Tag Archives: oklahoma sooners

J.T. Barrett and Ohio State Are Downright Scary

Coming into the 2017 season, the Ohio State Buckeyes were ranked No. 2 in the polls, which garnered both negative and positive reactions. Some eyebrows were raised due to the fact the Buckeyes had been obliterated 31-0 in the 2016 College Football Playoff and were seemingly rewarded based on their namesake alone, while fans argued that despite their embarrassing loss, they lost to the eventual national champion Clemson. Not even almighty Alabama could defeat them. Also, if it wasn’t for a few fortunate opportunities that went Penn State’s way, they would’ve won that game and advanced to the Big Ten Championship game as the presumed favorites versus Wisconsin. Whatever your position was, it was a fortuitous spot to be ranked ahead of the reigning Big Ten champs Penn State and put the pressure on Ohio State to prove their worth.

In their first battle or “test” of the season against Oklahoma, the Buckeyes, seven-point favorites in Columbus, suffered their biggest loss at home since 1999 (46-20 loss to Illinois) and were mocked as overrated. J.T. Barrett was just 19 of 35 for 183 yards as the passing game was wildly inconsistent and below average. It appeared the naysayers were right and much to their delight, the Nittany Lions leapfrogged the Buckeyes in the rankings.

Since that time heading into last Saturday, Ohio State had been playing very good, fundamentally sound football. Yes, the opposition wasn’t exactly challenging but their offense had looked like a well-oiled machine and the defense hadn’t surrendered many points. Sometimes all you need is a few solid games to build momentum and confidence and regain your swagger.

Last weekend before the epic showdown, I was asked the question several times who was the best team in conference and I said Ohio State. Some gave me interesting looks while others laughed and said good luck versus Penn State. Others said I was a traitor for not saying my alma mater, Wisconsin. However, as hard as it is to support Ohio State, I had predicted much earlier this year, Wisconsin would meet Ohio State in the title game and I had to stay true to my word.

Also, I just had this premonition the Buckeyes would get the job done. The game was in Columbus and it’s not the easiest place to play. It’s like meeting a rabid animal in its very own den – its possible to survive but its no simple task either. Second, these teams were only separated by four spots in the rankings. It seemed everyone was already writing the Silver Bullets off much too soon and media outlets criticized Barrett for failing to show up in big games but you can never count out a Buckeye squad that has been written off too early.

We’ve seen this story before in 2014 when Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech only to come back and win the national title. Just when they appear dead to rights, they come back and shock you. To me, it’s simple: Hell hath no fury like a scorned Urban Meyer. Besides Nick Saban, no one plans, prepares, adjusts and responds in the face of adversity better than Meyer.

Things didn’t look great early on for the Buckeyes as Penn State raced out to a 21-3 advantage and although they closed the gap 28-17 by halftime, the Nittany Lions were in control as they built a 35-20 lead in the fourth quarter and appeared they would knock Ohio State out of playoff contention.

Yet, in spite of the big lead, turnovers, poor special teams, and questionable calls, Barrett rose to the occasion. All the qualities people said he didn’t have, he displayed: leadership, poise, resolve and a strong, accurate arm capable of leading his team to victory. The sign of a great leader is how he reacts and responds to adversity and all Barrett did was calmly throw 13 for 13 in the final quarter for 170 yards and three touchdowns including the game-sealing pass to Marcus Baugh with 1:48 left. It was the most impressive performance of his collegiate career in a classic game and showed once again the power of never giving up.

Yes, the jury is still out on Barrett and the Buckeyes as they are far from the being the top contender but the critics have been silenced, at least for moment. The takeaway here is really quite simple: Barrett vaulted himself back into the Heisman race as a front-runner and cemented Ohio State’s spot in the middle of the playoffs, though the initial rankings surprisingly did not place them in the top four. The Buckeyes are peaking at the right time and Barrett is a dangerous man. If they can fix their special team problems, it could be 2014 all over again and that is downright scary.

E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051

Image courtesy of flickr

Texas Found Its Gunslinger, And His Name Is Sam

What a difference a year makes. At this time last year, the week of the OU game, I wrote about the tradition of the Red River Rivalry and virtually avoided writing anything about the actual Texas football team. Texas was 2-2 and coming off of back-to-back terrible losses to California and Oklahoma State. There was no hope for success and the team wasn’t worth talking about, so I chose to avoid it completely.

