In our haste for hyperbole, we have lost all track of time. As a result, we are clearly running low on centuries. By my count, we are now covered until at least 3011 before college football’s next “Game of the Century.”
The latest 100-year rendition was No. 1 LSU at No. 2 Alabama on Saturday night. Turns out it was wasn’t even the best game in its time slot. Many of the 600-plus media types credentialed for LSU’s 9-6 overtime victory in Tuscaloosa must have gazed at Stillwater with envy as No. 3 Oklahoma State managed to outlast No. 14 Kansas State 52-45.
Ah, who am I kidding? SEC folk are envied, not envious. In their eyes, it doesn’t matter if the two greatest teams on Google Earth went to overtime andstill couldn’t find an end zone.
Saturday’s 7 p.m. time slot was all a matter of taste. Do you prefer a defensive standoff, or an offensive shootout? Do you seek a shot glass that’s darn-near empty, or a jug that runneth over? Do you call your editor and plead for more space, or ask him to run an extra photo to help fill the void?
- While LSU and Alabama combined for 12 points in regulation, OSU and KSU combined for 12 touchdowns.
- The Cowboys and Wildcats amassed 1,082 yards. The Tigers and Tide combined for less than half that.
- Every field-goal attempt at Boone Pickens Stadium sailed through the uprights. Alabama field-goal kickers missed 4 of 6 at home.
- In Stillwater, OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden threw for a school-record 502 yards and All-American receiver Justin Blackmon had 13 catches for 205 yards and two touchdowns. In Tuscaloosa, um, LSU’s Brad Wing had a 73-yard punt.
Come on, is there even a choice?
And yet, predictably, many scream for a rematch in the BCS championship game between the Tigers and Crimson Tide. No seconds for me, thanks. One serving of this matchup was more than enough.
Sadly, and equally predictable, Alabama sits solidly at No. 3 in this week’s BCS standings, which makes a rematch almost a certainty if the Tide wins out and OSU or Stanford doesn’t go 12-0.
A handful of reasons why Alabama doesn’t deserve a rematch:
1. They’ve already played. Been there, done that. Asked and answered. Nothing more to see here. Moving on.
2. LSU would have a 13-0 record in the BCS national title game. Alabama would be 11-1. The Tide would advance by not playing for its conference crown. What sense does that make?
3. Alabama already lost – at home.
4. We know what Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron can do against the Tigers, but we’re extremely curious how Weeden, or Stanford’s Andrew Luck, or Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, or Boise State’s Kellen Moore would do against LSU.
Somebody on CBS squawked that 10 defensive backs in the LSU-Alabama game would play in the NFL, which seems awfully hard to gauge playing against a steady stream of average offenses.
The SEC’s gaudy numbers on defense are easily explained by the league’s gaunt numbers on offense. This all works hand-in-hand.
Four SEC defenses rank in the top 9, but three SEC offenses rank No. 103 or lower and seven rank No. 87 or lower, including top-ranked LSU’s. The Big 12′s defensive stats stink (four in the bottom 13) because the league’s offensive numbers are astronomical (three in the top 4; six in the top 11).
5. Give someone else a crack at LSU. If the Tide were to win the rematch, then Saturday would mean nothing, and an LSU victory in Tuscaloosa should be worth more than an Alabama victory in New Orleans.
For these reasons, no rematch. It would be far better to expand the Tigers’ list of potential victims. Broaden the evidence. Leave no doubt. We’ve seen the best the SEC has to offer. Give another league a chance.
Besides, what would prove more? Weeden vs. LSU? Luck vs. LSU? Jones vs. LSU? Moore vs. LSU?
Or one more round with McCarron?
John Rohde: 475-3099. John Rohde can be heard Monday-Friday from 6-7 p.m. on The Sports Animal Network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. Follow him on Twitter @RohdeOK.
BeyondU Sports has an in-depth discussion with Mike Leach – the former Texas Tech head coach and New York Times best selling author of “Swing Your Sword” – each week. Here is part of this week’s installment:
We had some huge upsets this past Saturday, did you see that Oklahoma upset coming?
