All posts by Chase Holik

Does Bob Stoops Win At All Costs?

Oklahoma has been at or near the top of the college football world for the majority of the time during coach Bob Stoops’ tenure. Any time that happens, the thoughts always run through your head regarding how the program can sustain a high standard for so long.

Are they cheating? Are they paying someone off? Or are they just a well-coached football program that attracts talent and develops them every year? The same question can be asked about Alabama, LSU, Ohio State and other teams that are seemingly dominant every season. So what are those coaches doing differently? This article isn’t taking anything away from Bob Stoops as a coach.

He is one of the best coaches is OU history, and he deserves that distinction. However, if he’s not doing it the right way and not running a clean program, then shame on him. This issue got brought up again since running back Joe Mixon had his first media availability since he was charged with a misdemeanor for violence to a woman. Stoops suspended Mixon for a year, but now he’s back on the field as a productive player for the Sooners. Stoops contradicted himself when he said that there is no excuse for violence toward a woman. But he later said that Mixon deserved a second chance.

Oh really?

Does he deserve a second chance because he is a good person that simply made a mistake? Or does he deserve a second chance because he was your top recruit from a year ago and would really help your program win? There are very few coaches in the country that do the right thing when players get into serious trouble like this. Most of the time, if a star player gets in trouble, then he might be suspended for a game or two (but probably not if a big game is coming up). But, if a player that doesn’t make much of an impact gets in trouble, then there’s a better chance that he will be released from the program.

I can think of a few programs where Mixon wouldn’t be allowed on campus right now, much less getting ready to play in the national semifinal game in the College Football Playoff. But who is really shocked? Stoops has given several players a “second chance” because they are fantastic athletes. Nick Saban has done the same thing at Alabama. Credit Saban for getting rid of the “second chance” player if he gets in trouble again, no matter how good he is. Stoops may not run a dirty program from the standpoint of cheating (but I wouldn’t guarantee it), but he definitely doesn’t have the morals or ethics that many of his colleagues have when it comes to coaching.

Think about it…if a star player wants to come to OU or any other high profile program, then Stoops has a great chance of nabbing that recruit because of his track record, and most recently, the Mixon situation. “Second chance Stoops” is going to take care of his players, whether they drive drunk or beat up women. Why wouldn’t they want to go to OU over a program like Texas, where it’s one major strike and you’re out?

I’m not saying that every player for Oklahoma is a bad person, and Mixon may not be either. But Stoops is sending a really bad message across the country by allowing Mixon to play. But that same message is favorable to players coming out of high school or transferring, because they know their leash is longer than it would be at other schools. The action that Mixon took when he punched a girl in the face would get many people fired from their jobs. But Mixon gets to shine on the football field on his way to potentially playing in the NFL, making lots of money and very possibly doing the same thing again.

You might be able to excuse a petty theft or a minor misdemeanor, but that’s not what we are talking about here. This was a serious crime that should be taken seriously, instead of brushed to the side for a year and then avoided as much as possible after that. One day it’s all going to come crashing down on coaches that allow this to happen.

We saw it at USC a decade ago, we saw it at Penn State more recently. If Stoops is covering up things like this, then it will come to light eventually. Would you like it if your team won at all costs, including allowing criminals on the team and on campus to potentially put more people in danger?

Flagship Programs in Texas

When you think of a “flagship” program, you probably think of a recognized brand with a lot of tradition. People may hate or love the “flagship,” but they almost always respect them.

Texas and Texas A&M are the two flagship programs in the state of Texas, traditionally, but both programs are undergoing some major issues as we head into the New Year. Texas’ issues might finally be sorting themselves out, but A&M’s appear to just be beginning.

Ever since the Mack Brown/DeLoss Dodds/Bill Powers regime ended, the Texas program has been a borderline disaster. Fans, boosters and alumni of the program have been embarrassed and somewhat ashamed at the actions that have taken place.

There can be a whole separate article on how Steve Patterson’s reign as AD at Texas began and ended, but we aren’t even touching that today.

Focusing strictly on football, Charlie Strong hasn’t been given the support that he’s needed from day one. Plain and simple. There are big issues behind the scenes that a casual fan can’t see, but they are becoming clearer every day.

