John Hoover

Ask Hoover: The mystery of Trey Sermon, Jalen Hurts’ Heisman odds, the Sooner Schooner, Spencer Rattler, is Texas back, the art of asking dumb questions, and rooster kicks

Ask Hoover: The mystery of Trey Sermon, Jalen Hurts’ Heisman odds, the Sooner Schooner, Spencer Rattler, is Texas back, the art of asking dumb questions, and rooster kicks

Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) following a long run during the game against West Virginia. (The Franchise/Aaron Davis)

It’s time for the second-largest Ask Hoover blog in Franchise history, and possibly one of the five biggest ever.

I started answering your college football questions as a weekly Twitter mailbag back in 2013 when I wrote for the Tulsa World.

Now I answer each question not only here, but also on an entire segment on my Friday “Locked On Sooners” podcast. My show is part of the Locked On Podcast Network, with podcasts devoted to every NFL team, every NBA team, every MLB team, and a lot of college teams. We’ve also started podcasting NHL. There’s also fantasy podcasts, league podcasts — but let’s stay on topic here: download the “Locked On Sooners” podcast first. I upload a new episode every weekday and the numbers are growing daily.

(I added a new feature this week: “Thursdays with Blinkin Riley.” It’s a blast.)

This is in addition to The Franchise “Inside OU” podcast with me, Rufus Alexander and Brady Trantham. We upload new episodes before games, after games and during the week, and each episode is a little bit longer and more in-depth. You can find that here on The Franchise website, and you can download them both wherever you normally get your podcasts.

No. 5-ranked Oklahoma (7-0) stoned West Virginia last week at home and this week takes on a 4-2 and very stout Kansas State team and new coach Chris Klieman. The Sooners are favored by 23 ½ points.

Oklahoma State needs to do something good. They’re a 10 ½-point underdog at Iowa State on Saturday, so maybe that’s the ticket. As long as they’re not favored, OSU seems to perform better.

Tulsa is flailing after a third straight loss in AAC play, this time a tight road loss at Cincinnati. The Golden Hurricane was game, but came up short to fall to 2-5. TU hosts homecoming this week against (No. 26) Memphis. Uh oh.

Let’s get to the questions:

 

An insider told me what’s happened, but I’ve been asked to not say exactly what it is that’s keeping the football out of Trey Sermon’s hands. It’s not an injury, and it definitely will work itself out — my guess would be sooner than later.

Expect Sermon to get a lot of carries this week at Kansas State.

 

I like your way of thinking. I’ve heard that once before, about a month ago.

It’s a good reference, with Tee Martin being the quarterback who replaced the legendary Peyton Manning at Tennessee. After Manning couldn’t win a national championship 1994-97, it was Martin who brought the Vols to the promised land in 1998.

It’s a good comparison, although the guys before Jalen Hurts won Heismans, while Manning was, in my estimation, stiffed by Heisman voters who just wanted the uniqueness of a defensive guy winning it. (I voted for Peyton that year.)

 

Yeah, Jalen talked about it the Monday after the Texas game when he came to the press conference with a wrap on it, then talked about it again on Saturday after the WVU game (no wrap).

He got it hit, he said, by the Longhorns defense, though clearly not badly enough to limit his passing.

 

Not a question. But I like the way you think.

Seriously, thanks.

 

The Sooner Schooner is not a new vehicle.

My take: the center of gravity was too high, the wheelbase was too narrow, and once it hit that wet grass, too much friction grabbed the wheels mid-turn and the ponies just did what they did. That particular turn radius might have been no problem on a dry day, but all the factors came together to flip it, and once it hit the ground, torque from the ground impact simply sheared the two pieces apart.

Anyway, Lincoln Riley has put that thing through some serious stress tests over the last four-plus seasons.

 

Guys, there is NEVER a good time to run past a woman who has fallen down. NEVER EVER.

 

No, I’d agree with all the Heisman straw polls out there that it’s definitely a three-man race: Hurts, LSU’s Joe Burrow and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, although Tua’s ankle injury probably takes him down a peg. And we can’t count out Ohio State’s Justin Fields. Those are your four frontrunners for the 2019 Heisman.

Burrow would seem to be a bit ahead right now because the Tigers have a couple of very impressive wins.

