Bedlam Part I…

 

What is in a name?  In this case, a lot…First off, let me share some history about the word, at least as it applies to OU and OSU sports.   A little known fact is that the term “Bedlam” as a marketing tool was first hatched by OU’s Joe Castiglione and OSU’s Terry Don Phillips back in the 90’s.    

The marketing process was a takeoff on the word first mouthed by a wrestling fan back in the day.  Back when people actually cared about college wrestling, OU/OSU were bitter rivals.   Each school under Tommy Chesbro and Stan Abel had developed nationally ranked teams.  Every year the two programs would vie for both state and national supremacy.   On one occasion the Sooners and Cowboys were dueling it out in the old Gallagher Arena (the only field house in America name for a wrestling coach) as things became heated.   As one fan left the arena, he commented that it was Bedlam in there.  The term stuck and eventually became a favorite marketing phrase coined by Athletic Directors Terry Don Phillips of OSU and Joe Casiglione of OU.      

The marketing portion of this story has to do with these athletic directors turned businessmen.  In a move to amp up the football rivalry and increase money flow, the selling of the Bedlam label took on new meaning.    The branding of the game worked to perfection.  Before long anytime a game between two schools was mentioned, the word Bedlam was added.   As the brand took off so did OSU football.   Both OU and OSU fans can thank Joe C. for elevating OSU football status.   By moving the “Bedlam” game to the end of the year on a permanent basis, the game has taken on even greater importance.  

Granted Joe C. has done a lot of good things at OU over the past decade and paying the bills is part of any AD’s job, but for my money I wish he had left that sleeping dog lay.  OU would have been just fine with or without OSU as a rival.    Only in a state stricken with a Grapes of Wrath mentality would this happen.   Can you imagine an Alabama doing this for Auburn or Texas for A&M.  Not likely…

In any case it is what it is and OU fans must learn to accept the Cowboys as a viable threat to state dominance…  Even after Pickens moves on to cowboy heaven, it is likely that he will set up a trust fund to provide sock money for players.     

In any case the damage is done and the fix is in.   Derailing the Pickens train is unlikely at this point.  Pickens has a history of turning lifeless organizations into big time money-makers, by hook or by crook. The best thing that can happen now is for the Sooners to focus on the business at hand and become powerhouses once again.   Returning to the glory days will allow the Sooners to kick the Aggies year in and year out, with or without Joe C.’s help.

Tomorrow:  Bedlam, Part II… Why OU has a shot…

 

 

 

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Program Under Siege…

 

Hopefully the 2013 season will not turn out to be the 2nd season from hell in three years.   Two years ago everything that could go wrong did go wrong for the Sooners including an embarrassing end of season loss to OSU in Stillwater.    Unfortunately the litany of injures and suspensions this year looks a lot like de ja vu all over again.   The latest bad news comes came out Wednesday in the form of the Damien Williams and LeColton Bester suspensions. 

 

The recent dearth of talent from both the athletic and character standpoint at OU is simply mind boggling.  It is not enough that the Sooners must enter the biggest game of the year without 9 injured frontline players, now that bad news is punctuated with the fact that a couple of nimnods have been suspended for the game for breaking team rules.  Now the Sooners will make the trip to Manhattan without almost a dozen front line players.   I have listed the walking wounded and suspect list at the bottom of this page. 

 

The fact that Bob Stoops has allowed the talent level to slip to this level is simply appalling.   Making matters worse is that when front line players go down, they are replaced by vagabond players like Williams and Bester.  There is normally a good reason that these guys cannot make it somewhere else.    We are looking at a Catch-22 situation at OU as a drop in talent necessitates that coaches take chances on suspect players.  More often than not, these players come from the Juco and walk-on ranks.

 

Damien Williams a juco from Arizona burst onto the scene two years ago to become the starting running back. While he obviously was no Adrian Peterson, he was by far the best OU had to offer and fans were thankful to have him.  Lacolton Bester a juco from Mississippi filled a real need at wide receiver as players expected to contribute at that position ended up on the suspension list themselves.   Again, Bester was no Ryan Broyles, but with the OU talent level plummeting, he was seen as a godsend.    

