The Big 12’s annual convention starts Monday morning at
Jerryworld Jerry’s back house, and I have some questions. The Big 12, per the usual, is in a bit of an upheaval. Normally that means the South Floridas and Fresno States of the world are sliding up to the table to try and eat. This year’s consternation has nothing to do with expansion, though. Instead it has to do with turnover in the coaching ranks.
Out are the impossible-to-replace Bob Stoops and definitely-possible-to-replace Charlie Strong. In are newbies Lincoln Riley and Tom Herman. Lots of potential, zero wins. With that as our jumping off point, here are some legitimate questions/storylines I’m curious about heading into the hullabaloo of Big 12 Media Days.
1. Is OU really the favorite?
The parity of this league shined through in the All-Big 12 team voting. No school had more than five players on the team, and every school had at least one (even you, Kansas!) OU is the incredibly heavy favorite in Vegas, but with a 33-year-old trying not to drown in Year 1, should they be?
And if not OU, then OSU is the obvious second pick, right? And if not those two, then who’s a sexy third? The media says Kansas State, but is that what the coaches think (I know it’s not what Bill Snyder thinks).
We obviously learn nothing about on-field performance from these pressers, but it’s pretty easy to read between the lines about how coaches feel about other teams (and their head coaches).
2. How do coaches feel about the Big 12 title game?
Speaking of feels, I’m curious if the implementation of the
$25-$30 million made-for-TV game at the end of the season featuring two teams that have already played Big 12 title game will change the way coaches think about the rhythm of this season. It seems such an odd thing to drop on a conference that already features games between all of its teams. I’m guessing the attitude among coaches will be a lot of well, if we have to have it to get into the CFB Playoff, then so be it.
3. What’s the feeling on Baylor and … Kliff?
Two entities that face fork-in-the-road moments this season. Baylor is going to be … decent? Maybe? Could be awful. Could be better than average. Nobody really knows. I’m intrigued to see the energy surrounding Matt Rhule and what other coaches as well as Bob Bowlsby are saying about them.
Also, Kliff. Is this it? Are his cases of hair gel and frogskins already in boxes to be shipped to Arizona or Utah or Columbia where he’s an OC next year? He’s good for the Big 12 beyond the movie-star looks and “fortune favors the bold” attitude because this is where he grew up and this is where he’s been grinding for five years now in Lubbock as head coach. His team is not getting better. Neither are his odds of staying around long term.
4. Iowa State’s gonna be pretty good, aren’t they?
Which team emerges from this two-day soiree as the “yeah, nobody wants to play them” team. My guess is Iowa State. Matt Campbell has some juice, and they took teams to the wire last year (Oklahoma State included). ISU lost by 25 combined points to OSU, OU, Kansas State and Baylor in 2016, and they have a terrific QB-WR combo in Jacob Park and Allen Lazard. I’m already a wreck about 11/11.
5. Is there a distribution plan?
SEC Media Days is on the SEC Network. Big 10 Media Days is on the Big 10 Network. Big 12 Media Days is on … the Longhorn Network and some permutation of Fox Sports channels. Oh, and it’s on Twitter via the Big 12 handle. That’s not very impressive, and though it’s one of the weakest points of the Big 12 currently, it also holds some of the biggest potential for the future.
Partner with somebody (anybody!) and get that #content to the masses. Google (YouTube), Netflix, Twitter, Amazon — something. While we’re here, the Big 12 could stand to get a website makeover. That thing is just not very impressive, and with all the talk of “we’re in a great position technologically and with distribution” I’ve heard, I’ve yet to see that actually play out in real, legitimate advances.
6. Is everybody feeling good about the Big 12?
The perception nationally is still not strong. Like “KD at the NBA Combine” not strong. That can be righted early with OU going to Columbus, USC-Texas and Oklahoma State-Pitt. But it probably won’t be. OU and Texas aren’t beating tOSU and USC, right?
So then, coming off a so-so year last season and heading into that gauntlet with two new, inexperienced captains manning this 10-team ship, how’s everybody feeling about the future? David Boren Zillowing houses in Illinois, Iowa or Minnesota yet?
The face put on this week will be a good one — and the money says it should be — but what does everyone actually think about the future of this conference?
There is an additional identity crisis this year not because of which teams will or won’t be in the conference in the future, but because the league’s leading man for the last two decades exited stage right a few months ago.
Big 12 Media Days are always interesting, and they will be even more so this year with a conference lacking a real identity and looking to the future to find it.