John Hoover

ASK HOOVER: on UCLA tickets, Chip Kelly, Jalen Hurts, Hollywood v. CeeDee, Sam Ehlinger, SEC defense, Big 12 rankings … and beard oil?

ASK HOOVER: on UCLA tickets, Chip Kelly, Jalen Hurts, Hollywood v. CeeDee, Sam Ehlinger, SEC defense, Big 12 rankings … and beard oil?

Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) before the game vs South Dakota. (The Franchise/Aaron Davis)

Time again for Ask Hoover, my weekly college football Twitter Q&A with Franchise listeners, readers and viewers.

If you want to get in next week, just send me a tweet (@johnehoover) with your college football question. Can be anything from OU to OSU to Tulsa to Big 12, CFP or anything else. I answer all queries.

Oklahoma faces its biggest game of the year so far with a road trip to UCLA. The Bruins stink, sure, but they will have better athletes on the whole than either Houston or South Dakota. This isn’t a picks column, but I do see OU coming in right at the betting line (23 ½). I’d call it Oklahoma 45-21.

Oklahoma State also faces its stiffest test to date with a “road trip” to Tulsa. Mike Gundy looks at it as another home game that’s just played away from Boone Pickens (RIP) Stadium. Chapman Stadium will be at least half full of orange. TU’s offense came to life last week in San Jose and they’ll have plenty of opportunities against the Cowboys’ shaky defense, but I think O-State has trouble covering the 14-point spread, say 38-24.

Anyway, enough about my lousy picks (OK, I’m actually 7-1 this season against the spread. Had to brag because that won’t last long). Let’s get to the questions:

 

I won’t research the actual question because I don’t care and I don’t think you do either. The crux of what your saying here is that Cleveland’s 30-point loss to Tennessee last week wasn’t Baker Mayfield’s fault. I don’t disagree one bit. That was a team collapse.

But let’s also not pretend that Baker doesn’t shoulder a whole lot of blame here. I watched the whole thing from start to finish and he was just not processing the game. Most glaring of all, he stared down his receivers and most times didn’t try to go through his entire read progression. If a guy was covered, he stayed locked onto that one guy. That’s why those picks happened.

I didn’t see the chip on his shoulder that has taken him this far. I have no doubt it’ll be back on there this week and beyond.

 

Most Alaskans use one brand of whale oil or another but it just hasn’t worked for me. I tried Capt. Andrew Luck’s squirrel oil, but it left me dry and chafing.

So I switched to Liger Bear Brand Beard Oil and Conditioner. It’s a proprietary blend of lion oil, tiger oil and polar bear oil that keeps my beard soft and manageable. Maybe it’s all those razor-sharp teeth, or maybe it just speaks to man’s carnivorous nature.

Whatever their secret, my beard wakes up each day feeling endangered — and Mrs. Hoover likes it too. So pick up Liger Bear Brand Beard Oil and Conditioner. You’ll be glad you did.

 

He’s on a mission to play, a mission to win — and not just the Big 12. To him, all this talking is superfluous. Nick Saban taught him that press clippings and sound bites are “rat poison,” and he hasn’t taken one nibble since he’s been in Norman.

I asked both Lincoln Riley and Jalen’s teammates, and they say he’s very serious and driven but he’s really not like that away from the cameras.

I respect his motive and I applaud his efforts.

 

Yeah, this is about UCLA giving disgruntled fans (or gruntled ones, too, I suppose) four free tickets to this week’s game against Oklahoma if they sat through the team’s loss to San Diego State last week.

Smart Bruins fans will definitely stay away. They’ll try to sell their tickets to UCLA fans first but afrer that fails, they won’t be very discerning. A good portion of those freebies will be bought up by Boomers who live in SoCal and haven’t been to an OU game in years.

This has all the markings of being almost as big a blowout in the stands as it will be on the field. I’m saying OU fans outnumber UCLA fans 2-to-1.

 

Great question. How about instead of answering it I just waffle and argue for both?