The lack of production on the field is one thing, but when you can’t convince a coach from an in-state rival school (TCU’s Sonny Cumbie) to leave his gig to coach at the “flagship” program in Texas for more than twice his salary, it screams that something fishy is going on.

It all came to a head when Strong went to plan “B” for his offensive coordinator search. It appeared that Sterlin Gilbert was set to be the OC, and then something fell through that forced Strong, AD Mike Perrin and President Greg Fenves to fly to Tulsa in an attempt to clear the air. The fact that all three men had to be involved just shows how discombobulated the program really is.

Supposedly Gilbert did not sense and receive a vote of confidence for Strong, which is why he didn’t take the job initially. The severe lack of communication was evident. Yes, they eventually hired Gilbert, but they set an unprecedented standard of desperation that resonated on Twitter throughout the country. That should never happen at Texas.

Texas A&M has enjoyed the issues that their former rival has been going through, but it appears that they may be headed down a similar path soon.

Kevin Sumlin lost two five-star quarterbacks in a span of a week. Both Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray transferred from the program for similar reasons. The main reason was that they did not trust Sumlin.

Most people assumed that whoever lost the starting job would transfer, but no one predicted that both would within the same week. That shows that there are some major issues in the locker room and behind the scenes.

Now A&M boosters are having a hard time trusting Sumlin, and there’s a chance that he could be fired if the Aggies don’t win their upcoming bowl game against Louisville. Talk about a fall from grace.

The most embarrassing part about the situation is the national attention that it’s receiving. Problems like this extend past just the current players. It also affects recruits. As we near the peak recruiting season, Sumlin is going to have to answer a lot of questions that he would rather not address.

So with all of these issues that two of the most respected programs in the state of Texas are having, can we really still consider them the “flagship” programs?

TCU and Baylor have performed better on the field over the past few seasons overall, and Houston is on its way up too. Each program has its upsides and its downfalls, but it almost seems like the administration and some coaches at Texas and Texas A&M don’t realize the magnitude of the programs they are trying to run.

What Texas and A&M are going through at the same time is rare to see. However, the issues are magnified because they are the “flagship” programs in the state.

Both programs will be fine over time, but the near future outlook doesn’t look very promising. It’s difficult to say anything good about either program right now, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the student athletes.

If the main problems were on the field and in the classroom, then we’d be talking about a different monster. But we are talking about trust at the highest levels, whether it is the players trusting the head coach or the head coach trusting the administration. Either way you look at it, it’s downright embarrassing for both programs to deal with and it could take some time to move forward and put it all behind them.

Sterlin Gilbert Is The Perfect Fit For Texas – Or Is He?

Charlie Strong is putting all of his chips in on new Offensive Coordinator Sterlin Gilbert turning his stagnant offense around. Now we will have to how serious Strong is about the transformation. 

I read an article recently that compared Gilbert to Jon Taffer from the TV show “Bar Rescue.” If you haven’t seen the show, it is basically about an entrepreneur that opened up a new bar business with high hopes, started failing, and then called Taffer to help save the bar and make it profitable again. The parallels to the Texas situation are scary similar. 

Like “Bar Rescue,” the Longhorns have struggled to succeed under head coach Charlie Strong. Some will argue that he’s been stubborn during his first two years and not backing down from the notion that defense will win the Big XII. The hiring of Gilbert shows that he’s willing to entertain the idea of changing his philosophy. But will he do it completely?

An offensive overhaul can’t happen overnight unless the conditions are perfect. The right coaches have to be in place, the practice methods have to be perfect and above all, the offensive coach has to be in control. That means Strong is going to have to take a step back on his defensive philosophy, as hard as it may be. 

Gilbert has the ability to turn the Longhorns around quickly on offense. I mean, we wouldn’t have seen the unprecedented event with the president, athletic director, head coach and position coach flying to Tulsa on a Friday evening during a big recruiting weekend if he wasn’t the guy they wanted. 

Strong needs to view Gilbert as a Jon Taffer. Put the pride and ego to the side and put your trust that he will get your problems fixed. Gilbert’s done it three other times at three different programs, so why try to fight it? Gilbert is the guy who will determine whether Strong’s tenure at Texas lasts any longer than 2016. 

Now what does Gilbert really have to work with?

