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Blogging about college football by an Oklahoma Sooners fan.

Podcast: Kansas State preview

The Kansa State Wildcats won the Big 12 in 2012, but they'll be looking to defend their crown this fall with a slew of key pieces gone from that squad. Tye Burger of K-State site Bring On The Cats joins Homerism for a podcast to preview the Wildcats' upcoming season.

Tye and I discuss:

*Wily Bill Snyder's future in Manhattan

*The race to replace Collin Klein at quarterback

*KSU's promising offensive line

*Concerns about the front four

*And more.

(Subscribe to Blatant Homerism's Podcast through iTunes. Please rate and review the show if you get the chance, too. Thanks.)

Podcast: Texas Tech preview

Texas Tech found itself with a surprising coaching opening earlier this year after Tommy Tuberville dined and dashed off to Cincinnati. The Red Raiders hired favorite son Kliff Kingsbury to bring some stability to a program that has drifted since the end of the Mike Leach era. Seth Jungmann of TTU site Viva the Matadors joins Homerism for a podcast to discuss the changes in Lubbock and preview the upcoming season.

Seth and I talk about:

*Kingsbury's relationship with Leach and the Tech administration

*How the new staff plans to alter the offense

*A shaky offensive line

*New defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt's aggressive schemes

*And more.

(Subscribe to Blatant Homerism's Podcast through iTunes. Please rate and review the show if you get the chance, too. Thanks.)

Linking Up: Great longform on Keilani Ricketts; Bob Stoops opens up

Some odds and ends as we head into Memorial Day weekend.

*I don't really pay much attention to college softball, but it's impossible to follow OU sports to any degree and not know about phenom Keilani Ricketts. Over at SBNation, the talented R.J. Young, who normally works with our friends at SoonerScoop.com, has penned a thoughtful longform piece on the superstar pitcher and slugger. This is a must-read if for no other reason than Young's ability to capture the experience of watching the most dominant athlete in college athletics today in action.

*Bob Stoops took a break from helping out with the clean-up and recovery efforts in Moore yesterday to talk with sports talk radio host Jim Traber. It turned into what I thought was one of the most candid interviews with the coach that I've ever heard. Definitely worth a listen if you get a chance.

*Insightful chalk talker Nickel Rover published a great two-part series this week at Football Study Hall on Baylor's dynamic offensive attack. Part I focused on Art Briles' scheme, while Part II zeroed in on how to slow the Bears down – if the last three years are any indication, there really isn't much "stopping" that can be done.

Really excited for our buddy Bill Connelly's new book dropping this summer, by the way.

*I had the pleasure of appearing on the ever-sophisticated "Friends With Muscles" podcast on Rebel Sports Radio this week. Ostensibly, I was on to help preview the upcoming season in the Big 12, but we kept it on the intellectual tip with talk of bro-ing, "loser hot girls" and the misery of music festivals.

*The Big 12 gets a lot wrong – a lot. All the huffing and puffing in SEC country over scheduling should serve as a reminder, though, that the round-robin is one thing Bob Bowlsby does get right. I think that while it presents some drawbacks in terms of postseason positioning, the Big 12's approach is still the most equitable way to determine a champion.

Also, I can't help but find it ironic that the SEC is struggling with concerns over protecting these rivalry games after the league helped kill off Texas-Texas A&M and the Border War. Tradition!

*Despite admitting that he doesn't condone homosexuality, Landry Jones is earning plaudits from the LGBT community for the perspective that he brought to the ongoing dialogue about gay athletes.

Postseason in full swing for Sooner baseball, softball squads

Oklahoma’s baseball team begins Big 12 tournament play Thursday in Oklahoma City, while the Sooners' softball team hosts Texas A&M in the super regional bracket. Both sports normally have good turnouts to cheer on the Crimson and Cream.

It’s obvious that those who support the Sooners are mostly football fans and don’t give a rat's ass about the other 16 sports. I guess you can’t blame those football-only fans; after all, football does drive the Sooner Schooner down the boulevard of big revenue.

Early on this year, baseball fans had something to be excited about. The team looked like a lock for the College World Series with a 25-5 record through March. So far in April and May, the team has gone 10-12, including dropping nine of the last 12 games. OU lost the last three conference series (only one win in three games each against West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Kansas State).

So we can put this in terms Sooner fans might better understand, let's equate that to football. If the Sooners dropped the last three conference games, they obviously would not have won the Big 12 title and would probably end up going to a crappy bowl.

Can you imagine the radio talk shows? Callers would be jamming the lines wanting Bob Stoops to be fired. The message boards would be overloaded with "Fire Stoops!" comments. And columnists can't wait to give their two cents about what’s wrong with the football team when it goes into a nosedive.

Yet, you don't hear any calls for baseball coach Sunny Golloway’s ass to be booted out of Norman. If anyone cares, Galloway does have the talent to right his sinking ship this weekend.

As for the softball girls, their ship has been right all season long (ranked No. 1 every week). They should go Johnny Manziel over the Aggies en route to the World Series.

Offseason Intelligence: TCU Horned Frogs

Texas Christian should make some noise in the Big 12 this year with the return of seven starters on offense and 10 on defense. Head coach Gary Patterson has become one of the best coaches in the country, and TCU’s second year in the Big 12 should be better than finishing seventh in the conference (4-5 record) and 7-6 overall.

The Horned Frogs lost their last two games a year ago by a combined eight points. Oklahoma’s defense broke up a last-ditch pass in the end zone to escape with a 24-17 victory. Michigan State kicked a field goal to beat TCU with a minute left in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

Offense

Casey Pachall (6-5, 226, Sr.) and Trevone Boykin (6-2, 215, Soph.) will battle for the quarterback job. Pachall was kicked off the team after just four games last year after being busted for DWI and smoking pot last fall. He went through rehabilitation and was allowed back into the team. During those four games, Pachall completed 66 percent of his passes for an average of 237 yards per game with 10 TDs and 1 INT. The year before he completed 66 percent of his throws for 2,921 yards with 25 TDs and 7 INTs. Boykin is more mobile than his counterpart. He completed 57 percent of his passes last year for 2,054 yards with a 15-10 TD-to-INT ratio. Boykin also rushed for 417 yards and 3 TDs.

Whoever takes the role will have two of the team;s top four receivers back this year. Josh Boyce, who led the team last year, left early for the NFL draft. Junior Brandon Carter (5-11, 161), a verbal commitment to Oklahoma at one point during his high school days, and LaDarius Brown (6-4, 220, Soph.) finished second and fourth, respectively, in receiving last year. They combined for 63 grabs, 975 yards and 11 TDs.