 

After a while these well-traveled players became scholarship players and began to provide meaningful contributions to the program.  They repay the confidence of their coaches and the Sooner Nation by breaking team rules and getting suspended at the worst possible time of the season.   While passing over these kinds of prospects would be the way to go, these are not normal times at Oklahoma and the Sooners do not have the luxury of passing on any player that can run and chew gum at the same time.

Football programs that are relegated to taking chances on questionable players are basically rolling the dice.  OU rolled the dice on Williams and Bester and the entire Sooner Nation will now pay the price.    

 

After the Texas ambush and the Baylor beat-down the K-State game has emerged as the game of the year for the Sooners, a game that will make or break the OU season.   Leave Manhattan with a win and the subsequent momentum will give the Sooners a great shot at OSU.  Those wins would then provide the needed confidence to take on any bowl opponent.    Doing so would make the Baylor debacle seem like a distant memory. 

 

On the other hand, a K-State loss will certainly be followed by another one at OSU which will in turn create a lackadaisical bowl season.   A three game end-of-season tailspin and a five loss season will permeate the recruiting cycle and make it hard to interest good athletes in the OU program for this year and beyond. 

 

All is not lost however…After all there is only one Oklahoma…While Williams and Bester just made the K-State challenge a lot harder, Sooner teams in the past have used situations like this one to rally the forces and turn lemons into lemonade.   Players take their lead from the head coach.  This is the one time Bob Stoops needs to get out of his comfort zone and exhort the team to demonstrate unparalleled Sooner pride.  Otherwise this season could go south in a hurry.   

 

Sooner fans should try to ignore what is going on Stillwater this weekend and focus on Manhattan.  If the Sooners can take care of business against K-State, everything else will take care of itself.    If not, we can expect to see a run on “bury Bob” yard signs at season’s end…

 

Injury and suspension list provided by Statfox.com

 

[LB] 11/17/2013 –   Jordan Evans “?” Saturday vs. Kansas State ( Undisclosed )

[RB] 11/17/2013 –   Keith Ford “?” Saturday vs. Kansas State ( Undisclosed )

[WR] 11/17/2013 –   Sterling Shepard “?” Saturday vs. Kansas State ( Undisclosed )

[DB] 11/17/2013 –   Aaron Colvin “?” Saturday vs. Kansas State ( Undisclosed )

[QB] 11/20/2013 –   Blake Bell is downgraded to expected to miss Saturday vs. Kansas State ( Head   )

[RB] 11/20/2013 –   Damien Williams expected to miss Saturday vs. Kansas State ( Disciplinary )

[WR] 11/20/2013 –   Lacoltan Bester expected to miss Saturday vs. Kansas State ( Disciplinary )

 

[DL] 10/14/2013 –   Jordan Phillips out for season ( Back )

[WR] 10/16/2013 –   Trey Metoyer out indefinitely ( Suspension )

[LB] 10/07/2013 –   Corey Nelson out for season ( Pectoral )

[FB] 10/27/2013 –   Trey Millard out indefinitely ( Knee )

 

 

 

The Home Stretch…

 

It is hard to believe, but the 2013 college football season is almost over.  As we enter the home stretch a number of items have come into focus… 

The OSU/Texas game…

  1. Working in OSU’s favor last Saturday night…
  • Texas sucks…This team has been living on borrowed time for quite some time…Case McCoy looks like a high school player out there…Horns will be hard pressed to win another game this year. 
  • The 2:30 start hurt the Horns’ cause.    Home crowds that have the entire day to get lathered up make much better home crowds than day-crowds.      
  • Even on a good day, Texas’s home field advantage is essentially non-existent…
  • For Saturday’s game, 50% of the Texas crowd consisted of frontrunners who dropped off as soon as Texas fell behind.
  • The other 50% of the Texas crowd were fans who had heard and believed the Nick Saban rumor.   They were hoping this loss would nail Mack Brown’s coffin shut.  
    • OSU is pretty good, but with the Big 12 being so bad; it is hard to tell how good. 
    • Same goes for Baylor.