I’d give it to Marquise because of his elite speed. Like, world-class track speed. That’s fairly rare, even in the NFL. You saw last week what he can do on ability alone: 4 catches, 147 yards, two long TDs. Now imagine how good he can be when he’s not coming off an injury and has really studied NFL defenses.

Then again…

I’d give it to CeeDee because of his NFL-ready body, his Spider-man hands and his Matrix-like agility. He’s such a natural pass-catcher and a very good route-runner, and his understanding of the game’s nuances — combo coverages, weak spots in the zone, on-the-fly adjustments — will only grow from here.

Actually, I’ve said since his freshman year that CeeDee would be a good NFL receiver, and I thought Marquise was a bit too small for that role. So I guess to answer your question, I’ll say CeeDee.

 

I’m a voter in the Football Writers Association of America’s Super Sixteen poll, and I moved LSU up from No. 6 last week to No. 5 behind Clemson, ‘Bama, Georgia and Oklahoma. Based on what I’ve seen, I still think OU and UGa are better football teams than LSU, though the Tigers certainly closed the gap. (In other words, I’m still not sure how good Texas is, but that will play itself out as the season progresses.)

I can’t speak for other voters, but the guess here is they still think Clemson and ‘Bama are head and shoulders above the field. I certainly do (although injuries may be pushing the Crimson Tide back to the pack). I mean, history is one thing, but watching what looks like a bunch of future NFL players beat up on people can influence voters. That’s what I see when I watch Clemson and ‘Bama.

 

Kelly obviously had a huge impact on Oregon’s success. He did come in on the heels of Mike Bellotti’s full-scale construction job, which was funded by Nike and Phil Knight’s passion for the Ducks. But Kelly was instrumental in taking Oregon to the next level. Ask Mark Helfrich, Willie Taggart and Mario Cristobal how tough it can be in Eugene.

I thought Kelly would breathe life into UCLA, and as an Alaska kid who grew up rooting for both UCLA and USC, I was hoping it would happen quickly. It hasn’t. Kelly’s return to college football from the NFL was already fraught with peril. Several before him were never really able to relight that fire, either: Steve Spurrier, Butch Davis, Dennis Erickson and Bobby Petrino come to mind. Their second college stints never came close to their first. Maybe the game college changed while they were gone. Maybe their egos got in the way and they just assumed it was going to happen like it did before without putting in the work. Or maybe they just lost that edge.

One coach who did leave a successful college career, jumped to the NFL (and failed) and returned to college with even greater success: guy by the name of Nick Saban.

Something tells me Chip Kelly’s return to college won’t be quite as impressive as Saban’s.

 

Another great question that I’ve often wondered. Seems almost a no-brainer that SEC offenses will evolve (are evolving, have evolved) to elite levels before Big 12 defenses do. TCU has played great defense for years, Iowa State has been there lately (Oklahoma was as good as anyone just a decade ago), and yet Big defenses still aren’t producing a lot of NFL players.

I don’t ever foresee a day when we’re talking about how great Big 12 defenses are, but I definitely see evidence that SEC quarterbacks and receivers (and offensive coordinators) are elevating their game.

The SEC should take heed, however, a painful lesson from the Big 12: up-tempo game plans and high-scoring offenses come with a price. Opponents are forced to try to keep up, so defenses face more plays, more pass plays, and more possessions. That means defenses get worn down. It also means more teams put a recruiting emphasis on offense. That means defenses get worse.

 

I guess you could make that case. Depends on how you define strength. Is it having a team in the playoff (or BCS title game)? Or is it bowl eligibility and winning seasons? Or is it parity?

Either way, this is a watershed weekend for the Big 12. Seven of the 10 teams (Baylor is off) play a Power 5 opponent. The only ones that don’t are Texas (who played LSU last week — and lost) and Oklahoma State (who opened at Oregon State — and won).

If Iowa State beats Iowa, they’ll be ranked next week. I expect Texas Tech (at Arizona), TCU (at Purdue) at OU (at UCLA) to win. I think Kansas (at Boston College), Kansas State (at Mississippi State) and West Virginia (versus N.C. State) to lose.