Three starters return up front, and the Frogs must replace their center and right guard.

TCU Statistics, 2012

Offense (Nat'l. Rank)   Defense (Nat'l. Rank)
28.3 (66) Scoring (PPG) 22.6 (30)
152.1 (65) Rushing (YPG) 105.4 (10)
236.5 (61) Passing (YPG) 218.5 (42)
388.6 (72) Total Yards (YPG) 323.9 (16)

Defense

TCU returns nine starters this year from 2012, and three of them earned All-Big 12 postseason honors a year ago. Sophomore end Devonte Fields (6-4, 240) was a unanimous choice for the conference’s freshman player of the year on defense. He led the Big 12 with 18.5 tackles for loss and finished third in the conference with 10 sacks. Fields had 53 total tackles to go with and interception, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Unfortunately, TCU will be missing Fields for the first two games of the year as part of a punishment for an undisclosed violation announced this week.

Joining him Fields on the front line will be tackles Chucky Hunter (6-1, 305, Jr.) and Davion Pierson (6-2, 305, Soph.). Last year they combined for 108 stops with 13.5 behind the line of scrimmage, including 6 sacks.

Junior Joel Hasley (6-1, 220) is the only returning linebacker in a two-linebacker set. He recorded 79 tackles with 8.5 going for losses in ’12.

The entire five-man secondary returns led by strong safety Sam Carter (6-1, 220, Jr.) who made the All-Big 12 second unit last year. Carter had 4 INTs and broke up 10 passes in 2012. Senior cornerback Jason Verrett (5-10, 180) led the team with 6 INTs and 16 broken-up passes. The other three starters combined for 7 INTs and broke up 22 passes.

Special Teams

Special teams will be looking to replace the return men, but the kickers will be back. Punter Ethan Perry (6-4, 230, Soph.) averaged 44.5 yards per kick last year. Sophomore Jaden Oberkrom (6-3, 182) returns as placekicker and will hold down kickoff duties. Last year, he hit all 42 of his PATs, but only 22 of 30 (73 percent) field goal tries. His longest make was from 53 yards out.

Deante’ Gray (5-10, 180, Soph.) was the secondary punt return specialist in ’12. He averaged 22.4 yards on seven returns and scored once.

Podcast: Bob Stoops goes off-message

Bob Stoops has had an eventful offseason in 2013. His latest comments about the depth of the SEC has given the punditry about a week's worth of material. Braden Gall of Athlon Sports and Sirius/XM College Sports joins Homerism for a podcast to chop up what Stoops said and why.

Braden and I touch on:

*The validity of Stoops' argument about the SEC's depth.

*Why we should expect coaches to start politicking even more.

*And more.

(Subscribe to Blatant Homerism's Podcast through iTunes. Please rate and review the show if you get the chance, too. Thanks.)

Memo to Jerry Montgomery

Jerry Montgomery

There's some kind of conventional wisdom in Big 12 country that the pace of teams' no-huddle offenses hurt the effectiveness of their own defenses. Simply put, teams score faster, which puts the D back on the field sooner. Eventually, the defenses stay out on the field longer and wear out, or so the theory goes.

I think there's more to it than that – like poor coaching in plenty of cases, yanno. Even so, we are talking about a lot of snaps. That can take a particularly tough toll on the guys in trenches.

In fact, a study by Pete Roussel of CoachingSearch.com paints a pretty clear picture of how much of a strain the no-huddle offenses put on Big 12 defensive linemen. Nearly half of the 15 defenses that have played the most defensive snaps in the last four years are or were members of the Big 12.

Former defensive line coach Jackie Shipp had a reputation in his 14-year stint at Oklahoma as a demanding perfectionist who used a small rotation of players up front. If last season's dismal performance didn't give an indication of why that approach won't work, Roussel's study should.

To avoid a repeat of last season's defensive collapse, Jerry Montgomery needs to have a bunch of guys prepared to play this fall. Frankly, I'll take that over developing a couple guys into studs.

OUTRAGE: Bob Stoops says SEC has some bad teams

Bob Stoops

Imagine a scenario in which Bob Stoops is asked the following question: “What can the Big 12 do to overcome the gap with the SEC?”

Here’s how he responds, verbatim:

"Well, it depends on what gap you're talking about. What are the bottom six doing?

It depends on who you want to listen to. Listen, they've had the best team in college football, meaning they've won the national championship. That doesn't mean everything else is always the best.

So you're listening to a lot of propaganda that gets fed out to you. You're more than smart enough to figure it out. Again, you can look at the top two, three, four, five, six teams, and you can look at the bottom six, seven, eight, whatever they are. How well are they all doing?

So they've had the best team in college football, They haven't had the whole conference. Because, again, half of 'em haven't done much at all. I'm just asking you. You tell me.

What'd the Big 12 have, eight of 10 teams in bowl games this year? Again, you figure it all out.”

(Actually, it was nine out of 10.)

Now, hold on there, PAWWL. Read that again. You too, 'Bama Bangs.

Those are all of the direct quotes from Stoops in an article from Tulsa World columnist John E. Hoover that has set tongues wagging in college football circles this week. The rest of the piece belongs to Hoover.

Was Stoops being defensive? Probably. Was he taking “shot” at the SEC? I guess, if that's what you call pointing out that about half the teams in the SEC last year weren't good.

Someone explain to me what the big deal is. That’s what the comments are for.

Rod Shoate headed to College Football Hall of Fame

Perhaps the greatest linebacker to ever slip on a crimson uniform has finally been voted into the College Football Hall of Fame—Class of 2013. Rod Shoate was voted into the hall this week after being bypassed several times before. A three-time All-American (1972-74), he certainly would have won the Butkus Award at least twice if the award was around then.

Shoate, a product of Spiro, Okla., recorded 426 tackles in his career, including 155 during his senior season, which helped OU win a national championship in 1974. He was the Big Eight Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 1973-74 and he finished seventh in the Heisman balloting in ’74. During his three years as one of the Sooners’ defensive leaders, Oklahoma had a record of 32-1-1.

OU allowed only 8.8 points per game during that stretch. OU gave up an average of 227 total yards per game, or 3.5 yards per play. The defense allowed only 111 rushing yards per game, or 2.6 yards per play. Much of the D's success was attributed to Shoate’s quick pursuit of the ball carrier, who had no escape when in his sights.