Fast forward a year and the Longhorns are coming off of yet another dramatic double-overtime game, but this time came out on the winning end against Kansas State. But it’s not only the victory to improve the team’s record to 3-2 that will make the headlines. It’s the fact that Texas has the quarterback they’ve been looking for, and his name is Sam Ehlinger.

I’m not proclaiming Ehlinger to be a hero my any means, but I am proclaiming him to be the starting quarterback over Shane Buechele. He’s clearly earned it.

If you missed it, head coach Tom Herman has been adamant about Buechele not losing his job only because of an injury. And to be fair, Buechele hasn’t been the main reason for the Longhorns’ failures on offense, but Ehlinger is just a better fit.

Notice I said the words “better fit” instead of “better quarterback.” The difference is Herman requires his quarterback to be mobile, based on his past coaching stops and the quarterbacks he’s had success with. Buechele can move, but not very well. What we saw Ehlinger do against Kansas State is exactly what Herman needs to finally get the offense moving in a positive direction and establish an identity.

It’s not the fact that he can scramble out of a sure sack to escape trouble. It’s not even the fact that he can lower his shoulder and completely run over a defensive back. But it’s the fact that Ehlinger is a threat to run the ball, and run the ball well, that will open up holes for this Texas offense.

That’s why Ehlinger has to be the starter going forward. I know he’s going to make mistakes. And quite honestly, I would expect a couple of horrendous games from the true freshman if he is in fact named the starter the rest of the season. But he’s not going to be able to grow unless he’s in those situations.

My final point on the subject is if Ehlinger is not the starter against OU in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, I’ll have some serious questions about what exactly Herman is trying to accomplish here in both the short-term and long-term.

Now, speaking of OU, Texas will have a bigger challenge than they even anticipated when they step foot in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday. No one in their right mind expected Oklahoma to lose at home to Iowa State over the weekend. I felt pretty good about Texas beating Oklahoma, but now I have my doubts because of that result.

Oklahoma simply doesn’t lose two games in a row. In fact, the last time the Sooners lost two games in a row in the regular season (not counting bowl games) was 1999. But in that season, the second loss came to Texas.

History isn’t on Texas’ side now, but the Longhorns clearly have some momentum going for them. Oklahoma is going to be angry, and they are going to play angry. I thought Texas would be able to catch them off guard, but now that’s not the case.

The Longhorns will only win this game if they play the level of defense they did against USC, and if the offensive line holds up well like they did against Kansas State.

And let’s not forget about the gunslinger himself. Ehlinger has lived for this moment. We will see on Saturday if the moment is too big for him. I seriously doubt that will be the case, though.

If the Longhorns lose the game, it would surprise me if it were because Ehlinger played a terrible game. The most likely outcome is the Texas offensive line gets mauled, and never gives Ehlinger a chance to do anything.

I’m still holding out hope that this Texas team may have figured out how to win over the last couple games. But this will be their biggest test so far in the conference season.

Tom Herman has a chance to get his first signature win at Texas. If he chooses to start anyone at quarterback not named Sam, he’ll be making a big mistake.

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

Photo: Wikimedia

Are There Any Good Football Teams in 2017?

There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and Alabama.

Ok, maybe I made up that third one but since Nick Saban took over you can basically pencil the Crimson Tide into one of the top couple spots in the polls. Saban already has his team locked into the number one spot in the polls and everyone else is right on their heels… right?

The entire offseason has been filled with stories about how great other teams were going to be. That Texas was back (they aren’t) and that Josh Allen is the next big thing at quarterback (not so far).

So I guess that leaves us with the question… who’s actually any good? Three weeks in and I’m really not sure who’s any good. I know who I’m being told is good or going to be good but so far, the game has told another story.

Let’s start at the top of the polls.

You’ve got Alabama who took apart Florida State in week one. It’s hard to read into what they did against Fresno State and Colorado State too much but this is the one team in the polls that I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt to. Why only Alabama? Well, because more than anyone, the Tide have a recent track record of excellence. Not a good few years in a row or a couple good years in the last decade, basically a decade of domination. There’s a reason you always see “We Want Bama” signs. 