I didn’t see that one coming but I did see upsets in general coming. Not specific upsets, but as long as I have been in this it’s that kind of year. Teams define themselves as top dogs and they have a target on their backs and everyone is gunning for them. Teams with an unsatisfactory season are trying to redeem as much respect as they can. Teams that have levels of success sometimes can get complacent and not have as much respect for their opponent. All these factors come into play. I think that it’s that time of year people are taxed physically and mentally. One team’s up the other is not. There can be surprises especially in these conferences that play one team after another back to back. You know they may not be having as good a season as they like. They (Texas Tech) have big strong players that are fast, so this is really as they say any given week, anybody can beat anybody. That’s especially true this time of year. There will be more upsets this week too.”
OU has a lot of veterans with players who have played a ton of minutes at key positions. It’s really rare for Oklahoma to loose a game at home. From a mental standpoint, how does a team slip up like that?
They had a ridiculous number of wins at home. At some point there’s a sense that you are invincible. I think that’s fueled by the media, I think its fueled by the people in town, it’s fueled by the players themselves. Sometimes confidence becomes complacency. You take victories for granted. Texas Tech was not afraid of Oklahoma. We used to have a sign “respect everyone but fear no one.” Texas Tech didn’t fear Oklahoma even though they were a superior opponent. Oklahoma didn’t have enough of a healthy dose of respect for Texas Tech. Texas Tech is a good enough team that if they play for 60 minutes, Oklahoma can’t beat them playing 30. OU squandered the first half, they need more than 30 minutes of good play to beat Texas Tech.
“I think that the weather delay factored in too. It’s one of those things you get ready to play at Owen Field. If you are Texas Tech, you are relaxed. If you relax, collect your thoughts, play loose, etc. then you don’t have anything to lose. If you are Oklahoma, you are initially ready to play. You go through your workmanship ready to have a game. Then as the weather delay hits, you know the rhetoric I have overheard once in a while. Some of your weaker minded players are saying:
“This fouls my plans after the game.”
“Boy I will sure be glad when this game is over.”
“This is taking forever.”
“At least we are 24 points favorites, yeah this team can’t beat us, remember how bad we beat them last year.”
“Then you go through the motions for a half and the other teams doesn’t go through the motions in the half then you are in trouble. The trouble with those weather delays, it’s not like they are saying we aren’t go to play for 1 hour and 45 minutes. It’s constant 15 to 20 minute updates, then it’s a half hour and the storm hasn’t passed. I mean, you are sitting on ready waiting on go. It really is a nuisance.”
Do you think in a weather delay it’s actually an advantage to the away team?
I don’t know if it is or if it isn’t. I was thinking about it but I don’t know where I line up. If you are playing at night and you’re the visitor, you’re probably not thinking about what you are doing after the game as you know what you are going to do. You are getting a plane, going home and going to bed. If you’re Oklahoma, its like – Well, alright, I can’t meet my mom or my girlfriend so there goes that. I just think over time if you don’t have the right frame of mind winning so many in a row can on one hand be a burden if you generate pressure on yourself, which you shouldn’t. Or, if victories are being taken for granted, confident drifts into a lack of respect.”
What do you know about Texas Tech QB Seth Doege?
I know a lot about him. I’ve known him since he was in the 8th grade. He came to our camp all the time. I coached him for 3 1/2 years. He has a really good arm, not a tall guy, but a strong arm guy. Good player and it doesn’t surprise me at all to see him have success.”
Depending on what transpires Thursday at its board of directors meeting, the beleaguered Big 12 will start anew: with or without a lawsuit from Baylor trying to block Texas A&M’s exit to the Southeastern Conference; with or without Dan Beebe as commissioner; with or without Chuck Neinas as interim commissioner; with or without an acceptable profit-sharing formula from The Longhorn Network; but definitely three teams short come July 1, 2012.
No matter what reform comes out of Thursday’s meeting, the Big 12 Titantic must get back on an even keel. The best way to do that would be to add three teams. Don’t keep it at nine teams and insist you can survive. Don’t add one team and deem it sufficient. Don’t add one team and promise to re-evaluate down the road. Add three teams, pronto, for the 2012-13 school year.
Conditions are ripe to pluck TCU, so do it. The school is 30 measly miles from the Big 12 office, closer than any existing member. Louisville and West Virginia are scrambling for a life raft, so throw them one. The Big 12′s ship might be listing, but the Big East has capsized and is about to go under.
