Episode Description

Ty and Dan kick off their previews for the 2022 college football season by taking a cinematic look at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, West Virginia and Kansas. What’s a realistic expectation for Brent Venables in Year 1? Will Oklahoma State take a step back without Jim Knowles? Is Kansas State a darkhorse Big 12 contender? Can West Virginia make a bowl? How long before Lance Leipold turns Kansas into a more competitive program? Plus, a quick glance at UAB, Western Kentucky, Florida Atlantic, Middle Tennessee and Charlotte.

Ty Hildenbrandt
It’s preview season, Dan! Welcome one, welcome all! Welcome back to The Solid Verbal. My name is Ty, his name is Dan. This episode, all of our episodes, driven by Geico. On today’s show, we are coming in hot. With the previews, literal previews, for the coming 2022 college football season. And we are starting with one half of the Big 12, Mr. Rubenstein. How’re you doing today?

Dan Rubenstein
I’m juiced, Ty. You know how I feel about previous season and the season that gets us into the season. Essentially, I’m…

Sound Clip
Jacked to the ***s!

Dan Rubenstein
You know, I always am, Ty and getting to read through and rewatch and think as critically as I’m able to anyway, about for instance, on today’s episode the Big 12 and Conference USA but the ACC the PAC-12, the Mountain West, the teams and conferences that bind the sport together. It just gets me going, Ty, you know it does.

Ty Hildenbrandt
I am excited for our concept. As it relates to college football previews this year. Truly, we are doing previews. Movie-style previews. We’ve been doing this show since 2008. And it has come to our attention that a lot of folks like going very deep with teams. And we’ll do that here over the next couple of weeks. There are some other folks who are just passing by and want to get the general theme of what they should expect from each team, each conference, we’re going to do our best to bridge that gap to make it as relatable as possible. And to compare each conference, each division within each conference to a movie that you might know that you might love that seems to have similar themes.

Dan Rubenstein
Yeah, that reminds us that that makes us feel things the way we felt when watching that movie. And so, we have our selections for the Big 12 Are you I’m a big preview guy, by the way. Movie Preview trailer guy.

Ty Hildenbrandt
Yeah, I love watching them on YouTube, not for a half hour before the movie starts.

Dan Rubenstein
I kind of dig both not a half hour, 12 minutes. I like a good 12 minute session of previews before a movie. And I’m that person that turns to the person next to him or her and says, I want to see that or no. I give immediate reviews of previews right after, out loud in the theater. Because it’s an art, it’s an absolute art preview and preview making and it just gets me in the movie mood. So this steering into the the movie trailer and Movie Preview thing. It’s just it’s for me

Ty Hildenbrandt
On today’s episode, Dan is going to preview Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas State, West Virginia, and Kansas.

Dan Rubenstein
Correct.

Ty Hildenbrandt
On our next show, we’ll cover the other half of the Big 12. And then towards the latter half of this episode, we are also going to dive into some portion of Conference USA when we talk about UAB, Western Kentucky, Florida Atlantic (FAU), Charlotte and Middle Tennessee.

Dan Rubenstein
So my general theme by the way, for my half of the division list Big 12 is, essentially, it’s not how it used to be. Nobody’s look when you have the weird pairings at quarterback and coach because of transfers or coaches in very different spots. There’s like this, things used to be better. Things used to be more consistent and there’s a foreignness, maybe not a word, to the pairings especially at quarterback and coach like kind of oddball pairings with like JT Daniels parachuting into his third place to pair with Neal Brown whose seat is getting warmer than Adrian Martinez who seemed like a lifer in Nebraska. He’s coming into Manhattan to pair up with Chris Klieman and Deuce Vaughn and all sorts of other people. At Oklahoma State there’s actually familiarity. That’s kind of the one place there. Lance Leipold comes in late last year and is paired with a freshman, promising one and Jalen Daniels. And then of course, Brent Venables and Dillon Gabriel coming from two different spots together to try and make the best of things in Norman for, I think, a strange but ultimately, pretty positive looking experience. So I had that sort of oddball pairing that reminded me of

Sound Clip
You and your mama are hillbillies. This is a house of learned doctors.

Dan Rubenstein
I love Step Brothers so much. There is that like, fish out of water, buddy element to what we’re seeing in this side of the Big 12. And so that gets me excited. There’s a lot of there’s a lot of novelty with regard to this. And just that the quarterback narratives are fascinating as well. So that’s what I drew from sort of a big picture what this side of the conference could be all about.

Ty Hildenbrandt
Well, before we dive on in, Verballers.com is where you can find our Patreon to get access to plenty of bonus perks going on there and check it out. Be part of our discord chat, early access to all of our episodes, a whole lot out there for you if you like the show, if you like the show, and you’re not Verballer already, at least not Verballers.com, please tell your friends to hop on in. Join the Verballerhood, subscribe if you haven’t done that already. All this stuff really helps us out helps more people find out about the Verbal. And come and see us live. Oh, come and see us live solidverballive.com is where you can go to find tickets to any of the four shows we’re going to be doing over the next six months or so we’re very excited.

Dan Rubenstein
Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, that was just my my trailer to the trailer, the quarterback and coach pairings, I just wanted to get John C. Reilly in this episode as quickly as humanly possible.

Ty Hildenbrandt
I love that strategy. So without further ado, your half of the Big 12 Then let’s let’s talk about this movie preview. What do people need to know from a really high level about the Big 12? Your half the Big 12, 2022.

Dan Rubenstein
So it’s the conference itself is in sort of its own preview of what’s to come, even though the teams that are leaving and joining the conference are yet to do so. But no, this is a fascinating conference. We talked about it a little bit with Bill Connelly, a couple of weeks ago when he was talking about depth of competence, which I think is a I think his viewpoint on the Big 12 being a surprisingly deep, competent conference, I think makes a whole bunch of sense. We’re only doing my side of things today. But in terms of my side of things, the Oklahoma schools, in Kansas State kind of shine as having Top 15, Top 20 potential if things break correctly, and they they get out of some of the bigger games intact if you know winning those closer games, those toss up type situations. So I’m more excited having having jumped and parachuted into the status of these programs. Then I probably was a couple of weeks ago even before Bill talked about it. And I think it largely has to do with what I talked about, that weird quarterback coach pairing because I thought about using, did you see the movie Boyhood? By the way? Where it seems like they film over the course of decades or whatever like 18 years?

The status of the coaches of these five coaches Neal Brown, Lance Leipold, Brent Venables, Mike Gundy and Chris Klieman. They’re all in like, different stages of coachhood right? Mike Gundy is established and just trying to maintain success as a team. as a program that can contend for the conference. Brent Venables. brand new. high hopes newborn in terms of a head coach. Lance Leipold thrown into the fire still trying to figure things out, but seems to have things going in a good direction

Ty Hildenbrandt
Won national championships!

Dan Rubenstein
Yes. And Chris Klieman did the same. A national champion coach at North Dakota State, Chris Klieman the ascent from good to really good. And then Neal Brown, the dissent from promising new coach to “Oh crap, I need to figure out offense. I’m supposed to be an offensive guy. And I’m making changes and trying to get this big name quarterback in because the last transfer quarterback didn’t work out”. So there’s all sorts of different directions that these head coaches are going in and their strategies to deal with it are all pretty fascinating.

Ty Hildenbrandt
Step Brothers is your comp

Dan Rubenstein
Step Brothers is my comp.