Clemson is the only other team you can maybe convince me right now is any good after beating Louisville but dial it back a week and the Tigers only managed two touchdowns against Auburn. Auburn doesn’t seem to be very good (Sorry Bird) after only scoring 24 points against Mercer and turning the ball over five times. Louisville is a good win but the rest of the resume is lacking.

Then we’ve got the Sooners. How much can we read into the win over Ohio State? Everyone but Urban Meyer is calling for a quarterback change due to an anemic offense but Ohio State does have a good defense. We’re not going to find out if Oklahoma is any good until week nine when they play in-state rival Oklahoma State who is currently ranked sixth. The Cowboys have the offense but haven’t faced a dominant defense. That showdown is going to tell us a lot about both teams.

I know that I’m supposed to be the Big Ten guy but of the four Big Ten teams in the top ten, three of them are frauds. Both Michigan and Ohio State are downright anemic on offense. Wisconsin is only this high because of favorable preseason ranking and a weak schedule. Sure, the Badgers beat BYU but BYU is bad so all they’ve got is a name now. They’ve got a favorable schedule in their favor and at some point, Michigan’s defense isn’t going to be able to bail out the offense.

Penn State is the only legitimate Big Ten school in the polls. Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley are absolute studs and the Nittany Lions return almost everyone from their Big Ten Championship season. I’m betting on Penn State until proven otherwise.

I actually forgot Washington was in the top ten. I’m not even kidding, I didn’t realize it because they’ve done absolutely nothing of note. Washington is that team that’s ranked highly because of achievements in the previous season. What happened when Washington played a good team last season? Alabama did what they do to everyone.

Then we’ve got what could turn out to be the most over-hyped team in the preseason in USC. All I heard was that USC was “back” and that quarterback Sam Darnold had already won the Heisman and put his team in the playoffs. Instead, they struggled with Western Michigan in their season opener and then had to use double overtime to beat what is not a good Texas team. Darnold doesn’t look like he’s holding up to the expectations either as he’s thrown seven touchdowns to six interceptions. I don’t care that the Trojans beat Stanford, right now this is not a good football team.

Who else is even left?

Georgia? The Bulldogs will start hot until their running back has a catastrophic knee injury like always.

Florida? They had a great hail mary win last week but we all know they’re bad.

Miami? Maybe, but that team has only played one game. There’s no way to tell.

Virginia Tech? I like what Justin Fuente did last season and so far but the Hokies only have a win over West Virginia. Going to need to see more than that.

Mississippi State? Don’t make me laugh. Dan Mullins’ team beat an LSU team with one good player in Derrius Guice.

Where’s this leave us then? Is anyone actually any good? Well at the moment, no.

But they will be. There’s a lot of good coaches out there in Harbaugh, Meyer, and Jimbo Fisher. At some point, one of these teams is going to start showing us that they belong up at the top with Alabama and probably Clemson. Or maybe not. Maybe we’ll get a hilarious year like 2007 where teams like Missouri, Kansas, and Hawaii were routinely seen near the top of the polls.

I don’t think we will but it’s something that college football could use. We’re so entrenched in the idea that there are basically only 25 or so programs that are actually any good according to the polls. Washington broke the mold last season but we need more of that. There’s more than these 25 to 30 out of over 100 programs that are good at football but because they don’t have the right name, they never even get considered.

But let’s be honest: 2017 is Nick Saban and Alabama’s season. We’re all just waiting for them to be crowned at this point unless something unexpected happens.

Image courtesy Flickr

E-mail Tim at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @tbach84.

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Ohio State Lost and It Doesn’t Matter

The Ohio State Buckeyes were served a cold dish of revenge by Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners this past Saturday night.  The offense found the end zone just once.  The defense gave up 28 points in the second half, including 21 unanswered which turned a three-point lead into a three-score deficit.

They were bottled up by a Big 12 defense and exposed by a playmaking quarterback, at home, under the lights, in front of a national audience.  After the game, Mayfield decided to take a victory lap that ended with him planting the OU flag right in the middle of Ohio Stadium.