Ask me that question next week and I think we’ll have a clearer answer.

 

If that’s going to happen, this is a really key weekend. Arizona’s defense is awful, but it’ll still be a step up from Montana State and UTEP. Let’s see what kind of coach Matt Wells is in Tucson. (I think Tech wins.)

You can also count on wins over Kansas (in Lawrence) and West Virginia (in Morgantown). From there, you’d need to sneak a couple of home wins over someone: Oklahoma State, Iowa State, TCU or Kansas State.

If only one of those ends up in the win column, then this game against Arizona would end up being the difference.

 

I think we know now that Texas does indeed have the athletes we’ve always thought they should have. They stood toe-to-toe with one of the most athletic teams in all of college football.

I think we know that any comparisons of Sam Ehlinger to Tim Tebow are probably inaccurate. Ehlinger looks like a much better thrower (on a team with not nearly as much NFL talent).

I think we know Texas still has problems finishing (those two drives that fizzled at the goal line will haunt them forever).

I think we know Texas does have enough fight to challenge Oklahoma for the Big 12 this year.

When it comes to the Red River Rivalry, remember the stat I dug up a few years ago: Since 1990, quarterbacks who have starting or significant game experience in the Red River Rivalry are now 14-2-1 against quarterbacks making their first OU-Texas start. That includes Ehlinger, Kyler Murray, Baker Mayfield, Landry Jones, Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, Jason White and so on.

Statistically speaking, the smart money would seem to be on Texas to win again this year.

But maybe Jalen Hurts’ big-game experience at Alabama breaks the trend.

 

It’s a challenge to rank the Big 12 because no one has won an important game yet. Outside of the three teams that have lost, only Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have been even moderately pushed. But through two weeks, here’s how I have the Big 12:

1, Oklahoma. 2, Texas. 3, Oklahoma State. 4, Baylor. 5, Iowa State. 6, Kansas State. 7, Texas Tech. 8, TCU. 9, West Virginia. 10, Kansas.

Iowa State’s ranking is hurt by an overtime win over FCS Northern Iowa, and winning this week would give them a boost. Baylor, Kansas State and Texas Tech haven’t done anything yet, but they’ve not done it in absolutely dominating fashion. Oklahoma State needs to make a statement at Tulsa and then go on the road and show out against Texas.

 

There’s definitely some of that.

What Tom ultimately wants is a 15-yard penalty on the opponent, or a touchdown taken off the board, or something that gives his team a break.

Now, he’ll say it’s all about disrespecting the school and its storied tradition, blah, blah, blah. But I’m pretty sure he didn’t complain about it when he was head coach at Houston or offensive coordinator at Ohio State, et al.

Here’s my take: I’m a big fan of the anti-taunting rules. If someone throws a Horns Down in a Texas player’s face or makes an over-the-top gesture at the bench or lingers beyond the Texas end zone engaging UT fans in such a manner, he should probably be flagged. But if a player throws Horns Down in celebration with his teammates, or in the OU end zone, or to the TV cameras, let it be. No flag.

Now, running to the officials and pointing out when the other team does it is weak. Let the officials officiate.

______

Formerly co-host of “Further Review” and “The Franchise Drive,” columnist John E. Hoover is a college football insider on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. 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 co-hosts The Franchise “Inside OU” Podcast with Brady Trantham and Rufus Alexander. He also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his YouTube channel at YouTube.com/c/JohnHoover, and his personal page at johnehoover.com.

 

John Hoover
@JohnEHoover

John Hoover wrote for the Tulsa World for 24 years before joining The Franchise, where he was co-host of "Further Review" and "The Franchise Drive." Now he's The Franchise college football insider: Oklahoma's state Heisman rep, a voter in the FWAA Super 16 poll, an FWAA media access liaison, and a Big 12 writer at Sporting News and Lindy's preseason magazine. 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. From 2012 to 2016, Hoover was the World's lead sports columnist and 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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