Here’s the bottom line: Both OU and LSU (and Bama and Ohio State) still have their biggest stretch of huge games coming up. The winner will be whoever survives November with the fewest losses/mistakes and most wins/Heisman moments.

 

Good fix.

I sort of answer this at the top. Let’s just say that’s a possibility.

 

I’m with you. He certainly looks like the future. And if he is, he needs to hit the four-game redshirt threshold, if not more.

Maybe Lincoln Riley likes what he’s doing for the defense so much that he’s decided to keep Rattler down on the scout team for the season, and maybe Rattler’s being on the scout team so much precludes him from getting a lot of reps with the 1s and 2s.

It’s possible he’s seeing more live rounds, so to speak, from the OU defense than he would get against Kansas and West Virginia and those guys.

 

Jalen Hurts played one play in the fourth quarter. And ironically enough, he actually was under center. He fumbled the snap, tried to pick it up and run and got taken down for an 11-yard loss. OU kicked a field goal on the next play.

 

I love when readers and I think alike.

I don’t know. This may be one of those things that has just fallen through the cracks with many teams. I’m seeing it more and more in both college and the NFL, so it can’t be just one special teams staff ignoring the obvious.

I don’t know the math, but I’d suggest the analytics of retreating inside your own 10-yard line would say don’t do it.

I’ll see if I can find a spot to ask about it.

 

Unfortunately for the Big 12, this is a serious question that lingers.

I think three factors played into the Longhorns’ crazy 50-48 survival over lowly Kansas — well beyond whether Texas is “back” or just good enough to beat the rest of the Big 12 like it’s supposed to simply because it’s Texas.

  1. Les Miles. He’s a hell of a coach.
  2. Injuries have piled up for the Longhorns to unprecedented levels.
  3. Combine those two factors with Texas thinking it had the week off after an emotional loss to Oklahoma the week before, and the game got really interesting.

 

As referenced above, those are three of the four.

The duration of Tua’s absence after ankle surgery could have a massive effect on the Heisman picture. If it really is just one game and he comes back and plays great, no worries. If it’s two games or longer, it could swing him right out of the race. And if the Crimson Tide loses to LSU without him and then he comes back strong and let’s say they win out, maybe even win the SEC West again because of him, then it solidifies his standing as “most outstanding” and he might be your 2019 winner.

 

Absolutely. That’s something that the players and coaches have long stressed over, and the fact that it’s not happening is starting to really trouble them.

Could it become a mental block, where they actually start missing tackles because they’re stripping at the football, desperate for a turnover? Or they leave their man to go catch an interception and it goes through their hands and the receiver is left wide open?

Stef Djordjevic learned the hard way: play the ball, not the man.

(Tell me you’ve watched “All the Right Moves” with Tom Cruise and Craig T. Nelson. And Lea Thompson.)

 

This is not a college football question, but I’ll entertain it if you’ll entertain my answer:

The NBA is populated with hypocrites who worship the Almighty Dollar. Which is fine. Society today, on and on.

But I really draw the line with LeBron James telling Rockets GM Daryl Morey to essentially stand down. Morey and every other American citizen doesn’t answer to LeBron, and their right to comment on political strife around the globe should not be abrogated — even if the offending nation fills their pockets with gold.

I’m assuming I’ll not watch the NBA much from here on.

 

K-State ran for 146 yards at Mississippi State, 126 at Oklahoma State, 123 against Baylor and 94 against TCU.

OU gave up 241 to Houston, 192 to Texas Tech and 100 to Kansas (the latter total was aided by nine QB sacks).

The way Oklahoma’s defense is playing at the moment, I’d venture a fair target for K-State’s rushing yards this week at 140 yards.

Under that and the Sooners more than likely win. Any more than 150ish and they might find themselves in a fist fight.

 

Hey. I resent that. A lot.

I mean, Stoops started at OU in 1999. I’ve been asking dumb questions a lot longer than that.

 

Love it.

Asking dumb questions is kind of an art form, I guess, enhanced by decades of experience.

I was at the Tulsa World from 1992-2016. I worked at daily newspapers in Ada, Okmulgee, Waynesville, Mo., and Tahlequah before joining the World staff as a copy editor.

