Time again for Ask Hoover, our weekly Friday Twitter mailbag where I answer your college football questions.
The 115th edition of the OU-Texas rivalry is finally upon us, and it should be a magnificent game. The Sooners are favored by 10 ½, but that means little. OU was a big favorite in each of the last six meetings, and it’s been a one-score game each time.
This is my 16th straight OU-Texas game, and I can’t believe how lucky I am to get to do this for a living.
Tulsa has a big game at home against Navy on Saturday. The Golden Hurricane coughed up a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter last week at rival SMU, but somehow is a 1-point favorite against the Midshipmen.
OSU has the weekend off.
Let’s get to the questions.
I was at a softball tournament in Chickasha but did OU go straight vanilla for this game?
— Ryan Hamilton (@hambone0007) October 6, 2019
Pretty much. Except for the reverse pass, followed three plays later by the reverse.
Seriously, yes, the game plan was fairly plain, both on offense and defense. Defensively, a KU dropped pass and an overthrow — both on fourth down — ended well for Oklahoma or Alex Grinch might have been a little edgier this week.
As for the offense, Lincoln Riley said repeatedly that he didn’t have a good game and put his players in bad position.
The Sooners seemed to regress this game rather than improve. Was it because they focused on Texas last week?
— MissJaneJetson (@MissJaneJetson) October 6, 2019
They all said no, Texas had nothing to do with the lack of focus at Kansas. But don’t buy it.
Now, I’m not suggesting the Sooners spent practice time and film session on Texas last week. They may have. Probably did, actually. When it comes to film study, players are welcome to watch whatever they want on their free time. But in regards to the actual NCAA-mandated 20-hour limit, no, I don’t think there were practice sessions directed toward Texas.
What I am suggesting is that players’ minds were not on the Jayhawks during the week of prep. They were instead thinking about Texas. Sorry, but it’s human nature.
My biggest concern is the OL. Can this OL hold up vs the Texas DL?
— Bobby McKay (@Sooners1866) October 6, 2019
That’s the 64-dollar question. I was in Austin when this Texas front seven mauled Oklahoma State over and over in short-yardage situations, and it was not pretty. Texas has dudes up front, dudes like Malcolm Roach, Jacoby Jones, Ta’Quon Graham and Deondre Coburn. Oklahoma has had five different lineups to start each game, and Lincoln Riley said Monday that both starting tackles, LT Erik Swenson and RT Adrian Ealy, are “highly questionable” for this game, though there have been rumors that Ealy could be ready to play by Saturday.
The Sooners have still been pretty good: they average 644 yards per game, 53.4 points per game and 9.9 yards per play. But if it comes down to a shoving match in the trenches, Texas might have an advantage.
@johnehoover hey John – if you can, please ask Jalen Hurts does he realize how major the OU/TX game is. He’s obviously been thru Auburn/Bama games, but this rivalry game is every bit as personal.
— Jason (@jason_lacy) October 7, 2019
I asked him that very question last Saturday in Lawrence. He said he’ll be fine, he played in the Iron Bowl.
I think he’s right, but I also think that’s a little presumptuous. Not all rivalries are created equal. Alabama-Auburn is no doubt intense, but one of those years the Tigers were not good and it was a blowout, and another one Hurts was the backup.
This is a different animal. The last five games have been decided by a touchdown or less, regardless of the records.
That said, I do think Hurts won’t be intimidated by the moment.
Man, Baker is really struggling tonight.@johnehoover why do so many players seem to have that “sophomore slump”?
— Brett Crawford (@BrettCrawford86) October 8, 2019
Here’s my guess:
I think a lot of rookies who endure a sophomore slump find out quickly that they’re actually good at professional football and they lose that edge and get humbled in their second year. I remember asking Baker the morning after he won the Heisman how he would keep that chip on his shoulder when he was now officially the most outstanding player in college football. He said it would be easy.
In Baker’s case, he’s a likeable, extremely marketable personality, and everybody who has a product to sell wants a piece of him. He did a lot of offseason work on his image: commercials, interviews, fashion, etc. In every other offseason of his football life, Mayfield worked on his craft: weights, fitness, technique, film study, etc.
