. But all things considered, it was a great performance for a freshman.
Who has the strongest offense and who has the strongest defense so far?
— Ashton Bremer (@ashton_bremer) August 29, 2017
Oklahoma State might have the best offense in the entire nation. Quarterback Mason Rudolph is an All-America contender, wide receiver James Washington will win the Biletnikoff award and Justice Hill is the No. 2 running back in the Big 12, at worst. There is not a team in the nation that can match up with all the dynamic weapons.
It’s probably too early to evaluate defenses in the Big 12, considering the level of competition most of the conference played. However, I liked what I saw from TCU. The Horned Frogs only played Jackson State, but absolutely throttled it from the start. Fourteen different players recorded at least half a tackle for loss. If the Horned Frogs can trust their depth more this season, TCU could bounce back.
Please sort every big 12 coach into a hogwarts house, please and thank you
— Connor Riley (@Kconnorriley) September 5, 2017
Oh Connor, I could write 5,000 words about this. But for the moment, I’ll keep it brief.
- Bill Snyder: There’s only one true wizard in the Big 12, and he resides in Manhattan, Kan. Snyder is smart enough to create a program out of thin air.
- Tom Herman: If you’re in MENSA, you sure as heck better be in Ravenclaw. Just give him a few weeks and he will earn back the nation’s trust again.
- Lincoln Riley: The youngest coach in all of college football, Riley is a wunderkind of sorts. His knowledge of football far exceeds his age.
- Gary Patterson: Shrewd and cunning in all the best ways, Patterson is adept at finding all little advantages for his teams to win football games.
- Dana Holgorsen: Perhaps the wildest and craziest coach in college football, Holgorsen’s loose cannon persona is a great fit.
- Matt Rhule: You have to be brave to take over the rebuilding mess — both on and off the field — at Baylor.
- Matt Campbell: Listen to Campbell talk and you will immediately see what I mean. He has obvious natural leadership qualities, which will endear him to his fans at Iowa State.
- Mike Gundy: Perhaps no coach knows how to brand himself the way that Gundy does. He’s happy to put himself out there for his team. There is one counterargument, though.
Rattlesnake hunt in Okeene, OK with Todd and Wild Bill. pic.twitter.com/0SqWb9LxFk
— Mike Gundy (@CoachGundy) March 17, 2017
- David Beaty: Some people will take this as an insult, but it’s not. Beaty is the nicest, most uplifting coach in the entire Big 12. He’ll get Kansas back on track simply because everyone will want to play for him.
- Kliff Kingsbury: There isn’t a cooler and more personable coach in the Big 12. His players love him because of his calm, laid-back attitude.
Have questions for next week’s edition? Email us: email@example.com or tweet your questions to @ShehanJeyarajah on Twitter.