Kevin Haskin: Angles worth exploring for all teams at Big 12 media days

Lincoln Riley takes over at OU, faces challenge from Bedlam rival’s pass-catch duo

Football media days for the Big 12 are scheduled Monday and Tuesday in Frisco, Texas.

 

So then, following are 10 questions, along with two bonus inquiries as we brace for another season.

Is Lincoln Riley, at 33, up to the task at Oklahoma?

A proper evaluation of this move requires that you understand Joe Castiglione is one of the best athletic directors in the business. The promotion was based in large part on timing, but if Castiglione was uncertain about Lincoln, an interim tag would have been imposed. Nonetheless, Big 12 rivals look at the changeover as an opportunity to overtake quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Sooners.

Is Oklahoma State’s pass-catch combo the best?

QB Mason Rudolph and favorite receiver James Washington return as the most prolific duo in the Big 12 and have been doing it long enough to torch conference defenders at will. Rudolph possesses a big arm and can throw the ball in Rudolph’s vicinity and expect the 6-foot playmaker to outleap opponents attempting to make a play on the ball. This duo rejected the NFL and solidified OSU as a contender.

Is this the last season for Kansas State’s Bill Snyder?

The question has been popular ever since the Wildcats last captured the Big 12 title in 2012. Only now, Snyder has undergone treatments this offseason for cancer. While many predict, again, that Snyder will step down, remember that he retired once and it was unappealing. The coach has defied odds since arriving at K-State. Whatever his future, this year’s team should be involved in the Big 12 race.

Is new Texas coach Tom Herman capable of a quick turnaround?

With the talent the Longhorns stockpile, a turnaround is possible. Texas, however, did lose at Kansas late last season, a defeat that cemented the departure of Charlie Strong. In addition, the Longhorns are coming off their fourth losing record this decade. A complete resurgence in Herman’s first season is too much to expect. About all we’ve come to expect is that Texas will be overrated.

Is TCU capable of recovering from a losing season?

Under Gary Patterson, who enters his 17th season, the Horned Frogs captured conference championships (2002, ’05, ’14) each of the three previous times they suffered a losing season. TCU will shoot for a fourth such recovery behind experienced playmakers on offense. Defense is Patterson’s baby and it must improve after allowing 427 yards and 28 points on average last season.

Is West Virginia capable of building off a 10-win season?

With only eight returning starters, the Mountaineers are not expected to contend after tying for second in the Big 12 last season. Coach Dana Holgorsen could capitalize on low expectations while breaking in Florida transfer Will Grier at quarterback. Running back Justin Crawford is coming off a 1,000-yard season as a rusher. Quick development along the defensive front will be key.

Is Baylor capable of getting beyond its sexual assault scandal?

With revelations constantly unfolding, the sordid problems troubling Baylor seem endless. Finally, however, a new staff will accompany first-year coach Matt Rhule as he attempts, hopefully, to change the Bears culture. A Cactus Bowl win over Boise State ended a six-game losing streak that left Baylor 3-6 in the Big 12 a year ago. The veterans’ response to Rhule’s, uhh, rules, will be interesting.

Is this the end for Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech?

No other coach in the Big 12 finds himself on a hotter seat than Kingsbury, who enters his fifth season with a 24-26 record. Kingsbury spent the spring engaging more with his defense, which has allowed 500-plus yards and 40-plus points on average each of the past three seasons. Tech allowed 66 points in two Big 12 losses last year, an upset bid against Oklahoma and an embarrassing rout by Iowa State.

Is Iowa State a sleeper in Matt Campbell’s second season?

The Cyclones improved throughout their young coach’s debut season. In addition to shelling Texas Tech, they held double-digit leads in the second half against Oklahoma State (17) and Baylor (14). Things have been sorted out at QB. Jacob Park will be the full-time starter after splitting time last year with Joel Lanning, who moved to linebacker. Beating FCS nemesis Northern Iowa in the opener is an early must.

Is a win over Texas a stepping stone for Kansas?

Granted, Texas was bad and beat itself with six turnovers when the Jayhawks pulled off their overtime stunner at home last year. No reason, however, for KU not to build from that breakthrough win. The Jayhawks still have other streaks to address, including 44 straight losses away from home, but the talent level is soaring. That could factor into a surprise or two.

BONUS

Is a Big 12 championship game truly necessary?

Necessary? Hardly. When the Big 12 contracted to 10 teams, the league branded the slogan “One True Champion,’’ but then had no way to break ties atop the standings. Nonetheless, the complete round-robin schedule remains the most arduous played by any league.

Yet the Big 12 no longer wants to promote that dynamic, but instead play a quirky final that provides a revenge scenario for one of the participants. The game could easily prove counter-productive and bounce a potential CFP participant from consideration.

How about the CFP? Any possibilities?

Well, sure. It’s July. No games have been staged. A better start by Oklahoma last season would have qualified the Sooners for the playoffs.

Then again … perception can mean everything sometimes and no matter how often we are told the CFP committee is an honorable group, that panel can also be swayed by judgmental discourse knocking the Big 12. After advancing one team (OU) into the CFP in three years, the challenge escalates.

Oklahoma State, behind Rudolph and Washington, is a viable threat. Bedlam will be played in Stillwater. Almost everyone is picking the Big 12 to finish out of the Final Four, which, again, would make a championship game meaningless.

Mayoral elections are Aug. 2
 

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