Ty Hildenbrandt
And that’s mainly because of odd pairings. So when we look at those odd pairings of people are just passing through trying to get a better understanding for what makes it so intriguing. Which odd pairing? Do you think the fine folks out there should pay a little bit more attention to this coming year?

Dan Rubenstein
Chris Klieman and Adrian Martinez, because you can talk me into this working in any sort of way. Terribly magnificently, up and down, which is probably the likeliest outcome here. But because of what Kansas State has and I guess doesn’t have on the offensive line in front of Adrian Martinez and Deuce Vaughn, two really good tackles on the outside, the insides the question. The best of Adrian Martinez is a quarterback who can win the Big 12 with the questions at other places, the best of him, coupled with what the defense should look like King Felix is one of the better edge rushers not just in the conference, but in the nation. Daniel Green at linebacker, a bit of a rebuilt secondary, but it feels like Kansas State even with adding Adrian Martinez and the hopefully much healthier shoulder and jaw. Remember at the end of last year, that was like the weird after every NBA Finals, like LeBron comes out in the cast. It turns out he’s had like a shattered forearm the entire time? At the end of last year was it Logan Smothers who came in and played quarterback against Iowa? The end of last year like so turns out, Adrian Martinez had a torn labrum, a shattered jaw, his eye sockets don’t work. And so there was that.

Ty Hildenbrandt
And so I don’t mean to laugh, but you know…

Dan Rubenstein
It was it was our pets heads are falling off.

Sound Clip
Our pets heads are falling off!

Dan Rubenstein
For Adrian Martinez and was kind of clear that it might be for the best for him to find a new destination Kansas State and major destination of course. And they’re fascinating to me, because it seems like with the receivers Kansas State has if they can be a little bit more consistent. Kansas State did a really good job of, especially in the return game, finding some some hidden points, that they were able to take touchdowns back in the return game or just bring it out to midfield. They were really strong, especially kickoff return team. So the hidden yards, the hidden points, I think gives Kansas State a nice advantage. And again, in this conference, continuity is kind of sparse, and so that Kansas State has it. The odd pairing of, in this case, it was the Step brothers, but Chris Klieman and Adrian Martinez, that that does it for me a little bit more than some of the other narratives within this side.

Ty Hildenbrandt
K-State went 8-5 last season, they went to a bowl game played LSU in the Texas Bowl, won 42-20. Went 4-5 in conference, showed stretches of competency. Hopefully we can see a little bit more consistency this season. Remains to be seen how it’s going to work out with Adrian Martinez. We did a schedule preview a couple of weeks slash months back now. And what jumped out about K-State is that K-State, between the end of September, and let’s say mid November, they’ve got a really rough stretch of games. Like, you could look around the Big 12 at other schedules and find many more that are easier than this run that K-State’s got in front of them. So Chris Klieman’s got his work cut out for him. He has a couple games against South Dakota and Mizzou and Tulane, I guess he can use those to start the season to hopefully bring Adrian Martinez along get the offense clicking, but it’s gonna get real in a hurry. He’s got to figure something out get that offense humming and where it needs to be in order for them to win more games.

Dan Rubenstein
So my my stretch comparison is Deuce Vaughn is the helicopter to take Kansas State to the Catalina Wine Mixer. The ultimate wonderful place everyone’s trying to get to so, yeah, I mean, look, we haven’t talked about Deuce Vaughn at all. I mean, he’s insanely fun and versatile and both the obviously in the backfield and out of the backfield in the passing game that if he is a threat that’ll open things up for everybody else, they can find those mismatches. Collin Klein, offensive coordinator now, I just, there is something about this odd pairing that I’m hopeful about, again, with the shoulder that works, the jaw that’s in place all those things for Adrian Martinez, that the questions I have about the other teams are a little more depressing. Like, there’s a bleakness to hoping for, like, I think Oklahoma State’s gonna be good, I think they might actually be a little bit more dependable. But I don’t think it’s as fun because of the depths to which that offense can fall. Whereas like the West Virginia offense is rough in terms of generating fun and electricity. Obviously, Kansas has a ways to go. Oklahoma is intriguing. I just, it’s hard to bring all the pieces together and kind of understand what it’s going to look like under Jeff Lebby and Brent Venables. You have a concept but there’s more, more proof is out there with what Kansas State will be trying to do I think. So I just think the potential for it is more interesting. For Kansas State. Maybe it’s just because I’m a sucker for Deuce Vaughn. I have no idea.

Ty Hildenbrandt
Let’s talk about another odd pairing and let’s go over to Oklahoma. Oklahoma has been the story of the offseason in many respects, not only did they lose Lincoln Riley to USC, but Brent Venables comes home, there has been activity in the transfer portal. This is a program that at least as many Oklahoma fans tell it, or would like to have us believe, it’s on the right track. It’s it’s building momentum. It may take on a little bit of a different face going into ’22. Right? I think that’s inevitable, but they feel okay about it. And there is this quality to many Oklahoma fans, scorned Oklahoma fans, who would also try to have you believe that they’re better off without Lincoln Riley. New coach, new quarterback. New system pretty much altogether. Oklahoma within your Step Brothers universe? How does it fit?

Dan Rubenstein
So great question. I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m going to choose to move beyond Lincoln Riley with my evaluation and appraisal of Oklahoma football. And Oklahoma is in an interesting place, obviously, for obvious reasons. But there’s another tie that binds these teams. And if it’s between Kansas State, replacing what they have to replace on the inside of the offensive line, Oklahoma trying to get back to a just a decent place on the offensive line, Oklahoma State replacing West Virginia and the sacks they allowed last year. Kansas has a ways to go. We have like this propensity between the quarterbacks and the offensive line issues to see a lot of these guys kind of scrambling and trying to do things on their own. And so there is that that part of me that says I don’t know I could see Spencer Sanders, Dillon Gabriel, Adrian Martinez, JT Daniels, maybe to a lesser extent with his physical abilities, trying to go rogue.

Sound Clip
But what I do have are a very particular set of skills.

Dan Rubenstein
Yeah. In the case of Spencer Sanders in Oklahoma State, maybe more McGruber like “guys, I’m trying to figure it out,” trying to get that next thing explodes. We’re talking Oklahoma, Dillon Gabriel needs to stay in one piece. He is not the biggest dude. He needs to stay intact behind an offensive line that has some work ahead of it. I don’t think the run game is going to be as big a threat as it’s been the last few years under Lincoln Riley, I think Eric Gray is fine. He doesn’t scare me in the way that Samaje Perine or Joe Mixon are the guys that have really, you know, been able to shine under the previous regime were able to do. So that to me is worrisome about the offense in the short term but yeah, the encouragement is you know, the receivers are not It’s not deep. It’s not crazy killer but you know, you get a healthy Theo Wease, Marvin Mims, Drake Stoops and we’ll see. The defense worries me the defense in terms of the ally oop. That is worrisome. That is, I can’t make this all about Step Brothers. I can try. And I’ll hit I’ll hit some…

Ty Hildenbrandt
58th by the way, 58th in defensive, SP+ ranking last season. It was a pretty good year, all things considered for Oklahoma, they went 11-2, 7-2 in conference. Down the stretch had the loss against Baylor on the road had that loss at Oklahoma State and the Bedlam game. Bedlam game was a close game, ended up winning the bowl game, Bob Stoops at the helm. Amid turnover, Lincoln Riley was already out of D odge, but, you know, good season, all things considered had some quarterback strife. Now, I’m curious from your standpoint, I’ll let you finish on, on what you’re going to mention there with Oklahoma. But I am curious as to the setting, if we’re keeping this in terms of movies, I’m curious, the games that jump out to you, for Oklahoma as really being like, sort of those key pivot points in the season.

