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A New Era In College Football

College Game Day kicked off the 2014-15 season in one of America's greatest cities: Fort Worth. With all the buzz and excitement that filled Sundance Square there was a certain air of confidence that permeated from each and every fan. The dog days of summer are over! Come out of your sports hibernation! Come and see the light! The September air has never felt so fresh, the sound of Lee Corso has never rung so true, even the idiocy that is David Pollack is welcome! Because it all means one thing: Football's back, baby!

Continue reading A New Era In College Football

This season the excitement goes beyond the renewed hope that this is the year for your team, it goes beyond the new uniform combinations of Oregon and beyond the fact that we have something other than baseball to watch. This year college football introduces an actual playoff system. Gone is the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and long live the days of the College Football Playoff (CFB Playoff)! 

Sure the CFB Playoff has it's haters, but don't for a second think that I am one of those. I'm all for it! Here's why I love the CFB Playoff: progress. Is it a perfect system? Absolutely not! But is it better than the BCS? By the beard of Zues, YES! The BCS year after year failed college football. How can you have a landscape with so many teams that will never play each other and expect to chose the best two? Computer algorithms and writers voting just didn't cut it. Each year you had one, two or three teams that could have made a legitimate case for being in the national championship game. Yet, each year, as we all know since Auburn's grievances in 2004, were left out. 

Does the CFB Playoff eliminate the fact that someone's going to get left out? Nope. But it sure does minimize the chances of an actual contender not getting a shot to play it's way into the championship game. Again, I don't think this is a perfect system, it's far from it. But what I do love is the fact that college football is taking steps in the right direction. 

Yes, you can make the argument that a playoff system takes away from what makes college football "great" in your opinion, but I would disagree. By allowing a playoff system you are not negating the fact that every game still matters. Playing a 12 game schedule still means that one loss could be the end of the road for your team. Does it guarantee that? No, but neither did it when we had the BCS. You could still lose one game and get in the national championship game, it happened quite often. But what it does is give you a chance to prove if that one loss was a fluke or not. It gives more conferences a chance to prove their worth instead of just falling into this SEC bias we've found ourselves in for nearly a decade. Each game still matters because there can still be four teams that all go undefeated and your one loss team not get in. 

Again, we haven't arrived just yet with the perfect playoff system. Eventually they're going to have to expand it. How far they should expand it is the real question though. Do we need something reminiscent of what college basketball has? Let's not be silly. Well then what about a twelve team playoff like the NFL has? I don't know if that is the best option for college football. It works well for the pros but college is a different animal.

To me, an eight team playoff would be juuuuust right. This way you give the best teams from all over the country a chance to prove themselves. Because college football has so many different teams and conferences there needs to be a way to minimize doubt. In my mind, this would do it. Yea you're going to get that ninth ranked team upset because they got left out, but I'm willing to sacrifice that more than I would the fifth ranked team. Here's my logic, the chances that a fifth ranked team could win it all is far greater than the ninth. I know that you could just ask, "Duh Caleb, but where does it stop?" At some point you just gotta treat it like a Band-Aid and rip it off. 

I will say this, the new trophy they designed for the championship is lame. It's the most basic, ugly excuse of a trophy they could have come up with. I don't know who was in charge of that, but they dropped the ball. Hard. 

All in all though, we are witnessing a great new era in college football. The work's not done yet, but we're on our way. 


West Virginia, Bedlam, and Other Sooner Rumblings

So the Sooners snuck out of Morgantown with a win, but didn't exactly build a lot of confidence heading into Bedlam week.

While the defense was the worst it's been in the history of Sooners football, there was one surprising bright spot: Landry Jones.

Continue reading West Virginia, Bedlam, and Other Sooner Rumblings

I know, I know. I've ripped Landry Jones and ripped him on more than one occasion. Look, for all his faults, I've never said Landry Jones was a bad quarterback. What he is, is a wildly inconsistent quarterback. But Landry showed up to play last Saturday night and saved what likely would have been an epic beatdown had he not come through with one of the best games of his career. Save one terrible interception, Landry Jones played flawless including a check on 4th and goal to send Kenny Stills on a quick-slant route as opposed to the called corner fade route. Landry zipped in a perfect pass and Stills hauled in his fourth touchdown of the night.