Being a student of the Art Briles system, Gilbert runs the spread offense with an emphasis on the run game. He has to be salivating over the two-headed monster in the backfield with D’onta Foreman and Chris Warren that Texas has next year. However, he has a lot of work to do with his quarterback situation. 

It seems like there has been a quarterback controversy every season since Colt McCoy left in 2009. There’s no reason to believe that that won’t change for 2016. Many fans will assume that Jerrod Heard or Tyrone Swoopes will win the job in the offseason, but that may not be the case. 

Gilbert has already hit the recruiting trail to find a junior college quarterback that fits his system. He also has redshirt freshman Matthew Merrick waiting in the wings, along with true freshman Shane Buechele, who will be enrolling early. Arm strength and accuracy is critical in Gilbert’s offense. Don’t be surprised if this ends up being a battle between Merrick and Buechele because of that. 

Above all else, Gilbert has to have complete control of the offense. He was somewhat stubborn in the hiring process, because he wanted to see commitment from everyone, including all the way up to the president of the university. He got that. Now he’s got to see it in the meeting rooms and on the field. 

Strong has preached that he is building his program the right way, and that it will turn around. The problem is that as he enters year three at Texas, he has to completely tear it down and start from scratch. The only difference this time is that he has his own players that he recruited personally, and a coaching staff that he believes will make them elite again. He just has to follow through and allow the coaches to take the reigns in some aspects. 

If Strong doesn’t take a couple steps back like Gary Patterson did at TCU a couple years ago, then Texas will be a five or six win team again next year. That TCU team went from 4-8 and having one of the worst offenses in the country to being a 12-1 team that narrowly missed the College Football Playoff, and had one of the top offenses in the country. 

If Strong doesn’t take that to heart, and if he doesn’t follow the advice of his very own version of Jon Taffer, then he and Texas will fail again. 

Is This Bob Stoops Greatest Coaching Year Ever?

You would have been searching for a while if you looked for someone that picked Oklahoma to win the Big XII Championship in August. You would have been even more hard-pressed to find someone that predicted they would make the College Football Playoff.

Oklahoma was picked to finish a distant third place, and sometimes even fourth place, in the conference before the season started. Baylor and TCU were getting all the love, which made it a clear battle for third place between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

stoops

Bob Stoops was feeling his seat heating up with the subpar seasons that the Sooners put together recently, according to the standards he created. Anything but a conference title in 2015 would turn up the temperature even more.

You can usually see early in the season whether Stoops is going to have a championship team or not. There were signs in the first few games, but they weren’t blowing out the teams that they should. A big win at Tennessee helped out, though, and OU got some respect coming out of that game.

Then they played 1-4 Texas.

The Longhorns made it look like they were the team competing for a conference championship they way they manhandled OU in the Cotton Bowl. It was completely unexpected and had many Oklahoma supporters scratching their heads and calling for Stoops’ job again.

Since that point, OU has arguably been the most dominant team in college football. Some may say that the Texas loss woke them up, but it goes a lot deeper than that.

Rewind to the offseason again when Stoops had to make some tough cuts on his coaching staff, which included many offensive coaches. The best hire that he made was bringing in Lincoln Riley from East Carolina to install his high-powered offense.

Remember those signs of OU being good that I talked about early in the season? Well, we saw those signs blossom into a well-oiled machine after something clicked following the Texas game. Combining their above-average defense with a now-potent offense has OU on top of the conference again.

The pieces of the puzzle fell into place at the perfect time for Oklahoma’s rise to the fourth spot in the College Football Playoff. They benefitted greatly from a back loaded schedule that included Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State in November. Baylor and Oklahoma State were both on the road, and they blew both of them out of their own stadium. Had they played those teams in early October, like they did Texas, the results would have undoubtedly been different.

All the credit goes to Stoops and his decision-making when his job was on the line. He knew his transfer quarterback and former walk-on, Baker Mayfield, was going to win the job. He also knew that he wouldn’t have success if he didn’t have an offensive scheme that fit his skill set. Because he made those tough coaching decisions, OU is in a better position.

Despite all of the big games that Stoops coached in, and won, in November, the biggest games are ahead of him. “Big Game Bob” will have a chance to get OU back on top of the college football world in a little over a month.