“He was incredible. He had one of the greatest bursts that I have ever seen,” said Larry Lacewell, in a 1999 Daily Oklahoman article. Lacewell was OU’s defensive coordinator from 1966-77. “He looked like a track guy coming out of the blocks. He looked like a heat missile. He’s the best one that I’ve ever coached, and I’ve been in it a long time.”

The New England Patriots drafted Shoate in the second round of the 1975 draft. He played seven seasons for the Pats and had a brief stint in the now-defunct USFL.

Tragically, his life went into a tailspin after pro football. His wife divorced him in 1986. After pro football he was broke and asked family for money. He developed a drug addiction.

In 1987 he robbed a gas station in Attleboro, Mass., and then drove 10 miles to Cumberland, R.I., and held up a convenience store. Later that year he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 years probation for the Cumberland holdup. A month later he was given a 20-year suspended sentence for the Attleboro robbery. Shoate was ordered to undergo drug treatment.

No one really knows what happened to Shoate after that; he was known as a quiet man who kept his troubles to himself. On Oct. 4, 1999, he died in an apartment in Spiro from complications associated with AIDS. He was 46.

Shoate’s class of new inductees won’t be officially enshrined until December. It’s too bad he won’t be around to enjoy the limelight like he did when he donned the No. 43 jersey for the University of Oklahoma.

Offseason Intelligence: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Head coach Brian Kelly (16-10 overall at Notre Dame) took the Fighting Irish to the 2012 national championship game in his second year at the helm – where his team got drubbed, 42-14. If the Irish are going to make noise on the national level again this year, they’ll have to do it with a rebuilt offense that is replacing eight starters.

Junior quarterback Everett Golson (6-0, 185) will be the offense’s leader. He completed 59 percent of his pass attempts last year for 2,405 yards with 12 TDs and 6 INTs. Everett also ran for 298 yards and scored six times on the ground.

Right tackle Christian Lombard (6-5, 309, Sr.) is the only returnee up front to protect his quarterback.

Receiver T. J. Jones (5-11, 190, Sr.) will also be back. Jones caught 50 passes last year for 649 yards and 4 TDs. Tailback George Atkinson III (6-1, 210, Jr.) had three starts a year ago and saw plenty of action as the backup tailback. He carried the ball 51 times for 361 yards and 5 TDs.

Notre Dame Statistics, 2012

Offense (Nat'l. Rank)   Defense (Nat'l. Rank)
25.8 (78) Scoring (PPG) 12.8 (2)
189.4 (38) Rushing (YPG 105.7 (11)
222.8 (71) Passing (YPG) 199.8 (25)
412.1 (54) Total Yards (YPG) 305.5 (7)

The defense is in a better position with the return of seven starters from a year ago. The 3-4 alignment will have two returnees on the line: All-American end Stephon Tuitt (606, 303, Jr.) and noseguard Louis Nix III (6-3, 326, Sr.). Tuitt had 47 tackles in 2012, 13 of which were behind the line of scrimmage, including 12 sacks. He also had 9 quarterback hurries, forced three fumbles, recovered one for a touchdown and blocked a field goal.

Nix recorded 50 tackles with 7.5 for losses, including 2 sacks. He also had 3 QB hurries and forced a fumble last year.

Two of four linebackers return this fall. All-American Manti T’eo is off to the NFL. Outside LBs Prince Shembo (6-2, 250, Sr.) and Danny Spond (6-2, 248, Sr.) will again be chasing ball carriers this year. Shembo made 51 stops in ’12 with 10.5 behind the line of scrimmage, including 7.5 sacks. He also had 12 QB hurries and recovered a fumble. Spond had 39 tackles with one for a loss, and he intercepted one pass.

Three-fourths of the secondary will be back in 2013. Senior cornerback Bennett Jackson (6-0, 185) was third on the team with 65 tackles and second with four picks. The other corner, KeiVarae Russell (5-11, 182, Soph.), made 58 tackles and intercepted two passes. Safety Mathias Farley (6-1, 200, Jr.) had 49 tackles and 1 INT.

Junior kicker Kyle Brindza (6-1, 225) will be back to lead the special teams in scoring and kickoffs. Last year, Brindza made all but one of his 29 PATs. He hit 74 percent of his 31 field goal attempts with a long of 52 yards. He kicked three against the Sooners last year from 34, 44 and 46 yards out. The Irish will be looking for a new punter, and that job may also go to Brindza.

ND will also be looking to replace the long snappers and holder. Atkinson will be the main kickoff return specialist again this year coming off a 20-yard average a year ago.

Offseason Intelligence: Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Last year, Tulsa began and ended with the same opponent — Iowa State. The Golden Hurricane lost the first contest at Ames, Iowa, but got revenge with a 31-17 Liberty Bowl victory. After that loss in the opener, the Hurricane won seven straight and then went 3-2 down the stretch, including a win in the Conference USA championship game.

Head coach Bill Blankenship brings a 19-8 record into this third year at TU. He improved from 8-5 in 2012 to 11-3 a year ago.

Eight starters return to TU’s lineup this year with senior quarterback Cody Green (6-4, 247) leading the pack. He completed 54.4 percent of his passes last year for 2,592 yards with 17 TDs and 11 INTs. Green also ran for 284 yards and four scores.

The running game will be solid with the return of senior Trey Watts (5-11, 190), son of former OU star J.C. Watts. Watts rushed for 1,108 yards (6 yards per carry) and 3 TDs last season. Ja’Terian Douglas (5-11, 189, Sr.) picked up 936 yards (6.7 average) and 7 touchdowns. The Hurricane will need to replace their graduating fullback.

Keyarris Garrett (6-4, 207, Jr.), last year’s leading receiver, is back. He caught 67 balls for 845 yards and 9 TDs en route to being selected to the Conference USA second team last year. Flanker Jordan James (6-2, 203, Sr.) and split end Thomas Roberson (6-3, 195, Jr.) also return. They combined for 70 receptions for 1,057 yards and 6 TDs.

Tulsa will need to replace a right tackle and center on the line.

The Hurricane will need to replace all four defensive starters up front, but two of three starting linebackers return for 2013. Senior Shawn Jackson (6-0, 251) recorded 88 stops in 2012 with 10.5 behind the line of scrimmages, including 5 sacks. He also broke up 65 passes, forced three fumbles and recovered one for a touchdown. Junior Mitchell Osborne (6-2, 210) had 40 tackles with 3 for losses, forced two fumbles and recovered two.