 

  1. Why OSU will win…
  • The Cowboys are on a roll.  Football is 90% emotion.  Add the momentum to their fortuitous schedule and you have a bunch of wins… 
  • Cowboys will use a lathered-up-night crowd to jump on the Bears early.  This will be the first time the Bears have had to face real adversity. 
  • Inclement weather tends to favor the underdog…
  • Sock money – enough said…

 

  1. Why Baylor will win…
  • The Bears are on a mission.  A big win here will Baylor ahead of Ohio State with a possible national championship game in the offing.   An Auburn upset of Bama (at home) could make this happen.  Stranger things have happened.    
  • The Bears are loaded with explosive players on both sides of the ball.  If Baylor can withstand the initial Cowboy surge and limit the impact of the crowd, the Bears will win going away.  
  • With the exception of Mike Stoops, the Bears have the Big 12’s best defensive coordinator in Phil Bennett.  Surely someone can create a scheme to slow down Clint Chelf. 
  • Cold weather may hinder the OSU home field advantage. 

 

  1. Who should Big 12 fans root for in this one…
  • Baylor…Without a Baylor win, the Big 12 will limp to the 2013 finish line with no bono fide power team.  This fact will not bode well for the image of the conference heading into the 2014 playoff year.   A Baylor win and continued BCS appeal may save the conference.

 

  1. Additional news as we enter the home stretch…
  • Plans for Mack’s burial plot can now be finalized. The new AD got his wish as Mack’s removal just got easier. 
  • Don’t discount the Nick Saban rumors…Given his habit of moving around, and with two possibly three, Bama national championships in his pocket, Saban may enjoy the challenge of doing the same at Texas.
  • Saban would be college football’s first $6 million dollar man.   
  • A Saban hire would be bad news for the rest of the conference as Texas would dominate the league within five years and leave the conference high and dry shortly thereafter. 

 

  1. K-State/TCU…
  • When was the last time you saw a game’s outcome turn on a duplicate uniform snafu.  Bill Snyder caught the fact that TCU players were wearing duplicate numbers on a punt return.  He pointed this fact out to the officials who penalized TCU, which in turn became the turning point of the game.  Nothing gets by the Silver Fox…

 

  1. OU/K-State…
  • When was the last time you saw an OU offense generate 25 yards of total offense in a quarter?  These things did not even happen during the John Blake era.   I hope I do not live to see that happen again.   
  • How long would Bob Stoops have gone with Blake Bell if Bell had not been injured?  Fortunately for OU fans, Bob Stoops, and for that matter Blake Bell the football gods answered that question for everyone. 
  • Trevor Knight and/or Kendal Thompson give OU a chance to get better.  There is finally light at the end of a very dark tunnel.  
  • The K-State game is a huge game for the Sooners.
  • Before last Saturday, OU had no chance, now we do…
  • Why OU will win?
    • Emotional lift given to the Sooners by Trevor Knight…
    • A newly discovered run game.
    • OU traditionally plays well in Manhattan…
    • The Mike Stoops defense…
    • A stiff north wind that will allow the OU running game and defense to dominate…

 

  • Why OU could lose…
    • Bill Snyder…

 

  1. Bowl Game Lineup after an OU win over the Wildcats…
  • Fiesta                                    Baylor vs. Fresno
  • Cotton                                  OU vs. Missouri
  • Alamo                                   OSU vs. USC       
  • Buffalo Wild Wings               Texas vs. Michigan
  • Holiday                                  K-State vs. UCLA
  • Texas                                    Texas Tech vs. Iowa

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Time to Fish or Cut Bait = Recruiting’s Final Push…

 

College Football is a complex game…Unlike the pro game where teams that have losing seasons can pick up a high lottery pick and turn things around overnight, colleges must use the year to year recruiting process to make things happen.   While the selling of the program can make or break a team for years, the evaluation process can be every bit as critical.  Missing the evaluation mark on prospects can have a devastating effect on a program.   This has been the case at OU for several recruiting cycles. 

