Winning one for the conference…

 

While the OU win over Notre Dame was a big one for Sooner fans, it may end up being an even bigger win for the Big 12 conference.   As stated earlier the OU/ND game was a must win.  While the Fighting Irish are not the team they were last year, it is still Notre Dame and a win in South Bend is still a big deal.   The win keeps the Sooners in the hunt for national honors and keeps the conference relative in national terms.  If the Sooners had lost, prospects for the conference would have gone down-hill fast, not only for this year, but also for the all-important 2104 playoff season.  With the win, the Sooners and the Big 12 now have hope for survival.   

Going into Saturday’s game, the Big 12 was the ranked fifth among America’s BCS conferences.  If the 2014 CFP selection Sunday were held today, a fifth place conference standing would land the conference winner out of the playoff picture.  If this were to happen, the conference would be on the outside looking in along with the BYU’s and Boise States of the world during the playoff season.

The conference has a lot of work to do between now and next season, but the Sooners took a big step on Saturday of making that happen.    Given the demoralizing performance of Big 12 teams during the non-conference phase of the 2013 season, the conference now faces an uphill struggle for credibility in 2013.    With conference headliners Texas and Oklahoma State going south in-a-hurry, it is now up to the big name Sooners to carry the mantel for the conference.   The ground work for conference survival was laid on Saturday.  Only time will tell if the Sooners can finish the deal. 

Here is the lay of the conference land…

  • An undefeated Oklahoma who won in one of the most hostile environments in America and as a result will carry the mantel for the Big 12 this year. 
  • An undefeated Baylor team that will come down to earth as soon as they start playing somebody.  Two losses are likely…
  • An undefeated Texas Tech team with an incredibly soft early season schedule.  Raiders play a Bataan March schedule at the end of the season.  Two/three losses are likely
  • A scandal ridden and one loss Oklahoma State team that spent the weekend being exposed offensively by a bad West Virginia team.  Another loss or two can be expected…
  • A two loss West Virginia team that almost lost to Bill and Mary and was embarrassed by a middle-of- the-road ACC conference Maryland team. 
  • A two loss Texas team who will be playing the rest of the season with a bad quarterback tandem and a lame-duck head coach. 
  • A two loss TCU team who must play several more games with an anemic quarterback.
  • A two loss K-State team that lost to a Division II team this year.  Unfortunately for the conference this K-State team will upset a conference upper level team thereby hurting the conference RPI rating. 
  • A two loss Iowa State team that will upset an upper level team at home in order to save their season and their beloved coach.  Bad news for conference leaders again. 
  • A two loss Kansas team already thinking basketball…   

In summary, some national media experts have begun referring to the Big 12 as the Big Least, an obvious slam at both the Big 12 and the former football-playing Big East conference.   Only the Sooners can turn this national perspective around.   While it is to be expected that Big 12 fans will root for their own teams when playing the Sooners, these same fans should also root for Oklahoma against everyone else.  If the Sooners can run the table with an undefeated season the conference will be saved.   The Sooners took a big step on Saturday by winning one for the conference

Boomer Sooner…

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2014 Preseason Recruiting Rankings as of 9/27/13…

 

In case anyone would suggest that recruiting is overrated, a look at the first week of the season should dispense of that talk.  On the first Thursday South Carolina demonstrated once again that the Gamecocks have become a national force since Jadeveon Clowney made his way to the South Carolina  campus. While North Carolina lost to South Carolina, it was obvious that Larry Fedora is recruiting better athletes and as a result North Carolina is not far away from being a very good team.  

That same weekend Ole Miss demonstrated why they are a team on the rise with a line-up full of true freshman blue chips.   Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell who had only been on campus for four weeks played like a man among boys against Vanderbilt.   Vanderbilt the loser is in good shape even with the loss as their recruiting over the past several years have made them a force to be dealt with in the SEC. The SEC label is making it harder than for teams outside south to get the best players for their programs. The playoff years will only serve to exacerbate this division. 