The secondary lost all but one starter from a year ago. Senior safety Demarco Nelson (6-0, 192) returns from a second-team all-conference campaign. He made 80 tackles, 2 interceptions, forced a fumble and recovered one last season.

TU’s special teams will be decent again this year with the return of key personnel, including Cole Way (6-8, 205, Jr.), brother of OU’s Tress Way. Cole is the kickoff specialist and punter who averaged 39.1 yards per punt in ’12. The placekicking will need to improve if sophomore Daniel Schwarz (6-3, 189) gets the nod this year. In 2012 he missed 7 of his 59 PATs and hit only 12 of 18 field goals, with the longest coming from 45 yards out.

Watts will be the main return guy on kickoffs and punts. Last year, he averaged 27.9 per kickoff return with one score. Watts also averaged 7 yards per punt return with a score.

Texas and the Big 12: Gettin' all game theory on ya


If you can't tell, I love the conference realignment game from a purely theoretical standpoint. So, when I come upon an analysis that so expertly lays out the current tension in the Big 12 at the moment as this outstanding piece from our friend Peter Bean at Burnt Orange Nation, I feel compelled to point it out.

Whereas some people might be compelled to evaluate the positions of Texas and the rest of the Big 12's members based on watered-down public drivel or guessing at the major players' true intentions, I agree with Peter that a game-theory analysis of the situation can provide some beneficial insight into the motivations and goals at play. As I've suggested previously, that kind of exercise suggests that Texas' goals in this case are at odds with those of the rest of the league.

(Obviously, I don't claim any inside information here, so I'm working based on information that is out in the public domain. New developments could throw a wrench in all of this.)

Ever since UT secured its own television network out of the aborted effort to join Larry Scott's crew out west, the Longhorns' actions have betrayed their true motives as they relate to both the Big 12 and the rest of the college football landscape. UT is looking to "capitalize on its opportunities as the biggest, bestest brand," according to Peter, with the Longhorn Network offering a key vehicle to do so. As such, Texas' relationship to the Big 12 should be viewed through that prism.

So what good is a conference for UT? As Peter points out, it's best as a means to that ultimate end. That doesn't mean building an elite league. It means building a league that will get Texas where it wants to go.

The Big 12 as currently structured serves Texas very well in that regard. The Longhorns have their television network and are teamed with the premier brand in sports entertainment, courtesy of the conference's media rights provisions. The league is just strong enough to ensure that the quality of Texas' competition won't preclude it from competing for national titles, especially in football.

Most importantly, the conference is economically dependent on Texas. Take Texas out of the Big 12, and the conference dies a quick death. By itself, Oklahoma would probably have value to at least one of the top-tier leagues – the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC – but that's likely it. From a financial standpoint, a Texas-less Big 12 can't compete with the big boys. (You could argue that an Oklahoma-less Big 12 would probably be unsustainable, too, but not for lack of trying, OU remains tied to the league.)

That gives the rest of the member schools that don't sport crimson and cream plenty of reason to kowtow to Dodds and his employer. With that kind of power over the conference, the 'Horns also have plenty of rope to take the steps they deem necessary to establish Texas as the unquestioned pre-eminent brand in college sports and further distance themselves from the financial pack via the LHN.

In other words, Texas needs a Big 12 that will bend to its will to maximize its own position.

Why expansion undermines Texas' long-term position

From that perspective, it's easy to see why Texas would want to keep Florida St. out of the Big 12. First, the Seminoles could potentially compete with the Longhorns and Sooners for the top of the league on an annual basis.

Second, by adding FSU to the mix, the potential that Texas walks on the Big 12 down the road is no longer seen as a death blow by the rest of conference members. Therefore, Texas no longer carries as big of a stick as it does now.

Finally, one thing that Peter nails – and I hadn't fully considered this before – is the potential effect of the break-up of the ACC on the college football landscape and Texas' "bet" on the future of the dominant college sports business model. Considering how UT's position could be threatened by the emergence of 16-team superconferences, the 'Horns have all the more reason to fight Big 12 expansion.

Texas' alternatives

Let's assume for the sake of this exercise that the rest of conference favors expansion - and I think that's a safe assumption at this point. What leverage does Texas have that could kill that move, assuming that the so-called grant of rights is in effect for the next five years under the terms of the existing Big 12 media deal?

Any other conference would gladly take Texas, but the question would be under what conditions. It would take some serious bending on the part of the Pac-12 and Big Ten to accommodate the LHN in its current state, given that their current business models rely on pooling media rights. The ACC would almost certainly be more flexible, but that means actually joining the ACC, a sub-par football league that already has 14 teams.

Texas could refuse to sign the new media rights extension and put the option of independence in play. However, that means putting Oklahoma back on the market, which could hasten the formation of 16-team superconferences.

And let's not forget how Ken Starr reacted the last time a Texas state institution threatened the viability of the Big 12. Politically, UT will have to account to the powers that be in the state legislature for any move that so dramatically hurts Texas Tech and Baylor and TCU.

ESPN
There's also the matter of ESPN. Think the Worldwide Leader won't have some say in what Texas does, especially given its obvious desire to dominate college football media? The owner of the LHN already appears to be doing everything in its power to push FSU to the Big 12 in light of its bargain-basement TV deal with the ACC. Ultimately, ESPN's desire to control the college football landscape dwarfs any commitment that it has to Texas and the LHN. Texas not signing on to the Big12's latest TV contract extension would seemingly put those commitments at odds.

(Which kinda reveals a sad truth to all of this: ESPN is really holding all the cards.)

Conclusion

Combine the Longhorns' ambition with Dodds' apparent skill at reading the field and maximizing leverage, and you get the Texas monster that everyone who doesn't bleed burnt orange has come to know and tolerate. In all honesty, however, whatever your opinion of Texas and how it does business, it's disingenuous to condemn Dodds and the 'Horns in all of this. I feel pretty confident that just about any school in Texas' position would behave in an approximate fashion, even if UT is an extreme case.

The Longhorns have compelling reasons to object to expansion, and Dodds wouldn't be doing his job if he wasn't doing what he felt was best for the school. It's certainly not incumbent on Texas to act contrary to what it perceives as its own best interest for the sake of some kind of "duty" to the conference. The league's members have done pretty well thanks to their association with the 'Horns as it is.

But what's good for Bevo and all that...

A major reason why I've written so much on this particular juncture in the Big 12's history is that while I think you could argue that going along with Texas has been the member schools' best play – or only play – in the past, this is a different matter altogether.

