DALLAS — Time for Ask Hoover, where I answer your college football questions … and a lot more
Been a busy week. But it’s Friday now, almost game time. We’re less than 24 hours from kickoff of the Red River Rivalry, and the anticipation continues to build.
Does Texas have a shot? Of course they do. OU is a mere 7 ½-point favorite.
The Longhorns have become experts at going into this game as a big underdog and somehow playing over their heads. Remember last year’s game? That OU team went to the College Football Playoff and had the Heisman Trophy winner, while that Texas team needed a dramatic win to finish 6-6 and go to a bowl game — and that OU-Texas game wasn’t decided, 29-24, until Baker Mayfield burned the ‘Horns with a deep throw to Mark Andrews with seven minutes to go.
Remember 2013-2015? Those OU teams were double-digit favorites all three years and lost twice and needed late-game heroics to avoid a third loss.
Now, the Longhorns (19th) and Sooners (seventh) are both ranked for the first time since 2012. Of course Texas has a shot.
“We’re finally doing our part,” a Texas insider told me this afternoon.
If you missed any my work earlier in the week:
Here’s a profile I wrote for Sporting News on Kyler Murray’s amazing and unusual journey to college football greatness.
Here’s a piece I wrote for Sooner Spectator Magazine on why OU-Texas rules the realm of college football’s great rivalries.
And here’s my column for The Franchise on why Texas actually has an edge in this game. The numbers are impossible to ignore.
Let’s get to the questions.
Has Ruffin been upstairs all season or is this a first ?
— Tim Myher (@twmyher) September 30, 2018
Great question. Ruffin McNeill was moved to the coaches box at the start of this season, according to the weekly OU notes package, though that’s always subject to change. He was on the sideline all of last season. To be honest, I hadn’t noticed his location before now. If you’re sure you’ve seen him on the sideline this season — as I said, it’s subject to change — drop me a line and let me know. I’ll definitely be on the lookout from now on.
@johnehoover can you ask LR at his presser, what changes, if any thus far, has Bob Diaco seen/made to our defense from his job as a defensive analyst?
— Jason (@jason_lacy) October 1, 2018
Sorry, I wanted to ask Lincoln this at his press conference on Monday, but he no-showed. I’ll try to remember to ask him next Monday. Hopefully he’s feeling better.
Who do think starts as QB for TU against Houston this week?
— Brandy Bundy (@dbjbundy) October 1, 2018
As Brandy can attest on Twitter, I predicted Seth Boomer would start and, lo and behold, I was right. Finally. Seriously, Boomer looked like the better quarterback in spring practice, but Philip Montgomery has access to these guys we don’t and he’s obviously seen something in Luke Skipper that wasn’t there in Boomer. In reality, Skipper’s turnovers were too much to overcome. Boomer did well early in Thursday’s game at Houston, helping the Golden Hurricane to a 26-17 lead early in the fourth quarter by hitting 12-of-24 passes for 221 yards. But on TU’s final three possessions, he was 1-of-7 for 6 yards and threw an interception and Houston scored the games final 24 points. Boomer will be fine moving forward.
What are your thoughts on the size of Texas’ WRs versus our secondary? I think it’s going to be a tough day for the Sooners on that front. What about you?
— Ryan Welton (@ryanwelton) October 1, 2018
It’s a mismatch. Collin Johnson is 6-6, 215. Lil’Jordan Humphrey is 6-4, 220. Even Devin Duvernay is 5-11, 205. Even the backups are big. Jerrod Heard is 6-2, 205. Brennan Eagles is 6-3, 200. And that’s a problem for an Oklahoma secondary that, for years, has had problems performing the fundamental task of turning around and finding the ball on deep routes, fades, and stop-fade, back-shoulder throws.
The Sooner secondary is not small. Corners Tre Norwood is 5-11, Parnell Motley is 6-0, and Tre Brown is 5-10. Safeties Kahlil Haughton is 6-1 and Justin Broiles is 5-10, and backups Jordan Parker is 5-11 and Robert Barnes is 6-2. Only nickel safety Brendan Radley-Hiles is smallish, at 5-8, though he makes up for height with attitude.
Still, Texas almost has giants catching passes. Sam Ehlinger needs guys who have a large catch radius. Bottom line: if Ehlinger can complete passes, it’s going to be a long day for the OU secondary.
how much longer is mike gundy gonna coach? he seems like he has checked out and enjoys annoying his bosses.