Dan Rubenstein
Essentially, it’s hosting Kansas State, which I think they do so pretty early on and might be after the Nebraska game. That to me, is it will at least dictate, as you’d like to say, we’ll know what Oklahoma is by December. We’ll know what they are. But what I want to know is what are they going to be early on in September a few weeks in? That, to me is my curiosity point. You know, we know that, you know, the Red River game is going to be huge, and always is with all the new pieces on both sides. But in terms of this side of the conference, that’s the game I’m most interested in because Oklahoma as a program hasn’t been traditionally beating Kansas State lately. And so that would be a nice signal to me that they’re locked in on everything new that Dillon Gabriel because look, if if you’re a team beating Kansas State, like maybe I’m too high on them, we started our previous season with Kansas State, you might be pretty good. And so that, to me is at least an early tell for Oklahoma. And that’s the one I selected in terms of the setting and plot points for this Oklahoma season among these teams.

Ty Hildenbrandt
Oklahoma’s schedule is is is interesting. You know, you mentioned the K-State game, we’ll find out at the end of September, where they stand against other competition, better competition in the Big 12. But it’s not exactly an easy slate by any stretch of the imagination. I like their home slate. Their home slate’s good, they have to play all the same good teams in the Big 12 But you know the way that this sets up, it’s not the easiest, but it could be harder. Based on their road tilt. They’ve got the Texas neutral site game, which we all know about, they got to go to Iowa State, which hasn’t always worked out for many teams in the Big 12. But other than that, they’re only other big road games here at TCU, at West Virginia, possible sandwich game in between Baylor and Oklahoma State. And then they close out the season against tricky Texas Tech, which we’ll talk about on our next episode. That could be an interesting matchup, I’m pretty high on Tech. But all things considered, you could do worse, if you’re Oklahoma, I like the fact that there’s a little bit of a ramp up period at the beginning of the season with UTEP and Kent State, before they go on the road to Lincoln, Nebraska, before they come back home to square off against K-State.

Dan Rubenstein
My counter is we’ve never known less about whether or not a team’s schedule is hard or easy, because of all the movement in the sport, but also, especially as it has to do with the Big 12 with the differing pieces. And I think generally high floor of 9 of 10 of these teams that you can talk me into 35-31 somebody most weeks and have it make sense. So I don’t know if Oklahoma’s schedules hard. I have no idea of Kansas State’s schedule is tough. You can look at it and say, Look, they’ve done a bunch of road games against what we perceive to be good teams in a row. Sure, absolutely. But anybody who claims to know a good amount about where these Big 12 teams especially on my side stand with, you know Oklahoma State losing what they do on defense, Oklahoma, losing everything Kansas State, making a change to a wildcard quarterback, West Virginia going to what we thought might have been a Heisman leading quarterback going into last year at Georgia and not working out like nobody knows anything. And it’s, it’s more pronounced this year.

Ty Hildenbrandt
Do you like the Dillon Gabriel, Jeff Lebby, Brent Venables setup?

Dan Rubenstein
Yes, absolutely. Yeah, Dillon Gabriel, coming in with when you come in and have the immediate success that Dillon Gabriel had at UCF. And granted I know that’s the American, whatever, it’s a different animal in the Big 12 or wherever, whatever major conference, but he performed largely pretty well against the higher level competition that he faced. And there was a fearlessness to Dillon Gabriel, and so if these receivers workout, if the offensive line is okay, you go up a little in your voice, it’s okay. I think they’re gonna have a good amount of success because of how aggressive Jeff Lebby’s offense tends to be that situationally Dillon Gabriel again, if he stays in one piece. Yeah, there’s a fearlessness to his game going downfield going across the middle where I’m just like, I’d be very much more into having Dillon Gabriel at Oregon than Bo Nix. So I think that’s where I stand on Oklahoma, that there aren’t nearly enough dudes on defense to make me truly scared of them, like, getting buried while alive and Step Brothers. But yeah, I think we’re gonna see some Brent Venables junk. Like he’s gonna throw some junk looks at teams. Apparently, he listens in, according to me, he listens in on the headsets of all the offensive coordinators he faces. There’s been a lot written about Brent Venables and the ability to interpret signs quickly. So maybe that’ll work out. Or he with him and Ted Roof in concert running the defense. It’s just it’s a Jimmies and Joe’s thing right now, for the Oklahoma team. Like they’ve got a good linebacker, they’ve got a decent transfer in along the defensive line, the secondary has a ton of questions. Like I don’t know who’s fully taking advantage of it. But I just I’d like to see more obviously productive names.

Ty Hildenbrandt
Yeah, the over under, by the way, is nine and a half for Oklahoma wins. So we’ll do a show as we get a little bit closer to the season, talking about over unders and where we stand on some of these bets. But I think it is meaningful that it’s nine and a half and not higher. Frankly. Oklahoma still is a good team. But they’ve got a new coach. They’ve got some turnover, and a whole lot of unknowns. I want to move on. I want to talk about Oklahoma State because if the theme of this side of the conference, your side of the conference, today is odd pairings. It’s always struck me as an odd combination. Mike Gundy and Spencer Sanders. Spencer Sanders is not necessarily the kind of quarterback who has come through Oklahoma State. Right? The quarterbacks that have come through Oklahoma State have been more air raid-y in the Gundy era, right you’ve had Brandon Weedens. Yeah, Taylor Cornelius. Sure. Spencer Sanders is different Spencer Sanders is more of a dual threat and when they can use his dual threat attributes to the best of their, of his ability, he can be very good. Just look at, let’s say second half of that Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame, Spencer Sanders has had moments. Spencer Sanders is also very inconsistent at times. And that constant push-pull between good Spencer Sanders and bad Spencer Sanders. That’s what ultimately, I think, determines how Oklahoma State has done and will do. Again, as we look forward into 2022. We had a listener write in a couple of weeks ago, and ask us, are we selling Spencer Sanders short? I don’t feel like we are because I know the inconsistency is there. I also know that the upper level, high level playmaking ability is also there somewhere beneath the surface, you just don’t know when you’re going to get it. So I think the question is, first off, do you feel like it’s an odd pairing at all? But secondly, Dan, what can Mike Gundy do? What will Mike Gundy try in 2022 to tap into that good Spencer Sanders? Is there anything he can do schematically or otherwise? Are there players around him other characters in this story that can help accentuate those great features of Spencer Sanders and throw out the inconsistent stuff that leads to losses?

