Week 15 Big 12 Picks: Bedlam Edition

sooner magic

how to throw a football, norman-style

Bedlam in December. For the past three years, we’ve come to know this game as a sort of de facto Big 12 Championship, and this is the first time in eight years that Bedlam has had zero implications for either a division championship, the Big 12 championship, or BCS bowl selections. As a result, the mood in the media seems strangely lackluster, but I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising. The whole week has been sadly overshadowed by an overcoverage of Gundy’s Monday press conference, in which he was, apparently, quite a peach, with even the O’Colly (sort of) saying Gundy should be fired. Things are pretty bad, PR-wise, when the school paper gets involved.

Bedlam, to me, is still Bedlam. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

A lot of intrigue in the other two games this week. Who’s in, TCU or Baylor?

Last week: 4-0 (1.000)

Overall: 55-14 (.797)

Iowa State 24, No. 4 TCU 54. I read somewhere recently that TCU is playing the best football in the Big 12 right now, which is arguably true. I thought, after struggling with Kansas the week before, that TCU might be in for a close one against Texas, but Gary Patterson’s squad would have none of that, scoring 28 in the fourth quarter to win 48-10. A certifiable blowout. If this game was in Ames, I’d consider it a potentially tricky matchup. But it isn’t.

No. 9 Kansas State 41, No. 5 Baylor 38. This contest will be huge. In 2012, an unranked, 5-5 Baylor team destroyed a Collin Klein-led K-State squad that had ascended to No. 1 in the BCS rankings 52-24. It’s a game that I imagine K-State fans still shudder to think about, and I don’t blame them. Baylor, on the other hand, wants to provide the most impressive win it can in order to convince the playoff committee it has more of a case than rival TCU. Playing at home on senior night, the smart money might be on them, and Bill Snyder–lauded coach that he is–has an 0-10 record all time against AP top-10 ranked opponents, which ESPN Stats & Information claims is the worst all time. On the other hand, Bryce Petty suffered a concussion last week in Baylor’s 48-46 near-defeat at the hands of Texas Tech. He’s been cleared to play, but concussions are often more complicated than they’re made out to be. I’m taking K-State.

BEDLAM.

Oklahoma State 37, No. 20 Oklahoma 34. Yep. I’m picking the Pokes. Despite the drama surrounding Gundy. Despite the fact that OSU has dropped five games in a row, all by at least two touchdowns. Despite the fact that Samaje Perine exists. Despite the fact that OU has won three of the last four Bedlam games, and the arguable fact that in all three instances, OSU had the better team. Despite the fact that Oklahoma has won 11 of the past 14 matchups between the teams, and that the Pokes haven’t won in Norman since Rashaun Woods did this in 2001. Despite the fact that OSU will be starting a quarterback making his second collegiate start. Why, you might ask? Because I believe in Mason Rudolph, and the fact that OU has one of the worst secondaries in the entire conference, giving up 272.6 yards passing per game. Because OU’s quarterback, Cody Thomas is making just his third career start, and has looked like anything but a world beater. He was 3-13 passing for 39 yards against Kansas last week. I’m betting on OSU because this is exactly the kind of year when we win this game–when we’ve got nothing to lose. And we don’t.

GO POKES.

The College Football Playoff and Why Big 12 Realignment Will Rise Again: Part 2

This is the second part of a two-part post. Read the first here.

HISTORY

Remember the summer of 2010, when Nebraska and Colorado announced their decisions to leave the Big 12 for the Big 10 and Pac-10? And when, in the summer and fall of 2011, Texas A&M and Mizzou exited stage SEC? When the Big 12 and much of college football started cannibalizing itself?

In the span of just over a year, some of the oldest rivalries in all of American sports were over: Kansas-Mizzou, A&M-Texas, OU-Nebraska, to name a few. More recently, other rivalries outside the Big 12 bit the dust, too, with the end of WVU-Pitt and Michigan-Notre Dame.

The reasoning behind all this madness? You know it well enough–TV money, and ego. Lots of ego.

The Big 12, which once had a handsome, contiguous geographic footprint that looked like this, was left with this, and a new member in West Virginia whose nearest neighbor is 869 miles to its west.