Oklahoma faces Clemson in the semifinals as favorites to win the game. Clemson destroyed OU in a bowl game last year, so that’s some extra motivation, as if there wasn’t enough already. Clemson and OU play a similar style of football, but there’s no question that Oklahoma played the tougher schedule of the two down the stretch.

If they get through Clemson, then the winner of Alabama and Michigan State will loom for the National Championship.

Looking at the teams in the playoff, OU probably has the least talented group of players overall than the other three. What gives OU the edge is that they are playing the best football collectively of any of the other teams. We saw what happened last year when Ohio State got hot down the stretch and snuck into the playoff as a four-seed. Confidence goes a long way in college football.

It’s been a while since “Big Game Bob” has coached in a game of the magnitude that he will be up against in a few weeks. These next one or two games could end up defining him as one of the greatest coaches to ever coach at Oklahoma.

Don’t be surprised if he is holding up the National Championship trophy on the evening of January 11, which would cap the greatest coaching season of his career and solidify him as one of the best ever.

Is Mike Gundy an Elite Coach?

The coaching carousel is in full swing in college football, and we can expect it to continue over the next few weeks. Almost every year we hear rumors about a program being interested in Mike Gundy, or vice versa, but it’s usually just smoke. So is Gundy not attractive as a head coach to lead a powerhouse program, or is he too comfortable at Oklahoma State to test the waters elsewhere?

Let’s face it; Gundy may be the perfect fit at OSU. He was their quarterback from 1986-1989. Then he was a coach in some capacity from 1990-1995. He left for a few years, but came back as OSU’s Offensive Coordinator from 2001-2004 before he was promoted to head coach in 2005. To say that he has ties within the program would be a major understatement.

Oklahoma State isn’t known as a powerhouse program, but that’s not because of Gundy. He has made them relevant in the Big XII Conference and has put them on a national level of respectability during his tenure. Still, most critics don’t see OSU in the same light as programs like Oklahoma or Texas within the conference.

Gundy making a move to another program would be a huge risk.

All of Gundy’s recruiting ties are in and around the state of Oklahoma. As OSU continues to be relevant nationally, he may be able to steal some recruits from other states, but most of them will be local. With that said, where else would he be a good fit?

When the Florida job was open, he was rumored to have put out feelers within the program to gauge interest. Other programs that have had openings had their share of rumors about Gundy as well, but nothing has ever come of them. A lot of that may have to do with the perception that Gundy isn’t a big-time coach, but I believe most of it has to do with Gundy being comfortable at OSU.

When you look at the jobs that have come open in the past three or four years – Florida, USC, Oregon and Ohio State, just to name a few – Gundy has been more qualified than the person that got hired, in some instances (we’ll leave out Ohio State for obvious reasons). Florida hired a Defensive Coordinator as their head coach, fired him, and hired a head coach outside of a Power 5 conference in the last five years. There’s got to be a reason why powerhouse programs aren’t attracted to Gundy.

Gundy could succeed at those programs, but he could just as easily fail. He has to compete with OU, Texas, and now TCU and Baylor, for recruits within the conference. As a result, he gets a lot of overlooked players that he develops into solid players. What would he do with some of the top talent in the country? Some say he would put OSU on the map, but I believe it wouldn’t work for him. That could be a reason why programs are scared to pull the trigger on hiring him.

Gundy has a knack for getting the most talent out of his players. A lot of that is because he gets players that were passed up by other programs and have something to prove. Getting 5-star players means that you have to deal with entitlement. Nowadays, that’s hard to do. It’s no coincidence that that’s a big reason why programs like Texas, Florida, Michigan and USC are down right now. They all have talent, but the players have a strong sense of entitlement that’s tough to get rid of.

If Oklahoma State isn’t able to compete with OU or the other top schools in the Big XII over the next few years, then we may see Gundy seriously fish in other waters to find a better gig. But for the time being, he is perfectly comfortable in his situation, and OSU is comfortable with what he is doing, for the most part.

In my opinion, Gundy would be making a huge mistake if he left OSU right now, and OSU would be foolish to let him walk away. They seem to be a perfect fit for each other.

But as we all know, fan bases will get impatient if championships aren’t won. If teams like Baylor and OU shellac OSU like they just did recently, then Gundy’s seat could get pretty warm pretty quickly.

But for now, Gundy should, and likely will, stay put and realize that there probably isn’t a better situation that he could be in.

