Tag Archives: bob stoops

Stoops’ Retirement May Not Be The Best Thing For Texas Football

Usually when the most successful coach statistically in the conference decides to call it quits, it opens up an opportunity for the rest of the conference. I’ve seen a lot of reactions stating the same as a result of Bob Stoops abruptly retiring, but I’m not sold on it. In fact, I’m thinking closer to the complete opposite, and think Oklahoma is going to be in better shape than they are right now a few years down the road. Hear me out.

Stoops is leaving with a complete and talented roster. He’s handing over the reigns to Lincoln Riley with a Heisman-contending quarterback (in some people’s eyes), a stable athletic department from what outsiders can see, and a program that’s won back-to-back Big 12 championships.

But most importantly, I think Stoops is leaving at the perfect time. Not only the perfect time of the year, but the perfect time in his career as well.

I’ve said for two years that OU football is going to start declining under Stoops. Even though he was winning, he just didn’t have the same demeanor on the sidelines, and definitely didn’t sound the same in press conferences.

He started reminding me of Mack Brown about two years ago.

During Mack’s decline, he started responding to questions more politically. So did Stoops the past couple of years.

Mack always pointed to the 2005 National Championship and 2009 Big 12 Championship to bail himself out when people doubted him. Stoops started pointing to the trophy case more often as well when asked a difficult question about the state of his program. But the fact is, Sooner fans don’t care about the Big 12 Championships anymore. That’s the result of success, Bob.

Instead of looking to the future and talking about where the program was headed, Mack started talking more about where they’ve been. Stoops has been doing the same.

I was at peace knowing OU was going to head down a similar path as Texas, because Stoops was going to stay too long. I wanted to see a messy transition, similar to what Texas went through with Mack. I wanted to see Stoops have a losing season before eventually getting run out of Norman. But that’s just the Texas fan and my natural hate of everything Oklahoma in me.

But he played his cards perfectly. He’s getting out before the pressure hits him any harder. Did he learn by observing Mack’s situation a few years ago? I wouldn’t doubt it.

He’s made enough money in his career where he doesn’t have to put up with that stuff if he doesn’t want to. He’s chosen to get out before it happens. Good for him, but not good for Texas.

The reason? Lincoln Riley.

I was afraid when Oklahoma hired him two years ago as Offensive Coordinator. Aside from the fact that he has no head coaching experience, it feels like Oklahoma now has their version of Tom Herman.

He’s a young up-and-comer who many experts believe will be the next hottest coach in college football. And while he’s being thrown into a pretty cushy situation in Norman, he will find out quickly that this is a different animal he’s dealing with if he loses a game or two early. There will likely be some growing pains, but I fully expect him to adjust, as much as it hurts me to say that.

Riley will be able to relate to players more than Stoops has been recently, and that doesn’t bode well for Texas on the recruiting trail. Just as Herman is dominating recruiting right now without having coached a game at Texas, I expect Riley to do the same in the very near future.

And remember those commitments Herman secured from the state of Oklahoma recently? I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two flipped back and decided to stay home now. It’s just how recruiting works.

Riley puts the Sooners back on an even playing field for the time being in recruiting, because he brings a new vision, a new level of excitement and possibly a new brand of Oklahoma football. Who knows how well he will follow-up Stoops in the win column, but I’m worried he will see success earlier rather than later.

I have some peace knowing Texas has Herman to counter anything Riley has to throw out there, though. And I think you’re going to see a Red River Shootout like none other this October as a result.

This is the first time since 1947 that both Texas and Oklahoma will have first-year head coaches at their respective schools squaring off against each other in the annual battle. And I think we will be in for an instant classic.

I know I’m not in the minority when I say I wish I could have one more chance at beating Stoops in the Cotton Bowl. But I believe I am in the minority when I say I’m more worried about the Sooners now than I was a week ago.

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Photo: Wikimedia

The Alabama Crimson Tide Remain a Work in Progress

Teams get wake up calls throughout the course of a season. Wake up calls happen to the teams that we consider to be unbeatable. These teams that were considered to be unbeatable fall victim to an upset and the coaches get their teams back on track as they rise back to the top of the rankings.

We’ve watched some big time teams go down this year. Ohio State lost to Penn State, Oklahoma lost to Houston and Ohio State, Michigan lost to Iowa, Clemson lost to Pittsburgh, and Washington lost to USC. This list could be longer, but you get the point.

In the case of Oklahoma, the Sooners hit the snooze button and needed a second wake up call before going about their winning ways. The Buckeyes needed just one alarm to go off before resuming their winning ways. It remains to be seen how those other teams will rebound, but I bet those teams bounce back as well.

There is something to be said for a team losing and then regaining its focus. That speaks to the commitment of both the players and the coaches. Coaches like Bob Stoops and Urban Meyer are elite level coaches who are able to use these minor setbacks as teaching tools. Elite coaches don’t allow minor setbacks to become major setbacks.