 

This is a great theory. Sermon is quite the finisher, and in the last four games of 2018, with a 1,000-yard season in his sights, he only ran for 101 yards on 33 carries. As physical as he is as a runner, maybe he finally just wore down.

But no, that’s not the reason. (See above.)

 

This is about my story on the Sooners’ 2020 schedule.

No, Tennessee is supposed to be good — or, at least, not terrible. And a road trip to Army, where Spencer Rattler might legitimately get six or seven possessions, shouldn’t be considered easy.

Now, that opener against Missouri State, absolutely, that’s a real effort, in my estimation, to ease the new quarterback into his surroundings, whether it’s Rattler or Tanner Mordecai. And frankly, that’s a good strategy. You don’t want your new QB to be under stress in his first career start.

 

This started year before last, or maybe in 2016 in another conference (SEC?). I’d never seen it before 2017.

It’s part of the TV crew. It’s a countdown for the commercial break. Really smart, if you ask me (which you did), because both the officiating crew and the coaching staffs know exactly how much time is left in timeouts. It reminds me of the basketball state tournaments at State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City. During timeouts, the clock winds down how much time is left in the timeout.

A football field is a big place. It takes time to get where you’re supposed to be. So having the breaks measured down to the second and letting everyone know about it is pretty wise.

 

Agreed on Bama and Clemson. It’s still not even November yet, but this does seem like a year that those two can be had.

I’ve said it on both of my podcasts: the way this Oklahoma team is playing defense, they finally have a legitimate chance to win a national championship. Imagine this defense paired with Baker Mayfield’s 2017 offense, or Kyler Murray’s 2018 offense.

Not that there’s any real problems with this offense, other than a young and unproven offensive line and a quarterback that is still learning his coach’s system; those other guys had multiple years under Lincoln Riley.

No, I’ll say it until I see otherwise: this OU team can win it all. I can’t say for sure I ever felt that about the last two Sooner squads.

 

If you mean 12-0, absolutely.

If you mean 15-0, well, maybe.

 

There’s no question we’re seeing less pressure, specifically from the left edge, get to Hurts. Early in the season, he was wont to feel that pressure and take off, and when he takes off, it was almost always a run.

Lately, as the offensive line has begun to gel (two straight weeks with the same starting five for the first time all season), and as Hurts has gained more confident as a thrower and has grasped more and more of Lincoln Riley’s playbook, you’re seeing him stay in the pocket a little longer, and you’re seeing him stay on his read progression a little longer. You’re also seeing him spread the football around (13 guys caught passes against KU, 10 against West Virginia) and you’re also seeing him feed a hot hand (10 catches by CeeDee Lamb against Texas).

He still has a lot of work to do, Riley has said multiple times, but Hurts is evolving as a passer right before our eyes.

 

I don’t think TCU is that good. Not after they lost the game in the fourth quarter at Kansas State last week. They have a freshman that’s limited by his experience but has thrown 124 straight passes without an interception. They have a big-play receiver, but they’re struggling to get him the football. And they have a big-time running back, but he can only do so much.

I think the TCU-Texas point spread (Texas by a point) is more a recognition that Texas is struggling right now with a multitude of injuries. It’s an epidemic in Austin.

 

When in the last decade or so has Arkansas not made a dumb coaching hire?

 

Yep, that’s what I said above. Too top-heavy, too narrow.

Here’s hoping the future of the Sooner Schooner is not also laying in splinters on Owen Field. It’s a wonderful tradition.

 

There’s never been a coach win two. The second one blew my mind. A third would probably bring the NCAA’s crack investigation team, or maybe the Canadian Mounted Police.

 

The Big 12’s television landscape has changed. OU on TV at 11 a.m. is the new norm.

Being on in prime time in the Big 12 is no longer an enviable time slot. In a world where cord-cutters have trimmed viewership everywhere, a national audience is the prize everyone wants.

The most visible place for a Big 12 team now, with Fox’s new pregame show and emphasis on the “Big Noon Kickoff,” is 11 a.m. Central.

And it’s not just Fox. OU has been on ABC/ESPN twice in this stretch of five straight rooster kicks.

With OU being the Big 12’s most consistently successful property, and a national brand, the Sooners get yolked with carrying the league’s national banner.

That’s the price of being at the top.

______

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, and the Locked oN Sooners podcast on the Locked oN Podcast Network. 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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