A majority of the coaches on Monday's Big 12 teleconference weren't taking the bait on questions comparing the strength and perception of the Big 12 versus the SEC. Still, it's a major storyline heading into the season—albeit a largely media-enhanced one.
But even if some coaches wouldn't address it, we will: there will be no bigger game for the Big 12 in Week 1 than No. 20 TCU taking on No. 12 LSU (via AP) in AT&T Stadium in Arlington. If the Horned Frogs can pull out a win, not only does the Big 12's national reputation get a nice bump, but TCU could make a jump in some power rankings by Monday, becoming an early favorite to win the conference.
None of this concerns TCU coach Gary Patterson, of course. He's focused on winning each game. Part of that preparation includes not just X's and O's, but "Oh no's."
Patterson said during Monday's teleconference that sophomore defensive end Devonte Fields will be suited up and on the sidelines for Saturday's game. In fact, according to TCU's latest depth chart, Fields is listed as a starting defensive end along with Matt Anderson, with an "OR" being placed between them.
The thing is, Patterson announced during the offseason that Fields would be suspended for the first two games of the year for violating unspecified team rules. Per Stefan Stevenson of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram, that suspension is still very much in place.
So what's going on here?
It's possible Fields plays Saturday even though there's been no apparent change to his status, but the more likely scenario is that Patterson is giving Les Miles something else to consider in the days leading up to the game.
Fields, like so many other young TCU defenders thrown into the Big 12 fire a year ago, started all 13 games as a freshman. His 18.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks led the team (via TCU stats) and earned him the AP Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and Defensive Newcomer of the Year honors.
Yeah, he's someone opposing coaches have to pay attention to and game-plan around. Just the threat of him on the sidelines, suited up and ready to go at any time, is enough to force opposing teams to spend time studying his tape.
Patterson is leaking out possibilities without definitive answers by design. While it's not along the same lines as the Fields situation, Patterson said during his teleconference that both quarterbacks, Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin, would play Saturday. How much and when is obviously nowhere close to being determined.
The only thing Patterson confirmed was that there would be no rotation between the two, where one quarterback would come out for one series and then the other for the next, and so on. Rather, Patterson plans to use them in certain situations.
There are a number of scenarios for which LSU now has to prepare. It's not like Miles is doing anything different with running back Jeremy Hill, who is facing unspecified discipline for attacking a male victim outside a bar in April. As of Monday, there was still no specific answer from Miles as to what that discipline would be, and if it would include game time.
It's an interesting back-and-forth to watch leading up to the game. We'll have a much better idea of who will play once the ball's kicked in the air Saturday.