BYU would be isolated in the Big 12, the only team in the mountain time zone, way up there in high altitude, just like Colorado, which couldn’t take it anymore and headed for the Pacific Ocean. BYU just claimed its major independence and created its own network. The school no doubt wants to prove these decisions were wise. Besides, the Big 12 already has experienced enough headaches with the Bevo Network and doesn’t need to invite another.
Adding TCU, Louisville and West Virginia would make the Big 12 simpatico again, not only in name but also in scheduling, which is crucial. The Big 12 could return to its six-team, North-South alignment and rekindle its football championship game, which has long been a money maker. Dallas Cowboys Stadium could host the Big 12 football championship. Kansas City could host the Big 12 basketball tournaments. Same sites as before, only with three new entries.
Replace Texas A&M with TCU and schedule accordingly against the opposite division — just like before. Pair Texas with Texas Tech, Oklahoma with Oklahoma State, Baylor with TCU, Kansas with Kansas State, Iowa State with Missouri and West Virginia with Louisville. Like a glove.
While other conferences freak out and form 16-team mega-conferences, the Big 12 can stabilize itself and show an even dozen is a far more manageable number.
The Big 12′s existing deal with ABC is up for renegotiation in the next two years, so there’s no time to waste. Make the Big 12 whole again. Twelve means 12. Enough squabbling. It’s time for the Big 12 to act, pronto.
Armed with his own high-profile experiences, former Oklahoma football great Brian Bosworth is in the midst of a project he hopes will help guide young players not so familiar with the spotlight.
“I’m trying to create an atmosphere where kids understand that a four-year stage in their life is an opportunity to turn that into a 40-year career,” Bosworth said Thursday from Malibu, Calif. “You’re not going to be a 40-year professional athlete. You might be a four-year professional athlete. You might be a four-game professional athlete. You might be a four-day guy. You might come in and get cut, but you’ve got to take advantage of that four-year opportunity to get an education.”
Bosworth said he is writing and producing the independent project and chose the production company of Sir Ridley Scott.
“I went with that company because I felt like they get it from a sports standpoint. The project has changed organically from my original plan to where it’s going to end up. I was going to compare Blue Chip athletes to kids who don’t get that kind of notoriety, kids more along the lines of ‘The Blind Side,’ kids who come out of nowhere. This guy who became an all-pro, where did he come from? On the other side, you have this blue-chip athlete, yet his flame isn’t blue. His flame is a flickering orange that’s almost out. Why doesn’t he have the motivation when he’s been given all of God’s gifts and everybody’s pulling for him?
“What I’m finding out more and more is today’s kids are so cocky when they come out of high school. You can’t teach them. You can’t coach them. They act like they already know it all. It takes me back to my time. I think I was kind of one of those guys, but I was also very humble and I was very scared. I had a big self-esteem problem. I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can make it here, man. This is Oklahoma. This is big-time. I don’t know if I am big-time yet. I’ve got to figure that out.’ I had to go through an inner journey to find out if I had big-time in me.
“There’s always a crossroad. You come to a fork in the road. I think what we’re going to end up doing is we’re going to take kids back to that fork in the road. There was a circumstance in your life that caused you to take a right or a left. We’ll look at the kids who took the wrong turns. Sometimes it’s because of a wrong choice they made. Sometimes they didn’t have a choice, the decision was made for them. There are a lot kids out there who don’t get that second chance. The more we talk to high school coaches, they agree. They say, ‘Don’t come in and get our seniors. They don’t need any more notoriety. Go to the guys who didn’t get the shot to go, who are great kids and are now sackers at the grocery store, or pumping gas, or don’t have a job, or have a life of crime.’ We can go impact those type of kids and change their lives.
“I’ve put more focus on teaching and mentoring kids about how to avoid the mistakes, especially the mistakes I made. I made many. I had a lot of great successes, but I made a lot of mistakes. When you add them all up, I think the teeter-totter is favored more toward my successes.”
Bosworth’s maniacal approach to football cut short what had been a brilliant career. “You put a hat (helmet) on and when you walk onto a field and you’re playing for a fraternity,” Bosworth said. “We hit each other, not because we’re told to but because we want to. Sometimes there are catastrophes that happen in our bodies. I’ve had 28 surgeries. I’ve had both my shoulders replaced. I’ve got three discs in my neck and four discs in my back. That’s because I played the game at a level that I wanted to play at. I wanted to play at a high, destructive level. I felt like if I didn’t hit somebody with everything I had inside of me, I wasn’t playing the game hard enough. I did that for me. It helped my team, but I did that for me.”
