There’s actually quite a lot to discuss the next two days when Big 12 coaches, players and media converge for the league’s annual, two-day preseason gab fest.
Before we begin, make sure everyone knows the change of address. After years at the Omni Hotel in Dallas, the event is headed north to the Dallas Cowboys’ new facility in Frisco.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones built the Ford Center, a 12,000-seat arena, for his team to have indoor practices. It’s already become a terrific facility for North Texas high school games. It’s merely one aspect of the 91-acre entertainment and sports district.
Plenty of new coaches will be there, too. Texas’ Tom Herman, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and Baylor’s Matt Rhule all will receive formal introductions to the league. Old hands like Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and Kansas State’s Bill Snyder know the drill. Somewhere, the now-retired Bob Stoops will be relaxing and enjoying the days off.
Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, TCU and Texas Tech will meet the media on Monday. Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas and West Virginia hit the stage on Tuesday.
There’s so much to discuss. Where to begin?
The return of the Big 12 championship game
It hasn’t gotten much attention in recent months, but the Big 12 title game is coming back this season after a six-year absence. The top two teams in the standings will face each other again in Arlington on Dec. 2.
The league needed that so-called 13th data point with the College Football Playoff committee. In simplistic terms, the Big 12 needed a high-profile presence on the final day of the regular season to match the other four major conferences.
If league officials were being honest, the best possible scenario would be a Texas-OU rematch in December every year. Pitting the two high-profile moneymakers against each other in the title game is the most financially advantageous. The Longhorns are coming off three straight losing seasons, so Herman has some work to do.
Will Stoops’ retirement change the landscape?
How could it not? Riley has been handed the keys to a championship-level program and some rather implicit instructions from OU President David Boren — don’t screw it up.
Sure, the Sooners have Heisman-caliber quarterback Baker Mayfield coming back for one last hurrah. Five OU players cracked the preseason all-Big 12 team. Big 12 reporters, looking at those 16 returning starters, picked the Sooners to win the whole shebang.
But don’t overlook Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph and his top threat, James Washington. Don’t dismiss TCU and mega-threat KaVontae Turpin. And, as Texas can attest, don’t even think about looking past Kansas and Big 12 defensive preseason player of the year Dorance Armstrong Jr.
Who’s on the hot seat?
Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury probably needs to show some life. He’s produced three losing records in five years. At least the Red Raiders have plenty to show off. The school poured $1.6 million into locker room renovations and now has all the whiz-bang gizmos that any 17-year-old recruit would love.
Kansas State die-hards have their fingers crossed for Snyder. The legendary coach, now 77, was blasted nationally for blocking a player’s transfer. The school stepped in and Snyder apologized. But even the New York Daily News called Snyder its “Jerk of the Week” for the kerfuffle.
Offseason rule changes
Beginning this year, Christmas comes early for all coaches. Dec. 20-22, a three-day window has been created that allows for high school recruits to go ahead and sign a letter of intent.
That will short-circuit the excitement and frenzy normally seen on national signing day in February. But at least coaches will know where they stand with recruits. Bottom line for recruits: Better have all your grades in order early and not have to rely on that final spring semester.
The Big 12 has also poured $1 million into a centralized command center for instant replay reviews. Each stadium will still have its own replay crew on site. But now, someone (or multiple people) will be back at the league headquarters with headphones watching plays to make sure things are done right.
Can the Big 12 crack the CFP?
Oklahoma reached the CFP semifinals in 2015, but that’s the only Big 12 appearance in the three-year history of the event. That’s not a good track record. Of course, the four-team configuration is designed to leave out someone from the Power Five conferences every year. The Big 12’s only recourse is to get better.
And that’s where Herman can really help matters. The Big 12 desperately needs the Longhorns to get back on their feet and get back in the national conversation.
Oklahoma State, TCU, Baylor and everyone else know that if they go undefeated, they’ll be in CFP consideration. But those names will never carry the cache that Texas and OU do. The Horns and Sooners will always get the benefit of the doubt, though.
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email [email protected].
BIG 12 MEDIA DAYS
Monday-Tuesday, Frisco, FSSW (coverage starts 9 a.m. each day)
Monday: TCU, Kansas, Texas Tech, Iowa State, Oklahoma
Tuesday: Texas, West Virginia, Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma State