Archive for the ‘Oklahoma Sooners’ Category

Sooners’ Title Hopes Gone Without Gresham

September 8, 2009

Even the most optimistic Oklahoma fans should start coming to grips with the reality that if the opening loss to BYU didn’t kill the Sooners’ hopes for a national championship, today’s news that superstar senior tight end Jermaine Gresham won’t play a down this season did.

OU’s lack of credible receiving threats became painfully obvious during the BYU game, as the Sooner wideouts struggled to get open, as well as to hold on to the ball when they did. Gresham, an ultra-talented wide receiver in a tight end’s body, would have injected a needed dose of explosiveness into the offense and provided a go-to target in crucial situations.
Gresham is just one player, but it’s not an overreaction to say he was vital to the OU passing game. His loss alone is going to cost Oklahoma at least one more game before the season ends.
(And that’s all before factoring in that the Sooners’ Heisman-winning quarterback will be sidelined for two or three more games.)
Not to be a downer, but there is no silver lining to this cloud. Youngsters will see more playing time, but that offers little solace for a team and fan base ready to win now.
Of course, the season is just a game old. Bob Stoops’ teams typically improve as the regular season goes on, and the OU coach and his staff have excelled in the past when forced to adjust on the fly. Don’t forget this is the same coach who won a Big 12 championship in 2006 after kicking his blue-chip quarterback off the team the day before the season started and losing one of the most dynamic running backs in college football history halfway through the year.
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OU in Review: No Sam! So What?

September 7, 2009

Sam Bradford’s shoulder injury is dominating the fallout surrounding BYU’s shocking upset of Oklahoma, which is to be expected when the reigning Heisman winner goes down in such catastrophic fashion. That’s a big story, but as far as the game itself goes, it’s the wrong one.

Bradford plays in the second half of the game, and OU probably wins. So what.

Bradford’s absence wasn’t the difference on Saturday night. The Sooners came up short thanks to their own sloppy play. Penalties, dropped passes, poor ball protection–name a way to hand a game to a decent opponent, and OU managed to do it.

(And let’s make no mistake: BYU is a decent team, but it’s way too early to proclaim the Cougars to be an upper-echelon squad.)

For a group of young receivers, most of whom were seeing their first significant action, a collective case of the dropsies is understandable. The fumbles and prolific penalties are a different story.

No one could reasonably expect the Sooners to replicate the outstanding ball protection of the 2008 team, which only lost two fumbles all season. However, the carelessness with which veterans Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray gave the ball away to kill promising drives was disappointing. Even though the fumble was recovered, backup quarterback Landry Jones muffing a snap on third and short in the fourth quarter was tough to stomach, too.

The most disconcerting aspect of OU’s performance against BYU had to be the never-ending string of penalties called against the offensive line. While the game statistics show a relatively even split between the two teams for the game (BYU: 10-87; OU: 12-93), the OU o-line seemed to pick the most inopportune times to draw a flag. The three false starts on the opening series really stood out, as did the false start on OU’s final drive that turned third-and-nine from the BYU 32 into third-and-14 from the Cougars’ 37. A somewhat manageable field goal opportunity was transformed into a hope and a prayer.

The Sooner defense didn’t escape this game blameless, either. Missed tackles and what appeared to be busted assignments sparked BYU’s biggest plays in the game.

In the end, all those miscues boil down to discipline and composure. They’re the kind of mental aspects of the game that OU coach Bob Stoops harps on frequently in public. It may be a cliché, but the line between winning and losing in football is razor-thin, and a major reason why great teams always seem to stay on the right side of it is disciplined execution.

It’s still early, and in the court of public opinion, Bradford’s injury certainly took a little heat off the team’s overall poor performance. But even with a healthy Bradford, the Sooners looked nothing like a “great” team last weekend. Just “good” even sounds like a stretch.

Guest Column: Return of the Wang

September 2, 2009

by Buffalo Wild Wang, M.D.

Head of Urology
Blatant Homerism

(Editor’s Note: It has been a long, hot offseason. If you thirst for Big 12 picks, come sip from the Wang. That’s right, Buffalo’s best urologist, Buffalo Wild Wang, returns this season to satisfy your cravings for Big 12 picks, albeit in an abbreviated format.)