Thanksgiving Football is Tradition in Texas

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on everything that you are thankful for and spending time with your family. All of that is true in Texas as well, but there’s also some football involved.

Pretty much since the beginning of time, and whether you lived in Texas or not, you always knew that the Cowboys, Longhorns and Aggies were going to be on TV on Thanksgiving Day. Unfortunately, realignment in college football, along with hot heads in the administration departments, has squashed the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry. So does Thanksgiving football still have the same feeling?

Most Texans have grown up rooting for either the Longhorns or Aggies, but hardly ever both. However, there are a lot of divided households in that respect. Thanksgiving was always interesting when Texas and A&M played because of the unique rivalry. It was a time for about 3 hours when it was ok if you didn’t like a certain family member or friend. But once the game was over, everyone was back to normal. One side just enjoyed the evening a little more than the other.

The last time Texas and A&M played each other in football was on Thanksgiving Day in 2011, which ended in a dramatic 27-25 victory for the Longhorns in College Station. Since then, Thanksgiving just doesn’t feel the same.

Texas continues to play on Thanksgiving Day, but they rotate with playing against TCU and Texas Tech at home every year. A&M only plays LSU on Thanksgiving Day when they are the home team. It’s an awkward feeling in many ways.

First off, when the Longhorns and Aggies both play on Thanksgiving Day, and not against each other, you have to fight with your family for the remote. It’s inevitable that a second TV has to come into the equation.

Second off, does either fan base really get into the Thanksgiving Day game anymore? The Longhorns rotate playing against two other teams from Texas, but it’s clear that the game doesn’t have the same luster. The tradition was never having each school playing on Thanksgiving Day no matter what. The tradition was Texas and A&M playing against each other. Now that that doesn’t happen, it’s time to move on and not play on that day, or bring the game back for good.

It’s ridiculous that the administration at either school isn’t making a push to get the game back on. There’s plenty of room on the schedule for a non-conference game for each team at the end of November. There’s no rule that says that you can only play a conference opponent on the final weekend of the season.

Florida and Florida State play; Clemson and South Carolina play; Georgia and Georgia Tech play.

Each of those are non-conference games, but they are also in-state rivalries. I realize that there is money and a lot of other things involved when it comes to scheduling. But come on guys, let’s not schedule Rice or Western Carolina anymore to make room for this game to come back. Who here thinks that the Longhorns-Aggies rivalry would generate more money than A&M-Western Carolina in November? I must be missing something.

Until cooler heads prevail, it just doesn’t seem like we are anywhere near seeing these teams back on the same field again. The players want it back, the coaches want it back and the fans want it back. But until the higher ups at each school decide to quit acting like kids on the playground, it’s not going to happen.

In the meantime, we will continue to watch uninspired football on Thanksgiving Day and fight our families for the remote every other year. Instead of watching the game together, now we have to split the family up during game time. A&M fans don’t care about Tech or TCU and Texas fans don’t care about LSU.

To some point, they still want each other’s team to lose, but why? They have nothing to do with each other anymore from a competitive standpoint except for in recruiting. Most casual fans don’t even follow the magnitude that every game has with respect to recruiting. As a result, we have two traditionally passionate fan bases that are apathetic on Thanksgiving Day.

Maybe we should write a letter to each University and the conference offices saying that not having this game is tearing our families apart, because we don’t spend time with each other on Thanksgiving anymore. You think that would get them back on the field? Yeah, me either.

But at least we still can watch the Cowboys, right?

The Not-So-Secret Recipe for the University of Houston’s Success

The Houston Cougars have been an interesting team to follow this season. Not too many people outside the state of Texas know much about them, but that could be changing in a few weeks.

As we stand, Houston is undefeated with two games left to play. But let’s not get carried away; their biggest opponents have been Memphis and Louisville. However, they have taken care of business with the schedule that they’ve been dealt.

The Cougars don’t have a strong enough schedule to be considered for the College Football Playoff, but we could be seeing them in a New Years bowl game as the best team outside of the Power 5 conferences. So why is Houston dominating this season after being an average team over the last few seasons?

The answer is simple: Tom Herman.

For those who don’t know, Herman is the first-year head coach of the Cougars after being Ohio State’s offensive coordinator for their championship run a year ago. He has always been a highly regarded coordinator, but now you can expect his name to be on a short list for teams looking for a head coach.