The only way to repair the broken rivalries will be an unlikely step toward sanity, which would include universities actually listening to their fan bases and scheduling non-conference games that not only matter, but are nourishing to the sport as a whole–how much better would it be for OU to play Nebraska, as opposed to Tennessee, or for Kansas to play Mizzou instead of Southeast Missouri State?

I can tell you this: the Big 12 has to expand, and will. And adding more geographic anomalies (here’s looking at you, WVU) like the much-discussed UConn, Cincinnati or even, god-forbid, UCF, is not the answer. (When conferences get too spread out geographically, they tend to keep fracturing, over and over–take one look at the history of the Western Athletic Conference, which boasts 9 current members against 27 former members.)

So what’s the solution for the Big 12?

 

AFTER DOOMSDAY:

Remember our doomsday scenario, where, essentially for lack of a championship game, the the Big 12 misses the CFP? What, then, is the next step?

Look west, not east. BYU is answer no. 1. The Cougars have made no bones about their desire to join the Big 12. Coach Bronco Mendenhall has continued stoking the fire for the past few months, despite the Big 12’s seeming ambivalence.

BYU would bring a huge fan base, quality academics, and a football team that not only traditional success, but has beaten the piss out of Big 12’s most prestigious members with regularity in recent years–here’s looking at you 2012-13 Texas, and 2009 OU.

And, as Allan Taylor of the WV Metro News puts it, BYU “arguably would represent the league’s No. 3 most recognizable football brand (behind UT and Oklahoma) and their 2013 home attendance of 61,225 would have ranked third” in the conference. That’s ahead of everyone but Texas and OU.

But hey, you might be thinking now, aren’t you contradicting yourself, Nate? Utah isn’t contiguous to any current Big 12 member states.

And, wouldn’t BYU’s nearest Big 12 partner, Texas Tech, be–somewhat eerily–868 miles away?

Here’s your answer: Colorado State University.

CSU just finished up its season at 10-2, up until the Rams’ defeat against Air Force, had spent a couple consecutive weeks in the AP Top 25. CSU certainly does not have a high profile in as far as football goes, but they are building a new stadium, have a fantastic coach in Jim McElwain (though he appears to be on his way out), and are exhibiting all the signs of an athletic department on its way up in the world.

Also, CSU is a land grant institution with a very good academic reputation, and its basketball program has made two consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament. As a bonus for fellow new-member Brigham Young, both additions have a long history with one another in the Mountain West and WAC.

To those who might say Colorado State’s lack of football power makes them a terrible choice, I’d say well, did anyone in 2006 think Baylor would ever compete to win the conference two years in a row? Or did anyone in 2000 think OSU would have the kind of run it had from 2010-2013?

CSU would be a grower of a choice, not a show-er.

 

DIVISIONS

Here’s what your divisions would look like, should all this come to pass:

Big 12 West: BYU, Colorado State, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State.

Big 12 East: Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, West Virginia.

In terms of cross-division rivals, OSU-OU would, of course, remain a yearly affair.

The only trouble with all this would, of course be West Virginia, which certainly not be pleased with the Big 12 looking west for its newest members. Like I already said, WVU is already nearly 900 miles from its nearest neighbor.

Oliver Luck, WVU’s Athletic Director, has variously described the league’s current 10-team, round robin format as “quite perfect,” and “ideal,” and that there are “no available teams” that the Big 12 would be able to justify adding. Which, it should be clear by now, just ain’t true.

As much as I love the Mountaineers, I don’t think West Virginia would last long in the newly-accurate-in-nomenclature version of the Big 12, just as I don’t think WVU is going to remain in the conference long-term even if it stays at 10 members.

The travel is just too damn far, and, either way, at some point WVU is going to get tired of traveling to Lubbock, Texas for track meets, volleyball games, and soccer matches.

So at some point in the next three-six years, WVU is gone. So who do you add?

 

(RE)ENTER NEBRASKA

Here’s the real long shot.

Much has been written about how Texas caused Nebraska to leave the conference, and about how Nebraska felt marooned by having their annual rivalry with OU cut in half, and how excited the University of Nebraska academic-types were to join a more prestigious academic conference in the Big 10, and how excited Nebraska fans were for regular dates against the likes of Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State, and how much better off they thought they’d be.

