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Sooners Recruiting Update: Home stretch

Oklahoma is hitting the stretch run in recruiting. No more game weekends for visits, but OU will likely host one big weekend in December next week after the TCU game. The Sooners will host some late mid-term JUCO targets the following week if need be, then shut down until January.

OU needs a strong end to recruiting. It’s not impossible, and the coaching chaos out there could make even more kids available to OU. OU always flips one kid in late January from another school. Also, OU usually loses a verbal, but maybe that has already occurred with Greg Bryant.

Some new names are bound to bubble up as OU gets late film on prospects who have had big senior years. Remember that last year that at this time, Zach Sanchez and Gary Simon were both nowhere on the OU offer list.

Jackie Shipp has to get at least one JUCO defensive tackle in the next three weeks and then add two more in the remaining time period. Shipp can go from goat to recruiting ace in that short amount of time.

James Patton and Bruce Kittle have to reload the numbers at offensive line. A one-person OL class needs to be as many as six if possible.

Mike Stoops needs to close on his last two or three defensive backs to really reload the talent base in the secondary and have a great first full year of recruiting in his second tenure at OU.

Tim Kish is set up for a great 2014 at linebacker after struggling in 2013. (Jay Norvell had similar adjustment issues, as recruiting is a two-year cycle.)

Cale Gundy is done and already focusing on 2014, where he’s almost done.

Norvell is big-game hunting and has one target in Laquon Treadwell.

Josh Heupel got perhaps the best quarterback in the region and will start breaking down film on the 2014 in-state QB battle before deciding whom to offer.


Verbal Commitments: 14
(Class Size: 24 to 26)

D.J. Ward 6-4, 235, 4.6 – DE

Hatari Byrd 6-2, 195, 4.55 – DB

Matt Dimon 6-3, 255, 4.8 – DE

Dalton Rodriguez 6-6, 255, 4.8 – OT

Stanvon Taylor 5-11, 175, 4.4 – CB

Cody Thomas 6-5, 220, 4.6 – QB

Ahmad Thomas 6-0, 200, 4.5 – SS

Jordan Mastrogiovanni 6-3, 225, 4.75 – LB

Jordan Smallwood 6-2, 195, 4.55 – WR

Jordan Evans 6-3, 210, 4.55 – LB/DE

Jed Barnett 6-2, 210 – P (JUCO)

Dominique Alexander 6-2, 195, 4.5 – LB/S

Austin Bennett 6-0, 170, 4.45 – WR

Keith Ford 5-11, 200, 4.5 – RB


Verbal Update: OU has added two verbals in the last week. The first one was out of nowhere, but makes the most sense. OU offered JUCO punter Jed Barnett, who scheduled a visit for the OSU game. Barnett came to OU’s attention through kicking/punting game guru Chris Sailer. Bob Stoops' new process is using Sailer to vet the kicking/punting credentials after the Jimmy Stevens mess. It’s not a surprise that Barnett knows Michael Hunnicutt from the same kicking camps. With Tress Way gone, Barnett arrives as a mid-term JUCO and can take over punting duties.

The other verbal was from the long-awaited offer to Jordan Evans. Evans has had an awesome senior year for Norman North and is the true catalyst behind the team's run to the 5A State Finals. The son of former Sooner DT Scott Evans, Jordan grew from a 6-1, 185 linebacker in his junior year to a 6-3, 210 LB/DE as a senior. He started this process as a star at OU’s summer camp, and it’s continued ever since. He’s getting sacks at DE, touchdowns as a wildcat QB and finally more TDs returning kicks. His frame could easily allow for a 6-3, 230, 4.6 OLB. He looks good in space and in coverage, or he could be a 6-3, 240,4 .6 rush end.


Class Predictions

QB: Cody Thomas

RB: Keith Ford

WR: Jordan Smallwood, Austin Bennett

TE: N/A

OL: Dalton Rodriguez, Christian Morris, Aaron Cochran, Josiah St. John

DT: Justin Manning, Quincy Russell, Maquedius Bain

DE: D.J. Ward, Matt Dimon

LB: Jordan Mastrogiovanni, Jordan Evans

DB: Stanvon Taylor, Hatari Byrd, Ahmad Thomas, Dominique Alexander, Lammar Robbins,

Mid-term players in Russell, Ward, Barnett, TBD JUCO OT.


Position Updates

*QB: Thomas has continued his awesome senior year. He’s a one-man gang out there, showing an elite arm and good mobility to be effective in some QB run game action. His ceiling looks elite. He may not get a bump in rankings, but anyone who has seen Thomas play this fall has commented on how awesome he looks. OU has the best HS QB from Texas in this class.

*RB: Ford is having an awesome year (some fumbling problems, which need to stop), but he looks to easily be locking up the best RB in Texas label. He’s showing power and home run speed.

Gundy has already moved on to 2014 with Devon Thomas of Broken Arrow (5-11, 200, 4.5) committing. One spot gone, one spot left? Nathan Starks out of Las Vegas?

*WR: OU has two excellent verbals in Smallwood and Bennett. With Derrick Woods redshirting, WR is pretty set. I think the only kid in play is Laquon Treadwell. Treadwell is a special talent that you have to keep chasing if he’s still talking to OU.

Laquon Treadwell (6-3, 190, 4.5 Illinois) – Treadwell was unable to visit OU due to high school playoffs. Does this visit happen? If Treadwell takes his visits, then a decision could be close to signing day.

*TE: OU had two new visitors – both JUCO, Cam Clear and Emmanuel Bibbs. Clear already verbaled to Texas A&M, but Bibbs is still in play.

Beau Sandland (6-5, 250, 4.7 Pierce CC California) – Sandland has visited Norman already, but based on interviews, it looks like either Nebraska or Arizona State. Stlll the Notre Dame game highlighted how much OU needs a power TE who is receiving threat in the gaps of a Cover-2 defense, as well as giving OU that 7th blocker to run on teams dropping six or seven defenders.

Emmanuel Bibbs (6-3, 245, 4.7 Arizona West JUCO) – He shows an excellent receiving game both flexed out and inline. Blocking highlights are few, but he shows good overall speed. Not the monster athlete that Cam Clear is (6-6, 270), but might be a more polished talent at TE.

Mitchell Parsons (6-5, 230, 4.6 Colorado) – A top-flight HS TE who shows great ability to get downfield. Would be a great addition to OU’s young TE core. I think OU is waiting to see what Sandland does before offering.

*OL: I’ll be honest. I have zero feel for OL recruiting right now.

OU has Rodriguez, who might want to be a DE/DT in college. OU coaches still think he projects better at OT. OU is recruiting three JUCO OTs when they have Thompson and Williams returning at OT. A high school OT hasn’t visited in a month. No signs of verbals from anyone, either.

This OL class really needs four HS players, with preferably three OTs. It’s not trending in a great way right now. Have to hope Patton and Kittle know something we don’t.

Na’ty Rodgers (6-5, 280, 5.0 Washington, D.C.) – Rodgers is an excellent OL prospect, very physical and athletic. Sounds like South Carolina now.

Caleb Beneoch (6-6, 320, 5.2 Texas) – Former Michigan State verbal who has decommitted and is now receiving big-time offers from OU and Texas. Big, physical body who can play inside or outside. Beneoch visited UT for the WVU game and fell back in love with the 'Horns. Despite witnessing the shredding of UT, it looks like he’s back to being a 'Horn.
 

Rob Boyd (6-4, 290, 5.0 Oklahoma) – No offer, no signs of an offer.

