Everyone should keep up over at Football Outsiders where I preview every week’s top six games and make picks against FEI’s projection model. This week I’ll have Bedlam and Farmageddon amongst the games that get previewed and picked.
But I wanted to hit on a few different smaller topics around the league that I couldn’t fully explore or didn’t come up in those previews.
I don’t think Dru Brown is up for this
I pulled up that Oklahoma State-West Virginia game to get a sense of how Brown played and came away pretty well convinced that Oklahoma State can’t win Bedlam this year. He’s small, doesn’t have a strong arm, isn’t accurate throwing outside the hash marks, and isn’t exactly bold as a lion in the run game either. Brown is competent and knows where the ball needs to go but I can’t see him beating OU’s press coverage, surviving against their pressures, or doing much to keep Alex Grinch from bottling up Chuba Hubbard.
Had Oklahoma State been able to play a health Spencer Sanders in this game it would have been VERY interesting. In addition to his superior ability to push the ball down the field and take hits in a cold(ish) weather game, he could have really tortured Oklahoma’s 46 fronts with the option. Their ability to get into 12 and 21 personnel sets from the shotgun to hunt Boo Radley on the edge and get double teams in key spots would have given them a lot of ways to feed Hubbard. They can still do some of it, but not with the potent QB option dimensions, because OU won’t be very worried about Brown breaking contain. He just isn’t the match of Sanders or other QBs that have been able to run around some on OU such as Charlie Brewer.
I do like Oklahoma State’s makeup heading into 2020
They’ve moved Cameron Murray to nose tackle and have been playing some size on the ends with Israel Antwine and Tyler Lacy. All three are back next year along with some other young DL so I’d say there’s a chance that they actually start to field some stouter units up front. Then in the defensive backfield they’ll still have Malcolm Rodriguez and Amen Ogbongbemiga at linebacker and then Kolby Harvell-Peel and most everyone else except AJ Green (not an insignificant loss).
I guess the Cowboys will finish 8-4, which is respectable, and then potentially reload in 2020. Ideally they’d get one of Hubbard or Wallace back although I don’t know why either would stick. I do imagine that Gundy can find another star receiver on his roster and get some production from running back given all the constraints he’ll be able to put around the run game with a more experienced Spencer Sanders.
The Cowboys don’t look like a favorite or a top dark horse but they do look like a team that could be in the mix if things break right and they don’t have crippling injuries.
Texas looks like they’re about to throw in the towel on this season
Tech is somehow a 10 point dog but I don’t like Texas this week. No one in the coaching staff is safe, the players don’t believe in any of the coaches, and most eyes are moving on towards how things are going to shake out in the offseason.
There are seniors on this team but not a ton and there’s just not a lot of difference at this point between 7-5 and 6-6.
Meanwhile Texas Tech is hunting a meaningful victory and keeps coming back every week after agonizingly close losses. Their roster is always filled with kids that would have loved to receive a Texas scholarship offer or to be able to tell everyone for the rest of their lives about the time they beat up on the Longhorns in Austin in front of 100k (probably not though) fans the day after Thanksgiving.
Maybe I’ll be surprised and the Longhorns will bring some fight and focus into this game. Or maybe the Red Raiders won’t have enough of Texas’ attention in a short week and the tryptophan will linger in the Longhorn bloodstreams and lead to a weak effort and defeat. The one factor that could matter here is if Texas just gives up on their ailing run game and prepares to spread the Red Raiders out and pick them apart with a Sam Ehlinger-centric gameplan. If the Longhorns just run their base, power-spread offense the Red Raiders should be very competitive.
This could be a year of minimal silly season intrigue with one exception
Looking around the Big 12 there aren’t many places where you expect to see major shakeups after the season. The new coaching staffs all had solid starts and other than minor changes here or there and normal turnover, there will probably be a focus on continuity.
There will be NFL attention for Lincoln Riley and Matt Rhule. I don’t think Riley will leave at this time, although if the Cowboys came calling perhaps he’d sit and listen to get a sense of how much freedom Jerry Jones would be willing to give him. Overall Riley is going to be in great shape in the coming seasons to win a national championship with an improving defense and Spencer Rattler.
If Rhule wants to be in the NFL, and there’s a lot of reasons to believe that he does, he may get an offer that is more appealing this time now that he’s coming off a 10-win season rather than sheer promise. Perhaps the same Cowboys offer. It’s worth noting though that currently Vegas like Urban Meyer to be the next head man in Dallas, which is crazy, hilarious, and ultimately seems about right. I don’t know where things stand currently, but Rhule is in good shape and surely in no hurry to leave unless the right situation comes up.
Texas is going to see shakeups. Their collapse this season has been so epic that no job is totally safe. Tom Herman has kept the “well I’m going to adjust by changing coordinators across the ball from my area of expertise” card in his pocket to buy him extra time if things went wrong. However, his own area of expertise is offense and that side of the ball has completely stagnated and fallen off as well. So if your defensive hire you stuck by isn’t working out and you’ve had offenses that bottomed out two years out of three…
Herman’s emphasis has been on culture, meaning S&C and physicality, while recruiting at a top five level annually. He’s been pretty effective in both regards, which make Texas’ failures on the field all the more stark and clearly reflective of a failure in coaching.
The expectation has been that Todd Orlando would scheme up, attack, and overwhelm offenses while Herman’s offense grinds out wins with toughness and execution. The execution hasn’t been there on offense and Orlando has tended to get blitzed more often than his blitzes have landed.
All that points to major staff overhaul in the silly season. But considering the breadth of the overhaul, the athletic director, who didn’t hire Herman and will be unveiling a new look stadium in a few years, will surely be considering whether a complete overhaul will be necessary.
Things have really flipped in Austin in just a year. They looked set up to take another step towards competing for the Big 12 title and perhaps pouncing on a down Oklahoma and instead went backwards while Riley manufactured another top offense and Rhule fielded the toughest team in Texas. Whatever is next will surely be dramatic.
Hang on for the portal!
Whatever the rules are with the transfer portal this coming offseason, bank on lots of Big 12 teams looking to hit it up for key pieces that can either shore up their hopes for competition in 2020 or put them over the top. First we’ll get the coaching changes, as minor or major as they might be, and then we’ll get the great scramble for the portal players.