Dan Rubenstein
Maybe? I think they’ve had stronger offensive coordinators, you know, they promote Kasey Dunn from within he was kind of a Mr. Biletnikoff and who he was able to develop over a long, long time of the Gundy era and going back to like Justin Blackmon and of course junkyard Jim Washington. There haven’t been that, there doesn’t appear to be like I like Brendan Presley a good deal, but he’s smaller, more diminutive guy more of an all purpose receiver and returner kind of guy. I don’t know if they’re gonna go more conservative and so they’re going to be looking at more play action stuff it’s you know, a new running game a new offensive line they had some departures along the offensive line to the portal that it’s just sort of see receiver hit receiver and play action this guy should be open against most defenses, this hot guy, whatever. It the problem still remains in my point from earlier in the in the spring, that there are two types of quarterbacks: quarterbacks who as they’re being sacked, still try to make an incredible play, and quarterbacks who just go down or just throw it away. Yeah. And Spencer Sanders, you know, I don’t know if it’s just a Baylor thing I don’t know if it’s just a every so often thing he is going to make an atrocious throw. But there is that trying to do too much part of his game that is just always going to worry me about Oklahoma State who was squarely in the playoff conversation late last year because of the defense. That that just it’s always going to worry me about Spencer Sanders. So yeah, as he matures, as he gets more reps as he sees more on film, as he, you know, as more things click into his head to just throw a ball away instead of trying to squeeze it into probably an untenable window. Yeah, he will get better. But when we believe that the conference is at least partially gonna go through a team with as good a defense as Baylor’s can be, and he is having his low moments against them. It worries you that Oklahoma State’s offense has gotten progressively worse since Mike Yurcich such left. It’s It’s worrisome that he feels like he has to do so much on his own. And he’s not fully wrong. So that I don’t have a good answer for like, what can Oklahoma State do to help prevent mistakes? It’s just to me a maturation thing and a rep thing, I guess. But I mean, he’s he’s dealt with injury issues, and I’m sure that hasn’t helped early on in seasons, these past couple years. Just it’s consistency. It’s just the consistency and the maturation process.

Ty Hildenbrandt
Oklahoma State was 8-1 in conference. Last season went 12-2 overall, you recall they lost 21-16 in that incredible, Big 12 championship game when Baylor won at the last second on the goal line. They went on to win largely in the second half the Fiesta Bowl over Notre Dame 37-35. So it’s a good season for Mike Gundy. It was a good season, I think, because of two reasons. First off, Spencer Sanders did have moments in the offense did come together later in the year. One of the big questions about Oklahoma State going into last season was who are the receivers? Who are they going to be how long is it going to take for these guys to develop? They did develop by the time the end of the season got around. And this was a pretty good team, this was a 12 win team that was point a. Point B and it probably deserves to be point A-1. The defense Jim Knowles lead a very aggressive, very attacking defense that blitzed the crap out of opponents knew how to bring pressure

Dan Rubenstein
Hold on I’m adding a fantasy thing for aggressive attacking defense for me I already am scoring points continue.

Ty Hildenbrandt
It was a very, very good defense last year in terms of overall SP+ ranking: 4th. Very good, about the best Oklahoma state’s ever been on that side of the football. Now he is gone. Jim Knowles has gone to Ohio State The offense, you know, is certainly going to do its part to continue its maturation process. But it’s fair to ask questions about the defense, Dan. Where do we stand on the defense here?

Dan Rubenstein
I’m in a pretty good place with this Oklahoma State defense, as we’ve seen, I mean, they played a bunch of dudes last year, even though they lose a ton of starters. And those linebackers were especially incredible playing that, like cover zero with their hair on fire helmets on fire, whatever. Derek Mason is a super capable, defensive coordinator. And I loved that we’ve sort of come full circle, if you remember way back when, so Dana Holgorsen calls the 2010 offense, I believe, for Oklahoma State with Brandon Weeden. Yeah, Todd Monken comes in in 2011. And the big story is like Brandon Weeden, who was 37 at the time, was teaching Todd Monken, the Oklahoma State offense because Monken came in saying I don’t think I need to change much with what you guys have been succeeding doing. And so there is that, too. You’ve seen that storyline with Derek Mason and the Jim Knowles defense where Derek Mason has come in and saying, I don’t think I want to change a lot. Because what you guys have been doing and the verbiage and how quickly you guys are able to react, it’s been working super well. So Derek Mason has come in, and he’s going to try to marry what he was able to do, as you know, a successful defensive coordinator at Stanford, and you know, in his limited time at Auburn, so that’s a huge hire, just because of the level of success that Derek Mason, as a coordinator has had. So I think, to fill in the vacancy with Mason, and to try to keep things familiar for the guys who return. Look there, they lose a lot. There’s a lot of questions in the secondary, there are pieces on the line, they lose a lot at linebacker, but I don’t know, I still think they’ve recruited well enough. They’re like a quietly interesting and pretty good recruiting team, that there’s going to be a drop off, but it might be like the number 24 defense in the country, not the number four defense still, like a dangerous part of why they’re winning

Ty Hildenbrandt
Just 37% of Oklahoma State’s production is back on the defensive side of the ball. That reason is why they are 118th nationally, in terms of returning production, for whatever that’s worth. It doesn’t mean everything. But it’s usually at least some measure that we can go by here, as we do this episode as it drops in late July. Some tell as to what this team might look like, what kind of a start they might get off to, for what it’s worth much better on offense. 69% of their production is back on the offensive side of the ball, but defense will certainly be a challenge. And I agree with you, Derek Mason’s a pretty good guy. Yeah, right. Derek Mason, Derek Mason has made hay for what he’s done on the defensive side of the ball. So if you’re gonna go out and get somebody it’s pretty good one.

Dan Rubenstein
Different looks, different coverages than what Jim Knowles did. You know Jim Knowles sort of forced quarterbacks to make quick decisions. But, I’m in on Oklahoma State as a team who if they drop off, which I mean, it’d be impossible not to given the heights that they reach last year. I don’t think it’s going to be all that crazily. And also, by the way, in terms of plot in terms of setting, they host West Virginia, the week after Bedlam, it’s the weird thing where you have your rivalry game that second to last week, the penultimate week, if you will tie wink wink. That if they’re able to maintain focus and not have a letdown situation against a West Virginia team, who I think that’s like the end of a very tough stretch for West Virginia, if I remember correctly in their schedule, or what we think is a tough stretch, that if they’re able to maintain that focus, the Pokes, that that would be enormous for Oklahoma State,

Ty Hildenbrandt
Oklahoma State’s schedule, and then I do want to talk about West Virginia, maybe the easiest in the Big 12 Just the way it sets up. Again, they all kind of play the same teams, right? It’s a 10 team conference, there is no divisions they each play everyone else in the conference. In terms of their non-conference opponents, they started out with Central Michigan, Arizona State, who program that might be completely off the rails by week two, and Arkansas Pine-Bluff before a bye and then they get into the Big 12 schedule. They come in hot against Baylor on the road. And that’ll be a test. Yeah, they’re back home the next week against Texas Tech. They do have a rougher stretch towards the latter half of October where they go, they’re home against Texas, they go to Kansas State, but there aren’t any like murderers rows here, or wounders, there’s nothing like that on the schedule. That really frightens me. They’re on the road for the Bedlam game. That won’t be easy. But I think all things considered, if you’re looking out across all the schedules in the Big 12 The one that I liked the most is Oklahoma State. It sets up really well for them, especially as they’ve got a bunch of new guys to break in on defense.

Good year to be on the road for Bedlam. This is not an especially deep or dangerous, Oklahoma can still win the conference. But as it relates to other potential conference champions, Oklahoma doesn’t have the depth and obvious scariness of some of those other teams. So good times if you’re in if you’re in Stillwater.

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Ty Hildenbrandt
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Ty Hildenbrandt
Odd pairings part four, let’s talk about West Virginia…

Dan Rubenstein
Man!