The Sooners held on to win 50-49 and you can thank Landry Jones for that one. For as good of a game as Landry had, the defense had an equally epic bad game.

I could sit here and throw around some big stat-line numbers at you to prove just how bad the defense was, but take my word for it: they. were. awful.

Not awful as in getting gashed for a few big plays. Awful as in giving up the most yards in Sooners history. Awful as in allowing Tavon Austin rack up the 2nd most total yards in college football history.

OK, so I threw out a couple stats, but hopefully you get the idea. Mike Stoops should be embarrassed. Sticking with a loaded defensive back formation throughout the entire game even when it was clearly not working? Common Mike, you know better than that.

So the Sooners escaped with a win thanks to Landry Jones' heroics, but what about the upcoming Bedlam showdown?

Traditionally I would say that the combination of the game being played in Norman coupled with the fact that Weeden and Blackmon are now playing on Sunday's would lead to a relatively safe assumption of a Sooner victory. However, after dropping two home games already this season, I think we can agree that home field advantage is not what it used to be in Norman.

While OSU should be in a rebuilding year, they have quietly put together a 7-3 record and rank 21st in the BCS. Make no mistake, this is the furthest thing from a safe game for this Sooner bunch.

While OU is currently favored by a full touchdown, I think the line should be much closer. The simple fact is that it's impossible to predict which Sooner team will show up to play this Saturday. Will we get the aggressive and confident bunch who smacked around Texas at the Cotton Bowl earlier this season? Or will be see the tentative and hesitant bunch that took the field a mere two weeks later against Notre Dame?

I suppose I spoke out of turn last week crowning Kansas State the Big 12 champs with two games still left on their schedule. Baylor showed up to play and forced me to eat my words. Now the Big 12 title may be attainable for the Sooners, but they will still need some unfortunate help from the Longhorns next weekend (though I refuse to bring myself to rooting for the Horns, regardless). The Wildcats did screw up the Sooners clear path to a Fiesta Bowl though and now things aren't so clear.

One thing that is crystal clear, the Sooners must continue to win for any of it to even matter. Slip up this weekend against the Pokes? None of it matters.

Just win, baby.

Can the Sooners win Bedlam? Really??

Some of you may want me to ask “will” the Sooners win bedlam? I think the better question is, do the Sooners have a legitimate chance of winning?

Continue reading Can the Sooners win Bedlam? Really??

Obviously the Pokes should be favored. They've played better on a more consistent basis than the Sooners. They've only lost one game, in OT, on the road, on a night after devastation hit their campus. Sooner fans can try to say OSU is not that good, but we all know that this might be the best OSU team ever. Offensively they are definitely one of the best in the nation, if not THE best. Defense is their obvious weakness. And in the words of Berry Tramel, “It's about time OSU won Bedlam. If the Cowboys don't win this year, with the better team and the better health and playing at home, when will they ever?”

But the question is still there . . . Can the Sooners win? Not a 10-20% chance, but a serious chance of winning. Really??

In the words of Lee Corso, "Not so fast my friend." Think about all their issues. You may have read my previous blog about the defense being broken. It’s true the defense looked better this past week against ISU. But let’s be honest, it was wet, cold, playing at home and uhhhh it was Iowa State. Even though OSU lost to them, don’t expect this defense to hold the Pokes to 6 points. Considering the losses on the offensive side of the ball, I don’t see the Sooners winning a shootout. It would be Baylor all over again. The only legitimate chance the Sooners have is IF their defense plays one of their “good” games. One of the games like they played against FSU or UT or ISU. If they play like they did against TTU or Baylor then it could get ugly. Do you believe this defense will get it done against a good offense? The answer to that question will decide this game.

Consider also the injuries. Is OU really deep enough to overcome injuries to Broyles and Whaley? Is Jaz going to play? Either way, the Sooners will come in short-handed. The biggest loss may be Ronnell Lewis on the defensive front.  He is projected to be a first round draft choice and without him in there the pass rush is severely limited. Obviously not a good thing against a largely passing offense. Frank Alexander will most likely see a lot of double-teams and thus limit his impact.

Home field advantage? I don’t think this is as big as some people might suppose. The last 4 games in Stillwater have all been very close with the Sooners coming out on the winning end. This year’s Sooner team hasn't had a big issue playing on the road. They have been as good (or bad) on the road as they have been at home. Advantage Pokes but not decisive.