Sean Dowling (6-6, 265, 5.2 San Diego) – Another UCLA commit who OU is after. Dowling has been committed to UCLA since the summer. Dowling visited for the Kansas game. OU might really be in play for this tackle prospect.

Aaron Cochran (6-7, 330, 5.3 California) – A big RT prospect from California who is still on the OU radar. Jeff Tedford is gone. Will that help OU?

Kyle Meadows (6-6, 280, 5.0 Ohio) – Meadows is from a big Ohio program that produces D-I talent. Meadows is a very athletic big man with a frame to add more weight and could be very good. High ceiling again.

Christian Morris (6-6, 295, 5.1 Memphis) – Another UCLA verbal that has blown up in recruiting. OU has offered and will try and get him on campus. He’s a big athlete who again looks like he could be a great LT/RT. OU visit needs to happen soon.

Sterling Korona (6-7, 255, 5.0 San Antonio) – No offer yet. Matt Beyer’s HS teammate currently committed to Duke. Korona was a former BBall player who has just recently focused on football. He has a huge frame and wingspan for OT. Excellent athlete but very raw at OT

Christian Daimler (6-6,280, 5.1 Houston) – No offer yet. Daimler’s senior year film shows a player who is much much improved in pass protection to go along with his physical play in the run game. It’s almost night and day in the quality of his film. His film is the reason why you wait to offer kids as seniors.

Desmond Harrison (6-8, 310 5.2 Cali JUCO) – A tall, very mobile OT prospect that could turn into an absolute star. Unreal ceiling. OU visit went well from all reports.

Trenton Brown (6-7, 350, 5.4 JUCO Georgia) – Committed to Georgia, bailed on UGA and seems like he’s a lock for UF. Visited Norman for the Oklahoma State game.

Josiah St. John (6-6, 310, 5.2 Trinity Valley JUCO Texas) – Just visited for the Notre Dame game. He has an OU offer. OU will definitely be in his final three.

Clay Rhodes (6-5, 280, 5.1 Kansas) – OU evaluated Rhodes in the spring, but he verbally committed to Missouri before OU offered. OU has evaluated Rhodes based on his play this fall and offered. He has not de-committed from Missouri.

*DT: The Justin Manning Saga ends next Friday. If he does not commit to OU, then Shipp has a massive problem on his hands. After Manning, I’m not sure that OU will sign another HS DT. OU’s JUCO DT recruiting got a huge twist with the injury to Toby Johnson and the decommitment from Tennessee by Ben Bradley. In addition, Quincy Russell finally visited for the OSU game. OU appears to be tracking California Juco DT/DE Demetrius Campbell, too. OU has to have at least one JUCO DT in for spring.

Justin Manning (6-3, 280, 4.9 Dallas) – Demarcus Granger’s younger brother. He looks faster and more explosive than his brother. OU needs to lock up Justin. He looks like he’s going to be a big time dominating DT. He’s talking about taking his time. Apparently the timing of OU’s offer annoyed Manning. He still seems pretty excited about OU and was annoyed that he missed the OU spring game. He could be the next great Sooner DT. He’s easily the best DT in Texas.

DeAsian Richardson (6-3,285, 4.9 Florida) – Like Manning, it’s easy to see Richardson being able to play both DT spots for the Sooners. Your typical big, mobile, physical, SEC-region DL. Richardson verbaled to WVU but, an OU visit is still on the schedule. I could really see OU flipping Richardson if that visit happens.

Toby Johnson (6-3, 300, 4.9 Hutchinson CC) – He blew his knee out, putting his recruiting into chaos. He may be able to play next fall, but more likely he’s looking at redshirting. He’s still only visited NU and OU.

Demetrius Campbell (6-4, 270, 4.8 Cali JUCO) – Campbell plays both inside and outside and has racked up some great stats with over 30 tackles for loss. Great athleticism and a frame to add some weight.

Ben Bradley (6-3, 310, 5.1 Hutchinson CC) – Was committed to Tennessee, but that disappeared with the firing of Derek Dooley. Johnson’s teammate is more of a run stopper but OU needs that as well. Hasn’t visited OU yet, but OU is chasing him.

Quincy Russell (6-4, 310, 5.0 Trinity Valley CC Texas) – Former UT verbal who had grade issues and went JUCO. UT seems disinterested in resigning him, and OU is evaluating him at DT. Russell like in HS has amazing athletic ability for his size, but still continues to disappear for stretches. His stats at JUCO indicate a much better second half, productivity-wise. The ceiling is high but so is drop to the floor.

Donovan Munger (6-4, 285, 5.0 Ohio) – Another HS DT who might visit OU in December/January. Munger is impressive at both OG/DT. Not sure how OU will get him away from the Big Ten schools but he mentions OU.

Maquedias Bain 6-5, 290, 5.0 Florida – A huge DT prospect who could also end up on the OL. Bain visited for the OSU game and had a good time based on his Twitter traffic. He has more visits he’d like to take, but nothing is scheduled.

*DE: Does OU need one more DE? Bobby Jack Wright struck three-star gold with Charles Tapper and Michael Ouonha, who are both on campus and look like future elite DEs. Dimon is having a great senior year so far, and D.J. Ward will be enrolling early, giving him a huge chance to be a factor at DE next fall.

OU has pulled an offer to Dimarya Mixon, but Okoronkwo appears to be still in play. In addition, Evans could be a 6-3, 245 rush DE as well.

Is there a JUCO DE about there? Perhaps BJW loves the 2014 DE group (in-state targets included) more and wants to save a ship for 2014.

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (6-3, 220, 4.6 Houston) – OU just offered this kid based on Twitter traffic. His teammate Torrodney Prevot who is committed to USC is more highly rated, but some folks who have watched their first games lately think Ogbonnia looks better than Prevot. His offer list in the last week has exploded. He’s verbaled to Oklahoma State right now. Another witness to OU abusing UT for the second year in a row.

*LB: The ND game and OU’s struggles against running teams spreading OU out would seem to indicate that OU needs an upgrade at LB to a more physical, every-down presence. OU now has Alexander and Evans at LB potentially as well. I still think OU would take verbals from E.J. Levenberry and/or Mike Mitchell.

E.J. Levenberry (6-3, 235, Virginia) – Okay he’s verbaled to FSU and didn’t seem to have any real interest in OU after Brent Venables left for Clemson. However, Kish and Bob went back to Levenberry. Levenberry is the kind of physical frame that OU wants in an every down LB. He visited for ND, but this is looking like a case where he will stay with FSU. Unclear if Mark Stoops leaving FSU will have any impact.

Devante Bond (6-3, 230, 4.6 JUCO) – Awesome-looking JUCO star from Pierce CC. Kish will need to figure out if this JUCO addition makes sense but it would be the ultimate insurance against an injury to Nelson or Wort (who is starting to show a tendency for being hurt). The only problem is that I’m not sure Bond can play Mike LB for OU.

D’vante Henry (6-5, 215, 4.5 JUCO) – Westmoore grad who was an amazing athlete with bad academics. He’s apparently a mid-term graduate and has had productive years in JUCO. The upside is very high, but needs to add some weight to his frame. Enrolling early would allow for that development over winter and summer.

Mike Mitchell 6-4, 225, 4.55 Texas – Is he a DE or big OLB? OU is probably trying to figure that out as well. He has visited OU unofficially already in August. Ohio State is the leader. No timetable for a decision, but not sure where OU is with Mitchell.

DB: Three down, two or three to go.

Why does OU need 3 safeties in this class? The backup behind Tony Jefferson is Jesse Paulsen, a senior walk-on. The backup behind Gabe Lynn is Julian Wilson, who is also the primary dimeback. OU’s playing five DBs all the time and six DBs on 3rd-and-long almost all the time, so OU needs to reload the secondary numbers.