The Wang would like to take the chance to thank Homerism for the chance to come back this year and enlighten you with my weekly Big 12 picks. As the Buffalo urological world becomes busier and busier for yours truly, my precious free time is dwindling away. Sorry, Wang lovers, but I only have time to pry myself away from my craft long enough to offer my insight into the OU game and one special Big 12 game each week. Duty calls.

BYU at Oklahoma (-22)
*Arlington, Texas

This game promises to be entertaining as these two potent offenses meet in the new Cowboy Stadium. Something tells me Jerry Jones won’t have to worry about too many punts ricocheting off the scoreboard this Saturday. Both teams will be lighting it up the old-fashioned way.

The Wang gave his thoughts on this game earlier this offseason. Not much has changed since then. Everyone points the finger at the OU offensive line as the potential weak spot on a stacked team, but it should be noted that BYU brings in four new o-linemen as well. Look for the Sooners to spend a good amount of time in the BYU backfield and Max Hall’s face. Sam Bradford has a great chance here to kickoff his repeat Heisman campaign against a top-25 team on national television, and I don’t see him disappointing. In the end, the Sooners are just too deep, athletic and strong for the Stormin’ Mormons. The Cougars will find the end zone some, but they won’t keep OU out.
The Pick: Dr. Wild Wang’s diagnosis is pain for the boys from Provo. OU rolls, 65-23.
Big 12 Game of the Week: Georgia at Oklahoma State (-6)

An early treat for college football fans, as these two teams from power conferences meet to kick the season off.

There has been plenty of talk about OSU being this year’s version of Texas Tech. I assume this means the “team du jour” picked to finish third in the Big 12 South? It is too farfetched to envision last year’s odd scenario playing itself out again this season. The Wang wouldn’t be completely shocked to see the Pokes take care of Texas in Stillwater, the Longhorns to win in Dallas, and the Sooners to triumph over OSU in Norman. But wouldn’t this mean another three-way tie in the South? Not if OSU finds a way to blow another game along the way, as seems to happen every year.
This week, however, Georgia rolls into Stillwater a new quarterback in tow, as Matt Stafford has escaped to greener pastures in Detroit. Oklahoma State promises to put plenty of points on the scoreboard this year with what is quite possibly the best offensive trio in the country. The Boone will be rockin’ for this out-of-conference showdown, which I expect to provide a big advantage for the Cowboys.
The Pick: Stick a feather in the Big 12’s cap. OSU takes down the Bulldogs, 38-17.

What is a ‘Playmaker?’

August 30, 2009

Homerism’s statement that OU “lacks an offensive playmaker” in my last post on the outlook for OU’s season stirred up some debate about OU’s personnel.

“Playmakers” are few and far between. Ninety-eight times out of 100, they’re undoubtedly the most dangerous guy on the field. Offensive coordinators fall all over themselves trying to get their playmakers the ball. Defensive coordinators stay up all night trying to figure out how to stop them. They can disarm you with their looks, or their hands, either way.
Think Reggie Bush, Rocket Ismail, Vince Young, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin.
OU has plenty of talent, but no one who is in that pantheon right now. At least not yet.

2009 Oklahoma Season Preview: Missing Sooner Magic

August 29, 2009

OK, so we’ve covered the 2009 edition of the Sooners from head to toe, and Homerism has given them a clean bill of health. Honestly, I can’t find a thing wrong with this team. So sign the papers, punch the ticket to Pasadena, right?

As much as Homerism wants to, for some reason I just can’t bring myself to certify the Sooners as a legitimate national championship contender. Why? I’m not entirely sure.

Maybe it has something to do with depth issues. Maybe it’s the lack of an offensive playmaker. Maybe it’s all the new faces on the o-line.

I suspect, though, that it’s Sooner Magic—or a lack thereof—that’s holding me back.

In the ‘90s, even OU fans like me who grew up watching Barry Switzer’s squads hang half-a-hundred on overmatched Big 8 opponents had forgotten what success felt like. After such a sustained run of excellence, watching the Sooners stumble their way through an entire decade of something somewhere in between futility and calamity was downright tragic.

When head coach Bob Stoops arrived on the scene in Norman in 1999, the fact he was able to get OU bowl eligible seemed miraculous; bringing home a national championship the next year actually was.