As a Michigan fan surrounded by Buckeye nuts at the time, I absolutely loved it.  Really though, it’s not going to end up meaning much when it comes to the playoff picture.  Sure, there will be an effect on the team.  Of course, this will go a long way in molding them for the rest of the season.  All of a sudden, the sense of urgency has skyrocketed.  It will feel like every game could be, in essence, the last one that truly matters for this program that sets its bar so high.

Things will seem much different after suffering this crushing blow.  In reality, however, this season started with that heightened sense of urgency for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes.  We know what happened last year.  tOSU snuck into the final four despite not winning its conference (or even its division, for that matter).  It was the first time in the College Football Playoff’s short history that had been done.  Considering the way the Buckeyes rewarded the committee for that decision, it may very well be the last time it happens, too.

So, you come into the 2017 season, if you’re the Buckeyes, knowing that you must win your conference championship game to earn a spot in the top four.  The definition of insanity is yadda, yadda, and you can’t expect the committee to give you the same chance when you squandered it so spectacularly the last go around.  Still, win the Big Ten and you’re virtually guaranteed a spot in the dance.

Here’s the thing: losing to Oklahoma, even if it was by a wide margin, in your own barn, in primetime, in front of the whole country, doesn’t do a damn thing to harm your original goal of winning the Big Ten.  In fact, I would argue that taking such a big L actually motivates, and ends up helping what is still a relatively young squad.

Ohio State fell all the way to number eight in this week’s updated AP Top 25.  That’s still well within striking distance.  Army, UNLV, Rutgers, Maryland, and Nebraska are the competition awaiting the Buckeyes the next five weeks.  Then they have a bye week to prepare a little revenge of their own against Penn State.  Please forgive me for not worrying about where their record will stand when they welcome in the Nittany Lions on October 28.

There are plenty of lessons to be learned from Saturday night’s failure.  If there’s one man who’s going to teach his players how to correct their mistakes, it’s Urban Meyer.  The man’s made a career out of paying special attention to the tiny details and making the necessary adjustments for his team.  I have no doubt he will do the same here, and the Buckeyes will waltz through the next month and a half ahead of the showdown with Penn State.

Ohio State fans are upset.  I get that.  Nobody likes getting beat by two scores on their own turf, at night, with everyone else at home watching.  And they’re really not used to getting bullied in the ‘Shoe.  Still, I don’t see how dropping this game amounts to anything more than a bruised ego and an extra chip on the old shoulder.

Scheduling these massive early season clashes against other national championship contenders does nothing but help nowadays.  Win and you’ve got an impressive, pearly white feather in your cap.  The Buckeyes had just that last fall.  Lose and, really, nothing happens.  You only narrow your focus to what you set out to do anyway, taking home a conference championship.

The rest of the Big Ten had better watch out.  Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners just pissed off the baddest dude on their playground.

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] and follow him on twitter @GreatGatzke.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The New Era of College Football: The Haves Trump The Have-Nots

The evolution of college football has created a new reality. Thanks to the college football arms race in facilities, fan support, and money as well as the nascent playoff system, there are two types of college football programs:

  1. Those that have a chance to win a national championship
  2. Those that have no chance to win a national championship

There is no migration between the types of programs. You either have a chance to win it all or you don’t. The rich teams get richer, everyone else treads water or drowns.

While there are two types of college football programs, there are three types of college football fans:

  1. Those fans who correctly recognize that their teams have a chance win a national championship
  2. Those fans who correctly realize their teams have no chance to win a national    championship
  3. Those fans who incorrectly believe their team has a chance to win the national championship, when in reality, they have no chance.

No convinced? Take a look at the following videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVC3UziHeGk and this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZU4NXtu2T5E.

These are, theoretically, facilities for college students. But we all know what these really are. Recruiting tools to draw top athletes to Texas and Texas A&M. These are “in-kind” payments to players who are ostensibly amateur athletes.

I have no doubt that the other programs with a chance to win a national championship have (or will soon have) facilities on par if not better than these. We all know the names of these programs – Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Auburn, Florida, Ohio St, Michigan, Clemson, Florida State, & Oklahoma. You could probably add Oregon, Tennessee, Notre Dame and a small handful of other programs to this list, but that’s it. No other programs have a chance.

