Archive for the ‘Texas Longhorns’ Category

Why Can’t We Be Friends?

August 1, 2009

I hate Colt McCoy.

I hate his name. I hate watching him fire up the troops on the sidelines. I hate his touchdown celebrations. I hate having to listen to Brent Musburger drone on and on recounting the Lone Star State legend about the quarterback’s dad making sure he was born on Texas soil.

I mean, as an OU fan, I have to despise him, right?

It reminds me of a conversation I once had with a good friend of mine whose father is somewhat of a high-ranking lobbyist on a politically explosive issue. It would be an understatement to say my friend’s dad loathes a certain charismatic ex-president known for his political craftiness. But it’s not like people who disagree always despise each other, so I once asked my friend why his dad’s hatred burned so hot. “Sometimes we hate what we fear,” he responded with a laugh.

Isn’t that the truth.

Whether or not Slick W…–er, I mean, this former president–is a good guy or not is beside the point. He fell on the opposite side of an issue that was near and dear to this lobbyist’s heart, and he was extremely skilled when it came to getting his way. He could have been a saint away from the political playing field and it wouldn’t have meant bubkes.

If there’s any area that can match politics in terms of hateful histrionics, it’s sports. Imagine Sooner Nation’s surprise, then, when it was revealed this week during the Big 12 media extravaganza that OU Heisman winner Sam Bradford and McCoy are good buddies. How can the faces of two archrival programs even be civil to one another, let alone friends? It’s not dogs and cats living together, but it’s close.

Truth is, I’ve never heard a discouraging word spoken about McCoy. By all accounts he’s dedicated, polite and humble–the kind of guy who doesn’t hesitate to spend all day bailing hay to help out his grandpa. OK, so he’s not saving the world a circumcision at a time; that doesn’t mean being a good guy shouldn’t count for something.

Yet, it’s funny how the people in the stands have such a hard time differentiating between opponents as people and as competitors, while the players actually on the field seem to have no trouble at all. Maybe it’s just a matter of not knowing athletes outside of when we see them performing. Maybe it has something to do with the mutual respect born from the highest levels of competition. Whatever it may be, the only reason I can come up with to hate Colt McCoy is that he’s a damn good quarterback who has given OU all it can handle in three meetings at the Cotton Bowl. That makes me feel pretty small.

Chances are that he’ll put up just as good of a fight on October 17, win or lose. Hate that if you want, but that’s on you, not him.

2009 Danger Games: Texas at Missouri

July 4, 2009

Texas at Missouri (Oct. 24)
Look-Ahead Factor: Strong
Letdown Factor: Sky high
Kerouac Factor: Moderate
Motivation Factor: Pretty good

If we learned anything last year, it’s that Missouri is still the same Mizzou we’ve always known.
Coming off a 12-2 season and Cotton Bowl win in 2007, the Tigers entered 2008 as one of a handful of teams considered legitimate national championship contenders. They ended the year considered one of the nation’s biggest disappointments. Mizzou handled its business against the lesser opponents on the schedule, but Chase Daniel and Co. couldn’t handle the best of the bunch.
The Longhorns, for instance, rolled the Tigers, 56-31, in Austin. The game wasn’t even as close as the lopsided final score would suggest – Texas led 35-3 at the half.
Now, Gary Pinkel and his staff face the prospect of rebuilding one of the school’s best teams ever. Is it better or worse if that team really wasn’t that good? Not sure, but it doesn’t sound good for the 2009 squad either way. The Oct. 24 game in Columbia looks like a spot where the young Tigers could get one to build on.
This is a classic sandwich game for Texas: one week before, the Red River Shootout; one week after, a trip to Oklahoma State. With the Tigers likely to struggle early in the season, the Longhorns should be expecting a laugher. Win or lose against the Sooners, no chance Texas is focused for this matchup. Missouri will want payback for the ’08 beatdown, so look for the Tigers to be sharp.
There are plenty of good reasons to believe Mizzou has a shot at taking Texas down. However, none of them makes the Tiger roster anymore talented. It’s a tall order, but maybe Mizzou can catch the ‘Horns slipping. 

Setting the Record Straight (Part I)

July 2, 2009

If Homerism decided to devote his time to rebutting all of the worthless crap spouted by college football pundits and personalities, I might make it through a day’s worth of material before I die. So, normally, I try to find the important stuff in circulation and stick to that. After all, what’s that saying about arguing with fools?

