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AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 4: Republican candidate for governor, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott speaks to the press after voting in the Texas primary at Western Hills Church of Christ on March 4, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Abbott is planning to make stops in Houston and Dallas for get out-the-vote rallies ahead of the elections. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
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Texas governor, lieutenant governor, UT president tweet support for Houston in Big 12 expansion

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Legend has it, Baylor would not be in the Big 12 had it not been for former Texas governor Ann Richards.

As the story goes, the old Big 8 was set to add Texas and Texas A&M and become The Big 10 But Not That Big Ten. The name needed some work. But realignment drama reached the Texas capitol, and Richards, a Baylor graduate, and Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock, a Texas Tech graduate, forced their schools’ way in as well.

History, as we know, has a way of repeating itself, as current Texas governor Greg Abbott is now throwing his political weight behind Houston’s inclusion into the Big 12.

Abbott is a Texas graduate but lived and worked in Houston previously. And it’s, of course, the public university of the largest city in the state he governs.

How much Abbott’s support for the Coogs matters in the end remains to be seen, but his support marries that of Big 12 coaches’ in favor of Houston. For starters, the climate is different in Texas now than it was in the mid-90’s. Texas A&M already left for the SEC, and two of the four Lone Star squads in the Big 12 are privates.

Of course, there’s a chance Abbott’s support could be a massive jinx for Houston. Someone in the governor’s office famously tweeted congratulations to the Houston Astros for defeating the Kansas City Royals in last year’s American League Division Series only to see the Royals rally to defeat the Astros and win the World Series.

Update: Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick and University of Texas president Greg Fenves have also posted statements of support for Houston today.

It’s a go: Big 12 to pursue expansion

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 25:  The Big XII logo on a pylon at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 25, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Presidents of American Athletic Conference and Mountain West schools, grab your phones. You’ve got some calls to make.

After a seemingly endless string of “will they or won’t they?” stories, brought on by the league itself, the Big 12 announced following a Board of Directors meeting Tuesday afternoon it has authorized commissioner Bob Bowlsby to pursue expansion candidates.

Not a lot of details are ironed out as of yet — this wouldn’t be the Big 12 if they were — but the concept is a go.

Oklahoma president and board chair David Boren said the Big 12 could become 12 again or balloon all the way up to 14.

While no one’s coming out and saying it now, the top candidates for expansion figure to be Cincinnati, Memphis, Connecticut, Houston, South and/or Central Florida, BYU and Colorado State in some order.

One thing that differentiates the Big 12 from others: Bowlsby has used the term “negotiate” when discussing the expansion process. With more interested parties than spots to give, the Big 12 can afford to be selective.

While no one attached firm dates to anything, the implication Tuesday was that this would be taken care of sooner rather than later.

One thing is certain: this is the Big 12 we’re talking about. No amount of craziness is off the table here.

 

2015 finalists Leonard Fournette, Christian McAffrey part of Walker Award watch list

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 07:  Leonard Fournette #7 of the LSU Tigers runs the ball against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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With 2015 winner Derrick Henry of Alabama off to the NFL, there will be a new winner of the Doak Walker Award in 2016.  Based on the projected performances of a couple of other finalists from a year ago, this year’s winner could very well come from the group below.

Thursday, the PwC SMU Athletic Forum announced a watch list that contains a whopping 76 players.  The Walker Award has ben handed out annually since 1990 to the nation’s top running back and is named in honor of former SMU great Doak Walker.

Two finalists for last year’s award have made the cut this preseason — LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey.

The SEC led all conferences with 13 watch listers, followed by the Big 12 (9), Big 12 (9), Pac-12 (9), ACC (8), Mountain West (6), Sun Belt (6), MAC (5), Conference USA (4) and AAC (3).  There were also four from independents (BYU, Notre Dame).

Those two independents were two of the 13 schools with two running backs listed, the others being Alabama, Arkansas, Baylor, Cal, Duke, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, USC, Western Kentucky and Western Michigan.

Below is the complete 2016 Doak Walker Award preseason watch list:

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2015 winner Deshaun Watson one of 30 O’Brien Award watch listers

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 24:  Deshaun Watson #4 of the Clemson Tigers passes during a game against the Miami Hurricanes at Sun Life Stadium on October 24, 2015 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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The 2016 Davey O’Brien Award preseason watch list has a decidedly 2015 feel to it.

Included in the group of 30 watch listers is Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, the 2015 winner of the award handed out annually to the nation’s top quarterback.  Watson, a junior, is attempting to become only the second player ever, joining Oklahoma’s Jason White, to win the O’Brien twice.

