We've been making our way through the conferences with our off-season roundtables and this week we have come to the Big 12. Last year, the Big 12 was second to only the SEC but this year they face some changes as Missouri and Texas A&M move to the SEC and West Virginia and TCU enter. This week our panel includes our usual gang from College Football Zealots (myself, Jay and Ross) and we are joined by Jay Beck of the great Big 12 site Turfburner.
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QUESTION: What is the most intriguing storyline in the Big 12 this spring?
Jay: Primarily I'll use this space to echo my sentiments from a few weeks back regarding the QB race at Texas. If they can settle on a guy who can, at the very least, be a competent game manager, they'll be a real threat. But I'm also interested to see what new ideas the Oklahoma Sooners come up with this offseason to score more points in 2012. You wouldn't necessarily associate OU with a lack of scoring, but consider this: In 2011, the Sooners scored only 14 more points than offensively-maligned LSU. Would you have guessed that? True, the Bayou Bengals did play one more game than Oklahoma, but they also had those two games where they only scored 9 combined points against Alabama.
So you'd think that would be a wash. Sure, you can attribute part of that offensive slump to injuries, but this is Oklahoma we're talking about, a juggernaut that's been going strong for 10+ years under Bob Stoops. As much as it might hurt to lose a great player like Ryan Broyles, they should have the depth to avoid sputtering out in his absence like they did. I want to see which receiver steps up to be the new #1 guy. I also want to see how they continue to develop Blake Bell. Obviously, Landry Jones is in no danger of being displaced as starter in his 8th year (it's been that long, right?), but Bell brought an interesting dynamic to the offense that we haven't really seen before (as well as a catchy nickname for ESPN to beat to death over the next 3 years). I think the more ways they can use him, the more productive they'll be.
Jay Beck (Turfburner): There are many with West Virginia and TCU joining the conference. What happens with the newcomers, however, isn't going to be known until this fall. That leads me to say the biggest storyline this spring is trying to figure out what to make of Oklahoma State. Who's going to play quarterback? Will the play calling change without Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon on campus? Can the defense continue its improvement? The Cowboys were on the brink of playing for the national championship last season and now only a few months later, there a question marks all over the board. The potential is there to have another double-digit win season, but it wouldn't be shocking to see a steep drop-off, either. My gut says they'll still be near the top of the Big 12 this fall, but this spring is crucial for the Cowboys.
Ross: I think it has to be the arrival of TCU and West Virginia to the conference. Unlike some conference newbies (Texas A&M in the SEC, Colorado in the Pac-12, etc.), there's no reason to think that TCU and West Virginia won't be immediately competitive in the Big 12. Both teams are coming off seasons in which they won 10 or more games, both teams won their bowl games, and both teams return several players from last year's teams. They enter a Big 12 that has one elite team (Oklahoma), as well as another former elite trying to get back on top of the mountain (Texas). Beyond that? Baylor and Oklahoma State will be in the midst of rebuilding jobs, Iowa State and Texas Tech will be mediocre, and Kansas will be aspiring to mediocrity. Kansas State returns several players and the peerless coaching of Bill Snyder, but they won't sneak up on anyone in 2012. TCU and West Virginia will have every opportunity to hit the ground running in the Big 12 in 2012.
Kevin: It's tough to beat the Texas QB situation. Texas breeds quarterbacks yet the biggest University in the state can't find one. Texas seems like they are just a player or two away from being "back" but they are also bad quarterback play away from being 6-6. I'm definitely the most intrigued by the battle going on in Austin. The other thing I'm most intrigued about is Charlie Weis and the Kansas Jayhawks. I don't know why but I find that whole situation fascinating (and not in a good way).
Come back on Monday as we continue our Big 12 discussion as we discuss the QB positions at Baylor and Oklahoma State.
ACC- Is this FSU's year?