Mike’s got a great three-player class going and just needs to get some official visits from his remaining targets. Mike right now appears to be have improved as a recruiter significantly since his last tenure at OU.

OU appears to have dropped L.J. Moore and Johnny Johnson due to concerns that both kids really want to stay out west. And Cole Luke in a surprise chose ND. Tyler Foreman picked Wisconsin after a great visit.

Mike appears close to fine-tuning this final list. Lamar Robbins just visited along with teammate Jamal Carter. Adrian Baker is back in play with Mark Stoops moving on. And there’s still Internet rumors about Tee Shephard ending up in Norman. Shephard is an elite CB prospect from last year who left ND.

Lamar Robbins (6-3, 185, 4.45 Florida) – One of the top big CBs in Florida. Very similar to OU CB Gary Simon. Mike has made great progress in getting him to consider OU. OU fans should be loving the thought of an OU secondary loaded with top DBs from SEC country and California. Robbins is giving indications that OU leads and is just waiting for the official visit to verbal. Was supposed to visit for ND but got derailed due to weather.

Adrian Baker (6-1, 170, 4.4 CB Florida) – A big-time cover CB from Florida. Verbaled to FSU, but with Mark Stoops leaving FSU, OU will once again make a big push for a visit. Mike didn’t want to compete against Mark while Baker was verbaled to FSU. He’s the kind of big cover corner Mike loves and turns into Thorpe winners.

Jamal Carter 6-2, 185, 4.4 Miami – Teammate of Robbins is verbaled to Miami, but just visited OU with Robbins and verbal Ahmad Thomas. He’s the kind of big physical coverage safety OU is recruiting under Mike. He just fits with Byrd and Thomas, and Mike wants to play three safeties most of the time.

Picks Trying Not to Suck: Week 14

No time for a podcast this week. We've got a squeaker. No Lee Greenwood Special this week.

The Skinny
(Last Week: 3-2-1; Overall: 41-36-1)

UCLA +8.5
Texas +11
UGA +7
Nebraska -3
Nevada +8.5

Blatant Homerism
(Last Week: 3-3; Overall: 40-38)

Nebraska -3
Baylor +4.5
Kansas State -11
Northern Illinois -5
Georgia Tech +14

Game Preview: Oklahoma Sooners-TCU Horned Frogs

Gary Patterson

No. 11 Oklahoma (8-2) at TCU (7-4)
Dec. 1, 11 a.m.
Amon G. Carter Stadium (Fort Worth, Texas)
TV: ESPN
Line: OU -6.5

Series: OU leads 7-4

GAME PREVIEW

Trevone BoykinAfter three weeks of seeing high-octane offenses, the Sooners’ defense looks forward to TCU... But, wait, the Horned Frogs have a dual-threat quarterback who could give Mike Stoops’ defense fits… Trevone Boykin became the starter in the fifth week of the season after Casey Pachall got busted for DWI… Boykin has completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,622 yards with 14 touchdowns and 9 interceptions… He’s added 344 rushing yards and 2 TDs… B.J. Catalon and Matthew Tucker share duties at tailback, and both have combined for 978 rushing yards (5.7 per carry) and 5 TDs.

Wideout Josh Boyce is the leading receiver with 56 grabs for 756 yards and 7 TDs… The Horned Frogs rank 64th in total offense (401.3 yards per game)—55th in passing (240.3 yards per game) and 64th in rushing (161 per game)… They also rank 53rd with 30.5 points per game.

The Frogs lead the Big 12 and are 17th nationally in total defense, allowing 323.9 yards per game… TCU ranks 7th nationally in rushing defense (97.3 yards a game), 50th in pass defense (226.6 yards per game) and 35th in scoring defense (23 points per game)… The Frogs’ front four have tallied 26 sacks, and the secondary ranks 3rd in the country with 20 interceptions… In the last three games, TCU has 7 sacks and 5 INTs.

Cornerback Jason Verrett (6) and safety Elisha Olabide (4) have half of the defense's interceptions… The linebacking duo of Joel Hasley and Kenny Cain have combined for 133 tackles with 13.5 behind the line and 3.5 sacks… Defensive end Devonte Fields leads the pack with 17.5 stops for losses and 9 sacks.

Punter Ethan Perry has averaged 44.5 yards per kick… Jaden Oberkrom has hit all of his 39 PAT attempts, but only 18 of 25 (72 percent) field goals… The Frogs average 23 yards per kickoff return, but they have yet to take one back for a score… Skye Dawson and Deante’ Gray split time returning punts, and the duo has combined for 15.3 yards per return, and Gray has one for a TD.

Special teams will be a spotlight in this game… OU ranks 4th nationally in kickoff returns (27.5 yards on average), while TCU ranks 14th in kick return defense (18.4)… The Frogs rank 43rd in kick returns (23), while the Sooners are 17th in defending the kickoff (18.6). Both teams are pretty good at returning punts—OU is 4th with an average of 16.5 yards per return, and TCU is 7th with an average of 14.9… But both teams could improve on defending the punt return—OU ranks 91st with a average of 9.9 yards per return, and TCU is 101st with an average of 10.9.

The Frogs got a good win last week over Texas in Austin to give them some confidence this week… The Sooners need to be focused on TCU after two straight emotional victories.

Landry Jones has been in a groove the last several games (consecutive Big 12 offensive player of the week honors) and should continue with a slew of healthy receivers… The most interesting match-up will be TCU’s best cornerback (Verrett) against OU’s best receiver, Kenny Stills (73 receptions for 876 yards and 11 TDs)… The Sooners continue to rank 3rd nationally with a 53 percent third-down conversion rate, which has climbed to nearly 61 percent in the last four games.

The Sooners’ will need their linebackers this week, maybe even three of them to contain Boykin… TCU can win by exposing OU’s weakness—running the ball up the gut… Look for Boykin to carry plenty on quarterback draws… A victory for OU and it’s off to the Fiesta (if Kansas State loses to Texas) or the Sugar Bowl… A loss likely would place the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl… With a chance to share or win the conference outright, look for the Sooners to dominate the Horned Frogs.


ETC.

*If OU wins Saturday, it will be the 34th season with 10 wins, more than any other FBS team.

*OU holds a 4-0 record over TCU in Forth Worth.

*TCU has lost its last three home games against Big 12 foes.

*OU has never lost on December 1st: 6-0.

*TCU is 3-3 on December 1st, including two straight losses.

*OU has won 32 straight when leading at halftime.

*Landry Jones is now the all-time leader in passing yards (16,124) and total offense (15,576) in Big 12 Conference history; he also ranks 3rd and 4th, respectively, in those categories in NCAA history.

*Jones is the first player in FBS history to have 3,000-plus passing yards and 26-plus TD passes in each of his four seasons.

*Jones threw more passes in one game (71 versus OSU) than the Sooners did in the 1975 season (69 attempts) and 1976 season (63 attempts).

*In 51 games, Jones has more pass attempts (2,095 to 1,713), completions (1,331 to 729) and yards (16,124 to 13,851) than the entire Barry Switzer era (1973-88) of 190 games.

*Amon G. Carter founded the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and served as the newspaper’s publisher until his death in 1955.

Dumpster Fires of the Week: Rough stretch for the ACC

dumpster fire

This week it's not a team, a player, an offense or a defense but an entire conference that has seized the No. 1 spot.

1. The ACC

It's not bad enough that the ACC somehow cannot keep Maryland from leaving. The on-the-field performance was even worse. Let's recap:

*At home, Florida State got smashed by a Florida team that struggled to score points against an otherwise bad non-conference schedule.

