Mailbag: Who maks biggest 2014 leap?

In Friday's mailbag, we discuss West Virginia rivalries, Jarrett Stidham 's recruiting stock and the team poised to take a step forward in 2014.

To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. To do it the traditional way, go here.

Now, to the 'bag ...

John in Industry, Pa., writes: Jake, with West Virginia joining the conference, who has started to become their new rival? It looks like Texas because of WVU wearing the gold-rush jerseys when they play at home. But I'm wondering if there is a rival brewing between WVU and Oklahoma dating all the way back to when WVU crushed Oklahoma in Fiesta Bowl back in 08'. Just wondering who's replacing Pitt in this conference?

Trotter: John, the sad part is, I don’t think anyone will be replacing Pitt as West Virginia’s primary rival. OU and Texas already have their big rivalry games, and West Virginia isn’t going to supplant that overnight. Rome wasn’t built in a day; rivalries aren’t either.

Jace in Dallas writes: Jake, I am not the conspiracy theory type. That being said, what is the deal with ESPN devaluing Jarrett Stidham after he committed with Tech? He was the No. 1 dual-threat QB, then he signs with Tech and drops to the second-ranked DT-QB? Then, he wins the MVP at the Elite 11 Dallas event and drops to third, when the guy he beat out (Kyler Murray) took snaps right beside him? Seem a little strange to you?

Trotter: First of all, Stidham never dropped to third. He only dropped one spot to second. And knowing what I know about ESPN’s recruiting evaluators, I can guarantee the ranking flip had nothing to do with where Stidham is going to college. You have to remember, we’re very early in the evaluation process for the Class of 2015. These recruits haven’t even gone through the summers before their senior seasons yet. As the scouts get closer looks at these players, there will be many changes to the ESPN 300 between now and signing day. But whether he’s No. 1 or No. 2, Stidham is an outstanding prospect, who had an outstanding offer sheet. As a Tech fan, you should be pumped you got him.

Taylor in Harrisonburg, Va., writes: Hey, Jake, big fan of the blog. Thanks for keeping me posted on what's going on in Big 12 Country out here in Virginia. Will you be doing a Big 12 Ultimate Road Trip over the summer to keep us entertained? Always fun to hear thoughts on match ups and what should be the highlight game of each week. Thanks and EMAW!

Trotter: Thanks, Taylor. Yes, the Ultimate Road Trip series is on the schedule, set to begin running later this month.

Trotter: It will be Shock Linwood. But Devin Chafin and especially Johnny Jefferson will play a bunch. The Bears will be good in the backfield again.

Trotter: TCU seems poised to make the biggest leap forward after winning only four games last year. The defense is going be stout, and the ingredients are there with QB Matt Joeckel in the fold for the offense to be at least a little better. Utah State is the only team in college football with fewer returning starters than Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have talent, but that much inexperience suggests they’ll take a temporary step back.

Trotter: The Sooners have Keith Ford and Alex Ross, so it’s difficult to predict how many carries Joe Mixon will get. After Sterling Shepard, OU has very little experience at receiver. So the path to playing time is easier for Michiah Quick.

Trotter: Well, it’s helped him in two places. One, it gives him more arm strength. Anyone who watched Webb live in the fall, then again this spring, knows how much more zip he had on the ball after gaining the weight. Two, it helps his durability. The more padding he has, the less prone he’ll be to injury. For those who haven’t checked Texas Tech’s roster lately, that’s no small thing. And as long as the weight is good weight, I don’t see where it would hurt him.

Trotter: The 2011 Cowboys would’ve had the best chance of the three. Save for the fluky overtime loss at Iowa State, Oklahoma State’s offense dominated everyone that year. I think the Cowboys would’ve put points up on LSU, too. Kansas State would’ve matched up decently with Notre Dame, which wasn’t the same team in its bowl game with Manti Te'o going through what he went through. I still would’ve favored the Irish, though. Baylor couldn’t beat Central Florida in its bowl game, so I doubt the Bears would’ve been able to hang with Florida State.