1. Why hasn't the Big XII changed its name?
On July 1, the Big XII announced a rebranding of the conference logo and the conference website. See if you can pick out the humor in this sentence from the press release discussing some of the new changes.
"A re-designed website at Big12Sports.com has also debuted, containing information on each of the league’s 10 member institutions"
So why keep the name Big XII for a ten team league? If you want a ten team league, that's fine. But, why keep the name Big XII and revamp the logo? I understand the Big Ten (which has 12 members) has not changed its conference name, but they at least had the sense to take the Ten out of their official logo. Just because the Big XII conference includes Oklahoma State as a member doesn't mean it has to employ their hillbilly sensibility.
If the Big XII still plans to expand they aren't in any hurry. Adding BYU and another school would be easy and make the conference moniker apropos. If they are truly happy with the ten team set up, then they should change the name. It's ludicrous. With the new four team playoff system, I like not having a conference championship game. While the rest of major conferences will have to play 15 games to win it all,
By the way, the correct way to refer to the Big XII in print is actually, the Big 12 Conference, despite the use of Roman numerals in the new and old logo. That's not confusing or idiotic at all. I will admit the color choice for the logo is top notch though.
2. Who will be included in the inaugural four team playoff?
Road games against TCU and Tulsa might be overlooked by fans, but have the potential to be very difficult. Phil Steele has TCU pegged as the most improved team in the country, while Tulsa is also improved and will bring much more motivation than the Goliath Sooners in their home stadium.
It still feels like a bizarro world when you have to consider Baylor to be the Sooners biggest challenge on the schedule. Baylor will most likely start the season ranked higher and will once again lead the NCAA in offense. The fact that they play in Norman is the reason the Sooners should beat out Baylor for the conference championship. A single loss for any Big XII team will eliminate them from playoff consideration, so OU will have to go undefeated to win the national championship.
3. Will a four team playoff satisfy college football fans?
It better, because it's not changing for 12 years. There is no perfect system, and a four team playoff certainly isn't perfect. Teams that finish 5-8 in the voting will be upset that they weren't included in the final four, while others will feel four teams simply isn't enough. It was always funny to me how much people hated the BCS. I think when we get to the end of the season there will be several fan bases that miss it.
I am already dreading the conspiracy conversations that come with getting snubbed from a panel of humans that inevitably will be swayed by biases. At least with the BCS, there was no one to get mad at. This year, Condoleezza Rice might become the most hated person in the South. For Oklahoma fans, the computers were very kind. Under Stoops, the Sooners had a history of playing a strong non-conference schedule and the computers always rewarded Oklahoma. A panel of humans will not place as much weight on margin of victory, which is a good thing, but there will be problems we can't even think of until the time to vote comes up.
4. What should Oklahoma fans be worried about entering the 2014 season?
One of the best parts of being a Sooners fan since Stoops took over is the frequency in which the Sooners have national championship aspirations before the season starts. Stoops is entering his 16th season and this will be the eighth time the Sooners are considered title contenders. As a fan, you really can't ask for more than that. But we do. Sooners fans are some of the most impatient and cantankerous fans in the country. Somehow we feel like we deserve a winner. We pack the stadium full of nearly 90,000 fans, then sit on our hands unless the Sooners are dominating. We go to the game waiting to be entertained rather than cheering as a weapon. We have called for Bob Stoops' job when we don't win a conference championship two straight seasons. There is truly no pleasing us short of a championship. It is the reason I can't talk to half of my friends or family during the season. The Sooners appear to have their most complete team since 2010. So what are we going to get worked up about this season?
- Josh Heupel: Before the reemergence of Trevor Knight, he captained some of the most frustrating offenses under Bob Stoops. They have been absolutely loaded on offense and it seemed he never played to the team's strengths. It's things like the Belldozer that drive me crazy. I absolutely loathed it and we saw its flaws clearly last season. Shuffling units on and off the field played a major role in the beat down by Baylor last season. Heupel has also wasted the careers of several talented running backs by being completely inflexible on how he calls plays. He quarterbacked under Mike Leach and brings that same mentality to the offense despite having incredible runners every year. This season, he once again has access to four highly touted running backs and a veteran offensive line. Refusal to run the ball and control the clock will be extremely frustrating. With a mobile quarterback added to the mix, the Sooners should average 250 yards on the ground, setting up the pass, and not the other way around. The first time Heupel decides to pass on 2nd and 5 or 3rd and 1 will remind fans of past annoyances.
- Trevor Knight: The overreaction to the sophomore quarterback began the moment he led the Sooners to a victory against Alabama. He was amazing. Sooners fans had hope, but not a single person outside of his parents could have imagined how well he played in the Sugar Bowl. There was nothing to indicate he had that type of game in him. To expect him to be that guy week in and week out this season is asinine. He is a sophomore. He will struggle and he will make mistakes. It's easy to forget that he lost his job to Blake Bell last season, and that he was injured on two occasions which kept him out of action. Knight's progression was obvious in the second half of the season and he really showed his potential against Kansas State. But, it was still Bell who had to save the day against Oklahoma State after Knight was knocked out of the game. Bell saved the season on more than one occasion, and he will not be there to back up Knight this season. If Knight has similar injury issues, his absence could be the difference between a playoff appearance and an Insight.com bowl appearance.
- Conference Bias: Like it or not, the Big XII has been relegated to the fourth out of five conferences in the "power five." It seems a little unfair considering Baylor will be the best offensive team in the country, Texas still has as much talent as anyone, TCU will be healthy and ready to resume their winning ways, Oklahoma State has been consistently tough, Texas Tech is coming off a nice season and bowl win, and Kansas State is back to winning under Bill Snyder. Regardless of what seems like seven tough teams (discounting West Virginia who has a solid history) out of ten, the Big XII just doesn't carry the same respect that it once did. Oklahoma and Baylor are thought to be the only good teams in the conference which will definitely hurt public perception and might influence their spot in a four team playoff. Losing one game will eliminate any chance of a Big XII team to make the final four. Oklahoma will have to win impressively to keep the voters on their side. Squeaking by will not be an option. Fans should get ready to listen to prognosticators denigrating the conference and subsequent Sooners resume.
5. How do you feel about the new alternate uniforms?
Luckily, Oklahoma has not gone the way of Oregon or Oklahoma State with 10,000 combinations. For the Sooners, it's only two games a year and this season they have gone pretty unique with wood grain helmets and jerseys that highlight past achievements. The most prominent being "47 Straight" written across the neckline. The uniforms also come along with a built in twitter tagline #BRINGTHEWOOD.