It is not shocking for fans of programs like Virginia, Wake Forest, Duke, Boston College, Vandy, Kansas, and Northwestern that they have zero chance to win a national championship…ever. I think the fans of these programs understand that they will never have facilities like Texas or Texas A&M. They will never compromise their integrity to the extent that the contending programs must to get the numbers of top players needed to compete for a national championship. Fans from these programs and many more like them realize their role in the world of college football. They are fodder for the teams with a chance to win it all. They can have successful seasons and win bowl games, but they will never hoist the national championship trophy. Maybe that’s okay. The point of college, after all, is to educate young minds, not win national championships. College athletics is supposed to be entertaining, so if you recognize your place and revel in reaching the heights of success within the boundaries of your possibilities, college football is a great deal of fun.

What might be shocking to the vast majority of the fans of programs not listed above, is that their teams also have no chance to win a national championship. None, zero, zilch, nada… they just don’t realize it. Many programs fit this description…we can all name these programs with perpetually frustrated fans who mistakenly think they are on the cusp of breaking into the top tier of college programs – Virginia Tech, NC State, UNC, West Virginia, Michigan State, South Carolina, TCU, Baylor, Arizona, Missouri, Maryland, Iowa, Kansas St, and Arkansas among many others, have no chance to win a national championship. Unfortunately, their fans think they do.

Think about how excited fans of these programs are when they land a big-time recruit. A 5-star or high 4-star kid who is a “can’t miss” prospect. There are high-fives all around and dreams of winning the college football playoff. The sad reality is, the teams that have a real chance to win it all, get at least a half a dozen of these players – every year. Not one per year or every other year like the wannabe programs. So the teams with a real chance to win it all have 30 or more can’t-miss players on their teams. The wannabe teams might have 5.

None of this is lost on the best coaches in the industry either. Do you think Nick Saban is going to leave Alabama to coach Northwestern anytime soon? Urban Meyer going to Wake Forest? Which programs have huge donor bases that make space-age locker rooms possible? (hint: it’s not Duke and it’s not Virginia…nor NC State or West Virginia) The best coaches go to the programs with the biggest donor bases that pay the biggest salaries & fund the best facilities, which draw the best talent…and so the cycles continues.

Like gambling in Vegas, the college football game is rigged. Over the course of any season, there will be exciting times when wannabe teams beat the odds and score big upsets. But over the course of a full season (including the playoffs), a single wannabe program cannot beat the system. There are too many 30+ mega-recruit teams out there, getting better every day and one of those teams will win the national championship every time. It’s why house wins over time in Vegas. The swanky trappings of the Bellagio are not there because gamblers go home winners. The odds favor the house, so it always wins. The system favors the top programs, so they will always win.

As we begin the 2017 college football season, we could create a list of 18-20 programs with a chance to win it all. It would be the same list from 2016. The participants in the football championship will be from that list – with no chance for an upstart to crash the party. It’s like the list to get into the VIP section of a popular night club. Not on the list? Not getting in.

The downside of this could be that as more college football fans realize the game is rigged against them, fans will lose interest and the game’s popularity could begin to fade. Then again, Las Vegas doesn’t seem to be losing its steam and state lotteries continue to be wildly popular. Maybe the fans of the wannabe programs understand their fate better than they let on. Maybe they are like the lottery players, thinking that someone is going to win this jackpot, if I buy a ticket it might be me, so every season, misplaced hope springs eternal. Unfortunately, the odds of winning the Powerball are better than their team winning the national championship.

E-mail David at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @dmrayner.

Auburn: No Need to Curb Your Enthusiasm

I just completed reading an article written by my friend, and co-host of the SEC 411 podcast, Seth Merenbloom. Seth is also an editor here at Campus Pressbox. I have a great deal of respect for his opinions on sports, in general, and on the SEC, in particular.

But I am going to have to part ways with my colleague on this one. He is of the opinion that Auburn is overrated. This piece from SEC Country deals with the Sports Illustrated prediction of Auburn as the number 10 team in the country. The column also mentions the Tigers as CBS Sports’ pick as number nine in the preseason.

The only poll we have at this point belongs to the coaches. Auburn ranks 13th there.

Let’s pause for a moment and reconsider the fact that all of this is merely talk, opinion, conjecture. Teams have begun practice all across the land but no one has played a single game just yet.