*Clemson was defeated at Death Valley by a South Carolina team led by dead Welsh poet Dylan Thompson and without star Marcus Lattimore.

*Wake Forest got destroyed by the same Vanderbilt team that lost to Northwestern.

*Georgia de-engineered Georgia Tech completely.

2. Missouri

Mizzou's entrance into the SEC has been a wholesale disaster. One conference win over sad sack Kentucky, which had already fired its coach. Add in an embarrassing loss to a bad Syracuse team.

Mizzou and Texas A&M entered the SEC at a similar level talent-wise, with the Tigers having had better success recently. Now Johnny Football is winning a Heisman and Mizzou's only successful coach in the last three decades is feeling the heat.

3. Texas' quarterback coaching/recruiting/development

Basically, since February 2007, Texas has yet to recruit, scout or develop anything resembling a real Big 12-quality QB. Any thought that David Ash had stabliized the position is probably gone.

Now even the future of the QB position at UT seems in doubt. Insiders claim that redshirting QB Connor Brewer is not the answer. Meanwhile, verbal commitment Tyrone Swoopes has had a disappointing senior season, with some recruiting services ranking him as an athlete/wide receiver.

4. Lane Kiffin's game management

Kiffin is suspect when it comes to following recruiting rules and a horrible media relations manager. Now we can add that he's terrible at game management as well.

5. Ohio State's leadership

All throughout the dumpster fire-worthy Jim Tressel debacle, OSU's administration seemed clueless and disconnected about the impact of an NCAA investigation on its football program and the seriousness of its head coach hiding violations.

The final questionable move was not implementing a bowl ban on the Buckeyes last year, especially knowing that hiring Urban Meyer that was the worst kept secret in college football. Instead of banning the 2011 team, which was an underachieving 6-6, E. Gordon Gee and Gene Smith killed a BCS title berth and Meyer having a chance to beat Notre Dame for his third national title.

Podcast: CFB Potpourri with Dan Wolken

Tons of big doings in the world of college football these days. Dan Wolken of USAToday joins BH for a podcast to cover the latest news, including hiring and firing coaches, the BCS and conference realignment.

Dan and I touch on:

*Why are so many coaches getting canned?
*Do they deserve it?
*When should you fire a coach?
*Are voters giving the SEC too much credit?
*Is conference realignment going to ruin college football?

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

Dreaming of a bigger Big 12

2010 Big 12 Championship Game
The good old days.

The Big 12 Conference is in its second year without a championship game, thanks to realignment.

For Sooner fans it was great to see OU play in eight of those title tilts, winning seven of them. An extra game is always what every rabid college fan dreams about. This weekend those dreams will come true for a lot of fans, as nearly every conference will hold its championship games while the Big 12 will have season-ending games.

The Big 12 needs to fatten its conference and get back to an additional championship game. Maryland and Rutgers are joining the Big 10 Conference in 2014. More realignment is going to come, and now is the time for the Big 12 to up its ante.

My dream is that some of the billionaires in this part of the country (like Jerry Jones, T. Boone Pickens, Aubrey McClendon, to name a few) pool their dough to lure Notre Dame and Arkansas to the Big 12. Those teams would be in a north division with Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and West Virginia. I mentioned those rich dudes because they have sports interests in their portfolios.

And hey, why stop there? Maybe those billionaires would pony up more moolah and try for Florida State and Louisville, too. The Seminoles are a football powerhouse and have recently shown up on the men’s basketball radar. The Cardinals have been a decent football team most years, and they are a power in men’s basketball. Of course, then the conference might have to go to an East-West format. Put those two in the east with Notre Dame, Kansas, Kansas State, West Virginia and Iowa State. Arkansas, Baylor, OU, OSU, Texas, Texas Tech and TCU would represent the west.

With these teams, a lot of cities would love to host some championship games in football and basketball.

The billionaires have a lot more on their plates than worrying about the Big 12, but no doubt it’s time for the conference to recruit more teams and get back into the championship game, and give us rabid fans something more than just a dream.

Oklahoma 51, Oklahoma State 48: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Oklahoma seems intent on putting its fan base into some kind of football-induced cardiac shock – another amazing game with some unreal big plays to get OU to 9-2.

The Great

*I'm almost out of accolades for the OU wide receiver group. Jalen Saunders, Justin Brown, Kenny Stills and Sterling Shepard – Mark Clayton and Ryan Broyles were better individual WRs. But as a group? This might be the best.

Sure, Stills had a couple of bad drops, but he also made a number of clutch grabs, including a juggling gem for the TD before the half on 3rd and goal. Clutch 3rd down grabs by all the WRs.

*Landry Jones now has the best/largest/latest comeback win in the Bob Stoops era. Never has OU trailed by so much so late and needed a tying drive so late in the game. Landry made his classic super boneheaded mistake, but at least it was early. The rest of the game he was accurate and perhaps the biggest part of his game was moving in the pocket away from pressure by sliding sideways and moving up.

*The punt returner switch. OU switched up punt returners from Brown to Saunders, and it paid off with the most important punt return TD in a long time. OU's special teams play this year has overall been a vast improvement over the last couple of years. Excellent coverage teams and impactful return performances from Saunders, Justin Brown, Roy Finch and Brennan Clay.

*What can you say about Brennan Clay's game-sealing run? The often-forgotten running back has made big play after big play for the Sooners in November. Other than Landry and the WRs, he's probably the November MVP for OU.

*I'm going off third-party accounts and video, but the postgame celebration really made me wish I was in Norman.

*Coverage teams. The last four games with OSU, I have to admit that I've been cringing every time OU kicked off for fear of seeing another OSU kickoff return TD. It's been a joy this year to have excellent coverage teams for punts and kickoffs.

The Good

*Okay, OU gave up 48 points. It was an ugly overall game for the defense. But in the 4th quarter, the OU D generated three three-and-outs for OSU, including the clutch final one that gave OU the ball back for the tying drive.

Sure, the TD drive the D gave up sucked, but holding OSU to 7 points was big. And then OU carried that defensive improvement to OT.

*Stretches of defensive play in the 2nd and 4th quarters. Aaron Colvin made some plays, Demontre Hurst and Julian Wilson were making plays. Jordan Phillips made some plays at DT along with Jamarkus McFarland.

The Bad

Skipping to...

The Ugly

*Forty-eight points and horrid run defense again. Save for a massive bust by the safeties to start the second half, OU had pretty good pass defense. OSU was forced to make some great throws and catches to move the ball at times.

But the Sooners run defense look with 4 DL/1 LB/6 DB is not working. Mike Stoops has got to do something different versus TCU, which will do the same thing. (Although the Horned Frogs don't present the passing game sophistication of WVU or OSU, they do have a very good WR group). Still, I'm fully expecting to see ex-Sooner commit and current TCU WR Brandon Carter moved to RB to replicate the Tavon Austin Disaster.

BlogPoll: SEC quagmire

Notes:

*Keep in mind that these rankings reflect an evolving process. We've still got a week to go in which teams could make some significant movement.

*The Fighting Irish are an unassailable No. 1. ND played more than enough quality teams in running up its undefeated record.

*Ohio State = See above.

*Yesterday might have been the first time this season I've watched Georgia play and thought the Bulldogs really might be somewhere close to the third best team in the country. Honestly, I'm really tempted to put Florida ahead of UGa, but, in the words of Omar Little, a man's gotta have a code. The 'Dawgs beat UF head to head, and I think Georgia's overall body of work is just good enough.

