John Hoover

Ask Hoover: On Trey Sermon, the CFP, OSU recruiting, OU coaching, Spencer Rattler, Jim Gallogly, the Big 12’s future … and Halloween

Ask Hoover: On Trey Sermon, the CFP, OSU recruiting, OU coaching, Spencer Rattler, Jim Gallogly, the Big 12’s future … and Halloween

Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray and the Sooners host Kansas State this week. Will OU run the wildcat against he Wildcats? (PHOTO: Ty Russell, OU media relations)

Well, after this week’s games, the college football regular season will be two-thirds over.

Can’t say I’m a big fan of that.

Just like Christmas, we wait all year for college football, and when it gets here, we enjoy the heck out of it, but when it’s gone, it’s gone way too fast.

What I am a fan of is intelligent questions, and this week’s Ask Hoover blog has them.

Read on, dear readers …

 

Officially, his status remains unknown.

“Nothing to report on Sermon,” Lincoln Riley said. “We’ll just have to see how that one goes.”

That was on Monday, and following up to what he said Saturday, which was “looks promising.” Riley has given no updates since.

Since Riley is still fairly new and all, we’re still learning how to read his body language and decipher the tone of his replies. I will venture that this one — again, from Monday’s regular press conference — didn’t sound all that encouraging.

The guess here is that Sermon misses more than a couple of games.

 

I saw ESPN’s FPI had OU favored in all its remaining games (most heavy favorites), and somehow that calculates to a 20 percent chance of winning out. I think the Sooners’ actual probability of finishing 11-1 is higher than that. But then add a Big 12 Championship Game rematch and the likelihood of winning six more games drops some.

Now extrapolate what you think the rest of the field will do: does the SEC get two teams in? That’ll happen if LSU (or Auburn or Georgia) beats Alabama. As it sits now, is the Big Ten a lock? Michigan would sure seem to be a heavy favorite to be there. Does Clemson lose? Probably not with a finishing schedule of FSU, Louisville, BC, Duke and South Carolina (though it always seems someone sneaks up on Dabo’s Tigers). That’s four, if the SEC gets two.

Now, most importantly, does Notre Dame win out or do the Irish get tripped up by FSU or USC (or … Northwestern?)

And finally, what does the rest of the Big 12 do? Is the title game a rematch of one-loss OU and Texas? Or does West Virginia get in with just one loss? Or does the regular-season runner-up come in with two losses? Those factors will affect how the committee sees the Big 12 champion.

We’ll know a bit more after this weekend’s games, and after next week’s initial College Football Playoff rankings.

 

No doubt, OSU could have benefitted from better recruiting classes, which increases the level of competition at certain position battles and adds depth and, well, just puts better players on the field.

I, for one, think Mike Holder was onto something when he criticized Mike Gundy’s recruiting efforts.

OSU’s last four recruiting classes (2015-18), per 247 Sports, ranked 40th, 45th, 38th and 34th nationally. This Cowboy team probably is feeling the effects of that, with a lack of talent at important positions and a lack of depth at others.

Oh by the way, that 2014 recruiting class? The one with Mason Rudolph and James Washington and Tyreek Hill and Chris Lacy and Justin Phillips and Jordan Brailford? That class ranked 27th.

 

If by held accountable you mean fired, not until after the season — if at all.

If you mean asked to do better, I’m certain those conversations have taken place.

Cooks can recruit good players. But the DBs’ lack of development under him has been alarming. Guys are still trying to figure out how to turn around and locate the football on a deep pass. Either Cooks is teaching them to run with the receiver without looking back, or he’s only recruiting players who are incapable of doing it right.

Kish also has a reputation as a strong recruiter. But yes, his inside linebackers haven’t been all that consistent at the one thing a linebacker must be good at: tackling. This year’s guys are racking up good numbers, but they’re still missing tackles.

Much of what’s being complained about here may be in the process of changing. Ruffin McNeill’s tweaks to the defense produced good results in week one, so let’s give him some more time to continue cleaning things up and teaching his style of defense.

If there is a regression these last few weeks, the guess here is that Lincoln Riley will make more changes on his defensive staff come January.

 

I haven’t seen Castiglione weigh in much on Stoops’ firing. I’m sure it’s a touchy subject. Bob is his Special Assistant, after all, and I’m told Bob wasn’t made aware of Lincoln Riley’s decision until after it was done, and that Bob isn’t very happy about that.

Castiglione’s involvement in this particular change wasn’t required. President Jim Gallogly and Riley came to an agreement that the change would be made, and Castiglione signed off on it.

 

Now you’re just being mean.

Although, the probability of Gundy getting a raise next year is pretty high.

 

I think what Rattler did to get himself suspended for the rest of the season may have been even less egregious. More details eventually will come out about this. Stay tuned.

 

I remember having these conversations in 2003, when Oklahoma was just trouncing everyone. Then Bill Snyder and Darren Sproles and Kansas State and the Big 12 championship game happened.

Probably the 2001 Miami Hurricanes, who beat their opponents by an average margin of 34 points per game and went 12-0 with a bunch of NFL talent and nearly won it all the next year.

If not The U, how about the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers, who beat everybody on the schedule — including four Top 10 opponents — by at least 23 points?

This Alabama team feels a lot like those juggernauts, and could be even better.

 

I’ve said it for a while now: when the Big 12’s TV contracts (which expire in 2024-25) go to the negotiating table in 2022 or 2023, networks will tell the league exactly what it’s worth, and smart and powerful schools like Oklahoma and Texas will look to much greener pastures. I’ve long predicted OU will land in the Big Ten and Texas will migrate to the SEC, though the ACC is not out of the question.

Conferences want to get bigger not smaller, stronger, not weaker. Adding OU and Texas fills that bill.

OU and Texas leaving will create another seismic shift in college athletics. OSU and Texas Tech might make good candidates in the Pac-12, which will begin trying to gobble up what it can to get to 16 members (Boise State? BYU?). Kansas will go to the Big Ten to give it 16 members (schools with great basketball and lousy football don’t seem to bother that league one bit), the SEC will try to add a 16th from elsewhere (Clemson? Virginia Tech? Miami? West Virginia?), and that will create a run on the rest of the Big 12 leftovers.

Keep in mind, this isn’t all about just dollars. The Big 12 is doing fine at nearly $35 million per member, plus each school gets to keep its own Tier 3 rights. That puts Texas No. 1 nationally at more than $50 million a year.

This is about long-term growth, however, and the Big 12 doesn’t look like a keeper. Not when the Big Ten will begin paying members in excess of $50 million each next year, and the SEC is projecting similar amounts the year after. Those conferences have their own league networks, which penetrate into huge population bases and brings in almost limitless wealth. The Big 12 has none of that. Even the ACC (next year) and the Pac-12 (flawed though it is) have their own league networks.

Jim Gallogly was hired to clean up the school’s $2 billion debt crisis. Don’t think OU’s new president won’t bail on the Big 12 for more money elsewhere.

Brace yourselves.

 

I may be in the minority here, but I think the human bias can be a good thing in evaluating playoff contenders. I like what the playoff committee has done so far. I sat in on the CFP mock selection process one weekend, and it was eye-opening. Those people are very committed to choosing the four best teams, and the process by which they do it is quite demanding.

Analytics absolutely should be a big part of the process. But like game officiating, it would be a mistake to remove the human element from the equation. In a committee room like the CFP has, common sense goes a long way.

 

I’m not entirely sure, but I think I detect an accusation of some kind in there.

Here are your answers:

They need to recruit bigger, stronger players, and then lift more weights in the offseason.

TCU’s special teams played well, and Oklahoma’s did not.

That may come off as snarky, but it’s as simple as I can put it. Lincoln Riley made changes to both the strength staff and the special teams coaching, and yes, those changes have been laid bare at times this season.

 

Great question.

Oklahoma is currently ninth in the Big 12 in time of possession at 27:37 per game. Kansas State is fourth at 31:19. I’ll set the over/under at 28:30, and I’ll take the under. K-State has clearly announced its intentions to use the clock and keep Kyler Murray and Co. on the bench. Can Alex Barnes and his big, strong (and suddenly improved) offensive line execute that plan?