Yet Nebraska’s move to the Big 10 got a whole hell of a lot less sweeter when Rutgers and Maryland were invited. Just take a look at their home scheduleand the rest of the Big 10’s! Additionally, the Cornhuskers’ recruiting has taken a major hit now that it no longer regularly plays games in Texas.

Also, many of the factors that caused Nebraska to leave the conference are now either much reduced or complete non-factors. DeLoss Dodds is out at Texas, and the Longhorn Network, which many at first worried would be a huge game-changer to UT athletics, has been nothing if not a giant flop. Plus, with the re-entry of Nebraska (and exit of WVU), your divisions would look like this:

Big 12 West: BYU, Colorado State, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Nebraska

Big 12 East: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU

Which, if you decided to keep a nine game conference schedule and renew OU-NU as an annual rivalry, could be very attractive.

But Big 12 execs would have to do much, much more to sweeten the deal enough to bring Nebraska back into the fold. As the most unstable Power5 conferences, it’s long been thought that the Big 12 has no chance of luring a school from one of the other P5’s. However, if the Big 12 were to start sharing its third-tier rights equally, and begin its own network, then I think you’d be looking at a conference able to, perhaps, get one of its own back.

 

CONCLUSION

Unless by some insane stroke of luck both TCU and Baylor make it into the CFP, it’s only a matter of time before the Big 12 has to expand.

While much has been made of adding schools like Cincinnati or UConn to provide WVU travel buddies, or South Florida and UCF so that the Big 12 can gain a recruiting foothold in Florida, such additions would simply fragment the conference further. A conference with teams in West Virginia, Florida, Iowa, and Texas, just ain’t built to last.

A Big 12 that looks west, adding BYU and CSU, and gets itself a network, fixing its third-tier rights, and then makes overtures toward Nebraska, and guarantees them a game against OU every year, would be as formidable as any in the country. Both form a brand perspective and from a football strength perspective.

And that, in my opinion, is how to go about fixing this thing.

The College Football Playoff and Why Big 12 Realignment Will Rise Again: Part 1

schmuck

(A)

You’ve heard the phrase all year: “One true champion.” The sound of the Big 12 pretending that not having a conference championship game is not only okay, but that it’s actually preferable.

On Monday Bob Bowlsby said that if TCU and Baylor both won out–bringing their respective conference records to 8-1–that the Big 12 would present co-champions to the CFP committee.

You heard that right.

The league that has been touting itself for the past year as the one league that crowns “one true champion” will crown “two true champions” if Baylor and TCU both win out.

Bowlsby tried to clarify about the confusion presented by the situation, in light of the league’s motto: “We believe that playing everyone every year is the right way to determine a champion, even if it ends in a tie.”

Let that one sink in for a moment.

The only thing that Bowlsby clarified is that he’s as full of horse shit as his predecessor, Dan Beebe, who sat on his hands as the league tried to burn itself down to the ground in the realignment frenzy of 2010-11. Absolute horse shit.

 

(B)

Here is a handy little scenario for you, even better than the one in which the Big 12 crowns two true champions. Right now, as of  the beginning of final week of the regular season, the CFP rankings look like this:

  1. Alabama (11-1)
  2. Oregon (11-1)
  3. TCU (10-1)
  4. Florida State (12-0)
  5. Ohio State (11-1)
  6. Baylor (10-1)

Let’s assume that Bama beats No. 16 Mizzou in the SEC Championship, Oregon beats No. 7 Arizona to win the PAC-12, and FSU beats No. 11 Georgia Tech to win the ACC. To top things off, Ohio State beats No. 13 Wisconsin to win the Big 10.

And let’s also assume that, in the above scenario, K-State waltzes out of Waco with an upset of Baylor, and that TCU struggles early against lowly Iowa State but ultimately wins by 14.

This would mean that Alabama, Oregon, FSU and Ohio State would all end the year with quality wins against top 16 competition, while TCU’s final chance to impress the committee was a nearly meaningless victory against a 2-10 Iowa State team that went 0-9 in conference.

Assuming all of this happens, are you going to tell me that Ohio State doesn’t hop TCU (and this despite there actually being only one “true” champion of the Big 12)?

