Andrew’s Weekend Takeaways: The U Is Back

The U Is Back

A one time football powerhouse, tossed into a pit of shambles and mediocrity throughout most of the 21st century. There have been moments of greatness, but never anything sustained. Every time the U looks good, everyone theorizes that they are back to their winning ways, just like in the 1980’s. I am doing that right now. The University of Miami is back. They dominated Louisville on Saturday 47-34. They only won by 13, but this game never felt close. The defense did give up 34 points, but they forced three turnovers, which has become their niche. The turnover chain is what the new U is about. They are flashy, and they fly to the football. They bring to life the term “pressure defense”. They have been doing this since 2017 though, so why are they back?

D’Eriq King that’s why.

King was 18/30 for 325 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. He was not very effective running the ball, just 8 carries for 9 yards, but the Hurricanes did not need his legs, just his arm on Saturday. I am also very impressed with offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. In their first game against UAB, Miami ran the ball very effectively and did not throw much, but ran King more frequently. He adjusted against Louisville and opened it up through the air. I predicted Miami was going to run a lot, but I was wrong as they had a very effective aerial attack, while mixing in a very solid ground game, getting 134 yards from Cam’Ron Harris. I do not know whether Miami can return to their former glory in the coming years, but I do know the U is a force to be reckoned with in 2020.

Oklahoma State Needs Spencer Sanders To Be Healthy

NCAA Football: Tulsa at Oklahoma State

The high powered, highly praised Cowboy’s offense looked abysmal against Tulsa on Saturday. An offense I thought would be among the best in the country this year could not get it together. They have a “big three” in Stillwater with running back Chuba Hubbard, wide receiver Tylan Wallace, and quarterback Spencer Sanders. Hubbard had 27 carries for 93 yards and 1 touchdown, Wallace had 4 catches for 94 yards and 0 touchdowns, and Sanders was 2/2 for 23 yards. Wallace was electric, Hubbard was good but could have been better, and Sanders was injured in the first quarter.

What should have been a blow out turned into a messy game for the Cowboys. Part of this was the poor offensive line play which gave up 6 sacks and were poor in run blocking. The other issue was the injury to Sanders. He is the least talked about in this ‘big three’, but a talented Sophomore who has experience and adds a dynamic component to the offense that his backups could not. Stillwater is known for good quarterback play, and head coach Mike Gundy is an offensive genius. If Sanders can stay on the field the Cowboys will be fine and I still believe will have an electric offense, but without him they really struggled.

The ACC Again Proves To Be Unpredictable

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Another good weekend of ACC football left me perplexed at how these games unfolded. I thought Duke would cruise against a bad Boston College team, but BC won by 20. I also thought Pittsburgh would blow out a horrendous Syracuse team, but they only won 21-10. Wake Forest and NC State played a close 3-point game, seemingly cementing both squads as middle-of-the-pack squads with a solid offense. Miami-Louisville was relatively close while providing high-scoring entertainment, even though Miami was in control. And of course, I have to mention preseason favorites Notre Dame and Clemson, who blew out bad non-conference opponents in USF and The Citadel, respectively. Another weekend proved to me that this league is going to be really competitive this year except for Clemson. It is not necessarily the best football, but the ACC will boast some very fun and exciting football games.

BIG 12 Power Rankings, Award Predictions

Power Rankings

1: Oklahoma

  • To be the man, you gotta beat the man. And until they’re dethroned, the Sooners remain #1 here. To stay there, they’ll hope Spencer Rattler becomes the latest QB prodigy under Lincoln Riley, and playmakers aplenty populate the skill positions in Norman. They have plenty of talent to work with, and the Sooners should feature a loaded offense in 2020.

2: Oklahoma State

  • Chuba Hubbard is an absolute monster out of the backfield, and they may just have the offense around him to keep pace in the Big 12 this season. Quarterback Spencer Sanders was solid last season and looks to take another step forward, while his favorite receiver, Tylan Wallace, opted for another year wih the Cowboys.