While the end of the recruiting season is still five months away many teams are wrapping up their 2014 classes early.   In order to create some clarity into the early commitment rankings I use a star average rating instead of the numbers ratings used by Rivals and Scout.  My system emphasizes quality over quantity.  It also creates a projected finish for next February.   At the same time, feel reel free to visit the Rivals, Scout and ESPN websites and compare notes.

One of the most obvious differences between my ratings and that of Rvials and Scout is the OU and OSU perspective.  Currently OU has commitments from only 14 of its allowed 25 players.  As a result of this limited number of recruits Rivals ranks the Sooners only 34th.   Using my system the Sooners will end up no lower than 25.   OSU on the other hand is cruising along at #25 in the Rivals rankings with its 20 commitments.   I predict however that at the current pace, the Cowboys will finish no higher than #40. Of course this ranking may drop as soon as Cowboy sandal turns to probation talk for the Cowboys.   Based on my rankings OU and TCU both have excellent shots at edging out Texas for number one in the conference next February.    

Finally, the one thing that will impact each of these programs will be the performance of the teams down the stretch.  The Sooners and Horned Frogs with 14 and 9 commitments respectively have big visit days planned during the season.   Strong performances in those games will go a long way in locking up four and five star athletes still left.  OSU on the other hand realizing that its dirty storm was brewing has already secured 20 of its allowable 25 commitments.  Only time will tell how many of these commitments will peel off once probation talk sinks in.    

Finally, as the 2014 playoff season gets closer to reality, conference power ratings supported by solid recruiting will go a long way in establishing the pecking order for next year’s playoffs.     Loyalty to a particular may be trumped by a player’s desire to play for a CFP possibility.  To that end one list below will highlight 2014 conferences and the recruiting success of member schools. 

Big 12 rankings…

  • Big 12 Conference teams…
  • Conference strength…
  • NCAA Division I programs with a 3.0 rating or higher rating…

 

Preseason ranking of Big 12 Teams

(Commitments in parenthesis)

 

  1. (24) Texas                   3.21
  2. (9) TCU                        3.11
  3. (14) Oklahoma          3.07
  4. (13) West Virginia      2.92
  5. (22) Baylor                  2.91
  6. (8)   Kansas                 2.86
  7. (20) Oklahoma St.     2.75
  8. (19) Texas Tech         2.68
  9. (13) Iowa State          2.62
  10. (8)   Kansas St.           2.57

 

Recruiting by conference…

(number of teams by conference with 3.0 composites or higher)

 

SEC                         12/14

Pac 12                     9/12

Big Ten                   9/12

ACC                          8/14

Big 12                      3/10

 

Ranking                  Team                    

  1. (3.81)            Georgia               
  2. (3.75)            Alabama
  3. (3.69)            Notre Dame
  4. (3.64)            Texas A&M
  5. (3.64)            Florida 
  6. (3.61)            Ohio State         
  7. (3.57)            Auburn                
  8. (3.57)            USC                       
  9. (3.54)            South Carolina 
  10. (3.50)            LSU                        
  11. (3.50)            Washington      
  12. (3.47)            Michigan            
  13. (3.44)            Tennessee         
  14. (3.44)            Clemson             
  15. (3.35)            Florida State
  16. (3.32)            Miami  
  17. (3.29)            Kentucky            
  18. (3.28)            Vanderbilt         
  19. (3.25)            Oregon                
  20. (3.25)            Penn State         
  21. (3.25)            Stanford             
  22. (3.22)            Virginia               
  23. (3.22)            UCLA                    
  24. (3.21)            Texas                   
  25. (3.15)            Mississippi
  26. (3.14)            Arizona State    
  27. (3.13)            Michigan St.      
  28. (3.13)            Arkansas
  29. (3.11)            TCU                       
  30. (3.10)            North Carolina
  31. (3.09)            California           
  32. (3.09)            Wisconsin          
  33. (3.08)            Northwestern  
  34. (3.07)            Oklahoma          
  35. (3.00)            Georgia Tech
  36. (3.00)            Arizona                               
  37. (3.00)            Louisville
  38. (3.00)            Nebraska            
  39. (3.00)            Utah                     
  40. (3.00)            Minnesota         
  41. (3.00)            Maryland

 

 

 

A must win for the Sooners…

 

The early season goings on cannot be what Big 12 officials envisioned when they turned their backs on overtures to join up with other conferences during the conference realignment era.  It appears that everything has settled down nationally and the other major conferences have settled on their teams for the 2014 playoff year.  Each of those conferences are getting stronger while the Big 12 is floundering.   If the Big 12 does not turn things around in a hurry, recruits will be avoiding the Big 12 like the plague in hopes of hooking up with a conference with viable playoff aspirations. 

