1. va_catbacker

    I agree with the thoughts on K-State potentially sacrificing an advantage by increasing tempo. When the other team likely has some degree of athletic advantage, allowing them 10 more opportunities a game to out-athlete you could be a significant error. If done well and in situationally appropriate ways, and with a high degree of execution it could put some unbearable stresses on opposing defenses. Having experienced the other side of that equation with Baylor mercilessly assaulting Dante Barnett in 2012 I know how devastating it could be. If it’s one tool that gets pulled out of the toolbox when there is an advantage to do so (inexperienced player not getting help, already tired defense, etc) it is fine.

    On the subject of K-State not having access to a huge supply of speedy athletes in state, while that’s generally true, there are some pretty significant exceptions – on offense, Alex Delton comes immediately to mind from the current roster, as do a few others. But that ignores how much of the wide receiver position group comes from elsewhere at the moment. Whether or not the current roster is truly suited to an increased tempo, K-State has put a lot of effort into getting skill players from Georgia, Texas and Louisiana in particular, and has had some success. Combining the domestically produced offensive line, some of the occasional top tier in-state talent at skills positions, with the other skills players being imports? That’s a pretty viable concept as proven by other programs over the years.

    I think you’re maybe overly optimistic about Texas this year. The offense wasn’t remarkable, and the defense suffered a few letdowns over the course of the year. While I think they’re certainly going to be improved between added talent and experience, even a fairly big improvement would still leave them behind OU. While a lot of teams (including OU) will likely take a step back this year, it still doesn’t necessarily catch Texas up far enough, top tier defense or not. But it should be fun to see.

    • ianaboyd

      K state struggles to find skill talent now when they only need a few. If fielding more of them is essential to the strategy? That’s not a great idea.

      Texas was consistently good on D last year after the Maryland debacle. Consistently great after going base dime. Their move to base dime is potentially huge for the 2018 season. The O was bad last year but relied on a lot of freshmen that weren’t ready and upperclassmen that weren’t good. Their healthier, deeper, and have an identity now.

      • va_catbacker

        I wouldn’t say that finding them has been so much of a struggle. Using them to the fullest extent and retaining maybe. But I have a hard time seeing Zuber, Heath, Pringle, and Lockett in the past four years alone representing an outright struggle. And that ignores Burton (no struggles with speed anyway), Sexton, the flashes that Sutton and Harris showed, etc. With a lot of turnover who really knows what will be on the field this year, but there seem to be enough players to be a solid position.

        Are they the four and five star guys that litter other rosters? No, obviously not. But at least from my perspective, aside from a good chunk of 2016, the QB play hasn’t exactly been allowing the receiver positions to shine – just based on the flashes of good play there seems to be some potential.

        Most of all though, I’m not saying that K-State should be running an offense at Briles tempo as a full time strategy. No way, no how is that a good fit for the program. I fully agree that the slowed down pace has been a net positive. What I am saying though is that as a situational strategy an up-tempo approach for a series or even sequence of plays could be a positive, even if it just forces the other team to burn a timeout or make some adjustments.

        • ianaboyd

          Sure, it’s a useful change up you need anyways for 2 minute offense.

          I could see K-State figuring it out with WRs finding either enough star athletes like Pringle or local chain movers like Sexton to make it work. But how is K-State at advantage over the rest of the league trying to play that way?

          The only way I see that working is if they go more full bore “Gulf Coast O” mixing in more QB run RPOs. Those are nasty to stop and Thompson would probably be more effective on those. They have a few already but adding more could be useful.

  2. Travis

    I admire your attempt at power rankings. Big XII is gonna be stupid fluid this year. I think it is a safe bet the champ will have 2 league losses. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 8 bowl teams again.

    • ianaboyd

      Boo Radley is a vastly superior nickname. For starters, it’s weird and funny, secondly it doesn’t conjure images of illegal activity.

  3. John

    Just curious, but what possibly makes you think TCU finishes outside of the top 5?

    Defense will be improved from last year. Likely a top 5 defensive line in the country (most DL talent GP has ever had to work with). Safeties got bigger and more athletic, corner is about the same plus Julius Lewis back from injury, LB takes a step forward especially with depth and Jawuan Johnson transferring in.