*Alabama's argument took a hit yesterday. When your best win after LSU is Michigan, you don't have much to complain about. The Crimson Tide have a chance to make a big statement next weekend against Georgia.

*I honestly thought we'd see better performances out of Florida State and Clemson yesterday. Joke's on me.

*I don't like ranking Texas any more than you do, let alone at 19, but from a resume standpoint, don't see how you can't. People seem to want to overlook that blowout of Ole Miss, which actually looks much better now than it did then.

*OU still has some meat left on the bone, but a 10-win season in the Big 12 with your only losses coming against Kansas State and Notre Dame seems like a pretty good year to me. If the Sooners win out through a potential bowl game with an SEC team, they could possibly jump up into the top five when all is said and done.

Oklahoma 51, Oklahoma State 48: What a difference a year makes

Brennan ClayThe last time Oklahoma and Oklahoma State took the field, the Sooners hit the deck early and didn’t even try to get back up. OU staggered through an array of haymakers from the Cowboys on Saturday night and came out victorious on the other end with a thrilling 51-48 overtime win in a Bedlam classic.

All of Oklahoma’s flaws were exposed again by the Cowboys. OSU’s offensive line beat up OU’s beleaguered front four, allowing the Pokes to run for more than 200 yards on 5 yards per carry. Spotty tackling occasionally enabled OSU ball carriers to turn 3-yard gains into 12. The Sooners’ running game was off and on, with a lot of off. Landry Jones had a befuddling boner.

Still, the Sooners proved a week ago that they had stones noticeably absent from previous OU teams, and they were on display again in this game. The Sooners trailed by 14 points for much of the first half and went down 11 to the Pokes late in the third quarter. Like the wild win against West Virginia, however, OU was able to string together a late scoring drive that sent the game into extra time.

The biggest cojones of all may belong to OU’s starting quarterback. As he has done so many times throughout Landry Jones’ four years as OU’s starter, Bob Stoops pinned his team’s hopes on the veteran’s right arm. On Senior Day, the ‘Stache delivered. All in all, Jones (46-of-71, 500 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT) might have given the best performance of his career in his final appearance at Owen Field.

However, as well as Jones played, maybe the most stunning part of a stunning game was the number of players who made huge plays throughout the game for Oklahoma. Brennan Clay ran with authority late in the game, including on the game-winning score in overtime. He joined four other Sooners who found the end zone in the game. Three OU wide receivers went over 100 yards receiving, a group that included Jalen Saunders, who added an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown. Six defenders made stops behind the line of scrimmage. Aaron Colvin had two of them, both sacks, to go along with an interception.

And on and on. That should mean something.

Close scrapes against teams like West Virginia and OSU won’t satisfy a fan base that typically doesn’t recognize wins by margins that can be counted on two hands. Sooner Nation won’t like admitting that OSU has all but closed whatever gap once existed between its program and OU, either.

Unfortunately, wishing things were different doesn’t change anything: OU doesn’t have an elite team this year. The Sooners are missing plenty of pieces that squads such as Alabama and Notre Dame possess.

Unlike past years, however, this year’s edition of the Crimson and Cream have shown a sense of resiliency that predecessors have lacked. It’s not a dominant team, but the past two weeks have been more fun than any OU has had in a while. After watching last year’s more talented squad crumble down the stretch, it’s a welcome change.

Game Preview: Bedlam

Mike Gundy

No. 21 Oklahoma State (7-3) at No. 13 Oklahoma (8-2)
Nov. 24, 2:30 p.m.
Owen Field (Norman, Okla.)
TV: ESPN
Line: OU –7

Series: OU leads 82-17-7

GAME PREVIEW

The Sooners will see another potent offense again this Saturday when the Cowboys come to Norman… OSU is 3rd nationally in total offense (553.7 yards per game) and 3rd in scoring (45.4 points per game)… However, the Pokes have averaged 50 fewer yards and 19 fewer points in their three road games.

The Cowboys have had three quarterbacks start during the season, and the responsibility currently lies on Clint Chelf’s shoulders… He has completed 61 percent of his passes for 805 yards, including 9 TDs and 3 INTs in five games… Josh Stewart is the leading receiver with 73 grabs for 857 yards and 5 TDs… But last week, Isaiah Anderson was the star with 4 catches for 174 yards and 3 TDs… Running back Joseph Randle leads the Big 12 with 1,099 rushing yards and 10 TDs… The Pokes might use backup QB J.W. Walsh in some short yardage situations similar to OU’s “Belldozer”… They used it a few times versus Texas Tech last week and produced two touchdowns.

The Sooners will again face a defense that is tough versus the run… OSU ranks 24th nationally, yielding 126.2 rushing yards per game, but the Cowboys’ defense has allowed an average of 262 passing yards per game (95th) and ranks 54th in total defense (388.2 yards a game)… Ok State has surrendered 26.1 points per game to rank 57th… OSU has yielded more on the road, giving up an average of 186.3 yards on the ground, 273.7 through the air and 39 on the scoreboard.

Linebacker Alex Elkins leads the team with 58 tackles, tackle Calvin Barnett leads with 7 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and end Nigel Nicholas has 3.5 sacks… The Pokes have intercepted only 8 of 398 passes attempted against them.

Quinn Sharp again leads the special teams, pulling double duty as punter and place kicker… He was named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year in 2011, and this year he’s averaged 45.1 yards per punt, including 41 percent inside the 20-yard line… Sharp has hit all of his PATs, but is 21 of 27 (78 percent) on field goals, plus he’s the kickoff man.

Charlie Moore leads the team in punt returns with 7.2 yards per return, but no TDs… Justin Gilbert leads the kickoff returns with a 29.9 average and 1 TD.

Tackle, tackles, tackle… That’s one of the first things a player learns in Pee Wee football… OU missed 20 tackles versus West Virginia… In his press conference Monday, Bob Stoops talked about making adjustments this week for OSU… Should have made adjustments during last Saturday’s squeaker versus the Mountaineers… Big adjustments will have to be made this week… For one thing, Mike Stoops needs to ditch the seven-man secondary and rely more on linebackers this week, because OSU presents a more balanced attack than Baylor or West Virginia… If Sooners don’t wrap up, OSU will win like it did last year by running the pigskin down OU’s throat… Randle and teammate Jeremy Smith combined for 270 yards and 4 TDs in last year’s victory over the Sooners.

Landry JonesLandry Jones will again rely on protection from a patched up o-line with the loss of right tackle Daryl Williams… OU’s passing game is one of the best in the country, with a bevy of reliable receivers (six have more than 20 catches)… What a relief, since this position looked bleak in September.

The Sooners rank 8th nationally in passing offense (334 yards a game), 11th in total offense (503.2) and 9th in scoring offense (40.8 points per game).

This looks like another shootout with the outcome determined by who has the ball last… If the run game gets uncorked for OU, it could be a blowout for the Sooners… Yet, that’s a big IF.

OU must protect the ball this weekend in Norman… The Sooners had five turnovers last year in Stillwater, but a year ago OSU was ranked 1st nationally with +21 in turnovers, while this year the Pokes are 92nd with –2.


ETC.

*OU is 39-8-2 in Norman in this series, including four straight wins.

*OU is 14-4-3 on November 24th.

*OU and OSU have met 8 times on November 24th; OU leads 3-2-2.

*This is Mike Gundy’s 100th game as OSU head coach.

*OSU’s starting left guard Brandon Webb is son of former OU All-American Terry Webb.

*OU is 46-3 in the series when ranked above OSU.

*OU ranks 3rd nationally by converting 53 percent on third downs.

*The favorite has won the last 10 straight.

