The long, grueling offseason is in full swing. I'll do my best to make it go by quicker through the healing power of Q&A. We'll be doing this every Friday, so if you have a question about Big 12 football, tweet me @BenKercheval or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let's get to it.
I see we have a couple of anti-Bret Bielema opinions in this week's mailbag. For anyone wondering why, check out Barrett Sallee's story on the comments from the Arkansas coach pertaining to hurry-up, no-huddle offenses.
Now, to answer your questions:
It's a well-known fact that Bielema and Alabama coach Nick Saban were instrumental in the development of restrictor-plate racing for NASCAR. (Not really, but that sounded plausible for a moment, didn't it?)
As for Arkasnas' Sept. 13 game at Texas Tech, it becomes a fascinating subplot of the uptempo offense debate. Keep in mind the Razorbacks open the 2014-15 season against Auburn, too.
Tech led the country last season with 87.4 plays per game, so this team never slows down. Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury is a chill guy, which is ironic given the fast pace of his offense, so he'll dismiss any talk of trying to run 100 plays on the Razorbacks.
To take a funny question and make it serious, though, the game has an interesting clash of styles. Unless the defensive substitution proposal passes, Tech will play at a high tempo. Yet, the Red Raiders struggled defending offenses that utilized a power running game last season.
That's exactly what Arkansas does, which leads me to believe Tech could struggle a bit against the Razorbacks. Given the unpopularity of the proposal, coupled with Bielema's comments, expect to see more people pulling for Texas Tech that weekend.
There's no question West Virginia has to be better than 4-8, which was the Mountaineers' record last season. A 6-6 record all but certainly ensures head coach Dana Holgorsen will be back for another season, although 5-7 could keep him around as well. The schedule has only one gimme (at home against Towson).
More specifically, it would be nice to see the Mountaineers make strides on offense and in close games. As disappointing as last year was for WVU fans, they have to take pride in knowing the team was in a position to win several of the games it lost.
The only way to get better there is with more depth.
Offensively speaking, there needs to be improvement at quarterback and along the offensive line, the latter of which will have several new faces. It will be up to their position coach, Ron Crook, to coach 'em up. Crook was brought in last year from Stanford to give West Virginia more of a power look up front.
Finally, Holgorsen announced on Friday that safeties coach Tony Gibson would, in fact, be the defensive coordinator. The jury is out on Gibson, and there's no room for "rebuilding" on that side of the ball. He needs to have instant results.
Noticeable improvement in any one or more of those areas, not so much wins and losses, is what fans should be looking for next season.
Phil asks: Does Texas compete for a conference title this year?
First, there are three teams that are in a better position to win the Big 12: Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma—not necessarily in that order.
Secondly, first-year coach Charlie Strong and his assistants bring an entirely different personality to the program. All anyone can do is wait and see if the players respond to Strong's intensity. Remember, Nick Saban went 7-6 and lost to Louisiana-Monroe in his first season with Alabama.
That's not to say Texas won't be competitive, because it will. The Longhorns should have an excellent defense, especially up front. The offensive line will have a new look to it, so that could be a concern, but Texas has the best stable of running backs in the conference.
Strong is an excellent coach and a good hire for Texas. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Longhorns match their win total from 2013 but competing for a conference title? Not quite.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football.
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