Today’s Oklahoman addressed University of Oklahoma sports fans who choose to shout “home of the Sooners” rather than “home of the brave” at the end of the pregame national anthem.
I had no idea this was such a touchy topic. I considered it an overreaction, nothing more than an exaggerated entry in the “Politically Incorrect” file. Fans throughout America often replace the word “brave” with their team nickname. No big deal. Mountain out of a molehill.
But after reading the passionate pleas of those who are offended, I have quickly reversed field.
This controversy reminds me of the debate concerning athletic teams using Native Americans as team nicknames/mascots. I thought that, too, was an overreaction.
I asked legendary basketball coach Abe Lemons, who was at Oklahoma City University at the time, if depicting Native Americans should be considered offensive. Back then, OCU’s mascot was Chiefs.
As was often the case with Lemons, he deflected with humor. “How do people know what kind of chief it is?” Lemons said. “Could be a Fire Chief. Could be a Police Chief.” Shortly thereafter, OCU changed its nickname from Chiefs to Stars.
I also discussed this matter with Bethany native and former New York Yankees pitcher Allie Reynolds, who was part-Indian and nicknamed “Superchief,” which actually was the name of a popular passenger train.
Reynolds said it was embarrassing Native Americans viewed it so negatively. I figured if a prominent Native American such as Reynolds was not offended, why should I be? And yet, numerous Native American depictions in sports are now gone.
This “home of the brave” debate is easily correctable. Just don’t shout “Sooners.” Now that the shouters are more aware of the issue’s sensitivity, hopefully the conclusion of Saturday night’s national anthem at Owen Field will have a different ending.
All it takes is a little restraint, and imagine the overwhelming sign of respect if not a single fan screamed “Sooners.” Forget your freedom of speech for one measly word. Starting Saturday, don’t shout “Sooners.” Your word of silence would speak much louder than you could ever imagine.
Whenever there are changes in a college football team’s starting lineup, the earlier the better for the coaches who have to make those changes.
Sunday or Monday are the optimum days to fill out that week’s starting lineup. Waiting until Tuesday is considered late. Wednesday might be acceptable in an either-or scenario at a certain position where a starter is nicked up and his backup gets extra reps.
However, potential changes along the Sooners’ offensive line are not an either-or scenario. It’s more like a free-for-all.
After last Saturday’s 14-13 loss against Brigham Young, during which 12 offensive penalties were committed, OU’s O-line is in the midst of a line dance.
During Tuesday’s media luncheon, Sooners coach Bob Stoops and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson did not share specifics as to which player might play where and replace whom.
“To me, I’ve got a couple of guys who I think can and should perform well who didn’t,” Wilson said. “I’m wondering and questioning why, and I’m tired of waiting and asking, so there needs to be a great sense of urgency from men to play at a better level, or some young guys are going to have an opportunity. ‘If you want to play, let’s go. It’s not a tryout. It’s not an open door. It’s not a mind game.’
“But it is concerning if you’re a third-, fourth- or fifth-year guy and you’re not playing at the level that we can play at. And if that’s the case, maybe you don’t want to, or maybe you can’t, and maybe we need to make some adjustments. I don’t think you wait until Friday and say, ‘You’re the starter.’ And I don’t think you come in (Monday) and make wholesale changes.
“The way we performed (against BYU) is unacceptable, and it needs to be fixed immediately. Right now. Either you choose to fix it or we’re going to fix it with something else, or another direction, or another player, another scheme or huddle-up, whatever. We can not and are not going to play that way.”
The Cotton Bowl indeed is finally that — a bowl — with its capacity increased from 76,000 to 92,200 this year.
With its entire upper deck now enclosed, the 76-year-old facility had early arriving fans gawking their approval.
As the sun rose over the jumbo scoreboard in the South end zone at 8:02 a.m., several thousand fans already were on State Fair Park grounds, which feature some wider walking areas thanks to some fresh concrete.
The ESPN GameDay stage outside the stadium was drawing a crowd in preparation for its 9 a.m. launch. The second halfd of the show will move onto the field along the west sideline.
The South tunnel remains intact, although is more engulfed by seats.
OU-Texas is as captivating as it’s ever been on the field, but the $57 million renovation is a shot in the arm the State Fair of Texas desperately needed to keep the series where it should be.