3: Texas

  • Sam Ehlinger starts the season as the best quarterback in the big 12, although the development of Spencer Rattler for Oklahoma may change that. His Longhorns may not be ‘back’ just yet, as Texas looks good, but not great. The offense should be pretty good, but their defense that averaged over 30 points allowed per game must improve for the Longhorns to compete for a title.

4: Kansas State

  • Debuting a new coach last season, Kansas State went 8-5 and beat Oklahoma. They have to replace some production in the trenches, but Skylar Thompson is a fairly consistent quarterback not prone to making many mistakes. He should keep the Wildcats in a lot of ballgames.

5: Baylor

  • After nearly making the Playoff a year ago, Baylor figures to take a step back this season. They lost coach Matt Rhule to the NFL, They gave up under 20 points a game in the Big 12 – an extremely impressive feat. Their defense lost a lot of production (9 of their 11 top tacklers) but they return Charlie Brewer under center and have some intriguing offensive talent to keep them competitive in 2020.

6: Iowa State

  • Brock Purdy took a slight step back last season, but he remains a top-tier quarterback within this conference. Iowa State didn’t lose a single game by more than 10 points in the regular season last year, losing by more than 1 possession just once, losing five games by an average of 4.2 points. If they can turn some of those tight losses into wins, they’ll be improving on this 6th-place ranking.

7: Texas Tech

  • Texas Tech will hope to win a lot games 52-49, or by other similar scorelines. They return a lot of offensive talent from their 4-8 team a year ago, but they also lost lot of pieces from a defense that was already giving up a whopping 7.2 yards per play.

8: Texas Christian

  • TCU has struggled recently after a solid stretch of success in the middle years of the decade. Freshman 5-star running back Zach Evans could make an impact this season, and their defense appears to be solid, if not great. Solid defense can be good enough to win in the Big 12, if the offense is clicking, so the Horned Frogs will need to get their retooled offense up to speed pretty quickly with a conference-only schedule ahead.

9: Kansas

  • Not last – what a shocker here for the Jayhawks! Kansas showed marginal improvement in the debut season of Les Miles, including encouraging wins against Boston College and Texas Tech. They also lost 10 seniors off their defense and will be breaking in a new starter at quarterback. Running back Pooka Williams should be the bread and butter of Miles’ offensive scheme, and we’ll see if he can bring the Jayhawks a win or two.

10: West Virginia

  • West Virginia averaged only 19.6 points per game last season. In the air-raid, offense-heavy Big 12, that’s just not going to cut it. They could improve on that mark, with Jarret Doege returning under center and a promising group of receivers complementing him in the offense. However, the ground game is a major question mark after averaging just 2.63 yards per pop last season, so retooling the backfield and offensive line will be a must for the Mountaineers, if they are to stay competitive in any way shape, or form in 2020.

Offensive Player of the Year

Spencer Rattler- Quarterback, Oklahoma

  • Chuba Hubbard won this award last season, breaking a string of four straight Oklahoa players. Rattler is a 5-star recruit and figures to be an absolute stud in Lincoln Riley’s system. Far be it from us to start doubting Riley’s QB-whispering abilities now.
Peach Bowl

Defensive Player of the Year

Caden Sterns- Safety, Texas

  • Picking this award can feel like a crapshoot in a conference that routinely sees absolute slugfests, with both teams rising over 30 or 40 points. Stearns is an intriguing pick here, as he will have to be a leader for a Texas secondary that must improve if the Longhorns are to finally breakthrough.

Coach of the Year

Mike Gundy- Oklahoma State

The Cowboys haven’t made the Big 12 title game since it was re-instated in 2017, as 20`16 was the last year they finished top-2 in the conference. They haven’t taken home a Big 12 title since 2011, but they have as much promise as they’ve had in recent memory. Gundy came under fire this offseason for wearing a controverisal T-shirt in public, an act that was called out by some of his own players. If he can regain control of the locker room and get the Cowobys to the Big 12 championship, he is very deserving of this award.

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy takes the field prior to an NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)

Championship Game

Oklahoma vs Oklahoma State

Oklahoma wins 42- 31

  • To be the man, ya gotta beat the man. And it’s not happening this year. Boomer. Sooner.

