Seth: You ready for this? It's game week, although I'm guessing that you are probably still working through writing about the Spurs just a few months ago. Let's cut to the chase, how many games does this team win in 2014 and why do you think they'll win the number that you're going to choose?
Travis: Man it's good to get started. I watched College GameDay on Saturday and that intro music hit me like a ton of bricks. Even though it's still 100 degrees outside at midnight, football season is here and I'm so pumped.
I think with this team there is about a four game window that they could fall into and I wouldn't be really surprised at all. You could make a legitimate case that they could win as few as 6 or as many as 10, so I'm going to fall right in the middle of that and say they'll go 8-4 in the regular season and finish with 9 wins after a bowl victory. Kansas St., UT, OU and Baylor still have our number, but it won't be for much longer. It's easy to say right now when we aren't in the agonizing throws of the season and every loss feels like a stab in the heart with a dull knife, but this year is an opportunity to build on the relative success from last year, and set the foundation for a long-term monster heading into next season. There will be disappointments but I'm really optimistic about the future.
How do you see the season playing out and what are your thoughts on Central Arkansas? I hope nobody is looking past this game, they've got a good program out there. So much so that the Razorbacks refuse to schedule them. This first week might not be a cakewalk.
Seth: I've tried to give myself some confidence by thinking about how the team can be better because the offense will be better and this is the natural progression of how the defense can be better by just being in year two. I'm like you in that I think there can be a pretty tough stretch this year, starting with TCU, then OU and then Texas, both are at home and there is a week off for Oklahoma. For me, the hope is that this team will have more depth and be able to deal with the loss of some of these players (if they get injured) where last year, there didn't seem to be any depth at all. The defensive line was really weak in terms of depth.
I'm like you in that I think 8 wins is very doable for this team and if some of those things come to fruition, then we might be talking about a 9 win team. That's really pretty doable I think.
Central Arkansas actually had a pretty good little football team, but they fired their coach and hired Steve Campbell, who was ridiculously successful at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, and Texas Tech has/had three recent players from that program, Chris Payne, Javon Bell and Reshod Fortenberry. Central Arkansas was in the playoffs a few years ago. So Campbell was highly successful at Mississippi GC and he's walking into an okay program (not one that's completely devoid of talent). I guess they just thought they could get better
One of the things that I thought was interesting this past week was how highly Stewart Mandel and Bruce Feldman thought of Texas Tech in their Big 12 preview, Mandel thinking that Texas Tech finishes 3rd and Feldman thinking Texas Tech finished 4th. I guess I think that's interesting because these guys get to see so many different programs and Feldman spent the week traveling through Texas, visiting Texas Tech, Baylor and Texas (at least). It is interesting that these national guys have a sense that Texas Tech could really be a surprise team this year. What do you think about Mandel and Feldman's prognosis of Texas Tech?
Travis: First, I have a ton of respect for both Mandel and Feldman. Fox is really building a CFB monster with the talent they're bringing in.
But as far as their rankings are concerned I don't put too much stock in it. I'll give you a horse racing analogy. When you're picking horses you can go with the favorite and in a best case scenario double your money, or you can go with an "educated guess" long shot, or even pair it up with the favorite and hit it big. I think that's what Mandel and Feldman are doing. They know that Tech has some of the key pieces in place, and with a little luck they could be right there in the end.
The Big 12 is similar to where we were last year in that there are a handful of teams toward the top of the conference that will be in the running for the championship and several more that will be bunched together. I had a strong feeling last year that Baylor would win the Big 12 but I don't see a clear cut favorite right now. Of course OU will be in the mix along with Baylor, UT and K State and I think Tech fits right in there pretty nicely. In the end none of us really know anything at all, so it doesn't hurt to take a slight gamble on the longshot.
How do you see the conference shaking out?
Seth: So, I'm not supposed to pick the horse with the best name?
I thought Ubben's thought (I think it was him) that there are two three tiers to the Big 12. Tier 1 consists of Oklahoma and Baylor. Tier 2 consists of Texas, Texas Tech , Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Tier 3 is a bit behind that and I think TCU is on the verge of being a Tier 2. I know that's not a popular take, but their defense has been as good as Texas Tech's offense over time. Yes, the offense will likely be a mess, but the same could be said for the Texas Tech defense. In other words, TCU does something really well too.
You've had some really good luck picking the conference winner, or at least who will do well. Who wins the Big 12 this year and why?
Travis: Actually, picking the horse with the best name works better than whatever convoluted system I've developed over the years.
Man, I don't know why you do this to me because I'll never get invited to blackbeard's tailgate again. But here goes:
Texas will win it with the caveat that only if Ash stays healthy. They were one half away from winning it last year and I think the discipline that Strong brings will get them over the hump. I don't think they'll be an exciting team, but they will be well coached and the talent level they have in the locker room is still higher than what most other teams have.
So now I'll ask you to go out on a limb. Each year someone sneaks up and surprises everybody (i.e. Kansas St). Who will be the surprise team in the Big 12 this fall?
Seth: I'll go with Kansas State. A veteran quarterback and an offense that is the exact opposite of Texas Tech in that they are slow and deliberate, will mean that they're in more games than not. Kansas State is the football equivalent to the Princeton basketball team and if K-State holds onto the ball and plays it close to the vest, I think Waters is going to be good enough to win a few close games. They've got some nice playmakers on defense and I'm sure there will be some JUCO guys that step up and pick up where things left off of last year.
A couple of non-football related things. 1) I believe that during the early part of the summer, I discovered that I am lactose intolerant. This has been an on-going joke between my wife and I as I will tell people at inopportune times that I am lactose intolerant. Most people don't know what to do with that information when I tell them this. At first they are very worried and then I tell them that drinking dairy products gives me gas. They laugh at me. I also constantly remind my wife that I'm lactose intolerant and she rolls her eyes. 2) I finally was able to save up enough money and buy a real computer. A MacBook Air and let's just say that my productivity have gone through the roof as it is a bit faster (this is an understatement) than my Chromebook. I'll probably always keep my Chromebook and it will be a terrific computer to take to Africa, but the difference is amazing.
Any offseason stories to tell?
Travis: First, I'm very proud that you made the decision to announce to all of VTM your lactose intolerance. We discussed your issue and self-diagnosis earlier in the summer and I think you are very brave for facing the intolerance head-on by announcing it to complete strangers when they least expect it. I can only imagine how proud your wife must be.
I too am saving up for a new laptop because I've been using my wife's work computer forever and she gets nervous when I start downloading crazy pictures to use in stories. I can't wait to have one of my very own and just start banging away on it like crazy without a care in the world.
As far as off-season stories, I suppose I could describe in great detail, and in my own words, my time covering the Spurs championship season but they'd probably come in at the very last minute and kill it. (Sad face emoticon)
Confetti? Let's get the season started!