And then there is the true king of the coaching mountain. Nick Saban.

Saban has his team sitting pretty with a 10-0 record as we go into Week 12. People think that Saban and Alabama have it easy. He’s the best coach in the business who gets to coach the best talent in the business. But it’s a roster of 18-22 year olds. These kids can say they don’t read the hype that’s written about them, but they know who they are and who they play for. Simply being recruited by Saban provides their football identities.

Unlike coaches like Stoops and Meyer, Saban doesn’t need a full game to get the attention of his team. At least not this year. Alabama has had one bad half of football this year. Alabama found itself down 24-3 to Mississippi and went on to win 48-43. So while other coaches need full games of disappointment to get the attention of their team, all Saban needed was 30 minutes of poor football and a halftime speech to get his team back on track.

Saban doesn’t get the credit he deserves. This is particularly true this year. Going into this season, he lost his Heisman-winning running back to the NFL and had uncertainty at the quarterback position. He now relies on true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts and a committee of running backs that also features another true freshman, Josh Jacobs. He has molded this youth on offense into a budding juggernaut as he leans on a defense that seems to feed off every bit of success it has.

As dominant as both his offense and defense have become, Saban’s team has had some growing pains this year. Youth and inexperience will do that. But Saban has kept his team on track while other top-10 programs have lost a time or two.

So while we may have already witnessed teams like Oklahoma and Ohio State peak, Alabama appears to still be finding its groove. It must be nice to be so good that your team is 10-0 as it continues to develop.

 

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Can the Oklahoma Sooners Crash the College Football Playoff Party?

Once the first 2016 college football playoff ranking was unveiled with all of the pageantry that ESPN could muster, college football fans had one more topic to argue about. Was Texas A&M deserving of its top four ranking or was Washington the more deserving team? It didn’t matter then and it doesn’t matter now. That fanatical argument doesn’t matter because there is still a lot of football left to be played this season and chances are good that one of the teams currently on the outside looking in will sneak into one of the playoff spots.

Oklahoma could be that sneaky team.

With two losses on its resume, Oklahoma may seem like a long shot that only a Big 12 homer such as myself (no, not really) could hold out hope for. But there are a few two-loss teams that are ranked ahead of the Sooners and some of those teams could realistically expect to lose another game or two. So please, hear me out on this.

Oklahoma’s loss to Houston no longer looks like the quality loss that it once did. Losing to Tom Herman is no longer the badge of honor that it once was considered. But how about that loss to Ohio State? I’ll tell you how that loss to Ohio State looks. It looks like a proverbial quality loss. That loss continues to look better and better if Ohio State continues to play like it did against Nebraska.

As for what Oklahoma can control? The Sooners control their own destiny to a large extent and it all starts this Saturday as Stoops and his Sooners end the season against Baylor, West Virginia and Oklahoma State. All of those teams are ranked so all of those wins would strengthen the resume of the Sooners.

The Big 12 and Oklahoma aren’t known for suffocating defenses, but that’s just fine. The Sooners have the offensive fire power to rip through the remainder of the schedule. Baker Mayfield is torching opposing defenses with the help of Dede Westbrook. If the Sooners hadn’t lost to Ohio State, both of those players would be in the Heisman conversation based on the statistics that each are producing.

If having players the caliber of Mayfield and Westbrook weren’t enough for opposing defenses to deal with, the Sooners will have both Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine available against Baylor. If Perine stays healthy and Mixon stops throwing temper tantrums at campus parking lot attendants, the Sooners should have all of the pieces in place to scare the rest of the conference.

The Big 12 has a bad reputation when it comes to comparing its teams to the upper echelon of teams from other conferences. I’m as guilty of that as everyone else. But if you’re a Big 12 fan and specifically a fan of Oklahoma, none of that should matter. What should matter to you is that the Sooners do have a puncher’s chance to slide into the playoff. Could the team win the championship? Get into the playoff first and then we’ll talk about that.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia

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The Sunday Morning Notebook – Tennessee Has Run Out of Magic

Another great week of college football is in the books, with the exception of Georgia-South Carolina and Florida-LSU.

Enjoy a recap of some of the big games and great moments. 

Comeback Number Five, Loss Number One

Tennessee has played five games this season. In four of them, it has trailed at some point by double-digits. Yesterday, Texas A&M became the first team to beat the Volunteers this season. However, the Aggies didn’t hold the lead, which reached 21 points in the third quarter. It even took two overtimes to put an end to Tennessee’s unbelievable streak of luck.

Just like last week, it took some late magic to help Tennessee push the game into overtime.  Perhaps it was less magic and more luck.  Either way, it was a wild evening in College Station, TX.

Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight, arguably one of the most electric players in the nation, put the Aggies ahead, 35-21, with 3:22 left in the game on a 62- yard touchdown run. The term generally used to describe a score like that, in that particular situation, is “nail in the coffin”.

Not so fast, my friend

On the ensuing possession, Vols’ quarterback Josh Dobbs led Tennessee down the field and into the end zone in just a minute and 15 seconds to get within a touchdown.

15 seconds had run off the clock before Aggies’ RB Trayveon Williams delivered a play that should have warranted another cliché.  This time “that’s a dagger” comes to mind. Williams sped through the defense and down the field for 72-and-a-half yards, but UT’s Malik Foreman caught him from behind and knocked the ball loose and into the end zone for a touchback.  Vols’ ball, 1:49 left to play.

With that kind of momentum on its side, there was no way Tennessee wasn’t going to tie the game, and it did just that on Alvin Kamara’s third touchdown of the game.

What’s more, the A&M kicker missed a 38-yard game-winning field goal attempt with eight seconds left in the game.

It took two overtimes before Dobbs threw an interception (Tennessee’s seventh turnover of the game) that ended Tennessee’s magical journey through the first six weeks of the season.

Notes:

  • Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara rushed for 127 yards and caught eight passes for 161 more. That was huge for Tennessee as it was missing top rusher Jalen Hurd.
  • Dobbs threw two interceptions this week. He leads the SEC in interceptions this season.
  • Knight rushed for over 100 yards for the second time this season.  He’s currently one of the top-10 rushers in the SEC. The last SEC quarterback to finish as a top-10 rusher was Dak Prescott in 2014.

A Shootout, Indeed

Rivalry games are fun. Especially the Red River Shootout, which takes place every year in the midst of the Texas State Fair.

This particular Shootout had massive implications.  Whispers regarding the future of both head coaches, Charlie Strong for Texas and Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, could be heard throughout many circles during the last few weeks.

The result all but guarantees Strong’s departure at the end of the season, as Oklahoma held on for a 45-40 victory at the Cotton Bowl.  However, we can save the coaching discussion for another time.

The story of the game was Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook. Before yesterday, Texas hadn’t given up 100 yards to a single receiver all season, despite giving up the third-most passing yards per game in the Big 12. Westbrook ended the night with 10 catches for 232 yards and three touchdowns in one of the best receiving performances in college football this season.

Notes:

  • Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine had quite a day, racking up 214 yards and two touchdowns on the ground for the Sooners. 232 yards is the third-highest total of Perine’s career and the most since the famous Kansas game in 2014.
  • It’s not likely that Oklahoma makes the College Football Playoff, but the Sooners should still be the favorite to win the Big 12 championship.  All eyes will be on the Baylor game on November 12.

Hurricane Jimbo

Jimbo Fisher has never lost to Miami as the head coach of the Florida State Seminoles. Last night may have been the closest and lowest scoring game they’ve played against each other in ten years, but thanks to DeMarcus Walker’s blocked extra point with 1:38 left, the Seminoles notched their seventh win in a row over their in-state rival, 20-19.

Notes:

  • Deondre Francois looked terrific. The true freshman passed for 234 yards and two touchdowns. Francois has been solid all season, passing for nine touchdowns and only two interceptions so far.
  • Heisman hopeful Dalvin Cook moved his consecutive 100-yard game streak to three. Cook rushed for 150 yards but no touchdowns.
  • There are only three weeks until Florida State hosts Clemson.  Florida State is really the only tough matchup left on Clemson’s schedule before the ACC Championship game.

 

Quick Notes:

-Houston will not make the Playoff after losing to Navy 46-40. I’d also be surprised if it beats Louisville.

-Stanford is not a top-25 team.

-As a former offensive lineman, this play makes me happy. Watch how fast that guy is.

-Ohio State is the best team in the country.

-Washington is really, really good.

-In case you missed it, Rutgers only amassed 39 total yards of offense against Michigan.

E-mail Evan at or follow him on Twitter @skilliter.

Photo: StuSeeger, Flickr

Fire All of the College Football Coaches

College football is a cut throat business. This is particularly true when talking about head coaches and job security. More often than not, college athletics directors and boosters take the attitude of “what have you done for me lately.” And if the head coach hasn’t done much lately, that coach will probably find himself on the hot seat, if not fired. Going into the 2016 season, the two of the highest profile SEC coaches most talked about in regards to being on the hot seat were LSU coach Les Miles and Auburn coach Gus Mulzahn. Once LSU seemingly gave the game away to Auburn, LSU’s athletics director Joe Alleva decided he had seen enough from Miles and did what he considered doing in the middle of the 2015 season. Alleva fired Miles.