But talk is what we rabid fans do this time of year in the dog days of summer. The actual games begin on August 26th and the first game in the SEC, Florida A&M at Arkansas, follows on August 31st.

Back to Auburn and my take on the matter. I am with CBS Sports. I would put Auburn in the number nine slot. Also, I would precede my Tigers with 1. Clemson (I am of the old school opinion that the number one team from the previous year remains numero uno until/if they are defeated during the upcoming campaign. See September 9, Auburn at Clemson) 2. Alabama 3. Ohio State 4. Washington 5. Florida State 6. Penn State 7. Oklahoma 8. Southern Cal.

I would put Michigan at 10.

And I do my rankings based on how strong I foresee teams. I don’t take into account schedules, conferences, etc. I ask myself, “How good is this team in relation to the other teams in the FBS? How strong are they overall? What if this team played ‘X’ on a neutral field?”

Now, here is my reasoning on Auburn’s ranking as a top ten team.

Auburn returns seven starters on the defensive side of the ball, including its three top tacklers. Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams must be replaced but there is a ton of talent to go around on this surly defense.

Marlon Davidson is a beast and with help from the likes of Dontavius Russell, Derrick Brown, Tre Williams, Darrell Williams, DeShaun Davis, Carlton Davis and Tray Matthews, to name just a few, the D is stacked with top line SEC talent. There is also enough quality depth to make this unit as good or better than the 2016 group. And Kevin Steele is back as the coordinator. That’s big.

The offense should be lethal. We all know about Jarrett Stidham but the Tigers are three deep at quarterback with Sean White and Malik Willis. Running back? Loaded. Kamryn Pettway, Kerryon Johnson, Kam Martin, Malik Miller, and C.J Tolbert give Auburn a stable of horses second to none in the conference.

The offensive line is more talented and deep than it has been in years. Pat Dye thinks they have the potential to be as good as any since he began coaching at Auburn in 1981.

Wide receivers? Eli Stove, Darius Slayton, Nate Craig, Kyle Davis, Will Hastings, Ryan Davis, Marquis McClain and, now, John Franklin, will give Auburn very good talent and depth here.

Also, the tight end position should be much improved with Jalen Harris returning and transfer Sal Cannella, and his excellent hands, making this a position of strength.

Oh! Auburn has the best placekicker in the country in Daniel Carlson, as well.

The talent, experience, and depth is all in place down on the Plains. And, I think, Gus Malzahn has put together the complete and cohesive staff he has been looking for since he took over in 2013.

When you mix all of these ingredients together along with a great team chemistry and a hunger to win, I think you might be looking at a very special season down in the Loveliest Village.

I don’t think I can “Curb My Enthusiasm.”

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 Best and Worst of 2016: Big 12

The Big 12 Conference had a pretty forgettable year on and off the field in 2016. The conference was shut out from the College Football Playoff again and hit rock bottom in terms of conference prestige.

But not everything was a complete disaster. Here are some of the best and worst games in the Big 12 last season.

Best Games of 2016

Texas vs. Notre Dame

Texas is back” is what college football fans heard on the Sunday of Labor Day. The Longhorns kicked off the season with a thrilling double overtime win over 10th-ranked Notre Dame. It appeared very briefly that Texas would make some national noise, but finished 5-7 instead. And despite the game being fool’s gold because of Notre Dame also being highly overrated, it was still arguably the best game for a Big 12 team, especially in the non-conference schedule.

TCU vs. Oklahoma

This was a game many thought TCU could win, especially with Oklahoma’s early struggles. The Sooners ran away with the game in the first three quarters before TCU mounted a strong comeback. They had an opportunity to win in the end, but it ended up being an Oklahoma victory 52-46. The win was the beginning of some serious momentum for Oklahoma that propelled them into an eventual top-10 finish in the polls.

TCU vs. Texas Tech

This game may not have looked pretty, but it was highly entertaining. In what was expected to be a shootout, no one could have predicted the score to be tied at 17 at the end of regulation. The Red Raiders won on the road in double overtime 27-24 after the TCU kicker missed a short field goal on the first possession in double OT. In true Texas Tech fashion, they played conservatively and kicked a game winning field goal. A fitting end to one of the most surprising results of the Big 12 season.

