Welcome to the Big 12 Roundtable, with much appreciation lobbed at Rock M Nation for taking the lead on this project. He issued the questions and we're firing back with answers.
Rock M Nation: Everyone knows the national talking points for each Big 12 team by now (Oklahoma has new linemen! Bill Snyder's back at Kansas State! Baylor might upset somebody!). Give us a storyline for your team that isn't quite getting the attention it should.
Skin Patrol: The typical storyline for Tech has been: How can we possibly replace Crabtree/Harrell. I am not sure this is an untold storyline, but perhaps one that deserves more attention: Taylor Potts has looked pretty damn good thus far. As relates to Tech's first timer quarterbacks, Coach Leach typically lets them wiggle around in positional purgatory, never declaring an outright winner until the last moment (first snap of game one?). Potts is pretty clearly the starter of this team and has been for longer than any other Leach first-timer, at least so far as I can tell. Leach's coaching style oscillates wildly, but if there is an identifiable method to his madness, it's that he is never shy about speaking his mind. This applies doubleplus true to his players, who he is not afraid to dress down publicly when they aren't doing as told. There is just a sense that Taylor Potts has run this offense better, as a first time starter, than anyone before him; he's received less criticism -- and considerably more praise -- than former Leach quarterbacks to this point in the CFB season. And considering that former QB list includes NCAA record holders like Cumbie, BJ Symons, and Graham Harrell, there's reason to suspect that Potts will be good for something like a million yards and touchdowns. Do you replace Harrell and Crabtree easily? No, but the caveat might be unless you are Texas Tech. Although it is hardly a hidden storyline, I think many will be surprised with just how well prepared Taylor Potts is, relative to his predecessors, to run this offense even sans one of the best receivers in CFB history. I think he will be better than Harrell in 2006 and Cumbie in 2004, but probably not better than Symons in 2003. Certainly he will be better than Hodges in 2005.
Kayakyakr: Running Game, I think.
RMN: The Big 12 continues to be derided by other conferences as a pass-happy, no defense, made-for-TV free-for-all. The question must be asked, how accurate is this description, and is the perception something of which the conference should be ashamed?
SP: Are Big 12 offenses that good or are the defenses that bad? Anecdotally we might look to Oklahoma against Florida, or Texas Tech against Ole Miss in bowl season. But I've said it before and I will say it again: Data is not the plural of anecdote. Until and unless someone does the statistical leg work, analyzing a wide range of games to determine whether the Big 12 offenses have some demonstrable deficiency against teams outside our own conference, the debate will continue unguided by a definitive answer. It should be enough to defend the good name of the Big 12 that five teams in our conference averaged 40 or more points a game last year, which is quite remarkable. By respective conference that number is: Zero (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt, WAC) one (SEC, Pac-10) or three (CUSA). Maligning the Big 12 defenses might explain some of this discrepancy, but I doubt it explains all of it. Whatever can be said of Big 12 defenses, I think it is an established fact that in the 2008 CFB season, the Big 12 had the best offenses relative to the other conferences. That perhaps helps to explain why our defenses weren't so hot. Am I drunk because I drank 15 beers or because I have a low tolerance? At what amount of beers does tolerance cease to be relevant? Twenty? Twenty five? How about 40-51 beers every Saturday?
Kayakyakr: Before the bowl season, I would have argued that greatly. After the bowl season, I think that the perceptions are about right: the Big XII defenses are kittens in a den of lions.
RMN: Over the summer, ESPN's Tim Griffin compiled a list of the Top 25 moments of the Big 12 era that stirred up a bit of internal debate. Which moments for your program were either overrated or underrated?
SP: Texas Tech makes a few appearances on the list. I do not think the Gundy/Leach postgame rants after the Tech/OSU 2007 game is really a Tech moment, as Gundy stole that show and history will remember him more than the game (do any of you non-Tech fans even recall who Gundy played that week?). In terms of ranking the moments, I have no problem claiming that #2 is absolutely warranted for the Crabtree catch over UT. UT was number one in the country and on its way to a national championship. Crabtree had an amazing catch at the end of the game to clinch for Texas Tech and the world was watching. It was a huge moment that reverberated throughout the remainder of the season, ultimately responsible in large part for the three way poopstorm in the Big 12 south that eventually sent Oklahoma -- not Texas -- to the NC game. At least as much as any other single moment last season, the Crabtree catch impacted who would or would not get to challenge for the title of best team in the country. It speaks to the strength of the Big 12 (particularly the south) that we probably had two teams deserving of going to the National Championship last year. One play made that decision.