Coaches at other schools have had the same amount of success that Miles had while at LSU and never get fired let alone find themselves on the hot seat. At least not that the public is made aware of. Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops comes to mind when thinking about coaches who have had similar success as Miles while not being in danger of losing their job. And on the flip side of that coin, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz comes to mind when thinking of coaches who have been solid but not great at their school while never being in danger of losing their job.

This leads me to ask this question – What is the anatomy of being fired? The answer to this question varies from team-to-team and conference to conference. The coaches and conferences who exemplify this contrasting nature of job security are Miles, Bob Stoops, the SEC and the Big 12.

As was previously stated, Miles was close to being fired in the middle of the 2015 season, yet was retained. He lasted until LSU lost to Auburn in tough luck style. While it is true that Miles seemed to prefer an old school offensive style, it is also true that Miles won a ton of games while at LSU. He won an SEC championship in 2011, won a national championship in 2007 and was the runner-up for the national championship in 2011. Needless to say, LSU’s athletics director, boosters, and fans didn’t have an issue with Miles’ old school offensive style during these championship years.

And while other coaches around the country have won-loss records with more ebb and flow, Miles’ teams never won less than eight games a year. He was consistent in how he ran his team and his teams were consistent on the field. But all of this was still a recipe for being fired in the middle of his 12th season at LSU.

Oklahoma has not fired Bob Stoops, but he has had his share of detractors in his now 18 years in Norman. To his benefit, these detractors do not include athletics director Joe Castiglione, the boosters or the fans. Stoops has won eight conference championships, won the 2000 national championship and was runner-up for the 2008 national championship.

Like Miles, Stoops is an accomplished coach. Stoops’ detractors refer to him as Not So Big Game Bob but this hasn’t rubbed off on the people that hold his job in their hands.

The difference in the fate of each of these coaches may be the circumstances that each coach finds themselves in. These circumstances have less to do with the individual coaches and more to do with the conferences that each of their teams are members of.

Perception isn’t always based on reality. Sure, there is a grain of truth to the foundation of what any given perception is built on, but perception is usually the result of snarky fans and the jealousy that those fans have for their rivals. And the perception of the SEC being the undisputed king of college football is one that carries a lot of weight. This perception of the SEC is so great that it most likely played a role in Miles being fired. This same perception may also help a coach like Bob Stoops keep his job in the Big 12.

Miles isn’t Nick Saban. No coach is. That isn’t a perception. That is a simple statement of fact. But that doesn’t stop other programs from demanding Saban like results. I truly believe that is a perception that holds true at LSU. It certainly doesn’t help matters that Saban was once at LSU and chose to move on to the NFL. And when he returned to the collegiate coaching ranks, he chose Alabama. He not only chose Alabama but he has created unprecedented success while in Tuscaloosa. And this is where the perception of the SEC comes into play for LSU.

I believe that every team in the SEC believes that it not only can, but should have a coach who has Saban like success. This perception becomes the catalyst for a school like LSU to push a coach out the door who won 71.9% of his games. Not only that but LSU won a national championship with Miles. But sure, LSU is in the SEC and people think that every coach in the conference should be winning multiple national championships. I’ll say this to LSU and every other school in the SEC when it comes to this mindset – Good luck.

This point about pining away for the success that Alabama has achieved was magnified during the SEC Network telecast of the Missouri vs. LSU game. Ed Orgeron is the interim coach and Brent Musberger was discussing Orgeron’s chances of being hired as the permanent head coach. In Musberger’s opinion, Orgeron would have to beat Alabama this year for that promotion to occur. LSU had better think twice before hiring a head coach based on one game.

Now Stoops is in an entirely different situation. Stoops coaches in the Big 12. This is a conference that has struggled to be viewed as a top notch Power 5 conference. The Big 12 is the constant punchline to jokes. In other words, the perception of the Big 12 is the complete opposite of the perception of the SEC.

Given what the perception is of the Big 12, any respect that a coach and his team can offer the conference is embraced. And when that coach has the resume that Stoops has at Oklahoma, there is no way that his athletics director would shove him out the door. Oklahoma wouldn’t have shoved Miles out the door if he had duplicated his LSU record at Oklahoma. To go a step further, I’ll say this – If Miles would have stayed at Oklahoma State and duplicated his LSU record, he’d have a statue built for him and T. Boone Pickens would chauffeur him around.

All of this is to say that firing a coach isn’t always based on reality. Just because a coach gets fired, it doesn’t mean he’s done a lousy job. Sometimes it’s about the circumstances and perceptions that the coach has created that reality in.

My advice to every athletics director, booster, and fan in the country is to not only enjoy whatever success your coach brings to the program but to embrace it. Unless your coach is struggling to win, just be happy with him. And winning nine games a year isn’t “struggling to win.”

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: flickr.com

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It’s OU Week, Nothing Else Matters

Let’s be honest, there are a lot of issues surrounding the Texas football program right now. I could go on and on about the negativity regarding the coaching staff, the players and even the administration. But this week, I’m choosing not to. It’s always acceptable to hate on Oklahoma any given second, but this week is special so that’s where I’m focusing most of my attention.