Adding Clemson and FSU gives the Big 12 an identity beyond being Texas' launching pad. It creates a stable conference that doesn't live and die based on the whims of one school.

While the move may not fit in with the Longhorns' master plan, it benefits the entire league. And that's why I see this expansion as an inevitability.

Whoa, DeLoss, light a match (and forget about Notre Dame)

deloss-dodds-200For me, clicking on a link lately that involves some combination of the terms "DeLoss Dodds" and "conference expansion" is akin to waiting in line for the bathroom at your favorite breakfast joint and seeing some crotchety geezer in a windbreaker come walking out with the sports section tucked under his arm.

It stinks, he doesn't care and you're left wondering why he had to do that in public.

With rumors swirling that the Big 12 is on the verge of expanding, Texas' athletic director continues to chime in on the future of the conference. In a nutshell, he wants to hold the league at 10 schools unless Notre Dame comes calling.

I get that it's in their DNA for the 'Horns to remind everyone just how important they are, so speaking up doesn't surprise me in that regard. For once, though, the Big 12 is sitting in the catbird's seat of realignment, and the conference's key administrators appear to be acting as such. Chris Del Conte's ill-advised babbling aside, the rest of Big 12's athletic directors have pretty much stayed mum since the rumors of poaching Florida St. from the ACC surfaced. It raises the question of why Dodds won't keep his yap shut, especially when the odds appear stacked against him.

For all the posturing that takes place during these realignment shenanigans, I don't see any reason to doubt Dodds and Mack Brown when they say they truly do want to remain at 10 teams. They view a 10-team league as the easiest route to possible shot at the national championship.

It's a microcosm of Texas football. The Longhorns enjoy significant competitive advantages over 99 percent of the institutions around the country. Yet, like kids who complain about doing chores around the house for longer than it takes to actually do them, Dodds and the Texas brass appear to waste inordinate time and energy trying to make sure they get every conceivable edge and consideration possible. (Consider the ham-handed defense of efforts to televise high school games on the Longhorn Network, for example.) In this case, rather than simply just, yanno, playing a conference championship game and trying to win it, UT would prefer to eliminate the possibility of losing it.

Yes, it's a Chauncey position to take, but it strikes me as par for the course.

What I don't get is this game of footsie that Dodds insists on playing with the Fightin' Irish.

Notre Dame was Texas before Texas was. That powerful brand makes the Golden Domers so appealing to the major conferences. It's also why they can Fleetwood Mac the conference model and go their own way.

ND is under absolutely no pressure to give up its independence yet. Eventually, I do believe the Irish will have to join a conference when the power leagues decide to break away from the NCAA. That day has yet to arrive, however, and in the meantime, no one has any intention of setting up a postseason structure that will let somehow exclude a deserving ND team from participating.

ND's alums and fans love the distinction of independence, as well as the flexibility that it allows to play a national schedule.  Joining a conference at this juncture, let alone one with members such as Texas Tech and Kansas St., won't fly with them.

The alternative to full participation appears to be the same kind of quasi-membership that allows ND to park its Olympic sports in the league and potentially set up some kind of scheduling agreement in football with the rest of the Big 12.
   
To me, the idea of getting ND now as a "half" participant in the Big 12 as some precursor to that day when the Irish do have to join a conference seems foolish. First, ND won't have much reason to ditch the Big East with its Olympic sports so long as that league is alive. But even if that wasn't the case, a non-football membership hardly guarantees that the Irish would join the Big 12 if it did eventually decide to put its football in a conference. The bottom line for the Big 12 is that unless the conference plans on pruning some of its riff raff, I just can't see ND signing up.

So why is Dodds lusting after the Irish? My hunch is that Texas would like to parlay an ND partial membership into some type of annual game with the Irish. UT would definitely be among the schools that the Irish would be willing to involve in some sort of scheduling arrangement. Also, when the poets go to write their tributes to the athletic directors gone by, I suspect Dodds hopes that if ND did eventually become a full-time member of the Big 12, he might be remembered as the AD who captured the white whale.  

Whatever the case may be, the good news is that it appears as though the expansion train has left the Big 12's station. The conference will likely expand to 12 teams by adding FSU and Clemson in the very near future and be better for it in the long run.

Until then, hopefully Dodds can hold it in until he gets home.

Podcast: The Dude speaks on the Big 12, Florida St. and conference realignment

The talk of Florida St. potentially leaving the ACC for the Big 12 has seemingly caught the national media by surprise. However, mysterious realignment oracle Honus "The Dude" Snead of West Virginia site 'Eer Insider has had the jump on the situation since January. He joins Homerism for a podcast to give his account of how this upheaval came to be and how he sees it playing out from here on out.

The Dude and I tackle a ton, including:

  • The origins of the unhappiness in the ACC.
  • Potential dance partners for Florida St. should the Seminoles defect, including Clemson, Georgia Tech and Miami.
  • What role ESPN's TV contract with the ACC has played in the latest drama.
  • Who the key players have been behind the scenes.
  • The timeline for a resolution on the Seminoles' status.

(Subscribe to Blatant Homerism's Podcast through iTunes. Please rate and review the show if you get the chance, too. Thanks.)

Big 12 shouldn't let Seminoles slip through its fingers

Kevin Costner

Less than a year ago, the Big 12 looked about as stable as a three-legged chair.

Texas and ESPN appeared to be running roughshod over the rest of the league in an effort to make sure the Longhorn Network didn't turn into TV's version of just about any Kevin Costner movie released since 1995. Texas A&M had already jumped ship, and Oklahoma's ill-fated attempt to defect to the Pac-12 set in motion a chain of events that eventually sent Missouri scurrying to the SEC.

OU president David Boren had committed his fair share of boners in the conference realignment process up to that point, but he was correct in his emphasis on achieving "stability" in the Big 12. Conference leadership used more punitive measures to get there than goodwill and promises made with fingers crossed, but it has worked. Even though the Big 12 lost Missouri in the process, it now has 10 member schools that have essentially committed to the league for the next 13 years through a grant of rights extending through the duration of a lucrative media deal.

And, lo and behold, Florida St., one of college football's best brands, is contemplating jumping from the prestigious ACC to become a member of a conference that was once notorious for its dysfunction. If so, it could put the Big 12 in the enviable position of cherry-picking some other programs from the Southeast to add to its "electronic footprint" in the parlance of new league commissioner Bob Bowlsby.

Things are never easy in this conference, though, and the Big Swinging Dick in the business of college sports is making noise that it likes a 10-team Big 12.

