Big 12 Media Days: Who Changed My Mind?

One of the fun exercises to do on the way home from the Big 12 Media Days is to discuss which teams changed your mind? I know the common thought is how can one tell because the coaches and players in attendance give many of the same answers.

There are always some differences, as Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads was asked what would be a successful season for the Cyclones and he said going to a bowl game. No sugar coating. Just win six games and get to a bowl game.

Now, Baylor head coach Art Briles, TCU head coach Gary Patterson, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy, OU head coach Bob Stoops, and West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen were all coaches that I heard talk about winning the Big 12 Championship. They aren't all going to win it, and I would say, in my opinion, not all of those coach's schools have a chance to win it.

It is with those coaches and players that you have to do a little psychology to try to determine who is saying it with confidence and conviction and which ones are saying it with hope and prayers.

It is clear to me that Briles and his players truly believe they are going to win every game and win the Big 12 Championship and be in the College Football Playoff. I actually voted TCU on top in my Big 12 Media Poll ballot but the Bears changed my mind and I'm drinking some green Koolaid. The chip is still on Briles' shoulder.

"We're never going to lose that," Briles said of the chip. "Getting chosen second, I mean that's okay. Like I said, it's better than getting third. I guess you've got to win it (Big 12 Championship) three times in a row to get picked first."

Projected NFL Draft first-round picks on both side of the ball in defensive end Shawn Oakman and offensive tackle Spencer Drango, plus all the skill talent at receiver, running back and Orion Stewart in the secondary, and Andrew Billings at defensive tackle make for a lot of talent. The question mark at quarterback in Seth Russell is less of a question mark after winning the skills contest over 37 other college quarterbacks at the Manning Passing Academy. By the way, Mason Rudolph was a finalist.

Baylor is deserving of being picked first if you ask me, but I came to that conclusion on the rebound.

I still believe in TCU. In fact, I still believe in Oklahoma State, who I picked third, and Oklahoma, my fourth selection.

Mike Gundy believes his team could win the Big 12.

"I think if we played well and took care of the ball that we'll have an opportunity to win the league," Gundy said in the press conference in Dallas. "We have some good young players. We have some depth.

"Like most years, we have to stay healthy at certain positions. We've certainly worked toward that goal from winter conditioning through spring football and into summer conditioning. We like our team. I like our coaching staff. I like how the team cares about one another."

I picked West Virginia fifth, and I would still have them there but I truly believe now that they will have a chance to play their way higher up the standings board. Holgorsen's running game, that's right, running game, and his defense, especially his defense, give the West Virginia head coach and the Mountaineers a chance.

"It should be the best that I have had or been around since I started coaching some 20 years ago," Holgorsen said of his defense. "I've got guys that have a bunch of experience. Tony Gibson has done a great job. He brought in a scheme that he believes in and I believe in and he knows how to coach it."

Holgorsen will grind it out at times on offense and that goes against the grain but it will win some games.

In the lower ranks the only team that changed my mind was Texas. I picked the Longhorns sixth, but I got no real emotion or excitement out of head coach Charlie Strong or any of his players. Strong hints that quarterback play with either returning starter Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard is huge.

"I don't know what the number (wins) would be or what would happen," Strong said. "It's not only with the quarterback, it (performance) has to come from all positions. You look at defense and we lost six starters there. That's where it all starts and we have to play really well on defense. I can tell you at quarterback that Swoopes wants to play because so much has been said about him. He wants to prove to everyone that he can play that position."

It sounds good, but again I have to sense some confidence and conviction and with Texas I'm getting more prayers and hope.


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