Herman has been successful in Houston because he has a lot of ties to the state of Texas. He coached for 10 years for different programs in Texas before spending time elsewhere. Now he is back in Texas and has picked up where he left off. And he just may have picked a coaching hotbed to propel his career.

Houston has been a starting point for several head coaches recently. The most notable coaches are Art Briles of Baylor and Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M. The common theme between those coaches is that they had success at Houston with offensive minds and now have been at their current jobs ever since. Herman could be going down that same path.

Assuming Herman wants to be a head coach in a Power 5 conference, he may want to stay where he’s at for a little while. He seems to have a good handle on recruiting in the state of Texas, so it’s probably best that he stays within the state for his next head coaching job. The only problem is, there aren’t many high profile Texas programs that are actively looking for a head coach right now.

An interesting fit for Herman would be at the University of Texas. The Longhorns have struggled under Charlie Strong, and the rumblings about him possibly leaving are starting to get louder. It’s unlikely that Strong will get fired at the end of this year, but that could be a different story if Texas has the same result next year.

Herman doesn’t have enough head coaching experience yet to inherit a team that is rebuilding. If he came into a situation like at Texas where Strong has been bringing in some solid recruits to work with, then Herman could hit the ground running and see success virtually overnight. But he has to have something to work with already.

Programs like USC, South Carolina and Miami likely won’t be courting Herman too strongly this offseason, so Houston fans can probably rest easy for now. Briles and Sumlin spent at least three years at Houston before moving on, so it actually may be in Herman’s best interest to wait for the right fit.

College football programs are becoming increasingly more impatient when it comes to their head coach. If Herman finishes this season undefeated and has success again at Houston for a couple more seasons, he will likely be able to cherry pick his next job. But if he starts hovering around a .500 season for a couple of years, then we could be talking about a completely different story with him.

I believe Herman is going to be successful at Houston during his tenure and he will land a high profile job in the near future. The only hope Houston fans have for keeping him is if some crazy realignment scenario happens where the Cougars end up in the Big XII or another Power 5 program. With the ways things are going, it doesn’t appear that will be likely over the next few years.

Readers of More Than A Fan need to remember Tom Herman’s name. Give it a few years and we could be talking about him being the head coach at a major college program and having some big time success. Unfortunately, it just won’t happen at the University of Houston.

Sorry UH fans.

Does a One-Loss Big XII Team Deserve a Shot in the College Football Playoff?

We are about a month away from finding out who will be in the College Football Playoff this year. As it stands right now, the Big XII is on the outside looking in. Of course, the rankings essentially mean nothing right now because the CFP committee only looks at a team’s body of work up to the point. The month of November is going to make things in the Big XII a lot clearer.

TCU started the season as the favorite to make the CFP in many people’s opinions. They are coming off of a loss to Oklahoma State, so does that mean they are eliminated for good?

I don’t think so, but they don’t have much of a leash anymore. Lose another game, and their hopes are crushed. Winning out would mean victories on the road against Oklahoma and at home against Baylor, both of which are top-15 teams. It would be interesting to see if that would be enough to elevate them into the playoffs.

The Big XII schedule makers could look like geniuses, or they may cost their conference a chance at the playoff. The four teams that have playoff hopes still have to play each other. That means that they will likely beat up on each other to the point that there is no undefeated team. However, if any of the top four teams mentioned go through undefeated the rest of the way, then they deserve a playoff berth.

So what happens if we end up with two or three teams with one loss in the Big XII? We will be looking at an eerily similar situation as last year.

The conference helped themselves this year by saying that head-to-head would be the first tiebreaker if teams are tied at the top of the conference. That still doesn’t mean that the Big XII is guaranteed a spot in the CFP with having “one true champion.”

Here’s my opinion:

One-loss Oklahoma = in
One-loss Baylor = out
One-loss TCU = in
One-loss Oklahoma State = out

Let me explain. Oklahoma’s one loss is bad, but it was early in the season and it was a rivalry game. The CFP usually overlooks early season losses (see Ohio State last year). If Oklahoma runs the table and beats the three best teams in the conference, they will be in.

TCU would be in because they lost on the road to OSU. Winning out would mean beating OU on the road and Baylor at home. If they do that, then their resume is impressive enough to get them in.

