Some Big 12 issues to ponder while waiting for season


AP Sports Writer

DALLAS (AP) — TCU has gone from Big 12 newcomer to preseason favorite after only three seasons, eight-time champion Oklahoma has an unprecedented title drought for coach Bob Stoops and West Virginia finally feels experienced in the conference.

Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury still has to settle on a starting quarterback, the position he played for the Red Raiders, former Oklahoma State quarterback Mike Gundy had an early unveiling of his new starter and 24th-year Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has seven quarterbacks on his roster.

While Baylor goes for a third consecutive Big 12 title, Iowa State didn’t win a conference game last season. David Beaty makes his head coaching debut at Kansas and Charlie Strong wants a winning record after a 6-7 start to his Texas tenure.

With Big 12 media days complete and preseason practice only a couple of weeks away, a few things to ponder while waiting for the first games Sept. 3:

OUTSIDE THE LEAGUE: Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State are the Big 12 teams that won’t play a non-conference game against a team from another of the Power Five conferences.

Texas plays its opener at Notre Dame and has a home game against California, while TCU starts the season at Minnesota.

“We’re actually working on our schedule to maybe make it look better to the public and help us, if it does come down to that, but I’ve never met a good loss or met a bad win,” said Baylor coach Art Briles, whose team shared the Big 12 title with TCU last season after winning it outright in 2013.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said there are ongoing discussions about scheduling among the league’s athletic directors, but no mandates even though each team’s non-conference games affect the strength of schedule for every other Big 12 squad.

“I don’t think it means that everybody has to play three top 20 teams in their preseason,” Bowlsby said. “I also think it doesn’t mean that everybody has to play three that are FCS or in the bottom of FBS. So I think there’s a happy medium there.”

STRONG INFLUENCE: In his first season, Charlie Strong dismissed or suspended several Texas players for disciplinary reasons. Now he’s excited about the goal to build a team — “You just have to get everyone on board,” he said.

The Longhorns won the league’s last national championship a decade ago, but their last Big 12 title was in 2009.

“So much was made last season about the suspensions,” Strong said. “They were given plenty of opportunities to do what was asked of them.”

ARE YOU EXPERIENCED? Dana Holgorsen, whose 2011 debut at West Virginia came a year before the Mountaineers joined the Big 12, said he has potentially the best depth of any team he has been involved with in more than two decades coaching.

Nine offensive and 10 defensive starters are among 44 returning lettermen.

“A lot of the guys that are on our team right now are guys that have been there and done that, understand what the Big 12 is all about, understand the style of ball, understand the personnel,” he said. “We’re in a totally different position than we have been in the past.”

WVU is 11-16 in Big 12 games since entering the league after consecutive Big East titles.

QBs NORTH OF RED RIVER: Oklahoma State took the redshirt off highly touted freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph in the 11th game last season, then he helped direct a big comeback in the regular-season Bedlam finale for an overtime win at Oklahoma that got the Cowboys eligible for a bowl game they won.

Rudolph still hasn’t played a home game for Oklahoma State, which opens the season at Central Michigan.

Stoops, whose Sooners have gone consecutive seasons without a Big 12 title for the first time in his 16 seasons, disputes those who assume transfer Baker Mayfield is already the starting quarterback over returning junior starter Trevor Knight. Stoops instead describes a tight battle.

“I know it’s popular for everyone to act like a certain guy has already got the job,” Stoops said. “That couldn’t be further from the truth.”
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