At OU far too many four and five star athletes simply did not work out.  On other occasions prospects arrived on campus lacking the maturity level to adjust to the freedom of college life.   The drop off in talent over the past few years has been substantial.  Evidence of this fact can be seen in OU’s struggles this year.  The euphoria of the historic Notre Dame win glossed over the fact that the OU program had slipped in the talent area.   OU’s struggles against Texas and Baylor brought this issue to the forefront. 

Again, we should have seen this coming…Over the span of four years the Sooners have essentially lost an entire recruiting class.   Far too many highly recruited players have ended up missing the mark while others have either left the program or have been dismissed from the team.  In other words, while opposing schools are competing with numbers representative of four recruiting classes, OU is playing with three.  Compare OU’s situation to that of a Stanford team that never finds itself ranked in the top ten by recruiting services.  Regardless, Stanford invariably finds itself ranked in the top ten of the BCS poll at the end of every year.   Stanford basically does not lose players once they land on campus.   More importantly, Stanford almost always hits the mark in the evaluation area.   This fact allows Stanford to field a team with a full complement of 85 players and a multitude of 5th year seniors every year.  

As injuries mount, depth provided by solid recruiting minimizes the impact of lost players.    Depth created by recruiting allows coaches to rotate starters and reserves, a move that keeps both groups rested.   Injuries are much less likely when players are fresh. 

How will OU get out of this talent hole?  The easiest way is to win…Of course the easiest way to win without serious talent is to have superior coaching.  While the OU coaching staff is solid, this group will never be anything special.   Therefore OU fans must turn to Plan B.   OU must run the table by winning the next three games.  This streak while minor in length can still jumpstart the recruiting process and rekindle interest among top flight recruits.   A three game winning steak here at the end of the regular season will go a long way in helping OU get back its swagger on the field and on the recruiting trail.

With this thought in mind, let’s focus on the recruitment of Steven Parker, the top player in Oklahoma and a top 100 national prospect.  Parker is indicative of the current uncertainty facing the OU program.   In spite of spending more time in Norman this season than Boomer and Sooner, Parker has not verbally committed to the Sooners.   After a trip to College Station last weekend some are now questioning whether the Jenks defensive back ever will.  Apparently Parker was blown away by the Aggies and the SEC mystique on the trip.  In other words, the Aggies have developed the swagger OU once had.   The Aggies have become one of the easiest sells in America while the Josh Heupel-straddled Sooners now must fight for everything it gets.   For OU to lose this homegrown Parker would be devastating.  

Let’s face it…The Sooner program is at a crossroads with three regular season games left.  Finish strong and become nationally relevant again and at least a portion of the top flight recruits still left on the OU board will find their way to Norman.  Finish with a whimper and the Sooners will be relegated to picking up leftovers once again. 

Bob Stoops will never replace Nick Saban, Kevin Sumlin or that matter Les Miles in the minds of recruits, but winning here at the end will go a long way in restoring the magic that will impress top notch recruits down the stretch.    OU must finish the season strong and make prospects believe that happy times are here again.  Such a move would make the Baylor fiasco a distant memory.    

With this in mind, let’s take a look at national 250 recruits still considering the Sooners.  If the Sooners run the table over the next three games, OU will undoubtedly snag some of these players.   At the end of the recruiting cycle, we will evaluate whether or not this theory held water.. 

The following is a list of uncommitted Rivals250.com prospects remaining on the OU recruiting board…

National                              Pos.       Stars…

Ranking…

#7      Adoree’ Jackson    Ath.          5 stars

#10    Joe Mixon              RB            5 stars

#17    Tony Brown           Ath.           5 stars

#28    Soloman Thomas  DE             4 stars

#39    Braden Smith         OL             4 stars

#46    Steven Parker        DB             4 stars

#64    Michiah Quick        DB              4 stars

#87    Dwight Williams      LB              4 stars

#112  Ainuu Taua             DT              4 stars

#151  Nathan Starks         RB              4 stars

#207  Roderick Johnson   OL               4 stars

 

A Silver Lining from the Baylor Cloud…

 

OU football reminds me of so many male dominated organizations that see change as a dirty word.  OU leaders assume that the Sooner faithful will stay loyal to the cause regardless of the product.  To some extent they are right.  For those of us who refused to bail out during the Schnellenberger/Blake years, we are proof positive that winning can indeed take a back seat to loyalty to the program.   David Boren is fully aware that this is the case and therefore he is unlikely to rush to judgment and will give Bob Stoops ample time to turn things around.   No matter what happens, the stadium will be sold out in 2014 just like it was in 2013 and OU fans will be back on the bandwagon no matter what.  