Sooners Recruiting Update: Fired coaches create opportunities

Commitment Update

OU has added Dominique Alexander, a defensive athlete from Booker T. Washington to its class. Alexander projects at either WILL linebacker or strong safety.

In addition OU received a 2014 verbal commitment from Devon Thomas, a running back from Broken Arrow. Thomas projects as a top 10 nationally rated RB if he can regain his sophomore form.

Feeding frenzy on fired coaches

So it’s the time of the year for coaches being let go, and this annual carousel always impacts recruiting. How might it help OU?

Well, for starters, the chaos at Arkansas has already allowed OU to flip Austin Bennett this summer and Dominique Alexander a couple of weeks ago.

OU and Tennessee, which just canned Derek Dooley, have both been recruiting DT Toby Johnson from Hutchinson Junior College, so that potentially removes one contender for his services.

OU will probably now recruit Tennessee verbal commitment Ben Bradley, also a Hutchinson JUCO DT. At 6-3, 315, would be a big-time addition to the Sooner DT rotation.

Finally, Tenn has a verbal from Hutchinson JUCO LB De’Vondre Campbell (6-5, 220) who has been a big-time playmaker for Hutchinson this season. If OU were to turn Bradley and/or Campbell, it could play a big role in getting Toby Johnson to commit as well.

That’s Tennessee, now on to California firing Jeff Tedford. There’s one big recruit – both literally and figuratively – here for OU, and that’s Aaron Cochran (6-7, 330). Cochran’s brother plays for Cal, but with Tedford being fired, the connection to Cal might mean less. Recruiting is all about relationships.

Maybe Aaron verbals to OU and convinces his brother, Matt Cochran, a freshman guard at Cal, to transfer to OU. (Zero indications that his brother is looking to leave Cal, but an OL-starved Sooner recruiting follower can dream, right?)

Victor Egu (6-3, 220, 4.6), an LB from powerhouse Concord, Clif., could be a player that OU might make a late run at. He’s had a very good senior year and is probably a little underrated currently.

At Auburn, Gene Chizik has not been fired yet, but with a terrible season and now a looming NCAA investigation targeting the program, the hammer appears ready to fall.

OU has finally parted ways completely with Greg Bryant, who will stay in the SEC, but OU has offered prep school receiver JaQuay Williams. Williams signed with Auburn last year and didn’t qualify. At 6-4, 210, Williams was the best WR from Georgia last year and is an elite big WR. OU will chase the rest of the SEC going after Williams, who is now a free agent able to sign anywhere.

Finally, while not quite a coaching change, the looming NCAA smackdown of Miami may lead to some openings for OU. OU right now is recruiting Lamar Robbins from the Miami area and now appears to have landed a visit for the OSU game from big-time Miami area safety Jamal Carter (6-2, 185, 4.5).

Dumpster Fires of the Week: EMAW-ow

dumpster on fire

Some daring new entries into the Dumpster Fire competition from three top 15 teams and one former No. 1.

1. Kansas State's national championship dreams

KSU's national championship hopes are now a smoldering pile of garbage. After 10 weeks of playing almost perfect football, KSU screwed up in almost all phases of the game and got dominated by Baylor offensively and defensively. It's one thing to drop a close game, but getting bombed by 28 points against a Baylor team struggling to reach bowl eligibility?

2. Oklahoma's run defense

It was a perfect storm of crap for OU in Morgantown. OU's run defense when being spread out has been suspect all year long. Last week against Baylor, the Sooners made a star out of Lache Seastrunk (who hung 180-plus yards).

However, that pails in comparison to the historic level of damage West Virginia's Tavon Austin did on the ground versus OU. It was awful.

Mike Stoops has basically fixed the OU pass defense, but OU's lack of playmakers up front and at LB have left the D vulnerable to the run. The only OU defender making plays prior to Saturday night was Tony Jefferson, and he had a bad game against WVU.

3. Derek Dooley's closet full of orange pants

Dooley's eye-popping orange trousers were set on fire by the blitzing Tennessee received from Vanderbilt. The blowout loss to Vandy sealed his fate. Bottom line: If you are the Volunteers head coach and in three years you don't beat a top 25 SEC team and suffer two losses to the Commodores, you are going to get fired.

On the positive side, orange pants burn very well.

4. Oregon's overtime possession against Stanford

The Ducks' only OT possession was not exactly a picture of the offensive cohesion that Oregon had shown all year long. In addition, neither Kenjon Barner or the Black Mamba saw the ball at all – two runs by Marcus Mariota and a pass where Mariota and Josh Huff were not on the same page.

The field goal off the goalpost provided the final smoke cloud from this Dumpster Fire that will likely keep Oregon out of the title game.

5. Lane Kiffin and his preseason No. 1 Trojans

It's rare that a preseason No. 1 team is so bad that the coach has to receive a public vote of confidence from his AD after getting smacked around a crosstown rival.

USC is poised to lose five games with zero wins over anyone in the top 25. The Trojans have not even faced the bulk of the impact of their probation and scholarship reductions. USC's vaunted recruiting class also seems
ready to fall apart.

Podcast: Picks Trying Not to Suck, Bedlam, conference realignment and more

With the 2012 college football season winding down, The Skinny joins Homerism for their weekly handicapping podcast. Some of the games covered include Florida-Florida State, USC-Notre Dame and Clemson-South Carolina. After that, we review Oklahoma's wild win over West Virginia, preview this weekend's Bedlam showdown and look at the latest round of conference realignment.

Skinny and I hit on:

*OU's porous run defense.
*The dissipation of Oklahoma's home field advantage in Norman.
*OSU's momentum.
*The future of the Big 12 and college football.

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

Our endorsement for the 2012 Don Key Award...

Landry Jones

Each year, prior to kicking off the final home game, the Don Key Award is presented to an Oklahoma senior or seniors who exemplify Key’s superior qualities on the field and in the classroom.

No one is more deserving of the honor this year than Landry Jones.

A case probably could be made for any of the seniors who are playing their last home game at Owen Field, but Jones has shown outstanding leadership and sportsmanship for the Sooners. The senior quarterback never complained when Blake Bell replaced him in short yardage situations. He went to California last spring to improve his skills on his own volition. He could have gone on vacation during spring break, but instead he wanted to be a better quarterback.

Don Key was a three-year starter for the Sooners from 1979-81. His career was cut short in his junior year by the removal of a cancerous kidney. Barry Switzer established the award in his honor.

No matter who wins the award, many thanks to the seniors for some good football fun these last few years. Those who will be saying goodbye include: Jones, Justin Brown, Lane Johnson, Casey Walker, Jamarkus McFarland, David King, R.J. Washington, Javon Harris, Demontre Hurst, Tress Way, Patrick O’Hara, Daniel Franklin, Stacy McGee, Dominique Whaley, Jaydan Bird, Joseph Ibiloye, Jesse Paulsen, Lamar Harris, Joel Ossum and Derrick Bradley.


DON KEY AWARD WINNERS

2011: Ryan Broyles, James Hanna, Travis Lewis and Corey Wilson
2010: Jeremy Beal and Adrian Taylor
2009: Brody Eldridge
2008: Jon Cooper
2007: Lewis Baker
2006: Paul Thompson
2005: J.D. Runnels
2004: Entire Senior Class
2003: Kory Klein and Renaldo Works
2002: Brad Davis
2001: Brandon Moore
2000: Entire Senior Class
1999: Rodney Rideau
1998: Jason Freeman, Kelly Gregg and Terry White
1997: Stephen Alexander, Martin Chase and Bruce McClure
1996: James Allen and Michael McDaniel
1995: Milton Overton
1994: Albert Hall
1993: Mike Coats
1992: Steve Collins and Reggie Barnes
1991: Chris Wilson
1990: Larry Medice and Jeff Miller
1989: Mike Wise
1988: Anthony Phillips
1987: Darrell Reed
1986: Paul Migliazzo
1985: Tony Casillas
1984: Steve Sewell
1983: Rick Bryan and Bob Slater
1982: Jerry Sanders

Oklahoma 50, West Virginia 49: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

What a strange game for the Oklahoma defense, but a great game by the OU offense. The run game defense meltdown was not unexpected, but the level of the problem was beyond imagination.

