Five storylines in the Big 12 in 2012
1. Can Texas rebound from a 13-12 two-year stretch after playing in the 2010 BCS title game?
Sure can. There's too much talent in Austin, particularly on defense. Only don't expect coach Mack Brown's Longhorns to be in the running for another title game. Brown settled on sophomore David Ash at quarterback; he and junior Case McCoy both won big games last season. Brown took a while to make up his mind, though. When asked last month during Big 12 Media Days to choose a starter, he replied, “If you sit there and say we'd rather have Vince Young, we'd rather have Colt McCoy, there's no question those are two of the best quarterbacks to ever play college football. You'd like to have that luxury.”
2. Who's going to replace Robert Griffin III at Baylor?
No one. Baylor coach Art Briles admits as much. “How do you adjust to not having the best football player in the United States at the collegiate level? That's inspiration, OK? What we have to do is figure out ways to fill in the gaps,” Briles said. Senior Nick Florence, who tossed two TDs among his nine completions last season, takes over for Griffin. “Hopefully I can carry on his legacy,” Florence said. “There's added pressure. But you can do two things with that pressure: You can let it weight down on you, or you can take it to fuel your fire and make positive things happen.''
3. Why did former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis take the Kansas job?
It wasn't for the money. At least not according to Weis. “I was offered other jobs for a lot more money, just so you know that,” Weis said. OK, so why did he take the job? “You're coming into a team that was 3-10 two years ago and 2-10 last year,” he said. “Not so long ago, it's 2007 and 2008, and they're playing in the Orange Bowl and the Insight Bowl and winning. It was a short time frame that the football program was playing in bowl games and winning. And to be honest with you, I think it's a very challenging situation. And it's one that, as I talked over with my wife and son, we thought would be a very good challenge.” Weis likes challenges. That's good — because he couldn't have picked a bigger one than rebuilding the Jayhawks.
4. Who's the best quarterback in the Big 12?
Oklahoma senior Landry Jones was a Heisman Trophy candidate for much of last season before faltering late. West Virginia senior Geno Smith was named Big 12 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year despite never having played a game in the conference. Texas Tech senior Seth Doege passed for more yards per game than RG3 last season. Jones and Doege could have an advantage over Smith because both faced Big 12 defenses. By the same token, Smith could hold the edge because Big 12 defenses don't know him. Whatever the case, no league boasts three better QBs. “Been a whole bunch of good quarterbacks come through the league,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who coached a total nine seasons at conference members Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. “The league's been like that for as long as I can remember.”
5. Just how good is Oklahoma State junior Joseph Randle, the Big 12's top returning RB?
Just ask his coach, Mike Gundy, who never met a pass he didn't like. Still, Randle carried 208 times for 1,216 yards and 24 touchdowns while averaging 5.8 yards per carry last season. “Joseph has established himself as a dominant back in this league,” Gundy said. “He's been durable. Not only a good runner inside but outside. He's been a good receiver.” More important, Gundy believes Randle will play even better because he understands the stakes are higher, with defenses going all out to slow him down. “I'm confident that Joe will handle it the right way,” Gundy said. “We talk about team first and the success of our group. He just has to remember that if not, then things can go the other direction. As soon as you think you've arrived and (are) established, there will be somebody waiting to knock you off.''