Daily Headlines: Oklahoma with a great weekend of recruiting

Oklahoma addresses LB and WR with a pair of 4-stars

The Sooners continue to rake in elite recruits, as they added a four-star linebacker and receiver (4 or 5-star depending on the ranking) to bolster their 2021 class. They secured a commitment from LB Clayton Smith – this decision was made far sweeter given that Red River rival Texas was considered favored to land the linebacker, but Smith heads for the Sooners, who just lost first-round pick Kenneth Murray to the NFL. Meanwhile, wide receiver Mario Williams, a 5-star by rivals.com and the second best receiver in the class, opts for the offense-happy Big 12, specifically the Sooners. With Lincoln Riley having cultivated Heisman finalists in four consecutive years, Williams figures to have plenty of opportunities to thrive. This decision wasn’t much of a surprise, as the Florida product was always forecasted to head to Oklahoma, but it’s still a huge get for the Sooners who enjoyed a great weekend on the recruiting trails. 

Auburn gets versatile Dawson, 4-star tackle

This headline was going to address what side of the ball Auburn focused on with their recruits, but in securing Tar’Varish Dawson, a 2021 athlete, the Tigers not only pulled a small surprise, but they landed an elite athlete capable of helping Auburn out on both sides of the ball. Dawson is from Florida, and the general consensus was that he was headed for the U to help Miami climb back to national relevancy, but instead, the two-way threat announced he was 1000% committed to Auburn, with an emphatic “WAR EAGLE” at the end of his commitment post. Auburn has often had the short end of the stick in their battle for SEC supremacy with Alabama and LSU, but Dawson, regardless of where he slots in, should help boost their prospects. Along with Dawson, Auburn focused on the trenches, bringing in four-star tackle Caleb Johnson. Auburn was a long-time frontrunner for the Florida product, who was one of their top offensive line targets, and they fended off Notre Dame and Florida State among others for his commitment. 

OK State, Alabama pick up defensive assets

With in-state rival Oklahoma bringing in an elite linebacker, Oklahoma State countered, landing their own four-star defensive star in linebacker Collin Oliver. The Sooners never seriously pursued Oliver, and the Cowboys quickly became favorites for the in-state product. Even still, a border-line top 10 player from Oklahoma, this is a very solid four-star pickup from Oklahoma State.
Meanwhile, Alabama was doing Alabama things in recruiting, securing a commitment from four-star safety Kaine Williams. This was a particularly great get for the Crimson Tide, as Williams is an elite Louisiana product who nearly committed to LSU before waiting. Alabama, seemingly third on his list to the Tigers and Texas A&M, rose to the top of Williams’ list and earned his commitment. Tabbed as the nation’s sixth-best safety, Williams is a great addition to what has been a lackluster Alabama recruiting season, as they look to improve on their current 59th-ranked 2021 class. 

Baylor picks up a 4-star receiver

Baylor fought their way back close to the top of the Big 12 this season, and they’re hoping to stay there. Winning that war requires winning battles on the recruiting front, and the Bears did that by earning a commitment from in-state product Elijah Bean, a four-star receiver. Bean long seemed to favor the Bears, although SMU, Vanderbilt, Louisiana Tech were among the thirteen offers he had. Bean’s an intriguing prospect who hopes to add potency to Baylor’s offense, a component desperately needed in the Big 12.

Big 12/SEC Challenge Recaps and Takeaways

Conference challenges are great for college sports. They’re engaging and create high-quality matchups and games. The Big 12/SEC challenge was no exception on Saturday with the conferences splitting ten games with five wins apiece, as the Big 12 salvaged the draw via Baylor’s statement victory over Florida to end the day. Here’s a game by game look at the action and takeaways. 

Auburn 80 Iowa State 76 

The recap: Auburn was up 78-74, having watched a large lead slip away, and Iowa State had a wide open look for three from the corner. The Cyclones missed the shot, and Auburn secured the rebound and ultimately hung on. It was a less than inspiring finish to an otherwise solid game from the Tigers who have won two straight following their 2-game skid. 