The Red River Rivalry is a top-five rivalry in all of college football. The game is going to garner a lot of attention, even though both programs enter the matchup with a 2-2 record this year.

There’s always a lot at stake when Texas and Oklahoma meet in the Cotton Bowl, but this year it’s a little different.

Bob Stoops and Charlie Strong are both on the hot seat at their schools as well as their fan bases. Stoops and OU have lost convincingly to Houston and Ohio State, while Strong and Texas have pretty pathetic-looking losses against California and Oklahoma State.

It’s safe to say the coach who loses this game may be looking for a new job by the end of the season.

Enough about the coaches, time to talk about the uniqueness of this game.

If you’ve never been to the Texas-OU game, you need to go once in your life. I’ve been three times and would go every single year if it were a little more convenient for me.

I quickly learned that it’s not only acceptable to eat a corny dog and drink a beer out of a wax paper cup at 8am, it’s the norm. The game is almost always one of the first games to kick off in the morning, so you’ve got to get an early start when you head to the Texas State Fair.

The Cotton Bowl is located right in the heart of the fairgrounds, which makes it one of the most unique venues in all of college football. The grounds are covered in burnt orange shirts and that other red/maroon looking color that no one really likes. And there are also the poor tourists who come to the fair not knowing there’s a big football game going on. They stick out like a sore thumb and I would bet they never come back again.

If you don’t like to get to games early, you have to make it a point to do it for this one. You can start seeing the seats fill up, and the Texas-OU 50-yard line split starts to become clear about 30 minutes before kickoff. The noise level in the 80,000+ seat stadium is completely deafening with a combination of boos and cheers when each team runs out of the tunnel. I can only imagine the mixed emotions that the players have as they run out onto the field. From a fan’s perspective, it’s truly impossible to describe the feeling.

I’ve never had a voice after the game in the three games I attended. It helps that Texas won two out of those three. But even in the one loss, since I hate OU so much I couldn’t help but scream my head off any time Texas did something good, even though the loss was inevitable. Seeing OU fail at even the tiniest level is worthy of cheers when you’re in that environment.

And the best part about it is I wasn’t alone. Of course, toward the end of the game, the losing team’s fans start filing out of the stadium, but the winners always stay. The game always promises to have emotional swings both ways, which is one of the many reasons the game is so special to me.

This particular matchup is going to be interesting. One of the teams are usually relevant on a national level at this point in the season, but not this year. Both teams are capable of winning the Big 12 Conference, but nothing else. It’s all about pride and beating your most hated rival this time.

We’ve seen coaches lose their jobs and keep their jobs depending on the outcome of this one. And as I mentioned earlier, don’t be surprised if this is one of those games.

It’s hard to talk about what’s at stake in this game without going back to coaching, so here I go again.

If the Longhorns lose this game, Strong won’t survive at the end of the year. Mark my words.

If Oklahoma loses the game, Stoops could still save his job by winning out the rest of his games, but he’s going to have to convince a lot of fans and big-money donors that he needs to stick around.

Strong has outcoached Stoops in the two games they’ve played against each other, but they’ve split those two games in the win column. This year’s Longhorns team looks like the worst coached team I’ve seen under Strong, especially on defense and special teams, so it’s hard to have any hope that they can find a way to win the game.

But they also had no business winning last year’s game, which was completely dominated by Texas. Usually when then Longhorns aren’t given a chance to win the game, they come out and put together a pretty good performance.

I’m expecting the same this year, and so is the entire fan base. That’s why there’s so much pressure on Strong and there will be backlash like he’s never felt before if we see a performance like we have the last two games.

This game itself may not mean a whole lot to either team on a national level, but the outcome is going to resonate more with the loser than the winner for the rest of the season and beyond.

Both teams have looked poor just as much as they’ve looked good this season, so it’s impossible to predict the outcome.

That’s why I’m just going to block out the negativity this week and remember that no matter what happens…OU STILL SUCKS!

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Why Is Oklahoma Even Showing Up?

Hey, look Oklahoma, thanks for coming but you can just go ahead and head on out. No seriously, why are you even here?

I’m done with you, Oklahoma. Every year you somehow manage to trick us. Every year you somehow convince us that not only are you good, but you’re going to live up to expectations. Every time you make us think you are, you take a giant crap like you did last season in the College Football Playoff. Thanks for ruining my bowl picks, by the way. I could’ve placed for money. You owe me at least twenty bucks, Oklahoma.

At some point, the Sooners are just going to lose every game for the rest of eternity. Or at least until they fire Bob Stoops.