In spite of schedules speckled with 9 Division II opponents the conference is a smashing 21-11.  As a result, the conference must turn things around quickly and an OU win at Notre Dame has become a  must win for the conference.  While a win over the overrated Irish may not provide a huge strength of schedule jump for the Sooners, a loss to the Irish would be devastating for both the Sooners and for the conference.   With preseason contenders Texas, K-State and TCU going south in a hurry only three bono fide contenders remain.  It now appears to be up to OU, OSU and Baylor to carry the Big 12 banner and keep the conference relative this year and beyond. 

Baylor will score a ton of points against defenseless opponents, but will falter against teams that can play defense.  That leaves OU and OSU to get it done.  If OU were to stumble in South Bend, only the scandal ravaged Cowboys would remain. 

As I said many times, the Big 12 is getting what it asked for.  When the conference decided to go it alone a few years back, Big 12 officials with the agreement of OU leaders installed OSU as the conferences’ third team to go along with marquee teams OU and Texas.  Unfortunately, conference officials did not see the OSU scandal coming.  Having OSU represent the conference in its BCS bowl game would validate OSU’s scandal-ridden ways and would be an embarrassment for the conference.  

Here is the skinny for conference survival.  OU must run the table with wins over Notre Dame Saturday followed by wins over TCU and Texas.  Anything less will cause the conference to continue its downward spiral, a move that will certainly put the conference behind the 8 ball for next year’s playoff run. 

 Boomer Sooner…

OSU is a Dirty Program…

 

 

There really is only one way to put this.   The OSU’s football program is dirty.  If only half the allegations uncovered by Sports Illustrated are true, OSU has set the new standard for sleaziness.     If the financially strapped NCAA can muster up any kind of investigation at all, the OSU football program should be in big trouble.    OSU, being no stranger to the probation world should have seen this one coming.   The Cowboys have been punished 5 times since World War II.   The most recent punishment was the near-death penalty in the mid 80’s.  This penalty was the second worst penalty ever handed out by the NCAA.  Oddly enough many of the allegations leveled at OSU program this time around are the same as what the program faced in the 80’s.  Not surprising is the fact that OSU donor Boone Pickens has played a prominent role in both scandals.    Cutting Pickens and his OSU cronies some slack this group of OSU alums has spent their entire lives overcoming their inferiority complex created by the Grapes of Wrath era.  Using money to grease the skids, these mega-boosters will stop at nothing to make OSU into a big time player.  Abusing common decency in their business lives prepared them well for the dirty game. 

 

Unfortunately, the college football road is littered with teams like OSU who have put winning ahead of common decency.  Before OSU there was SMU and another Texas billionaire.   The similarities between SMU’s Bill Clements and OSU’s Boone Pickens are uncanny as both made their fortunes on the backs of decent, hard-working Americans and then used this bounty to buy a college football franchise.    Snubbing their noses at the NCAA did not work for SMU and hopefully it will not work for OSU.     After repeated abuse and subsequent cover-ups, SMU was finally given the death penalty in 1986.   The program was shut down for a year and basically has never recovered.  While the NCAA has stated that no other school will ever receive the death penalty again, OSU is certainly deserving of that treatment.  How many times can a school snub its nose at NCAA and get away with it.

 

Similar to the SMU days, anyone with half a brain could have seen this train wreck coming.   As soon as university regents turned the keys to the henhouse over to the fox, irregularities were bound to follow.   Without restating the allegations cited in SI article the goings on in Stillwater over the past decade make the allegations leveled against SMU look like child’s play.   The NCAA phrase, “lack of institutional control” was made for this occasion.   With Pickens running things in Stillwater from his Dallas office the thought of institutional control became a joke.