The Takeaway: Auburn is not a national title contender. The Tigers continue to struggle against inferior competition. Their wins against South Carolina and Iowa State have not inspired much confidence following a horrific two-game stretch against Florida and Alabama. 

West Virginia 74 Missouri 51

 The Recap: One of the few yawners in this challenge, the #14 Mountaineers grinded their way through a sluggish first half before lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of 50 points in the second half to pull away for the dominant victory, improving to 10-0 at home. 

The Takeaway: West Virginia is clearly a Big 12 contender: In our initial roundtable, I picked West Virginia to win the Big 12. It was a shot in the dark, but the Mountaineers are making me look good, turning in a strong performance today and looking like the clear third best team behind Kansas and Baylor. 

LSU 69 Texas 67

The Recap: In a thrilling matchup of unranked teams, LSU built a large halftime advantage and held off a furious Texas rally. The lead changed hands several times in the final minutes, but the Tigers ultimately finished the job on the road, improving to 15-4. 

The Takeaway: LSU are road warriors: The Tigers are now 4-1 on the road, and that could bode well for LSU when it comes time to leave the comforts of their own court and play some elimination games on neutral courts in March. 

Oklahoma 63 Mississippi State 62

The Recap: Oklahoma leaned on a big day from Brady Manek, who dropped 18 points, to hold off the Bulldogs in a game that was tight all the way through. Mississippi State was plagued by poor shooting, and they ultimately could not make one more shot to push them over the edge on the road. 

The Takeaway: Mississippi State needs a secondary scorer: On a day when Oklahoma honed in on the Bulldog’s primary scorer in Reggie Perry, the Bulldogs could not find an answer, putting up a poor offensive performance. Their defense performed extremely well, and it should have been enough for a key road win, but Mississippi State proved themselves to be overly reliant on one man.  

Arkansas 78 TCU 67

The Recap: Arkansas continued their dominance at home, improving to 11-1 on their court with an easy win over the Horned Frogs. Desi Sills poured in 18 for the Razorbacks and Arkansas claimed a relatively easy victory for the SEC. 

The Takeaway: Kevin Samuel is an extremely impressive player: All due respect to Arkansas, but I pretty much knew that they were extremely good at home and average on the road. So my biggest takeaway is TCU’s Kevin Samuel. The man put the Horned Frogs on his back on Saturday, and although he couldn’t single-handedly take down the Sooners, he put up 24 points and collected 18 rebounds. If TCU can find some help for Samuel, they could make some noise. 

Kansas 74 Tennessee 68

The Recap: Devon Dotson put up 22 points, and Udoka Azubuike battled through foul trouble, scoring 18 and grabbing 11 rebounds. Tennessee pushed hard on the road, but ultimately the Jayhawks never surrendered their advantage and edged the Volunteers. 

The Takeaway: Kansas still needs to find their identity. I believe the Jayhawks are a title contender, but they need to figure out who they are, especially on offense. The Jayhawks looked lost at times without Azubuike on the floor. When he was there, they clicked, driving in the paint, finding Azubuike for a bevy of dunks and layups, or kicking out for open 3s. Without him on the floor, Kansas seemed to have no system, taking bad shots, turning the ball over and generally looking lost with the ball in their hands. 

Oklahoma State 73 Texas A&M 62

The Recap: Oklahoma State flashed their balance, as their leading scorer posted just 13 points on the day, but the Cowboys looked much better than the Aggies in both halves and steadily pulled away for an easy victory. 

The Takeaway: Neither team is making a run this year. This was a somewhat close game, but it was a relatively boring battle between two average squads featuring very few stars with mediocre verging on below-average offenses. Neither of these two teams looked like a tournament team to me, and overall, it was one of the most boring games of the challenge. 

Alabama 77 Kansas State 74

The Recap: Alabama had all five starters score in double-digits, highlighted by Kira Lewis Jr. and his 26 points, and the Crimson Tide squeaked past the Wildcats 77-74 in a game that was tight all the way.

