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Questioning the Big 12 and examining its top players

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The views from here:
  • The Big 12, home of West Virginia University's athletic teams, continues to stand pat while realignment continues to swirl.
  • These days, even the big boys are poaching from the big boys. (See the Big Ten swiping Maryland from the ACC.) The Big East continues to be the minor league system that grooms schools for The Show. (See Louisville to the ACC as the latest example.)It must make one wonder if the Big 12 is smart here. Louisville was the last remaining attractive candidate without a strong affiliation. Did the Big 12 goof by choosing not to grow beyond 10?My reply: perhaps. It goes without saying the Big 12 will certainly be the smallest power conference. Someday that will hurt in regard to perception.In reality, though, the Big 12 has a nice setup. All 10 schools are locked in for 13 more years because, buyouts be damned, they've signed over their television rights to the league for that span.Even in regard to money, the Big 12 schools are set. They're making $20 million each now, with $30 to $40 million in sight. The national football playoffs and bowl agreement with the SEC are dead ahead.Still, a quote from "Dirty Harry" keeps coming to mind. The one in which Callahan, holding a .44 Magnum, says, "You've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky?"Perhaps Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is making the right call. Perhaps the league will stay intact and strong not only for 13 years but beyond. It's nice that all teams play each other once a year in football and twice a season in basketball. You have nice, tidy champions.But I've seen and covered expansion. I've seen and covered the implosion of the Big East. At one time that was a sweet, compact conference with a gem in Miami at the top - sort of like this Big 12 with Texas at the top.The gut feeling from here - as well as history - says there is strength in numbers. If Big 12 school administrators become disgruntled, or if they are courted, or if they are offered sweeter deals, lawyers are always standing by 24-7.If nothing else, we've learned that in these parts.
  • While on the subject of conferences and money, word from Morgantown is an agreement between WVU and a media company for the third-tier athletic rights is "close to being finalized."
  • If WVU's football team defeats Kansas and isn't selected by the Holiday Bowl representatives, I'll be shocked.
  • Here's the deal: The bowl can have the potential No. 1 NFL draft pick in Geno Smith. It can have perhaps the nation's and, certainly, the Big 12's most explosive player in Tavon Austin. It adds up to very nice television ratings.And the Holiday can pass on that?
  • And finally . . .
  • I did my homework in order to vote for the Associated Press All-Big 12 football team.The choice for coach of the year is a slam-dunk. Dust off a shelf in your trophy case, Bill Snyder of Kansas State.As for the defensive player of the year, there are a few choices. Iowa State's A.J. Klein had a terrific season. Ditto Kansas State lineman Meshak Williams.
    But my vote is headed to TCU defensive end Devonte Fields, who was first in the league in sacks (nine) and tackles for loss (17.5).As for the offensive player of the year, there are but two choices. Neither of those choices is named Collin Klein, pumped by your Internet and local World Wide Leader of Sports as one of the top five Heisman Trophy candidates.My vote is headed to Austin, who is No. 2 nationally in all-purpose yards, averaging 233.9. He's No. 1 nationally in receptions per game (9.64), No. 8 in receiving yards per game (104.5) and No. 13 in total receiving yards. On top of that, well, he's a blast to watch.The other Big 12 offensive candidate? Baylor's Nick Florence.Klein, the gutsy quarterback from Kansas State, is fifth in the Big 12 in total offense, sixth in passing offense and fourth in passing efficiency. Compare that to WVU's Smith, who is No. 2 in total offense, No. 4 in passing offense and No. 1 in passing efficiency.Neither, however, compare to Florence, who is No. 1 in total offense, No. 1 in passing offense and No. 2 in passing efficiency.Austin, though, has made the most impact and splash.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, or follow him at             
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