 

For the aging oilman, Pickens see each succeeding year as one less year he can achieve his ultimate goal of making OSU into a national power.  Utilizing his training as a corporate raider and cut-throat artist, he shrewdly went about turning OSU into his personal play thing.   Sinking almost a billion dollars into what he considers his last earthly project, Pickens set out to make OSU football into a perennial winner by hook or by crook.    

 

Pickens laid the foundation for his dirty game scheme by ousting the old guard at OSU.  Before Les Miles and Mike Gundy there was Bob Simmons.  Simply put Bob Simmons became a problem for Pickens as he realized that Simooms’ honesty and integrity would be an obstacle to Pickens’ “win at all cost” scheme.    Pickens moved quickly to replace Simmons with Les Miles.  Adding substances to his coup de tat’, Pickens hired a puppet brigade made up Burns Hargis (President), Mike Holder (Athletic Director), and Mike Gundy (Head Coach in-Waiting).  Pickens also hired the best assistant coaching staff money could buy.     This staff included Joe DeForest, the player’s best friend.   The administrative team was told to practice looking the other way as the dirty game plan took shape.

 

The plan worked to perfection…With players bought and paid for by Pickens, the

Les Miles-led Cowboys upset #4 OU in Miles’ second year.  No one saw that one coming and the monumental win over the arch-rival served to validate that the dirty game was working.  OSU alums could not move quickly enough to jump on board by providing $100 dollar handshakes to players in the locker room following the game.   In just a couple of years OSU, a perennial Big 12 doormat was now being mentioned in the same breath as national championships.  The dirty game blue print had been implemented to perfection and OSU and its fans were now on top of the world.  

 

The local media did its part as well by taking a hands-off approach toward the OSU program.  Even with the Logan County Jail becoming “a home away from home” for OSU football players there was never anything in the papers to indicate that there might be a problem in Stillwater.   Same goes for sports talk shows as OSU was treated with kid gloves in hopes that the football team would eventually compete with the Sooner football program.   Media outlets saw a competitive OSU program as good for financial business.  

 

As for today, nothing has changed.   The local media has rallied behind the beleaguered Cowboy program acting as if Sports Illustrated magazine is more like the National Inquirer that a credible sports publication.  The local media seems much more interested in attacking the messenger than corrected the ills created by a dirty football program.  While many Oklahomans will be okay with ignoring the obvious, the national media will be less understanding.   Once again, the SI story and its findings have created a black eye for the state as national observers will continue to see state of Oklahoma in a bad light and unfortunately lump OU and the Big 12 with OSU.  Only time will tell how much damage this expose’ will have on the Big 12 conference.   

 

Finally, something good could come of this for OU fans.   Many OU fans have tired of being lumped with OSU anytime the topic of conference realignment is mentioned.  Hope breeds eternal so these same OU fans have suggested that the latest goings on in Stillwater might allow OU to be free of the OSU albatross.  Separating ourselves from OSU would be great, but it won’t be easy to accomplish.   Given David Boren’s affection for OSU and his apparent man-crush for Boone Pickens, making a conference realignment move without the Cowboys will be difficult.  At the same time now that OSU’s dirty game is out of the bag, the previous leverage that Boone Pickens possessed may be lessened.   It is time for OU fans to push the envelope and force the OU regents to act.  It is time for a conference change, with or without OSU… 

 

 

 

 

 

Johnny Jackass and the King…

 

When the “King” Barry Switzer speaks, people listen.  In a recent interview Barry shared his two cents worth on the Johnny Manziel deal.   As expected Barry was upset over Johnny Football’s antics.  In particular he was upset with Manziel’s behavior during the Rice game, particularly the manner in which Manziel responded to Coach Sumlin after he was pulled from the game.    The level of disrespect that Johnny Jackass showed his coach really bothered the King.  He suggested that Manziel’s behavior on the sidelines would not have been tolerated by him or Woody Hayes back in the day and then went on to blame Manziel’s behavior on the lack of core values by kids in today’s world.  

