College football season is still a few weeks down the road, but fans are already buzzing with excitement over the upcoming season. Coaches and players from each Big 12 school – along with Commissioner Bob Bowlsby – were on full display at The Star in Frisco on Monday and Tuesday for Big 12 Media Days, giving insight into their expectations for the 2017 season. Here are the top four storylines from Big 12 Football Media Days.
The 13th data point has arrived
The Big 12 has been held out of the College Football Playoff twice in the past three seasons, in large part due to the lack of a conference championship game. But now, the conference will add a 13th game to its schedule in 2017 with the return of the Big 12 Championship Game.
“The decision was made 100 percent on our ability to optimize the likelihood of getting a team into the CFP,” Bowlsby said. “Playing a full round robin and having our two best teams play each other on the last day of the season is the right way to conduct our championship.”
Bowlsby also stated he is not worried about the possibility of the Big 12 Championship Game being a rematch. He noted that 33 conference championship games have been rematches.
Lincoln Riley expects consistency
The Sooners’ offensive coordinator in 2015 and 2016 was hired as the heir apparent to Oklahoma legend Bob Stoops after Stoops’ sudden retirement in June. And in his first Big 12 Media Days appearance, Riley noted how easy the transition has been from OC to head coach.
“What made this so unique, I think, was the continuity that was kept with the decision,” Riley said. “Not having to hire ten new coaches, not having to get to know new players and develop those relationships, I think Coach (Stoops) said it best. He didn’t want to derail that.”
One spot Oklahoma may find inconsistency, though, is at the running back position. The Sooners lost Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine in the NFL Draft this year. Riley said he plans to keep an open mind when deciding who the starter will be, hinting that he may go with a running-back-by-committee approach.
Where did all the Texas players go?
No Texas school ended the season last year in the AP Top 25, marking the first time that happened since the establishment of the conference in 1996. TCU head coach Gary Patterson attributed this problem to the Big 12’s decline in recruiting prospects from the state of Texas.
“We’ve got to keep players here,” Patterson said. “I think the internet and everything else has led to that because kids go anywhere now to look at a school. We’ve got to do a better job of keeping them in the state.”
Tom Herman finds familiarity in Austin
Texas’ new head coach was a graduate assistant for the Longhorns in 1999 under Mack Brown. Two years prior, the Longhorns went 4-7, eerily similar to the 5-7 season Texas suffered last year. Herman said his current situation is not unlike his first at UT.
“I think they are very comparable,” Herman said. “Coach Brown’s first full recruiting class kind of turned the tide a little bit in terms of bringing in the necessary talent to compete. Then Moncrief Neuhaus, our new facility had just been finished. So that attracted a lot of players and, again, made Texas kind of the cool place to go. And we’re doing the same with our facilities now. So I think there are some parallels.