Stoops quickly earned a reputation as a brash riverboat gambler whose teams played loose and were just as willing as their coach to dare to be great. The Sooners took chances that always paid off.
Sooner Magic was back. OU football was fun again.
Of course, with all the excitement surrounding OU’s resurgence under Stoops, Oklahoma fans forgot the decidedly less fun part of success: expectations. Suddenly, after an era in which falling to teams like San Diego State and Northwestern had become all too commonplace, losses to some of the best teams in the country turned into disasters once again. Undefeated seasons and national championships were the new standards.
Gradually, that old Sooner Magic started to fade. OU kept on winning, but at some point it started to seem more like not losing. Were the Sooners playing tight? A 7-6 record in games decided by 10 points or less since 2006 is one way to answer that question.
As fans, we don’t really get to see all the behind-the-scenes moments—practices, sideline skull sessions, team meetings—that really tell us about the mood of a team. Occasionally players may pop off to the press, but for the most part, they’re as well-trained in coachspeak as coaches themselves. All we have to go on is what we see on game day. Watching the Sooners lately, it’s easy to wonder if they’re actually enjoying themselves.
And that starts at the top. From his demeanor on the sidelines to the exercise in antipathy known as a Bob Stoops press conference, OU’s head coach doesn’t look like he’s having any fun.

Stoops doesn’t get paid to make people laugh, and football teams need lofty goals if they want to succeed. But maintaining high standards while preventing expectations from weighing a team down is a key part of the job description for an elite college football coach. Pro athletes may be able to handle the psychology of the spotlight on their own, but 18-year-old kids take their cues from their coach.

Even though Florida beat OU in last season’s national championship game, those looked like two pretty evenly matched teams. The Gators pulled it out through sheer will and being that much more aggressive when it mattered. This season, Florida brings back plenty of firepower. Man for man, though, OU is equally strong. Yet, if the Sooners want to get back to the top of the college football mountain, they need to get the Magic back.
Here’s hoping Stoops brings back some of his old tricks.
Prediction: 13-1, Big 12 champs, Fiesta Bowl win

Guest Column: MoMo Won’t Back Down

August 28, 2009

by MoMo

Style and Culture Writer
Blatant Homerism

(Editor’s note: Representing West Texas’ upper crust, MoMo is back to show Homerism’s readers how the other half lives. After an offseason spent wading through aisles of bourgeois bargain shoppers hoping to take a holiday on Saks Fifth Avenue’s misery, MoMo has plenty of unsolicited advice for the great unwashed.)

The 2010 college football season is almost underway. Many coaches and players are spewing their big game talk to the media in anticipation of a successful season. I love the hype that surrounds these idiots who take their teams out on a limb with overreaching statements and guarantees. They’re living by my personal credo: Never Back Down.

(For those of you who have been living in a cave the last two years, Never Back Down is a movie about a high school football player forced to move from Iowa to Orlando, a land-locked city where kids take surfboards to school. Our fish-out-of-water becomes embroiled in the Orlando “party-fighting” scene and must take down a gang of super-rich dudes who wear all black and play karate.)

No coach does NBD better than first-year Tennessee head man Lane Kiffin. Have you ever seen Kiffin back down? No, he has the stones to say what we’re all thinking. We all hate Tim Tebow, and we all think Urban Meyer has a ridiculous name. NBD is saying it before you’ve even collected your first win as a college head coach.

Here’s some MoMo inside info for you: Know who taught Lane Kiffin to NBD? Pete Carroll? His father Monte? Nope… The Nature Boy Ric Flair. There is no better NBD instructor than The Nature Boy. At 55 years young, Flair is still teaching young pups that, “You gotta walk down that aisle, and to be the best, you gotta beat the best… WOOOOO!”

Back in the day, Monte, Lane and I took my hand-me-down Gulfstream to New York to watch Hulk Hogan and The Nature Boy battle it out in Wrestlemania at Madison Square Garden. The Hulkster had Flair against the ropes, calling for the big boot to the face. Blinded by pain, Flair somehow managed to reverse the hold and maneuver into the figure-four leg lock, regaining the title!

We met up at Flair’s private table at The Limelight afterwards. Even though I was only eight or nine at the time, I’ll never forget watching Flair look little Lane in the eyes and say, “That’s what it takes to be the best. Now go out there and become the head coach of Tennessee and see how many recruiting violations you can commit! Oh, and one more thing, Never back down! WOOOOO!”

With the spread offense taking the conference by storm, the national media is down on Big 12 defenses. Yet, the Oklahoma Sooners defense really knows NBD.