I obviously have no issues with the first part of this story, Johnny Manziel is a jackass pure and simple and that fact has been well documented.   I do take issues with the King’s defense of Manziel’s coach Keven Sumlin and his blanket statement about today’s youth.   I choose to lay the blame for Manziel’s behavior squarely at Manziel’s feet and at the feet of his parents.   As part of my argument I will present the case of OU’s Sam Bradford.  Bradford is the antithesis of Manziel and his generation deserves better than to be lumped with scum-buckets like him. 

As I have said earlier, when raised by wolves, a person will demonstrate the core values that go along with running with a pack.  His thugery metamorphous did not occur after he showed up in College Station.  The Aggie coaching staff knew what kind of person they were recruiting when they went after the fleet footed quarterback.   Head coaches, university leaders and fans can’t have it both ways.  If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s a duck.  Either a program has core values that they expect others to adhere to or they don’t.  A&M sold their souls to the devil and the devil will get his due.  Keven Sumlin will get no dispensation from me in this matter.  He knew what he was doing and now he is reaping the downside of his decisions.   

As for Barry’s assertion that Manziel is representative of kids these days who lack core values, I take issue with that statement as well.    As someone who works with kids on a daily basis, a vast majority of the kids I come in contact with are fantastic.  As a group, they are respectful and courteous and simply much better than we deserve given their parents.    It has always been customary for the older generation to blame the younger generation of that day for everything.  That blame game will always be with us.  Regardless of this debate, I suggest that we try harder to find positive role models and not be content to accept the negative argument in these cases.  

To that end, let’s take a look at Oklahoma’s own Sam Bradford.  Sam Bradford was raised by parents who personified positive core values.   Everyone who has ever come in contact with Sam Bradford swears by him as a kid who went out of his way to be a wonderfully respectful and well-mannered person.  Choosing not to take on the role of a prima-donna football player, he had a kind word for everyone at his high school.  Bradford burst on the scene at OU to take the quarterback position in 2007.  He went on to win the Heisman Trophy in 2008, crediting his coaches, players, and family for his success.   The next year, Bradford became the richest man in football history by signing with the St. Louis Rams. 

Sam Bradford ably presents the other side of the “kids nowadays” argument as he is indicative of how many unsung players carry out their affairs every day.   When the media harps on the bad side of kids, they are just doing their job and doing it well.  Negative behavior sells and positive behavior does not.  I get that… At the same time it is our job to understand the role of media in our society and realize that outlandish behavior sells papers. Our job is to filter through the crap to get to the good.   To paint a whole generation of young people in a negative light was wrong when I was a kid and it is wrong today. 

It is our job as fans to keep media happenings in their proper perspective.    Sometimes, we need to cut through the chaff to get to the wheat.  The Sam Bradford’s of the world deserve it…   

Week Two Thoughts = Big 12 versus ACC

 

As the college football world continues its march to the 2014 College Football Playoffs, conferences are making plans now to position themselves for a top four seed.  With the SEC assured one,  possibly two teams for the four team tournament, the rest of college football and particularly the other four conferences are taking steps now to assure themselves of a place at the table.   As stated earlier, the Big 12’s round robin system will not help the cause of the conference against the Big Ten, PAC 12 and ACC conference championship game winners.  Realizing the short attention span of sports people, the last best thing tends to get their attention and a conference championship win will likely trump a round robin season ending game.  

In any case with Oregon and Stanford expected to be good for years, one of those teams can be penciled into the playoffs.  With Urban Meyer and Brody Hoke elevating the status of Ohio State and Michigan, it is likely that the Big Ten winner is a lock as well.  Assuming that the selection committee does not choose the SEC runner up for that last spot, the ACC with its conference championship game and the Big 12 will fight over that one.  Not hurting the cause of the SEC and particularly the ACC will be its ESPN sponsorship. 

In any case, it is never too early to begin making plans for the playoff year by comparing the ACC and the Big 12 as they flex their muscles this year in preparation for next year’s conference RPI run and the last playoff spot.  As of today, the Big 12 has a lot of work to do.  Week 1 and 2 highlights or some cases lowlights are presented below.  With Texas going south in a big hurry, it now appears that it will be up to dark clouded OSU and a young OU to present a national case this year.  Doing so will allow one of these teams to make a strong run in 2014.   A win in South Bend against Notre Dame, an ACC newcomer in 2014, will go a long way in making that happen. 