Honorable Mention: Kansas State vs. Texas A&M and Oklahoma State vs. Colorado

It’s worth mentioning these two bowl games together because it’s always good for the conference when a team beats a former conference mate. Kansas State beating Texas A&M was a true shocker, and no one expected Oklahoma State to handle Colorado the way they did. These games really helped the perception of the Big 12 during the bowl season.

Worst Games of 2016

Oklahoma vs. Ohio State

The final score showed Ohio State winning 45-24, but anyone watching the game knows it was much worse than that. This was supposed to be the game to put Oklahoma and the Big 12 on the map. Instead, the Sooners got embarrassed by the Buckeyes at home. It capped off a rough start for Oklahoma, who eventually would win the conference. Which raises the question: just how far behind is the Big 12 when it comes to being nationally relevant?

Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma

This game was just purely embarrassing for the Big 12. With the final score of 66-59, how can you really claim either team won? The teams should have just rested their defenses and let the offense play against air. It would have been the same result. I have no problem with a high scoring game, but this one got out of hand. A big embarrassment for the conference, to say the least.

Kansas vs. Texas

Big 12 critics seem to think the conference won’t be relevant again until Texas and Oklahoma are both top-10 teams again. Texas proved they have a long way to go after losing to lowly Kansas. It’s easy to say this was the worst game of the Big 12 season, but you can’t take away that much from Kansas. You can. This was an awful game from start to finish. Kansas snapped their 23-game losing streak to FBS opponents and Texas finally hit rock bottom. No one truly won this game, and the conference took a huge hit to its reputation as a result.

Honorable Mention: Oklahoma State vs. Central Michigan

You may not have seen a wilder finish to a game than this one. The referees admitted a mistake on their part, which gave Central Michigan one last chance with an untimed down. They threw up a Hail Mary, which got lateraled back and ran across the field for a touchdown. Cowboys fans will want to forget this one forever.

Iowa State vs. Texas Tech

Overshadowed by Texas’ loss to Kansas, Texas Tech managed to lose 66-10 to Iowa State on the same day. I’m not even sure how that’s possible on either side of the scoreboard, but somehow it happened. As if anyone wanted to really watch this game anyway.

Well, there you have it. Time to close the book now on the 2016 Big 12 football season as being one to forget. But hey, look at the bright side, the conference can’t get much worse in 2017!

Or can it?

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

Photo: Wikimedia

New Year’s Six Preview: Sugar Bowl

If I’m being totally honest, the Sugar Bowl is the least interesting of this year’s New Year’s Six matchups. It features two teams who, despite being highly ranked, failed to ever truly contend for the College Football Playoff. Neither the Auburn Tigers nor the Oklahoma Sooners had any type of eye-catching season, and this game just seems, frankly, boring to me. It’s the last of the New Year’s Six games this year, and I would be unsurprised if it receives the lowest TV ratings of the bunch.

There is no point walking around it, so let’s just cut right to the chase. This game really shouldn’t be close. I can’t say that it won’t be, because you never know how hard teams will come out and play for a bowl game, but it really shouldn’t be much of a game. Auburn is severely outclassed. While Oklahoma did drop a few embarrassing games to Houston and Ohio State, Auburn really hasn’t shown me a single bit of proof that it can beat a team like Oklahoma.

Against good teams, the Tigers have struggled mightily to score, and I seem the same thing transpiring in New Orleans this year. Let’s not forget that Auburn lost to Georgia in November! The fact that this team is in the New Year’s Six at all is baffling. It points toward a huge issue with conference bids to bowl games of such large magnitude. The SEC had the automatic bid for the Sugar Bowl, but the SEC was so uncharacteristically awful (apart from Alabama, obviously) that it almost seemed like no one actually wanted to go to the Sugar Bowl. Auburn won only 66% percent of its games this season. Yet, here the Tigers are, somehow, in the Sugar Bowl.

Anyway, my prediction is simple. This is a landslide. Baker Mayfield gets going early, and the Sooners cruise throughout the majority of the second half of this bowl game. There is a chance that Auburn could make a game of it, but I just don’t see it happening. Look for the Sooners to go back home happy.

 

Final Score: Oklahoma Sooners 38, Auburn Tigers 17

 

Email Cooper at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.