Occasionally, though, I come across some piece of bloviation that irks me to the point that I just can’t let it go. Somehow I managed to find two in one day. I’ll address one now and another at some point in the next couple days.
Colin Cowherd’s Top Seven College Football Programs
While his blog post doesn’t rank the schools, he outlined his version of the pecking order on his show Tuesday:
1. USC
2. Florida
3. LSU
4. Texas
5. Oklahoma
6. Ohio St.
7. Virginia Tech
OK, as I’ve written before, I actually enjoy Herd’s show. I don’t always agree with his viewpoints, but I do appreciate his willingness to play the contrarian. He typically offers compelling, thoughtful takes, even when Homerism suspects Herd is pandering for ratings.

When it comes to his show’s wheelhouse, college football, Herd loves to take jabs at Oklahoma and Sooner head coach “SpongeBob Bowl Flop.” Given the passion of OU fans, it’s not a bad ploy if he wants to rattle some cages. On the other hand, if he really detests the OU program and Sooner fans as much as he claims, that’s fine with Homerism. It’s not Cowherd’s job to be objective. He also claims to love Texas and USC, two fan bases that don’t exactly have hospitable relationships with Sooner Nation, so it’s understandable that he’d be predisposed in such a way.
But, using his own criteria during his specified timeframe of the last 10 years–wins, “big wins,” conference titles and players sent to the NFL–the only way the ‘Horns should be ranked ahead of OU is if it’s a misprint. How do the two programs stack up? 
Conference Titles
Texas: 1.33
Oklahoma: 5.33
*Although OU is recognized as the 2008 Big 12 champion, I’ll count the title for that year as being split three ways between OU, Texas and Texas Tech. Hence, the “*” in this case.
NFL Draft Picks
Texas: 42
Oklahoma: 44
Texas: 106-23 (.821)
Oklahoma: 109-24 (.820)
“Big Wins”
Head-to-Head: OU, 6-4
Big 12 Championship Games: OU 6-1; Texas 1-2
Bowl Games: Texas 7-3 (3-0 in BCS); OU 4-6 (2-5 in BCS)
National Championships: OU 1; Texas 1
So… Let’s call overall wins and draft picks a draw, even though OU has a slight lead in both. When it comes to conference titles, it’s not even remotely close.
And that leaves big wins. Seeing as the two programs are sworn enemies and one of them has won the Big 12 South every year during this period, Homerism thinks a two-game advantage in head-to-head matchups is pretty important. If you count the conference championship as a big game, and I don’t see why you wouldn’t, that’s an enormous advantage in favor of the Sooners.
Then there’s the matter of bowl games. There’s no doubt that Texas has made the most of its bowl appearances in the last 10 years, especially in its three BCS games. Vince Young led the Longhorns to a national title in a game for the ages against a stellar USC team.
Meanwhile, to say OU has hit a cold streak lately would be an understatement. But, if BCS games are such a big deal, doesn’t the fact that OU is actually playing in them mean anything? Put the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl against Mississippi State, and I like their chances, too. While the Sooners were losing to Boise St. in the Fiesta Bowl, Texas was beating Iowa in the Alamo Bowl. If you think it’s better to bang the prostitute than strike out at the bar with an “8,” then I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree, Herd.

You’re Irreplaceable

May 20, 2009

Preseason prognosticating requires us to make our predictions under the ceteris paribus assumption. So, there’s nothing like a little–or really big–wrench in the works to throw things out of kilter. You know what I mean: injuries, suspensions, scandals, etc. 

For almost any contender, the loss of just one cog in the machine can dash national championship hope, even if it’s just for one quarter of one game. Since we can’t foresee a star quarterback being thrown off the team or a playmaking linebacker blowing out his ACL, how about a little risk management? Below are the most indispensable players in college football for 2009.