ACC highlights for Week 1 and Week 2…

 

  • ACC’s Clemson (3) beats SEC’s Georgia…
  • ACC newcomer, Louisville (7) continues to make its way to undefeated season. 
  • ACC’s Miami (15) beats SEC’s Florida…

 

Big 12 highlights for Week 1 and Week 2…

 

  • Big 12’s K-State and Iowa State lose to Division II teams in week 1…
  • Big 12’s Tech, Baylor, K-State, KU, TCU, OSU, and ISU beat up on no-name teams in week 2…
  • Big 12’s Texas (NR) are embarrassed by the Mormons…
  • Big 12’s OU (14) gets no respect from pollsters for win over ULM and West Virginia…

 

 

Week one thoughts = Impact on Big 12…

 

The good news for the Big 12 is that five of the 9 teams opening this past weekend won.   The bad news is that Big 12 teams took a page out of the Bill Snyder playbook and scheduled down.  Of the 9 opening weekend games, four games involved D-II teams and two games involved mid-major D-I teams.   D-II teams included Wofford, William and Mary, Northern Iowa and North Dakota State, while unheralded teams from the newly formed AAC made up the rest of the powder-puff schedule.

More bad news for the conference is that two Big 12 teams lost to D-II teams while another barely scraped by with a win.   D-II athletic directors schedule games against D-I programs for the sole purpose of picking up a big paycheck.   Half million-dollar checks that pay for a D-II team’s athletic department for the entire year are the reasons for these games.   Sacrificing their football team for one game is how these athletic departments survive.   Hoping for a moral victory by hanging with the more athletic and stockpiled D-I team for a half before picking up the check and heading to the busses keeps these athletic programs out of bankruptcy court.  Long bus rides, not charter flights are the standing operating procedure for these teams.  For the Big 12 to lose to North Dakota State and Northern Iowa and be taken to the limit by Bill and Mary was not only unexpected, it is inexcusable.   

Things did not improve a great deal with the other two Big 12 teams.  The hope that the Big 12 would put a dent in the psychy of the big, bad SEC never materialized.   The biggest task and the one with the greatest upside was the TCU/LSU matchup.  If TCU could take down the SEC’s 5th best team in LSU, this  would send a powerful message to the rest of college football that the Big 12 was back.  It did not happen. Even the Oklahoma State Cowboys win over the SEC’s 9th best team was hollow as Mississippi State played the entire 2nd half without its starting quarterback.    

The greatest damage caused by last weekend may be seen at the end of the 2013 season when bowl assignments are passed out. Filling up this year’s bowl schedule will be tough.  It has always been assumed that Kansas would be home for the holidays and now it appears that Iowa State, West Virginia, and possibly K-State will join them.    The Big 12 scheme of playing D-II games to assure themselves of a sure win on their way to a 6 win season and bowl eligibility has simply gone by the wayside for four of the ten Big 12 teams.   

The Big 12 has additional worries however following the first week of the season.   A weekend like this one can really come back to bite a conference in mid-October when the BCS rankings are revealed.   Scheduling D-II teams can adversely affect the compute rating not only for the team absorbing the loss, but also the teams played by these teams later in the year.  At this point, a win over a K-State, Iowa State, and West Virginia will have no computer value for the Sooners, Cowboys and Longhorns whatsoever. 

Finally, as with any dark cloud there is a silver lining.  There is still a ray of hope that comes to the Big 12 from a most unlikely source.    This silver lining comes in the form of the much berated BCS.  In its last year of existence, the BCS may serve as the conference’s savior.  Regardless of the Big 12’s computer rating or for that matter the BCS conference ranking at the end of the year, the Big 12 is assured of a BCS birth.  The OU/Texas/OSU winner will be the likely recipient of this BCS good will.   With the bowl situation for the rest of the conference in jeopardy, winning the Red River War is now more important than ever.  The loser of this game will likely be eliminated from the national title hunt, a BCS bowl and be relegated to a 2nd tier bowl game.    

Boomer Sooner…