“Big Game Bob” always tends to crap the bed when it comes to big games which kind of makes you wonder how he got that name. Unless it was supposed to be ironic, but at the time it probably wasn’t. He already got beat up by Houston in Week 1, his No. 3 Sooners losing by 10 after being a 10-point favorite.

So what’s the next big game? Ohio State! They’re going to get up for that…

Oh. Well, maybe not.

You had one shot to save your season and you blew it. You got trounced, absolutely trounced, by the Buckeyes. You gave up 45 points to a team that basically sent an entire starting lineup to the NFL. You, on the other hand, retained your Heisman-hopeful quarterback in Baker Mayfield and starting running back Samaje Perine. What’s your excuse? Ohio State hadn’t even played a real game yet and they stomped you. Their toughest test thus far had been Tulsa, although maybe that was a sign. Can you imagine what’s going to happen if someone in the Big 12 actually develops a defense too?

Sorry, got a little side-tracked there. I’m still a little bitter I got proven wrong to some Ohio State fans. I defended you Oklahoma!

Right, so you got wrecked by Houston and Ohio State. Now you’ve got No. 23 TCU coming to town and Vegas is finally calling you out, making you a 3.5 point underdog. It’s a big game, right? A chance to still maintain some relevance in the Big 12, right?

Well, you’re going to lose. Because that’s what Oklahoma does in big games and this is suddenly a big game. It’s against a ranked team and is important, hence a big game. As logic shows, Oklahoma will then lose.

After that, it’s the Red River Showdown. Which you lost last year, to a Texas team that’s not as good as this one and wasn’t ranked No. 23. So you’re going to lose that.

At that point, every game is going to become a big game.

Kansas State? Big game. You lose.

Texas Tech? Big game. You lose.

And so on and so forth, including a loss to Kansas. Basically, every game will suddenly have monumental importance and because Big Game Bob Stoops is still patrolling the sidelines, Oklahoma is going to lose them all and miss the postseason for the first time since 1998. Despite it seeming crazy, the only recourse will be for Oklahoma to fire Bob Stoops in an effort to end this strange curse that he bestowed upon them. He can then go to LSU and bring his weird, anti-clutch curse with him to the bayou.

Good lord, I didn’t realize that I disliked Oklahoma this much until now.

E-mail Tim at [email protected].

Image courtesy Flickr via Creative Commons

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Top 10 Teams Take Tough Tests in Week 3

Just like in school, college football’s first week saw a couple casualties.  There’s always that kid in class you can tell isn’t going to make it.

Week two, despite not a single matchup of ranked teams, was entertaining enough.  Generally speaking, this is the easiest part of the semester.  There aren’t many serious assignments.  You nod in-and-out of consciousness during class and, for the most part, you’re still all good.  Sorry, Cowpokes.

Before you realize it, we’re in the third week already.  By now, professors have stopped caring if you like them.  Seemingly, they’re out for blood and here comes that first exam.  Chances are it’s going to make you wish you’d paid better attention and taken higher quality notes.

Six of the top 10 teams in college football are playing what I consider “real games” this week.  These are the tough tests in week three:

#6 Houston at Cincinnati

Thursday night on ESPN

By no means is Cincinnati a great team, but playing your first true road game against a conference foe in primetime on a Thursday is certainly a challenge.  Account for the way the Bearcats and the record-breaking Nippert Stadium crowd showed up, and this game qualifies as a tough test.

It was good to see Houston follow up its solid win over Oklahoma two weeks ago.  No, the Cougars did not dominate an inferior opponent until late.  Still, Houston is a legitimate national title contender.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Houston gave up a touchdown, opening up a 16-12 deficit, Cincinnati failing a two-point try.  The Cougars answered with an efficient 10-play, 61-yard drive, going up 19-16.

Then they intercepted a pass on the following drive and Greg Ward Jr. led them 60 yards down the field, using 11 plays for a second consecutive touchdown drive.  Cincinnati’s next drive was another interception, this one a house call.  The first play of the next drive was a second consecutive pick six.

All of a sudden it was 40-16 with 3:40 left.  I bring this up because those who didn’t watch will look at the score and laugh, not knowing it took the Cougars’ best to finally dispose of the Bearcats.

This was a great game, but the most interesting part is that it’ll be a Big 12 matchup next year.  That’s right, keep that expansion mumbo jumbo rolling.

It’s no secret Houston is the prize pig for the weakest of the Power 5.  Interestingly, the Cincinnati Bearcats stepped up to the occasion and gave us an unusually exciting Thursday night game.  I think that scores them major points with the Big 12 big wigs.

Anyway, the Houston Cougars came away with a win similar to the one they’ll need every week the rest of the season to keep the Power-5-Playoff-busting dream alive.

#2 Florida State at #10 Louisville

Saturday noon on ABC

It’s really a shame that these two, along with Clemson, are all in the Atlantic division, while the Coastal can’t boast one team legitimately on the same level.  Essentially, this is an ACC semi-final.  The early season aspect makes it all the more interesting.