When it comes to college bowl games, the Oklahoma football team knows all about wildcards — players who unexpectedly come to the forefront and excel.
Arkansas backup tailback Roland Sales is the most prominent figure who comes to mind, rushing for an Orange Bowl record 205 yards in the Razorbacks’ stunning 31-6 victory over the Sooners in 1978. At kickoff, Arkansas was a 24-point underdog.
Three years later, OU tight end Forrest Valora caught a pass on a game-winnning two-point conversion to beat Florida State 18-17 in the 1981 Orange Bowl.
Who might be the wildcard player in Wednesday night’s Fiesta Bowl between OU and West Virginia?
OU’s depleted defense has a number of candidates thanks to starters Reggie Smith, Lendy Holmes and DeMarcus Granger missing the contest for various reasons. Defensive back Dominique Franks plus linemen Jeremy Beal, Cory Bennett and Steven Coleman are good wildcard choices. (The Sooners are so deep offensively, no player really qualifies as a wildcard.)
The loss of Granger is expected to add firepower to the Mountaineers’ already explosive rushing attack, which ranks No. 4 nationally. This is why my pregame wildcard vote goes to WVU freshman running back Noel Devine.
Devine backs up one of the nation’s premier backs in Steve Slaton. But Slaton has had a somewhat pedestrian junior season, averaging 87.8 yards per game and failing to gain 100 yards in six of the last eight games.
The 5-foot-8, 170-pound Devine has had flashes of brilliance this season, averaging a school record 27.2 yards per carry against Maryland (136 yards on five carries). Devine’s 8.65 yards-per-carry average is second only to Arkansas’ Felix Jones (9.08). Devine has 519 rushing yards and is averaging 89.5 all-purpose yards per game.
Will Devine win the game for the Mountaineers? Possibly. But I still like the Sooners to win by about 10 points.
Devine might not even touch the ball against OU. But if he does, things could get a little wild.
As a team, Oklahoma probably won’t rush the ball 55 times Saturday when it plays Oklahoma State on Owen Field.
Much has been written and re-written about Steve Owens carrying the ball 55 times all by himself against the Cowboys in 1969, just days after learning he won the 1969 Heisman Trophy. Owens gained 261 yards and the Sooners stopped a two-point conversion to hang on for a 28-27.
A Friday story in The Oklahoman quoted former OU assistant Larry Lacewell as saying Owens’ heroics that day probably saved jobs for the Sooners’ entire coaching staff. Barry Switzer has often said the same. But some credit also should go to Owens’ former teammate Steve Zabel.
One of the best athletes in OU history, Zabel played tight end and defensive end for the Sooners. Countless times, Zabel has heard people ask Owens about his 55-carry day in Stillwater. This is when Zabel can’t resist taking a playful jab at Owens, his close friend of more than 40 years.
“People always tell Steve, ‘I can’t believe you carried the ball 55 times against Oklahoma State,’ ” Zabel said. ”Well, I couldn’t believe it either. Because every down I played, I had either (All-American offensive tackle) John Ward or (future four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle) Jerry Sherk on my nose that entire game.
“So you tell me, who did the work?”
Don’t dare do it. Don’t dare compare Joey Halzle to Sam Bradford. There’s a reason Bradford is Oklahoma’s starting quarterback and a reason Halzle is not. This painfully became evident Saturday night during the Sooners’ debilitating 34-27 loss at Texas Tech.
On paper, Halzle’s numbers looked acceptable enough. But on the field, the performance lacked what the Sooners need to keep up with the explosive Red Raiders. Halzle completed 21 of 41 for 291 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. But such a line qualifies as mediocre when you’ve grown accustomed to watching Bradford complete 70 percent of his passing while leading the nation in passing efficiency (which he still does).
Bradford suffered a concussion on OU’s first offensive play of the game after making a tackle. If the Oklahoma playbook is 50 pages thick for Bradford, it might be roughly five pages for Halzle. It is still unclear why the Sooners didn’t attempt to run the ball more than they did after Bradford’s departure — which would have taken pressure off Halzle while burning more clock time.
The longer Halzle played, the more he seemed to relax. What transpired Saturday night in Lubbock will only make Halzle better the next time he is needed. But more than any other player, a healthy Bradford is what OU needs most.
We all knew that already. Saturday night simply proved it.