Ty Hildenbrandt
So, Neal Brown sputtering a bit in Morgantown. We were really high on the hire, you were really high on this hire weren’t you? You loved Neal Brown. You were all in. All in on Neal Brown. Neal Brown, at least to date has not worked out. Last season, West Virginia went 4-5 in conference, 6-7 overall. They went to a bowl game against Minnesota, that bowl game if you watch the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, hopefully your eyes have healed in the meantime, it was an 18-6 game. That game made Baby Jesus cry. It was horrible. It’s a horrible football game to watch. Now, we’re on the flip side of that there’s been some turnover with West Virginia. They’ve got a new quarterback who comes up from Georgia. You do get the impression that Neal Brown is on some level fighting for his right to stay the head football coach at West Virginia. And on top of it, it is not an easy schedule. Not by any stretch. Start off the year on the road at Pitt. On the road at Pitt, Backyard Brawl, big rivalry game. They close out September on the road at Virginia Tech. Not an easy place to play.

Dan Rubenstein
We don’t know if Virginia Tech is good, though. But yeah.

Ty Hildenbrandt
We don’t know what they are. But still not an easy place to play. The week after that Virginia Tech game, on the road at Texas before a bye and then Baylor at home, then Texas Tech, my darling, you know I like Texas Tech this year. Right? It just kind of keeps coming at them. They don’t have much in the way of a good chance on this schedule to really settle down and catch their breath.

Dan Rubenstein
How many? And maybe this is just a completely insane question. But how often do we see Power 5 programs with two true road games and other Power 5 programs in the non-conference so you like you’ll have you know, Florida and Florida State play each other every year and Clemson and South Carolina play each other every year. So there is that like, locked in rivalry situation. And now of course, you know, we have hopefully a more locked in rivalry situation with Pitt and West Virginia moving forward. But it doesn’t happen it seems all that often. And so

Ty Hildenbrandt
No, they try to avoid it as best they can

Dan Rubenstein
I would imagine so. So yeah, that’s different. That’s no. I don’t know, man. Like the thing is with West Virginia is the odd thing is Neal brown comes in as an offensive guy and they’ve had a largely good defense. They’ve taken a couple of lumps, but they might have the single best defensive player in the conference and Dante Stills upfront. They have, they get results from a good portion of this defense pretty often they, what I’m saying saying, they have, they have a giant glaring issue, and they’ve had that giant glaring issue where they haven’t been able to find a quarterback, Jarett Doege did not work out. The receivers dropped too many passes. The offensive line didn’t protect Doege at all. And so you enter in a quarterback who has had issues staying on the field and has maybe just been unlucky. That’s entirely possible with JT Daniels. The best of JT Daniels we think is pretty incredible. So new offensive coordinator and Graham Harrell, familiar with JT Daniels, talented but flawed receivers, inconsistent offensive line. I’m just sort of worried. Like I think West Virginia might be one of those programs that puts it together for two and a half weeks and just beats Oklahoma, beats Oklahoma State. And I know they were destroyed by the Pokes last year. You know, beats Texas something, something that is unforeseen for a couple of weeks and gets West Virginia fans kind of riled up in a good way and then just disappears and loses to Kansas, disappears and loses to Texas Tech in a stupid way. So that’s the concern to me with West Virginia that offensively they just haven’t built up quality depth kind of anywhere. They weren’t able to run the ball at all last year, and they’re going to waste another good interesting defense. That’s that’s the worry to me that in that combination of quarterback and defense not a lot of people have that defense. And I just is JT Daniels gonna stay upright? Are the offensive skill guys around him going to consistently make plays? Like JT Daniels has grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle in terms of surrounding talent. I don’t know that he’s going to immediately click with these guys. I’m worried about West Virginia. I just am.

Dan, I’d like to make a proposal.

Is this a phone call coming in?

Ty Hildenbrandt
You know, we like nicknames on this show. I have a proposal for JT Daniels.

Dan Rubenstein
Oh no. Oh no…

Ty Hildenbrandt
He’s playing in West Virginia. His birth name. I’m looking at his Wikipedia page is Jonathan Tyler Daniels just goes by JT which has a cooler spin on it, but he’s playing in West Virginia now. There’s obviously this quality of you being a little bit worried. I think of West Virginia fans not knowing if it’s going to work out, generally speaking, of an offense that has sputtered, and, frankly is not fun to watch makes us all worry just as college football fans wanting to see more offense.

Dan Rubenstein
I’m also worried about you threatening a nickname.

Ty Hildenbrandt
Also worried about me threatening a nickname. I’m proposing a very simple change that I think works for this odd pairing.

Dan Rubenstein
Okay. Okay.

Ty Hildenbrandt
For this season, this season only, can we just go with Jack Daniels?

Dan Rubenstein
With Jonathan? I mean, I know you can nickname Jonathan…

Ty Hildenbrandt
No, Jack Daniels because of the liquor tie-in.

Dan Rubenstein
No, I get ya

Ty Hildenbrandt
You know what this means? We’re in West Virginia.

Dan Rubenstein
Well you’re drinking shine in West Virginia. Jack Daniels is Tennessee whiskey

Ty Hildenbrandt
Ah, it’s close enough.

Dan Rubenstein
Yeah. Okay. Sure.

Ty Hildenbrandt
Jack Daniels. No?

Dan Rubenstein
It’s pretty good. It’s confusing.

Ty Hildenbrandt
They’re all confusing! Duke of Hazzard was confusing!

Dan Rubenstein
I know.

Ty Hildenbrandt
Jack Daniels is my proposal here.

Dan Rubenstein
You said Jonathan Thomas?

Ty Hildenbrandt
Jonathan Tyler

Dan Rubenstein
Jonathan Tyler Daniels. So we could do JTD like JTT. That’s not that good.

Ty Hildenbrandt
JTD. We did TVD. For Tyler Van Dyke at Miami. I like Jack Daniels. You know, people can tell me I’m wrong. But Jack Daniels. It’s an intelligent nickname for intelligent people. I’m not going to dumb it down for some mass audience.

Dan Rubenstein
So what was this is your neck of the woods. James Dolan. Doesn’t he have a band? Isn’t it like J? Is it JD and the Sureshots or something? What’s the name of James Dolan’s ridiculous band that people go to shows and taunt him and

Ty Hildenbrandt
JD and the Straight Shot?

Dan Rubenstein
JD and the Straight Shot? Is there something there?

Ty Hildenbrandt
I mean, we need to see what he could do in this offense first, but

Dan Rubenstein
That’s my counter. Yeah.

Ty Hildenbrandt
That’s not bad. Why did you think of James Dolan’s band? Oh my gosh.

Dan Rubenstein
There was something with JT and the Sure Shot and I thought JD who’s the JD? And then I remember James Dolan. I love the idea of a sports owner having a passion project band and getting heckled at his or her terrible shows. it’s a wonderful turn of events that all I’m almost positive by the way, maybe I’m wrong. Does James Dolan play the harmonica in this band? Or is he like a full lead man with a guitar? Or does he do both?

Ty Hildenbrandt
A country blues and roots rock vanity project?

Dan Rubenstein
Of course. So maybe West Virginia is JT Daniels vanity project? JD and the Sure Shot I don’t know. Man. It worries me but I’m gonna be entertained by West Virginia. I feel as if I will be. Maybe Eer fans won’t be.

Ty Hildenbrandt
Five and a half. Five and a half is the Vegas over under for West Virginia. So they share similar concerns Dan.

Dan Rubenstein
Yeah, that could be a bowl team. I think they could win six or seven with things breaking correctly and having like a cartoonish number of takeaways like the turnover margin bounces in the in the right direction. Sure.

Ty Hildenbrandt
Let’s close out your half of the Big 12 talking about the Kansas Jayhawks. Speaking of odd pairings, right? Lance Leipold won national championships a level down

Dan Rubenstein
Couple levels down!