Lamar Jackson needs to do his thing if he’s going to be a serious Heisman contender this fall.  He’s wowed us with big numbers and flashy plays against inferior teams, thus far.  As Famous Jameis reminded them against Ole Miss two weeks ago, the Seminoles ain’t no puppies.

Winston goes on to say, “We got the best running back in the whole damn league,” referring to the best college running back in the whole damn country, Dalvin Cook.  Watch Cook feast on the Cardinals.

#1 Alabama at #19 Ole Miss

Saturday 3:30 p.m. on CBS

The Tide have lost but thrice in the past two seasons.  Two of those losses have come at the hands of the Rebels.  Recent history is telling us this is the toughest test for Nick Saban and the big, bad Bama boys.  I believe in superstitious stuff like that.

This’ll be closer than the experts think.  Break out your best bowties and slickest seersuckers.  It’s a game day at the Grove with Verne and Gary.

#3 Oh*o State at #14 Oklahoma

Saturday 7:30 p.m. on FOX

Incredibly, Oh*o State still hasn’t lost a true road game under Urban Meyer.  That includes one game in a ranked opponent’s barn in each of his four seasons as Head Buckeye.

You all know I have no love for Oh*o State, but I think it’s absolutely awesome it’s playing this game in Norman, Oklahoma.

The kicker is: Oklahoma cannot afford to take another loss, even if it is a non-conference contest.  I’m curious how, if, that motivates the Fighting Covered Wagons.

I’ll be focusing on the quarterback play.  We’ve got two of the most electric QBs in the nation, J.T. Barrett and Baker Mayfield, going head-to-head.  Expect a flurry of points late as these two go back-and-forth, after they get warmed up.

USC at #7 Stanford

Saturday 8 p.m. on ABC

USC could well have yet another average team that’ll live on unwarranted hype.  Still, this is a real rivalry game that Stanford will not be looking past.

The Cardinal took both the regular season square-off and the Pac-12 Championship Game last year.  The Trojans won the two matchups previous to that, including the last time this rivalry was played at Stanford, in 2014.

Five Progress Reports Pending

We learned a good deal about Houston on Thursday night.  You don’t have to go out on a limb to say that we’ll know much more about five other top ten teams after this weekend.

Good luck on your exams.  Hope you did a little studying in-between beers.

 

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @GreatGatzke.

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It’s Time for Brent Venables to Replace Bill Snyder at Kansas State

Now is the time for Bill Snyder to retire and for Kansas State to hire Brent Venables. When I say it is time for Snyder to retire I mean it is time for him to retire for good. In his first go around at Kansas State, Snyder put together an overall record of 136-69-1. Needless to say, as everyone knows, Snyder is Kansas State football and when he came out of retirement in 2009 he served a purpose, but the time has come for him to step away from the sidelines for good.

Brent Venables played for Snyder and began his coaching career at Kansas State in 1993. He would eventually follow fellow Snyder disciple Bob Stoops to Oklahoma. Out of what seemed to be undying loyalty to Stoops, Venables spent 12 years coaching under Stoops before being pried away by Dabo Swinney. And it is this characteristic of loyalty that is both Venables’ greatest strength and weakness. It is also exactly what Kansas State needs in a true post-Snyder era.

A coach can win in Manhattan, KS. but it is not a place that everyone would be comfortable calling home or a place that a coach would be comfortable pitching on the recruiting trail. Having been born and raised in Salina, KS., Venables not only knows the general area but  he also  knows what can be accomplished in Manhattan. Venables is the coach who can do all of this.

Venables considers coaches who move around a lot to be prostitutes to the profession. Because of this old school attitude, he takes a considerable amount of pride in having coached at just a handful of schools. And even with just three schools on his coaching resume, he considers his current job to be better than the majority of head coaching gigs out there. Notice that he said “majority.” This leaves the door open for him to consider being the head coach at just a few schools while remaining true to his loyalty pledge.

It may be naive of me, but as an outsider, I believe the two schools he would consider head coaching offers from are Oklahoma and Kansas State. Leaving Clemson for either of these schools would still be considered staying true to his loyalist mentality. Oklahoma would be the easier of the two jobs, but Kansas State is truly home to Venables. And of those two schools, Kansas State is the school that needs him the most.

When Stoops finally retires or goes someplace else, Oklahoma should be just fine. If Stoops’ replacement continues the winning tradition that Stoops has established, it won’t be a big deal. It’s Oklahoma. Virtually any coach not named John Blake can win in Norman. So Venables could go to Oklahoma, win and be just another successful Boomer Sooner.