Ohio State would get the nod in that scenario. Mark my words.

What you’ve done recently matters most–anyone who watched Oklahoma State’s 2011 Big 12 championship run should know this.

The Big 12, despite playing the round robin schedule (which I do believe is more difficult) would be out in the cold, and with good reason.

While such a doomsday scenario may not come to pass this year, if it did, you could be assured that the Big 12’s brass staunchly ambivalent attitude toward adding new members would change, and in a hurry.

Which brings us to a bit of necessary history.

Part 2 can be read here

Week 14 Big 12 Picks

Man, how things can change. A couple weeks ago, most Pokes fans, myself included, wanted to simply cancel the rest of the season. And then on a rainy night in Waco Texas Mason Rudolph waltzed out onto the field and acted like he did not give any of the fucks that he was facing one of the best statistical defenses in the conference. Suddenly, OSU fans have a little hope.

I have to say, I found it a little funny to watch everyone bitch about how it was crazy that Gundy was going to remove Rudolph’s redshirt before the game, and then how a lot of the same people turned right around and acted like Gundy was an idiot for not wasting the red shirt earlier. Personally I’ve been pushing for Rudolph since halftime of the TCU game (ask my dad, who I’m sure was partially glad to see the true freshman in the game just so he wouldn’t have to get so many texts from me about it!). In any case, I’m glad Gundy finally came around.

Bedlam looms next week. I dread it more and look forward to it more than any other game of the year. I might even say I look forward to it even more than most holidays. Actually, hell, I totally do. Back when I was growing up it was always this week, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I wish it still was. Oh well.

Last week: 2-1 (.666)

Overall: 51-14 (.784)

THURSDAY:

No. 5 TCU 30, Texas 28I recall the last time I pulled for Texas on Thanksgiving: 2011, when they sent the Aggies packing to the SEC with one final loss. I know I get up on my soapbox about this every year, but the fact that this game is between TCU and Texas, while A&M will play LSU the same day, is absolute and utter horse shit. Horse shit. Both teams need to eat crow and PLAY. Because TCU and Texas just ain’t the same kind of fun. Here’s a stat: while in the Southwest Conference, Texas once beat the Horned Frogs 24 times in a row, from 1968-1991. That’s insane. They have a good chance to upset Gary Patterson’s squad this weekend, though I think TCU keeps its CFP hopes alive in the end.

SATURDAY:

West Virginia 38, Iowa State 17. The Mountaineers have lost three in a row, falling so far it’s almost hard to believe that they were right in the thick of the conference race just a few weeks ago. Ball control has been a major issue–WVU has turned it over 11 times in the past three games. Iowa State on the other hand, is coming off a rough loss against Texas Tech.

No. 7 Baylor 63, Texas Tech 14. You know what would be magnificent? If Tech could somehow pull off a major upset against the Baptists in Arlington this weekend. But it will not happen. Of note: Tech owns the all time head-to-head advantage in this series by a slim margin of 36-35-1. A win by Baylor will even it out, and should set up a mammoth matchup between the Bears and K-State next weekend.

Kansas 7, No. 12 Kansas State 51. Some stats for you on the Sunflower Showdown: these two teams have played each other every year since 1911. It’s the sixth-longest running active series in NCAA football. Despite the fact that this is the 103rd year in a row that the two teams have played, only once (once!) in the entire history of the series have both teams been ranked at the time of the contest.  This was in 1995, which, if you’re counting, was 19 years ago. The Jayhawks have not won in Manhattan since 2007, and have only ever beaten a ranked K-State team once. It is worth noting here that Kansas owns the series edge 65-41-5 (though this is, of course, disputed by K-State, who only count 64 victories for the Jayhawks), which means that Kansas beat unranked Kansas State teams 64 times, which just goes to show you just how bad football was in Manhattan until Bill Snyder showed up back in 1989. Snyder himself owns a 18-4 record against KU. Like the Bedlam rivalry here in Oklahoma, these two schools hate each other’s guts, although I suspect the victories are sweeter for the Ag school, whereas KU fans, like OU fans with their “true rivals” the Horns, like to pretend that Mizzou is a bigger deal. In any case, K-State will take home the Governor’s Cup with ease this weekend.