Ty Hildenbrandt
Couple levels down. Yeah. Came up coach Buffalo I think did a really good job there, got this Kansas job. We both liked Lance Leipold a lot, don’t we? We like this guy. And I think there is a general sense as the more you read around college football, the general sense that this is someone who knows what he’s doing right? Kansas, right now is experiencing just a dearth of talent. They don’t have the guys that they need to compete on a higher level. But at least on the coaching side, Lance Leipold is a guy who knows how to coach fundamentals, he knows how to get the most out of his players. He’s a lot like Chris Klieman, frankly. And so that will play well at Kansas, where he is trying to move the ball forward is by bringing in guys who can play actual playmakers. And that I think brings us to another odd pairing which is him and the young quarterback.

Dan Rubenstein
Yeah. Jalen Daniels?

Ty Hildenbrandt
So what what is the short term outlook for Kansas football? Because this is a program last season. Not exactly a head turner. Won one game in conference, 1-8, 2-10. Overall, they’re not good. But still, were a lot better than where they were in 2020. Like this was a 2-10 that was actually pretty productive. As we project forward now into this season, where do things stand there in Lawrence?

Dan Rubenstein
Sort of like is Nebraska the best 3-9 team ever? Is Kansas the best 2-10 team ever? Beating Texas, being competitive with TCU and West Virginia at the end of last year

Ty Hildenbrandt
They were plucky, right? They played hard. And truly, you know, we say this all the time. And it’s probably to the point of caricature. But like, if you are a team that doesn’t have a whole lot of talent, it’s obvious that you don’t but you play well as a unit you play well as a group and you remain in every game. You play hard whistle to whistle. That’s meaningful. And we can use that as another data point when we try to figure out is this team going to get better or worse, going into 2022?

Dan Rubenstein
Do you remember when the Toronto Raptors used a first round pick on a flyer from Brazil? And they were like he’s the Brazilian junior, very low level, Kevin Durant. And then they cut back to the studio after showing this like very grainy footage. I think the guy’s name was Bruno.

Ty Hildenbrandt
Bruno Caboclo?

Dan Rubenstein
Sure. I don’t know, that doesn’t sound like a way you would say it in Portuguese. But yes. They cut back to Seth Greenberg, I believe, former Virginia Tech head coach and he said he’s two years away from being two years away. And it’s the best evaluation. It’s the, he never obviously never did anything. You don’t know his name. I don’t know his name. Kansas is not two years away from being two years away, but they’re probably a year away from being a year away. I enjoyed a quote. I don’t remember where I saw it in somebody’s write up of Kansas football, that the thing that Lance Leipold is doing different from a talent acquisition standpoint is, you know, Les Miles and David Beatty and Charlie Weis, all these guys that, you know, really took a stab at trying to get things right in Lawrence, were looking for high level college football players, which is admirable. They were taking shots on guys they thought could be big time players and bringing them to Kansas, which is a big time athletic department. Obviously, the success the basketball team has had. But what Lance Leipold is doing, his thinking is, let me just get the most guys who don’t suck. Let me just like stock this team with B minuses and see what I can do with that. That every single backup is going to play hard, and is going to understand the playbook and is not going to get beat because of a mental error. But just because they can’t turn the corner as quickly as a running back can or can’t, you know, keep up with an All American receiver. That’s understandable. But stocking the team with guys who don’t suck, which I think there was a Big Ten comparison where it’s just like depth of competence. Like what we talked about with the division or not the division but the conference as a whole. That’s where Kansas probably makes sense if that is indeed true. It’s something that I can get behind. And so with the way Jalen Daniels was able to make plays near the end of the season. Coming in because of injury and Devin Neal was able to pop early on or not early on, but early on in his career. I think he rushed for over 150 yards against Texas in that crazy shootout win, they’re not great at receiver they’re not great along the lines, defense is going to, it’s just they don’t have anywhere near the number of guys they need to compete for, you know, vaguely flirting with a bowl. But Lance Leipold is just awesome. By all accounts, he is just strong, he’s going to hit the portal to fill in gaps as often like I think they brought in Ky Thomas, a running back from Minnesota, like they’re just bringing in guys who can help. Right? Who can bring sandbags to the shore? And that is something. And so that is why I think especially like, if you talk about effort, and it being meaningful when you don’t have the talent, Kansas playing hard all year long last year and giving TCU and West Virginia all they could handle and coming down to the fourth quarter. It’s meaningful, it’s meaningful. Does it mean wins? No, it does not mean wins in 2022. But it means you know, you’re you’re walking you’re crawling, you’re right like you’re gonna see that from Kansas. And so I am in on just increased competence that they are going to be able to carry the sandbags to the shore and stop this year over year flooding of the coastline.

Ty Hildenbrandt
And they’ll be Texas on the road, man!

Dan Rubenstein
They beat Texas on the road!

Ty Hildenbrandt
They beat they beat Texas on the road. We talked about the one conference win one and eight and conference but they beat Texas on the road second week of November. A crazy game I remember watching it Remember talking about it after the fact 57 to 56. It was a great game. This is not a good team last year. They played hard to your point, but they weren’t good. Their offense was a little bit better than their defense, but their defense truly was was was really bad. And in all facets, I mean, just terrible against the run, and almost equally as terrible against the pass.

Dan Rubenstein
They’re gonna get pushed around.

Ty Hildenbrandt
Yeah, they were just bad across the board. What I’m curious to see and it may be an ultimate test this coming season. We talked about returning production doesn’t mean everything but Kansas is a top 10 team. In terms of returning production, they bring back 89% of their production on defense. Does that mean anything? I don’t know. It’s a bad defense.

Dan Rubenstein
Likely no.

Ty Hildenbrandt
Bringing back 89% of that, is that good? Is that bad? I guess we’ll find out I would expect that they’re going to improve again. And you’re right, Lance Leipold pulled has done his part to try and raise the floor. Right? It is truly a different philosophy. From what Charlie Weis tried to Kansas, frankly with Charlie Weis tried at Notre Dame, which is go out and get the high-profile skill guys that you think might have really high potential that has its place but it doesn’t have his place at Kansas where they’re just trying to establish a base level competency. So I’m curious, I’m curious to see how this goes. Look, you know the teams that they’re going to play. I could talk about the schedule till I’m blue in the face, but what it comes down to can Kansas when more than two games? Can Kansas win more than two games? You know, there’s no deep schedule analysis required. For what it’s worth, Vegas has this exact same question. Their over under is two and a half so we’ll see. We’ve had people write in on our Verballer discord on our Patreon as a whole people have emailed in saying that Kansas over two and a half is a lock.

Dan Rubenstein
Sure.

Ty Hildenbrandt
I think it’s an interesting play, frankly. I don’t know if I’d want to put a whole lot of money behind that but Kansas definitely has an opportunity looking at this schedule. And again, I’m not gonna go too deep into it, but I could see a path to three wins.

Dan Rubenstein
The path to three!

Ty Hildenbrandt
The drive to three, I could see

Dan Rubenstein
Yeah, you know, what they feel is needed with their team with what they did in the portal. They went aggressively after guys that can fill out the secondary, they rounded out the running back room as well as they could. And I think we’re gonna see again that floor get raised, be it slightly be it noticeably whatever. It’s a good thing. I think it’s a good thing that they hired a real coach who was not just wanting to be a coach, again, like Les Miles was and that was just a nightmare. And you know, the guys that are on the come down, whether it as an athletic director or as a head coach, they don’t need Lance Leipold is ascending in this sport. And I think he’s gonna do a great job. And it’s, yeah, it’s the the old Seinfeld. It’s not just taking the reservation. It’s keeping the reservation. Not just getting the players. It’s getting them to play in an interesting way. And that’s where I think Lance Leipold in the staff will succeed. \

Ty Hildenbrandt
Any other closing thoughts on the Dan Rubenstein, half of the big 12. Before we move on.