Additionally, a finalist for the 2015 award, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, is included, as are three other semifinalists from a year ago — Luke Falk (Washington State), Pat Mahomes (Texas Tech), Josh Rosen (UCLA), Seth Russell (Baylor) and Greg Ward Jr. (Houston).  Finally, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, a semifinalist for the 2014 award, is back as a quarterback to watch.

With five nominees each, the Big 12 and Big Ten lead all conferences, followed by the Pac-12 and AAC with four apiece.

Almost half of the watch listers are seniors, with juniors contributing another 11.  That leaves five sophomores among the 30 — Rosen, Washington’s Jake Browning, BYU’s Tanner Mangum, Boise State’s Brett Rypien and Middle Tennessee State’s Brent Stockstill.

Below is the complete 2016 Davey O’Brien Award preseason watch list:

Tommy Armstrong Jr. (Nebraska, Sr., Cibolo, Texas)
J.T. Barrett (Ohio State, Jr., Wichita Falls, Texas)
C.J. Beathard (Iowa, Sr., Franklin, Tenn.)
Jake Browning (Washington, So., Granite Bay, Calif.)
Joshua Dobbs (Tennessee, Sr., Alpharetta, Ga.)
Dane Evans (Tulsa, Sr., Sanger, Texas)
Luke Falk (Washington State, Jr., Logan, Utah)
Quinton Flowers (USF, Jr., Miami, Fla.)
Skyler Howard (West Virginia, Sr., Fort Worth, Texas)
Brad Kaaya (Miami, Jr., Los Angeles, Calif.)
Chad Kelly (Ole Miss, Sr., Buffalo, N.Y.)
DeShone Kizer* (Notre Dame, Jr., Toledo, Ohio)
Taylor Lamb (Appalachian State, Jr., Calhoun, Ga.)
Mitch Leidner (Minnesota, Sr., Lakeville, Minn.)
Wes Lunt (Illinois, Sr., Rochester, Ill.)
Patrick Mahomes II (Texas Tech, Jr., Whitehouse, Texas)
Tanner Mangum* (BYU, So., Eagle, Idaho)
Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma, Jr., Austin, Texas)
Nick Mullens (Southern Miss, Sr., Hoover, Ala.)
Josh Rosen (UCLA, So., Manhattan Beach, Calif.)
Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State, Jr., Rock Hill, S.C.)
Cooper Rush (Central Michigan, Sr., Charlotte, Mich.)
Seth Russell (Baylor, Sr., Garland, Texas)
Brett Rypien (Boise State, So., Spokane, Wash.)
Anu Solomon (Arizona, Jr., Las Vegas, Nev.)
Brent Stockstill (Middle Tennessee, So., Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
Zach Terrell (Western Michigan, Sr., Fort Wayne, Ind.)
Phillip Walker (Temple, Sr., Elizabeth, N.J.)
Greg Ward Jr. (Houston, Sr., Tyler, Texas)
Deshaun Watson (Clemson, Jr., Gainesville, Ga.)

Oklahoma the media’s overwhelming Big 12 favorite

NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 22:  The Oklahoma Sooners gather on the field before the game against the Kansas Jayhawks November 22, 2014 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. The Sooners defeated the Jayhawks 44-7.  (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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As far as the media is concerned, the Big 12 football season will be a one-team race.

In voting released by the conference Thursday, Oklahoma is the overwhelming favorite to win the league championship this coming season.  In fact, OU received 24 of the 26 first-place votes in the media poll, with the other two going to TCU.

It’s at this point in the program where I note that, this time last year, the media had TCU as the overwhelming favorite (32 first-place votes) while OU (zero first-place votes) was picked to finish third.  The Sooners, of course, won the Big 12 and reached the College Football Playoffs, while the Horned Frogs finished tied with Oklahoma State right behind OU.  Baylor, picked second last year and on the receiving end of 10 first-place votes, finished fourth.

Scandal-plagued BU, incidentally, is picked fourth this year — one spot ahead of Texas.

At the opposite end of this year’s poll spectrum is Kansas, which is a near-unanimous selection to finish at the bottom of the league.  The Jayhawks, an astounding 4-57 in Big 12 play since the beginning of the 2009 season, were picked to finish 10th in the 10-team league by 25 writers, ninth by one of the more optimistic media types.

2016 BIG 12 FOOTBALL MEDIA PRESEASON POLL
1. Oklahoma (24) 258
2. TCU (2) 222
3. Oklahoma State 202
4. Baylor 156
5. Texas 151
6. Texas Tech 141
7. West Virginia 126
8. Kansas State 88
9. Iowa State 59
10. Kansas 27