OFF: OSU, OU.

Week 13 Big 12 Picks

Welp, being a big dummy most of the time and in particular this week, I forgot to post my picks before the Thursday night clash between K-State and West Virginia. I had planned to pick K-State, and they did win 26-20, but in the spirit of all honesty, I expected them to win by much more, a la 38-27 or something like that. So I’m counting that a victory.

There’re also some rumblings that Mason Rudolph might start for the Pokes on Saturday, which I’m happy about–but Lord help us, with the way things are going.

Pressed for time this evening (heading to a reading in Perkins), so these’ll be brief.

Picks:

Last week: 1-2 (.333)

Overall: 49-13 (.790)

Kansas 21, No. 21 Oklahoma 34. Oklahoma played much better than I thought they would against Tech, especially considering Cody Thomas was making his first career start behind center. However, before the Sooners went almost exclusively to the ground game in the second half, things looked pretty grim for OU, as Thomas threw three first-half interceptions. OU should handle the Jayhawks fairly easily this weekend in Norman, but Kansas is strongest on D against the run, which could make things interesting.

Texas Tech 34, Iowa State 37. While Tech has to be feeling at least slightly encouraged by their good showing against OU, Iowa State has had the past two weeks to think about the fact that Kansas beat them by twenty points the last time they suited up. The last two matchups between these two teams were close ones both won by Tech, 42-35 and 24-13 in 2013 and 2012. The last time ISU beat the Red Raiders it was in Lubbock, a 41-7 face stomping that didn’t help  endear Tech fans to then-coach Tommy Tuberville. Look for the Cyclones in a close one this weekend.

No. 7 Baylor 56, Oklahoma State 10. I so very badly want to predict this game will be closer, but have no solid reason to do so. I thought the Pokes would show some signs of life against Texas last week, even in the freezing cold for the entire fucking four quarters of the 28-7 ball game to wait and see if they would, in fact, prove that they had some spark, but there was no such luck. There are rumors that Rudolph will start next week. Like I said, I hope he does. A new QB might bring some life to the offense, but I’m not going to expect much. Still, Baylor often does bring out the best in us (see last year’s 49-17 smackdown), and OSU is 16-3 against the Bears since the founding of the Big 12 back in ’96.

Week 12 Big 12 Picks

Welp. I cruised to a pretty 0-4 last week on a nasty wave of bad picks, with Kansas nabbing their first conference win, Baylor pounding the living shitcickles out of OU in Norman, Texas upsetting WVU, and TCU pouring it on the Wildcats in Ft. Worth. Phew.

What did we learn? That West Virginia’s sloppiness against TCU in week ten wasn’t a mirage. That OU is not even close to being a championship caliber team, and that there isn’t just one, but two miserable fan bases in the state of Oklahoma. That TCU has what looks to me like the makings of a championship team. And that Baylor is still right in the thick of the hunt.

…. and this week’s picks:

Last week: 0-4 (.000)

Overall: 48-11 (.813)

No. 4 TCU 59, Kansas 10. The official Vegas line for this is TCU by 29.5, but I think it’ll be much worse, despite KU’s shellacking of Iowa State last week. There’s been a lot of debate about whether or not TCU or Baylor is more worthy of the Playoff–I’m  of two minds on this. While I’d normally favor head-to-head as a metric for assessment, Baylor barely squeaked by the Frogs, and had a nonconference schedule that essentially consisted of three exhibition games, whereas TCU beat a currently ranked Minnesota squad. Advantage TCU.