DeLoss DoddsMaybe DeLoss Dodds and Mack Brown are just posturing. Assuming Texas really is lobbying to keep the conference as-is, I'd advise the league not to listen to the Longhorns on this one.

By its very nature, a conference is generally beholden to the will of its top dogs. If Ohio St. or Michigan started making noise about an issue in the Big Ten to the point that they were ready to leave the league, you'd see their Rust Belt compadres fall in line pretty quickly. If USC had told Larry Scott to piss off when he asked the Trojans to pool their media rights with the rest of the conference, Businessweek wouldn't be writing profiles of Scott hailing him as the sports industry's new hotness.

No conference, however, has had to rely on its top economic driver as heavily as the Big 12. Oklahoma may boast one of college football's elite programs, but the Sooners don't bring nearly the same amount of eyeballs as their rivals south of the Red River. Texas is the most valuable entity in college sports, and love 'em or hate 'em, the school's administration has leveraged that status masterfully. The zenith came last year when ESPN wildly overpaid to create the LHN, cementing UT as the New York Yankees of the college sports world.

The mere fact that Kansas and Iowa St. share the same conference as Texas is a major reason why they're going to be making more money than Florida St. when the ink is dry on the new Big 12 television contract. The problem for those schools, though, is that if Texas left the league, you can imagine what that would mean for the top line on their income statements.

Lee Garner, Jr.In Mad Men phraseology, the Longhorns are to the Big 12 as Lucky Strike was to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce's portfolio.

The cold truth is that Dodds can profess his undying love for the Big 12 until he's blue in the face, but once ESPN and Texas broke ground on the LHN studios, it brought the theory of a conference-less Texas that much closer to reality. The 'Horns couldn't survive as an independent today. Thirteen years from now when the new Big 12 TV deal runs out, who knows? No (reasonable) amount of appeasement can kill that possibility.

That kind of longer-term uncertainty creates a problem for every Big 12 school not wearing burnt orange. Texas Tech and Baylor own seats at the table now. If the Big 12 dies, they're likely heading hat in hand to Future WAC.

Which brings us back to right now and the dalliance between the Big 12 and the 'Noles.

In the long run, the Big 12 needs to diversify. FSU would mean adding a marquee brand in a huge television market. It could also spell the end of the ACC as we currently know it, with other programs such as Virginia Tech, Clemson and Georgia Tech searching for a new home. Add FSU and possibly as many as three more attractive candidates from the ACC to the Big 12, and you likely have a league that is built to last, no matter what Texas does in the future.

The Big 12 will be absolutely fine with 10 teams for now if the Seminoles decide the league isn't for them. But the conference shouldn't let this opportunity pass it by.

Is it time to worry about a Sooner swoon?

Bob Stoops
"Some players just give you gas."

In the wake of Wednesday's news that Bob Stoops had suspended Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks, Kameel Jackson and Quentin Hayes indefinitely, Jake Trotter of ESPN's SoonerNation came up with a telling tidbit that speaks to the substantial attrition suffered by the Sooners since August.

Despite losing some talented prospects such as Brandon Williams, taken individually, none of these former Sooners really qualify as difference-makers. 

In the aggregate, however, you get a roster that is thinner than Scott Thompson's CV, at least for the short term. Even hardcore OU aficionados are struggling to name the tight ends currently in Norman (early enrollee Taylor McNamara and JUCO transfer Brannon Green). Meanwhile, in Kenny Stills, the Sooners have one receiver on campus who has caught a pass in an actual game.

If you remember what the Sooners receiving corps looked like in 2009, you can picture the nightmare scenario heading into the fall. Receiver is, like, kind of a big deal for an offense that runs and guns like OU's no-huddle. A subpar group of pass catchers can submarine that kind of attack with a quickness. Likewise, an injury to a position group full of unknown quantities means wide receivers coach Jay Norvell will be rolling the dice with whomever he picks to fill in.

Looking at the big picture, though, an even more alarmist response to all of the churn would be to ask if OU is hurtling towards a period of decline.

Trey Franks

All major programs are guaranteed to undergo some personnel turnover, but there's no way to blow off 19 players lost in nine months as no big deal. The wave of departures at the end of the season were all the confirmation anyone needed that the rumors of "chemistry problems" and attitude issues in OU's locker room were true. The two headline names in the latest round of suspensions, Reynolds and Franks, both found themselves in Stoops' doghouse at different occasions in 2011, as each served suspensions at some point during the season.

Stoops himself has talked about the shelf life of a coach in any situation. Maybe all the turmoil is really just a matter of OU's head man losing his edge? Maybe he doesn't have the drive to keep his players in line? Hell, maybe he slept through that whole due diligence part of recruiting the last few years? (Maybe someone needs to get a little more cavalier with OU's drug-testing policies?)

Following a season widely considered a major disappointment in Sooner Land, it's easy to interpret the upheaval as a clear sign that the abyss is right around the corner. Take a gander at the mess Will Muschamp stepped in at Florida, for example.

But should OU diehards find their minds wandering to such dark places, I suggest you take a step back from the ledge.

It's fair to ask how things in Norman reached this point, but we're still talking about a team that won 10 games last year against one of the toughest schedules in the country. That's a great season for 90 percent of the college football programs in the country. How many coaches, including those at some of the other national powerhouses, would decide to shake up their programs after that kind of year? That's not just limited to players, either, as Stoops also took the unprecedented step of publicly cutting ties with a member of his coaching staff earlier this year.

The players currently in hot water who are costing some fans sleep have produced in the past. But they produced for a squad that fell short of expectations and apparently suffered from some serious attitude problems.

It sucks losing established players, but these guys aren't exactly Percy Harvin or Terrelle Pryor – studs whose talents seduced their coaches to look the other way. What sucks worse than contributors dropping by the wayside is watching your favorite team rot from the inside out.

Don't sweat Sooner suspensions

Jaz Reynolds
The Sooners may be playing without their Jaz hands in the fall.

For a program with as much visibility as Oklahoma, suspending three wide receivers with starting experience is going to have a massive headline effect. An announcement like the one the Sooners made Wednesday night that Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson definitely produces an unavoidable kind of "oh shit" reaction for an OU fan.

If the three aren't reinstated – and I don't exactly understand how Jackson can be suspended when he has already announced that he's leaving the team – it would leave Kenny Stills as the only Sooner tight end or receiver with a catch heading into the 2012 season. In fact, 64 percent of OU's catches from 2011 would be gone if you include players who either graduated or transferred.