    Offense is loaded with talent and speed, especially at WR (Reagor, Turpin, Barber, Manning, Austin, Hunt). Playbook is opened back up now that they have a QB who can get the ball downfield. Up there for best 1-2 punch at RB (Anderson and Sewo) in the Big 12 (I’m aware this could be hindered by OL play). Which leads us to the biggest question of the entire team, OL. The size and talent is there at OL, now it’s about getting the 5 best out there and letting them gel together.

    Defense should be able to carry the team over the first few weeks to let the OL get some chemistry. TCU leaves the state of Texas twice this year (WVU and Kansas). Hard not to see them competing for a spot in the B12 championship game. Let me know what you think!

  4. Will

    I’ll take the over on WVU.

    This is probably going to be the best offense WVU has ever had under Holgo. The team returns two of the league’s best tackles, the best QB, probably 2 of the best 4-5 WRs (Jennings and Sills) and one of the league’s best deep threats (Simms). They are deep and huge at G (average size of the two starters is like 6’6, 335), they are deep and brimming with potential and versatility at RB and they’ve added two skill player transfers (Simmons and Haskins) that figure to make the receiving core deeper than it has ever been.

    The defense, even with its question marks, figures to be much better than last year. The word out of the spring is that the defensive line looks better than expected, before the younger Stills even shows up. Safety is loaded with players who have played and started. David Long might be the best returning LB in the league, Tonk played a lot last year and they’ve got a ton of guys competing for the third spot. CB…still probably sucks and that’s a problem but it was a problem last year too.

    When you factor in the fact that the league is almost uniformly hitting the reset button at QB this year, I don’t see any reason to expect WVU to perform worse than it did last year.

    OU has shown you can win the league without a top 40 S&P+ defense. I’m not saying WVU is going to win the Big 12 but I don’t really see 5 conference teams outscoring them either. I like to think I can be pretty objective about my team, I was not particularly high on the squad last year because of the turnover. But I think it is pretty unlikely that they finish behind some of the teams you have in the top half of the league.

    • System Poster

      Didn’t WVU’s nose tackle transfer out? That’s a pretty important position in WVU’s defense, isn’t it?

      • Will

        He did, but reportedly he left because he was losing his job to one of the Stills brothers this spring. Hard to know how much of that is spin, but the coaching staff is generally reliable when they talk publicly about areas of concern vs. areas where they are comfortable.

        It’s still thin at the position and it is critical position for the 3-3-5 run defense, but as Ian notes there is a former 5-star USC DT coming in at the position too and WVU is looking for another DL grad transfer. They also have a 300 lb DT true freshman coming in (former wrestler, which I always like to see) although Ian thinks he is destined for OL. It’s not great, I would be much happier if McDougle had stayed, but I don’t think its going to be a gaping hole this year the way it was at times last year.

        I’ll be very surprised if this is one of Gibson’s better defenses. But I’ll also be surprised if it isn’t notably better than last year (I’m thinking like S&P 40-55 range). And for WVU to have any serious success this year the offense will have to be a top-10 unit instead of a top 25 one. But I think that is well within the realm of possibility.

    • ianaboyd

      I’m probably not crediting the offense enough, the D just makes me really nervous.

      You need two things to play well on D, the first is enough depth and quality to guarantee that all 11 guys on the field are at least passable and knowledgeable defenders. Then you need a few guys that can hold up in isolation. One at corner and hopefully a safety that can help a lot on the back end and then on the DL.

      WVU may get close to step one but I worry a lot about step 2. And the O has looked solid but they weren’t world beaters a year ago, not good enough to carry as bad a D as they had.

      • Will

        Totally agree with all your points. I think, given the returning talent, that we can expect to see the defense take another step forward this year.

        Ezekiel Rose looks like the iso guy on the D-Line (dude is athletic, he returned a kick last year) and started becoming a problem for other teams late in the season last year. Bailey will be the iso corner, and while probably not great, he’s fairly sizeable (6’0) and way better than Mike F’in Daniels. At safety, Kenny Robinson was a really promising TrFR corner (3 picks, 2 for TDs, ~40 tackles) before they moved him to FS for exactly the reason you highlight.

        If the injury bug gets the defense in even a couple of spots, season over. But that is always the game WVU plays, it will never have a next guy up defense because they can never recruit that well. The impact talent will have to be on the field all season.

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