Now Baylor. The Bears are rightfully criticized about their weak non-conference schedule. Losing one game will likely crush their hopes, just like last season. No matter who their loss is against, they don’t have the resume to back up their claim that they belong in the CFP.

OSU is interesting because they seem to have nine lives. They haven’t looked that great all season, but they find ways to win close games. They have struggled with lesser opponents often, but can play great against the best competition. They might have the easiest path to the CFP, because they already beat TCU and will play Baylor and OU at home. The bad thing is, if they lose one game, then it will look worse because it’s a home game.

My prediction:
OSU gets through Baylor at home, but loses to OU on the road to finish with one loss.

Baylor loses to TCU and OSU to finish with two losses.

TCU wins out to finish with one loss.

OU loses to Baylor and TCU to finish with three losses.

That would leave TCU and OSU with one loss each. What a nightmare scenario that would be, now that I think about it.

The Big XII would have to crown OSU as the champion because of their head-to-head win. But losing their last game of the season at home won’t look good to the CFP committee.

If my scenario came true, we will probably see the Big XII get left out of the CFP again. If the committee is forced to either put two teams in or none, they will very likely go with none.

A true nightmare it would be for the conference, but it would also spark more discussions about bringing back a conference championship game and expanding the amount of teams. Oh the drama that would ensue.

Hold on, folks. It’s going to be a roller coaster finish in the Big XII.

Who’s The Better Fit: Charlie Strong or Kevin Sumlin?

Texas and Texas A&M used to have one of the best rivalries in college football. Since they have been in separate conferences for the past four years, it has turned into more of a “hashtag rivalry.” Since there’s no game being played between the two, both sides are forced to trade jabs on social media to keep the fire burning.

Can we just get these teams playing against each other again?

That’s a whole separate discussion; because the reality is that we won’t see them play each other on the field in the foreseeable future.

Both programs have their issues right now, but which head coach is the better fit at their respective school? Let’s start with Kevin Sumlin.

Sumlin is an offensive guru that has worked his way up the ranks and has turned average programs into good ones. A&M is no exception. The Aggies were an average team in the Big XII, but since leaving for the SEC in 2011, they have hit resurgence.

Sumlin’s offense has redefined SEC football in some ways. They caught the entire conference off guard with their high-flying offense in year one 1Having a certain Johnny Football at quarterback didn’t hurt either.

He forced teams to adapt defensively to his style, and the good teams did exactly that. It seems like Sumlin has realized that he won’t be able to win the SEC with offense alone. Defense wins championships in the SEC.

A&M is not far away from contending for a national championship. John Chavis was an outstanding hire for Defensive Coordinator this offseason, and Sumlin had to hit a homerun with that one. With the recruiting talent that Sumlin is bringing in, don’t be surprised if A&M flirts with the College Football Playoff in the next couple seasons.

Switching gears now to Charlie Strong. Strong is a defensive-minded head coach in a conference that is loaded with offense. Like Sumlin’s offense, Strong surprised some teams with how well his defense played in year one with the Longhorns. The only difference is that it didn’t translate to wins.

Through almost two seasons with Texas, their offense still hasn’t been able to give the defense any support. Hence, Texas has been losing, and losing bad at times.

Questions are circulating about whether Strong is the right fit for Texas. His track record indicates that he is a solid head coach, but that doesn’t mean that he is the perfect fit for any particular program.

Strong is doing some great things at Texas by building a foundation to succeed. However, his tenure at Texas may be short-lived if he doesn’t change his coaching philosophy to adapt to the conference that he chose to be in.

He is in a similar situation as Gary Patterson at TCU was when that program entered the Big XII. Patterson hired two outstanding offensive coordinators that made TCU successful virtually overnight. He had to swallow his pride and realize that his philosophy had to change in order to succeed, and Strong may have to do the same before it’s too late.

Texas and Texas A&M are proud programs that will succeed on a national level eventually. However, it seems like the head coaches will only be recognized as legends if they have the right coordinators with them. Sumlin has his offense and Strong has his defense. Sumlin is a little bit ahead of Strong right now, but it took him a few years to find what seems to be a great fit in College Station at Defensive Coordinator.