— Scott Crissup (@SoonerSG) October 1, 2018
Your point on his desire to annoy people, including his bosses, is spot on. Gundy gonna Gundy.
But I’ll disagree with you on one thing: he’s having fun and he enjoys coaching his players. Most of them are good guys, and he takes that part of his role very seriously. The teaching aspect of being a coach can be immensely fulfilling on a daily basis. I never coached college kids, but some of the kids I helped coach in 6th and 7th grade are still playing at Union High School, and it was an absolute kick to teach them something and watch them absorb it and then be able to execute it. I imagine it’s an even greater feeling on the college level. I know Gundy values that part. And he, as long as he’s making $5 million a year to do it, hey, why not?
How much will the lack luster non-con opponents hurt OU with the CFP committee?
— Clamdigger14 (@CamdenCoble) October 2, 2018
How much will OU be hurt by not playing many decently ranked opponents? Thanks to early losses by OSU, TCU, Texas. If WV looses before they may not have a win over a top 10 team. Is that enough if they stay undefeated? Against other 1 loss teams?
— coach loftiss (@coachloftiss) October 1, 2018
I’m answering both of these questions here.
Short answer: yes.
Long answer: The Big 12 has had a few slip-ups, but I think Week 3 showed the league has more quality than we thought. Baylor lost to Duke and TCU lost to No. 4 Ohio State, but five of the other six teams playing out of conference claimed solid Power 5-ish victories: OSU crushed a ranked Boise State team, Texas beat up on a ranked USC team, Texas Tech demolished a Houston team that was receiving votes in both polls, and even Kansas annihilated Rutgers. WVU’s hurricane cancelation at N.C. State may hurt the league eventually, if only in comparing resumes.
The Sooners’ non-conference schedule was supposed to be great this season: 10-win FAU, 10-win Army and Chip Kelly-led UCLA. And while FAU and Army might self-correct, UCLA looks pretty awful. Nothing OU did wrong in scheduling those guys. Joe Castiglione continues to be college football’s best schedule-maker outside of South Bend. But if those teams wilt this season, yes, that strength of schedule rating could hurt the Sooners.
OU needs to hope WVU is a Top 10 team when they play back-to-back games in the season finale and the Big 12 championship game. Beating the Mountaineers decisively wouldn’t hurt as the playoff selection committee starts splitting hairs with the SEC’s second team and champions from the Pac-12, ACC and Big Ten.
Is Texas a bad 4–1? Killed at Maryland, not impressive versus TU, SC or KSU. Like usual if you let them hang they will make it tough. If Sooners start fast, Longhorns might fold.
— jason moore (@JaymOU13) October 1, 2018
Here’s the reality: Texas does not have all that much elite talent. By Texas standards, the offensive line is average. The running backs are average. The defensive line and linebackers are average. And the quarterback is average. There’s NFL talent at receiver and in the defensive backfield and that’s pretty much it. So yeah, the ‘Horns aren’t going to dominate many teams.
But I talked to Tom Herman last week about his team’s “grit and tenacity,” and he is convinced that we’re seeing what we actually think we’re seeing: a team that’s learning how to make winning plays, a team that isn’t afraid to fight, a team that’s gritty and tenacious. I think OU’s talent might be 30 points better than the Longhorns, but Texas has shown something much less quantifiable in their last four games.
#AskHoover did you celebrate the new beer laws today? If so, what did you choose? If not, why? (Because it’s Monday is not an acceptable answer).
— Will Chandler (@Chandler23Will) October 2, 2018
No, I didn’t. I don’t drink. Sorry, I know that kind of shatters the sportswriter mold, but I have my reasons.
But I congratulate Oklahoma on finally putting on the big boy and big girl pants when it comes to liquor sales.
Now, please drink responsibly.
When was the last time Jenks or Union didn’t make High School Playoffs #AskHoover
— Nathan Mccullum (@nathan_mccullum) October 2, 2018
Jenks last failed to make the playoffs in 1988. Union last missed the postseason in 1989. Wow. I had just graduated from college. Thanks to our Don King and the Tulsa World’s Barry Lewis for the answers.