Photo: Pixabay

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Allstate Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma’s Offense vs. Auburn’s Defense

The Auburn Tigers and Oklahoma Sooners will do battle in the 83rd annual Allstate Sugar Bowl on Monday, January 2nd, 2017, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. Kickoff is set for 7:30 local time (CT).

The seventh ranked Sooners (10-2, 9-0 Big 12) are Big 12 Champions and winners of nine games in-a-row.

The Tigers (8-4, 5-3 SEC) finished the 2016 campaign ranked 17th in the College Football Playoff Poll. That was good enough for second place in the SEC and a spot in a New Year’s Six  bowl game.

This will be only the second time these two college football powers have met on the gridiron. The first encounter came in the Sugar Bowl, oddly enough, following the 1971 season. In that game, Oklahoma jumped out to a 34-0 lead and never looked back, winning 40-22.

Auburn will be making its sixth (2-2-1) appearance in the Sugar Bowl while the Sooners have played in seven (5-2) of these events.

Oklahoma has a high octane offense which scores at a 44.7 (third in the nation) points per game clip. Its total yardage is 557 yards per game (third in the nation), with 319.8 (12th in the nation) of that coming through the air and 237.5 (21st in the nation) on the ground.

Auburn’s strength is its rushing attack, averaging 278.5 yards per game (sixth in the nation and first in the SEC). The Tigers pass for 170.8 yards per game (112th in the nation) and score an average of 32.3 points per game (47th in the nation).

From these statistics, it is clear that Oklahoma is capable of scoring a lot of points and piling up a great deal of yardage. Auburn has a good offense and can run the ball extremely well.

This is where it gets interesting. Auburn is very stingy in points allowed. It only gives up an average of 15.6 points per game. That is fifth in the nation. And total yardage? The Tigers allow 348 yards per game and that is 20th in the nation.

Oklahoma? It gives up 29.7 points per game and allows 440 yards per game.

Auburn gave up as much as 30 points in only one game this season. That came in a 30-12 loss to SEC Champion and College Football Playoff bound Alabama.

Oklahoma, on the other hand, allowed 59 points to Texas Tech, 46 to TCU, 45 to Ohio State, and 40 to Texas.

It all boils down to Oklahoma’s superb offense vs. Auburn’s stellar defense. And I think the game’s key matchup, within this context, is the Tigers’ defensive line versus the Sooners’ offensive line.

Baker Mayfield is an excellent quarterback and Dede Westbrook is as good as it gets at wide receiver. When you combine those two with the running back tandem of Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine you begin to get an idea of just why the Sooners vaunted offense is, indeed, so lethal.

Mayfield completed 235 out of 330 pass attempts for 3,669 yards (71.2%) and 38 touchdowns with only eight interceptions.

Westbrook caught 74 passes for 1,465 yards. 16 of those receptions went for touchdowns. He averaged 19.8 yards per catch.

Mixon ran for 1,183 yards on 168 tries for 7.0 yards per carry. Perine ran the ball 179 times for 974 yards and 5.4 yards per carry.

But back to the battle of the trenches. I like Auburn’s d-line to handle Oklahoma’s o-line. And I like Auburn’s o-line to fare well against Oklahoma’s d-line.

Auburn should be able to establish the run with Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson each at full speed. Stanton Truitt and Kam Martin should contribute, as well.

Also, Gus Malzahn says Sean White is well and will not be limited in anyway. That is big news for the Tiger faithful.

One more key is motivation. The news from the Plains is that Auburn is fresh, explosive, highly motivated, and are chomping at the bit to pick up a big win versus a high profile opponent, The Big 12 Champion.

I certainly don’t think Oklahoma will come out flat or listless, but I do think it is disappointed in not making the playoff, and I believe that Auburn wants this one more.

The Sooners are a three-point favorite.

I can see a three-point win, but with the victory going to the Tigers of the SEC.

Auburn 31, Oklahoma 28

Here is some more excellent info, with predictions, on this big game:

http://www.espn.com/blog/ncfnation/post/_/id/134103/sugar-bowl-auburn-tigers-vs-oklahoma-sooners

http://collegefootballnews.com/2016/allstate-sugar-bowl-prediction-game-preview-history-scores

 

E-mail Bird at bird [dot] lecroy [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @Autull.