I caught up with OU head coach Bob Stoops at Fashion Week in Milan earlier this year, and I asked him where his team learned to get NBD. The legendary coach offered up four simple words, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.

“Do you think Turbo and Ozone were intimidated when Kelly’s dad tried to shut down the rec center, just because he wanted her to go to Princeton and give up her dreams of dancing in Paris?,” Stoops asked me, his voice reaching a fever pitch. “Hell no! They had a dance-off that literally shut down a bulldozer!”

Hey, BYU, NBDers Gerald McCoy and Auston English are polishing up their dancing shoes, getting ready to tap dance on some Mormons in Dallas. Y’all ain’t ready! Y’all ain’t ready!

Last up is TV titan Lee Corso, who really knows how to Never Back Down. Year in and year out, he plays the fool for College Football GameDay, and he’s totally fine with being the heel every week. For most regular GameDay viewers, Corso’s only redeeming quality is that he could be Mel Brooks’ identical twin.

Listen up, kids. If you’re looking for a role model, Corso does an exceptional job of Never Backing Down. No matter how many times he gets fired as a coach, no matter how many times he comes off like a douche on national television, no matter how many times he fails to realize the joke is on him, he gets right back up and gets ready to do it all over again. Well, actually it’s pretty sad. Corso is almost the real-life version of Michael Scott.

With the mouths of college football players, coaches and even TV personalities writing checks that their butts can’t hope to cash, I’m ready for the season to get started. I hope they all remember to Never Back Down.

How to Beat OU

August 27, 2009

I have a new post on how to beat OU up on Phil Steele’s site.

National Communists Against Athletes (No, Really)

August 25, 2009

If we are to believe Mike Balogun, Stalin, McCarthy and the Spanish Inquisition have nothing on the NCAA.

By way of background for the uninitiated, Balogun is in the process of suing the NCAA for unexpectedly revoking his eligibility a few weeks back related to issues arising from his participation in a semi-pro football league. At issue in the case has been whether or not Balogun played in the league after his 21st birthday. If so, the 25-year-old linebacker would be ineligible this season.

Admittedly, Homerism is no legal scholar. However, something about the Association’s version of “due process” as depicted in Balogun’s petition to the Cleveland County District Court seems a little off to me. The timeline of the case:

-May 2008: NCAA reviews Balogun’s involvement with the North American Football League and clears him to play at Oklahoma as a junior.

-January 2009: Intrepid college football gumshoe Thom Brenneman reveals on national TV during the BCS title game broadcast that Balogun played semi-pro football. (Shows what spending five minutes with Tim Tebow can do for you.) Although this should come as a surprise to no one at NCAA headquarters, seeing as Balogun’s eligibility already has been certified, the amateurism authorities decide they want another bite at the apple.

-March 2009: With its balls firmly trapped in the Association’s vice grip thanks to Kelvin Sampson, Rhett Bomar and J.D. Quinn, the OU compliance department rounds up one of Balogun’s former assistant coaches, who states he thinks Balogun played after his 21st birthday. Meanwhile, OU also hands over affidavits from Balogun and his former team’s owner in which both contradict the coach’s recollection. Plus, the league’s ex-commissioner tells OU compliance that records show Balogun didn’t play in the league during the time in question and that the information being presented against Balogun–internet box scores–is unreliable.

-July 2009: Balogun appears before NCAA investigators yet again to discuss his status.

-August 2009: Balogun is ruled ineligible.

(For proof of just how stupid this entire scenario is in the first place, note that the conference’s former commissioner says Balogun never received any remuneration for playing. In fact, Balogun himself had to pay a referee fee just to participate.)

Aside from the fact that Mike is apparently a common nickname for “Ademola,” I found this passage to be possibly the most interesting part of the brief:

“Despite being provided with (information contrary to the claim that Balogun played semi-pro football after the age of 21), Defendants [the NCAA] continued to furtively investigate Balogun’s amateur status and certification for several months without advising Balogun of the existence of the investigation and without advising him as to the witnesses interviewed or the materials gathered during the investigation. In addition, at no time during this investigation did Defendants advise Balogun that he had the right to have his interests represented during this investigation.”