Many games come down to penalties and turnovers. In the past 2 games the Sooners have turned the ball over SEVEN times total. The main thing that saved them against ISU was the FOUR turnovers they forced. Without those, the game would have most likely gone down to the wire. Almost 100 yards in penalties against Baylor also was a key stat that led to their demise.

On the positive side of the equation the Sooners have a LOT of history on their side, including the last eight wins in a row. As some suggest though, the Pokes are about due for an upset and this year it wouldn’t really be an upset, which is something new, and a little disappointing.

So we’re back to the question: Can the Sooners win bedlam? I say . . . yes? Barely? Ha. I admit that my threshold for saying, Yes, is very low. The odds are probably somewhere in the 30% range, just enough to say, Yes, they can win bedlam!!

BUT . . . It will take an extraordinary defensive effort AND they cannot lose the turnover battle.

The odd part is that at least this year it seems the tables have turned. The question is usually aimed at the Pokes about can they win. And usually it is assumed they can but they don’t.

So will the Sooners win? Now that is another question.

The Sooner Defense is Broken

Currently, the Sooner defense is ranked #62 in the nation in average yards given up at 385+ yards/game. This includes games against Missouri (532), Texas Tech (572), Texas A&M (527), and Baylor (617). Teams ahead of them in the rankings include such powerhouses as La. Tech (58), La. Monroe (30), and Kent State (22). Of course, the two best teams in the nation, Alabama and LSU are #1 and #2 in the defensive rankings. I have heard the argument that “if those teams had to play in the Big 12 with spread offenses they wouldn’t be any better.” Hmmm. Is that why Texas is #10 on the list? Apparently they play a little defense (but have no offense).

The problem is varied and I want to list a few of the possibilities here (briefly).

Continue reading The Sooner Defense is Broken

Complacency/Success. How do you question Stoops who has won Seven Big 12 titles and One National title? Sooner fans are you really that spoiled? I'm so tired of people saying Sooner fans are spoiled because we want more. What's wrong with wanting a defense like Bama or LSU? What is wrong with even "expecting" something better than what we have? After all, it wasn’t Sooner fans who started this year talking national title and a push for #8. It was Bob Stoops and Sooner players. We have become victims of our own success. The urgency to fix something is not there because we have already won more consistently over the past 11 years than anyone else in the Big 12. Bob has built up such a resume that he no longer can be questioned. It doesn’t seem that assistant coaches are held accountable for the repeated poor performance of their players.

Recruiting. We primarily recruit offensive players and then convert some of them to defense. Next year's recruiting class is a primary example with 10 of the 14 commits being on the offensive side of the ball. We recruit a ton of WRs and then when some of them don't pan out we make them DBs. How's that working out for us? One would think with Stoop's background in defense that he would be the first to realize that defense indeed does win championships. Maybe we need to consider offering scholarships to guys who can actually “cover” someone.

Players. This relates to the recruiting issue but one has to ask the question if these guys have been oversold or overvalued? Several of them “appear” to be legitimate talents. But several seem to be victimized repeatedly which makes one wonder about their talent or their ability to understand their assignments. Ultimately they are the ones responsible but I tend to place less blame here than some.

Coaching. Bob started off as a DB coach and uhh this seems to be the biggest weakness. Is it his fault? Sometimes our biggest strength can become our biggest weakness. Is it Martinez, the DB coach? His background is in the SEC at Georgia. His resume sounds good but who knows? Is it Brent Venables? There is no doubt about his passion but what about the defensive schemes? I have heard it suggested that we rely so much on our DBs for run support that they lose focus on their primary task, covering receivers. Is the problem partially in our front seven for not being able to stop the run without help from the secondary? Some have suggested that our schemes are just too complicated. At some point someone has to say “this just isn’t working.”

Will there be coaching changes? Doubtful. Stoops has no history of firing assistants. The only way change will happen is if Joe Castiglione or David Boren get involved. The only way that happens is if we have 2 or 3 bad seasons in a row. The program is making too much money to worry too much at this point.

What’s the answer? It seems that Sooner fans will have to just accept something less than national titles. Barring a magical season like 2000 it doesn’t seem that the Sooners are really at the level of competing for national titles.

Why? Because the defense is broke and no one wants to admit it.