The Great

*The wide receiver foursome of Jalen Saunders, Sterling Shepard, Kenny Stills and Justin Brown is in the discussion now for best WR group of the Bob Stoops era. Nice play by Trey Metoyer when he was in the game as well. Damien Williams and Trey Millard also made got key catches to pick up first downs.

*Landry Jones had a great game even when factoring in that he was playing an awful West Virginia defense. Clutch throws, clutch play and excellent pocket management in terms of moving up and throwing the ball.

*Brennan Clay's kickoff return was pretty clutch, too. Getting OU to almost midfield provided a huge boost to that final scoring drive. It marked the third game in a row where Clay has made great returns to help the Sooner offense grab key touchdowns with limited time on the clock.

The Good

Despite having a hard time establishing the run lately – injuries and lack of depth are playing a role here; it's foolish to think it isn't – did a great job giving Landry time to throw and keeping pressure off him. No sacks on more than 50 pass attempts constitutes excellent pass blocking.

The Bad

Let's skip this.

The Ugly

In the last couple "What to Watch" articles, I've been hinting that the Sooner run defense when spread out was turning into a growing weakness.

Well, that weak point burst open completely against the Mountaineers. The defense was bleeding yards and touchdowns that created all the momentum that WVU needed to nearly pull off the upset.

Oklahoma State does not have the same personnel as WVU, but the Cowboys do have a mobile quarterback,
excellent running backs and a good passing game. Mike Stoops is going to have to gamble more that Franklin Shannon can provide some pass coverage while giving the run defense more of a boost.

Make your money, Bob Bowlsby

Big 12

I find conference expansion fascinating, but exhausting as well. I feel like I've written extensively on it in the course of the last two years, and while the words may be a little different each time, we're constantly rehashing the same ideas and themes.

Yet, just when incidents like the Notre Dame-ACC debacle kill the idea that the Big 12 will actually do something proactive in the conference shuffle, news like what we found out this weekend about Maryland and Rutgers flirting with the Big Ten goes and gets my hopes up again.

The B1G bombshell about negotiations with the Terps seems like a game-changer for the conference landscape in a number of ways. First, for all the talk of ACC stability on the heels of the league's agreement with ND, Maryland's potential defection shows just how fragile the league truly is. Commissioner John Swofford actually did miraculous work to hold the conference together this summer, but the reality is that the ACC simply doesn't offer an elite football product, and that's where the money is in this game. That will continue to hold football-centric athletic departments back.

Second, Maryland's move could pose a big problem for the ACC regarding its substantial $50 million exit fee. I'm no lawyer, but the idea that a conference could unilaterally impose such significant penalties on a school that voted against the increase just seems really far-fetched to me. Whatever the outcome, it just goes to show that the league's supposedly ironclad handcuffs aren't as tight as portrayed.

Furthermore, Jim Delany just showed his hand. As would be expected, the B1G's head honcho envisions expanding his conference east. Assuming the conference isn't content to sit at 14, the ACC is the most likely pond for Delany to poach. Likewise, once the SEC decides that a 16-team league is the way forward, the ACC will be in commissioner Mike Slive's crosshairs, too.

Most immediately, schools like Florida State and Clemson are finding out this season just how much of a drawback the ACC will be for their football programs in the future. Both have just one loss on the year, and, yet, they've been reduced to afterthoughts in the national title race. The Tigers and Seminoles actually checked in behind three two-loss teams from the SEC in the latest BCS standings, a pretty clear indictment of their league schedule. That doesn't bode well for the lucrative new playoff structure that is forthcoming.

Which brings us to the future of the Big 12. The conference braintrust of one already botched the previous round of realignment with his pandering to the Fighting Irish. That gave Swofford time to circle the wagons with his own ND arrangement.

The Big 12 is being thrown a lifeline with Maryland's move, however. Assuming this signifies just the first step in the big dogs carving up the ACC like a turkey, it will mean the Big 12 should be standing in line to collect the scaps. If the SEC sticks with its goals of not making markets redundant and the B1G stays true to its academic requirements, there should be nothing stopping the Big 12 from grabbing FSU and a dance partner.

Honestly, it doesn't get much more perfect for poaching than this. If the Big 12 school administrators aren't pushing Bob Bowlsby to make something happen, it will represent a colossal blunder on their parts.

BlogPoll: What's the matter with Florida?

Notes:

*Right now we're on a collision course for a Notre Dame-Alabama match-up in the national title game. Imagine if Florida beats Florida State on Saturday, then a week later the Crimson Tide knock off Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. Why let Alabama play for the national championship and not the Gators?

*Ohio State's resume doesn't blow me away, but undefeated is enough for me to say that the Buckeyes deserve to be No. 2.

*While I like Florida's overall body of work better, I give the edge to Georgia for its head-to-head win. Right's right.

*Oregon State really isn't getting the credit it deserves for the year it's having. Mike Riley has done a damn good job this season. Same goes for Jim Mora at UCLA. Then there's David Shaw at Stanford.

Lots of coaches doing work in the Pac-12.

*Per usual, Mike Gundy is also doing a great job at Oklahoma State this season. They're a live, live dog in Norman this weekend.

*Oklahoma just keeps hanging around there right outside the top 10. If OU wins its next two games, I can't imagine the Sooners will miss out on a BCS bowl.

Oklahoma 50, West Virginia 49: Landry Jones will always have Morgantown

Landry Jones

The Sooners had never scored a last-minute, come-from-behind win in Bob Stoops’ storied career at Oklahoma. But Saturday night OU’s maligned senior quarterback Landry Jones calmly marched the offense down the field on a six-play, 54-yard scoring drive, tossing a 6-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills on fourth down with 24 seconds left in the game to cap a dramatic 50-49 win over West Virginia.

On a night when the OU defense got flat-out torched, the Sooners needed every single bit of Jones’ 554 passing yards and 6 TDs to avoid losing their first-ever game against the Mountaineers as conference mates. Speedy WVU scatback Tavon Austin abused OU’s struggling run D for 344 yards on the ground and 2 TDs. He added another 82 yards through the air for good measure. Stedman Bailey, Austin’s prolific partner in crime, caught 13 passes for 205 yards and 4 TDs.

To be fair, the 'Stache had a hand in contributing to OU’s near-demise, too, tossing a head-scratching interception in the second half to kill a promising OU scoring drive. Even so, he more than atoned for the gaffe with his clutch play late.

In and of itself, beating the Mountaineers doesn’t really amount to much. Neither does putting a whooping on WVU’s putrid defense. No matter how prolific the opponent’s attack, OU should never give up nearly 800 yards to anyone.

In the greater scheme of things, however, the Sooners shook off some major monkeys in the win.

This had all the makings of OU’s typical November collapses. (I predicted a loss – so much for blatant homerism.) The Sooners have a well-earned reputation for playing with a hand around their collective throat. When the going gets tough, OU has packed it in more often than Stoops and Sooner Nation would like to admit. A night game on the road against a fired-up opponent fits right in with the kind of spot where the fragile Crimson and Cream crater.