Just ask the Sooners how jarring the loss of one key player can be. When MLB Ryan Reynolds went down with a season-ending knee injury early in the second half of the 2008 Red River Shootout, the Texas offense took control of the game. OU spent the rest of the season trying to plug that hole, with varying degrees of success.
It seems obvious that a Heisman-winning quarterback would be a major loss for a title contender. Losing Bradford poses a particularly scary scenario for OU coach Bob Stoops, though. OU’s backup signal callers consist of redshirt freshman Landry Jones and early enrollee Drew Allen. Both may turn out to be players, but neither is ready to take the Sooners to the promised land. Without Bradford, OU is the third-best team in the Big 12 South.
Arkansas transfer Williams brought a flair for the big play to USC’s offense in 2008, emerging as the Trojans’ top receiver early in the season. He averaged 15 yards per catch and scored 9 touchdowns on the season, including a stellar Rose Bowl against Penn State’s highly regarded defense: 10 catches, 162 yards and a TD.
Aside from Williams, USC’s receiving corp is long on talent but much shorter on proven producers. Junior wideout Ronald Johnson came on strong last season, but he doesn’t appear to be the kind of go-to guy Williams is. Not to mention, a trusted security blanket like the rangy Williams should help bring along a green quarterback.
On a roster with loads of talent, Williams is as close to irreplaceable as you’ll find in Troy.
A pass rusher may seem like an odd choice for Texas’ most irreplaceable piece, seeing as QB Colt McCoy executes the Longhorn offense so well. McCoy has super stud … backing him up, though.
Kindle, meanwhile, is expected to replace the departed Brian Orakpo as UT’s terror off the edge. In a pass-heavy conference like the Big 12, the ability to pressure the quarterback is paramount to a defense’s success. Without Kindle, defensive coordinator Will Muschamp would be counting on a gaggle of unproven youngsters to bring the heat.
Thought I’d say Tim Tebow for Florida, right? He’s an outstanding football player. But what would happen if Tebow went down with an injury before the season? Well, there’s talented backup John Brantley waiting in the wings. There would be a drop-off.
But would it be the same as if Spikes went down. He’s like a quarterback for the Gator D, and he’s a tackling machine. Could Florida’s second-stringers fill in for Spikes with the same aplomb as Tebow’s understudy? I’m skeptical.

Texas’ Title Hopes

May 8, 2009

As broken down by Dr. Saturday.

On the Spot: Will Muschamp

May 7, 2009

When I first looked at the iPhone with all of its cool bells and whistles, I decided that I had to have one. It’s hip. It’s a conversation starter. And most importantly, you can’t help but feel like you’ll be better off once you have one. I mean, that one guy runs his entire company on his for crying out loud.

I’ve had my iPhone for a little more than six months now, and it seems like I like it. The different apps are pretty neat. I like the video and audio functions. The browser is great. Overall, I feel like I keep telling myself that I’ve reached some ineffable level of all-around “better” for having it.

The only problem is that I don’t really know if I can explain how it’s better than my old Blackberry, let alone if it actually is. Since I’ve had it, I haven’t really been able to achieve the level of excitement that I felt when I was about to buy it. Nor have I reached some nirvana-like state of mobile computing. In short, it’s cool, but it’s not the end-all-be-all that it seems. (And typing on it kinda sucks. And why didn’t anyone tell me there wasn’t a cut-and-paste option?)

Whether they want to admit it or not, defensive coordinator Will Muschamp is the no-longer-brand-new iPhone for Burnt Orange Nation.
Coach Blood arrived in Austin from Auburn last offseason oozing with promise. Given the Longhorns’ success with ex-Auburn defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, Texas fans had good reason to think Muschamp could shore up a defense that struggled mightily in 2007. In fact, Muschamp so ingratiated himself on the 40 Acres that the higher-ups decided to name him Mack Brown’s successor before the end of his first season at UT.
The Longhorns had an outstanding year in 2008–they beat Oklahoma, won a BCS bowl game and finished the season with a sparkling 12-1 record. So it’s not surprising that the Texas brass and fan base collectively feel better about the state of their program with Muschamp on board.
And it’s not like Texas’ defense didn’t show signs of improvement last year. For example, the Longhorn D gave up seven fewer points per game than they did in ’07. Sacks jumped dramatically, up from 28 in ’07 to 47 in ’08, evidence of the life the fiery coordinator injected into his unit.
On the other hand, Texas allowed slightly more yards per play last year than the year before–5.5 to 5.3. Turnovers generated were way down in 2008. Also, some of Texas’ tougher competition rolled up some big offensive numbers. Against OU, while the Longhorn defenders came up big when they needed to, the Sooners still strafed UT for 35 points and nearly 400 yards passing. Likewise, Texas Tech gained almost 600 yards in total offense en route to 39 points in a win over UT.
Where, exactly, is the dramatic improvement that warrants all the excitement around the young coach-in-waiting? Clearly, Muschamp looks and feels the part of the energetic young turk ready to lead the Longhorns. At the end of the upcoming season, we may have a better idea if really he is.