At the same time, what OU threw out there last Thursday night was not what even the most loyal OU fan is comfortable with.  Granted Baylor is a very good team and yes the Sooners were playing in an extremely hostile environment and yes the Sooners are depleted due to injuries to key players, but still that offensive display was simply embarrassing. 

Stoops has no one but himself to blame for the Josh Huepel mess.  Fearing the possible loss of the up-and-coming Josh Huepel a few years ago, Stoops appointed Heupel to the co-offensive coordinator position alongside Kevin Wilson.  It appeared to be a perfect plan; Heupel could develop quarterbacks while Wilson developed schemes and called plays on Saturday.   When Wilson left for Indiana, Stoops felt obligated to promote his co-offensive coordinator to the head role.  Again fearing the loss of a staff member, Stoops elevated Jay Norvell to be the co-offensive coordinator alongside Heupel.    Stoops backed himself into a corner yet again.  The Norvell move left no room for a Mangino-type coach to move in and mentor the young Heupel.  Basically, the Stoops plan has failed miserably and Sooner fans are now paying the price. 

Trying to find a silver lining in this dark cloud will not be easy, but I suggest that one does indeed exist.   Even the most arrogant, stubborn man on the planet must see the need for change given the ineptness of the recent OU offense.  Plans may already in in place for Stoops to make a move as soon as the 2013 season is over.  Obviously, Josh’s connection with the OU family and his Boren family ties will preclude Stoops from dispatching Josh from the program, but something has to be done.   Possibly, the Sooners can convince Merv Johnson to move to the radio booth on a fulltime basis creating an opening as the Director of Football for Josh.  This will allow the Sooners to keep Jay Norvell around at a critical time for recruiting and allow Stoops to hire a bono fide offensive coordinator. 

Unfortunately regardless of what happens, Sooner fans will have to endure two more road games with Josh at the helm.  Remember the cloud is always darkest at the end of any storm.   Trips to Manhattan and Stillwater could get ugly, but if something positive can come out of those trips, it will be worth it in the long run.  The worst thing that could happen would be for Stoops to do nothing.   Even with games remaining at K-State and OSU, the Sooners could easily end up with another 9 win season.  At the same time without serious action being taken to correct this mess, the Sooners will be right back at this same place next year.  College football is changing fast and Bob Stoops must change his ways or OU will be left in the dust. 

Sooner fortunes could turn around very quickly with the right man at the offensive helm.  With the staff moves made last year that are already bearing fruit, the hiring of the right offensive coordinator could be the final piece to the puzzle.   With the Sooners still being considered by a number of outstanding recruits, the momentum created by the hiring of a big name offensive coordinator would do wonders for the program. 

Boomer Sooner…

 

 

 

OSU-Tech = The Schedule Conspiracy…

 

As Doc T. pointed out, it would seem that Tech left their game in Norman.   It appears that he was right as the Red Raiders laid a big time egg against OSU.   It is hard to determine if OSU is better than we thought or if Tech is worse or if there is something else going on here.  

That something else may be scheduling.   I will be the first to admit that I did not see the Tech implosion coming.  At the same time there is no excuse for being caught off guard given the game’s placement on the schedule.   There are three parts to winning college football games.  Those variables are:  talent, coaching and scheduling.   This third aspect jumped up and bit Tech in the butt in a big way on Saturday night.   Football is an emotional game and as a result, momentum means everything.  The Tech/OSU game was the ultimate trap game with the Red Raiders playing and more importantly losing a hard fought game in Norman the week before.  OSU on the other hand continued to build momentum with a laugher in Ames.  OSU had momentum and Tech did not.  