Dan Rubenstein
Yeah, I haven’t talked about some of the other games for Kansas specifically, the Oklahoma State game that they have in Lawrence is after their own bye and after Oklahoma State has Kansas State also on the road. So two straight road games for Oklahoma State, that’s just pointing it out. West Virginia hosting Kansas State in a sandwich of their own and after a rough stretch for Kansas State. So it’s just who even knows what’s going to happen with that. Also, I have Oklahoma as a West Virginia interesting game because it’s Oklahoma’s game after Baylor before Bedlam. They get West Virginia in that letdown look ahead spot. So that’s another interesting one for Oklahoma. Can’t wait. It’s going to be fascinating to watch the characters you need to know from this particular film we’re about to watch of the of the 2022 season. I mean, look, we’ve mentioned a lot of the quarterbacks, I would add in. I mentioned King Felix. Daniel Green behind him is great for Kansas State. And then West Virginia. I just it’s everybody. It’s kind of Graham Harrell, to me is the interesting one. Because can he do better than he did at USC with many more advantages at quarterback, offensive line, running back, wide receiver with guys who have probably been underperforming given coaching and quarterback play? Graham Harrell is actually the interesting one for West Virginia for me. So most of my thoughts, Ty.

Ty Hildenbrandt
All right, well, please do write and let us know your thoughts on the Big 12 as we try to cover in as broad a brush as possible, what you need to know about the Big 12 conference and it’s rough comparison here. I guess to Step Brothers with odd pairings.

Sound Clip
You and your mom are hillbillies. This is a house of learned doctors.

Ty Hildenbrandt
Learned doctors, thank you. John C. Reilly. Not the only teams, though, that we want to discuss today

Dan Rubenstein
Go Ducks?

Ty Hildenbrandt
Dan, let’s talk about some Conference USA teams and let’s talk about Conference USA on the whole if we could. Conference USA isn’t a very odd spot. Very odd spot going into this season being so they lost a bunch of teams. They got rid of divisions. It’s a conference very much in transition to some extent. And so it struck me looking at UAB, at Western Kentucky, FAU, Charlotte and Middle Tennessee, the teams that I’ve got in front of me right now. It struck me as these are teams that have clearly been left behind. These are teams that have been in a weird way, sort of “sportsmandered,” if you want to invent a new phrase, because they’re sort of like, the misfits, the forgotten teams that weren’t part of an exciting move to another conference. And so there’s definitely, I think, some camaraderie among these teams, among each other and within themselves to try and elevate the status of Conference USA, elevate the status of their respective programs. But also, if you look at the stats, Dan, we’re not dealing with top flight talent here. We’re just not. We’re just not dealing with top flight talent. And so it is going to be an exercise this year. For these Conference USA teams, for a variety of Conference USA teams, to make the most of it and do the best you can. Doesn’t mean it won’t be fun football to watch, doesn’t mean we won’t cover it here on the show. But I got to believe that they’re feeling a little bit of a stomach punch, just with how the conference has changed so quickly.

Dan Rubenstein
I was hoping in the way that you describe this, that you’re going to have a clip from the Toy Story misfit toys that are

Ty Hildenbrandt
I Googled about misfits because I was thinking along the same lines!

Dan Rubenstein
There is, man, it feels… I feel better about doing it as it relates to coaches rather than just guys who have transferred in like now speaking down about N’Kosi Perry and Jarrett Doege or whoever. But Chad Lunsford, Tyson Summers! It’s it’s all hap… Todd Orlando! It’s all back. What’s old is new. So, man, I’m sure you have thoughts on this. But there is a very specific strategy that I think these teams are employing, or some of these teams are employing in this part of the Conference USA, whatever’s left remainder that it’s tough. I want you to find some silver lining, Ty

Ty Hildenbrandt
Well, the silver lining is that there are still plenty of interesting talking points within this conference and interesting characters. I, for one, most interested in Charlotte, okay. It is not because I expect Charlotte to suddenly ascend and win Conference USA. I don’t I actually think there’ll be lower half of the conference this year. But that being said, I like their quarterback Chris Reynolds. And I like the tandem of him and Shadrick Byrd in the backfield. They lead an offensive brings back eight starters. The defense was just so bad last season, especially at stopping the pass. I think because of that they’re probably limited in terms of how much they can grow on that side of the football I like Will Healy, I liked Will Healy a couple of years ago, more than I like him now. But I do think at least the offense is going to be fun to watch. And I think Chris Reynolds is pretty good. So there’s your silver lining, don’t count Charlotte’s offense out, you will be able to score on them. I like their uniforms too. Let’s be real.

Dan Rubenstein
I would just gonna say, yeah, you can say that about a lot of the bottom of the conference that there’s just

Ty Hildenbrandt
That’s not that’s not necessarily the most insightful thing. But I think as we tend to think of things in terms of like half teams, I think Charlotte on the Conference USA side is definitely one of those schools that fits that category pretty well. The offense should be good defense, maybe not so much.

Dan Rubenstein
Okay, who else do you have? Give me some more silver linings as you know the drive to six as the sort of ubiquitous or omnipotent driving theme of your Mighty Ducks comparison.

Ty Hildenbrandt
The silver lining with UAB…

Dan Rubenstein
Is that they’re a full on good team and program?

Ty Hildenbrandt
The silver lining with UAB is that they’re a good program. They’re a good program that Bill Clark rebuilt from the studs, literally from the studs when this program was not a program. He’s been there in some capacity since 2014. But continuously from 2017 until a couple of weeks ago when he decided to retire because of chronic back issues. Poor guy needs spinal fusion with sucks. Sucks. Turning it over in the interim to Bryant Vincent. Bryant Vincent was endorsed by Bill Clark for the job. They’re gonna give him a one year audition. So he is an interesting character to follow on a number of different levels. If Bill Clark were there, just doing his thing, I think far and away UAB would be the odds-on favorite to win this conference. They are very good. It’s a good team, top 40 caliber team last season, a lot back on offense. Some questions about the defensive front, but all told, probably the best team in conference. Bryant Vincent is a very interesting character in the story. How does he assemble those pieces? To what end can he keep the train going in Birmingham and keep that program on the rails? I think because of the returning production on offense, I still like UAB a great deal. Now, if you’re a Western Kentucky fan, if you’re a Charlotte fan, if you’re a fan of another one of these programs in Conference USA, suddenly, maybe it’s not as out of reach as it seemed before? If that makes sense. I’m really struggling here, but I’m doing the best I can to sell you on it.

Dan Rubenstein
You’re not buying the return of Mike McIntyre to the head coaching world? And Tyrese Chambers, who’s actually really good for FIU. But yeah, they’re not going to be good. Okay, that’s reasonable. Yeah, there’s, there’s nothing obvious to Conference USA at this point.

Ty Hildenbrandt
No, there’s nothing obvious. And that’s that that kind of feeds into the whole misfits theme, you know, if you pull anything away from this style of preview: odd pairings on the Big 12 side, at least on your side of the Big 12. And kind of a collection of misfits in a sense, and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way at all. But that’s just kind of the hand that many of these teams have been dealt. That’s what maybe you should take away from Conference USA.