Think of Them as the Anti-AIG

April 7, 2009

Get your pitchforks ready, mighty Texas populists!

With America’s attention fixed upon a crisis abroad, Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds and president William Powers Jr. used the opportunity Monday to sneak through more than $40,000 in unearned bonuses to the football team’s assistant coaches. The performance measure the coaches supposedly met? Winning the Big 12 championship.
Head coach Mack Brown did not receive his bonus, but it’s unclear whether his assistant will follow their boss’ lead. Next week, Dodds and Powers are scheduled to meet to rubber stamp men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes’ bones for reaching the Sweet 16 in 2009. The Longhorn hoopsters lost to Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but Dodds said it was clear that Barnes was denied the opportunity to earn the bonus by some borderline officiating that went against his team in the last minute of the game.
*In other news out of Austin, Kirk Bohls is reporting that the ‘Horns have decided to remove their asterisk-ensconced claim to the 2008 Big 12 championship. Apparently, Brown was unaware of the placard and asked to have it removed. Seriously, though–who thought that was a good idea?

Draft Preview: Cleveland Browns

April 7, 2009
Pick 5: Cleveland Browns
Strengths: Offensive skill positions
Weaknesses: Pass rush, chemistry
The Pick: Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas

Like his counterpart in Seattle, new Browns coach Eric Mangini brings a defense-centric mindset to Cleveland. Outside of the fact that he’s grossly overrated as a head coach, that makes Man-genuis a great candidate to right the Browns’ ship. The Brownies finished 26th in total defense last season. If you’re looking for the main culprit in this collapse, consider that Cleveland finished next to last in the league with a putrid 17 sacks.

So, Homerism agrees with the conventional wisdom that this team desparately needs a pass rusher. A hybrid linebacker-defensive end would work well in Mangini’s 3-4 defensive scheme. However, if the Browns really want to get after the quarterback, they should go with a true defensive end.

Orakpo tormented opposing passers pretty consistently throughout his career in Austin. As a senior he took his game to another level, earning defensive player of the year in the Big 12. Granted, that was a bit like winning the tallest midget award in 2008, but Orakpo is legit. For instance, Orakpo thoroughly dominated Oklahoma tackle Phil Loadholt in the Red River Shootout, and the Texas defensive end’s absence in the loss to Texas Tech made it look like the Longhorns were trying to defend the Air Raid with a hand tied behind their backs.
Other defensive ends such as Aaron Maybin may appear to have a higher ceiling. Yet, none can boast Orakpo’s combination of talent and on-field production. He is the premier pass rusher in the draft this year.

You Don’t Need a Trophy to Call Yourself a Champion

April 6, 2009
Like all governing bodies in every level of competitive athletics, the Big 12 conference has protocols for determining its champion in football every year. They’re pretty clear, and there are no asterisks or co-champs or ties.
By all accounts, Oklahoma trounced Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium in December to win the league crown. All accounts save one, I guess.

Tim Griffin, the Big 12 blogger for who also writes for the San Antonio Express-News, shares that Texas has claimed an asterisk-emblazoned title of its own for 2008. (Here’s a picture from inside UT’s training facility if you need proof.)

OK, Mack Brown and Co. think they got jobbed out of a conference title. Homerism understands that, and it’s not like the Longhorns don’t have somewhat of a point. So, what’s the point of the asterisk? If that’s the statement you’re trying to make, what’s the point in going half way?

Contextualizing the Longhorns

March 30, 2009

Guru to the masses Malcolm Gladwell apparently has another soon-to-be bestseller hitting the shelves this summer, Context: History’s Kingmaker. Gladwell has written about Big 12 college football in the past, and his new book includes a chapter dedicated to the Colt McCoy era at Texas and exceeding expectations. Check out an excerpt at Burnt Orange Nation.