As we know, trap games happen all the time, but for OSU opponents, at least for this year, trap games are occurring with uncanny regularity.    It is also ionic that OU appears to be the team being used to lay these traps for OSU opponents.   It appears that OU has become OSU’s best friend as the Big 12 schedule makers continue to schedule an opponent for OU the week before that same team plays OSU.    In other words, OU softens them up the week before OSU beats them down. If this sounds a bit farfetched check out the Big 12 schedule for 2013.  

As they say, the proof is in the pudding and in this case the facts are clear.   During the course of this season OSU will play four teams the week after OU plays that same team.   Those games include West Virginia, TCU, and Tech and Baylor. While the strategy of conference leaders did not work out as planned in Morgantown, it was not for the lack of trying.   The next two games against TCU and Tech worked to perfection.  Only time will tell how things will work out for the Cowboys against Baylor, but I suspect that whether Baylor wins or loses against Sooners, the Bears will be flat when they roll into Stillwater the next week.  If OU were to upset the Bears in Waco, the air would rush out of their balloon and they would be extremely vulnerable in Stillwater.  

The Big 12 schedulers/conspirators know exactly what they are doing.   In hopes of salvaging the Big 12 conference, Bob Bowlsby and his staff have created a made for primetime schedule for the Cowboys.   After all with their jobs dependent on the survival of the Big 12, making OSU into a national power is the tactic being used to save the conference and of course their jobs.  Setting up trap games for OSU opponents is actually an ingenious plan.   Knowing that every team will get up emotionally for OU, these Big 12 operatives have made it a point to schedule the OSU game the next week realizing that an emotional letdown is inevitable.      

Is this a coincidence or smart planning by the league office? I would suggest the later.  College football is big business and the Big 12 commissioner owes his livelihood and his career to making the Big 12 work.  An overt manipulation of the schedule to enhance OSU’s chances is simply considered good business to these people.    In order to survive in the Final Four Playoff World that begins next year, the conference must find a third team to make a mark nationally and as luck would have it, OSU is that team. 

As stated earlier, the national image of the Big 12 conference was seriously damaged by the defections of Texas A&M and Nebraska.   Conference officials are now playing catch up in hopes of finding one team to take up that slack.  The pickings for a third team to go along with OU and Texas are slim…The threesome from the north of KU, K-State, and Iowa State are football lightweights who will never be taken seriously.  The threesome from the south of Tech, TCU and Baylor will never have the fan base to make it happen.  West Virginia is not what anyone expected and has become a non-factor. In other words, OSU wins by default. 

Basically, what happened in Lubbock was the latest step in the drive to fulfill the wishes of conference leaders.  The Red Raiders were breathing fire when they came to Norman.  Undefeated and 10th ranked, Texas Tech was playing with all kinds of emotion and swagger.  After leaving town after a tough loss, their swagger and momentum were both gone.  Enter OSU and its manipulated schedule as the Cowboys took full advantage of the situation and left town with a trap-game win.    The emotionally drained Red Raiders allowed OSU to take the home crowd out of the game early and as they say, the rest was history.   The team that we saw in Lubbock at the beginning of both halves against OSU was a shell of its former self.  Again, we should have seen that one coming…

If all this conspiracy talk seems a bit much, keep in mind that the grassy knoll crowd had less to go on back in the 60’s. Also remember that conference commissioners, athletic directors and university presidents are not necessarily football fans.  These guys operate with the financial bottom line in mind and for them football is a means to that end.  It is also important to keep in mind that conference realignment is the subject most feared by these guys and that David Boren who is complicit in this matter will avoid that discussion at all cost.   For this bunch, the thought of schedule manipulation for the sake of the conference is a no-brainer.

With the final weeks of the season now front and center, it will be interested to see how this theory pans out by year’s end.  If I had been smart I would have put money on OSU going into the season.  With their returning cast and manipulated schedule that would have been a smart move.  OSU is headed for another good year and OU will do its part to grease the skids by being the set-up man.  Maybe it is time for OU to have that “C” surgically removed from its forehead.   In any case, at least for now, it is what it is…

I, for one however won’t be fooled the next time around.