Wins in tight games for the Sooners – when they actually do win – usually come down to OU holding on against an upstart. OU plays passively, allowing teams to hang around and rally. Not this time.

OU has plenty of work left to do this year, and all of the Sooners’ glaring flaws were on display against the Mountaineers. For once, though, the Sooners can relish that they were the ones to take their destiny into their own hands and pull out a gritty win.

Oklahoma-West Virginia: What to Watch

Dana Holgorsen

No. 12 Oklahoma (7-2) at West Virginia (5-4)
Nov. 17, 6 p.m.
Milan Puskar Stadium (Morgantown, W.V.)
TV: FOX
Line: OU -11

So the brutal four-game losing streak by West Virginia has sucked almost all of the interest out of this game. In the preseason, this was going to be the game of the year for the Big 12 between its top two contenders. Now, however, the stakes are very different.

For Oklahoma, the motivation is simple and significant: Win out and return to a BCS bowl game.

For WVU, things are much less clear. There's a vibe of unrest and quit coming from Morgantown, so a big win over OU might settle some things down for a team that has seen things go south completely.

Can OU stay on track for a high-profile postseason exhibition? Watch:

1. OU's offensive efficiency in the first half of the game

In theory, OU should be able to pass and run at will against one of the worst defenses in college football. Yet, OU let both Iowa State and Baylor off the ropes in the first half, leaving the games in doubt before taking over in the
third quarter.

It would be far better for OU to jump on the mentally fragile Mountaineers early and take the crowd out of the game.

2. OU's passing defense versus WVU's passing offense

Something has to give in terms of production for one of the two units here. Mike Stoops' revamped secondary has stopped committing the kind of coverage breakdowns that WVU has thrived on all year by throwing for big plays. OU needs to continue that level of play and force WVU to put together sustained drives.

3. Ball protection

OU's has a turnover margin of -4 in its last three games. The Sooners need to force some turnovers, and Landry Jones needs to protect the football.

Another game with -2 or -3 turnover margin could lead to an OU loss.

4. Run defense against spread sets

The yearlong issue of defending the run when teams spread OU out on defense hit a painful culmination versus Baylor. OU's play at defensive line and linebacker has not been good enough to when spread out to provide the coverage needed against multi-wide receiver sets and stop a zone read running game.

Will WVU roll out a running attack and tell Geno Smith to run some real zone read action? After the Baylor game, has Mike figured out a better strategy for stopping it?

5. Kick returns

OU could get a real special teams boost in the return game again this week. WVU had all kinds of coverage issues last week versus Oklahoma State. Roy Finch and Brennan Clay have been doing a great job on kickoffs along with Justin Brown in the punt return game.

WVU has good returners, too, so the Mountaineers' return game is a real threat.

WVU cannot afford to give OU's offense any extra help with great field position and/or points.

Game Preview: Oklahoma Sooners-West Virginia Mountaineers

Geno Smith

No. 12 Oklahoma (7-2) at West Virginia (5-4)
Nov. 17, 6 p.m.
Milan Puskar Stadium (Morgantown, W.V.)
TV: FOX
Line: OU -11

Series: Tied 2-2; WVU has won 2 straight

GAME PREVIEW

West Virginia is ranked 5th nationally in passing (347.6 yards per game), which has fueled its offense to a ranking 18th nationally (480.2 yards per game)… Quarterback Geno Smith is the engineer of this potent offense… He ranks 3rd nationally in passing yards per game (337.8), 6th in total offense (347.1 yard average) and 13th in passing efficiency (159.2 rating)… Smith, once touted as a Heisman Trophy contender, has connected on 71 percent of his passes with 31 for TDs and only 3 INTs… His two main targets are Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey… Austin, an all-Big East first team choice in 2011, leads the country with 10.7 grabs per game, and Bailey is third in receiving yards (117.2) per game. The Mountaineers average 132.7 yards rushing per game and 4 yards per carry… Andrew Buie is the leading rusher with 646 yards on 140 carries and 5 TDs.

WVU ranks dead last nationally in passing defense (345.2 yards per game) and 110th in total yards (478.1 yard average)… Run defense is its stronger suit, allowing 134.6 yards per game and ranked 31st, but the D ranks 117th in scoring by giving up 41.4 points per game (49.5 during the past four games)… Linebacker Isaiah Bruce is the leading tackler with 80 stops, and he has 6 tackles for loss and 1 INT… Linebacker Josh Francis has 43 tackles, but he leads with 15 behind the line of scrimmage and 4.5 have been sacks…The starting secondary has only 2 INTs and has broken up 5 passes this year.

Austin was the Big East’s Special Teams Player of the Year in ’11… He has averaged 30.3 yards per kickoff return with 1 TD this year and has 8.8 yards per punt return with one score… Tyler Bitancurt is the punter and kicking specialist… He averages 41.3 yards per punt and has hit 48 of 49 PATs, but he has made only half of his dozen field goal tries… Corey Smith occasionally punts, and he has averaged 42.6 yards per kick.

Sooner fans want to forget the last time these two met… The Mountaineers ran roughshod over OU en route to a 48-28 Fiesta Bowl victory five years ago… Quarterback Pat White and running back Noel Devine combined for 258 yards, and the Sooner defense allowed 4 rushing TDs.

Last week, Oklahoma seemed to underestimate Baylor’s running ability in committing to a seven-man secondary to stop the pass… The Bears rolled up 252 yards on the ground as the Sooners missed many tackles… If Mike Stoops commits to loading up the secondary, it’ll be up to the front four to stop the run and pressure Geno Smith… And, up to the secondary to play clean on the Mountaineer receivers.

How well Landry Jones performs will be the key for OU’s offense… He has converted 75 percent on third down in the past two games after converting only 39% in the first seven… The Sooners rank 7th in the country in third-down conversions at 52 percent… If he’s on his A-game, Jones likely could get 600 or more yards Saturday… Look for the ball to be spread to many receivers.

The front line has done a superb job of keeping Jones upright and must be aggressive to open running lanes… Tyrus Thompson and Lane Johnson continue to do an outstanding job of protecting Landry’s blind side… This week will be critical as the Mountaineers have recorded 21 sacks; five in the last two games… Gabe Ikard should be back at center this week.

OU’s defense is ranked 20th (325.2 average) in total yards allowed, 8th in passing yards (170.2) allowed, 2nd in passing efficiency defense, and 24th in scoring defense (19.6 points per game)… The key match-up will be WVU’s passing game versus OU’s pass defense… The Sooners have yielded more than 200 yards only twice (Texas Tech and Texas)… Tech threw for 259 yards, but 191 against the first-string defense… The Longhorns passed for 215 yards, but 102 came versus the backups.

This was considered the preseason Big 12 Game of the Year for the conference title… OU continues to fight for a BCS bowl, and WVU is trying to become bowl eligible...The Sooners need to jump to an early lead to get the crowd out of it, and this game is no exception to that rule… Word has it the fans can get pretty rowdy in Morgantown… OU scored first and held a lead (24.7-7 average) in the first half of its last three games away from Norman.


ETC.

*This is OU’s first trip to Morgantown.

*OU is 10-5-2 on November 17th.

*WVU is 10-10 on November 17th.

*OU has won 31 straight when leading at halftime.

*Morgantown was named for Colonel Zacquill Morgan, a late-18th Century settler. After settlement in 1772, the city was incorporated in 1810. Morgantown, located in north central West Virginia, currently has a population of about 30,200.

*Milan Puskar was an American Entrepreneur and philanthropist from Morgantown. He donated $20 million to the university, which named the stadium after him.