Maybe more importantly, does OU even care? If the Sooners are scoring touchdowns on 90-second drives, they’re fine with that and should cover the 24 ½-point spread.

 

I’m starting to doubt that Texas will have its quarterback at all, and if he does play, how close is he to full strength? If Shane Beuchele goes wire-to-wire, Oklahoma State wins the game. If Ehlinger gives it a go but isn’t himself, it’s a toss-up. If Ehlinger starts and executes the QB run game with little or no pain, Texas wins a close one.

I’ll say Ehlinger plays but is limited and Texas wins 21-19.

 

No. NFL teams will ask about Murray, but many will be too scared by his baseball contract to use a first-round draft pick. Others will be too scared by his height.

Marquise Brown isn’t your prototype NFL first-round receiver. In the last five drafts, only one receiver who looks anything like Brown became a first-round pick. That was Brandin Cooks, who stands 5-10 and weighs 183. Phillip Dorsett is 5-10 and 195. Most of the other 18 first-rounders over the last five drafts came in at well over 6-foot. NFL teams just like big wideouts. Brown is listed at 5-10 (he may be closer to 5-9) and 168 pounds (he may be closer to 160). Now, Brown is faster than just about all of them (John Ross excluded), but his slight build will make teams leery of dropping a first-round pick on him.

Lamb isn’t eligible until next year’s draft.

The offensive line question is definitely intriguing. Cody Ford and Bobby Evans certainly have NFL talent. As juniors, they could leave if they feel ready. Ben Powers is a senior and can be a mauler, but guards don’t usually draw much first-round interest. Center Creed Humphrey has the athletic ability to make NFL teams stand up and notice, but he’s just a redshirt freshman.

All that to say this: this time last year, I was certain Orlando Brown was a Top 10 pick. His poor showing at the NFL Scouting Combine exposed his athletic deficiencies, and he’s been a Baltimore backup since Week 2. As offensive linemen go, it’s almost always hard to predict.

 

Well, the NFL just fired an official for repeated poor calls and non-calls. I’ve always said that should be an option. Make a bad call, get reprimanded. Make a lot of bad calls, get fired.

With Walt Anderson off to the NFL full-time, the Big 12 officiating team is trying to establish a new identity under Curtis Shaw. Maybe officials will be held to a higher standard (less “old boy” treatment). Or maybe this first year under Shaw hints of more of the same.

 

Not sure that would be a good thing with Trey Sermon on the mend and not much experience behind him. Interesting, though: in Riley’s Wildcat, would Kyler Murray split out wide? And if so, would he actually be a receiving threat? And if so, who takes the snap and throws it to him? There are no high school-QBs-turned-running backs. Can Kennedy Brooks throw it, too?

I’d say nah.

 

No, and no.

TV decides most of these, and the Big 12 agrees. Simple as that. I mean, college football fans sitting at home don’t mind watching 11 a.m. games, and that’s what drives the bus these days.

______

Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “The Franchise Drive” every weeknight from 6-8 on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and appears throughout the day on other shows on The Franchise. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.

John Hoover

Hoover wrote for the Tulsa World for 24 years before joining The Franchise, where he's now co-host of "Further Review" on The Franchise Tulsa (weekdays 12-3, fm107.9/am1270) . In his time at the World, Hoover won numerous writing and reporting awards, including in 2011 National Beat Writer of the Year from the Associated Press Sports Editors for his work covering the Oklahoma Sooners. Hoover also covered Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Oral Roberts and the NFL as a beat writer. From 2012 to 2016, Hoover was the World's lead sports columnist. As a columnist, Hoover won national awards in 2012 and 2014 from the National Athletic Trainers Association for reporting on sports medicine and in 2015 won first place in sports columns from the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists. After receiving a journalism degree from East Central University, Hoover worked at newspapers in Ada, Okmulgee, Tahlequah and Waynesville, Mo. He played football at Ada High School and grew up in North Pole, Alaska. Hoover and his family live in Broken Arrow.

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