There are plenty of other factors at play. For one, the Browns did nothing to improve their offensive line. They’re finding out that having a stable of playmakers is worthless without talented blockers up front.
Another factor in play here is that the NFL is populated with a lot of absolutely brilliant football minds. The defensive coordinator study and study and study other players’ tendencies, and when they identify a potential weakness, they exploit it — and they disguise numerous ways to do so. So Baker’s seeing complex defensive schemes this year that he didn’t last year.
— Kurt Warner (@kurt13warner) October 8, 2019
This isn’t a question so much I just want to show everyone that Kurt Warner, my favorite QB of all time, replied to my Twitter comment. As a lifelong Rams fan, I’m just so proud. Should’ve never let him go to Arizona.
Is this a good time to remind people that Tebow was 8-6 as a starter with a playoff win?
— Shane Falco (@Soonermagic16) October 8, 2019
Who wins a high speed collision in the open between Hurts or a Texas safety?
— Dsooner🇺🇸 (@dane_kauk) October 9, 2019
I answered this question on Friday’s Locked On Sooners podcast.
This is in response to Texas safety B.J. Foster, who’s listed as the backup nickelback, telling Texas media this week that Jalen Hurts should slide this week, or it might be bad for him.
First of all, bad form, bro.
Second, if you’re a backup anything, you should probably check yourself before threatening a Heisman frontrunner. Sure, that’s all Jalen Hurts needs in his life is more fuel. He’s liable to embarrass you on principle alone.
And third, while both guys are 6-foot-2 and Hurts only outweighs Foster by nine points (219 to 210), I saw the video of Hurts squatting 570 pounds. Probably best to steer clear of that collision.
When texas government decides to allow players to be paid for various things, do you think Charmin toilet paper or Serta will be the first to approach a player for an endorsement? Or do you think they will go straight to Herman himself?
— CatfishRob (@vikingpole) October 9, 2019
Love the trash talk.
First time going.. any cant miss things i need to know or try?
— Devin Robinson (@Drobinson1990) October 9, 2019
Oh my. Another chance to be a travel writer.
My go-to: Fletcher’s corny dogs. They’re the real deal. (Nobody takes cash; be sure and get the ticket coupons.)
Definitely go take a selfie with Big Tex. He’s a couple hundred feet northwest of the stadium. Just look for the crowd.
As long as you’re at the stadium, try to get a pic of the neon green Cotton Bowl logo on the west side. It’s iconic.
The “best” food is inside at the food court, but there’s fried everything, so it just depends on your preference.
Check BigTex.com for this year’s exotic food list and newest attractions.
Is Texas a good enough opponent to get OU into the top 4?
At this point, I’m not sure a victory in Dallas means the Sooners move up that much, which might mean trouble for the final 4 rankings.
— Brett Crawford (@BrettCrawford86) October 9, 2019
I can’t tell if you’re being serious. A 13-0 Oklahoma team gets in no matter what. A 12-1 OU team gets in if there aren’t three other unbeatens and a 12-1 SEC team.
In the SEC this year, Alabama plays LSU and Auburn. Georgia plays Florida and Auburn. Florida plays Auburn, LSU and Georgia. LSU plays Florida, Auburn and Alabama. Auburn plays Florida, LSU, Georgia and Alabama. Then there’s the SEC title game. The SEC will work itself out.
What’s your Texas Fair food go-to? What would you most like to try?
— Jason Elmquist (@jelmquistSW) October 9, 2019
See above: Fletcher’s corny dogs. Also, chocolate dipped frozen cheesecake, fried cheesecake bites, or a piece of half-eaten cheesecake I find in the parking lot. I’m a sucker for cheesecake.
No. 1 on my list this year is Fernie’s Fried Burnt End Burrito. Good lord.
Also got my eye on some Deep Fried Nutella Custard Stuffed French Toast.
In your opinion, what will be both teams biggest challenge in attaining victory in the Red River Rivalry?
— Tom Whillock (@TomWhillock) October 9, 2019
Aside from turnovers or injuries, the biggest key to this game will be which team wins third down.
Texas’ offense ranks second nationally in third down conversions (56.5 percent), while OU’s defense ranks fifth in the country in third down stops (75.4 percent).
