West Virginia Mountaineers

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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It’s a go: Big 12 to pursue expansion

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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.

 

Dana Holgorsen stumps for Big 12 expansion

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 02:  Head coach Dana Holgorsen of the West Virginia Mountaineers watches from the sidelines during the game against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium on November 2, 2013 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Big 12 expansion, The Topic That Refuses To Die, could meet its final blow later today when the Big 12’s Board of Directors meets in Dallas. Or it could be ignored entirely for the more pressing matter in Waco.

Either way, most of the conference seems to have moved on. Most except West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen.

When asked about the topic Tuesday at Big 12 media days, Hologrsen said he favored the conference growing by two.

“I’m in favor of expansion. I’m on the side of my boss President Gee who is in favor of expansion as well. So, you know, who, that’s not for me to say. There’s a lot of things that go into it that I don’t have the knowledge to be able to discuss,” he said. “I would like to see two teams added. I would like a good, round number of 12. I was in the Big 12 for a long time and we had 12. It makes those divisional breakups easier and it makes trying to get a championship together a little easier as well.”

It’s certainly not a radical position to prefer the Big 12 consist of, you know, 12 teams. And it’s also understandable that West Virginia would like to see some new blood join the league, specifically new blood located closer to Morgantown.

It appears unlikely at this juncture, though, that Holgorsen and Gee’s wishes will be granted.

And, really, Holgorsen’s answer highlights the ridiculous nature of Big 12 expansion in the first place. The topic was everywhere this summer. Expansion seemed to be imminent. And now, just a few summer weeks later, Holgorsen receives the only question of the day about it.

Stedman Bailey headed back to West Virginia as student assistant coach

MORGANTOWN, WV - SEPTEMBER 29:  Stedman Bailey #3 of the West Virginia Mountaineers carries the ball on a kick off against the Baylor Bears during the game on September 29, 2012 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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One of the all-time greats in West Virginia University history is headed back home to God’s Country.

WVU announced in a press release Sunday that Stedman Bailey will join Dana Holgorsen‘s staff as a student assistant coach.   Bailey will enroll full-time at WVU to complete his bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies, an enrollment that will allow him to serve in this new capacity.

In November of last year, Bailey was shot twice in the head while he was sitting in his car with his family in Miami.  The Los Angeles Rams, who made Bailey a third-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft, waived the wide receiver with a non-football injury designation last month, although Bailey still hopes to resume his playing career at some point.

“I know Stedman is very disappointed that he isn’t able to play football at this time. However, I am glad that he is going to turn an unfortunate situation into a positive one by coming back to WVU as a student assistant coach and more importantly finishing his degree,” Holgorsen said in a statement. “He was an important part of our football program as a player, and I look forward to him being with us once again. Like we say here – once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer.”

“First of all, I would like to thank the Los Angeles Rams organization, my teammates, coach Jeff Fisher, general manager Les Snead and the ownership for the way they have taken care of me and my family since they drafted me. They’re a first-class organization and made me feel like part of the family, especially during the past few months, which have been a tough time,” Bailey said in his statement.

“Moving forward, I would like to thank West Virginia University, especially coach Dana Holgorsen and athletic director Shane Lyons for making this opportunity available. Even though my playing career isn’t over yet, this gives me more time to heal so I can make a return. However, It is important to me to finish my degree. I loved my time as a Mountaineer football player and I look forward to working with coach Holgorsen and the Mountaineer football program.”

Bailey started 34 games in his WVU career, and his 41 receiving touchdowns are the most in school history.  He also holds the record for most 100-yard receiving games, while his 3,218 receiving yards are the second-most in school history. As a junior, he finished with a school-record tying 114 catches for a school-record 1,622 yards and 25 touchdowns. The receiving touchdowns tied for the second-most all-time in a season nationally.

In two-plus seasons with the Rams, he has caught 59 passes for 843 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

“We couldn’t be happier for Stedman and this opportunity he has to complete his degree and join West Virginia’s coaching staff,” Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said. “His presence during our offseason program meant a great deal to his teammates, and his mentorship was invaluable to our young rookies. Stedman’s ability to teach, and his remarkable drive and determination will serve him well at West Virginia, and we wish him and his family the best as they step into the next chapter of their lives.”

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