Now if Venables truly goes home, he can not only establish his own legacy but he can also rebuild the legacy of Snyders’ original stint at Kansas State. He can sell the program to recruits based not only on having won there himself as a player and assistant coach but also as being a true Kansan. None of these are things that Snyder’s original successor, Ron Prince, could ever do.

If he did re-establish Kansas State as a conference power, every Kansas State fan from Kansas City to Salina would etch his name next to Snyder’s on whatever Wall of Fame they have. And if, just if, Venables could do what many consider to be the un-thinkable and get Kansas State to a Playoff appearance? If that ever happened, Kansas State fans would find something Venables-centric to replace EMAW with.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom

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Smackdown Fridays: Houston Dooms Oklahoma’s Playoff Run Far Sooner than Expected

In the course of human events, when it becomes necessary for one Group of 5 team to assert its dominance over a Power 5 foe, rest assured that team will probably be the Houston Cougars. It’s the circle of life. It’s bound to happen sooner or later.

After Houston’s comfortable 38-24 victory over #12 Florida State in last season’s Peach Bowl, who’s to say the Cougars can’t hang with the big boys? Critics may cherry-pick their easy schedule or a narrow victory here and there to excuse the program’s 2015 success, but Houston has a prime opportunity to prove those critics wrong. To open the season, the Cougars face Oklahoma.

I have some news for you: Oklahoma is overrated as hell.

Don’t worry, it isn’t just Oklahoma. It’s the entire Big 12. After the conference faithful finally finished whining about being (rightfully) excluded from the College Football Playoff, it seems it’s destined to happen again. The Sooners seem to be the conference’s best bet to clinch a berth, but I have serious concerns.  This Saturday, expect those concerns to become realities. Oklahoma is begging for an upset.

Assuredly, there are Sooner die-hards and Big 12 buffs reading this and foaming at the mouth, fuming over my casual dismissal of one of college football’s premier conferences. Well, the truth is, your conference can’t be premier if the Kansas Jayhawks are in it.

The Big 12 hasn’t claimed a national championship since Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns in 2005. These days, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vince Young waiting on my table at Sizzler. For their part, Oklahoma hasn’t won a national championship since 2000. That was way back when the BCS was actually hip and cool. My point? Picking against the Big 12- or Oklahoma- doesn’t scare me in the slightest.

So I’m taking the Houston Cougars to upset the Oklahoma Sooners this Saturday. And I’m doing so with gusto.

I’ll come out and say something nobody else will say: Tom Herman is currently a better football coach than Bob Stoops. Stoops has seventeen years of head coaching experience and one national championship to show for it. Meanwhile, Herman has been a head coach for all of one season.

Can anybody forget the Ohio State’s offense crumbling after Herman’s departure last season? Second to Urban Meyer, there was nobody more integral to that national championship. Stoops won his championship outright, Herman won his by proxy. Herman also managed to make Braxton Miller, then J.T. Barrett, then Cardale Jones, and now Greg Ward Jr. into Heisman-caliber signal callers. He’s legit. I expect Herman to flash his legit-ness and win the coaching battle in this interstate showdown.

By now, Oklahoma fans are likely loading their muskets and readying their covered wagons to come burn me at the stake, so I’ll go one step further. Greg Ward Jr. will perform better this Saturday than Baker Mayfield. Last season, only two quarterbacks rushed for 1,000 yards and passed for 2,000 yards. One was Greg Ward Jr. The other was Deshaun Watson. You know, the same Deshaun Watson that torched the Sooners 37-17 in the Orange Bowl.

The Sooners will struggle with containing Ward Jr. just as they struggled with containing Watson. The Sooners allowed a ho-hum 161.7 rushing yards per game last season, including 312 yards in the contest against the Tigers. Ward Jr. will be able to make enough big plays to keep momentum in Houston’s favor and the chips in Herman’s hand.

See, Baker Mayfield could throw for 350 yards on the Cougars. And guess what? It wouldn’t matter. Mayfield posted an impressive outing in the Orange Bowl, but even he couldn’t overcome the Sooners’ meager 67 rushing yards. With Houston’s eighth ranked rushing defense returning in full force, don’t expect the Sooners to do much better this time around. Forcing Baker Mayfield to throw might be a major gamble, so they’ll need a fresh secondary to earn their stripes on the largest of stages. Houston proved their resilience thirteen times last season. They can do it again.

Oh, and in case you haven’t heard- the Big 12 is probably expanding. Add yet another chip to the underdog’s shoulder. If Houston wins this game, no further proof of their worthiness should be necessary.

That, unfortunately, doesn’t mean they’ll get in.

You know what? Let Big 12 heavyweights like the Sooners sit back and play politics with the futures of schools like the University of Houston.  Saturday night, Houston has an opportunity to score a larger victory far from the board room: complicate Oklahoma’s playoff bid far Sooner than expected.

E-mail Cole at cole [dot] hankins [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @Cole_Hankins

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