The Takeaway: Alabama is a basketball school. Well, not really, but I think this is the best basketball team out of Tuscaloosa in a long time, and with a stud in Lewis and a solid supporting cast, I could see the Crimson Tide making a decent run in a few months. 

Kentucky 76 Texas Tech 74

The Recap: A thriller from start to finish, Kentucky avoided disappointment after giving away their late lead to edge the Red Raiders in Lubbard in overtime. It was a huge win for the Wildcats who are looking to move past the inconsistencies that have plagued them this year. 

The Takeaway: This was the turning point in Kentucky’s season. The Wildcats are an extremely talented group that have lost several games they had no business losing. But if any game can get them to start playing consistently, it is an emotional overtime victory in an electric atmosphere against a Top-20 opponent. The Wildcats impressed me, and I think they’ll start to look like the Kentucky we’re used to seeing in the coming weeks. 

Baylor 72 Florida 61

The Recap: Baylor ended the first half on a 13-2 run to claim a comfortable 11-point halftime advantage. They pushed the lead out to 17 points in the second half and never let the Gators make a serious comeback threat, throttling Florida on the road. 

The Takeaway: I was wrong about Baylor. I picked Florida to win this game. Baylor had looked a little weak in recent games, and I really liked the way Florida was playing. But this game was never close in the second half, and the Bears simply outclassed the Gators in every phase of the game on Saturday to claim a big win for their program and the Big 12, as the victory salvaged the split with the SEC in the challenge.

Big 12 Status Report: Baylor or Kansas On Top?

Baylor is the #1 team in the nation, and they’re on a 15-game winning streak. Yet I still don’t think they’re winning their conference. Their style of play, to me, is not a sustainable formula for winning in March. They play a lot of close, defensive games, and that will be a tough approach to winning games when the lights shine the brightest. I still believe Kansas is the odds-on favorite to win the Big 12, while Baylor and West Virginia are right outside the picture and looking up at the Jayhawks. Here are this week’s biggest risers and fallers.

Biggest Risers: Oklahoma

  • This may be a slightly odd pick for the biggest riser, but I picked the Sooners for a very specific reason; I believe the Big 12 has a clear top four in the conference between the Jayhawks, Baylor, West Virginia, and Texas Tech. I think Oklahoma is the next best team, and I believe the Sooners did a good job of separating themselves from some of the other wannabes in the Big 12. They dominated TCU and then went on the road and nearly knocked off #1 Baylor. While they fell short in the latter game, Oklahoma, I think, showed themselves to be very clearly the next best team in the Big 12.

Biggest Fallers: Texas, Oklahoma State

  • Texas lost a winnable game at home to Kansas, and they followed up that disappointment by being obliterated by West Virginia. They showed both an inability to close out big games, and their continued proclivity for being run out of the building – their 38-point loss to the Mountaineers was their fourth by 15+ points. The Longhorns have really played themselves out of the Big 12 picture. They’ll need a small miracle to even be considered on Selection Sunday.
  • Oklahoma State is in a similar position to Texas. Entering conference play at 9-3, the Cowboys are now 9-9 with an ugly 0-6 conference mark. They’ve lost four of those games by double digits, and they have shown very little ability to win on the road or at home against conference opponents. I believe their 12-point loss to Texas at home was a true statement about where this team stands in the national and conference picture – they are not close to contention, and they won’t be this year.

Quick Hits

  • While the Big 12 has some top tier talent, I believe they have very little depth in the conference. I’m only confident in four teams making it to the Dance – Kansas, Baylor, West Virginia, and Texas Tech.
  • Picking bubble teams is tough in this conference, but I’ll go with Oklahoma, Iowa State, and TCU, although I would not lay money down on those teams making it right now.
  • I’m declaring 3 Big 12 teams done, as I simply don’t see a path to the tournament – beyond an unlikely conference championship – for Texas, Oklahoma State, or Kansas State.

Biggest Upcoming Games (BIG 12/SEC CHALLENGE)

  • #1 Baylor @ Florida
  • TCU @ Arkansas
  • Tennessee @ #3 Kansas