Dan Rubenstein
There is one bit of continuity right as Bill Clark retires for health reasons as nobody can get it working at FIU ever, because it’s a kind of a disastrous administration, with Western Kentucky bringing in and then I’m sure you have WKU thoughts bringing in a very successful offense. And then of course, the successful offense moving on. Rick Stockstill, you can set your watch, to Ricky Stocks at Middle Tennessee. And so that’s at least a silver lining, of the continuity of the, you know, the comeback last year and making a bowl game, winning a bowl game. I mean, there is a little bit of interesting continuity there.

Ty Hildenbrandt
Yeah, I mean, it talks about Rick Stockstill and Middle Tennessee. They’ve got good skilled talent, but they only have one offensive lineman back. And that’s in part due to a lot of guys transferring out, they really got hit hard by the portal. And so that makes them interesting, right? Like, how is all that going to fit together? The defense last year was actually quite good. It was very, like kind of like anonymous to college football fans across the board. Because Middle Tennessee is not exactly a name brand program that people are going to talk about on Sunday mornings and react to kind of in the national sphere the way we do, but they should be solid again this year, there is some turnover. But I think they’re going to be really good, especially in the trenches, Jordan Ferguson is their big name to know, along the defensive line, he’s very good. And so I think he will help give them that pop up front. The end of September through October is going to define the season, I am optimistic about the defense. And I’m optimistic that they can assemble the pieces on offense and figure out some combination for that line to give that skill talent chance to shine. If they can’t, then it’s going to be a problem. But I guess the silver lining for Middle Tennessee is that there aren’t a whole lot of shutdown defenses in the conference. So if it takes ya a little bit to figure out that line, probably still be okay.

Dan Rubenstein
So another thing of interest about Middle Tennessee and I’m sure this won’t come true this year. But the No. 3 program in terms of how cleanly they covered games last year, by an average of 7.9 points covering. Now there were only 53% winning against the spread. I mean, they they won 53% their games against spread. But in terms of the ease of cover, interesting, they lead the FBS, I think in total takeaways on defense? So opportunistic defense, that’s probably going to come back to Earth. My very entry level high school statistics tells me that there is a regression with something as random as turnovers can be. But you’re not wrong. You’re not wrong, that this is sort of always going to be a moderately successful program because of the continuity of having, I don’t think his kid is still playing quarterback, but Rick Stockstill still there.

Ty Hildenbrandt
Rick Stockstill is still there. And look, there have been some folks who are running out of patience with Rick Stockstill. It was better in the past with Middle Tennessee football. Remains to be seen if he can kind of turn this thing fully around and get it back to where they once were. But we’ll see. We’ll see, he’s got skill talent.

Dan Rubenstein
Bowl teams, bowl teams are fun.

Ty Hildenbrandt
Bowl teams are fun. The last one that I’ve got here in front of me, and again, there will be a part two for Big 12 and Conference USA is Western Kentucky. Western Kentucky was one of the most interesting stories last year and I think to some extent they will be equally as, maybe not equally, but close to equally as interesting this year. The story for them last year is that they went out and basically got Houston Baptist to transfer in. Right?

Dan Rubenstein
We dedicated a show to their quarterback!

Ty Hildenbrandt
We dedicated a show to Bailey Zappe, who went on to be drafted by New England Patriots. Set a bunch of FBS records, had a great season under the Zach Kittley offense. But the way it worked last year is they’re looking for a new offensive coordinator. They hired Zach Kittley. Because Zach Kittley came Zach Kittley brought a bunch of guys with him from Houston Baptist, and the offense popped. This was a top 25 caliber team. This was a top five caliber offense are very, very good score a lot of points. Were a lot of fun to watch. I mentioned Bailey Zappe. He played his way into the NFL, threw 62 touchdowns. Completed about 70% of his passes and threw 62 touchdowns, which is ridiculous. Zach Kittley is gone now. He went to Texas Tech is going to take some of that flair down to Lubbock. But again, there has definitely been this propensity to go out there and recruit the portal hard. This is turning into a bit of a trend with Western Kentucky, so a lot of turnover, but they hit the portal hard. The new quarterback is Jared Doege. You remember him, right? We talked about him earlier!

Dan Rubenstein
Bowling Green, West Virginia…

Ty Hildenbrandt
He was at West Virginia last season. Threw something like 19 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. He’s not super effective at quarterback, let’s be real. But Jared Doege is going to be the new quarterback. I think the most interesting thing about Western, I don’t expect at all that they’re going to have the same level of production as they did a year ago. I do think there is at least a blueprint here, though, for a program that went out. That brought in pieces that it thought could be successful, assembled them on short notice and had a really good season last year. This is a good team. So I think they’ve proven that they can do it. Probably won’t get to nine wins again, like they did a year ago. But I think this is still a bowl team. I think this is going to be an interesting school to follow through the early part of the season, especially just as they’re assembling the pieces as we’re getting to know the new names in this new incarnation of the program.

Dan Rubenstein
I hope so. I hope so. I have my questions just because that defense was quietly pretty rough and they needed all 62 of those touchdowns from Bally Zappe. So they were winning a bunch of shootouts last year. I just, I don’t know if they’re the firepower. I mean, it’s not even just Bailey Zappe. It was what Jerreth Sterns was the guy who popped on like a big kind of national level last year, I think, I don’t know if he was drafted, but he’s in an NFL camp, I think at this point. There’s just, you know, they needed all of that firepower. And if the offense is merely pretty good. They’re, they’re going to be fighting for bowl eligibility.

Ty Hildenbrandt
Yeah. And by the way, they also lost Mitchell Tinsley who transferred up to Penn State. I talked a lot about him all spring. I really like what he brings to the Nittany Lions. So just a lot of turnover here. That’s really the theme for Western. We’ll see what they can do. Vegas isn’t all that spooked. Frankly, Vegas is at eight to half with Western Kentucky, which feels aggressive to me that feels high. So I probably be inclined to bet under. The big games that you need to know about. October 8, we’ve got Western Kentucky at UTSA. UTSA we’ll preview on the next episode, UAB at Western Kentucky, October 21. And then November 5, that first week in November, when things really start to heat up. We’ve got UTSA against UAB. UTSA should be pretty good. Again, next episode, we’ll talk more about them but UTSA versus UAB. I think it’s going to be the big one that ultimately decides Conference USA.

Dan Rubenstein
All right. Cool. I appreciate all the silver linings.

Ty Hildenbrandt
Thank you one. Thank you all for downloading for listening to Big 12 Conference USA preview part one, we will be back. Next time we’ll talk about Texas schools and Iowa State. We’ll also talk about any schools that we missed on the Conference USA side. And we will do our best to frame it in terms of a movie that makes it easy for you to understand and relate to your friends who are asking you questions I’m sure at the watercooler about the Big 12. Who among us hasn’t? Don’t forget to hit that subscribe button. If you liked the show. Check us out on our Patreon at Verballers.com. And last, but certainly not least, follow along on social media. Go on out to SolidVerbalLive.com if you’d like to see us live in living color! Four shows coming your way over the span of the next half year or so. For that guy over there, my good friend Dan Rubenstein, for myself Ty Hildenbrandt. Thanks so much for downloading, listening and playing along at home. We’ll talk to you all very soon. In the meantime, stay solid!

Dan Rubenstein
Peace!

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