At this point in time, A&M is clearly in a better position than Texas because they have had the momentum in recruiting and have the talent to be coached up. Texas is getting to that point, but it is clear that they are still a couple of years away from being relevant again.

If Strong and Sumlin are both able to turn their respective programs around and get some national respect, then we could see a big shift in getting the two teams back on the field against each other. Right now, though, we will have to suffer through the bickering back-and-forth between the fan bases over social media that never really has any substance2Unless, of course, we can get these two teams together for a bowl game, which it seems at least one conference is trying to avoid.

Strong and Sumlin are good coaches, but they will only go as far as their coordinators take them. Sumlin looks like he took that step forward. Now Strong must do the same.

It may be the only chance we have to see the two programs square off against each other on the field in the near future3In the College Football Playoff. We assume it doesn’t happen any other way.

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1. Having a certain Johnny Football at quarterback didn’t hurt either
2. Unless, of course, we can get these two teams together for a bowl game, which it seems at least one conference is trying to avoid
3. In the College Football Playoff. We assume it doesn’t happen any other way

College Football Needs Charlie Strong To Succeed At Texas

The Charlie Strong era at the University of Texas hasn’t gotten off to the start he had hoped for, but the rest of college football should be hoping that he rights the ship soon.

With many of the traditional football powerhouses down in recent years (I’m talking about you Florida, Michigan, USC and Texas), college football just hasn’t been the same. Is it just a coincidence that when those power programs have been down, there has really only been one single dominant conference?

There has been a little more parity in the sport over the past couple of seasons, but I’ll explain why Texas is the team that must get back on track soon.

Texas is the richest and most influential college program in the country. Fans either love them or hate them. There aren’t many people that don’t have an opinion on them. When Texas was good, you had Mack Brown at the helm and he was just as good at politicking as he was at coaching. He created an empire at Texas, which eventually led to the creation of the Longhorn Network. Since Texas lost the 2009 BCS National Championship to Alabama, Texas has been on a downward spiral.

Enter Charlie Strong. Strong made a statement when he was hired in 2014, by releasing multiple players from scholarships and suspending a handful of other players. He wasn’t shy about whom he cut, either. Many of them were starters the previous year.

His actions caused shockwaves throughout the program and through the national media. It was, and still is, clear that Strong will not sacrifice integrity in order to win. The trend continued through the season as we saw other players get released due to violations of team rules. Again, Strong was not afraid of distractions to his team. He was more focused on getting rid of the cancer rather than overlook it.

Texas finished the season 6-7 with an embarrassing bowl game loss to Arkansas. The Longhorns were sitting at 1-4 heading into the Red River Rivalry against Oklahoma this season. They didn’t stand a chance.

When the players realized that their coach’s job was on the line, we saw how talented they really are. We saw players play out of respect for their coach, even though many of them lost their friends from the team when they got released. Texas dominated Oklahoma. This says a lot about a coach when there are typically a lot of shady things that go on in many programs.

Texas being in the national championship discussion is not only good for the state, but it’s good for college football as well. Charlie Strong is building his program with a foundation of ethics, which is rare nowadays. In fact, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell even met with Strong about his program last year to get a sense of his five core values that he bases his program on. Love or hate the Longhorns, you have to appreciate what Strong is doing as a college football fan.

Scandals can mar a program. Many coaches will overlook or brush off accusations, especially if they are against their star players. The Joe Paterno saga is a perfect example. Not Strong and not Texas.

If Strong is able to turn the Texas program around and contend for championships again, there needs to be an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary written about it. It is the ultimate story of a relatively unknown coach to the state, being the first African American head coach at the school, not being admired by some big-name donors and still able to make it happen.

On the field, Texas being back to prominence will likely make others rise to the top. We’ve seen Michigan and Florida start trending upward. Once it happens with Texas, we could see a lot more power programs start to rise.

Off the field, there probably wouldn’t be a better story of building a championship team with a bare cupboard. The trickle-down effect could go all the way to the high school ranks because of the respect that the coaches have for Strong.

If Texas cuts ties with Strong too soon, it will send a wrong message to the fans of the program and the sport in general. Strong is more concerned with building a team of character before he can win. Texas fans and boosters will get antsy if their team finishes with another losing record this season, but they have to give him time.

Once Texas starts winning again, so will the rest of college football.