— Harry Taylor (@HypeManHarry) October 2, 2018
If they consulted me, I’d tell them leave it at Fair Park and the Cotton Bowl forever. Can you imagine going to an OU-Texas game without the midway rides blaring and the smell of funnel cakes wafting through the air? Heck no. I’d sure hate to see all that history be relocated to Jerry World for the sake of more money for the teams.
Do you think OU’s below average defense could keep them out of the playoffs again?
— levi (@levi88936618) October 2, 2018
No question about it. Kirby Hocutt basically said as much last year, although as the season wound down, the playoff contenders were thinned down and the Sooners made it.
Here’s the deal: If OU gets just one more stop in the Rose Bowl semifinal last year, they go play Alabama for the national championship — and just might win the whole thing. The Sooners’ defensive performance in Pasadena will resonate in the minds of the playoff selection committee. Knowing OU had a championship offense last year, they’ll also remember the Sooners’ awful defense. They’ll say it has no bearing on this year’s field, but it’s human nature. The neural pathways have already been formed.
And if the committee is trying to evaluate the Sooners this December and the defense looks just like last year’s, they might very well be inclined to roll out the “not a complete team” argument.
I had lowered expectations for OSU, I think this game is important,
1) it’s Iowa State
2) Do you think we can exploit their secondary deep like last week.
3) Thanks for being cool, taking silly questions. pic.twitter.com/WLjelVPwSA
— Steve Rowe 👩🍳🌊🌊🌊 (@Steve_in_B_A) October 3, 2018
I think the Cowboys will exploit a lot of secondaries this season. Iowa State currently ranks third in the Big 12 in pass defense (212.2 yards per game allowed), but is eighth in pass efficiency defense, giving up a .614 completion percentage with only two interceptions.
Book it: Justice Hill will soften up the Cyclones up front and then Cornelius will throw it deep. He needs to be more consistent with the deep ball — he’s currently fourth in the Big 12 in efficiency rating and third in yards and touchdowns — and Iowa State will be a decent test. If he has time to throw, he’ll connect. As an aside, I really like OSU’s receiver corps. Hopefully Dillon Stoner gets back healthy soon.
Also, I love silly questions.
If Texas wins? Does it cause OU to lose any of the recruits from the 2019 commitments?
— gameday (@JJOKC) October 3, 2018
I would say no. The OU recruiting classes have been extremely close lately, and that seems to be the case with this one. It’s always hard to say for sure, and it does happen from time to time, but it’s unlikely you’ll see any flips because OU loses. I’ve asked plenty of players what impact a single game has on their decision, and few if any acknowledge their college choice ever came down to the outcome of the OU-Texas game.
Per Rivals, Texas is currently No. 9 in national team recruiting rankings, while OU is No. 5.
Also per Rivals, there are 16 prospects in the 2019 class that are undecided and have offers from both OU and Texas. Per SoonerScoop.com, only one — Houston DE Marcus Stripling — is taking an official visit to Saturday’s game (OU is the home team).
I didn’t dig into the 2020 class to see who has offers from both schools and who’s attending the game, mostly because there’s just not enough time this week, but I will try to get to that later.
What would YOU do to improve our defense. Can anything be done with current talent, understanding that Mike can’t tackle for them.
— The Objective Homer (@SulphurSooner) October 4, 2018
I’d take more chances and blitz more often. OU has good athletes; let them go. Also, I’d really try to simplify the coverage calls. Most times we see receivers running wide open, it’s because one player or another thought the coverage was something else. Bring Brendan Radley-Hiles nearer the line of scrimmage and let him develop into that Roy Williams mold.
Which player do you think will rise up and stand out from the offense and the defense? Who is going to have career days?
— 3-1 in FantasyFB (@KirtTheMan) October 4, 2018
I love these questions. Because it’s always fun to imagine certain scenarios — although I’m hardly ever right.
On offense, I’ll pick CeeDee Lamb as the guy who has the biggest day. If you want an out-of-nowhere type of story, what about A.D. Miller with a big fourth-quarter touchdown catch? He’s often overlooked but has a ton of talent.
On defense, give me Amani Bledsoe or Ronnie Perkins to consistently blow up the Texas backfield. One of those guys could have an Auston English type of game. I also like Brendan Radley-Hiles to either make some kind of impactful hit that dislodges a ball or maybe some kind of wild scoop-and-score touchdown.
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.