In so far as #20 is Texas Tech's come from behind victory over Minnesota (the link is not so clear) in the Insight Bowl, I'd say it is ranked too low. The OU and Boise State game completely overshadowed that moment, and for that reason and that reason alone I think Tech's victory is forgotten. To clarify: Texas Tech is responsible for the largest comeback in bowl history. A lot of people don't know that because that wasn't the game people were talking about the following week. I think that's unfortunate, because it really was one of the most fascinating games I've ever watched. Tech's comeback was more methodic than dramatic. There was never, until the fleeting minutes of the game, a real sense of urgency. It was just Tech doing what we do best, scoring, and our defense doing what we do rarely, stopping. It wasn't punt returns and interceptions for touchdowns, botched kicks, freak plays, flea flickers. We flat outplayed them so bad, albeit for a short period of time, that two and a half someodd bad quarters wasn't enough to sink us. GREAT GAME, watch it if you ever get a chance.
RMN: We've seen no less than 30-40 "Best Big 12 Coaches" power rankings in the offseason, but rarely is there the same press for the coordinators. If you had to replace your offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator with coordinators from within the conference, who are you poaching and why?
SP: This question might be a problem for me, since it could amount to replacing the Head Coach. But if we're just talking about poaching someone else's young, I guess I would go with Kevin Wilson. That is not me stating that Wilson is better than Greg Davis or any other Big 12 offensive coordinator, which is rich in talent, but just that I can't ignore what he did last year. Really my answer to this question is: I wouldn't. Leach has been the most consistent in the league, with inferior talent to some of the other participants, and I'll keep betting on history. With this emphasis on consistency, I might lean towards Davis just because Kevin Wilson owns OU's 2005 season as much as he owns 2008. In any event:
I poach nothing, final answer.
Kayakyakr: No offensive coordinator, so no replacement needed. I'd go for Muschamp for d-coordinator, if only because I like his style
RMN: Time to start our weekly Big 12 Power Poll. Rank the Big 12 teams from 1 to 12. (Note: This IS a power poll and isn't intended to account for schedule)
SP: 1. Texas
3. Oklahoma State
4. Texas Tech
10. Texas A&M
11. Kansas State
12. Iowa State
I find this exercise quite daunting because so much here is considered controversial by so many, and I can't speak intelligently about all twelve programs (maybe not even one of them). The top two are probably unimpeachable, as some variation of Texas/Oklahoma deserves prime billing. Oklahoma State is the Texas Tech of yesteryear as a nice choice to finish third in the south. I think they could be much lower, though. Texas Tech at four demands some justification, as the prevailing storyline is that we're doooooooomed because no more Crabtree and no more Harrell. Likely future fact: Texas Tech will finish in the top 10 in scoring and total offense, just as we have almost every year since 2002. We've had a lot of WRs and a lot of QBs and a lot of offensive linemen, etc. in that time but have consistently scored like Wilt Chamberlain and moved chains like a prison gang. Michael Crabtree and Graham Harrell went somewhere. The Texas Tech offense didn't. The real issue for us is, as always, the defense. A young secondary and a bad schedule scares me more than missing number five. I think we're the fourth strongest team in the Big 12, and would pick us at home against every team except Texas or Oklahoma, and maybe even against one of them, considering we haven't lost to Oklahoma at home since 2003 and beat number one Texas last year at Davey Jones' Locker. Our offense will keep us in most games, particularly against the teams ranked below Texas Tech (and maybe the one ranked immediately above). The rest of the teams? Christ I don't know, I'm not that knowledgeable. Nebraska and Kansas might be interchangeable. Baylor is probably too high but I can't resist joining in the HERE COME THEM BEARS movement. Missouri could move up, Colorado could go in either direction. Texas A&M is probably too low, though last season justifies their spot. I think people putting them 11th or 12th are taking that point too seriously, though. Iowa State is an unconteroversial cellar dwellar.
Readers, what did I get wrong? Post your own answers to the SB Nation Big 12 Roundtable below. Wreck 'Em.