Oklahoma 21, Texas Tech 24. Sitting at 6-3 in a year that held the promise of much more, Trevor Knight’s virtuoso performance against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl seems very, very far away, and the Sooner faithful are in full-grumble mode, and some are even calling for Bob Stoops’s head on a platter. While I think it might be time for Stoops as a coach to head to fresh territory–he’s been at OU long enough to have worn all the shine off those walls–I think that, as an OU fan, it’s insane to wish for him fired. Oklahoma fans ought to look back to the years that immediately followed Barry Switzer’s ouster to see just how easy it is to replace a coach like Stoops. John Blake, anyone? Texas Tech has looked competitive in exactly one conference game this year, and that was against WVU, in a 37-34 home loss. Which makes this game hard to predict: typically, you’d expect Bob Stoops to rally the troops after a big loss. But you’d also typically not expect OU to lose by by 34 points at home to Baylor. The real problem for OU this weekend in Lubbock, at the reason I’m going with the Red Raiders: there’s been no word on Sterling Shepard’s status, which is a bad sign, to me, and Trevor Knight is out after suffering an injury against Baylor. Cody Thomas will get the start, but he won’t have anyone to throw it too, and a cold day in west Texas will get even colder for Sooner Nation.

Texas 27, Oklahoma State 30. Why do I think that the Cowboys, who have scored a grand total of 34 points in the past three games, will score 30 against the Horns on Saturday, especially after Texas pounded West Virginia last weekend, holding that potent offense to a mere 13 points? Because after young teams play up, they often play down–and vice versa. At night in Stillwater, with rain and snow likely, the Cowboys will find a way for the first time in over a month, and will guarantee a bowl berth with a sixth win.

Week 11 Big 12 Picks

The Pokes continue their slide into total oblivion and despair. For the past three weeks I’ve read explanation after explanation for why the Pokes are as bad as they are. The ’11-12 recruiting classes washed out. There is no offensive line. Yurcich spends every game with an Xbox controller in his hands and hasn’t yet realized that Daxx Garman doesn’t respond to A-B-X combos. And of course, there’s Mason Rudolph’s oh-so-holy redshirt.

Truth is, as much as everybody wants an answer, all we really want is to win. Or, at the very least, be competitive. OSU has lost its last three contests by a combined margin of 124-34, while scoring an average of 11.3 points per game. That’s less than two touchdowns.

It was a good time to be granted an off-week. A chance to regroup after three horrific ass-kickings in a row. Luckily for us, there’re two potentially excellent match ups this weekend.

 

On to the picks!

Last week: 4-1 (.800)

Overall: 48-7 (.872)

 

No. 12 Baylor 30, No. 15 Oklahoma 37. This game could easily go the other way, but despite Baylor’s recent rise to prominence, the Bears have struggled against big time opponents on the road in the past few years. Last season’s total destruction at the hands of OSU in Boone Pickens comes to mind, as does West Virginia’s 41-27 takedown of the Baptists earlier this year in Morgantown. OU, on the other hand, seems to have finally figured out what to do with Trevor Knight, although last week’s dominant performance against ISU ought, clearly, to be taken with a grain of salt. I think BU’s road struggles will continue.

Iowa State 21, Kansas 20. This is Kansas’ best shot at a conference victory this year. They came close in a shocker against the Pokes a month ago, losing at the hands–feet, rather, of Tyreek Hill on a massive, game-winning runback. But if you look at what OSU has been reduced to in the past three weeks, their narrow victory over Kansas is not so surprising. ISU has dominated this series in recent history, going 4-0 against the Jayhawks since Mangino was oustered as KU’s coach, and last year ISU thunderfucked the Rockchalks 34-0. Now, Mangino is on the Cyclones’ sideline.

No. 23 West Virginia 27,  Texas 24. I almost went with this as my upset special. It’s not as if I don’t think WVU is the better team right now. They are, no question. Good enough to nearly overcome five (five!) turnovers against one of the best teams in the country, only losing to TCU 31-30 on a last second fieldgoal. That, folks, is slop skill. And slop outcome. Texas, on the other hand, marched over to Lubbock and traipsed out with an easy victory. Don’t be surprised if the Mountaineers have a hangover Saturday afternoon in Austin.

No. 7 Kansas State 44. No. 6 TCU 38.  I expect this to be a shootout all the way through. K-State dealt OSU a crushing round of blows last week in Manhattan, while, as I’ve mentioned, TCU nearly lost to a team that turned the ball over five times, only managing to win on a last second field goal after two quick WVU three-and-outs, while Trevone Boykin, in a Daxx Garmanesque performance, threw for only 162 yards on 12-30 passing. I think Boykin will be much better on his home turf, but you can bet that DE Ryan Mueller and the K-State defense will lay him on it more often than he, or his coach, will like.