OK, for purposes of this discussion, let’s set aside the bizarre standards of proof the NCAA appears to be using in Balogun’s case. Instead, let’s focus strictly on the Association’s process of adjudication, which looks like it would be best described as “railroading.” Stealing a page out of the Gestapo’s playbook, it appears as though justice NCAA-style means conducting ongoing covert investigations of college athletes, denying the accused access to the evidence against them and ignoring the principle of double (and even triple) jeopardy.

Today came word that the NCAA is working with Balogun’s lawyer to potentially achieve an out-of-court resolution. I hope it works out for Balogun’s sake, but you can’t help wondering if the Association would benefit from having its day in court.

Bad News out of Norman

August 21, 2009
What was once a position of major strength for the Sooners is growing increasingly thin.

Freshman sensation Tom Wort suffered a knee injury during a scrimmage tonight. Although details are scarce at the moment, coach Bob Stoops didn’t sound optimistic following practice.

In the short term, this is yet another blow to the middle linebacker spot for the Sooners. With Mike Balogun’s status with the NCAA looking dire, Wort was expected to provide depth behind likely starter Ryan Reynolds, who’s coming off his second major knee injury. Sophomore Austin Box filled in admirably at middle linebacker late in 2008, but he has had plenty of injury problems of his own throughout his time as a Sooner.
In the longer term, let’s hope this doesn’t hinder Wort’s development. The freshman early enrollee wasn’t being pushed into action out of necessity; the coaching staff had raved about Wort’s ability ever since he set foot on campus in the spring. He continued to wreak havoc all over the field in fall camp, looking like he would turn out to be just too good to keep on the sidelines this year.

The Burden of Proof, From Balogun to Bush

August 20, 2009

In the grand scheme of the 2009 college football season, Mike Balogun doesn’t mean much. The hardscrabble 25-year-old ex-construction worker is no Butkus Award winner, but he would have given Oklahoma some nice depth at middle linebacker. Maybe he could have boosted his stock with the pro scouts and won a spot somewhere in the back of the pro draft.

Instead of fighting for a starting spot on the Sooner defense, though, Balogun is now fighting an uphill battle against the most rigid of rigid bureaucracies, the NCAA.
Over what, exactly? Well, according to court filings submitted in his lawsuit against the Association, there’s a box score floating around the Internet that says Balogun played in a semi-pro football game. There’s also the recollection of a former assistant coach that Balogun suited up for the Maryland Marauders of the North American Football League after his 21st birthday.
That’s it.

That was enough evidence to lead the powers that be to rule Balogun ineligible for the season. Nevermind that Balogun says he didn’t do it. Nevermind that the team’s former owner says Balogun didn’t do it. Nevermind that the league’s former commissioner says Balogun didn’t do it, the box score being presented against Balogun is unreliable and the league records don’t show Balogun playing. Nevermind that we’re talking about a fly-by-night semi-pro where it looks like the game is just a warm-up for the beers afterwards. Nevermind that the NCAA already cleared Balogun before he suited up for OU last year.

In the grand scheme of USC’s return to glory earlier this decade, Reggie Bush meant a lot. The decade’s most dynamic player helped propel the Trojans to conference and national titles, winning a Heisman Trophy by the largest margin in history along the way. When he was done dazzling college fans, he took his act to the pros, where he signed a lucrative contract as a high draft pick.

Since then, of course, accusations have surfaced that Bush and his family accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit benefits during his three years in Troy. The people who have come forward against Bush claim to have all kinds of documentation backing up their stories. Bush himself hasn’t exactly done much to defend himself against the allegations, reaching an out-of-court settlement with one of his accusers who was suing the now New Orleans Saints running back.

Yet, the NCAA has been investigating the USC athletic department for going on four years now, supposedly tying even more scandalous allegations against the men’s basketball program into the Bush investigation. So far, nothing.

If the case against Balogun is supposed to be strong, the case against Bush looks airtight. To be fair, we have no idea what kind of case has been presented in USC’s defense. (Assuming a case has been presented at all.) However, that doesn’t make the difference in apparent standards of proof any less glaring.

Of course, there are some important differences in the two cases—chiefly that Balogun met with the NCAA in-person to explain his situation, while Bush has blown the Association off. There’s also the matter of OU willingly handing over the goods that put the nail in Balogun’s coffin, while USC appears to be doing its part to vigorously observe the NCAA doing its digging.

Oh, and one other difference: Balogun is a backup linebacker who few outside of Oklahoma will miss, while USC is one of college football’s golden geese.