On the other side of the ball, OU’s offense ranks fifth in the nation in third-down conversions (55.6 percent) while Texas’ defense ranks 89th in third down stops (59.7 percent).
Whichever team can keep its offense on the field — and produce points off those extra chances — wins the game.
What does TU have to do to get fans in the stands? They’ve shown in the past they can have 10 win seasons with exciting offenses and still only average 20k. What will it take to make TU Tulsa’s team?
— Chet Lickering (@ChetLickering) October 9, 2019
Chet, if I knew that, I’d be the TU athletic director.
There really is no answer. Only suggestions.
I saw TU host (and win) the Conference USA championship game against a really good UCF team on a sunny day with neither Oklahoma or Oklahoma State playing at the time, and only 17,000 showed up.
I’m starting to think Tulsa literally needs 15-20 years of conference championship contenders and 10-win seasons and bowl teams so it can cultivate an entire generation of fans who know nothing but success. Then, and only then, will the crowds be consistently good.
The Golden Hurricane will always a stepbrother, at best, to OU and OSU. Winning games will at least earn that stepbrother some respect from the locals.
— Jake Godwin (@AmateurLegend) October 9, 2019
Listening to OU athletic director Joe Castiglione and interviewing Texas AD Chris Del Conte recently, I wouldn’t reserve a seat in Jerry World just yet. They both seem intent on keeping it right where it is.
“For (the Big 12 Championship game), AT&T Stadium is absolutely fabulous. One would have to really think through that. It’s obviously one of the best venues in the world,” Castiglione told the OU Daily last week. “But you’re talking about almost over 100 years of tradition. I know in today’s world sometimes people dismiss tradition and act like this is just like any other kind of thing, but this game is massive. It’s like a bowl atmosphere in the middle of the season. It’s magical. I’m not exaggerating anything when I say this game is on a different level.”
“I love that place,” Del Conte told me last month. “I only went — first time last year. I’m all in on that place. It’s the best. You can’t mess with history. We’ve been playing out there since — you know, the last time OU was on Texas soil in Austin was 1922. The last time we were in Norman was 1923. We’ve been playing that game forever there. It should always stay there. You walk in the Texas State Fair, half that stadium — I think it’s fantastic. And we need it. College sports needs great rivalries. They need something that’s water cooler conversations that’re phenomenal. That game means so much (not only) to both teams, but the country.”
I know, the Almighty Dollar speaks louder than Tradition here. It may happen eventually.
But the game is contracted at the Cotton Bowl through 2025, and after more than a hundred million dollars put into the old girl from the City of Dallas and the State Fair of Texas in the past two decades, the stadium is able to handle it.
Texas players have been salty this week on Twitter. Smart or not?
— MissJaneJetson (@MissJaneJetson) October 10, 2019
Not smart. I mean, I try to avoid that and I don’t even play football any more.
(On another note, I’m so glad there was no social media when I was in high school. I would have been very, very bad at it, and probably would have gotten my butt kicked both on the football field and off because of it.)
Serious question though: as a Heisman voter do you feel or have you thought any about an OU hangover if Hurts is in the conversation at the end? I know you’re one of the best & will vote with integrity but at least subconsciously do you think this could be a thing amongst voters?
— Jordan Fischer (@JFisch_) October 10, 2019
I tried to answer this last week, and I’ll try to do better this week:
I do think a small portion of the 870 Heisman voters (and 54 living Heisman winners) will have their minds set that no school should have three consecutive winners, especially if there are other deserving candidates. That’s just human nature to want to see change and spread the wealth.
I also think there’s similarly a small faction of voters who would vote for Hurts just so they can say they witnessed and participated in Heisman history.
And I think there’s another small group of voters who believe Jalen Hurts transferring from blueblood Alabama to blueblood Oklahoma and becoming college football’s most outstanding player would just be too good a story to pass up.
Ultimately, though, the vast majority of voters will vote for the player they deem most outstanding, and if that’s Hurts, they’ll go with it. If it’s Tua or Joe Burrow or Justin Fields or Jonathan Taylor or Chuba Hubbard, they’ll go with that, too.
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.