I get that, but I just don't see this as a huge deal.

For starters, as I mentioned, the fact that Jackson is suspended makes no sense to me, seeing as he told the world days ago that he intends to transfer to Texas A&M. (Without having discussed it with the Aggies, but that's a story for another time.) He showed flashes of becoming a solid contributor last season as a freshman working out of the slot, but I have to assume that it will be up to another program to find out how good he can be.

Franks and Reynolds, of course, are riding a horse of a different color. Despite playing in only 10 of OU's 13 games, Reynolds finished the season as the team's third-leading receiver with 41 receptions for 715 yards and 5 touchdowns. He gained national attention with eye-catching performances against Texas and Kansas St., and he gave the Sooners a strong deep threat (17.4 yards per catch) to complement Ryan Broyles and Stills.

Meanwhile, Franks showed the coaching staff enough as a freshman in 2010 to earn a starting spot. He was also a key contributor on special teams as a kickoff returner.

Yet, even without this latest incident, both will/would be fighting for playing time in the fall. Based on spring ball, Trey Metoyer will likely slide in right away as OU's top receiving threat. Stills may have been inconsistent last season, but he's done enough in the last two years to pretty much solidify his spot in the starting rotation. Assuming talented JUCO receiver Courtney Gardner makes it to Norman this summer, he looks like he'll be in the mix immediately. The Sooners also have a trio of four-star freshman receivers hitting campus this summer in Durron Neal, Sterling Shepard and Derrick Woods.

In other words, there is way more than enough talent on hand to offset the losses from a production standpoint if Franks and Reynolds never play another down for the Crimson and Cream.

The bigger issue might be the Chinese water torture being performed on OU's depth and experience at receiver. It's hard enough to lose one of the best receivers in college football history, but trying to replace him with newcomers just adds an extra degree of difficulty. Like it or not, Reynolds and Franks both have years of "institutional knowledge" regarding OU's schemes, philosophies and general way of doing things. Blocking, on-field communication, chemistry with other players – it takes time for players to get that kind of seasoning. However inconsistent they've been throughout their career, we've also seen them perform when the lights come on, not just in practice away from the cameras.

In the end, though, don't forget that Reynolds and Franks were part of a team that fell well below expectations a year ago. Both struggled to stay in the coaching staff's good graces then, too. At this point, their absence may do more good than harm.

Weighing in on the Big 12 realignment rumors

Clemson Tigers fans
In the last two years, we've learned that while conference realignment produces juicy rumors by the bucketload, there's a whole lot talk and not nearly as much action. One day, the Pac-10 is destined to become college football's first superconference, the next it's, well, not. The Big 12 is supposedly dead, and then hours later, David Boren is bragging about the "handcuffs' tying the league together.

The current rumor du jour has the Big 12 trying to pluck Florida St. and Clemson away from the ACC. The theory goes that the Seminoles and Tigers have tired of the league's basketball focus and conference leadership kowtowing to the North Carolina schools, with the additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse breaking the camel's back. As the Big 12 prepares to cash in on a new TV deal, FSU and CU can supposedly earn a far sweeter payout by hopping conferences. Likewise, the impending bonanza to come from college football's new playoff adds another dimension from both a financial and competitive standpoint.

Although this rumor just got some national attention in the last few days, there have been similar whispers floating around message boards for nearly a year. West Virginia fan site Eer Insider, which on Friday helped touch off the latest expansion speculation, claimed back in January that the Big 12's raid on the ACC was already in the works.

If you want to put your faith in Hornlover69 and anonymous bloggers with unnamed sources, be my guest, this being the Internet and all. In reality, we've seen throughout this realignment process that even well-sourced information is often wrong and predictions about what will happen tend to suck, no matter where they're coming from.

(Personally, I look at it all as something like playing a sports geek board game.)

Whatever you choose to believe, here are a few factors to consider about the Big 12 as these rumors continue to circulate.

*Stability

Ah, the Big 12's arch nemesis.

The last two rounds of expansion have made the league look about as stable as Sarah Phillips' latest business venture. There is more than enough blame to go around in that respect for both the dearly departed and the conference's remaining members.

In an odd way, though, you could argue that OU president David Boren going rogue last fall actually worked in terms of solidifying the conference. The league lost a valuable program in Missouri, but whereas the Tigers had their eyes on other leagues, the Big 12 picked up two members in TCU and West Virginia that really do want to be there. Also, the "handcuffs" imposed by a six-year grant of rights are likely to be extended through the duration of the next television contract. That would tie all of the conference's members down for the next 13 years.

Is the Big 12 in its current form a better league than it was before all of the defections? No. On the other hand, no one is going anywhere.

Mack Brown

*Texas

Fair or not, the Longhorns have been painted as the primary driver of the Big 12's dysfunction essentially since the conference was formed in the 1990s. Dealing with UT came up almost immediately at newly appointed commissioner Bob Bowlsby's introductory press conference, and he didn't exactly shy away from the characterization of Texas as the "800-pound gorilla" in college athletics.

However, as much as the folks in Austin may relish the perception that they call the shots, the new realities of the league put a damper on their leverage. Extending the grant of rights for 13 years essentially negates Texas' trump card: the threat of going independent. As such, mollifying UT becomes less important to the Iowa States and Kansases of the conference.

Dan Beebe*Leadership

On the whole, Dan Beebe probably took way too much blame for the general dysfunction within the conference. The Big 12 member schools weren't looking for a strong commissioner when Beebe was installed. The problems arose, of course, when the conference actually needed a commissioner who could take charge and Beebe carried himself with as much authority as a substitute teacher.

Bowlsby could turn out to be Beebe 2.0, but the signs point to him being a more effective CEO than Beebs. Although he made sure to kiss Texas' ring at his introduction, Bowlsby is a true outsider to the league, which should allay fears that he's nothing more than a Burnt Orange puppet. Additionally, he has a reputation as one of the country's best athletic administrators, which can only help the Big 12's appeal to potential expansion targets.

*Consensus (or lack thereof)

Although the Big 12 may be more settled now than it was a year ago, that doesn't mean fissures no longer exist within the framework of the conference. Rumor has it there's not even strong agreement on whether the league should expand or not.

*Logistics

Given that we've already witnessed conference expansion yield bizarre geographical pairings like Boise St. and the Big East, the idea of FSU and Clemson in the Big 12 doesn't sound that far-fetched.

Even so, it's one thing to talk yourself into believing that traveling from South Carolina to Waco and Ames on the regular for track meets and swimming competitions wouldn't be so bad. Actually doing it is another.

Adding a few more teams east of the Mississippi River would likely help ease the travel burdens, but this still poses a problem.

*Culture

Football clearly reigns over all other sports in the Big 12. We know that's not the case in the ACC.

Which one sounds more Clemson than the other?

*Prestige

The Big 12 may no longer be the shitshow Big 12 of old, but it's still the Big 12, if you know what I mean.

The conference doesn't have a particularly strong academic reputation. It lacks the deep roots and history of a league like the Big Ten. It's still seen as a marriage of convenience, and the prison-yard picture of the conference that has been painted in the last two years hasn't helped.

The ACC may suck at football, but it absolutely dominates the Big 12 in terms of brand and prestige. Ultimately, that's why I still have trouble believing this kind of move would ever happen.

The fan in me would love to see the Big 12 add Clemson and Florida St. As a football conference, the league would almost rival the SEC. I'm sure there are fairly large constituencies within both of those fan bases who would like to switch conference affiliations, too.

But college presidents don't think like fans, and to them, prestige matters.

Engineering an early win total for Oklahoma

Vegas skyline
Beyond the Bets, one of my favorite gambling/handicapping sites around, published a fantastic article Tuesday on the process for setting college football regular season win totals. The BtB post came on the heels of an article posted a week earlier by our friend Todd Fuhrman of Caesar's Palace on how he determines an opening number. Together, the articles provide insight into the approaches of both a sharp gambler and a bookmaker when it comes to futures.

Todd's basing his number on how he thinks gamblers will bet. BtB is looking to find a baseline against which you can evaluate the totals set by guys like Todd. Not surprisingly, though, their approaches don't differ that much.

I figured I'd try out the BtB system on OU and see what we come up with. Let's take it step by step.

1. Research

Yeah, this kinda doesn't end for me vis-á-vis this blog. Moving on.

2. Schedule

OU's schedule is far from diabolical, but it does offer some tests. A few observations:

*Two byes in September mean no rest for the weary come November. Starting with a trip to Lubbock on Oct. 6, the Sooners play nine straight games. That's a grind, and it won't leave many opportunities to get healthy in case of injury.

*Looking for a trap game? Check out Nov. 3 at Iowa State. The Cyclones put the kibosh on Oklahoma St.'s perfect season a year ago, so precedent is there. Plus, it's sandwiched between Notre Dame's visit to Norman and a revenge game versus Baylor.

*The final three games seem pretty daunting: at West Virginia, Bedlam, at TCU.

Oklahoma's 2012 Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 @ UTEP
Sept. 8 Florida A&M
Sept. 22 Kansas St.
Oct. 6 @ Texas Tech
Oct. 13 Texas (N)
Oct. 20 Kansas
Oct. 27 Notre Dame
Nov. 3 @ Iowa St.
Nov. 10 Baylor
Nov. 17 @ West Virginia
Nov. 24 Oklahoma St.
Dec. 1 @ TCU

3. Assign point spreads

I honestly haven't studied OU's opponents this year enough to feel confident in any lines that I'd project right now (e.g., UTEP). However, here's what I've got off of the cuff.

Point Spreads
Opponent Spread
@ UTEP -24
FAMU -1,000,000
Kansas St. -9
@ Texas Tech -10.5
Texas (N) -7.5
Kansas -21
Notre Dame -8.5
@ Iowa St. -10.5
Baylor -18
@W. Virginia -3.5
OSU -8.5
@ TCU -7.5

I make the Sooners favorites in all 12 games this year. (Yes, I know that OU won't be favored by seven figures against Florida A&M, but hopefully you get the picture.) However, based on the numbers I eyeballed, I see three games that probably fall into the "toss-up" category: the Red River Shootout, at West Virginia, at TCU.

In other words, a total of 9 is as low as I'll go.

4. Calculate win odds

I used SBR's converter for point spreads to money lines to come up with these odds.

Win Odds
Opponent Win Odds
@ UTEP 95
FAMU 99
Kansas St. 75
@ Texas Tech 80
Texas (N) 75
Kansas 95
Notre Dame 75
@ Iowa St. 80
Baylor 95
@ W. Virginia 60
OSU 75
@ TCU 75
Wins 9.79

This route projects 9.79 wins.

5. Assign win values

OK, how about if we just shoot from the hip on what's a likely win, what's a likely loss and what's a toss-up? Wins are worth a value of one, losses get zero and toss-ups get a half.

Win Values
Opponent Win Value
@ UTEP 1
FAMU 1
Kansas St. 1
@ Texas Tech 1
Texas (N) 0.5
Kansas 1
Notre Dame 0.5
@ Iowa St. 1
Baylor 1
@ W. Virginia 0.5
OSU 0.5
@ TCU 0.5
Total 9.5

This approach gives us a total of 9.5.

6. Conclusion

chart_1-2This is actually pretty easy. I know that I won't go lower than 9 wins. Two of the three sets of numbers suggest the appropriate number is more like 9.5. With a win projection of 9.79, the win odds indicate OU is more likely to go over 9.5 than under. And, let's face it, it has been more of a surprise when OU has lost more than two regular season games in a season under Bob Stoops.

Therefore, I'd set the line at 9.5 with the juice on the over.

Checking our work

5Dimes.com has released a number of high-profile teams' totals already. It has the Sooners' win total at 9.5 (-180).

Not bad.

Bruce Kittle Makes a Splash

Bruce KittleLaith Harlow, a tight end recruit out of Tallahassee, Fla., commited to the Oklahoma Sooners Tuesday.

Harlow is a promising recruit who should have OU fans excited about his future. Take note of who recruited Harlow, too.

Bob Stoops' decision to hire Bruce Kittle to coach tight ends and offensive tackles raised some eyebrows in the offseason. If you need a refresher, Kittle is a lawyer-minister-prison guard who is two years removed from serving as a high school assistant coach.

If you want to win over the skeptics, beating out the likes of Alabama and The U for a commitment from a Florida kid makes for a good start.

And it's entirely possible Bob Stoops knows what he's doing.

*Reginald Eller of Florida State site PlantThe Spear.com gave me his take on Harlow:

Guy who flew under the radar mainly because of not being used as much to get good numbers at the TE position.

One thing you do see when you watch film on him is his blocking techniques.  He is very disciplined, very smart, and does not miss many assignments if ever.

Great size, adequate hands, but like I said, his bread and butter is his blocking.